Слике страница






Now we look upon Christianity not as a power which has sprung up out of the hidden depths of man's nature, but as one
which descended from above, when heaven opened itself anew to man's long alienated race; a power which, as both in its
origin and its essence it is exalted above all that human nature can create out of its own resources, was designed to impart to
that nature a new life, and to change it in its inmost principles. — NEANDER.

Hold thou the good : define it well:

For fear divine Philosophy

Should push beyond her mark, and be
Procuress to the Lords of hell. - TENNYSON.





[blocks in formation]


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 second part is biographic throughout : and in each of the Books into which it is divided, the working of the individual Christian life is intended to be represented. In the first of these, as I would have it specially noted, this life is manifested in the case of persons not extremely remarkable in an intellectual point of view, and who received their belief in the Christian Revelation in the natural way in which an accepted form of religion is transmitted from generation to generation, not through argument and unaffected by intellectual doubt : in the second, it is exhibited in the case of minds which will be allowed to belong to a high order, and in which the Christian faith became finally the pillar of character, only after having been more or less rocked in the wind of doubt. The first may meet the floating notion that Christianity is powerless with the popular mind : the second, that it has lost its grasp on thinkers.

In the First Book of the Second Part, I treat also, though not, as I have said, exclusively, of the manifestation of Christianity in social life. In order to unite this endeavor with the general biographic plan of the work, it was necessary that the men selected should be more or less representative of public movements or characteristics. They are so : yet I have not been able to attain here a symmetry to yield me satisfaction. I must beg the reader, however, to remark, that I refer only incidentally to what is strictly the national lifethat which one nation has as distinguished from another—and that my object is the general structure of

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

« ПретходнаНастави »