« ПретходнаНастави »
In perusing The Tale of Goethe, a piece which is wonderful even among the works of that supreme literary artist, and which his worthy exponent and interpreter, Mr. Carlyle, has deemed, no doubt with perfect correctness, a picture, in the colors indeed of fantasy and dream, yet, to the seeing eye, nowise indefinite, of the whole future, attention can scarce fail to be arrested by the destiny there appointed for the Christian religion. In the Temple of the Future, the little hut of the fisherman, to which former and darker generations had looked for aid in every great emergency of existence, still found a place. The light of reason entering in breathed through it a new life and an immortal beauty. “By virtue of the Lamp locked up in it, the hut had been converted from the inside to the outside into solid silver. Ere long, too, its form changed; for the noble metal shook aside the accidental shape of planks, posts, and beams, and stretched itself out into a noble case of beaten ornamented workmanship. Thus a fair little temple stood erected in the middle of the large one; or, if you will, an altar worthy of the temple.” The whole passage, of which this forms a part, is perhaps the finest illustration to be found of a certain wide-spread and multiform intellectual phenomenon of our time. In the higher walks of modern literature, an attitude is not unfrequently assumed toward Christianity which, in these ages at least, is new. It is concluded by the serene worshiper of reason or of man, that the Christian religion may now be treated with that polite and complimentary tolerance with which a generous victor treats the distinguished prisoner whose sword he has hung on the side of his tent. We are told that Christianity is the highest thing man has “done,” that it is the purest of earthly religions, that it has given voice to the deepest emotions in the human breast. Language, which reaches the gorgeousness, and force, and sweetness of poetry, has been woven into wreaths to crown it; intellect, which, in the width of its domain and the greatness of its might, suggests comparison with the central power of imperial Rome, has shrined it in a temple, or offered it a vassal throne. And how are Christians bound to receive the haughty condescension of all this praise? They are not left without an example by which to shape their conduct; their fathers taught them how to act in still more trying circumstances. We have not forgot the ancient offers, tacit or express, which were made to the religion of Jesus, and the wrath which awoke on their rejection. It might have obtained a seat on Olympus, a niche in the Pantheon of the ancient world; it might have sheltered itself under the wide wings, dropping gold and manna, of the Roman eagles. That the Crucified of Judea should be deemed mightier than the Jupiter of the Capitol, that the words of a few fishermen were to be esteemed more worthily than the ancient voice of the Sybil, and the mystic whisperings of a thousand sacred groves; this astonished and incensed the Pagan world, this cut to the heart the pride of Rome. But the declaration of the smitten Galileans was explicit and unchanging: the Gospel of Jesus is every thing or nothing; if true at all, every god and oracle must absolutely vanish before it. Our answer now can be no other than that given of old. Christianity either lives a divine life or dies; until the concession is made that it is divine, in no qualified sense but to the express intent that it came down from Heaven, no approximation is made to what it demands. It will not enter that temple, arrayed, as it is, in the still artisic beauty of Greece, which Goethe has reared for it; it either fades utterly, or that temple crumbles into the dust before it.
There are but three hypotheses on the subject of the existence of the Divine Being, and our relation to Him, which in our time deserve attention; those of atheism, pantheism, and monotheism. Of the first of these, we do not now speak. The tone of unbelieving tolerance to which we have just referred, is used chiefly by the disciples of that great school of pantheism which originated in Germany in the last century, and the ramifications of whose influence, more or less disguised and modified, we think we can detect very widely in our present literature. Its principal philosophic representative in Germany was Fichte; its greatest embodiment in our country is in the works of Mr. Carlyle. The former of these may be called its originator, although it is our strong impression from what we know of the Kantian philosophy, and from the fact that Fichte was at first a disciple of Kant, that its original suggestion was found in the self-contained and self-sufficient law, the categorical imperative, of that philosopher. We do not intend to enter upon the exposition of this pantheism. We consider it now in one point of view, in application to one problem; and we mean to evolve the essential points of its solution of this problem, in contrast with that which we purpose briefly to sketch, the solution offered by Christianity. This