Слике страница
PDF
ePub

insisted on; although it has, we think, been somewhat hardly treated, the school of Paley and Butler did tend to give Christianity rather the aspect of a mechanism than of a life, did rather seek for it a place beside a refined Epicureanism, than claim for it its right and natural position, in a more lofty and ethereal region than was ever reached by the sublimest speculation of Platonism. But we have no hesitation in claiming for the Puritan theology a freedom from any such error; and in the conclusion of the second chapter of the first book of Calvin's Institutes, we have his express declaration that, were there no hell, yet, since the Christian loves and reveres God as a Father, the dread of offending Him would alone suffice to render him abhorrent of vice. Fear does not produce virtue; the fact that a man restrains himself from sin to avoid the punishment of hell, is no proof that he is converted. Yet fear is not without a function in the system of things. It bears not the wedding-garment, and no hand but that of the Divine Spirit, working faith in the Christian, and so enabling him to appropriate that garment, and clothe himself in it, can effect in him that renovation which leads to godly action and spiritual joy; but it goes out into the highways of a blighted and delirious world, and there, like a terrible prophet of the wilderness, who foretells the coming of the mild Redeemer, startles and arouses men. Its office is preliminary, external, awakening; it is the beginning of wisdom. Since, indeed, on this earth, the deep-lying disease which renders it necessary is never altogether removed, its warning voice is never altogether silent; but the humiliating remedy will vanish utterly with the disease of which it is a sign, and by which it became necessary; when the Christian goes to take his place among the angelic choirs, he will be able to join them in a melody that is only love, and it does not admit of doubt,

[graphic]

that every feeling of slavish fear with which any being regards Gol, is strictly of the nature of sin.

By fear, or by whatever means the Spirit of God may einploy, the soul is brought to lie down in perfect abasement before God, to acknowledge its want, its woe, its weakness, and its unreserving consent to receive all from His hand. This is what, in the Christian scheme, corresponds to the self-annihilation of Goethe and Carlyle; now is the soul brought to that stage of utter desolation and bareness which agrees with the critical stage of the wanderer's trouble. We can not doubt that here we are at the point where the essential nature of Christianity is revealed ; that we come within sight of its great distinctive virtue, humility. Now it is that the sinful finite being, to use the words of Pascal, "makes repeatedly fresh efforts to lower himself to the last abysses of nothingness, while he surveys God still in interminably multiplying immensities;" this is what Vinet pronounces the end of all Christian preaching, " to cast the sinner trembling at the foot of Mercy.” In the melodious, yet heart-wrung wailings which float down the stream of ages from the harp of the poet-king of Israel, the feelings of such moments found expression; such feelings were in the heart of the Pilgrim, when, fleeing from the City of Destruction, and fainting under his burden, he knelt with clasped hands before the Cross; and it was in this same attitude that the New England Puritan, in utter self-abandonment and feeling of the majesty and holiness of God, judged himself worthy of damnation, and had scarce power to pray. It is but the unqualifred acknowledgment that man, as he exists in this world, requires the aid of Divine power to raise him to that higher state of being to which he aspires. It is the disrobing of itself by the soul of all the raiment of numan virtue; which, however pure and beauti

[graphic]
[graphic]

And now we must be silent, nor attempt to define the new birth of the spirit. "In what way," says Coleridge," or by what manner of working, God changes a soul from evil to good, how He impregnates the barren rock with priceless gems and gold, is to the human mind an impenetrable mystery in all cases alike.” Only this shall we say, that by faith the soul lays hold of and unites itself to Jesus, finding in Him all that for which it has sought; His mysterious sacrifice sufficient to make atonement for guilt, His righteousness a spotless robe in which it may sit forever at the banquet of the Almighty King, His name the harmonizing of all contradiction, the solving of all doubt, the open secret of the universe.

In a passage which he who has once read can hardly have forgotten, so softly pathetic is it, so richly and melodiously beautiful, Mr. Carlyle sets, as it were, to lyric music the joy of the wanderer's heart when he attains final peace. The inheritance of the Christian is likewise peace, though of another nature from that which visited the scathed heart of Teufels dröckh. This is no reward of proud self-assertion, no raptur of philosophic dream : on the Christian, from the eterr.al heavens, there now streams down the smile of a living Eye. The emotions which befit his state have, from the olden time, been voiced in a mild anthem, whose divine simplicity and angelio

[graphic][subsumed]

internal lig at hitherto obscured, we affirm that it utterly fails to approach the root of the evil. When laid down in the most perfect and plausible philosophic form, these views are thus powerless, and, in application to practical life, the perils which encompass them are obvious and unavoidable. To denounce the sensual life is no great achievement or novelty in ethics; a moderately enlightened Epicureanism has always done that. But how can I apply the term of self-renunciation to an act which is really and merely the assertion of self, of spiritual self, that is? What is this more than the purchase of a lofty and delicious pride, by the sacrifice of the garbage of sense ? Self, on every such theory, leaves the coarse dwelling of sensual pleasure, but it is only to rear for its own royal abode, a palace of gold and cedar. And if the commands of a serene spiritualism may, in the case of the philosopher, repel the advances of sense, who that has ever cast his eye over life can refuse to concede that they would be all unheeded on that wild arena; while the absence of any precise definition or applicable test of the spiritual and divine in the individual breast, would leave a broad avenue, the more inviting that it was lined by academic plane-trees, to all manner of delusion, extravagance, and absurdity.

This is a delicate, soft-stepping, silken-slippered age, patronizing the finer feelings and a high-flown emotional virtue; vice has cast away its coarse and tattered garment, and, though finding no great difficulty in obtaining admittance into good society, must come with sleek visage, in a spruce, modern suit, glittering with what seems real gold ; the religion that languishes ir luxurious aspirings or dreams, is very widely approved of. But does not an elevated and insidious but fatal pride tend to pervade the moral atmosphere of the time? We will glow in lofty ardor over the page of Fichte, Carlyle,

[graphic]
« ПретходнаНастави »