« PrécédentContinuer »
dern timay be said thodicals. ..with some herible pages of times in generale of those familiar
munerative is this form of literary labour, that some of the most successful books of modern times have first appeared as magazine articles; and, in general, it may be said that the best writing of the day is to be found in the pages of our periodicals.
What has been said of magazines in general, will, with some Decessary modifications and qualifications, be true of those of a professedly religious character. We must apply to them Pope's familiar canon,
'In every book regard the writer's end,
For none can compass more than they intend.' Most of them are the avowed organs of some religious sect or section of a sect. They aim mainly to defend the principles, or to communicate the gossip of the body; nor can they rise above the average intelligence or culture of the denomination to which they belong. A magazine may be too good for its constituents, and fail of success through its very excellence; just as in the famous Northamptonshire contest at the close of the last century when Lord Fitzwilliam's candidate was defeated because on the morning of the election a hogshead of choice claret was substituted for the strong ale on which the free and independent electors had been previously regaled, and which the bean-fed bumpkins scornfully repudiated as sour small beer, punishing the blunder by going off in a body to vote for the other side. But the chief evil attending periodicals of this class is, that it is difficult, almost impossible, to be the representative of a party without becoming a partisan. The advocate of a sect can hardly fail to be sectarian. "The range of thought and feeling is almost inevitably narrowed within the confined limits of denominational action. Too often the creed to which the magazine is pledged is regarded as the ground plan of the universe and the exhaustive summary of divine truth; whilst the action of the denomination, or its leaders, must be defended whether right or wrong. If, indeed, the Editor was very bold, he may maintain a courageous and perilous silence in the presence of what he cannot approve, but dare not condenın. The worst aspect wbich our religious magazines assume is when some little clique have succeded in forcing themselves into a position of influence, and imposed their narrow prejudices and shallow sciolism upon the denominational organ, making it play only one tune, and denouncing as rash and impious heretics the daring men who venture to suggest that the range of true harmony includes other combinations of sound, and that occasional variations might be permissible, and even desirable. Our denominational magazines afford not a few lamentable examples of, and noble exceptions to these criticisms.
The Christian Spectator' occupies ground of its own; and, as a very rare contributor to its pages, I may be allowed to say that it has
occupied it with admirable efficiency. Bound by no party ties, acknowledging no master but Christ, and admitting no restrictions save those imposed by His word, it has rendered no slight service to the great cause of Truth and Righteousness. Its motto, the brave words of Robinson, is a noble one, 'If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry, for I am verily persuaded I am very confident—the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word.' Who shall gainsay this? Who will dare to prescribe limits to the advancing tide, and say, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further ? The men who now-a-days are loudest in their applause of the Puritans, would too often denounce that liberty of conscience and freedom of private judgment which made the Puritans what they were, and formed their chief claim on our admiration. Their only idea of liberty of conscience is, ' Liberty to think as you please, provided you think right;' they being the self-constituted judges of what is right. Because the Christian Spectator' has been religious without bigotry, has combined reverence for Scripture with freedom from human shackles, has, beyond any other periodical I know, bowed with unquestioning faith before the Great Teacher, and bid defiance to all who would usurp His authority in things spiritual, I, for one, bid it God speed.
Nor is this its only claim. Dr. Arnold's desire, 'not so much for religious books as for books on common things written in a religious spirit,' is fulfilled in its pages. I have been glancing through the numbers for the last two years, and find Literature, Art, History, Politics, and Science discussed in a spirit, and with an ability which are worthy of all praise.* The Editor and the stated contributors could not say this for themselves, but I, - an "outsider,' may be allowed to say it for them. A periodical so independent, so able, and so thoroughly Christian, ought to have a large circulation, and I hope that in this case merit and success go together. We shall be busy this year building the sepulchres of the men whom our fathers persecuted two centuries ago. I hope that in doing honour to the dead, we shall not overlook the claims of so excellent a living exemplification of their spirit as the 'Christian Spectator' affords.
* Let the reader pardon this agreeable little puff, which, however, is rendered valuable by the experience of the contributor. It really was not * done to order.'—ED. C. S.
ON THOROUGHNESS IN AFFECTION.
It is related by a Greek writer that Socrates on one occasion observed in his walks through Athens a sculptor at work upon a figure of Jupiter. According to his custom, he introduced himself by the remark, that the artist had undertaken the most difficult of all enterprises, first, to form an idea of the Supreme Divinity, and then to embody his conception in marble for the delight of mankind. Perhaps in modern times the admonition of Socrates remains not altogether without an appropriate bearing on the occupation of those whose vocation it is to learn to conceive aright of the King Invisible, and then to represent in words their thought to their fellow-men. He who imagines that it is an easy task to form or to finish a true idea of the character of God, has yet to learn the first principles of theology. The soul is a mirror dimmed and defaced by sin, and throws forth upon the heavens perverted reflections of the Eternal Light. It is only as that mirror is polished and purified by the divine spirit that it can reflect that Image, of whose glory nature is but the shadow. If a man,' said Aristotle,' were to affirm that he loved Jupiter, all the earth would be astonished at the ridiculous profession, so little did unassisted philosophy avail towards the * knowledge of God.' But we have learned at length, from a source of instruction unknown to the Greeks, that God is Love, and that true goodness is identical with the love of God. We love Him, because He first loved us.'
But what do we mean when we say that God is love? Do we intend that which we seem to say~that the divine nature is thoroughly affectionate and kind ? Much depends upon the answer given to this inquiry. Many there are who in words declare that God is love, but, when invited to ratify their affirmation by discourse, they explain it utterly away. The love of God is then described as a goodness without warmth, a benevolence without emotion, as if it were the rosy sunlight that tinges without melting the cold snowy summits of the Alpine mountains—an object to admire rather than to adore. And this is, in effect, by far the most common representation of God. He is delineated as a Being whose acts are beneficent, but He is carefully described also as a Being whom we must not conceive of as animated by anything analogous to emotion in ourselves. To pourtray the likeness of a God whose feeling of personal affection towards his servants was as real, as lively, as profound, as that of a father to a child, would generally be thought to be substituting dramatic poetry for sound theology. Such representations, indeed, are regarded as allowable condescentions to the weakness of the multitude, but they are not to be taken for the abstract truth. The love of God is held to be something as much unlike human love as divine thought must be unlike human thought. The conception of a Deity who is capable of anything resembling personal affection, or the feeling of love of which we are conscious, is supposed to be unworthy of the divine majesty. We may say, for want of better words, that ‘God is love; but we must not think of such love as warms our own bosoms with its glow. Now, the effect of this kind of theology resembles that of frozen breath upon the windows in winter. The ‘system 'is, perhaps, very clearly drawn out in its branching foliage, but it is very cold, and it shuts out the view of nature. The result of thinking of God in this sublime manner, is to destroy all animated emotion of love towards our Maker. The love of God may be this cold and passionless benevolence, but so long as men think of it thus, they cannot love Him. The heart refuses to be deceived by language which the intellect sees through. In vain will you impress the aspect of tenderness upon a mass of marble, or a sheet of canvas. The eye may be amused by the expression of the sculptured or depicted countenances, but the heart knows that neither the marble bust nor the canvas can feel. Not even a child can be made to LovE a picture. And neither can man or woman really love a painted God. If it be not literally true that God is love, it is not literally true that any one on earth can give their hearts to Him. Accordingly, nothing is more common than to observe the union of such theology as we have hinted at above with a cold, calculating, sectarian bigotry. If “love to God’ is to stand for intellectual and practical relations towards an incomprehensible power, not to be conceived by human thought, nor described in human language, the religion which follows may leave the heart as hard as the nether millstone. There may be Faith of a certain iron quality, but there will be no praise, no joy, no effusion of delight in the divine service. The painted God of Love will be worshipped with a painted ceremonial, eulogized in words of affection unfelt, and mocked with the music of a passionless adoration. Comparing the tone of much divine service in our time with the throb of genuine feeling in the prolonged oratorio of David's Psalms, we do not hesitate to say, that our comparative iciness is owing to the superinduction of a system of superfine speculation on the nature of God, which has left little beyond the name of the Eternal Love. In our grand struggle after philosophic truth, we have burned our wings in the celestial fire, and fallen into the frozen abysses of thick-ribbed ice which lie at the farthest extremity from Heaven. But everything assures us that the profoundest philosophy lies close at hand, and breathes its glorious inspirations into the souls of the meek. Our God, the Father of spirits, is not this passionless figment of scholastic brains. He who is the author of all the mighty tides of passion that roll through the creation is a wellspring of living waters, and not an inaccessible mountain on whose sides cold glaciers gleam and freeze. Nature and conscience, and the soul's deepest emotions, seem to be made as if to unite in teaching us that, though God may have more 'feeling 'than man, He cannot have less—though He may possess a nature infinitely purer than ours, that purity cannot consist in insensibility. If thought in man points us to something more and not less intelligent in God, feeling in man points us to a sensitiveness more refined, more exquisite, and more profound in Him who is 'Consuming Fire.' It is a diseased dread of anthropomorphism which leads us to strip the divine idea of every real human analogy, until there is nothing left but verbal abstractions, and the Athanasian Creed. "God made man in His own image,' and in no respect more so than in the attribute of a generous love.
For look through the world! Let the young mother say, as she gazes with an effusion of delight upon her new-born babe, cradled in arms which quiver with an unspeakable affection, whether she does not instinctively turn from the mysterious fountain of love that springs up in her own bosom, to think of its author as a Being of inexpressible tenderness. Let the school-boy, who climbs the elm or oak, and looks, half-frightened at his deed, into the warmly-lined Dest of the linuet or the sparrow, or upon the jealous mother bird covering her nestlings with her downy feathers, say whether the sight does not of itself suggest the thought of a Love which pervades all nature, and finds no creature too mean for its fatherly care. Let the young lovers, whose life in their spring-time is one dream of delight-whose every touch, glance, tone, thrills with glad electric sympathy_those lovers for whom roses bloom by day, and violets breathe by night-for whom the moon takes up her wondrous tale, and fills the evening air with a delicious softness in the golden hour when strength and beauty pledge eternal union—let these also say if God the Creator be not love indeed. Ask them whether some metaphysical abstract God, without intelligible feeling, was the author of this heaven on earth, and they will tell you that He who kindled the marriage torches at the bridals of Rachel and Rebekah is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever,' a real, a living, and allsurrounding love.
And this is precisely the impression which revelation adds to the voice of nature. If nature makes known God as mighty love, originating boundless life, the word of God reveals him as love redeeming and immortalizing it. The God of the Patriarchs was no impassive divinity, but a Spirit following Abraham at every stage with a pure, a personal, almost a human affection. Every vision of the night was giren to confirm the persuasions of the day, that Jehovah was a Being of the strongest attachments, and an 'Almighty Friend'