« VorigeDoorgaan »
modern times. The divine mission of England is Science, its prophetic mission all such of its political and religious revolutions as have gone to the heart of the nation; its human mission the example which it has given of representative government, example the consequences of which we witness in the most fulminating catastrophes of the last hundred years in Europe and in America.
The history of those nations is least interesting in whom we discern nothing but the human mission. Beyond some brief and fitful gleams, such is the spectacle which the annals of Phænicia, of Carthage, and of Holland, offer us. In some countries we are puzzled to discover any mission,-divine, prophetic, or human. Remove William Tell-in the record of whose achievments there seems a tinge of the fabulous,—and how much do you find of mission in the history or people of Switzerland ? unless it be considered a mission to supply cut-throats to all the idiotic, ferocious despots of the continent.
There are nations whose divine mission is equally bid from us with their human, but whose prophetic mission shines with an epic import across the haze of ages. With this prophetic mission was Scotland gifted so long as it retained its Independence. Except perhaps the deliverance wrought by the Maid of Orleans, what nobler displays of the prophetic mission than those whose lustre and dramatic miraculousness are recalled to us by the names of Wallace and of Bruce ? Great Hearts! We humbly bow down to you; accept the fervent homage of one who reckons it a grander thing to play a part, as ye so valorously did, in the prophetic mission of a brave people, than to discourse to his fellows on missions either national or individual. But to my work: different ages need different agencies; and speech is a gift of God no less than courage; and other virtues there be, besides patriotism. Still, living in days when nations seem incapable of rising higher than the most prosaic parts of a human mission,-when the Divine seems veiled and the Prophetic dumb,—we turn with unutterable yearning to the vigorous and poetic Past. If the fastidious shudder at what they think the crimes of that olden time, let them know that those crimes were not the proof of a more really degraded condition of society than their own. When nettles appear on pasture lands they are considered as indicating a rich or improving soil, since they seldom grow on inferior lands. Thus the cruelties which seem to us so horrible in the rude men of remote years, told not of a vicious nature but of an exuberant force. Evil is but the shadow of good; the larger a thing, the larger will be its shadow, We, poor braggarts, dream that we are dwelling in a Paradise because we see so few shadows, and only such as are small. We ought to pray for larger shadows and more of them, since then we should feel that the reign of strengths had again begun. It is true that the mere shadow does not always prove the presence of a potent reality; since the smoke and the vapor cast a shadow on the ground as well as the tree: And it would be absurd to conclude from its crimes simply, that a generation is strong. A weak race often commits the same crimes from fear, or from a kind of morbid irritation, which a brave and healthy race commits from irrepressible force; they thus corrupt the former, while they relieve the impetuosity and exercise the muscles of the latter, just as salt rapidly decomposes vegetable matter while it preserves animal substances. It is not from the number or the enormity of its crimes that we can estimate the character of an age, but from learning whether those crimes
are the outbursts of a Titanic energy, or the ferocities of a diseased cowardice. Judge the present age by this principle, and you will see that while it starts and whines like a child at every shadow of crime, there is no crime which it scruples to commit whenever it becomes the thrall of its own terrors. I would wish what I say on National Missions to have a direct and practical effect, while furnishing you
with as correct and comprehensive a theory of the subject as it is in my power to give. It profiteth not to conceal it from ourselves,--the sooner we know it the better,—we have fallen on one of those periods, accursed because feeble and sickly, when crime results from the dread of crime. Ilow can we help to make the world healthy and strong again? Not certainly by talking about it. An infallible sign that society is wcak, is that one of its main employments is to listen to the chattering of apes, whether they appear on the platform or in the press. It is action, then, which alone can teach a community paralyzed and incapable of action. But how act so as to force the world to act ? For we ourselves partake of the community's diseases, and can scarcely give it any other example than that which it has given us. Our first work must therefore be with ourselves. We have all a mission as individuals, precisely as nations have their missions. To know our mission we must ascertain our faculties ; not however by retiring to our libraries or to rural solitudes, and stretching our mind on the dissecting table of a keen self-analysis, and studying the history and qualities of every fibre; but by marching, like brave soldiers, into the thickest of the perils and perplexities that beset us. An author whom it is much the habit to overrate at present, has set forth the praises of what he calls passiveness, as if in this the highest wisdom, no less than the truest duty, were to be found. No more detestable error, no more arrant absurdity. The best, the really golden ages, are those in which action most abounds. But what kind of action? That which is inspired by Will. No age ever presented more than our own of mechanical action, action produced by foreign and despotic necessities.
Gaze where we may, we behold excessive and incessant movement. But we would almost prefer the silence of death to such movement, which speaks of nothing but the most chaotic fatalism. Meditation is a holy and beautiful thing, but we have, instead of it, a spurious, indolent, effeminate reflection, called “passiveness.' Action is a valiant and a noble thing, but we have, instead of it, that uncasy beast with no life in it, called 'movement. The savage to get fire rubs a hard stick on a soft one; with two hard sticks, or two soft ones, he would rub in vain. Action is the hard stick, and Meditation is the soft one, from the rubbing of which together Man elicits celestial fire. But he who rubs must, above all and before all, have Will. In this behold his salvation. He must will to wear his natural gifts with the boldness and the grace and the frank countenance and free air of an Individual Man, and cast his conventional rags to whatever Inferno happens at the moment to be most popular. Now it is these Men of Will who are to regenerate this earth of ours. Nations will rise afresh to the height of their missions, when the Individual rises to the height of his. What is the spectacle the world now presents ? Nations not strong enongh to achieve liberty, rulers not strong enough to maintain order; nations and rulers alike weak in Will. And this is the spectacle wbich long and weary years will continue to offer, till individuals standing
out from the mass of surrounding frivolity, with stoical sternness and strenuousness, once more tcach mankind how to will.
When that time comes, men will be ashamed of the cant which they now prate about War and Nationality. The charlatans of the day would fain persuade us that Peace is the greatest of all blessings, and that one main effect of Universal Peace would be the effacement of the grand lineaments which distinguishi one nation from another. Now touching War, I have simply to observe, that nothing can be wrong which is in harmony with everlasting realities. But what is the life of the Universe but the eternal crash and abyssmal roar of antagonist forces ? What is the life of each thing in the Universe but collision with the thing nearest it? When a thing dies,—that is, when it ceases to combat,-its parts, and still more its minutest particles, commence to combat with each other. The greatest man of his age is merely the greatest warrior of his age, whether his name be Luther or Napoleon. When nations therefore conflict even unto blood and most woful and pitiful desolation, what are they doing but yielding most chivalrous obedience to a universal law ?
As to nationalities,—who dares assail them, that knows anything of history? When has the world been a fit home for the brave, but when each nation had a character of its own, which it was ready to perish rather than abandon? Why everywhere now, anarchy, confusion, quackery, despair, but because it has become fashionable for every nation to cast its nationality aside, and to hunt for a phantasm, which, when cauglit, is to please the general European mind? Out upoir all this pedantry and delusion. Nations must again be nations, if men are to continue men. The most fatal poison which the South American puts on his arrow, becomes a tonic medicine when swallowed, and he uses it for both purposes. In this see emblemed the import of Nationalities. For just in proportion as a nation is strong to attack and resist,—that is, just as it is itself, and unlike all other nations,-just in that degree is God poured forth on its altars and abodes: Which is equivalent to saying that the world must pass thrö much tribulation before National Missions become truly such, ascending from the Human to the Prophetic, from the Prophetic to the Divine.
EDITORIAL NOTE, It would be needless to employ to the readers of the TRUTH-SEEKER the hackneyed phrase—We are not responsible for the opinions of our contributor'-since neither he, nor they, entertain the supposition that we were. Indeed, men are not responsible at all for their convictions, which are matters, not of volition, but of evidence: their moral responsibility consists in their treatment of evidence, and can be discharged aright only by a free, fearless, and honest examination of it, in the love of Truth,
It may, however, be permitted us to say, that while we cordially assent to some of the statements of the able and eloquent advocate of Individualism, there are others which seem to us partly exaggerated and partly untrue.
His phillipic against philosophic and critical History appears of the former cast. Without a critical sifting of the records of both ancient and modern Nations, we can have no true vital narrative. Moreover, his own lecture is itself a treating of History after the fashion he decries—a drawing out of the supposed Philosophy or Wisdom thereof.
Again, while we admit that Antagonism--the conflict of Powers, of various kinds,-is an appointed agency of Development,--and therefore that Brute Force may providentially conflict for wise ends in the shape of War,-
-we still hold that peace---harmony-health (and not the morbid battling of discase)— is the ORGANIC End of the process.
The sword was made to protect the ploughshare, the spear to defend the pruning hook, not the reverse. The battles of the Past Milleniums have no meaning except with reference to the peace of the Future Millenium.
PEACE, too, is a great power, as well as War-nay, it is the triumph of the greatest power when it is a peace of principles. The moral and intellectual Powers of True Peace, are as much grander than those of the Heroic Brutalitics, as Christ's Empire was grander and more enduring than Alexander's. A man, sürely, may battle heroically even for Peace -- he will not obtain it else. Show us a more courageous man than George Fox ? Cromwell was not so brave—for he was not above the use of 'cant,' tho above cant itself. For was a bolder Non-conformist than Cromwell.
Moreover, many things may be 'wrong' which are nevertheless parts of an eternal reality. A deeper philosophy would appear to onsider Wrong itself as the limitation of good—the shadow' if you will—but still the shadow, dark and uncongenial. We have the taste of Diogenes, and say to all the Alexanders of Brute Force, ‘Stand out of our sunshine, that we may enjoy the Light of God's Peace.'
THE SOUL'S ANTIQUITIES.
BY F. E. MILLSON.
AAVE an Egypt of all ancient things,
Which when Hope's Sun shines on from above
LETTERS ON CARLYLE.
My dear A.-You write me: “I send you the ‘Present Time' by Carlyle. Send me your opinion of it. I do not like it; but it is the first of Carlyle’s I have ever read; and it has given me a very unfavorable impression of him. But I must try and find others of his works, and read them, before I become one of his Heroworshipers. The thousand and one repetitions in fifty-two bare pages, of 'God's Truth,' 'God's fact,' 'God's this,' 'God's that'-is not to me forcible language. I am no puritan, yet I protest against the use of such words every second line. The word God, is very effective; but what meaning does it add to truth or to fact ? None: the noisy wind is not music; nor Carlyle’s repetitions, meaningless as they are, either reason or conviction.”
Now, my dear friend, I believe the root of this “unfavorable impression of yours to be identical with that which causes the dislike of the great mass of those that object to Carlyle: you come to him involved in a mistake. You approach him supported on the graces of literature. You want style. You want fine composition. You are full of the critical canons of the last two generations. You are hardly out of your Blair's Rhetoric yet. You refer all writing to the categories of the Florid, the Elegant, the Neat, the Sublime, etc. You would have us still write like your Addisons, your Humes, your Goldsmiths. He who does not see their excellence, and follow it, must to you be a Goth and a Barbarian. And Carlyle comes to you in a garb so different—with a look and a sound about him so altogether diverse—from theirs, that eye and ear are at once offended, and, shutting both, you cry out: “By heavens! the lunatic style! A fop, a fop! a creature of the most pestiferous affectations! Away with him, Away with him!”
Now the plain fact of the matter is, that Carlyle has long since passed these elevations, or rather perhaps quitted them, and has now, in all probability, quite forgotten them. Of his mere words, it appears to me, he has ceased to think; but of his thoughts he is very solicitous. He puts now no weight on mere phrases; nor distresses himself about the flow of them. And is it the words, then, or the flow of them, that, in any really great writer, constitutes his excellence ? Is it so in Chaucer—in Burns—men who, in the fullness of their experience, spoke? What of Shakspere? does he trouble himself about his words ? No; they come to him like an inspiration. They give him no concern; they are not opaque to him; they are invisible; he does not see them; they make no part of his consciousness; they are moved as on the top of mountains, heaving from the deeps. Even to you they are not opaque--even to you they are invisible--you can only see the