James Martineau

IT would be difficult to find an example of the human type in which all its possibilities are presented in more rounded completeness than they attained in James Martineau. If we begin with the physical substratum of life, we find in him a very unusual degree of health and vigor. It is not merely that he lived to the advanced age of nearly ninety-five, but that almost to the end of this long life he was master of himself, and of his powers of body and mind. We have interesting glimpses of this hale and hearty age. Rev. O. B. Frothingham, for instance, was fond of telling about a Sunday that he passed with him when his host was some seventy-five years old. In laying out the plans for the afternoon, Mr. Martineau asked his guest whether he would prefer a little walk or a drive. The walk proved to be a stroll of some ten miles with a mountain climb in addition. Mr. Frothingham said that he chose the drive. His mental powers endured at least as long as his physical. As Rev. A. W. Jackson has said, “ Hardly any decade of his toilsome life was fuller than the ninth one.” It was this basis of physical health and strength that enabled him to perform so easily the vast work of his life. Of course we are not to understand that he felt none of the infirmities of age. To a man who had lived so large and free a life, these must have been especially irksome.

In an unpublished letter 1 to Dr. J. H. Allen of Cambridge, written shortly after his eighty-ninth birthday, he makes this charming allusion to birthdays, and to the comfort that he derived from the greetings of friends. He writes: “ Three hundred and sixty-four days of the year I wonder at the old Hebrew yearning for length of life and glorification of old age ; but the remaining day converts me for twenty-four hours, by mere force of congratulation and the charm of the gracious and friendly letters that lie in heaps on my table, so that I think nothing more delightful than my first step into my ninetieth year.” Rev. P. R. Frothingham, who called upon him when he was ninety years old, tells me that at that time his sons and their wives were in the habit of joining his daughters and himself every Saturday evening. They passed the evening in reading aloud. At that time they were reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. We could hardly have a more beautiful picture of patriarchal peace, for the sons must have been fast approaching, if they had not yet reached, the period at which, to the surprise of the man himself, the word “ old ” begins to be applied to him.

Not merely did he fulfill the extreme possibility of the human life so far as bodily vigor was concerned. He came nearer than most to fulfilling it æsthetically as well. The familiar words fail us when we try to describe a personal appearance so unique and fascinating as that of Martineau. I prefer to quote from another an account of the impression made upon him. One writer, speaking of the entrance of Martineau upon his ministry in Liverpool, thus describes his appearance in this time of his youth : “Well does the writer remember how the circular staircase of the somewhat conspicuous pulpit was quietly ascended by a tall young man, thin, but of vigorous and muscular frame, with dark hair, pale, but not delicate complexion, a countenance full in repose of thought and in animation of intelligence and enthusiasm, features belonging to no regular type or order of beauty, and yet leaving the impression of a very high kind of beauty, and a voice so sweet and clear and strong, without being in the least degree loud, that it conveyed all the inspiration of music without any of its art or intention.” 2 In most respects I think that this description would have held good at any time of his active life.

To this should be added the impression received from his personal appearance of what, perhaps, in the lack of a better word, we may call culture. I do not mean by this physical and mental training, but culture in a more mundane sense. Here was a man obviously fitted to meet any exigency of the worldly life. Evidently there was no circle, even in England, so exalted that he might not feel at home in it, and be recognized as being in his rightful place. There was an air of mingled graciousness and dignity which at once attracted, while it would evidently repel familiarity on too easy terms. The repulsion would be exerted, not by any specific word or look, but simply by the calm presence of the man. When I saw him in his crimson doctor’s robe, I confess that this, which seems in so many cases such an absurd drapery, appeared to me to be his proper garb. At the same time he evidently needed such robes of dignity less than most others.

The mind of Dr. Martineau was as lithe and strong as his body. As his body delighted in feats of strength, especially as these were connected with the climbing of his favorite hills, so did his mind rejoice in the pleasure of the athlete. He loved to climb the heights of thought. He gloried in the measurement of strength with strength, in the encounter of mind with mind. Here, too, he was fitted by nature and training to mingle with the best. He took his place with the great thinkers of the world, as one who could at least comprehend them and converse with them on an equal plane, even if he had not their power of original constructive thought.

To the development of body and mind was added the graces of the spirit. His religious nature was tender and devout. His spiritual life was as humble as his intellectual was exalted. More to him than his theology was his religion. His earliest and his latest utterances to the world were of this.

We no longer say, with Pope,

“ An honest man ’s the noblest work of God,”

but an honest man is at least the material out of which the noblest work of God is fashioned, as the purest bit of marble is selected by the sculptor for his best achievement. It might seem strange, at first sight, to draw special attention to the honesty of a theologian and preacher. But we know that the theologian has his temptations no less alluring than those which lurk in the way of the politician and the business man. When we think how Martineau, with his poetic temperament, would have rejoiced in the splendid architecture of the English Church ; when we think how he was fitted by personality, by genius, and by learning to fill the highest place which the church could offer; when we think, on the other hand, of all the annoyances which the dissenter in England, especially a dissenter so heretical as a Unitarian, has to undergo, we may well note the unreasoning integrity, the straightforward simplicity, with which Martineau uttered in the most direct form his own thought. We will not criticise those who, agreeing with Martineau in his belief, have found it easy to use forms of speech which seem foreign to it, and who thereby have enjoyed the fullness of the large and rich life of the English Church. We will not admire in Martineau the directness and simplicity of thought and speech which made it impossible for him to do this. To admire it would seem to imply that he might have taken a different course. We simply take it for granted, as we take for granted the solidity of the granite ledge. We recognize it as a part of the character of Martineau, by which he became to the world what he actually was.

His honesty was not merely negative, it was aggressive. He not only did not say what he did not think ; he always said what he did think. On all occasions he was perfectly frank. It was my good fortune to observe an instance of this frankness that seemed to me interesting. When Manchester College was established at Oxford, it was received with unexpected cordiality by many of the foremost Oxford theologians. At a lunch given by the college, a number of them were present. One of them said that he welcomed the college, not because it brought anything that Oxford did not have before, but because it brought more of that which it already possessed. In the face of all this kindness it seemed a difficult thing to protest against this assumption; yet Martineau did it. In a speech perfectly frank and perfectly courteous he stated what Oxford had not possessed before of that which the new college had brought. The friends of the college did not know whether to be more pleased because Martineau said this, or because no one else undertook to do it. He had done easily what no one else could have ventured to attempt.

We cannot complete the catalogue of the characteristics which made of Martineau so perfect a specimen of manhood without referring more directly to the poetic imagination and that mastery of words through which the discussion of the driest or most abstruse theme was made to glow with life and beauty. To all this must be added that vague and illusive something which cannot be described, but which is one of the great ruling forces of the world ; — I mean personality. It is this which brings to a focus all the elements that enter into a man’s life. It is this which makes a man a leader among his fellows, or gives to his presence a nameless charm. This was present with Martineau in a marked degree.

I once heard Dr. Bartol say in a semipublic address, “ I think that I am better worth studying than a bug.” The good doctor was right. In Martineau, as I have tried to point out, we have a wonderfully perfect specimen of the genus homo. As such he deserves, even from the point of view of science, careful study.

James Martineau was of Huguenot descent. His ancestors established themselves in England in the year 1685, having been driven from their home by the persecution that followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His father was a business man, a descendant of three generations of surgeons. Doubtless this Huguenot ancestry was the source of some of the elements in Martineau’s character to which I have referred, which blending with the qualities of the English race contributed to his personal charm. He was born in Norwich, April 21, 1805. While it is the ancestry of his father that is the more interesting, it seems to have been his mother that personally influenced him most. She was a woman of clear understanding and strong will, and with a strong sense of duty. Behind these lay a great wealth of affection.

As a boy he was sent to the Norwich Grammar School, where we are told that he laid the basis of a sound classical education. At the age of fourteen he was sent to the school of Rev. Lant Carpenter at Bristol. We often speak of being born again. In the case of Martineau his life at this school constituted what he could not help regarding as a new birth. He says in a letter referring to this experience, “ So forcibly, indeed, did that period act upon me, so visibly did it determine the subsequent direction of my mind and lot, that it always stands before me as the commencement of my present life, making me feel like a man without a childhood ; and though a multitude of earlier scenes are still in view, they seem to be spread around a different being, and to belong, like the incidents of a dream, to some foreign self that became extinct when the morning light of reality broke upon the sight.” He recognizes the illusory nature of this feeling. He sees “ that in no one’s case can there really occur such an abrupt termination of one series of causes, and sudden replacement of another.” The feeling, however, remained, and it shows what a wonderful influence this teacher must have had upon him.3

The special influence of Dr. Carpenter upon Martineau seems to have been in the direction of the moral and the religious life. While absolute thoroughness of work was insisted upon at every point, the ethical character and implication of the study were brought out. There was, however, another side to the teaching of Dr. Carpenter which was less commendable, and it is a striking illustration of the absolute frankness of Martineau that though the letter from which I have just quoted was written to the son of his old teacher, and designed to have a place in the memoir which the son was preparing of his father, he did not hesitate to emphasize the deficiencies of the teaching which he had received as strongly as he did its admirable features. After picturing the school in terms that would seem to imply absolute perfection, he recognizes the fact that his old teacher was lacking in the æsthetic sense. “ His classical knowledge was superior to his classical taste ; and while in the reading of a Greek drama he would note with admiration every fine noble sentiment of Sophocles, and pause upon the general maxims of Euripides, the simple and severe gi-andeur of the work as a whole, the perfection and symmetry of its form, and its interest as the most genuine expression of Grecian ideal life, escaped apparently unobserved.” “ He seemed to regard the imagination with a suspicious eye, considering it as a mere embellishment of human nature — a luxury to be sparingly allowed ; or even as a positive seduction to be placed under the vigilant police of the other faculties.” This certainly was a strange influence to be brought to bear upon a mind so radiant with imagination as that of the young Martineau. It could not repress this element of his buoyant life; but it could hardly have failed to affect him profoundly. Under this influence was his awakening to some sense of the meaning of life. It was, as we have seen, a new birth from which he dated all his subsequent experiences. The fact that this new birth took place under the guidance of this severe and prosaic ethical inspiration must have influenced the development of his mind, if not of his general spiritual nature. I have little doubt that this had much to do with giving the special form to the theology which Martineau afterwards taught.

In 1821 Martineau began to prepare himself for the career of a civil engineer. It was a moment which, as we look back upon it, may well cause us to tremble at the thought of the peril involved in this start in life of the youth whom such a noble future awaited. If he had thus turned aside from his appointed way, what loss would not he and the world have sustained ! His destiny, or his nature, or Providence, was however too strong for him, and the study of the profession to which he had been devoted failed to satisfy him. At the moment there came a new influence into his life. A young minister, a relation by marriage, died. Martineau was deeply moved, both by the loss and by the general sorrow that this death caused. He was affected by the evidence of the profound spiritual influence which this young man had exerted.4 He felt that there was but one calling to which his nature was really drawn, and that was the profession of a minister.

As he turned to enter upon the preparation for this his chosen and appointed work, he came into contact with that exclusiveness by which the best opportunities that England offered to her youth were then defended. He could not enter one of the great universities, because he could not subscribe to the articles of faith. Happily there was an institution ready to receive him, which furnished him the help and the inspiration that he needed. This was Manchester College which has done such splendid work for the liberal church in England, and with which Martineau was to be so long identified. When he entered this institution he was eighteen years old.

Lest any may fancy that because Martineau was shut out from university teaching his education was in any way incomplete, I will here introduce some Latin verses which he composed late in life. To be able to write Latin verse has long seemed to be the test of a complete education in England, a test before which I fear most Americans would fail. Martineau stands it well. At his eightieth birthday, a friend, who was in the habit of sending him such annual greetings, addressed to him a quatrain of Latin verses, in which he spoke of his mountain climbing, and referred to the heights which his spirit also could ascend. Martineau replied with a similar quatrain, intimating that his friend, the poet, might well look down upon the climber, since he had wings and could soar: —

“ Nec tibi restinxit, vates, matura senectus
Fervorem ingenii Pieridumque faces ;
Parnassum superans, facilis tu victor abibis
Alis despiciens tædia longa pedis,” 5

He spent five years in the college, one other year as an assistant to his old teacher, and in 1828, at the age of twentythree, was ordained as a minister in Dublin, and entered upon his first professional work. The church into which he was ordained was called Presbyterian, though the name had nothing of the significance which we associate with the term. He remained in Dublin only three years. From Dublin he went to Liverpool, where he had a ministry of twentyfive years. During these years the mind of Martineau underwent a very marked development. He had been educated in the school of Mill. By a growth, at first unconscious, he passed wholly out of this influence. In the preface to his Types of Ethical Theory he gives a most interesting account of this transformation. “ It was,” he tells us, “ the irresistible pleading of the moral consciousness which first drove me to rebel against the limits of the merely scientific conception.” He gave up the doctrine of determinism, and recalled “ the outlawed causes from their banishment and degradation to the rank of antecedents.” This mental and spiritual development was greatly helped by a residence of fifteen months in Germany, where he studied with Professor Trendelenburg. The result of this study would seem to have been almost as marked as the new birth which came to him in his school days. He came, he tells us, “ into the same plight in respect to the cognitive and æsthetic side of life that had already befallen me in regard to the moral.” We thus find him at last fully master of himself. I have already spoken of the way in which he fulfilled the ideal type of manhood. We have now seen the manner in which this type gradually unfolded itself, pressing on by an inward necessity, until, in spite of repressing influences, it stood forth in its full beauty.

The spiritual and religious life of Martineau underwent a development as important as that through which his intellectual life was passing. His first utterance as a minister was, in accordance with the spirit of the times, of a somewhat narrow type. In his work, The Rationale of Religious Inquiry, he insisted upon a belief in the New Testament miracles as essential to Christianity. At the same time, however, he showed his broader outlook by insisting that no miracle could prove spiritual truth. The influence of Channing was vexy great in his spiritual development, and Martineau spoke of him as the inspirer of his youth. Later came the writings of Theodore Parker, which received also a warm welcome from him. He became recognized as a leader in the liberal movement which was taking place in the Unitarian Church.

The life of Martineau in Liverpool was as important for the world as it was for himself. It was with him a period of great activity. It was while living in Liverpool that he published his Endeavours after the Christian Life, a work which brought spiritual inspiration to many on both sides of the Atlantic, and at once made the name of Martineau familiar and dear to many. Here, too, he showed his power as a controversialist. The thirteen ministers of the so-called orthodox churches in Liverpool made a combined attack upon the teaching of the three Unitarian churches. The responses called forth from these latter, especially as they were represented by Martineau, formed an epoch in the history of liberal religion. He became one of the editors of a theological quarterly, The Prospective Review, which was later succeeded by The National Review. It was during this period also he began to teach in the college in which he was educated.

Manchester College was removed to London, and it was necessary that Martineau should live in London in order that he might continue his teaching with the least strain upon himself. It seems strange, as we look back upon it, though it was perfectly natural at the time, that there should have been great opposition to the connection of Martineau with the school. This was based upon what were regarded as his extremely liberal views. The opposition was happily overcome, and Martineau continued to carry on what was one of the most important occupations of his life.

It goes without saying that the influence of Martineau upon the students of the college was immense. Language almost fails the graduates of the school when they speak of their indebtedness to him. At the same time it is not quite easy to explain how this influence was exerted. His lectures were read slowly, so that it was possible for them to be taken down verbally by at least some of the hearers. The students seemed to have had little intercourse with him outside the lecture room, and in this not often to have approached him with questions. There was, however, their reverence for the man; there was the power of his personality which made itself felt through the routine of the lecture room ; there were the clearness and strength of the thought which the hearers had time to appreciate and to digest. Then, too, it would seem that he must have introduced into his delivery a power of expression, however difficult the slowness of the utterance might seem to make this. The students were brought nearer to him, we are told, when they sat down with him to read Plato or some other Greek author. When he took part in the instruction in the preparation of sermons, the students also were brought into a close touch with him. His criticisms were often pointed and epigrammatic. Professor Carpenter, in the memorial number of The Inquirer, recalls two or three of these criticisms. In regard to one sermon which had dealt largely with Jewish antiquities, Martineau remarked, “ Excellent, but I was waiting for the sermon.” Another of these sermons he compared to a “ diorama which moved very fast, and had nobody to explain it.” Whether we can account for it or not, the fact remains that his students were bound to him by the closest ties of affectionate reverence, and that they felt the power not only of his intellect but of his sympathetic interest.

If it is difficult to explain precisely the manner in which his great influence upon his students was exerted, they themselves found it no less difficult to understand his comprehension of them. One of the most prominent graduates of the school writes to me that at the graduation of the students, Martineau was in the habit of making to each a short personal address ; and that in this he showed a perception of the character of the man, and an insight into his real life, that no previous intercourse seemed sufficient to explain.

In 1869 Martineau became the Principal of Manchester College. In all, his connection with it as a teacher continued over forty-five years. During all this time he was extending his influence far beyond the limits of the college in which he taught, and of the church in which he preached. His essays and other published works were recognized as among the most important contributions to theological thought. Many who differed with him most widely, in many of his views, learned to look upon him as the defender upon whom they could most rely in the great battle which religious thought was waging with unbelief. This recognition reached its fullest expression when on his eighty-third birthday he received a communication signed by the most prominent theologians of Europe and America, representing the most diverse theological views, but all united in expressions of reverence and gratitude. Nothing could better show the greatness of his work than that he, the arch-heretic, should receive such a testimonial. At the same time nothing could illustrate better the larger and more liberal spirit of the times than that such a testimonial could be sent him.

After his resignation as Principal of Manchester College in 1885, he devoted himself to the arrangement and publication of his thought in a systematic and permanent form. When the first of the works which represented this undertaking, his Types of Ethical Theory, appeared, it was received with some disappointment. There was regret that there was in the work so much that was historical and so little that represented the original thought of the author. Its real importance was thus at first underestimated. The public did not realize that this was only the first of the heavily loaded wains that were bringing home the ample fruitage of his harvest fields. In 1887 followed his Study of Religion, which received the warmest welcome from every side. It was recognized as one of the strongest presentations of the basis of religious faith. The most orthodox found in it little trace of heresy. The most heretical found it broad enough for their faith. In 1890 followed The Seat of Authority in Religion. In this he showed that the universal applause with which his former work had been received by religious minds of every type had not intoxicated him. In it he expressed, in the frankest way, all the heresies which he had cherished ; and many who had rejoiced over his former work were repelled by this. This book is in some ways less perfect than the others. The writing of the last part was separated by a long interval from that of the first. It is by its nature more arbitrary, not to say capricious, in some of its judgments. Yet perhaps no one of his books bears more clearly the impress of the master or has more real value. A collection of his miscellaneous works appeared later.

I am here reminded of an incident related to me by Rev. W. R. Alger. He called upon Martineau when the latter was somewhat over seventy years old. He found him ill, with no hope of recovery. Mr. Martineau said that he was perfectly willing to go, except for one thing. It grieved him to think that he must leave his work unfinished. He had collected his material, but must go before he could use it. Mr. Alger seized his hand, and by a prophetic impulse that he did not fully understand assured him that he had before him many years of life and labor. When we recall the longing of Martineau not to leave till his work was done, we take special pleasure in the thought that, before the final call came, his ripened harvest was so thoroughly gathered in and so carefully stored.

It remains to attempt some appreciation of the nature and the worth of the work thus accomplished.

In the first place we must recognize him as a religious teacher, and still more as a religious inspirer. His first important work, Endeavours after the Christian Life, retains the supremacy that was at first accorded to it. It is the utterance of a pure and warm religious faith, unhampered by any narrowness or timidity of thought. The form is perfect; the expression is rich with the beauty of the imagination. Earlier in this article I expressed a certain regret that Martineau could not have had his place in the historic church, and taken part in a service enriched by the magnificent architecture which is its inheritance. After all, in reading this book we feel that he did not need this.

“ There is no architect
Can build as the Muse can.”

The lofty thought, the glowing imagination, the mastery of the English speech, the tender religious feeling, the soaring faith — in the presence of these we do not need the magnificence of cathedrals or the pomp of service.

Next to the importance of his work as a preacher I should place his accomplishment as a defender of religious faith against the attacks which the temper and thought of the time made upon it. He was a splendid critic, a debater whose skill it was a joy to see, even if one had no interest in the result of the contest. He evidently rejoiced in the strife. He rejoiced in the trial of strength, in finding the weak point in his opponent’s armor, in parrying his deadliest thrusts. He could not help enjoying this, he was so thoroughly at home in it, so thoroughly the master of himself and of the situation. With all, he was as courteous as the most chivalrous of the olden times. Only one case do I remember in which this courtesy was forgotten. This was in his criticism of Spinoza. This discourtesy was not, however, merely because he differed with his antagonist; it was because he believed that Spinoza had made a dishonest use of the word God. It beautifully illustrates the relation of Martineau toward his sharpest antagonists, that in the famous Metaphysical Club, in which the magnates of the church and such men, if there were other such, as Tennyson and Browning, and the first thinkers of the time met to discuss the loftiest themes of human thought, it was Martineau who insisted that Huxley should be drawn into the gathering. It is a little remarkable that the one permanent contribution of this club of great men to the world should be the word “ agnostic,” which Huxley introduced in order that he might have some motto on his shield, as the others had on theirs.

In spite of the joy which Martineau took in criticism and debate, it would be a mistake to assume that his natural bent was that of the critic. Strife came rather as an accident into his life. It was forced upon him from without. We can see the temper of the man as he stood a young Unitarian preacher in that pulpit in Liverpool, which his presence has made famous, as well as in his later preaching. Miss Frances Power Cobbe, in that memorial number of The Inquirer, gives us some account of this ministry. She tells us that many were disappointed that there was so little of the critical and the dogmatic in the sermons. She missed “ Theodore Parker’s flat denials on one hand and faith-strong positive assertion on the other.” It was the attack of the opposing clergymen of Liverpool that first summoned to debate and made him show his power as a fighter, as he had before shown it as a teacher of religion. So, too, it was the attacks upon religious faith, insidious or open, which came from the attitude and temper of the times, that roused Martineau to the necessity of defense. As a teacher of men in training for the ministry, it was his business to guide them through the labyrinths of speculation, pointing out the snares and pitfalls by the way. But when we would think of him as he was by nature and original tendency, we must go back to those earlier days in Liverpool, before these outward demands had been made upon him.

In what has been here said of his skill as a critic, it was not intended to imply that his criticisms were in every case correct, but that he carried a fair and remarkably acute mind and courteous bearing into the fray, and that he accomplished more than any other in the exposure of the false claims of those whose attacks upon religion gained force from the fact that they seemed to speak in the name of science.

It must be admitted that Martineau was less successful as a constructive philosopher and theologian than as a preacher, teacher, and critic. In philosophy he was a dualist. He urged the doctrine of philosophic dualism in an article published in 1860 ; and in an unpublished letter addressed to Dr. J. H. Allen, in 1890, he wrote : “ To me, monism in any form, idealistic or materialistic, is tantamount to a denial of religion. I mean, of course, in its logical results, not in the conscious thought of those who hold it.” Why he should have made so much account of the form of dualism that he held, it is difficult to see. He did not use, so far as I remember, his “ datum objective to God ” to explain the existence of evil or sin. It simply helped him to recognize the fact that there are some things which we cannot conceive to have been determined by a creative will. Indeed, in his Study of Religion,1 he seemed half inclined to throw his dualism away, so far as all practical purposes were concerned. Of the theory which recognizes space as the only principle over against God — space to be filled with force by the divine will, Martineau says, “ On the side of psychology there are difficulties attending this theory; but if they can be overcome, its metaphysical neatness and its effectual discharge of the perplexities of dualism strongly recommend it to acceptance.” After this I think that we may leave his dualism out of the account in our estimate of his theological position.

Much more important in our estimate of his thought is his identification of force or cause with will. He insisted that the only form under which we know anything about force or causation is as it is manifested through the will, or as he expresses it in one place, " the sense of effort.” From this he argues that all force must be recognized as will force, and thus all force, as we find it in the world about us, must be regarded as a manifestation of the divine will. In order to save the freedom of the human will, he maintained that a certain amount of this divine force had been intrusted to each individual to use as he pleased. The highest life consists in the returning of this delegated power to God, and making it act in the line of his will. As causation thus reveals the reality of God and his presence in the world, the moral law reveals to us his holiness. This general reasoning was completed by a recognition of the part played by teleology in the world about us.

We have here what may be called a theology of will, and a system of the universe that is absolutely luminous. It is easy to understand how congenial this must have been to the keen intellect and the virile nature of Martineau.

It might be of interest to discuss the question whether the basis thus laid is sufficient for the vast superstructure that was reared upon it. Our later psychology has, however, made such discussion useless by taking away the basis itself. We now know that the “sense of effort ” is an illusion. The feeling to which we give the name results from the rigidity of the muscles occasioned by reaction against outside resistance. It is carried to the brain by the nerves of sensation, and the motor nerves have absolutely nothing to do with it. We know that thought tends to transform itself into deed. If we had in the mind only a single idea, and this represented some act, the act would at once be performed. The same would be true if the idea of the act were sufficiently intense to overpower all inhibiting ideas that might be present. The will addresses itself not to acts but to thoughts. It holds an idea before the mind until this idea becomes intense enough to carry itself into activity.

It is not the place here to raise the question as to the value of this important psychological discovery to theology. We have only to recognize the fact that so far as Martineau’s position is concerned, an entire reworking of the material is made necessary by it.

One of the most important of the contributions to the memorial number of The Inquirer is that of Rev. Richard A. Armstrong. In this he first states briefly his own view, which is that in addition to the two forms of divine manifestation recognized by Martineau there is a third which is found in the sense of beauty. In this man recognizes God, “ not through any dialectic, but by immediate intuition as love.” He stated this view to Martineau, and asked for his judgment in regard to it. Martineau accepted the thought as one apparently familiar to him ; and granted it equal importance with the two elements of religious faith — the will and the moral sense — upon which he had insisted. Here we find that Martineau’s system did not do justice to his own religious thought, at least one third of this — a third that must have had a great modifying influence upon the other two thirds — being unrecognized in his formal presentation. From all this it would appear that Martineau’s work as a constructive theologian is of less value than his achievements in other directions. It may be remarked in passing that Martineau’s theology of will, and the exclusion from it of the æsthetic element which filled so large a place in his own religious life, may very probably have resulted from the fact that his “ new birth ” took place under teaching as stern as that of Dr. Carpenter.

If Martineau did not succeed in constructing a permanent system of the universe, he simply failed where many had failed before him.

“ Our little systems have their day,
They have their day and cease to be.”

His power consists in the fact that he dwelt among the realities which systems so imperfectly represent. To some who love and admire him most, the Endeavours after the Christian Life is still regarded as his best contribution to the world. Others find most inspiration in his splendid personality, all aglow as it was with religious faith. He had fairly faced doubt and denial. He had explored the gloomiest stretches of worldweary speculation, and he could still stand in all the joy of his first faith, and proclaim that

“ God’s in his heaven,
All ’s right with the world.”

Whatever we may think of his system as a whole, his works will long remain a storehouse of important thoughts in regard to the matters with which philosophy and theology have to do. It is pleasant to remember that the first collection of his miscellaneous works was made and published in this country, and that Harvard was the first university to give him official recognition.

Charles C. Everett.

  1. A series of interesting letters from Dr. Martineau to Dr. Allen was presented to the Massachusetts Colonial Society by Mr. H. H. Edes at the meeting of March last; and they will appear among the proceedings of the Society.
  2. The Inquirer of London has published a “ memorial number ” which contains a brief sketch of the life of Martineau, and reminiscences and impressions from former students and friends. It is extremely interesting and valuable. The above description is taken from it, and I shall be frequently indebted to it in this article.
  3. Memoir of the late Rev. Dr. Carpenter, page 146.
  4. The memorial number of The Inquirer.
  5. The memorial number of The Inquirer.