Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

But it does not follow from such a discovery, that they have made any progress in theology ; they have simply ceased to be Christians. To unite theology with metaphysics is to break away from the two great anchors of religious faith, and then to drist about at random with a science, that acknowledges no restraint, has no fixed principles, and has never found a stay or a resting-place. Not all the authority ascribed to intuitive conceptions, not all the pride of demonstrative reasoning founded upon them, will be sufficient to check the frequency of errors and Auctuations, or to afford a fixed basis for future inquiry. The subject of investigation is too vast, the method of procedure too ill-determined, the idea of the results to be gained is too vague, to allow us to hope, that speculative philosophy will ever advance with a firmer step, or to a better purpose, than it has done through all past time. In the future as in the past, metaphysical demonstrations will be found to prove one thing with a Descartes, and directly the opposite thing with a Kant. The attempt is equally absurd and impious to break down the landmarks of religious faith, and to involve the dearest hopes of mankind in the uncertain and shifting fortunes of such an enterprise.

Some persons are not content with the proposed union between the two subjects of contemplation, but claim entire supremacy for human science. According to their theory, there are many stages of progress for the human intellect, and men pass on from religion to philosophy, as they do from barbarism to civilization. The spontaneous but rude developement of the religious principle is followed by the more vigorous and sure growth of reflection, and philosophy becomes “ the highest and last developement of human nature, the final accomplishment of human thought.” But not to appear too presumptuous, not to shock the feelings of mankind too much, philosophy is represented as tolerant and liberal ; as superseding religion, it is true, in the minds of the cultivated and reflecting classes, but continuing to respect it, as an imperfect likeness of itself, in the bulk of mankind. These views may be best illustrated by a quotation from Cousin, in whose lectures they are ably and eloquently set forth. The extract is a choice one, and we commend it to the particular attention of the Christian admirers of the great Eclectic.

“Philosophy, in the great body of the people, exists under the primitive, profoundly impressive, and venerable form of religion and of worship. Christianity is the philosophy of the people. He who now addresses you sprang from the people and from Christianity ; and I trust you will always recognise this, in my profound and tender respect for all that is of the people and of Christianity. Philosophy is patient ; she knows what was the course of events in former generations, and she is full of confidence in the future ; happy, in seeing the great bulk of mankind in the arms of Christianity, she offers, with ModEST KINDNESS, her hand to Christianily, to assist her in ascending to a yet loftier elevation." *

Admirable condescension ! M. Cousin stands forth as the self-appointed representative of all philosophy, and kindly patronizes Christianity. But we must save our feelings by speaking in a straight-forward way. If the absurdity and egregious self-conceit, which are so conspicuous in this passage, did not throw a strong light on the real value and probable influence of this writer's speculations, it might be necessary to call attention to their infidel character.

But they may now be left to find their own level. The cause of religious truth has nothing to fear or to hope froin such patrons, or from such assailants.

In France, the popularity of Cousin's philosophy las superseded that of Condillac, and many imagine, that under its influence, a reaction has taken place in favor of religion, against the materialism and the infidelity of the last age. Even if we were ignorant of the facts, there would be good reason to suspect the reality, and the pure character, of a religious movement produced by such a cause, and conducted by such a guide. « Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis.But we are able to offer some direct testimony respecting the true nature of this religious reaction. A recent number of the Journal des Débats, the ablest and most influential newspaper in France, contains an interesting letter from one of the editors to the Bishop of Chartres, in reply to a severe censure which that prelate had passed upon an article on the state of the French church. From this letter, dated the 20th of December last, we translate a few paragraphs, which were written, it is true, for the meridian of Paris ; but they may not be wholly inapplicable further west.

*" Elle se contente de lui tendre doucement main, et de

s'él ver plus haut encore. Attention marquée dans l'auditoire.)" - Cours de l'Histoire de la Philosophie : Deuxième Leçon.

“For some years past, we have heard much talk about the religious reaction. It is proclaimed from the house-tops ; it is announced in all the pulpits, and in all the books. But when we begin to search after this strange phenomenon, what do we find ? We enter pretty little churches, with gilded ceilings, well warmed and carpeted, where one finds himself too comfortably placed on earth to be able to spend a thought on heaven. We hear the Credo sung with a waltz accompaniment, and dancing tunes played at the elevation of the Host. If a sermon is preached, the speaker feels obliged to disguise the objects of worship before presenting them to us, to cover them up under all the frippery required by the taste of the age; and how can it be expected, that preachers should prove the divine character of that, which they themselves are striving to render common and secular. Think you, that they talk to us about the Gospel, and about Christian morals ? No; no such thing. They preach about Pythagoras, and Epicurus, and Spinoza ; or they have something to say about the invasion of the Goths, borrowing prosy remarks from writers on the philosophy of history. We go away from the church asking ourselves, what we have to do with Epicurus, and whether this is what is meant by a religious reaction.

“We find a new class of Christians springing up around us in the fashionable and literary world, who make a parade of their melancholy and their religious faith in halting verses, and prate about the Bhagavad Gita and the Zendavista, and the other topics of those lectures on philosophy, which are designed for people who wish to talk about every thing in general and nothing in particular. And these insipid persons, incapable alike of skepticism or belief, are constantly wearying us with harangues about the religious reaction.

“You will not suspect me, Sir, of the presumption and bad taste of wishing to read the clergy a lecture on theology. I do but give you the impression of those who live in this secular world, when I say, that perhaps the church was never in a more dangerous situation than it is at present. The greatest proof of the strength of Catholicism is, that it is able to resist, not an assault, not a war, but the peace, the conciliatory measures, the universal toleration, with which it is surrounded. We ask only for faith of one kind or another ; we accept every thing, and we would invent a religion, rather than be without one altogether. It behoves the members of the church to organize and turn to profit this necessity of believing something, which is now appearing amongst us, and, above all

, to arrest it in its almost irresistible inclination towards mysticism.

“ The priests have not understood this condition of things.

They have mistaken this readiness to accept any faith for a religious reaction. The misfortune of Christianity is, that they no longer fight against it ; it is embalmed, it is sanctified ; it is canonized like saint. But you know better than I, Sir, that saints are only canonized after their death. It is dangerous to allow one's self to be made a relic of. The priests have gone to sleep, trusting to this perfidious calm. Having hardly escaped from the terrible attack of Voltaire, they hailed what was only disgust and weariness at materialism as a disposition to return to religion. In their eyes, every one who was a spiritualist became a religious man ; every one who repudiated the Encyclopédie, became a Christian. In their eagerness to rescue all' minds from the philosophy of the last century, they accepted professions of faith, without being at all rigid in respect to rites and doctrines. They opened the gates to religious liberalism. They made a breach, and through this breach have entered pell-mell, pietism, sentimentalism, symbolism, and all sorts of Germanism. They no longer preach upon morals and doctrines, but upon Christian philosophy, and all kinds of historical and æsthetical generalities. At the present time, we want nothing better than religious belief ; but, if we must accept, as articles of faith, all that we hear from the pulpit, and as words of the Gospel, all the pitiable rhapsodies and contemptible contests about words, which are published by those who call themselves your organs, no wonder that our faith wavers and our hearts incline to doubt."

This is a lively picture of the confusion that results, when an erratic speculative philosophy assumes the name and garb of religion, without any of its spirit, and substitutes its own vague and unmeaning generalities in place of the vital truths of Natural Theology, and the doctrines of the Gospel. It remains to be seen, whether the study of the same writers and the prevalence of the same tastes will ever produce a counterpart to this state of things on our side of the Atlantic. One security against such an evil consists in the fact, that the antecedent circumstances in the two cases are different. We are not recovering from the prolonged torpor of materialism and infidelity, in order to be thrown by a reaction into the wilds of a mystical philosophy, and a heated, vague, and unsettled faith. It is an idle task to preach against sensualism and the empirical philosophy to the descendants of the Puritans ; it is merely apeing the manners and the sentiments of a few French declaimers, whose words have no

were not

applicability or meaning for the western world. There are
no admirers of Condillac among us ; and, if there are a few
imitators of the Baron d’Holbach, their errors
caused by the prevalence of one system of philosophy, nor
will they be converted by the introduction of another. "Met-
aphysical arguments will not cure that blindness and insensi-
bility of heart and intellect, of which ignorance and heedless-
ness are the primary and the sustaining causes. Instead of
calling upon such men to close their

eyes
and
ears,

and distrust the information given by their senses, for fear they should be deluded by empiricism, or some other philosophical bugbear, rather bid them open their minds and hearts to the sights and sounds of creation, and hear and see everywhere proofs of the being of a God. Preach the Gospel io them instead of metaphysical speculations, — remembering the pregnant aphorism of Bacon ; “ As to seek philosophy in divinity is to seek the dead amongst the living, so to seek divinity in philosophy is to seek the living amongst the dead.”

ART. VI. — Monaldi : a Tale. Boston : Charles C. Lit

tle and James Brown. 1841. 12mo. pp. 253.

Though this little volume bears no author's name on its title-page, it is understood to be from the pen of Washington Allston. This great artist is a poet as well as painter; and, were it not for his overshadowing fame as the foremost painter of his age, he would unquestionably have been renowned as one of our most graceful and imaginative poets. The collection of poems, published by him many years ago, and now out of print, shows the invention, and fancy, and curious felicity of expression, that mark the true son of song; and, had Mr. Allston followed out the poetical career, he would most certainly have reached, ere this, the same eminence as a writer, to which his genius has borne him in art.

We feel, as Americans, no small pride in Mr. Allston's genius and fame. It is part and parcel, and no small part, of our national reputation. He is too much absorbed in the love of his art, and too much occupied with the lovely and immortal creations of his genius, to make himself VOL. LIV. — No. 115.

51

« AnteriorContinuar »