« PrécédentContinuer »
and reached several sophistical and untenable conclusions." No doubt there is a great deal to be said in favour of this view, more than some who, captivated alike by the freshness of thought, and fascination of style which secured the book such a widespread popularity, were loud in their praises of " Ecce Homo,” will be ready to admit. Unquestionably, the difficulty of pursuing such a line of inquiry meets us at the very first stage. “If (argues our author with great force) a biography is to be traced from point to point, how can it be done without referring to the birth, if not to the ancestry, of the person whose biography is to be traced ? Suppose that a writer should undertake to trace from point to point the biography of the author of 'Ecce Homo,' would the author, or would the public be satisfied if the writer did not open the narrative earlier than the time of the appearance of that book? Yet this is what the author of Ecce Homo' does with the biography of Jesus Christ, and with this disadvantage on his part, that he overlooks a fact without which all the succeeding facts never could have transpired." All this is true, but then it forgets that the author of Ecce Homo” does not profess to give a complete survey of the life and work of Christ, but, on the contrary, plainly intimates that the work will be incomplete until supplemented. Whether it was wise to publish such a work in detached portions, whether there is any probability that the second part will, or, indeed, if it is to be consistent with some of the utterances of the first, can effectually supply its deficiencies, is one thing-whether the author might advantageously or fairly occupy the position he has taken, and construct an argumentum ad hominem, is another. It may be that the latter is not the correct view of his intention, but if it be—and till we have the fuller light which his own promised book alone can give, we have no right to assume that it is not—there is no logical objection to it. Standing alone, as it does now, the book is eminently unsatisfactory, but on the other hand the author of “Ecce Deus” has pushed his arguments too far. But his reasoning for the divinity of our Lord is clear, lucid, and irresistible; and were the book freed from some little excrescences which have no bearing on its cardinal object, it would have even higher value.
We have left ourselves but little space to speak of the last book on our list, which, as the production of a candid, devout, and liberal mind, dealing with one who had been betrayed into scepticism, and seeking to clear away some of the mistakes by which his intellect was beclouded, deserves careful attention. The writer is a sincere believer in the Bible, but he does not accept it in the way that a great many orthodox people deem essential. By many he would be esteemed a heretic, but he is a heretic who holds fast by a great part of Christian truth, and believes that he holds it all the more clearly and strongly because of what may be regarded as his heresy. The spirit and design of his book may be judged from the Preface, in which, speaking of the class to whom it is specially addressed, he says:
The secret of the success which now attends publications intended to advance a destructive criticism is that they speak to men already perplexed in faith, but pure in deeds, who received with their first instruction in Christianity statements of doctrine which in the time of mature reflection appear to contradict the Divine instincts of justice, mercy, and truth-the image of God's own eternity in the heart of man. These doctrines taught as necessary inferences from, or as identical with, the facts of Christianity, were once acquiesced in as the creed of Christendom, but now in not a few cases repulsion follows the attempt to read and understand them by the light of reason and conscience. That it may be very difficult to render service to such persons without paining or perplexing timid and anxious spirits is but too probable; but everything of a merely personal character ought surely to be risked by Christians on behalf of men and women who, even in their unbelief, have not cast off the reverential feeling for Scripture which they acquired in youth, and who are always willing to allow that to a Bible training they mainly owe the light and life in and by which they now see.
The book opens with an imaginary correspondence, in which on the one hand the case of the reluctant sceptic is treated with great ability and impartiality, while in reply the author brings out the view which appears to him to relieve revelation of the difficulties which the inquirer has found in it. Especially does he grapple with the objections drawn from the conduct of the Jews to the Canaanites, explicitly denying that there is any warrant for the common notion that the massacre of these people was divinely commanded, and maintains that in this, as in a great many other points, we get free from a great many perplexities by drawing a distinction between what God clearly commanded and what men actually did. His theory is that while the Bible contains direct revelation it has also a large element that is human and uninspired. To discriminate between these two parts is the work of the verifying faculty. But this opens a subject far too important to be discussed at the close of an article. We hope to find some opportunity of entering upon it fully before long. Meanwhile we thank the author of “ Liber Librorum" for the earnestness, the moderation, and the ability with which he has stated his views. We cannot feel that he stands on very safe and certain ground, but his book is marked by great thoughtfulness, and is full of interest from first to last. It is intended to counteract a spirit which is only too widely spread, and of which he writes in the following strong and earnest terms, adopting in the first sentence the language of a distinguished Catholic writer:-“Externalism is superficiality; superficiality is frivolity;
frivolity means manageableness by a strong spirit and will. What England has chiefly to dread in the present advancing love of ritualism is the scepticism it hides and the frivolity it engenders and encourages ; each, in its own way, fatal to the civil liberty which arises out of religious individuality and its accompaniment—a claim that the supremacy of conscience shall be acknowledged.”
EXHIBITION OF THE ROYAL ACADEMY.
BY THE REV. R. H. SMITH.
“I HAVE just come in, and have not much time to sparę. Will you tell me what pictures are most worth seeing ?” It was in this way that we were accosted the other day by one of our clerical readers at one of our visits to the Exhibition of the Royal Academy. For the moment we paused for a reply, being naturally somewhat taken aback, knowing that anything that is worth looking at, and especially a work of art, can never be seen if it be looked at only for a moment, and that the spectator, if he be in a hurry, will never be able to receive the impression it was intended to convey. Our questioner being only a casual acquaintance, we were ignorant of the character of the eye that he brought with him,-what it could and would see; so we were obliged to leave him in the forest of visitors and pictures with the unsatisfactory suggestion to go round the rooms and look at what he found hanging on the line of sight.
Having been followed for a couple of hours in our pilgrimage through the exhibition by two Catholic priests, who were evidently possessed with some of the knowledge and spirit of art, which has ever been one of the characteristics of their church, we were reminded of the contrast which is ever and anon forcing itself upon us by the architecture, music, and pictures of Protestant Dissent. Giving up, as we have done, so much of our Puritanism as led our predecessors to abjure art as profane, and using art both in our sacred buildings and our service of song, and also adopting, at times, pictorial methods of propagating our creeds and representing the facts of our history, it would seem to be worth our while to recognize what we are doing and what it involves,
It would be out of place here to notice our attempts in architecture or psalmody; but we are glad of this opportunity of pointing to two pictures of Protestant Dissent which are now on view at the West-end, and which are to hang on our walls in the shape of engravings and photographs, if the pushing publishers are left to do with us what they would.
The first is a composition called “The Noble Army of Martyrs," and, though said to have been designed after a picture in which there is a fictitious gathering of poets, it seems rather to have been the result of a visit to Madame Tussaud's. Protestant Dissenters of the past, coming out of a classical building in which there is no drawing, into a landscape in which there is no nature, are here brought together to be purchased by the Protestant Dissenters of the present. They stand waiting, with their faces copied from old prints, and their bodies and drapery painted from the lay figure. We have looked in vain for any faith or any feeling, and are shut up to the conclusion that they are merely collected to be sold, and the only unity amongst them appears to be a common consciousness, somewhat suppressed, of the fate that is before them. The least knowledge of art, and a grain of the faith by which these elders obtained a good report, will be enough, we opine, to save any one from this imposition.
The other canvas claims to be “An Historical Picture." Were it not for this pretence, which, judging from internal evidence, seems to be that of the publisher of the photographs, rather than of the painter, we should have been silent. The time, and labour and love, which have been bestowed upon the production demand respect. The scene it is supposed to represent is one that no Dissenter would willingly forget, and if treated historically, he would be only too glad to have hanging pictured before him, stirring his mind by way of remembrance. “The Disruption of the Church of Scotland” is a fact which is held sacred by the free churches of Great Britain. But a collection of portraits is not a picture. Quantity is no apology for quality. Four hundred and fifty faces, placed together after the fashion invented by some country contributor to a local bazaar for a chapel, where the portraits were taken from old Evangelical Magazines and pasted on cardboard, must not be sold as a work of high art. Many of the heads are good likenesses, and the articles on the table are well grouped ; but Mr. Hill, though a Free Churchman, is a landscape painter, and does not know how to treat the human face and the human form. The building where the Deed of Demission was signed was low pitched; and, doubtless, much of the fresh air must have been exhausted by the multitude, but some air of some kind must have been left. There is no air in this composition; and air is an element in
a picture. Every thing and every one are on the same plane. Curiously, the copies are more like pictures than the original. The heads of the upper tiers have been somewhat reduced in size, and photography has been kind enough to take notice of this fact and make us aware of it.
The old collectors, who possess the two well-known Baptist, Independent, and Wesleyan productions, may care to add these fresh failures in art to their galleries; but we trust that in the general body there is a rising race who have a better knowledge of art and a greater respect for themselves and their principles.
There are two pictures in the present exhibition of the Royal Academy in which the subject of Protestant Dissent is taken, and treated with something of the force that belongs to faith, and the skill that is essential to art. We have in 271 “An Incident in Luther's Monastic Life at Erfurt," by H. O'Neill, A.R.A.; and in 304 “The Dawn of the Reformation,” by W. F. Yeames, A.R.A. This passage, taken from D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation, is the text taken by Mr. O'Neill: “One day, overcome with sadness, Luther shut himself in his cell, and for several days allowed no one to enter. His friend Lucas Edemberger, uneasy about him, took some young choristers and knocked at the door of the cell. As no one answered, Edemberger, still more alarmed, broke open the door, and found Luther stretched on the floor. After vainly trying to rouse him, the choristers began to sing a hymn. Their clear voices acted like a charm on the poor monk, to whom music had always been a source of delight, and by slow degrees his consciousness returned.” The terrible struggle with doubt, difficulty, and dogma, which belongs to the fight of faith, is here represented in all its agony and danger. Any one who here passes by Luther, may see that he is not acting a part. Having swooned and fallen, he lies across the picture half-raised by his friend, forming a line which at once attracts and guides the spectator. You look at him, and you find by the marvellously-painted return of speculation to his eye, that he is coming to; and you are thus led to turn round for the cause; and hearing the tender, touching tones of the boys' voices, the tale is told. The animation in their look and gesture is repeated with a strange unearthly glow of enthusiasm in the face of the Reformer. The one is connected with the other. The colour and lines of the picture are in keeping with the character of the subject. Black and white, and brown, prevail throughout, and the comparative hardness of the handling helps to express the severity of the scene.
In 304, Wickliffe stands at the door of Lutterworth Parsonage. His church is in the middle distance, and a row of chestnut trees tell you by their half-opened leaves, that it is early