« AnteriorContinuar »
adoration to God? This is the commencement of the Christian joy which, if it beget a live faith that worketh by love, producing the fruits of obedience, will lead to everlasting life.1
MARY RUSSELL MITFORD
(1786–1855) PRAY for me, my dear friends! We are of different
forms, but surely of one religion—that which is found between the two covers of the Gospel. I have read the whole twice through during the last few weeks, and it seems to me, speaking merely intellectually, more easy to believe than to disbelieve. But still I am subject to wandering thoughts — fluttering thoughts. I cannot realise even that which I believe. Pray for me, that my faith be quickened and made more steadfast.2
I am now reading the Gospels for the third time with a calm conviction and a fearful, trembling, humble hope, trusting only in God's mercy, and believing that mercy will be extended to all who seek it, under whatever sect they may be gathered, provided they seek it in sincerity.
LORD BYRON. .
NOW come to a subject of your inquiry which you
2 From letter written August 23, 1854.
-an awful one—“Religion.” . My opinions are quite undecided. ... I believe doubtless in God, and should be happy to be convinced of much more. If I do not at present place implicit faith in tradition and revelation of any human creed, I hope it is not from want of reverence for the Creator but the created, and when I see a man publishing a pamphlet to prove that Mr. Pitt is risen from the dead (as was done a week ago), perfectly positive in the truth of his assertion, I must be permitted to doubt more miracles equally well attested; but the moral of Christianity is perfectly beautiful-and the very sublime of virtue-yet even there we find some of its finer precepts in the earlier axioms of the Greeks—particularly “do unto others as you would they should do unto you"—the forgiveness of injuries and more which I do not remember.1
I thank you very much for your suggestion on religion. But I must tell you, at the hazard of losing whatever good opinion your gentleness may have bestowed upon me, that it is a source from which I never did, and I believe never can, derive comfort. If I ever feel what is called devout, it is when I have met with some good of which I did not conceive myself deserving, and then I am apt to thank anything but mankind. On the other hand, when I am ill or unlucky, I philosophise as well as I can, and wish it were over one way or the other-without any glimpses at the future. Why I came here, I know not. Where I shall go to, it is useless to inquire. In the midst of myriads of the living and the dead worlds—stars
1 From letter to Miss Milbanke (Sept. 1813).
systems-infinity—why should I be anxious about an atom? 1
Our life is a false nature'tis not in
My altars are the mountains and the ocean, Earth, air, stars—all that springs from the great Whole, Who hath produced, and will receive, the soul.3
If I were to live over again, I do not know what I would change in my life, unless it were for—not to have lived at all. All history and experience, and the rest,
1 Letter to Miss Milbanke, March 3, 1814.
3 From Don Juan, Canto iii. st. civ. (1821).
teaches us that the good and evil are pretty equally balanced in this existence, and that what is most to be desired is an easy passage out of it. What can it give us but years ? and those have little of good but their ending:
Of the immortality of the soul it appears to me that there can be little doubt, if we attend for a moment to the action of mind; it is in perpetual activity. I used to doubt of it, but reflection has taught me better. It acts also so very independent of body-in dreams, for instance; incoherently and madly, I grant you, but still it is mind, and much more mind than when we are awake. Now that this should not act separately, as well as jointly, who can pronounce ? The stoics, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, call the present state “a soul which drags a carcass”—a heavy chain, to be sure ; but all chains, being material, may be shaken off. How far our future life will be individual, or, rather, how far it will at all resemble our present existence, is another question ; but that the mind is eternal seems as probable as that the body is not so. Of course I here venture upon the question without recurring to revelation, which, however, is at least as rational a solution of it as any other. A material resurrection seems strange, and even absurd, except for purposes of punishment; and all punishment which is to revenge rather than correct must be morally wrong; and when the world is at an end, what moral or warning purpose can eternal tortures answer? Human passions have probably disfigured the divine doctrines here ;—but the whole thing is inscrutable.2
1 From his Journal, 1824.
It is useless to tell me not to reason but to believe. You might as well tell a man not to wake but sleep. And then to bully with torments, and all that! I cannot help thinking that the menace of hell makes as many devils as the severe penal codes of inhuman humanity make villains. 1
I have often been inclined to materialism in philosophy, but could never bear its introduction into Christianity, which appears to me essentially founded upon the soul.
For this reason Priestley's Christian Materialism always struck me as deadly. Believe the resurrection of the body if you will, but not without a soul. The deuce is in it, if, after having had a soul (as surely the mind, or whatever you call it, is) in this world, we must part with it in the next, even for an immortal materiality! I own my partiality for spirit.2
“No man would live his life over again” is an old and true saying which all can resolve for themselves. At the same time, there are probably moments in most men's lives which they would live over the rest of life to regain. Else why do we live at all ? :
(1788–1860) OUR UR life is like a journey on which, as we advance,
the landscape takes a different view from that which it presented at first, and changes again as we
This is just what happens—especially 1 From his Journal, 1824.