Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

and religion disser herein, that the one is the system of human duties commencing from man; the other from God. Religion includes the personality of God ; Ethics does not. They are one to our present design. They both put Nature under foot. The first and last lesson of religion is, “The things that are seen are temporal ; the things that are unseen are eternal.” It puts an affront upon Nature. It does that for the unschooled which philosophy does for Berkeley and Viasa. The uniform language that may be heard in the churches of the most ignorant sects is :“ Contemn the unsubstantial shows of the world ; they are vanities, dreams, shadows, unrealities; seek the realities of religion.” The devotee flouts Nature. Some theosophists have arrived at a certain hostility and indignation towards matter, as the Manichean and Plotinus. They distrusted in themselves any looking back to these filesh-pots of Egypt. Plotinus was ashamed of his body. In short, they might all better say of matter what Michael Angelo said of external beauty, “It is the frail and weary weed in which God dresses the soul, which he has called into time.

It appears that motion, poetry, physical and intellectual science, and religion, all tend to assect our convictions of the reality of the external world. But I own there is something ungrateful in expanding too curiously the particulars of the general proposition, that all culture tends to imbue us with idealism. I have no hostility to Nature, but a child's love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons. Let us speak her fair. I do not wish to fling stones at my beautiful mother, nor soil my gentle nest. I only wish to indicate the true position of Nature in regard to man, wherein to establish man all right education tends; as the ground which, to attain, is the object of human life, that is, of man's connection with Nature. Culture inverts the vulgar views of Nature, and brings the mind to call that apparent which it uses to call real, and that real which it uses to call visionary. Children, it is true, believe in the external world. The belief that it appears only, is an after-thought; but, with culture, this faith will as surely arise on the mind as did the first.

The advantage of the ideal theory over the popular faith is this, that it presents the world in precisely that view which is most desirable to the mind. It is, in fact, the view which Reason, both speculative and practical—that is, philosophy and virtue—take; for, seen in the light of thought, the world always is phenomenal, and virtue subordinates it to the mind. Idealism sees the world in God. It beholds the whole circle of persons and things, of actions and events, of country and religion, not as painfully accumulated, atom after atom, act after act, in an aged creeping Past, but as one vast picture, which God paints on the instant eternity, for the contemplation of the soul. Therefore the soul holds itself off from a too trivial and microscopic study of the universal tablet. It respects the end too much to immerse itself in the means. It sees something more important in Christianity than the scandals of ecclesiastical history, or the niceties of criticism; and, very incurious concerning persons or miracles, and not at all disturbed by chasms of historical evidence, it accepts from God the phenomenon as it finds it, as the pure and awful form of religion in the world. It is not hot and passionate at the appearance of what it calls its own good or bad fortune, at the union or opposition of other persons. No man is its enemy. It accepts whatsoever befalls, as part of its lesson. It is a watcher more than a doer; and it is a doer, only that it may the better watch.

CHAPTER VII.

SPIRIT.

IT is essential to a true theory of Nature and

of man, that it should contain somewhat progressive. Uses that are exhausted, or that may be, and facts that end in the statement, cannot be all that is true of this brave lodging, wherein man is harboured, and wherein all his faculties find appropriate and endless exercise; and all the uses of Nature admit of being summed in one, which yields the activity of man an infinite scope. Through all its kingdoms, to the suburbs and outskirts of things, it is faithful to the cause whence it had its origin. It always speaks of Spirit. It suggests the absolute. It is a perpetual effect. It is a great shadow pointing always to the sun behind us.

The aspect of Nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with bended head, and hands folded upon the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from Nature the lesson of worship.

Of that ineffable essence which we call Spirit, he that thinks most will say least. We can foresee God in the coarse and, as it were, distant phenomena of matter; but when we try to define and describe himself, both language and thought desert us, and we are as helpless as fools and savages. That essence refuses to be recorded in propositions ; but when man has worshipped him intellectually, the noblest ministry of Nature is to stand as the apparition of God. It is the great organ through which the universal spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it.

When we consider Spirit, we see that the views already presented do not include the whole circumference of man. We must add some related thoughts.

Three problems are put by Nature to the mind: What is matter? Whence is it, and whereto? The first of these questions only the ideal theory answers. Idealism saith : matter is a phenomenon, not a substance. Idealism acquaints us with the total disparity between the evidence of our own being, and the evidence of the world's being. The one is perfect; the other, incapable of any assurance. The mind is a part of the nature of things; the world is a divine dream, from which

« AnteriorContinuar »