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In the opening paragraphs of his powerful essay on Jonathan Edwards, Professor M‘Dougall remarks on the too extensive diffusion of the idea that evangelical religion, in its strict, personal form, comports ill with solidity and compass of intellect. In a course of somewhat desultory reading, I was forcibly struck with the prevalence of this idea in certain departments of our literature ; and it occurred to me that a statement of the Christian view of the individual character, together with a fair representation of the practical embodiment and working of that character in our age, might not be unattended with good. It was thus that the composition of the following chapters had origin. With the first idea certain others became gradually allied, and especially it seemed to me important that the position and worth of Christianity as a social and reforming agency should be, at least, in outline, defined. The twofold statement and delineation which I here attempt was the final result.
The first and third divisions of the general subject may seem not to bear a due proportion to the second. The disproportion is only apparent: if I may be permitted to speak somewhat pedantically, the relation between the three parts is that of stem, foliage, and fruit.
the internal social economy. A man in private life may well enough represent or introduce a phase of this.
It was my idea and endeavor to represent the whole life of each individual of whom I spoke. I think that Mr. Carlyle has demonstrated, that a biography can be given in the compass of a review article : his essay on Burns I consider, in the full signification of the term, one of the most perfect biographies I ever looked into : and the highest success at which I aimed, in a literary point of view, was the introduction into Christian biography of certain of the methods of him whom I believe to be the greatest biographic writer that ever lived. My failure has been only not so complete as to hide itself from my own eyes.
My relation to Mr. Carlyle is twofold. The influence exerted by him upon my style and modes of thought is as powerful as my mind was capable of receiving : yet my dissent from his opinions is thorough and total. I believe that, without a grand rectification, his views must be pernicious in their every influence; when Christianity gives them this rectification, I think they convey important lessons to Christian men and Christian churches. Whether the streams that flow from that fountain are to spread bliss or bale, depends upon whether there can be put into it a branch from the Christian vine : and this, since no better has attempted it, I endeavor to do.
Let it not be thought, however, that the following pages contain nothing but argument. Argument, indeed, does not very much abound. I endeavor to let
facts speak. In delineating the Christian life, moreover, one can never even approach truthfulness, if he regards only one aspect of character: Christianity, by hypothesis, makes all things new.
The book is popular in the sense that I desired its style to be such as would please all readers : but I must beg to state that, in the first part, I endeavor to lay the foundation on the deepest and most stable ground.
I have throughout abstained from quotation of book and page. The facts I state in connection with each man of whom I treat, are what might have been embraced in a pretty long review article. I state my obligations to the authors of the several biographic works I have consulted : and it will be no unimportant result, if my essay should lead to a wider and more practical use of the valuable and varied materials afforded by our now rich literature of Christian biography; from such a reservoir, streams might be led off to water many a particular field, and cause many a particular crop to grow.
In my first chapter, and in the first of the Second Part, I speak occasionally with a decision and succinctness which may seem somewhat assuming. I must excuse myself by saying, that I have almost entirely given results, and that I did not rashly satisfy myself of their soundness. I may mention that, in defining the nature of happiness, I do not mean to assert that the theory of Sir William Hamilton is identical with that of Butler, but only that they can be shown to harmonize.