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PLATO represents Socrates as saying, that, in an oft-repeated dream, he was bidden to make music, and to practice the art; and that he supposed this command to be merely an encouragement to pursue with new vigor the study of philosophy. Milton too has said, that philosophy " is not harsh and crabbed; but musical, as is Apollo's lute." The history of learning likewise shows, that this study has ever been exceedingly alluring to the best minds; and that, even if it did not afford them complete satisfaction, and did not bring them the tranquil rest which truth gives, it nevertheless continued to exert a power over them which they could not resist. Even if there were more than dissatisfac. tion, even if there were positive doubt, and the keen misery of mental perplexity and harrowing skepticism, still they were the more wholly absorbed in this study, and the charm was even the stronger. They have all united with one of the most gifted of their number in saying: "I know and feel the insufficiency of our philosophizing; but still I can only philosophize right on."* Now this love of philosophy will continue to exist; for it springs from principles abiding in the soul of man. There will always be men for whom the mysteries of the world of mind will be objects of greater interest than those of the world of For it is a more permanent and important world than
* Jacobi. Tholuck's Ver. Sch. Bd. 2. S. 42.
that of matter; and will be standing in all its grandeur and vastness, when the elements of the latter have "melted with fervent heat." It is a more glorious and wonderful world than that of nature. It, too, has its firmament of consciousness, and thoughts which are more sublime than the stars; for they "wander through eternity," and are ever rising and setting therein. It, too, has its central powers of Reason and Will, of Understanding and Sense, of Imagination and Fancy, of Sentiment and Feeling, which, if they work orderly and in right relations to each other, produce a spiritual beauty and harmony, such as nature but faintly shadows forth; and which, if they work disorderly, and in wrong relations to each other, cause a devastation more dreadful in its nature, and more far-reaching in its effects, than that of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. For it is a true saying of Tholuck, that a Caligula produces more evil than an earthquake.
Such being the character and fascination of philosophical study, it is all important that it be pursued in such a manner, that absolute truth may be reached, and mental satisfaction be the reward of mental effort. It is all important that the thinker should know the helps and the hindrances to a successful study of himself; so that, by rejecting every medium through which truth is distorted, and by applying those through which it is shown in clear outline, he may eventually be enabled "to see how beautiful is the countenance of true wisdom, and that neither the morning nor the evening star is so fair."
Of all the aids to a right knowledge of self, and to a clear exhibition of that knowledge in a system, the consciousness of sin is the best. We purpose to verify this assertion by an examina. tion of some of the influences which naturally flow from such consciousness.
The first general tendency of the consciousness of sin is to produce depth of contemplation and apprehension.
When a man is awakened by the Spirit of God, and the consciousness of sin arises, he is called a "serious," a "thoughtful " man. Then, if never before, does he have profound views. Then does he descend, into the inmost depths of his being, and become acquainted with its deep things. For sin does not lie upon the surface; but is imbedded. And a thorough knowledge of it, involves a knowledge of the most subtle and intricate propensities of the soul, and the still more hidden principle from which they
spring. Sin, like Milton's hell, at every "lowest deep" discloses a "lower deep; " and the consciousness of it is evidenced by the contemplative and thoughtful habit which it induces. The heretofore frivolous being becomes meditative, as his spirit is brought into the immediate presence of eternal realities. God, and law, and immortality, and responsibility, become objects of anxious concern; and the man is fully awake to the solemnity of human life. Though now a being of time, he is aware that he is soon to begin a voyage upon the illimitable ocean of eternity; and the roll and roar of its waters send far into his heart feelings akin to their own deep tones.
Such is the tendency of the consciousness of sin. Now it would be untrue to assert, that this of itself will make a profound philosopher; because the soul can, and does, go through this process, without having its attention distinctly directed to its own na ture and operations. The spirit is indeed wonderfully active, and its energies are in intense motion, while "God is working in it to will," and it is yet in the struggles and throes of the new birth; but it is not reflectively conscious of this motion and power, and cannot therefore philosophically trace these goings on within it. The soul is too intently absorbed in feeling to watch itself; and, to itself, its motion, like that of the swift planets, seems to be a hushed and tranquil rest.
Yet, inasmuch as no one process can take place in the soul without exerting an influence upon its development, such an important one as the consciousness of sin cannot be without its influence. It is indirect, but none the less real and effective. The thoughtfulness which grows out of this deep consciousness will imperceptibly transfer itself into all the spheres of mental activity. He who, in the domains of religion and practical life, has had profound views and apprehensions, will have such in those of science and philosophy, if he enter them. He who has often retired inward to know his moral state, and with whom a careful contemplation of his relation to the law of God has be come a habit, will be prepared to enter "the haunt obscure of old Philosophy." For he has had the powers of his spirit called into vigorous action; and thoughts and feelings of the deepest kind have often come sweeping through him in solemn and aweinspiring procession; and the thoughtful mood in which they leave him is a fit preparation for the study of that immortal part, in
which these powers have their residence, and these thoughts their origin. The mood thus awakened, by the apprehension of a sinful principle which lies at the bottom of the human soul, will not allow him to be satisfied with any but thorough and fundamental apprehensions of other principles. It will lead him to practice that careful and thoughtful examination which proves all things; and which, by "hounding nature," (to use a phrase from Bacon,) discovers its inmost recesses and lurking-places.
Thus does the consciousness of sin, by the habitual seriousness which it imparts to the mind, and by the disclosures which it makes of the world within, exert a greatly beneficial influence upon a philosophical system. It tends to make it thorough and thoughtful. The depths of sin will betoken and betray the depths of the being in whom it dwells; and so will conduct philosophy to her true domain. For her home is in the deep.
A second tendency of the consciousness of sin is to produce distinctness in a philosophical system.
This is a quality of great worth, and of difficult attainment. A philosophical system may be profound, and yet be wanting in definiteness of outline. The history of philosophy affords not a few instances of minds eminently profound, yet unable to embody their views in strict scientific forms. This was owing partly to the subtle nature of the subjects, and the intrinsic difficulty of sending light down into the "metaphysic mine: " but much was likewise due to the want of that power of discrimination, which apprehends and exhibits objects in sharp and distinct outline.
Now the most radical and intense element in the consciousness of sin is the sense of guilt; and there is nothing which has such a tendency as this to impart distinctness and clearness to intellectual states and habits. Never is the spirit of man so keen-sighted, never do objects lie before it in such clear view, as when it is pervaded by the illuminating influences of the Holy Spirit, and the living and burning convictions of conscience. The conciousness of guilt flares an intense white light over everything within its horizon, and dissipates all haziness, and invests all objects with the precision and sharp angularity of a granite obelisk.
We see this light in its highest intensity in the Old Testament. It is the history of a dispensation designed, by its rites, and symbols, and doctrines, to awaken the most painful and constant feeling of guilt. Its prophecy points to an Atoner, and to the
atonement for guilt. Its poetry is either the irrepressible mourning and wail of a heart gnawed by guilt, or the exuberant and glad overflow of a heart experiencing the joy of pardoned guilt. Hence like the Orient, the land of its origin, the Old Testament is a world where a clear sun shines through a dry hot air; where there are none of the fogs and dark thick atmosphere of the West. It is owing to the clarifying influence which an oppressive sense of guilt exerts upon the powers and functions of the mind, that we find such clearness, and such an absence of mysticism, in the Old English drama. The plays of Shakspeare, especially, are permeated with this feeling, which, in that robust and healthy age, was uncommonly quick and vivid in the hearts of men, and was intently eyed by that wonderful searcher of man. The death-bed scene of Cardinal Beaufort, the terrible dreams of Clarence and Richard, the soliloquy and prayer of the Danish king, and the awful remorse of Macbeth, are a few out of many instances of the life-like vividness to which we refer. Indeed all of Shakspeare's tragedies have a coloring which cannot be mistaken: for they are dyed with crimson in grain." This influence of the consciousness of guilt is seen, too, in the luminous and glowing distinctness of Dante's "Vision." Tieck has called it a "mystic unfathomable song." It is indeed deep, like the Hell down whose circling depths it leads; it is high, like the Mount of Paradise up which it goes; but it is not mystic and shadowy. For it is at first, fiery and distinct with the flames of penal torment; and, at last, "white and glistering" with the light inaccessible and full of glory, in the abode of spirits freed from guilt.
Such is the indirect influence of this consciousness upon literature, and such is it upon philosophy. If the philosopher shall come to the study of the soul with a mental vision sharpened and strengthened by the pains of conscience, and with powers of reflection made keen by the entrance of that word which is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit," then the results of his study will be palpable and luminous. His system will be harmonious, and complete.
It is a third tendency of the consciousness of sin to render a philosophical system true by harmonizing it with the Christian religion.
It is here that it exerts its most beneficial influence. For the recognition or denial of sin as an ultimate and absolutely true fact