Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

over me and over all Israel may God spread His peace and His blessing. May God keep the poor of His people from all evil.”

The law of Christianity forbids this devotion of enemies to evil, which is a part of many man-made religions; and the spirit of Christianity enables every one whom it inspires to return blessing for cursing, and prayer for despite and persecution. In no way can we exemplify the spirit of our most holy faith so well as by publishing to Jews and Papists—for all of whom the Lamb of God was offered on the cross-the glad tidings of salvation.

One thing, however, we must remark.

The form of excommunication in the Roman Pontifical, already referred to, is far worse than the ban just now translated. The Jew vents his vengeance in cursing the body and the soul, it is true; but he stops at the threshold of eternity, perhaps, because he fancies that a descendant of Jacob cannot perish everlastingly. The Church of Rome breaks through that barrier, and presumes to launch her poisoned arrows into the realms of the departed. Hear a few sentences from the form prescribed :

Therefore, him, and all his accomplices and abettors, by the judgment of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and of the blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all Saints, as well as by that of our mediocrity, [modest.!] and by the power of binding and loosing in heaven and on earth, that is divinely imparted unto us, we separate from the receiving of the precious body and blood of Christ, [in the mass,] and from the society of all Christians, and we exclude from the threshold of holy mother Church in heaven and on earth; and we decree that he shall be excommunicate, anathematised, and DAMNED WITH THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS, and condemn him to eternal fire, until he repent, and return from the snares of the devil to repentance and to amendment, and satisfy the Church of God which he has injured; delivering him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of judgment."

But if he does not satisfy the Church, the condemnation

to eternal fire is held to be valid; and if the Church could be sure of the execution of her sentence, then, of course, she would be quite satisfied.

“ That it may please Thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts. We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!

[ocr errors]

POPULAR CARICATURES OF EVANGELICAL

RELIGION. That such writers as Dickens and Thackeray should be able to give a correct representation of the spirit, sentiments, and manners of religious men, is as decided an impossibility as that a painter should be able to paint a landscape which he has scarcely seen, or embody on canvas the spirit of a transaction which he does not understand. Whatever society these men may have cultivated, none will more readily admit than themselves, that they have been Fery seldom in that of professors of religion. With playactors, and artists, and littérateurs; with professional men, and Parliamentary men, and public men generally; with people of fashion, both in town and country; with the frequenters of clubs and the denizens of pot-houses; with military men and naval men; with police-serjeants and detective officers; with publishers, editors, and penny-aliners; they have doubtless enjoyed the best opportunities of becoming acquainted. Some of them, too, we can believe, have had very fair opportunities of acquainting themselves with the natural history of fast-livers, whether literary or not; and, amid the toil of their Herculean efforts to overthrow a Puritan Sabbath, could doubtless enjoy a nice recreation by describing one of these spirited men attempting to pacify a clamorous tradesman, or to elude the vigilance of a criminal officer, or even passing a few weeks in the select society of turnkeys and gaolers. That many of our popular writers have seen a vast deal of society, in all these varied aspects, we do not doubt; and we readily admit that the remarkable imitative faculty of some of them, with their lively dramatic power, has enabled them to portray much that they have seen with great fidelity and good effect. Thoroughly familiar with life in all these aspects, they have been able to catch its really incongruous or ludicrous features, and in many cases to apply their satire fairly and well. But what opportunities have they had of becoming acquainted with the life, habits, and sentiments of religious men? Or what means of learning with accuracy what is really incongruous or ludicrous there? Do they number any persons of religion among their private friends ? Are they deeply read in the biographies of Bickersteth and Simeon, of Chalmers and Buxton, of Robert and James Haldane, or even of Sarah Martin and Sandy Paterson ? Are they frequenters of Exeter-hall, or have they ever sat at a Mission board, or been present at the deliberations of a religious society? Have they enjoyed the hospitalities of the “ Clapham sect,” listened to the “expositions” which they ridicule, or witnessed the fawning servility which they denounce? We question whether there be one of these inquiries which these men would not answer with a derisive negative, provided they were not aware of the purpose for which it was put; and if so, what credit can be due to their descriptions of scenes with which they would be the first to acknowledge that they are not familiar? And how can they escape the charge of unpardonable presumption, in meddling with what demands peculiarly minute and thorough knowledge of a subject,--attempting to indicate what is incongruous and ludicrous about it, eriticising the relations and proportions of what they have never seen?

Nor is it only their want of acquaintance with religious men that disqualifies such writers for the task which they undertake so thoughtlessly. The sentiments, motives, and aims of these men are beyond the sphere of their sympathies, and in most cases, doubtless, beyond their comprehension. “ It is not uninstructive to remark,” says Hugh Miller, “how the peculiar ability of portraying character in this form (the dramatic], is so exactly proportioned to the general intellectual power of the writer who possesses it. No dramatist, whatever he may attempt, ever draws taller men than himself: as water in a bent tube rises to exactly the same height in the two limbs, so intellect in the character produced rises to but the level of the intellect of the producer ..... Viewed with reference to this simple rule, the higher characters of Scott, Dickens, and Shakspeare curiously indicate the intellectual stature of the men who produced them. Scott's higher characters possess massive good sense, great shrewdness, much intelligence; they are always very superior, if not always great, men; and by a careful arrangement of drapery, and much study of position and attitude, they play their parts wonderfully well. The higher characters of Dickens do not stand by any means so high; the fluid in the original tube rests at a lower level; and no one seems better aware of the fact than Dickens himself. He knows his proper walk; and, content with expatiating in a comparatively humble province of human life and character, rarely stands on tiptoe, in the vain attempt to portray an intellect taller than his own. The intellectual range of Shakspeare rises, on the other hand, to the highest level of man.

This acute and striking remark as to the ability of dramatists to portray the intellectual, though not equally applicable to the subject of moral and religious character, is nevertheless appropriate thus far, that no dramatist can ever delineate a character of truth and skill, or rather cause a character to delineate itself, whose chief moral elements belong to a sphere beyond the reach of his sympathies. From peculiar considerations, he may learn to respect such a character ; but whether he respect it or not, he will not, if he be wise, attempt to delineate it dramatically. The writer from whom we have just quoted conjectures that Shakspeare's respect for the piety of his daughter, "good Mistress Hall,”—if not his own appreciation of Divine things,-may account for the remarkable fact, that though there are scenes in Shakspeare's earlier plays, from which, as eternity neared upon his view, he could have derived little satisfaction, there is yet no Old Mortality among

* "First Impressions of England and its People," p. 256.

them: and though both Queen Elizabeth and King James hated Puritanism with a perfect hatred, and such a laugh at its expense as Shakspeare could have raised would have been doubtless a high luxury, he yet drew for their amusement no Mause Headriggs or Gabriel Kettledrummles. * Even the claims of natural affection and regard for pious relatives, however, have not always restrained men of genius, without religion, from attempting the delineation, or rather ridicule, of religious character. Sir Walter Scott, who had so good cause to refrain from this unhallowed work, attempted it in “Old Mortality ;" with what measure of truth, let Dr. M‘Crie's masterly review of that production testify. Our modern writers address themselves to the business as lightly and carelessly as they would go to work in describing a wedding or a fair; and the result is just what might be expected from men attempting a task for which they are incapacitated, both intellectually and morally—the production of a series of caricatures, which prove that their dislike of evangelical religion is equalled only by their inability to comprehend it.

But, leaving speculation, and entering the field of fact and experience, we demand of Mr. Dickens, and other benevolent caricaturists of evangelical religion, which of the two classes have really done most for the world's welfare ?-your mere kind-hearted men, who recoil constitutionally from the sight of suffering; or spiritual and evangelical men, who have learned to regard their fellows in the light of eternity, and whose benevolent longings are fed, from day to day, by every survey of the mercy bestowed upon themselves, and of the exhaustless fulness of Divine love and grace, still ready to be poured out upon the needy children of men ? We demand, with the most unshrinking confidence, which of the two kinds of benevolence has been found to wear best, and to retain its vigour unwearied and undiminished, amid endless discouragements, and life-long sacrifices and toils? We ask our men of secular benevo

* Ben Jonson was not so careful. In his comedy of the “ Alchymist," he ridiculed the Puritans, and their use of Scripture phrases.

« ÖncekiDevam »