« ElőzőTovább »
and a treachery to truth. Do those laws ? Where are they inscribed ? who use this curt but boastful canon What is their authority ? Will science of criticism, mean, that in the wide by her torch reveal them? Are they scope of human affairs there is a engraved on the human conscience ? tendency to social and religious pro- folded up amid the experiences of gress?
If this be their meaning, man's inner life? or made known in they would less frequently and more the Word of God? In vain shall we definitely use the expression ; for the search for them at these sources ; complicated, startling, and changeful man's great teachers know them not. phases of modern society would lead Thus the immediate tendency of every them to a severer and more extensive age is an uncertain one. It may be generalization of facts than they have an evil spirit' and as it ever comes already made. Such a view of the in a questionable shape' we owe it tendency of things is generally the attention only, but not obedience. We last resort of the weary and troubled might here unclasp the mighty volume mind, that humbly seeks to unravel of the poet, and read off on this subthe mysteries of human affairs. Doject the records of the absorbing page. they mean by 'the spirit of the age' If we may try the truthfulness of the obvious direction society is taking principles, and test the rectitude of within the bounds of civilization? The conduct by the spirit of this age, our contradictions presented within this ancestors would be justified in doing sphere of vision, hardly warrant a the same. Suppose, now, at one of belief in the affirmative, yet we think the interviews which took place bethis to be the most definite idea that tween pope Gregory XI., and John is attached to the phrase, greater Wickliffe as one of the ambassadors prominence being awarded to the of King Edward, a conversation like spirit of the age in those countries this had ensued :which most powerfully influence the The Pope. I bear that you, John destinies of the world, and conceding Wickliffe, have written various treato England the most distinguished tises against the authority and power place. By 'age,' then, we suppose of the Holy See : that you have deis meant the passing generation; and nounced indulgences, which all men by its spirit' the most prevalent seek after; and have accused the practical convictions and conduct. priests of pride, covetousness, and of Now if the argument we are opposing neglecting to preach the gospel, while is really valid, it is so on the suppo- you maintain the right of the people sition that the immediate tendency of to the word of God. the passing time, is compelled by cer- Wickliffe.--I have done all this, tain necessary and fixed general laws, and am ready and willing to defend to assume a virtuous and pious charac- my principles, which I declare to be ter. Those religionists who employ taught in the Scripture. this camelion-faced argument assume Pope.—I will enter into no controthis : if not, their reasoning is baseless, versy with you on that point; the and their claims to intelligence are christian world confesses the authority extremely questionable. Those who and worth of the Catholic church, decide all controversies in the way al- and you ought not to assail it, for by ready stated, but who make no preten- so doing you do not act in accordance sions to piety have no reason to com- with the Spirit of the age.' plain, if a christian moralist demands We can easily imagine that our them to endorse this assumption, or readers will smile at this illustration. give up the argument, since chances But we ask, is not its logic precisely on this subject are clearly inadmis- that used by those persons who acquit sable. We ask now, are there such I or condemn both sentiments and men,
on the principle opposed in this pa- earnest attention as followers of the per? What was the spirit of the age • teacher sent from God.' of the Tudors and the Stuarts ? of On political affairs we must refrain the infamous Henry the 8th, and his from lengthy observations. We proimperial daughters of him whom fess liberal 'views and are friends of panderers and flatterers, called a second progress. We devoutly wish for cerSolomon ? of his treacherous son? of tain organic reforms, but incline to the royal profligate who was placed the idea that a people's virtue is the on the throne by the Paritans and only sure guarantee of the stability of Presbyterians ?-essentially a spirit of civil institutions. A virtuous nation persecution and of burning. We can cannot long be enslaved ; but the not, therefore, admit a principle so fullest amount of liberty may exist fallacious and opposite to reason and with little social happiness. This last the Word of God. Let us not be observation is corroborated by the misunderstood. We know, and are state of those nations, who by their ready to confess, that every age has recent constitutional changes have in. its great idea, its master thought, timated their belief that a nation's which a partial glance at things virtue is its liberty; and in doing this around us will be as impotent to dis- have given proof that bad passions cover, as too narrow an induction of have been as prominent in revoluwhat we see will declare our incom- tionary enterprize as a wish for freepetency duly to appreciate. To the dom. History teaches many practiabsence of these broad and philo- cai truths, among which the following sophic views of passing events, is to stand prominently forth : that the be traced the disposition to decide all extreme of liberty is closely allied to questions by stretching them on the the worst form of despotism ; that procrustean bed of the spirit of the such extremes are not permanent, but age. We hope we shall not be guilty that all truly valuable and enduring of immodesty if we point out in what | alterations in national institutions are the master thought of every genera- slow in progress, just and benevolent tion is to be found; and to request in character, and achieved by the mothose who have not with patience, rality and virtue of those who accom. candour, and modesty searched for it plish them. We can endare a sneer there to be less ready to condemn the in avowing our belief that the momen from whose convictions they narchical sentiment enters so deeply dissent. We must look, then, for into the English mind, and has given the age's great idea, in the customs so decided a tinge to British institu. and habits of social life, and in estab- tions and character, that its destruclished laws and institutions. We must tion is not desirable, but would be one put the different schools of the fine of the greatest social disasters that arts through the like process; our could come upon our fatherland. One current literature and philosophy must type of government is impossible in not be forgotten; nor our popular the present mixed condition of the religious pretensions passed by. These world, and will only be realized under pertain to every era, and as they are, the bright sceptre of the Prince of so will be the spirit of the age.
Peace. We cannot in this paper dwell on It is perhaps impossible to decide all these subjects. The field is very the amount of influence exercised in tempting, but too broad to be travel any country by its periodical literaled over here ; we must therefore ture. By it, to a great extent, the content ourselves with indicating the popular mind is moulded; and the directions of popular views in relation newspaper and the magazine are poto those subjects which demand our tent agencies, while the Bible is little
regarded. Very few of our journals give false views of life, have the dis, possess a moral, much less a christian honesty to adopt Scripture phrasetone, and not more than two or three ology to communicate ideas which of our quarterlies' even recognize are thoroughly antagonistic to the the authority and leading principles of teaching of that volume which in the gospel. Of the remainder it may heart we verily believe they hate and be said, that they have an indirect despise. Of such writings, and of bearing against our religious faith. those of our popular phrenologists and The silence they maintain in reference cheap journalists, we are bold to assert, to its records and verities; the low, that they are more pernicious in their sordid, and selfish morality they incul- ultimate effects, than the works of cate; a morality uninspired by the Voltaire, Payne, or Owen, because thought of a judgment to come, and they sap faith by a subtler process; indirectly, but not less effectually, es- they inculcate in amusing shapes, prinstranging the popular mind from the ciples, directly, though not ostensibly claims of Christianity as a system re. opposed to those of Jesus Christ. It vealed by God, and adequate to all is poison wrapped up in jelley, and ere the necessities of the spiritual nature their victims know that they are in
The conductors of our pe- danger, they find themselves in death.' riodical press may not mean this, but On this branch of the subject much the tendency is not the less certain to more might be said. We only add, indoctrinate their readers with the however, another remark. In watchthought that the gospel is either an ing for the last few years, the direcexploded imposture, or a theory inap- tion of our current literature, we have plicable to man's aspirations after spi- been pained to observe, that scarcely ritual perfection, and unfitted to direct a month passes in which there does his daily deportment. Within the last not issue from one press in London, few years, how prevalent has become a volume aimed either at the divine the craving for the writings of men, authority or inspiration of the Scripof what, perhaps, it is too charitable to tures, and filled with a malignity call a negative faith. How numer- | against them which plainly shews the ous are the admirers, in almost every animus of the writers; and prompts us class, of such productions as 'Sarta to believe that a number of powerful Resartus,' ° Festus,' •The Vestiges,' pens are combined together to write and Representative men ;* writings down the Bible. Do not such books which we
can only compare to the as the ‘History of the Hebrew Monflower-fringed banks of a river whose archy,' and Phases of Faith,' point in waters poison all who drink them. this direction ? both written by an Yet these authors are the professed eminent professor in one of our most exponents of the spirit of the age; popular universities; who having passthey teach only a perverted humanity, ed through every grade of belief,
from a high Calvinist to a low Armi* It is a favourite doctrine of Emerson nian, by a not unnatural transition that there is no evil in the world, and that became a Socinian, and has at length pure malignity is impossible. Those who declared himself an Infidel ! This on this subject prefer Bible teaching to unhappy writer is a choice exponent Emersonian philosophy he terms guilty of of the tendency of the passing time; what he calls,' the old philosophy,' and ac- but is only one of a class who is becordingly writes in this shallow strain:--the guiling unstable minds from the faith divine effort is never retarded, the exertion of Christ, and thus too clearly indiof the sun will convert itself into grass and cates “the spirit of the age.' flowers; and man, though in brothels, or in jails, or on the gibbet, is on his way to all
Again, every true believer in the that is good and true.'
christian verities, must look with alarm on the philosophic tendency of aside the Bible as a rule of faith and the present generation. It is worthy practice; while many, ensnared by of attention, that the daring and reck these delusive teachings, have logically less philosophic speculations of this enough become Pantheists. The risage are coeval with the birth, nurture, ing intelligence of German universiand progress of the worst forms of ties is imbued with these atheistic and Scepticism, in relation to the divine soul-destroying doctrines, and but a origin and sanctions of revealed reli- few professors are found who dare gion. This phenomenon seems to to resist the withering breath of the indicate that our earlier and more spirit of the age. Our own literature cautious thinkers in the region of on- is spreading these pestilential opinions ; tology and mental philosophy are and it is to be feared, not without safer guides to him who believes in positive effect. Many young men, the unity of truths than many flippant some of whom have essayed to become talkers in the present day are disposed teachers of religion, are enamoured of to allow. We confess a growing them as furnishing some plausible reverence and attachment to the mod- shelter against the claims of the Bible. est principles of Bacon, nature's great Is it not becoming a fashion to be a interrogater ; Locke and Reid, though sceptic ? Shall the christian, then, in certain quarters it has become the reverence 'the spirit of the age.' fashion to pour contempt on their Nor are we, from the facts above lucubrations; and are disposed to be- stated, unprepared to find false views lieve, that as a truer spirit of philoso- of the Bible prevailing in this generaphizing prevails, these great minds tion. Nothing is more indicative of will be again in the ascendant. It is the progress of opinions among many a well-known fact, that in Germany who claim to be considered thinkers, a current has set in which threatens than the theories recently propounded to sweep away all the landmarks of as to the Word of God. It is to be mental and moral science the world observed, that infidelity in the present has been wont to recognize; and to age has changed its tactics in the aserect others which, as believers in sault it has made on the Scriptures, revelation, we earnestly hope the re- and this change believers in revelation turning tide of humble and devout ought to claim as a concession in their enquiry will sweep away.
favour. The polished satire of the Our space is limited, or we would gifted author of the Decline and Fall tarry to enumerate the teachings of of the Roman Empire,' and the coarse our transcendentalists, from Kant to invective and miserable wit of the Hegel. We must therefore content mind that produced. The age of Reaourselves with saying, that the ten- son,' were employed to destroy the dency of the German philosophy is to evidence of the credibility of the Scripdestroy all faith in the doctrine of the tures furnished by miracles. To the Bible. It teaches the identity of same part of the evidence, modern subject and object,' that the 'me' infidelity has directed its efforts; but and the 'not me' are the same; that for the purpose of proving the Bible nothing exists but in the human con- to be a myth, or an illusion of the sciousness; that everything is but a human understanding. The former is modification of that consciousness, the theory of Strauss, the latter of and that a belief in God is the only Paulus. It would be easy to demonground for inferring his existence. stra that the old-fashioned historic Hence it bases our belief in a future argument shivers both theories to state, and the existence of God, as atoms; and also to shew, that the well also a system of morals, in the doctrines they coutain are as fatal to veracity of consciousness, and sets all historical records as to the writings of the evangelists. The application are sufficient to instruct him in his and logical developement of the theory duty and secure for him a happy desof Strauss has been sententiously de- tiny. The words just quoted were scribed by Quinet in the following uttered by one who is a professed deswords :- Christ,' says Strauss, is piser of modern christian organizanot an individual, but an idea ; that tion, and aspires to be the oracle of is to say, humanity. In the human the working-classes of this country; race behold the God-made man ! be- but from whose doubtful and dangerhold the child of the visible virgin, ous leadership we are happy to believe and the invisible Father ! that is, of our virtuous artizans shrink away. matter and of mind; behold the Savi. The sentiment contained in those our, the Redeemer, the Sinless One; words has two applications, both of behold him who dies, who is raised which are indicative of the spirit of again, who mounts into the heavens! the age. The first is, that the Bible Believe in this Christ! In his death, is not necessary to instruct and perhis resurrection, man is justified be- fect the human mind, and that human fore God!' Need we say more as to appliances brought to bear upon it the views of Strauss on the gospel ? will be sufficient to its necessary culAb uno disce onmes. We deplore the tivation and developement. Is not fact, that this writer has attained a this the semi-infidel principle of a cerpopularity almost unprecedented in tain class of the boasted friends of the land of Luther, and is looked education at the present time, though upon with much favour in our own glossed and lauded over by many procountry, by those who are enemies to fessions of pity for the ignorant and the Bible. They boast of him as debased part of the juvenile populahaving crumpled up the evidences of tion. We suspect their sincerity to the historic reality of the gospel, with be least questionable, in its dislike to all the ease that a man would crumple the teachings of God's word. The a piece of old parchment; and regard second is, a denial of the inspiration him as the wizard whose magical wand of the Scriptures; for none need be is to disenchant the popular mind of inspired to write what every man's those superstitions in which ignorant conscience reveals, or what by the or designing priests have for eighteen diligent use of his natural powers he centuries held it.
is able to discover. Hence we are But other, and not less pernicious not surprized to find, that a popular views of the word of God, have re-writer of no mean attainments, should cently been propounded among us, by propound the theory, that intuition is those who wish to be regarded as inspiration; thus denying the supersound in the faith. About five years human element in the instructions ago we heard a popular preacher and vouchsafed to, or the influence exerted lecturer say in the pulpit, while ex- on, the scribes of Jehovah's will. plaining the important doctrine of Nay, more; this view of the Bible is regeneration, whatever may
your not unconnected with another,—that views of Scripture doctrines, my be- all men are inspired; a view which lief is, that they may be picked up pantheists and sceptics delight to among the opinions which govern honour. Nor do we see how this every-day life. We knew the pa- conclusion can be escaped, if the inrentage of this sentiment; we recog- spiration of the Scriptures be denied nized it at once, though put in ano- while their credibility is maintained; ther dress, as the doctrine of a leading for then will man's reason be the arliving French philosopher of high biter of the truth; and who shall reputation, whose distinguishing tenet assert that the most opposite creeds is, that man's reason and conscience are not the result of the exercise,