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his destruction. I intimated what had satisfied my own mind about all these things, regretted that the friends of the Bible had certainly not all proved judicious advocates, and contrasted the Book at its lowest with the religious books of other nations at their best, and suggested a few more considerations. I was glad that my Norwegian friend went in stoutly for the Bible; and with the sturdiness of an honest man, who is not himself so unfortunately constituted as to be over-sensitive to difficulties, and especially to nothing but difficulties,—of which there may be danger,--and who knows something of what the Book has been and is to the world; he made very light, indeed, of some of the objections advanced, and brushed them away with a rough and ready hand, as a housemaid cobwebs. By-and-by, our “ Church of England man” volunteered to amuse the company by recitals from the "Ingoldsby Legends,” &c. And as I preferred the quiet of my own cabin, which I fortunately had all to myself (a point I am generally successful in securing-stewards know how), I retired; the mate promising to call me at three next morning, that I might lose nothing of the beauty of the Christiania Fjord. And so ended Sunday on board; the experience of the day making me almost, if not quite, ready to prefer the strictest “Sabbatarianism” to that utter non-observance which so many call “freedom,” and “ freedom from antiquated prejudices,” and which is a kind of negative sacrament with the professors of “liberal opinions,” falsely so called. But the true christian idea of the Lord's Day is the one we want, the divinely wise mean between two pernicious extremes.
As we steamed along in the summer night, we had on our starboard the open sea, which in these parts is black from the depth of the water; and, far away on our larboard, the low, dull, grey, barren rocks, which in stormy weather often prove so fatal to even experienced navigators.
(To be continued.)
THE WITCHCRAFT OF ERROR.
WHEN Paul writes to the Galatians to recal them to a sense of their folly and peril in forsaking simple faith in Jesus Christ as the one ground of their participation in the blessings of the great covenant, he addresses them in these words :-" foolish Galatians! Who hath bewitched you !” The Apostle thus suggests to them the character and danger of their error through
the emblem of that wide-spread conviction of old times, the fascination of the Evil Eye. The image is certainly peculiarly suggestive of one aspect in all great perversions of the truth; reminds us very vividly of an influence to be guarded against in our contact with all eccentric speculation, specious sophistries, gross yet subtle errors, daring scepticism. The steadfast look, bearing with it a power to fascinate and enthral, is very pertinent as an emblem of that peculiar influence, apart from all argument, which attaches to some of the wildest, most deadly forms of error, and is to many minds their real charm.
It is worth while to analyze this “Witchcraft of Error" and make some attempts to indicate its elements. We do not propose, indeed, to enter on any controversy as to the various points which may come up in the course of our remarks. Our object is simply to show that, back of all argument, and apart from it, there is a curious but intelligible attraction to be taken into account in dealing with the phases of error special to each era. It may be well to awaken a sense of this peril and track out its sources, whether these be in the mind itself or in that which engages the thought. The illustrations we present in furtherance of our purpose are not many, but sufficient, we hope, to the end.
The very characteristic of singularity, lawlessness, peril, in certain speculations, suggests, strange as it may seem, the first aspect of this witchcraft.
The danger in standing on the brink of some tremendous precipice is not in the insecure footing so much as in the fearful fascination of the position. The nearness of irretrievable doom, the thought that one little step would fling us bruised and mangled into that boiling surge, so affects us that we experience a terrible attraction towards death. This is so strong in certain temperaments that an instant's pause would be fatal. It is a strange but real attribute of our complex nature. It was found necessary to protect the top of “The Monument” in London with a grating, to prevent persons from flinging themselves over. In many instances the close contact with the danger was the source of the giddy impulse. The same propensity manifests itself in our moral nature. The statistics of crime show us that there is a close resemblance between the law of epidemics in the physical constitution and the cause of moral contagion. When some terrible deed of poisoning is made public and commented upon, a series of such cases is forthwith evolved. A boy, reading such a book as Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard, acquires a craving for the crimes, and affects the hero of them. There is this subtle attraction in the near contact with gross crime; the peril in it seems a spell, its lawlessness a fascination. It is possible that the old proverb: "Speak of the devil and he'll appear," is but the pithy popular way of expressing the conviction of the peril of familiarity with evil. A similar fascination accompanies certain studies and speculations, daring aberrations from recognized opinions and modes of thinking on religious questions. The very excitement of the tremendous hazard forms the charm to many minds. The dark studies of long past ages, the researches of what was called “ The Black Art," owe the favour with which they filled their votaries, in part to their mystic, awful nature. To pretend to know that which it was considered blasphemy to know; to possess a wisdom so fearful in its unholy daring, that it was popularly regarded as being the result of a compact with the devil ; the very horror and danger of such attainments formed the largest part of their attraction to many. The peril, mystery and power which go with a life so marked out, are well conveyed in the “MANFRED” of Lord Byron. That, indeed, and the descriptions of Alpine scenery, form the special interest of the drama.
The spell which has mastered many a mind in our time might be traced to the same source. In all speculations leading into awful wastes of conjecture, or haughtily spurning common beliefs, there is a certain charm derived, not from the truth or untruth, the preciousness or worthlessness of the discovery, but simply from the daring singularity of the conclusion. To say of a course of investigation, that it is opposed to received beliefs, is to recommend it to many minds. The timid, the cautious, shrink from the unprofitable chase. The excitement of danger, the isolation, become to other minds irresistible.
Nay, often the singularity, apart from anything else, supplies a charm. High Church fantasies, and revivals of ancient superstitions, rites, and observances, mediæval designations, and strange vestmentings, may be to some persons really serious matters, and have a meaning in them. But to most of those who cultivate or patronize them, they are dear because of their singularity. A dry, tedious service, has a certain phosphorescent brilliancy, like that of a decaying body, when thus presented and accompanied. We believe it will be found to hold good in the case of some remarkable men, and also in the experience of many whose course is of an everyday character, that the daring and singularity of certain utter perversions has been their spell and fascination. Many a young man has been led to ruin, in regard to his religious convictions, by the pre-disposition to startling novelty and dangerous singularity, in preference to moderate and familiar views. It seems lowering to some minds to think with common men or take up with the old world-truths which have seeded and garnered their harvests of earth and heaven for many generations. It is one aspect of the Witchcraft of Error. Thus comes it like some beautiful witch of old legends, who with flashing eyes and weird smile, and glittering gesture, lures her victims onward to the lonely path where the beetling crag and black whirlpool, and shifting quagmire, and thick wreathing mists, foreshadow the gloomy end. There is reason to repeat with Tennyson
“Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell
That mind and soul according well
But vaster. Keeping in view our purpose, not to argue but to remind of a certain contingency in all perversions of truth which may involve to some minds a peril, we mark another element of this fascination of which we speak, in
That intense though almost unconscious proneness to the mysterious which we find active, more or less, in all minds, and specially energetic in some.
The craving after the mysterious and esoteric has its roots deep in our spiritual nature. We cling to the conviction of a something unusual in connection with the grand concerns of the soul and eternity, something which in its transcendental character shall harmonise with the high mystery of the kingdom of God. An invisible world presses in upon us from all sides. In our inmost soul we hear its voices, with our inner eye we seem at times to penetrate through the thin, wavering, yet impalpable veil which shuts that world from mortal vision. As in the battle pieces of Homer the gods mingle, so, too, in our battle of life, we feel conscious that combatants from an unseen world take part. We recognize a supernatural influence associate with our life and its final destination. Scripture responds to this deep conviction, this yearning of our higher nature. The superhuman is plentifully manifest in the narratives of the early development of our faith. In the Gospels there is ever an implied recognition of the unseen, and its relation to all our strivings, all our aspirations. The Epistles heave with this idea as the earth heaves to some mighty impulse in her central depths. Christianity is based on a mystery, and is itself a mystery in all its working. The transcendental underlies and consummates all its teachings and overflows its annals. Our own individual experiences of its power are strangely mingled of that which is most common and trite and that most lofty of all mysteries, the intimate communion of a frail sinful human spirit with the Most High God, the Invisible. The themes which Scripture discusses, the grand fact of the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord; every act of worship, every effort of prayer, the very annunciation of the Gospel proffer, all are saturated with the supernatural, as Gideon's fleece with dews. Now, amid all the marvellous inconsistencies of this controversial age, there is none, perhaps, stranger than the manner in which Scripture has been handled on this very ground. Though thus based on awful mystery, and steeped in the supernatural, the Word of God, with all its interwoven woof and warp of miracle and manifestation, is eminently plain, practical and intelligible. It is a message from God, come to us by a miracle, and telling of a grander miracle; yet it is clear to the meanest capacity, and wholly practicable in its significance. Here is the peculiarity which gravels so many. 'Tis a religion so awful, yet so plain-so full of mystery, yet so real. Its mystery is of the sort to be anticipated. Christianity deals with man in his immortal attributes; with God, the Infinite, with eternity and the invisible world. But there is a reality and practicalness about all this which rather disappoints morbid natures. To some persons everything in religion must bear & dishonest show of transcendentalism. Its doctrines must be so rarefied and mystified that none can know anything about them except a select few, and they are generally unable to express their own meaning. No German critic has ever yet discovered the purpose of Goethe's romance, called by speciality “ THE Romance.” Just on that account it is the more precious; the final, incomparable, unsurpassable outcome of that noble intellect. The inconsistency of human nature is, in such matters, wonderful. Many reject the Bible in as far as it is mysterious and supernatural, and give utterance to haughty diatribes against it on that ground, who will swallow down the most impudent and wretched impositions ever practised on the intellect. It is one of the most terrible grovellings of scepticism. The judgment which fell on the Babylonian king falls on many of the thinkers of the day; they eat grass and herd with the beasts. The especial point in all this is that whilst some of the keenest intellects reject Scripture because of the miraculous in it, such is the inalienable craving toward the supernatural in the spiritual constitution, that the very rationalistic iconoclasts—as they term themselves-replace Bible mysteries by the most outrageous impositions of our time. Robert Owen and Miss Martineau are notable examples. And what shall we say of the distinguished men who accepted as a new gospel the “ Revelations” of the Pough-Keepsie seer? Even Mr. Thackeray gave in his adhesion to the so-called “spiritual manifestations,” and admitted that celebrated letter into the “ Cornhill.” Surely there is a curious witchcraft in all this, which, explain it how we will, is wondrous.