Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

A TURNING-POINT.

41

a course of Scripture study without the slightest reference to the Westminster Confession or any other systematised essay of Christian doctrine.

He was now face to face with divine teaching, which guides each mind by different processes to realise the same great truths, and from that day the well - thumbed Testament lay ready to hand in his coat-pocket.

Take your knowledge of the case from the evidence of the original witnesses, from them directly and from them only in the first place; you will then be in a condition to profit by the observations and opinions of other men, which, without such a previous course of independent training, could only confound and cripple you. This was what my Gamaliel taught me.

To Dr Forbes he owed many pregnant lessons, and towards him his attitude was always docile. A friendship sprang up between him and the sons of Old Machar manse, and this gave him frequent opportunities of seeking and receiving the fresh, suggestive, imperious dicta which the Doctor, half genially, half defiantly, hurled at him about every topic of the day. The Professor's chemical researches had given him more than ordinary insight into the working of the divine energy, and he taught his young friend to recognise it in every process by which the world is maintained and renewed. “Wherever life is,” said the

a

and gone —

Doctor, “God is." The sentence solved much for

” his disciple. It illuminated a whole horizon dense with cloud, a curtain which had seemed to him providentially disposed, and to be accepted with dumb endurance. And now he found that without an effort on his part the cloud was dissolved

that God was its interpreter, no grim deity who loved to limit and perplex His creatures, but the omnipresent Wisdom. It was a release from bondage to freedom. In middle life he wrote

This absolute and only possible truth I found afterwards in Plato, but it did not appear to me a whit more evident, touched by the imaginative genius of the great Greek idealist, than when it came forth in full panoply from the hard head of the Aberdeen Doctor. Resting upon this postulate, I have since then always looked on Materialism and Atheism as two forms of speculative nonsense, and a firm faith in God was made clear to me as the one keystone which makes thought coherent and the world intelligible.

Many years passed before he realised his full debt to Dr Forbes. He was still under the impression that a learned Moderate might give him a lift on a question of speculation, but he would have scorned to seek his advice on a question of inward and personal religion. It took a long time to teach him that the impulses which develop our spiritual life are as surely correlated

STUDIES IN NATURE.

43

as the physical force which is heat, or light, or motion, as conditions decide its form.

Always teachable, although always eclectic, he found here and there the lessons which he needed, gathering them out of the open hand of Providence. Thus Dr Forsyth, the minister of Belhelvie, taught him to use his eyes.

He was another of Mr Blackie's friends who took an interest in John, and he helped him insensibly out of the preoccupations which at this time gave a touch of moodiness to his manner. Dr Forsyth was a student of nature like Dr Forbes, physics and botany occupied his leisure, and the young science of geology claimed his walks about the district, hammer in hand. The flora of Belhelvie hedgerows and fields, the material of Belhelvie dykes—with such homely plants and stones he made his walks a page in God's great Missal, and taught the young friend, who sometimes shared them, to decipher for himself the characters which conveyed His Wisdom, inscribed in stern relief, or wreathed with delicate beauty.

44

CHAPTER III.

STUDENT LIFE IN GÖTTINGEN.

1829.

The aggressive element in John Blackie's character was suspended for a time; its energy was concentrated on himself, and although we hear of no peevishness at home, and of no petulant refusal to comply with his father's wishes, everything tends to prove that he was at that stage in growth when the inward life absorbs all vigour from the outer life, feeding upon the very strength which it afterwards learns to direct. Between the two lives there was at present no healthy interchange. He brooded in silence over his

perplexities, considering them as all-important; the interests of others seemed trifling, and the seeming sympathy which made his boyhood so attractive was in abeyance. What gleams of light in

MENTAL DIFFICULTIES.

45

formed his mind had not yet attained to instruct his heart, and although he was never harsh nor deliberately unsympathetic, he was no longer his father's eager companion, the centre and sunshine of the home. Much was conceded to him as student and future divine, but his moody habits excited occasional reproof and considerable anxiety.

He tells us, with tender penitence for these remote delinquencies, how unsociable he was, how unwillingly he went with his father to fish the Don or Deveron, how he hung back sullenly, singing dully to himself and buried in endless cogitations, how in a room full of friends he sat wrapped up in his own thoughts, humming a tune in most ill-mannered fashion, despising the kindly family life, which seemed to minister nothing to his inward needs.

His course at Aberdeen University was at an end, but he hesitated to take the further steps which should lead to his ordination. His mind had worked itself into a great confusion. With an impulse towards liberty, its fetters clanked at every struggle. He no longer knew how much he believed of the stern doctrines which oppressed him. He was as religious as ever, and practised his devotions night and morning with a melancholy fervour; they had become a kind of fetish whereby he clung to the hope of salvation. But

« AnteriorContinuar »