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Here we meet with many things, that are to the point, and which breathe a better philosophy, than that which underlies the popular discussions of the same subject at the present day. From many sermons on the resurrection, which we have read, one can hardly see of what use the resurrection of the body can be to the happiness of the soul. The soul in its disembodied estate after death is considered as perfectly happy, how then can the reunion of the body with the soul at the last day add materially to its enjoyments ? Our author, we are glad to see, regards the body as something more than a tabernacle for the soul, a shield and protection for it from external dangers, and insists upon it as an essential part of human existence, without which the soul cannot enjoy the fruition of its joys. The glorified body, therefore, ought to be regarded as a stadium in the believer's progress, similar to that which he makes when he lays aside his tabernacle of clay and ascends to his Father's abode in heaven. We are pleased with the general tenor of the remarks made on this and kindred topics throughout the book, without meaning, however, to endorse every position that is laid down. If we had the time or the space, we might possibly be tempted to break a lance with our friend in assaulting a position or two which he has seen proper to take. For a popular reader, his idea of body, for instance, may be perfectly satisfactory, and may secure the object which he keeps in view, general edification, yet we think his statements on this point might have been more full and philosophically correct, so as to have relieved the minds of some of his readers of objections, which its present statement may suggest. This, and kindred subjects, involving the mode of our subsistence in heaven, present many more knotty points to the philosopher than to the Christian, who receives the facts without attempting to speculate as it regards their relation to each other. There are two errors into which philosophers are prone to fall, when they endeavor to go beyond mere general statements in respect to the future life,-spiritualism on the one hand, and materialism on the other. They are inclined to represent the other world either as something so spiritual, ethereal, and misty in its nature, that it bears no resemblance or analogy to anything which has come under the cognizance of the human mind, and hence reduce it to a barren abstraction, or they run out into the other extreme, and dream of heaven, much as the Mohammedans do, who regard it as some eastern park, the pleasant abode of luxury and ease. Either error is dangerous, and diverges equally as much from a sound, healthy Christianity. In our day a false spiritualism is more likely to be our besetting sin in our religious speculations, than a gross Anthropomorphism, which cannot see any spiritual reality beyond the forms under which sensual objects present themselves to the mind. The book before us is evidently aimed against the former error, and the writer seeks everywhere for something more substantial in his notions of heaven than barren, empty abstractions. Has he not in endeavoring to avoid one kind of error, run into another of an opposite kind? It would, perhaps, be a more than human moderation had he in all cases kept the golden mean between the two extremes referred to.
We think the representations of his theory of another life are too physical in their character, which, if it be an error, leans to virtue's side, as it makes his book more readable and more accesible to the generality of readers. We must not, however, fail to observe, that the author is never dogmatical in giving expression to his view of those things, which lie so far beyond the cognizance of our senses; but, as is becoming, ever speaks with a proper degree of humility, and a consciousness that here we see through a glass darkly, and hence must abide our time until we see face to face.
AN AUTOBIOGRAPIIY. MY SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS; OR
THE STORY OF MY EDUCATION. By Hugh Miller, Author of " The Old Red Sandstone,” “ Footprints of the Creator," “ First Impressions of England and its People," etc. Boston: Gould & Lincoln, 59 Washington Street. 1854. pp. 551.
EVERY age of the world has its men of literary eminence, who leave their impress on the times in which they live, which is not lost even upon many after generations. They attain to their position by a great diversity of means, which, although constituting an almost infinite variety, may yet be properly reduced to two grand general divisions.
The former embraces those which are furnished by the vast facilities for intellectual culture afforded by the educational institutions of the age. Minds, which are to any reasonable extent susceptible of culture and, at the same time, possessed of some taste for improvement, are often brought forward to eminence and distinction, by the force of the educational influences and facilities, which, in the Providence of God, are thrown around them. This class of literary men are of course not without their merit, though, in many instances, they would have doubtless remained unknown, had their educational facilities been different from what they were.
The latter are made up of those which are to be found even in the most humble positions in life, and which are made available by the force of genius, necessarily thrown upon its own unaided resources. Great minds are often to be met with, which are cut off by circumstances over which they have no control, from all special facilities for intellectual culture and seem doomed to remain buried in obscurity; but which through an insatiable thirst after knowledge, a talent of close observation, and an indomitable perseverance, surmount every opposing obstacle, and succeed in placing themselves upon a proud literary eminence. Those who attain their position in these circumstances do not fail to impress all careful observers with a sense of their greatness, inasmuch as nothing but true greatness could have achieved what they have wrought for themselves.
To this latter class the writer, the title of one of whose productions is found at the head of this article, belongs. He is descended from an humble parentage. In his early life he was not only cut off from all special facilities for the cultivation of his mind, but also placed in circumstances which were anything but favorable to the attainment of a high degree of mental culture. Such, however, was the force of his natural genius, such his great thirst for knowledge, such his insatiable curiosity and such his unbending perseverance in the midst of the most untoward circumstances, that he has succeeded in gaining for himself a prominent position amongst the learned men of his age. The productions of his pen, such as “The Old Red Sandstone," "The Footprints of the Creator,” &c., have met . with a most favorable reception from the literary and scientific world. And well they may. For they are the productions of no ordinary genius. They are fraught with profitable instruction, and evidence a vast amount of literary research.
The volume before us, as its title indicates, is an autobiography. It is, however, one of no ordinary cast. No mere detail of incidents fills out its numerous pages. They constantly present the workings of a strong, vigorous and active mind in its search after knowledge, ever turning to faithful account the different sources of knowledge which come within its reach. The various details are accordingly ever blended with the most pleasing and profitable instruction, which feature throws a peculiar charm over the whole book.
The work, to borrow the sentiment of the author in his preface, may be regarded as a sort of educational treatise, thrown into the narrative form, and addressed more especially to working men. Such will find that a considerable portion of the scenes and incidents which it records, read their lesson, whether of encouragement or warning, or throw their occasional lights on peculiarities of character or curious natural phenomena, to which their attention might not be unprofitably directed. To other classes, no small amount of its interest besides what has been mentioned, will be that which is derived from the glimpses it furnishes of the inner life of the Scottish people and its bearing on what has been somewhat clumsily termed “the condition-of-the-country question.” The author will consider his well-meant efforts amply repaid, if he shall in any degree succeed in rousing the humbler class to the important work of self-culture and self-government, and in convincing the higher that there are instances in which working men have at least as legitimate a claim to their respect as to their pity.
The author's style is terse and vigorous. His language is not mere empty words, but peculiarly the language of thought. We might furnish a great variety of specimens, did our limits permit. We shall, however, content ourselves with but a single quotation. It is taken from the chapter in which he describes his religious impressions :
6. The true centre of an efficient Christianity is, as the name ought of itself to indicate, “the Word made Flesh.' Around this central sun of the Christian system,--appreciated, however, not as a doctrine which is a mere abstraction, but as a Divine Person,—so truly man, that the affections of the human heart can lay hold upon Him, and so truly God, that the mind, through faith, can at all times and in all places be brought into direct contact with Him,-all that is truly religious takes its place in a subsidiary and subordinate relation. I say subsidiary and subordinate. The Divine Man is the great attractive centre—the sole gravitating point of a system which owes to Him all the coherency, and which would be but a chaos were He away. It seems to be the existence of the human nature in this central and paramount object that imparts to Christianity, in its subjective character, its peculiar power of influercing and controlling the human mind.
* In the false or corrupted religions, the two indispensable elements of Divinity and Humanity appear as if blended together by a mere mechanical process; and it is their natural tendency to separate through a sort of subsidence on the part of the human element from the theistic one, as if from some lack of the necessary affinities. In Christianity, on the other hand, when existing in its integrity as the religion of the New Testament, the union of the two elements is complete: it partakes of the nature, not of a mechanical, but of a chemical mixture; and its great central doctrine,--the true Humanity and true Divinity of the Adorable Saviour,-is a truth equally receivable by at once the humblest and the loftiest intellects. Poor dying children possessed of but a few simple ideas, and men of the most robust intellects, such as the Chalmerses, Fosters and Halls of the Christian Church, find themselves equally able to rest their salvation on the man Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever.' Of this fundamental truth of the two natures, that condensed enunciation of the Gospel which forms the watchword of our faith, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,' is a direct and palpable embodiment; and Christianity is but a mere name without it.”
Erratum.— The paging between 368 and 449 is 20 more than it ought to be. The reader will please make the deduction.