Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Schlegel on the Two Kinds of Faith

An example or two, consequently, from the ordinary relations of actual life, will enable not so much to demonstrate, indeed, as rather to remind you of the difference which subsists even here between a trust and confidence that is merely reasoned out by logical inference,--a faith externally assumed, and one that is the result of personal experience and confiding love. Thus reminding you of what in this life is manifest enough, I hope to set more distinctly before your eyes the difference which subsists also in the higher region of faith. Let us suppose the case of friend dangerously ill or in a state of extreme suffering, and we are in search of a physician able to relieve and heal him. One is recommended to us of great reputation for extensive knowledge and of a judgment strengthened by long experience. We are told that he has effected remarkable cures, that he has never been known to lose a patient by neglect or by mistaking his disease, and that withal he is very kind and extremely attentive. These, we are aware, are great recommendations; but he is a perfect stranger to us; we feel a kind of reserve and restraint towards him--as yet he has not our perfect confidence. How very different is the case when we ourselves have experienced all this;--when we ourselves have witnessed his comprehensive view, the number and variety of his remedies, and the penetrating glance of genius in the moment of danger;--when with grateful recollection we feel that we must ascribe to him either the preservation of some dear one's life, or our own unhoped-for restoration to health and strength! Such is the difference between a reasoning faith on rational grounds, and a personal faith based on our own experience and vivid conviction. And in truth this simile is not remote and far-fetched. It comes very close indeed to the matter itself, if only it be true that the soul is often diseased, and that religion presents to us no inexorable lawgiver of a rigid rule of reason, no stern judge of severe truth, but a wise physician touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and able to save to the uttermost.

[Schlegel, Philosophy of Life and Philosophy of Language, A.J.W. Morrison, tr. Bohn (London: 1847) 489-490.]

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