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in the wards of the higher thought, that all right knowing and living is worship. We cannot tell how far the writer would be disposed to divinize her thought by thus boldly secularizing it; and perhaps she is only haunted by the sweet and gentle moods of the household, which are enjoyed selfishly, and dread being turned out upon the broad common of God. There is a good deal of this nice domestic feeling in modern books, which gets hold of religious phrases, connects itself with family worship, and cleanliness and dancing for the boys. Then it becomes a kind of cant. Every good mother has a paper of bon-bons in the drawer, effective in the direction of domestic bliss, but utterly incompetent to provide a hearty meal.
There is a British love for literal Scripture in this book, which, of course, we should have been surprised to miss. But it has nothing to do with the spiritual elevation of the people. Still less serviceable are one or two reproductions of exploded theology, like that on page 139, relative to the resurrection of the body. Is it really possible that a devout book must still flaunt these rags? Do people crave some revelation or intimation that “gives the flesh also leave to rest in hope'"? Is the body so endeared, like a family mansion, by the joys and grief that have been experienced within its ever-changing limits, that a man cannot feel happy at the idea of carrying elsewhere his substance unless he carries his shell ? We wonder if the animals which shed their scaly and testudinous coverings regret them. Possibly in the raw interval, before the new plates are secreted and have hardened to the back. Neither does a soul care to be unclothed; but when it is obliged to shed its fluent garment of material elements which the ground and air weave round it, the sense of identity and homelikeness survives the clothing upon with the house from heaven. If the personality resides in the phosphates, what shall a man do when he can no longer feed well and drink Burgundies ? Not only his body must rise again, but his pantry and his wine-bin, his corner grocery and oyster-shop; the butcher's cart must become a chariot, and the wagons with tin cans that contain a dubious fluid must continually supply customers up and down the milky-way.
These old scraps of theology are not really believed by the finer writers of religious books. But they are used in an unhealthy and sentimental manner. All these reminiscences of creeds and human speculations must be abandoned, and the strict knowledge of all phenomena must henceforth supply a substratum for theology, and intelligible facts to excite wonder, adoration, hope, and spiritual joy.
The writer indulges in a curious expression of disappointment, almost of despondency, as to the influence of Christianity, which is drawn from her by a secret feeling that the ordinary ideas of religion taken from the New Testament, and so slowly modified and supplemented by the development of mankind, are behind that development, and do not meet and satisfy all the demands of human nature. So that it seems to her as if there were somewhere a mistake; either the New Testament does not reveal the whole of Christ, or “ in all that concerns Christianity, under its present dispensation, we must be prepared to meet with a certain degree of check and disappointment.” The slavish literalness which still clings to her graceful pen appears in the alternative which she hastens to offer, that the prophetic parts of the Old Testament, which represent a Messiah yet to come, are to console us for the failure of the Christ who really came! Through all this she suffers to appear a glimmering sense that knowledge is doing great things for mankind, and is destined to be the reconciler of prophecy with fact, of earnest expectation with the manifestation of the sons of God.
Yes, here the pen hazards the first faint strokes of a true theory of the communion between the divine and human life. Piety has been too long restricted to the internal attitude which the soul preserves towards the invisible by means of devout exercises, and the elaboration of a single class of sensibilities. It is represented by the upward look, as if the crown of the head were expanding in the region of reverence, and drew the eyes up with it. They are brimful of peace, or kindling with rapture. The whole face seems shrunken inwardly, under the apparent effect of a central windlass, to which all the cords converge. The hands are folded, to keep them out of the way, being no longer of any external importance. All the organs seem to be on the point of becoming rudimental again, under the tyrannical development of a single inner sense. So greatly considered has the act of praying been, and the struggle of the soul towards a single outlet, as if it were a prisoner in the Black Hole and died for air. To some theologies this earth is a Hole, and the manifold uses of human nature only an oakum-picking and sofa-making in prison clothes under the glances of an overseer. Incessant praying may be a relief to souls which think thus meanly of the life that springs from the very bosom of the Father; but why they should care to pray to such a Father, except with the hope of getting speedily let out of prison, it is impossible to conjecture. If the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, it is for want of knowledge; men wait for a manifestation in another place, when they themselves are manifestly in this place, with the very words of Christ in their mouths: “ Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth. Give us this day our daily bread.” Souls of all character and conditions must forever yearn to God in prayer. To stint that tendency would be as bad as stinting any other. But when piety becomes, like novel-reading, the cultivation of a single set of feelings, it leads, like that, to hypocrisy and shameful insensibility of the actual work which alone betrays a man's actual aspiration.
We must not pretend to scorn the word Piety in attempting to restrict its province, nor appear to mock the tender and noble impulse which it represents. On the contrary, those wrong it and cast contempt upon it who are enamored of its mediæval and diseased expressions, and resist the attempt to make it equivalent to the whole living and striving of an intelligent man. We must not be deterred by the glamour of words from teaching the people to look for their Heavenly Father wherever he may happen to be. He is no nearer to the soul in a moment of ecstasy than he is in a moment of charity, of knowing his laws, of observing his facts, of tracing his plan, of suffering from our ignorance, of doing his work. Men need to be uplifted in the region of their intuitions, and the crowd may be lamentably meagre in spiritual refinement. The correction is to come, not from the Chinese method of setting the
soul in a pot, to extort out of it a monstrous top, and to glory over a bud as big as a cauliflower. Rather let men stand where they are, among the corn-flowers, and blossoms of the wide-rolling prairie, drenched with sun, air, and rain, and set upon by the universe. There will be stars for night, the fulling and the waning moon, the deep silence of a world that holds its breath to listen; but the day is longer, winds muster from every quarter, bringing appeals, shouts for help, encouragements, taunts to labor, thunderings of the great laws below the horizon. These are the open-air voices of God, and the soul of every man prays when he says “ Yes” to them.
It would be a great thing if everybody became spiritual. But what is it to become so ? Not merely to be high-minded and irreproachable, to be tender and merciful, to be led by conscience, to understand that God is near, to dread to be ignoble in his presence, to rejoice in natural moments of prayerful feeling; least of all is it to be incessantly mounting the soul's garret-stairs to keep the skylight unfastened, as if God were determined to get in by that way alone. To be spiritual is to know the spirit of everything, to perceive the divine law and nature of all the facts with which our daily life confronts us, and of as many other facts in as many other provinces as we have the ambition and ability to perceive. There is indeed a private postern to every soul, at which the inspiring Spirit stands and knocks. Ineffable messages and sensations are sometimes delivered at that door. But keep your ear against it all the time, and the thieves of rust, weather, slovenliness, conceit, and all unneighborliness come up the front way, commit burglary at every window, carry off the implements of your trade, rot the timbers and deface the ornaments of your house. The soul cannot hire porters to watch at every inlet; it must learn to inform the whole residence with a lively personality that greets God from an open window, welcomes him at every threshold, hails him upon the street, walks with him in the garden, and yearns to follow him when the garden seems a fore-court to the stars.
ART. VII. – THE THIRTY-SEVENTH CONGRESS.
1. The Congressional Globe, and Appendix. Washington: John C.
Rives. 2. The Statutes at Large and Treaties of the United States of America.
By Authority. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. 8vo.
The Congress whose term of legal existence ceased on the 4th of March just passed, has occupied too remarkable a position in our history not to claim a word of distinct remembrance. The circumstances are still fresh under which it came into being. We were on the verge of a revolution, how vast, how terrible, with what possible result, no one could anticipate. To this Congress, and to the executive that summoned it, the decision was left whether we should continue in fact to exist as a nation. All the questions of doubtful interpretation in our fundamental laws, which we had been only too content to slur and compromise in a half-century of peace, crowded threatening, and compelled an imperative answer. The nature of the constitutional compact, — the authority of government to deal with seceding States, — the character to be given to our territorial law,—the means of raising and arming forces, or of turning the nation's wealth to the needs of the public service, — the regulation of finance, — the interpretation of the common law which guards our private liberties, — all these presented questions either absolutely new and untried, or else such as had been kept open by the shifting phases and unstable equilibriums of our party politics. Now they must be met all at once, under the Sphinx's threat, to answer them rightly, or perish. Below them all lay the supreme and vital question, Is there the courage, is there the national loyalty and faith, to meet them fearlessly? Shall the honor and integrity of the nation be guarded, and its destiny secured, its grand ambitions and hopes be carried to fulfilment, or shall all be lost, through irresolution and despair ? On the practical decision it depended, not whether our political theories are true, but whether this race of mankind and this period of the world are fit to establish and defend them; whether we have not merely the ambition and the pride, but the nobler qualities also, that vindicate a nation's right to be.