« AnteriorContinuar »
THE MELANCHOLY MAN'S MUSINGS.—No. 5.
“Insavirerunt super idola sua." The world has been given to idol-worship in all generations. There has been the age of stocks and stones, when dumb logs and lumps have been stuck up on pedestals to le crouched and crawled to. There was the age of mystery, when Fancy-bare creative Fancy-peopled the grove and the forest, the lake and the rivulet, the skyey mountain and the lone shrubby vale, with its own offspring-mere un. substantial phantasmata-and worshipped them. Imagination was man's master, instead of Faith. He shut his soul's eye tight, and mistook the dreamy radiance of the ocular kaleidescope for the full. orbed glory of THE REAL and THE EVERLASTING. Hence, sprung forth into quasi-existence the crowds of Gods and Demigods, Dryads and Hamadryads, Naiads and Nereids, Oreads and Napæans; beautiful and mysterious creations, but false, unreal, impalpable ; bewildering and chcating the soul like witchcraft. This idol worship was indeed less gross and sensual than the grovelling and sordid matter-worship of the preceding age, yet it was mixed up in every way with such folly as was clear and conspicuous to all Thinkers. Then came the reign of the goddess Reason-man's own proud, self-sufficient Reason. She had grown strong by use and exercise, and by a victorious fight against materialistic idolism. She was man's dimid um animæ —the darling half of his soul-and he fell down and worshipped her; thereby worshipping himself. This was the vain-glorious self-worship of the Grecian philosopher, Then burst forth upon the world the sudden truth-blaze of Christianity. The eyes of many opened to catch the light of the heavenly dayspring. The eyes of more remained shut to it; for they felt content with their own self-kindlings, and would rather be worshipped, though it were only by themselves, than be worshippers of That which was beyond and above them. But soon many beams of the strong light forced themselves through their closed eyelids, bringing bright and novel perceptions to the retina. Yet they did not open their eyes to the new effulgence, for “they loved the darkness better," but, seizing the straggling rays which had gotten in, gilded their old phantoms with them, or mingled both to. gether, or juxtaposed them. Thus was formed by Animonius, Ploti. ilus, Jamblichus, and the like, that giant idol, Pantheism, which was carved with tools stolen from heaven, but whose massive trunk was
of hellish growth. This idol was ere long toppled from its base, and broken up; for, as its huge limbs had not the cement of truth to bind them, they could not remain lastingly in the same form. There was, also, the multiform and illusive spectre of Gnosticism, a sort of monstrous Will o' the Wisp, arising from the pestilent exhalations of the Cabbalistic, Magian, and Platonistic bogs, and which in one of its many metamorphoses assumed the horrid shape of Manicheism-an accursed mingling of God-worship and Devil-worship! There have been other reigning idols—reigning in darkness which may be feltblack, chilling, soul-crushing darkness. The foundation of the empire of them all has been laid in the perverted selfishness of man-in the substitution of self-righteousness for repentance, of self-reliance for faith, and of self-seeking for self-sacrifice. Man has felt himself drowning in the floods of lust and the billows of affliction, and has clutched his own neck for safety! It was Christianity which first fully opened to the nations, which were sitting in this dismal gloom, the great and everlasting truth, that man cannot save himself, and that self-reliance is self-ruin; and glad have been the effects of this mighty axiom upon all who have truly learned it. It leads out the soul beyond brute and sluggish matter, and fixes its gaze upon that which is invisible, intangible, ineffable, yet real and eternal. It enables and even constrains the man to pass through this world as the citizen of a better; and creates within him higher and nobler hopes and aims than his three-score-years-and-ten could ever realize. But Christianity has not yet done its work; it is only in course of doing it; nor has it enlightened and purified all upon whom it has shonebecause all have not unfolded themselves to its genial influences, but only those who have inwardly received it. The sun does not warm the stamina of the flower, unless it have first expanded its petals to the beam. Thus it is that idol-worship still remains. There is light upon the world, but all men will not see it—they bury themselves from it in things earthly and material—they dig dark cellars under ground, and do kow-tow to their images there, or wallow deep in obscene filth, adoring their belly-god in the mucky slough of sensuality. Others raise lofty and spreading screens to ward off the splendour of the day-like cats and owls, loving dimmest twilight-and beneath them pay reverence to the pictures and baubles they have hung upon their walls. Thus the high-towering Papacy throws a thick uncertain gloom over the better half of Europe a gloom in which empty vanishing shadows appear real, heavenly, and adorable. This too is idol-worship. But let us look to ourselves-our own country-our own age. Oh, there is a holy and a godlike leaven in our generation! There are lovely patterns and exemplars of hearty charity and self-sacrifice, living in the light, in cheerfulness, gentleness, and peace; to be found for the most part among the poor, the humble, and the afflicted—but still there they are. “There is a sort of God's dear servants," says old Jeremy, “who walk in perfectness, who perfect holiness in the fear of God; and they have a degree of clarity and divine knowledge more than we can discourse of, and more certain than the demonstrations of geometry, brighter than the sun, and indeficient as the light of heaven." There is such a generation. But there is also " a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washt from their filthiness. There is a generation, oh, how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their jawteeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.”
Take our present age as a whole, it is an idol-worshipper. Selfism is the creed practised. 'Tis a flippant, conceited, self-sufficient age.. Truly it has arrived to a greater elevation of intellectual grandeår than all previous ages combined into one! It tosses over the history-pages of the mighty wondrous Past, and sneeringly mutters, “ I am too wise to be taught by these." It throws a rapid and a careless glance upon the great social maxims which the experience of a hundred generations had formed, and says, “ All these are out of date now—their time is bygone. Until now all men have sat in darkness -I am THE ENLIGHTENED AGE, the first of my race.” We are “ The Illuminati'' now, we may perhaps creong be promoted to the title of “ Celestials"-the very thing, by the way, which the Chinese have been for some score centuries. It has been remarked by an ancient writer, that some men, “ professing themselves wise, have become fools."
And alas ! how grievously have we become enslaved to miserable Mammon-worship. Wealth is the one blest Elysium in the hope of which our Imaginations wildly riot; Money is coveted, as though it would buy Heaven for us, instead of Hell; and the rich man is revered and flattered—is accounted a happy man, a great and worshipful man, a little god among men.
Our political economy is pervaded with the same spirit of Mammonworship. It may be defined simply as an attempt at the solution of intricate problems in Profit and Loss. It takes for granted that wealth is weal, and that the happiness of a nation bears a direct proportion to the number of its stamped bits of " white and yellow dirt," or the length of its iron railroad-trams. It considers each steamengine boiler as the very focus of felicity, and Macadamization as the great highroad to national glory.
Yet is ours a philanthropical age. Oh, yes! but its philanthropy is all talk; and small talk too. "Be ye warmed, be ye clothed-but really times are so hard, I can't help you— Please to walk into the Bastille we've built for ye.”
We are a sceptical age, and would belie our own cyesight, if we could gain two-pence by the trick. We are so sceptical-or, what is the same thing, so credulous—that we believe “No” of everything heyond the reach of our five senses, and plume ourselves the while on our mightily philosophic unbelief.
Reverence! obedience! The words are still found in dictionaries, but where are the emotions they represent? Where is the reverence of old age? Where is the unaffected awe and deference with which the young were once taught to approach the aged ? Now, alas ! the merest boy will play the familiar or instructor to his father and grandfather; and the old head of the stranger is no longer thought respect. able, if its hoary hairs fall upon a coat which use and need have worn thin and threadbare. “Vera enim rerum nomina amisimus." And where is that divine awe of things sacred and eternal, whereby we are forbidden to pry into those hidden mysteries, which make even cherubic intellects grow dizzy by their depth unfathomable? We men " men of clay and full of sins''-dare to search out and compass Divinity—we think to cramp Omnipotence into a Procrustes' bed, or we measure the Infinite with our own yard-stick, or we set bounds to Omniscience, and try to shut out the Omnipresent from his own creation.
Obedience is no longer a motive principle. Men obey, not from the spirit of obedience but for expedience' sake, or to save trouble. Each thinks he has the right to disobey, if he choose to do so. The laws which he fancies good, he obeys out of deference to himself; those which he fancies bad, he thinks he may transgress and mock at will: for he obeys no one cheerfully, unless he be thereby at the same time obeying self.
Our enlightened age, moreover, while it is slow and reluctant to pay obedience, also feels, not inconsistently, a great delicacy in exacling it. The public laws must be mild and gentle, so that the very villain should find it pleasurable to be under them. Military and naval discipline must be soft, tender, conciliatory-no punishments to be inflicted which would not suit a ladies' academy. In like manner schoJastic discipline must be carried on upon the sugar-plum principle. Harrow and Eton are a century behind in the march of intellect, for they employ “ a rod for the back of fools.” What !” exclaims your enlightened utilitarian pantologist, “ what! flog a boy? Horrid crime !-revolting iniquity! Persuade them, reason with them, ar. gue it out with them ; but oh, for shame, don't flog them !" Solomon, on the other hand, said of yore, “ Withhold not correction from the child ; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die;"_but behold, a wiser than Solomon is here!
Matris ad Parvulum.
HYMN TO HEALTH.
Throughout my coming years with thee
I fain would dwell; and thou with me
The splendors of imperial state-
The stolen joys which Cypria's wiles create,
If Thou be with these pleasures, thou dost fling
A bloom upon them, and the charms of Spring;
ANACREONTIC. (From Julianus Ægyptius; or Anacreon, according to Vatican M.S.)
As I once a garland wove,
EPIGRAMS FROM THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY.
. A. This very little man must have
A little epitaph;
THERIS OF CRETE IS BURIED HERE.
ON A MONUMENT OF EURIPIDES.
This marble cannot dare aspire;
Its own remembrance to acquire.
They yield two joyful times,
One-when their death-knell chimes.