« הקודםהמשך »
shown themselves, with some few exceptions, indifferent about studies which lie remote from their beaten track of thought, which perhaps they even look upon with some suspicion, as associated in their minds with priestly superciliousness or aristocratical arrogance, and of which at least they have never been taught to appreciate the importance. In this state of things, every friend to knowledge and civilization hailed the wise and beneficent act of a liberal Government in bestowing a charter on a truly national University-empowering it to confer degrees in arts, medicine and law, without any reference to religious distinctions—and so constituting it, as to admit of its affiliating with itself different provincial academies. This last provision was perhaps the best means that could be devised, in the actual circumstances of the country, for awakening a love of true knowledge and solid instruction in the public mind.—The problem, which has now to be tried-and it is one, the results of which will be watched with the deepest interest by every one who regards mental and moral culture as the only security of a progressive civilization-is this ;-whether the material and the spiritual elements of civilization can grow up and thrive together in the same spot;—whether it be possible to plant in the centre of our great manufacturing communities, seats of learning and science, whose influence may tend to discipline, refine and ennoble the rough and vigorous intellect so actively in operation around them-cherishing the love of literature, art and philosophy, in conjunction with those more practical studies which bear upon the physical well-being of mankind-and, after the model of the great commercial societies of former ages, in the midst of facilities and incentives for the acquisition of wealth, developing the tastes, and generating the high and honourable principles, which give elegance to its enjoyment, and dignity to its application.* One of the evils incident to a manufacturing and commercial state of society, amidst the great talents and many virtues which it calls into exercise, is its tendency to produce too ardent and unremitted a devotion to the acquisition of wealth, and to make the various attributes of wealth too direct a measure of respectability. This passion, which is opposed to the progress of a true civilization, can only be checked by the tastes and the sentiments which result from the
* The following observation of Novalis is absurdly exaggerated; but our sense of its extravagance should not blind us to the reality of the tendencies at which it glances.
“ The noble merchant character,-the genuine spirit of commerce,-existed only in the middle ages, especially in the German Hansetowns. The Medici, the Fugger, were merchants; our merchants, the greatest not excepted, are shop-keepers.”—Fragments from German Prose Writers, Translated by Mrs. Austin, p. 51,
diffusion of a higher mental culture. To effect so desirable a change in the public sentiment, must be pronounced an aim worthy of the efforts and the zeal of every generous and enlightened mind, and they who pursue it ardently and energetically are entitled to the highest praise. It is not much indeed that a few individuals can accomplish; but they should be honoured for doing what they can, and the degree of their merit must be estimated rather by the excellence of the object which they have in view, than by the amount of means which they can at present apply towards its realization.
In connection with such efforts, it is encouraging to reflect, that the teachers of religion of every denomination have undergone a great change of character within the last five-and-twenty years. They have awaked out of the slumber of habitude and formalism : they are putting forth the utmost energies of their minds in defence of the truths and interests that are dearest to them, and summoning to their aid, with a zeal before unknown, and with a diligence that must ultimately produce the greatest effects, the aids of learning and mental cultivation. Increased bigotry and exclusiveness may seem immediately to result from this stirring of the public mind: but religious earnestness is one of the conditions of spiritual progress; and the deepest truth and the purest charity will be found at last in its train. The kingdom of God will silently grow and spread amidst this warfare of opinions; and parties apparently the most widely estranged from each other, may each be equally contributing in their own way towards its advancement. But then, each party must well understand its position in the world; and comprehend the particular task of duty assigned it, and spare no efforts to execute it conscientiously. Those above all, who have been accustomed to put forth claims to superior cultivation and intelligence, must not be wanting to themselves in the present crisis of affairs, nor repose supinely on the reputation which their predecessors have bequeathed to them. If they are prejudiced, exclusive and spiritless—the cause of truth and mental freedom, of which they have regarded themselves as the depositories and the conservators, will not be maintained; or it will be taken from them, and consigned to abler hands.
It is an agreeable persuasion, that all religious communities which possess any vitality, embody and are developing some element of the religious life, which is needed for the complete realization of the kingdom of God, and are in progress towards that Christian unity in which all will finally coalesce. It may be, that the exercise and preservation of the right of unlimited freedom of inquiry is the peculiar duty confided to that small section of the Christian world in which this Periodical chiefly circulates. And if that be the responsibility devolved on us by Providence, as we value truth and piety-as we desire to see the whole Church of Christ steadily advancing towards that state in which peace and freedom and charity shall be happily combined—let us consider all which that responsibility implies; let us abandon a weak, self-sufficient reliance on a traditional liberalism, and henceforth found the strength of our cause on genuine cultivation and enlargement of mind-on great principles, clearly apprehended, reasoned out into their legitimate consequences, fearlessly and consistently applied. Let the sound education of our laity and ministers be the object nearest to our hearts, and supported with all our liberality and zeal; that we may swell the numbers and increase the strength of those who are needed to reconcile the antagonist forces of society,the stiff scholastic formalism of the priesthood on one hand, and a rough unlettered barbarism on the other that our rising laity, imbued with the spirit of freedom and liberal learning, may demand as their coadjutors in the work of social improvement, a cultivated, enlightened and active ministry; and our ministers, furnished with the means of an education adequate to the necessities of the time, may be conscious of the moral dignity of their vocation, and defend, with a devout and fearless simplicity of heart, the precious inheritance of Truth, Freedom and Charity, which their pious and learned forefathers have committed to their trust,
Art. III. CHRISTIANITY NO SUPERSTITION.
There are at this time in our own country, and perhaps, though not with equal fulness, in every other land of Christendom, two currents, moving apparently in opposite directions, of extreme feeling on religion. One is disposed to the consecration of everything, the other is disposed to the consecration of nothing. One desires the multiplication of religious observances and theological restraints, and the other their total annihilation. One aims at such a control over the opinions and practices of men, as to place them in perfect spiritual subservience; the other at such an entire removal of all anchors of faith, and all feelings of devotion, as to persuade them, if possible, against the law of their own hearts. The effort of the one is to preserve in religion, the effort of the other to guard against superstition. The two states of mind are very conceivable, and a large-hearted man will have no difficulty in comprehending the peculiarity and believing in the sincerity of both. But while this on the one hand does not necessarily betray him into the weak and extravagant charity of supposing, that because both states of mind are realizable and genuine, all who profess and would promote them are equally pure, earnest and disinterested; neither on the other hand does it necessarily lead him to acquiesce in the truth, or wish for the prevalence of either, or look on with indifference as to the result.
We will endeavour to show the processes by which are formed these states of mind : and first that which opposes itself to superstition, or what it calls such. A young and enthusiastic man, we will say, of an inquiring and independent spirit, is brought up under some one of the more prevalent forms of religion in this country. From his childhood perhaps many difficulties present themselves, an explanation of which is afforded him, more or less satisfactory, for the time, but which recur again and again without any permanent solution accompanying them. He acquiesces in this state of things for some years; when his views are suddenly and powerfully affected, by coming in contact with an entirely new current of thought. He is persuaded, perhaps, that the difficulties he has felt do not in reality belong to the Christian doctrine he professes; that he may relieve himself of these, accept the enlightenment and the liberty he required, and be yet saved to the religious world, and to his profession as a Christian. But perhaps the stream of thought with which he comes in contact is wholly averse to religion, or at least to the recognition of the religion of Christ. The representation made to him is this : Look at this book, wherein your religion is contained, how many things absurd and incredible it relates, how many facts for which there is no voucher; how many representations of God and of his dealings, unworthy of enlightened views of the great creating Power and his relations to man: observe how anthropomorphic are all the descriptions and declarations of this power. See how he is made to talk, and act, and feel, as though he were a man. Look at the frame and the laws of Nature! do you think they need amendment, alteration, or interposition ? do you think that in their beauty and regularity they admit of interruption ? do they not speak of their Framer more clearly and truthfully than any words spoken or supposed to be spoken by men pretending to be enlightened from heaven? With regard to the prayers put up in Christian assemblies, how can you suppose that God will change his will at the entreaty of frail creatures of his own ? and as to the morality of Christ, so highly vaunted, is it anything more than any sensible and upright man could say at this day!
Stimulated by such representations as these, our young man, in full sincerity of heart, applies himself to the task of philosophizing religion, and curing the world of superstition. He unites himself to others of like mind. His idea of God is first divested, in the process through which he now passes, of all anthropomorphism ; then of all personality; then of all particular moral qualities; till at last it represents merely a dim and indefinite Power, an abstraction. Some of his associates call it Nature, and some call it the Universe, and some call it nothing. He brought with him a reverence for Christ, as the highest and best of human beings. But, though at first with a little reluctance, he witnesses his descent from this elevation, and gets habituated to hear him called by the milder of his associates, “a good man," and by the rougher, an impostor. But all this, he says to himself, is only freedom of thought, only speculation, and he bears it. But there are many others, of a different caste from himself, who still unite with him in their dislike of superstition. Mankind are bound and restricted, they say, by so many absurd and noxious regulations. They live according to the laws of nature. At first the whole, though a little irreverent, sounds not so much amiss. But he begins to find out at last, what living according to Nature means; what God there is left in the world, when the God of the pure and spiritual Jesus is cast out: what religion there is still in the universe, when all the elements of