Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

tangling itself with its ethereal wings?

This discrepancy between our wishes and our relations, between the heart and the earth, remains an enigma indeed, if we continue to exist; but it were a blasphemy, if we cease to be. Ah, how is it possible for a refined soul to be happy? Strangers, who are born on mountains, are consumed in low regions by an unhealthy home-sickness:-we belong to a higher place, and, therefore, an incessant longing wears us away, and all music is our Swiss Ranz des Vâches. In the morning of life, we see the joys which hearken to the trembling wish of the bosom, shining far removed from us over distant years; when we have reached these years, we turn round upon the delusive spot, and see the expected happiness blooming behind us in our hopeful and vigorous youth, and now we taste, instead of hopes, the recollections of hopes. Thus joy in this also resembles the rainbow, which in the morning shines before us over the West, and in the evening, stretches over the East. Our eye reaches as far as the light, but our arm is short, and can reach no farther than the fruit of our own soil.”

““ And thence it follows?” asked the chaplain.

"“Not that we are unhappy, but that we are immortal, and that the second world within us demands and points to a second without us. Ah, what might not be said concerning this second life, whose commencement is so plain even already in the present life, and which so wonderfully doubles us! Wherefore is virtue too elevated to make us and-what is more-others (sensibly) happy? Why is a certain higher purity of character associated with an inability to be useful, as it is called, to the world, even as, according to Herschel, there are suns which are destitute of planets? Why is it that the slow fever of an infinite love for an infinite object dries up, and hollows out, and at length breaks the heart, which is soothed only by the hope, that this disease of the breast (as in its physical form) shall sometime be covered over, and cured by the ice of death?” ?—Kampaner Thal, pp. 109–120.

[What follows is nobler and more affecting still, but space fails us.]

This is indeed divine philosophy—the hopes and aspirations of the Phædon breathed to us in sweeter and loftier tones. But sweet as the music may be, is it not the music of childhood's melodies? Where is the bold and certain sound of that trumpet which peals to us from heaven, awakening the deathless faith and warlike vigour of spiritual manhood? When reading such words, strong as may be our admiration and sympathy, we cannot help saying to ourselves: These are but lively children, conversing together in the morning twilight of their existence, and each telling the other his dreams and speculations as to the scenes of mature life and the unexplored experience of the world. But if they are wise children, and know that they have an affectionate father, whose word they can believe, why not go and ask of him to solve all their doubts, and give them, instead of guesses, however acute, distinct knowledge, so far as they can receive it, of what lies dim and undiscovered before them, and what they need to know for their own advantage. Socrates and his friends were such children, but they longed for a heavenly teacher. Our modern philosophers reject the teacher, because he teaches more than they wish to know, and eagerly return to the groping and guessing of the spirit's childhood. What folly is this fancied wisdom! We might as well prefer to cherish the dim anticipations expressed by Seneca in the lines

• Venient annis sæcula seris,' &c. concerning the new world which Tethys was sometime to unveil, and the “ingens tellus' that should be revealed beyond the waves of the Atlantic; instead of rejoicing in the knowledge of the new continent, into which the old world has poured, and still is pouring, its sons, its literature, and its energies. By a discovery infinitely more sublime, through the encounter of darker perils and direr sufferings, an eternal world with its many mansions, its thrones and crowns, its Conqueror and Lord, stands now revealed before us, in the noontide beams of the gospel : all is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light.' And is all this to be set aside and forgotten for reasonings and analogies which, however beautiful and true, are but the faint streaks of the dawn? And these never could satisfy, and now less than ever, the cravings and wants of the human spirit, in which there is always, when true to its destiny, the anticipation and demand of certainty on these points —of a revelation. By Richter's own showing, natural religion leaves men, even of cultivated and noble minds, unsatisfied and unconvinced-disbelievers in the nobleness of their own being. How much more must this be the case with the common people! He himself unconsciously admits the utter inadequacy of such views for them, when he says of the words of admonition and comfort addressed by the good Schulrath to Lenette in the churchyard (Siebenkäs, vol. I. p. 273), that his theological holy water was drawn in by * Lenette's heart more thirstily than the pure philosophical

Alpine water of Firmian, and the elevated thoughts on death expressed by the latter, passed over her soul without finding any entrance. This is true to life : Lenette is but the representative of common-place, narrow-minded, toiling humanity in general. But shall a writer whose sympathy with that very rank of hu


-manity is so strong and kindly—who seeks to elevate and bless the common people, contribute by all his most earnest labours to rob them of that very faith which is their mainstay and consolation, and to give them instead of the rod of Aaron, brought blossoming from the mercy-seat, the withered sapling of philosophy to be their pilgrim's staff; instead of the living water that should be within them a well springing up into life everlasting, the cold alpine draught of pure transcendentalism? Yet, if the noblest part of Richter's works were meant to have any tendency at all, this must be their tendency. It will be said that his intention was far different: that his object was to oppose the grovelling infidelity of the age, which levelled man with the brutes, and to remind those who were in danger of being led astray by it, of the grandeur of man's nature and destiny. We admit it, and we honour him for it so far. His defects we do not so much condemn, as regret and deplore. But we must hold him, and all like him, inexcusable. They stand now in the same relation towards Christianity, that the atheist and idolater of old did towards natural religion. They are as far behind the living and progressive spirit of this epoch in the world's history, as Anytus and Melito—or Aristophanes, if they like it better—were inferior to Socrates and Plato. Many amongst us, with weak childishness, would revive the religion of the middle ages: these, in their wisdom more childish still, would lead us back to a deeper and darker antiquity, and give us the Heroism of man's infancy for the Christianity of his manhood.

We need not say that in this poetico-philosophical system, which is offered us instead of Christianity, there are yet more serious defects. It not only sets aside our only sufficient grounds for the hope of immortality, but it gives no answer to the most anxious inquiries of man's nature in reference to the character of our future existence. It speaks of a “heaven for all-of happiness and rest beyond the grave—as a consolation for the sorrows and conflicts of this life; but concerning our sharpest sorrow and conflict it is silent. What agonizes the heart of man most keenly, and the nobler his character still the more, but a sense of guilt? If the dim shapes of virtue, beauty and truth, that are still found enshrined in the inner sanctuary of the soul, point us to a world where their prototype exists, and to a sphere where they may find their full development; surely that idea of law and justice which we name Conscience, and which has power to erect its tribunal and pronounce its sentence within us, before which the mightiest will tremble, is not a fiction, a mere shadow of external dogmas, having no counter

part and fulfilment in the higher world. To leave this element of our nature out of account, or by vain shifts to elude its requirements, stamps any system that assumes to be a philosophy of the spirit as utterly naught. It leaves the main questionthe great problem which is inscribed on every heart-unsolved. It offers me everything by which I may move the invisible world, casting beneath my feet its gigantic terrors, its inexorable fate, and the roar of Acheron, except-T8 GTC, the standing-point. That standing-point conscience denies us. What other power shall restore it?

There is another power that can restore it, but the mention of that is rejected as folly. How melancholy to find Richter writing to his son Max, who had adopted evangelical views, though possibly in too melancholy and mystical a form, in the following terms :- In all the conversations of Christ there is not a single word of the doctrine of all souls falling at the same time with Adam, or of satisfaction for sin. * * * * There is no other revelation than the ever continuing. Our whole orthodoxy, like catholicism itself, first centered in the Evangelists, and every century opens and produces new views.' We forbear commenting on this; and will add only one other thought. This system, which has amongst our own writers no mean apostles, is not only narrow, and insufficient for man, but it practises a fatal imposture on him. It comes arrayed in charms that are not its own. It walks in a borrowed light; its vesture and arms are stolen from the truth which it despises. It comes forth a Venus in the panoply of Minerva, but cannot stand the assault of a Diomede. As it was in the third century, so is it now. Philosophy robes herself in the spoils of her rival ; yea, often assumes that rival's name, and appropriates her watchwords, and usurps her honours. Nor is it only the elevated disquisitions, and views of truth, but even the characters and incidents that form the charm of such representations as Richter's, the virtues in which his heroes shine, the hopes that animate them, their labours and their joys; all these conceptions and creations, could have had no existence even in fancy, far less a feeble reflection in reality, had it not been for that very faith which is rejected. What had become of society had it been left to the teaching of Plato, Epictetus, and Antoninus ?* Could they have put to the rout the brutalities and pollutions of paganism? Could they have wrought such a

* What would Justin Martyr, the contemporary of these last two—both the bitter opponents, and one the persecutor of that faith, in which his soul had found what Platonism could not give it-have thought of such a phenomenon as Richter, the son of a Christian pastor in the eighteenth centary?

transformation on a large portion of mankind, that, even in circles where truth's influence is chiefly external, such household joys and social friendships should flourish as diffuse their fragrance over the pages of Richter? That his sentimental philosophy then, or any other such, should profess to dispense with our faith, on whose noble stock it only thrives as a parasite, sharing its dews and sunshine, and extracting its juices, is an illusion and a robbery. The hour which beheld the ruin of the tree, would see the parasite fallen along with it. The existence and luxuriance of such parasites, indeed, are but proofs of the nobleness of the trunk to which they cling. The mock sun is not created by the refracting vapour alone, but owes its glory to the presence of the orb of day. When the vapour is dispersed, the mock sun vanishes, while the true pursues in silent majesty his career of joy and splendour.

ART. VI. (1.) The Metaphysic of Ethics. By IMMANUEL Kant, Professor of Logic and Metaphysic in the University of Königsburg, &c. &c. &c. Translated out of the original German, with an Introduction and an Appendix. By J. W. SEMPLE, Advocate. 8vo. pp. cxviii., 378. Edinburgh, 1836.

(2.) The Elements of Morality, including Polity. By WILLIAM WHEWELL, D.D., Master of Trinity College, and Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Cambridge. 2 vols, pp. xxxii. 374, 401. London, 1845.

(3.) Lectures on Systematic Morality, delivered in Lent Term, 1846. By W. WHEWELL, D.D. 8vo, p. 205. London, 1846.

(4.) The Elements of Moral Science. By FRANCIS WAYLAND, D.D., President of Brown's University, and Professor of Moral Philosophy. 12mo, p. 381. Edinburgh, (reprinted) 1847.

WHAT CAN I KNOW?-WHAT OUGHT I TO DO?-These questions form the two great problems, on the just solution of which the philosophy of human nature, and, we may add, no small measure of the well-being of man depends. By our great Creator we have been endowed with a capacity for thought and action; and he has placed us under a moral administration, by the principles and laws of which our whole active being is to be regulated. This is the constitution and order of our existence as God's creatures. We cannot alter it; we cannot go beyond it. To understand it, therefore, is a first-rate duty and an important advantage; and to do this we must find an

« AnteriorContinuar »