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of Satan; but once give free scope to reason to watch and work in those fields, as it has already done in the others I have named, and we shall be set free, not only from the superstitious dread, but shall also be put into the way of obliterating the evils themselves. And bere, Lester, I come to the answer to your question. I believe that the Churches hinder the progress of goodness
-unintentionally, I admit-by opposing the adoption of those means through which alone it can be secured. There are thousands of good men as thoroughly convinced that they know all about the ins and outs, and constitution, of human nature, as their ancestors were that they knew all about the stars and the earth, planets and continents; and because of being so sure, they fight against Pbrenology, Mesmerism, and all the modern systems, through which it is suggested that we can gain a clearer knowledge of ourselves.”
“But surely you do not vindicate Phrenology, Mesmerism, and other similar absurdities," asked Lester, as doubting if he heard correctly.
“No, I do not vindicate them, nor do I denounce them as absurdities. I do not know enough either about them or about the mental constitution, to speak so absolutely; but although that is the fact, I still believe, if not themselves true or complete sciences, they are steps in the right direction, which will lead to other discoveries of the most valuable character. They who denounce without understanding them, presume themselves to be sufficiently instructed already; they preach that we know all we can know, and instead of boldly spurring young men into pursuing any and every path of inquiry, they endeavour to prevent their stepping an inch beyond the proscribed theological line as much as possible. Thus they hinder progress by prohibiting inquiry in the very fields where the most beneficial results are to be looked for, and are practically the enemies while intending to be the friends of mankind. A short time back I heard a popular preacher descanting, in severe language, upon the 'iniquity of those arrogant pretenders who teach Phrenology. This was done in language both offensive and presumptuous, and the preacher spake with the air of an adept, so that evidently, upon the minds of those who were as ignorant as himself, he made a deep impression. I sought him in the vestry after the service was over, and having told him I was deeply interested in the science, and desirous of discovering the truth, I inquired what book he had read upon the subject, when, to my utter astonishment, without blushing, nay expressing gratitude to God for the 'mercy,' he replied, that he had never wasted a moment in the reading of books upon such a wretched delusion. I leave you to judge of my feelings. But the contempt I felt for such arrogant ignorance prevented me both from knocking him down and losing another minute in his company. Evidently he was one of those impudent characters who, in the name of God, deceive and plunder His people. But he pleased those who, knowing nothing, believed themselves to know all."
“ He was not a fair specimen of the modern preacher, Barrington.”
“ Perhaps not, and yet I believe that your modern preachers are far less learned than their immediate predecessors were. They are content with reading the table of contents, for few of them really read a book through, unless when intended to be used up in their discourses. They get a smattering of many things, but the knowledge of none; they are mere dependants upon the Church, and live by its means, but cannot build a Church for themselves.”
“But,” observed Lester, “you ignore the fact, that what they preach is of Divine Authority; they do not pretend of themselves to know what they teach; they accept the Scriptures, they are bound by them; and before meeting your arguments I should like to hear what is your opinion of the Bible as an authority. If you repudiate that, then your argument against them will have more weight. For instance, if I stand up to maintain a doctrine which does violence to my moral instincts, as that there will be millions of men and women kept for ever burning in hell, and I can show it to be in the Bible, I have nothing more to do. Concede the authority of the Book, and all is settled; but until that is determined, I feel myself unequally matched, because any justification I offer seems to be altogether useless.”
“Well, Lester, I have no objection, if you will permit me to proceed in my own way, to give my opinion of The Bible' as an authority; but, before doing so, I must protest against any man clinging to, and teaching, a doctrine which does violence to his moral nature. There is no written authority that can override the living authority of God speaking through the Conscience. If we violate that, then there is no hope of our becoming noble servants of the right. Were there ten thousand books filled with admonitions against taking thought for to-morrow,' I should still obey my conscience, which dictates that I am bound to consider and prepare for the morrows in which others may l'eap fruit from the labours I perform to-day. And, as to 'preaching doctrines' at all, I am dead against it--I am heartily sick of it. What's the use of spending our time arguing that men are 'bound to believe in the spiritual efficacy of infant baptism.' Who can be bound to believe ? I believe that you are in trouble of mind, and very anxious to discover the whole truth in relation to religious matters, but I do so because I know the facts; the belief is not the result of any volition of my Will I can't lielp it, and so I believe it. So it is with all doctrines; we assent to them, but scarcely ever believe them in any thorough manner. So that I advise preachers to talk about duties--not doctrines. Make a man a good worker, and he will soon become a sound believer. There are plenty of doctrinal Christians, but few practical ones: they remind me of an old apple tree which stood in my father's orchard -it was a splendid tree, with its broad branches, rich foliage, and beautiful blossom ; but never by any chance could we get an apple from it. The doctrinal Christians are of that class. They have the theory of being good; but, when we ask for the fruit, behold, we have nothing more than heartburnings, hatred of infidels, and long prayers, but neither love, trust, nor charity. Don't shake your head at me thus, Lester, but remember the story you have told of this day's work, and then make ready to hear what is my opinion of • The Bible.'"
A DISCOURSE WITi God.--In one sense the world is a conversation, a ceaseless communing with the Divine, enlarging ever on the spiritual ideal, on freedom and truth, and providence, and immortality. Heaven, indeed, invites us to intercourse, not in order that we should pretermit our efforts or our vigilance, but that we should cherish the holy frame of mind which renders duty easy and labour light, makes day a loftier hope, a greater joy, ourselves wiser, better, more loving, and more true. For although we may sleep, God never sleeps. Though we may forget, He never forgets. Although we may pause, He never panses. And in this infinitude of action, of perfection, and of care, in the least as in the greatest things, His most glorious attributes are seen.
THE TWO THIEVES AND THE CRUCIFIXION. One of the most touching passages in the history of the crucifixion is that in which it is set forth how Jesus suffered between two thieves. All the writers agree in stating that two persons were put to death with him. John, however, does not describe them, but is content to say that “two others were “ crucified with him.” The three first Gospels make them to be sinners, but two distinctly call them thieves, and it is that which makes the incident to be so touching. None can be satisfied if the good are compelled to associate with the evil--if the pure are constrained to enter into fellowship with the impure. Even the worst of tyrants have permitted political convicts to die by themselves; it has not been the custom to send the condemned patriot in the cart with condemned murderers, neither have the martyrs been called upon to die their death of agony in the company of thieves and forgers. Hence it is quite natural for us to feel an increased sympathy for Jesus, when we call to mind that he was grossly insulted in his moral nature when this companionship was forced upon him.
Apart, however, from this, the introduction of the two thieves into the narrative is productive of numerous difficulties, for divergent statements are made respecting their conduct unto Jesus. The first Gospel, after setting forth that, while upon the cross, Jesus was mocked by the bystanders, in reference to bis inability to save himself, has this addition : “ The thieves also " which were crucified with him cast the same in his teeth.”* The second says : “And they that were crucified with him reviled him.”+ The fourth takes no notice of anything said by his companions in death, neither does it allude to any one mocking him while he was upon the cross, which is rather curious, if, as is generally supposed, John was the author, and was present at the crucifixion. But the most curious matter is that which is found in the third Gospel, to the effect that one thief reviled and the other applauded him. It is said that the soldiers mocked him, challenging him, if he were the King of the Jews, to save himself. “And one of the inalefactors which were “hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But " the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing " thou art in the same condemnation ? And we indeed justly; for we receive " the due reward of our deeds : but this man hath done nothing amiss. And " he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy king“ dom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou “ be with me in paradise.”
The contradiction between these statements is too palpable to need any pointing out; for while one declares that both the malefactors reviled him, the other asserts that one of the two defended him, and petitioned for salvation. Neither need it be formally proven that Christendom accepts the stateinent in Luke as correct, for it is impossible to forget that men in their last extremity are reminded of how the dying thief was pardoned and promised immediate admission into glory. Which, then, shall we say,—that both the thieves reviled Jesus, or that only one of them did so?
They who endeavour to harmonise the narratives are apt in suggesting that all the Evangelists are correct; we are to suppose both the thieves reviling at first, which is noticed by two writers; then, that one of them was converted, and, instead of continuing his reviling, he petitioned for assistance, and declared Jesus to be an innocent man. Only a weak mind can be satisfied with this flimsy evasion of the spirit of the narrative. Can we over* Matt. xxvii, 44.
+ Mark xy. 32. # Luke xxiii, 39-40.
look the fact, that they who are hung upon a cross are not in the condition to revile their companions ? At such a time they think only of their own pain; thus, even if it were admitted that at first the two bad reviled, we cannot believe in their continuing to attend to Jesus. Neither can we conceive of a man being converted under such circumstances, when the conversion involved obtaining a true knowledge of the moral character of Jesus. The thief is made to say, “This man hath done nothing amiss,” and to understand what not even the disciples understood—the nature of the Kingdom of Jesus. Obviously that was knowledge he must have obtained before reaching Golgotha; and consequently, if he used the language put into his mouth by Luke, he could not have reviled, as set forth by Matthew and Mark.
It is, however, difficult to conceive that the class of men to which he belonged could have obtained clearer ideas of the true character of Jesus than were those entertained by his immediate disciples. The petition for remembrance involved the idea of a spiritual kingdom. No man already at the point of death, as a malefactor, would trouble about the prospective temporal kingdom of his companion, because, in his thien condition, he could have no hope of living to enjoy it. So that if we say such a petition was presented, it inust be concluded that it referred to an unworldly kingdom, a kingdom purely spiritual, and, consequently, the dying thief must have formed a clearer idea of the Messianic rule than the best-beloved and most instructed among the twelve apostles had done, for they firmly believed in the temporal kingdom, and up to the last moment were certain that Jesus was to restore the Kingdom of Israel.
P. W. P.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REFORMATION.--XLIII.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END. Of course the first prerequisite for the stability of such a State as Savonarola sought to establish in Florence is virtue on the part of the people. Savonarola, like many another noble mind, blinded by its earnest desire to work out to a success its own grand ideas, misjudged his means, and also the men with whom he had to work. A people cannot be changed in a moment, and those who had submitted so long to the despotism of the Medici, could not be rendered fit for self-government except by long training. The government established by Savonarola was too good for the people. Moreover, surrounded as it was by petty despotisms, it found enemies everywhere. In the goodness of his heart, Savonarola had prevailed upon the Florentines to let the adherents of the Medici remain in Florence, arguing that a proscription would be unworthy of a high-minded people. A general amnesty was therefore proclaimed. The result was that a body of unscrupulous partizans remained to conspire against the government, and, by underhand means, to disturb the peace of the Republic. It was a mistake, but a glorious one, and can add only to the respect of all good men for Savonarola.
Surrounded by enemies without, and containing traitors within, having no real moral basis, the ruin of the Republic was certain, even ere yet it was firmly established. It was not long before the government was reduced to fearful straits. The hatred of the aristocratic and monied classes added to the difficulties of the position, by creating class factions and monetary derangements. All these things show that Savonarola had misjudged his means ; but he also misjudged the men with whom he had to work. His earnest denunciations of vice, all the more earnest that his aim was the moral elevation, as well as the political freedom, of the people, bred an indiscriminating fanaticism in many of his hearers. The fact, too, that there was a spice of fanaticism in the religious enthusiasm of Savonarola himself cannot be overlooked by the candid mind, and this led him not unfrequently both into mistakes of judgment, and made him look leniently on many acts of pure fanaticism on the part of his followers. As an instance of this, some of the younger and less judicious of these had undertaken the expulsion from Florence of all obscene books, wanton statues and pictures, and other lascivious works of art. With this object they went from liouse to house, and gathered together all objects of censurable luxury. That there were many of these, the records still extant in relation to the connection of art and literature with vice in those times, and of which we shall in a future paper have somewhat to say, quite sufficiently prove. The carnival of the year 1497 was rendered remark
tlrese things, thus gathered, were collected in one enormous pile and burnt by the hand of Savonarola, while the people sang psalms and hymns.
This event has been made the ground of bitter accusation against Savonarola of having been the enemy of art and literature. We do not defend such a mode of providing for the morality of a people, because by outward compulsion no man can be made moral. At the same time justice should be done. In the first place, it should be remembered that the thing was not initiated by Savonarola, and it seems to be clearly proven that three parts of the articles consumed were wanton tales and poems, gay disguises, masks, and other carnival adornments, which could have no artistic or literary value. If a few works of art did really perish, they probably deserved no better fate. That the incident forms no ground for accusing Savonarola of enmity to real art and literature is proved by other well-established facts in his career. He lived on terms of close intimacy with many of the most illustrious artists of his time. Michael Angelo was among his friends, and his followers included many persons celebrated both in literature and art.
But the fact that Savonarola was not the foe but the friend of art and literature is proven in connection with the sale of the confiscated Medician library, the facts relating to which are substantiated by Signor Villari. We follow his account. The Republic was in great need of money,
poverty of the citizens being no less than that of the Republic, great fear was entertained that that splendid library would be dispersed. Now the cloister of San Marco was possessed of a considerable sum of money, the result of the sale of their possessions, in accordance with tlie counsels of poverty given
Savonarola determined to purchase the library, and add it to the convent library, which, be it remarked, was the only one in all Italy, which was open to the public. He accordingly bought the library for the sum of three thousand florins, paying down two thousand and giving a bond for the payment of the remainder. Thus Savonarola saved for the world that magnificent Laurentian library which, even in the present day, remains as one of the glories of Florence, and at that time contained the most perfect collection of Greek and Latin authors to be found in Europe, which were thus placed within the reach of the public, and became eminently serviceable in the revival of classical literature in that and immediately succeeding times. This, then, was the man whom so many have been ready to denounce as a “ barbarous - friar," "a burner of ancient MSS.," "an enemy to literature and to art.”