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unbiassed and the unconcerned, seal his lips to the taunt that calls Christianity a superstition, and bless God for that light which shone into the world's dark heart at that time, and shineth still. But some, far more moderate than any that we have alluded to, will say-No! we grant all that is said about the elevated, the benign, the spiritual views of God, of his character, and of his dealings, taught by Christ. We allow that the morality inculcated by him is that of the perfection of human character and attainment, and when inferred and collected from his parable and his metaphor, comes to us with a grace so. attractive, a simplicity so impressive, a convincingness so irresistible, that we bow before the Preacher at once, and confess him as our teacher and our guide. Those bright, confident, neverwavering assertions that man is an immortal being, too, and those dim shadowings and mysterious indications of that future state,
would have been incomprehensible to us, even if described, command also our reverence and homage to the Teachership of Christ. But still, they continue, we sometimes are compelled to think of Christianity as a better kind of superstition,--as good, well-meaning, pure, but as a superstition still. At first we are astonished at hearing such apparently contradictory statements. We can see in Mahometanism a superstition; we can see in every form of Paganism a superstition; we can see in Catholicism, nay, in some forms of Protestantism, much that is superstitious: but to look at Christianity, springing up where it did, and when it did,- to look at Christianity teaching what it did, and how it did, -to look at Christ himself, its calm, dignified, and self-possessed Finisher and Founder; to acknowledge its consummate excellence and purity, the need under which the world lay of its introduction, and call it still a higher kind of superstition, excites in us the greatest wonder, and seems at first to us an enigma. On more inquiry we find that the sole ground on which it appears in such a derogatory light to this class of minds, is this, that it claims for Christ inspiration and miraculous power. Now this, of course, we grant, it does, for after full examination of the various systems of the rationalists, we cannot see how we can receive the records of Christianity as furnishing us with our only original knowledge on this subject, and deny that this claim is distinctly and emphatically made. “But though certainly made,” the objectors reply, “it is made under a misapprehension ; under a mistaken view of the real and accounting causes; with no intention in the parties to deceive others, but in consequence of their being deceived themselves.” Into the enormous difficulties of detail, into the inconsistencies, the miracles of credulity, and contrivance which this view would compel us to receive as probable, nay, as actual, if we hold the documents to be the productions of eye-witnesses, we do not at present enter.
Suffice it to say, that the objector (and though sometimes a quiet, he is by no means a rare one) deems this claim sufficient to stamp the religion that makes it as a superstition. Now we would briefly offer to his attention three considerations on this his verdict.
Firstly. In the first place, that to which he objects forms the machinery of Christianity, not Christianity itself. It forms the means, and the instrumentality by which it was introduced, received and confirmed in the world. It was intended primarily for contemporaries, as a help to, and confirmation of, their faith. It was intended to give them assurance of the truth and value of what was taught, and to make them rely with confidence and security on its authority. This end it subserves still; but if any man feels within himself, from the nature of this religion and of his own heart, that that religion is God's gift to him ; if he feels the revelation in the mind and teachings of Christ accord with, and interpret, the less distinct revelation within himself; if it approves itself to him as so essential, so accordant with his nature as to be necessarily true; if in its many voices there are to him distinct messages from God; if he does not require that help to his faith in it, which other men require, but has sufficient testimony within :-then let him rejoice in the evidence he has within him. But if a more palpable machinery of evidence was requisite and was employed at a time when the spirit of man was not, as in many cases now, become moulded to Christianity, but had to be taken as it were by storm, and have its attention arrested, and its belief commanded, and if with others, perhaps the mass of men, this is requisite still, let him not call the religion a superstition because its records declare that there were proofs offered at the time which his particular mind cannot easily receive, or does not stand in need of eighteen centuries after.
Secondly. The objector believes in God; he believes in His providence, he believes that God careth for the best interests and happiness of all that he hath made, and for the race of man. Now we must suppose, that after being created with an intelligent spirit, and placed in an abundant and beauteous world, the best gift that was ever afterward conferred upon man, was this same religion of Jesus. It being such, he would not find fault with the language if we said “ God was specially with us in the ministry of Christ,” that“ there was a special providence in his mission.” Now we certainly think that if this were the case, the objector to Christianity' has made too much of the
particular fact of miracles as connected with its ministration, For if we believe in the existence of God, if we believe in His providence, if we believe that after man's creation and placing in this world, Christianity was God's best gift to him, we cannot think what extraordinary instance of superstition it can be, to assert that this same God endowed the bearer of this gift with a certain power that should command attention to it, confirm its teachings, and give confidence in its authority. At any rate, we cannot see why, on the mere ground of such claims being made, any one would be entitled to call the religion making them a superstition.
Thirdly. When any man will tell us to what extent and in what manner God influences with moral power or wisdom the minds of any of his creatures; what limit there is beyond which he cannot go, or what mode there is out of which he cannot act, then may we agree to his calling that religion which claims an influence from Him for its founder beyond that limit, and out of that mode, a superstition.
In the meantime we must believe that the same God who first gave man understanding, can affect and influence that understanding, such way, and for such purpose, as seemeth good to Him. What is the precise meaning of inspiration, how that God, who surely may affect and hold communion with the minds of his creatures, influenced the mind of Christ, we cannot tell. If we believe in Christianity as a great gift of God,--we cannot suppose that God left the mind of him that was to bear it to us, unfurnished for his mission. But how, and to what extent the knowledge requisite was conveyed, we are not required to know, nor can we tell; but surely, to say that this great and pure religion is a superstition, because its records declare that that knowledge was given to Jesus by our Father, is a proceeding too summary to be wise, and involving an assertion of impossibility, which human ignorance is not competent to make. We believe the candid and reflecting mind, seeing what Christianity is in itself, independent of these concomitants; what it did on its introduction; how its beautiful spirit is entering more and more into the views of men and the laws and policy of nations, and what we should be or do without it,—will confess that the grounds we have mentioned are most slender and insufficient ones for even the wisest of our time, much less the confident, half-educated sneerer, to designate a superstition. The religion before which Locke and Bacon and Newton, the greatest minds of our country, unequivocally bowed, and which they ably defended, was not a superstition.
Of it, as of Christ, we may indefinitely (and the more indefinitely, the more modestly and truly) say, “It is the vine, the Father is the husbandman. How much of the influences that have reared it are of heaven, how much of earth, we may not be enabled, as certainly we are not called upon, to decide. How much of its nutrition it owes to the soil in which it stands: how much to the air that blows around it: how much to the rains that descend upon it from heaven,,we cannot say.
But when we look at the heavenly fruit, so full of nourishment and power, we believe that all good men, when not too closely fettered by the terms and the definitions of the schools, will gratefully aver, that our Father is the husbandman, and that to Him, however reared, however cultured it may have been, to Him should be thanksgiving for the gift.
ART. IV.-LETTERS FROM ITALY TO A YOUNGER
SISTER. By CATHARINE TAYLOR. 2 vols. John Murray, Albemarle Street, London.
We are almost tempted to ask with the author in her modest preface to the work before us, “ Can anything new be said of Italy,” that ground we have so often been invited to tread with the poet, the antiquary, the enthusiast of every description ? and perhaps nothing strictly new is said in Miss Taylor's book regarding Italy. “I at once confess that in writing, my object has not been novelty but utility, for amongst the various works on Italy, I have not found one which brings this country, with all its interesting associations, within the reach of young people." “As it has been my chief wish to awaken an interest in subjects of importance, to stimulate rather than to satisfy the young mind, I have endeavoured to give such brief historical sketches as might lead to a further and deeper study of the events in which Italy has acted so great a part; in literature, to advert to the treasures which the Italian language contains; and in art, to furnish such information as might assist in the formation of a pure
and correct taste.” Such is Miss Taylor's object, and most admirably has she accomplished it. There is a freshness and individuality in her impressions, a reality in her descriptions, which convinces the reader that they are the faithful transcript of a journal really kept at the time. The historical sketches are well fitted for their purpose, though it is impossible in so short a space to give anything but a sort of frame-work, which, connected as it is with the scenes of action, cannot fail, we think, to engage the young reader to fill up the picture. There is just enough given of the history of the men who throw such lustre over the middle ages, and whose names are sacred to our ears even in childhood, Petrarca, Michael Angelo, Dante, Palestrina, &c., to make you feel they were living acting men, mingling with the crowd around, gradually rising from their obscurity, struggling with neglect and poverty, till by the force of genius alone they bowed even kings and prelates in admiration before their works, and forced princes to solicit their presence, as shedding the brightest splendour around their thrones.
With a very happy power Miss Taylor has blended the instructive and the interesting, and offers no temptation to the young student to leave the one and read the other. While she speaks of the beautiful picture or the gorgeous magnificence of
VOL. IV. No. 15.-New Series.