Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

and credulous may be readily admitted; that he may even have misrepresented the Gospel according to the Hebrews, in consequence either of quoting it from memory or of relying only on the representations of others, is not improbable; but that there is sufficient ground for charging him with intentional falsification, in the statements on which Mr. Norton comments, we cannot see. All that legitimately follows from what Epiphanius says, is, that the Gospel of the Hebrews contained some very absurd and untrue statements. This is probable enough; nor is it, as Mr. Norton seems to believe, impossible that such a work should have been received by ignorant Jewish Christians. The Gospel of the Hebrews may even have been, as Mr. Norton contends, the Hebrew original of Matthew, with apocryphal additions such as those which Epiphanius cites from it. This, however, is not a point to be so very easily or confidently determined. Suppose it decided in the affirmative, what does the author of the “Genuineness of the Gospels” say to the difficulty which the admission throws in the way of his own proposition, that the early Christians did not subject their sacred books to any material alteration, but preserved them essentially as they came from the hands of the evangelists ? "The Gospel of the Hebrews must have differed considerably from the Hebrew original of Matthew, or Jerome would not have thought it necessary to translate it (as he says he did) into Greek and Latin.

We have read with much pleasure the concluding remarks, in which Mr. Norton sums up the direct historical evidence of the genuineness of the Gospels. One or two passages are particularly worthy of extract. After arguing that no testimony, of the same character or the same weight, can be produced for the genuineness of any other ancient work, and that their universal reception by catholic Christians can be accounted for only by the fact that they had been handed down from the beginning with the character which they afterwards bore, he makes the following just and striking comparison :

“The evidence of the genuineness of the Gospels is of a very different character from what we are able to produce for the genuineness of any ancient classical work. Very few readers, I presume, could at once recollect and state the grounds on which we believe the Epistles to Atticus to have been written by Cicero, or the History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. But should any, writer undertake to impugn the genuineness of these, or of many other ancient works that might be named, in the manner in which attempts have been made to weaken the historical argument for the genuineness of the Gospels, he would hardly succeed even in gaining a discreditable notoriety.”—I. 157, 158.

To the objection against the Gospels, that they contain the history of a miraculous dispensation, and that a miracle is impossible, Mr. Norton pays little respect, and shews that it is essentially atheistic. “ The controversy respecting it is not between Christianity and Atheism; it is between Religion, in any form in which it may appear, and Atheism."—Í. 159.

These are Mr. Norton's remarks on Pantheism :

“One may, indeed, give the name of God to the physical powers operating throughout the universe considered collectively, or to some abstraction, as the moral law of the universe, for example, or to some conception still more unsubstantial and unintelligible, and then contend that he does not deny the existence of God. But there is but one view which an honest man can take of the deception which in this and other similar cases has been attempted through a gross abuse of words, by which their true meaning is razed out and a false meaning put upon them. In contending with irreligion, we have a right to demand that we shall not be mocked with the language of religion."-I. 159, 160.

This is his estimate of the Straussian theory :

“The hypothesis.... that the first preachers of Christianity did not announce it as a miraculous dispensation, but that some time during the lives of the apostles, or immediately after, it assumed this character,--can be regarded only as one of the most extraordinary of those exhibitions of human folly which have lately been given to the world as speculations concerning our religion. There is no doubt that the apostles and their companions represented Christ as a messenger from God, whose divine authority was attested throughout his ministry by miracles. It can, therefore, be no objection to the genuineness of the Gospels that such is the representation to be found in them. Whether true or false, it is the only representation that was to be expected in histories of Jesus given by apostles and their companions.”—I. 160, 161.

The present age Mr. Norton correctly describes as one of transition in regard to men's belief in and understanding of Christianity; and with one passage on this topic we bring our extracts to a close :

“We are leaving behind us the errors and superstitions of former days, with all their deplorable consequences,-the domination of a priesthood, tyranny over reason, persecution, false conceptions of morality by which its sanctions were often perverted, and that disgust toward Christianity which the deformed image bearing its name, and set up for idol worship, was so fitted to produce. But through a revulsion of feeling occasioned by this state of things, many of the clergy, particularly in England, ,-one is reluctant to say many priests, though this is a title which they readily assume,-have turned about, and are travelling back into the dark region of implicit faith, Jesuitical morality, and religious formalities, absurdities and crimes. On the other hand, there is a multitude of speculatists, who, in the abandonment of religious error, have abandoned religion itself, and whose only substitute for it, if they have any, is an unsubstantial spectre which they have decorated with its titles. Meanwhile very many enlightened men, who have been repelled from the study of Christianity by the imbecility or folly of those who have assumed to be its privileged expositors and defenders, regard it, at best, only with a certain degree of respect, as being, perhaps, a noble system, if properly understood, and one the belief of which, even under the forms that it has been made to assume, is at all events_useful to the community :Magnifica quidem res et salutaris, si modo est ulla.—I. 161, 162.

It will appear from some of our remarks that there are a few points in his work in which we do not agree with Mr. Norton ; we could increase the number; but it is needless. We are less desirous of stating minute points in which we dissent, than of expressing the high sense we entertain of the value of the work as a whole. In his great object, and in the main lines of argument by which he has sought to attain it, our concurrence and sympathy are entirely with the author. We have to thank him for one of the ablest and most convincing works on the subject that has appeared in our language. To the publisher also, Mr. Chapman, we tender our acknowledgments for this excellent reprint, at a price so much below that of the American edition.

The Princess : a Medley. By Alfred Tennyson. Moxon. It is a common opinion, and one not unsupported by names of authority, that the advance of science is necessarily accompanied by the decline of poetry; that an imaginative literature cannot flourish in an age and country where the practical arts of life are assiduously and successfully cultivated; and that the feeble and doubtful poetry which may for a time survive must be retrospective only, and leave the social questions of the present to take refuge in the dreams of the past. And truly, if the poet is to be compelled to embody in his verse the characteristics of the present age in their most repulsive form --to sing of steam-engines and power-looms, as so much wood, leather and iron—the opinion is founded on reason. The babbling of running brooks is certainly a more poetical sound than the whirr of factory-wheels, and Roman valour and chivalric honour more inviting themes than the social grievances of the 19th century. It is easier, in short, to follow on in the old ruts, than to find and pursue a new path. But if a poet did arise who should leave the past to moulder, and tell of the present and the future,—who, neglecting the outward form of our new civilization, should penetrate to its inner life, shewing how from its ceaseless progress we may derive brightest hopes for the cause of God and man,—who should depict the glorious future of humanity, and prove that, through heavy check and deep discouragement, we are ever steadily approaching thereto,-he would indeed be the "Poet of the Age."

Mr. Tennyson, in the volume before us (the most welcome and most worthy of the Christmas books), cannot be said to have established a claim to such title. The tone of his book is on the whole too sportive, the subject too confined, to be more than evidence of the place its author may take if he will. It is, however, abundant evidence that he can be the Apostle of the New Poetry

The poem is introduced by a prologue, wherein the author, a youth fresh from college, describes how Sir Walter Vivian,

A great, broad-shouldered, genial Englishman, had thrown his “broad lawns” open to the people, his tenants, and "the neighbouring borough with their Institute;" how the author, by means needless now to be described, is led, while reposing among the Gothic ruins in the Park, in company with his friend the younger Vivian and his vivacious sister Lilia, to tell a story on the Right and Duties of Womankind—a story

“ such as served to kill “ Time by the fire in winter," when the friends were passing a dreary Christmas at the University.

The scene is necessarily laid in Dream-land. Where else should it be? A tale

" that really suited time and place
Were such a medley, we should have him back
Who told the Winter's Tale to do it for us :
A Gothic ruin and a Grecian house,
A talk of College and of ladies' rights,
A feudal knight in silken masquerade,
And then with shrieks and strange experiments,
For which the good Sir Ralph had burnt them all,

The nineteenth century gambols on the grass.” To this, however, we are aware that many critics will strenuously object. They will point out the inconsistency of modern science with "tilt and tourney for a lady's hand," with as much reason as if they were to object to the “ Christmas Carol,” that Scrooge the miser, a real personage, was inconsistent with a goblin in whose existence nobody believes. It is by insisting on a conformance to their own canons of art that the critics are able to prove that our age can have no poetry. “Sing of your social progress, if you will,” say they, “ but sing as we bid you.” They would call upon the poet of humanity to cramp his verse into the frigid couplets of the poet of Phillis and Corydon, and because this is impossible, complain that poetry is dead. They will not perceive that it is their own dry rules which have long ago lost their vitality. And here, where we travel through unnamed and unheard-of kingdoms, approach in no way the limits of our material earth, it is unreasonable to expect that we should conform to its conventionalities.

We have spent so much space in indicating the point from which we think this poem ought to be viewed, that we have no room for the details of the story. These we leave the reader to gather from the work itself. But we will briefly trace its course, to render the one or two extracts we propose to give intelligible. A nameless prince, the narrator, has been contracted in early youth to a princess Ida, whom he has never seen, but with whose portrait he is deeply smitten. Accompanied by two friends, he sets off to claim her hand, is received by her father with a friendly though evasive answer, is told that she has resolved never to marry, and has established in a remote corner of the kingdom a university for women, whom she hopes to raise to their natural influence in the world by giving them an education equal to that of men. Here the prince and his friends gain admission by disguising themselves in female attire, but are discovered, ignominiously expelled, and the prince's suit scornfully rejected by Ida. But the prince's father, hearing his son is in peril, has marched into the land to his rescue; a combat between certain champions on either side is agreed upon, and Ida's brothers are victorious. But Ida is prevailed upon to take charge of the prince, well-nigh mortally wounded, and of the other sick men; and by the loving care and service thus rendered necessary, and cheerfully given, her woman's heart is opened; she is weaned from her theories, and consents to be the prince's bride, and with him

“ walk the world Yoked in all exercise of noble end." As a specimen of the poet's manner, take the following description of the effects of her care of the wounded men on one of Ida's maidens:

“But Psyche tended Florian-with her oft
Melissa came: for Blanche had gone, but left
Her child among us, willing she should keep
Court favour: here and there the small bright head,
A light of healing, glanced about the couch,
Or through the parted silks the tender face
Peeped, shining in upon the wounded man,
With blush and smile, a medicine in themselves
To wile the length from languorous hours and draw
The sting from pain : nor seemed it strange that soon
He rose up whole, and those fair charities
Joined at her side: nor stranger seemed that hearts
So gentle, so employed, should close in love,
Than when two dew-drops on the petal shake
To the same sweet air and tremble deeper down,

And slip at once all fragrant into one.' One more extract we are tempted to make, as containing the whole meaning of the book :

“For woman is not undeveloped man,
But diverse : could we make her as the man,
Sweet love were slain, whose dearest bond is this,
Not like to like, but like in difference:
Yet in the long years liker must they grow:
The man be more of woman, she of man:
He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world :
She mental breadth ; nor fail in childward care;
More as the double-natured Poet each:
Till at the last she set herself to man

Like perfect music unto noble words." We again bid Mr. Tennyson's Christmas Present welcome; regarding it, however, rather as an earnest of what he can do, than as a memorial of what he has done. He has great powers, and the world will expect much from him.

C.

PERIODICALS. The Quarterly Review, No. CLXIII.-A very lively No., containing eight out of eleven articles interesting to the general reader. A better recommendation is, that a spirit of philanthropy and practical benevolence seems to have animated several of the writers in the choice and treatment of their subjects. To one of the more liberal of the Quarterly school we owe the article on the “ Last Years of Frederick the Second." The shade is put on the canvas freely, yet it is a portrait: if in minuteness of detail there be something of the Dutch style, yet a master in that walk of art, which this writer is, produces a perfect transcript of life.—Our extracts must be brief. As to Frederick's love of liberty :

“It is remarkable that Frederick, who not only possessed but actively wielded this uncontrolled authority, and who never to his dying day manifested the slightest idea of relaxing it, yet in many of his writings expresses the most

VOL. IV.

P

ardent aspirations for freedom. We remember that in Emile' Rousseau points an eloquent invective against those mock philanthropists who profess unbounded zeal for the Tartars, but who will never help a poor neighbour at the door. In like manner, we confess that we feel small reverence for those kings who never part with one iota of their inherited despotism, who give a subject the hem of their garment to kiss, who bound their promotions to nobles, and who leave their peasantry serfs,-and yet, with all this, love to prate of republicans and regicides, provided only that these lived many hundred years ago!"

Further on, the reviewer points out a blemish in Frederick's tolerance. “ The tolerant maxims of Frederick scarcely extended to the Jews. He appears to have felt a prepossession against that race, founded, perhaps, on their real or supposed unaptness for war.” After denouncing civil restraints upon the Jews as, in Prussia, “most oppressive and unjust,” the writer can make out little case for resisting, as he hints he is prepared to do, at home, “any farther political concessions to that race.” Well! we are moving onwards, when the less tolerant of our countrymen can see the deformity of their own principles as put into practice abroad. The reviewer closes his very interesting article with the hope, that “the day is not far distant when the progress of Prussia in her constitutional rights 'shall enable her statesmen to vie with ours in the principle of free institutions, and in that manly and unpremeditated eloquence which free institutions alone can produce or preserve.” The long article on Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors is clever and goodtempered, the political differences of the author and his reviewer giving piquancy, but not bitterness, to the discussion. In Art. 3, on the Memoirs of the Viscountess Sundon, Mr. Lockhart, or whoever the literary judge may be, puts on his black cap and passes the extreme sentence on the culprit editress, Mrs. Thomson. If the protection of the time and money of the reading public renders it inexpedient to abolish literary capital punishments, it is very repulsive to see them exercised on lady convicts.—The “Life of Elizabeth Fry” is reviewed in a catholic spirit, as welcome as it is rare in this Highchurch journal. There is some inconvenience in reviewing a book only partly published, but we trust the reviewer will complete his task now that the second volume is out. He beautifully compares Mrs. Fry's early visits to Newgate, then a horrible den beyond most similar places, to Pinel's visits to the Bicêtre in the midst of the reign of terror.

"He entered the receptacle of degraded humanity; all was intensely dark ; the yelling, and the clanking of chains struck a deeper horror. Couthon, the regicide, who had accompanied him, would proceed no further, 'for conscience doth make cowards of us all ;' but Pinel, strong in his benevolence and his convictions, plunged into the cells; even furious captives were astounded into tranquillity by this invasion of mercy; fifty were set free by his own hands, and, basking in the sun or crawling at his feet, they testified the power of sympathy over fallen nature, and returned to the enjoyment of physical existence. A similar success awaited the efforts of Elizabeth Fry."

Thus wisely does the reviewer disclose the great secret of Mrs. Fry's mastery over the successive classes of unhappy ones whom her philanthropy soothed and elevated :

“She saw clearly and experienced the power of love over the human heart, whether corrupted as in the criminal or stupified as in the lunatic. She saw that the benighted and wandering madman possessed and cherished the remnants of his better mind, and that he clung to nothing so much as to that which all seemed to deny him, some little semblance of respect. Sympathy is the great secret to govern the human race; and whether it be in a prison, a ragged school, a madhouse, or the world at large, he that would force men's hearts to surrender, must do so by manifesting that they would be safe if committed to his keeping."

May we not believe that this confiding and hopeful principle will soon have range through the world at large; that, especially, it will take up its abode in Christian churches; and that Christian preachers will learn the all-impor

« VorigeDoorgaan »