« AnteriorContinuar »
religion to a mere speculation, faith to ability to repeat a set creed, love to a weak good-humor, and hope to a clever betting on the future's chances. A hearty welcome should be extended to the robust, even if ill-defined, faith of Stevenson and Kipling. They, and rather against my will I am compelled to admit Walt Whitman to their company, are men whose blood has been decently oxygenated, just as all religious teaching must be, if it is ever to come to anything. Hear Stevenson again:
"For still the Lord is Lord of might;
In deeds, in deeds, He takes delight;
Or, if you will, let Mr. Kipling's McAndrew take up his parable of the marine engine showing forth God's will for
"Fra skylight-lift to furnace-bars, backed, bolted, braced an' stayed, An' singin' like the Mornin' Stars for joy that they are made; While, out o' touch o' vanity, the sweatin' thrust-block says: 'Not unto us the praise, or man-not unto us the praise!' Now, a' together, hear them lift their lesson-theirs and mine: 'Law, Order, Duty an' Restraint, Obedience, Discipline !'”
But there is more than the clear sounding of a healthy ethical note in much of recent minor poetry. One need not seek far before finding distinct reiteration of the Psalmist's "Though I take the wings of the morning," and St. Augustine's "Fecisti nos ad Te." So Francis Thompson sings:
"I fled Him down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
And shot precipitated
Adown Titanic glooms of chasamed fears,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.'"
Nor is there any lack of evidence, in prose and poetry both, of a certain ineradicable hunger of the soul for Faith, which no substitute can either pacify or satisfy. The cry of it runs like an undertone through the Autobiography of John Stuart Mill; it breaks out here and there in Clifford's musical prose, despite that brilliant dogmatist's unwillingness; it finds petulant and sometimes quite unworthy`utterance in the fretful pessimism of James Anthony Froude. It has notably inspired the muse of Symonds, especially in the sonnets called "Figura Animi." But it has found its most candid as well as most beautiful expression in a sonnet of the late George Romanes, composed at a time when its author saw no hope that any genuine and comforting faith would ever come back to him.
"I ask not for Thy love, O Lord: the days
Can never come when anguish shall atone.
O lead me back to pastures I have known,
"I ask not for Thy love; nor e'en so much
As for a hope on Thy dear breast to lie;
We should scarcely expect to look to the poet for any formal religious apologetic, simply because argument of this high and sustained character lies beyond his province. But still there is a suggestion concerning the Method of Faith in eight brief lines by Mr. R. W. Gilder which ought not to be overlooked.
"If Jesus Christ is a man
And only a man,-I say
That of all mankind I cleave to him,
And to him will I cleave alway.
"If Jesus Christ is a God
And the only God,-I swear
I will follow Him through theaven and hell,
Thus I have attempted some suggestion of the thought of the day as it has found expression through the medium of that poetry which is distinctively interpretive rather than creative. I shall make no attempt to sum up an argument, because the presentation of a perfectly articulated argument is beside the purpose of this article. But the religious significance of the discussion may very properly be comprehended in these words of Mr. A. H. Crauford in his "Enigmas of the Spiritual Life."
"Poetry is as music come to itself, rallying from its divine trance, and vainly endeavoring to portray those sacred and awful things which it is not lawful for a man to utter. The very root or spring of poetry is an abiding discontent with the actual and a quenchless longing for the Ideal.... Revolt against what is thought to be religion may inspire a great poem, as it inspired Lucretius and Shelley; but acquiescence in the vanishing of religion is fatally depressing to poets. Gods are needed if only to be defied. The Sublime may live in apparent antagonism to the Infinite; but it cannot live in the absence of the Infinite. Poetry must invent a God if none really exists." And so must Life.
MODERN LIGHTS ON THE REFORMATION.
BY THE REV. JAMES LINDSAY, M.A., B.D., B.SC.
THE modern lights cast upon the Reformation of the sixteenth century have shown a new way of estimating its power and value. The new view is that which comes of regarding it more as part of a wider, more general, movement than as something detached or isolated. The results of this new mode of view lie in the direction of sounder
conceptions of its worth and success. These improved conceptions spring from its being set in juster relations to the advancing science and scholarship of its time, and in essential connection with the growth of toleration and liberty.
We may not forget that the age was one of literary discovery, enthusiasm, and progress, in which men like Luther and Ulrich von Hutten found it a glorious thing to live. Renaissance! this it was which acted like a charm on the men of that time, and brought them to feel as though 'twere bliss in that dawn to be alive. This was the joyous dawn of that life of the mind in which it goes forth into the cosmic life of Nature to find it gifted with an inexhaustible youth. It was the dawn of a new epoch in human history when the mind of man, freeing itself from the yoke of authority, turned to thoughts new, higher, and vaster, and essayed to reconcile the traditions of religion with the teachings of antiquity. Not least of the
evils from which mind freed itself was that of an overshadowing and oppressive supernaturalism. A new impulse wrought within science, and a new light rested upon art. The age was one of the new birth of the theoretic spirit or impulse, for that spirit or impulse sprang from the humanistic renewal in the guise of natural science. Philosophy began to proclaim the autonomy of mind, and put on a universal garb.
So far as the Renaissance is concerned, its entire philosophy lay along the lines of recovery of a disinterested study of nature. But the thought of to-day can very well see how closely connected with the past all the new quest of humanistic culture really was, how the world of Greek philosophy and ideas was brought to life again, and how dim and ill-defined was any longing for a worthy goal. What the age in its deepest, if least defined, desire craved, was not really Renaissance, not the reviving influences of learning or the transfiguring effects of art, but rather those moral and spiritual renewals which meant the Reformation. For the age rightly, if vaguely, divined that it was a greater as it was a harder-thing to effect the rejuvenescence of the religious life than to renew the life of knowledge or æsthetic. It was still wise enough to perceive that these revivings of art and learning, complete renovations as men declared them to be, by no necessity meant the new births of the moral sphere. These were in origin and impulse human: no inward impulse prompted those, in whom the ancient culture and ideals had so revived, to call for a sursum corda and cry, “All our springs are in Thee"! No doubt, the humanness of the Renaissance in Germany was not without intellectual impulse, so that the Old and New Testaments of Reuchlin and Erasmus passed into the hands of the intellectual classes, and a spiritual tendency was alike evidenced and fostered. But it remained ineffective in respect of positive spiritual re