Abbildungen der Seite

and always with the impression that it owes its celebrity to nothing so much as being the work of that wonderful artist and great man, who devoted to it eight years of assiduous labor. We have to acknowledge, indeed, that at the present day we can have but a faint idea of the painting as it first appeared, fresh from the wet plaster and his living brush. Towering immediately behind the high altar, it has been abused by the smoke of incense and wax-candles. And then to the injuries of accident and time has been added the affront of intentional alterations. The very figures were not allowed to remain as he drew them. They were objected to as too nude, even before the Christmas of 1541, when they were displayed for the first time to public inspection; and at length, by order of Paul IV., Daniele da Volterra was. employed to cover with drapery those which gave most. offence. He earned the nickname of İl Brachettone, the Breeches-Maker, for his pains, and the earnest resentment of all posterity. Still, however, even if we could see the colors as they were when grand old Michael, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, but with twenty years more before him of honored life, came down from the scaffolding that was to conceal no longer his completed work, - even then there would remain the very same feeling that has already been implied of discontent and repugnance. And this, not chiefly because so large a number of the figures are grotesque and hideous; nor because Christian and pagan mythologies are so strangely mixed together, and Charon and Minos are looked down upon by St. Laurence with his gridiron and St. Bartholomew under the flayer's knife. He here followed the conceptions of the Middle Age, and of Dante, whom he so much resembled. As for the multitude of naked forms, they might seem to be imposed by the very proprieties of his subject, and they certainly gave scope to his anatomical skill. We object to them less for being so bare than for being so ugly. And if he in a few instances invested them with the conventional appendages of horns and tail, it is his peculiar merit to have nowhere bemonstered them with members that are utterly inconsistent with the structure of the human body. There is not a single pair of wings on the shoulders of angels, good or evil; and here he was in advance of even our own times. But what we principally find fault with is the predominant figure, the Judge, Christ, which is utterly repulsive to all our best conceptions. A robust Hercules, or Titan, with every naked muscle on the strain, possessing neither the majesty nor the grace nor the terrible beauty for which we had a right to look, stands upon his feet, his brawny right arm lifted in an attitude of menace and abhorrence. We raise no questions here of ordinary criticism. We do not concern ourselves with technical rules. It is of little consequence to us that the drawing may be perfect, or that the colors may have been well put on. The Christian sentiment feels wounded at such an ideal of the Redeemer coming to judgment.

5th S. VOL. I. NO. III. 31


Thus far of the poem and the painting. “Ut pictura poesis”; the Horatian principle is true of both these, that much of their proper effect depends on the point of view from which they are taken, and the distance from the eye at which they are meant to be seen. The question is, what is that point of view, and what that visual distance. What is there that corresponds to these representations in the Christian doctrine of the Last Things? Is there anything that corresponds to them? Do they embody facts that are literally awaiting a great day of disclosures; or are they only figurative exhibitions of the general truth of final awards? Or, to narrow the inquiry into greater distinctness, and bring it to its immediate bearing upon our present purpose, Is it a part of Christian belief, that Christ is actually and personally the Judge of the human race? To this question we are compelled to answer with the full admission that such appears — at least appears — to be the teaching of the New Testament; and that such certainly has been the received opinion of the Church, as expressed in its formulas down to the present day. Herein this doctrine differs very widely from the doctrine of Christ's Creatorship, which was the subject of our former article. It differs from it in having a real Scriptural basis, and in being uniformly recognized in the general confessions of faith. That other belief was but the progeny of a fantasy and a phrase, and obtained no place

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

either in liturgy or creed. But all is otherwise here. “God hath appointed a day," spoke Paul to the Athenian assembly,“ in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.” “ We must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ,” he writes to the Roman and Corinthian churches. He charges Timothy “ before the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.” Peter, too, the Apostle to the Jews, as Paul was to the Gentiles, declared to the assembly gathered at the house of Cornelius, “God commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that Jesus of Nazareth was ordained to be the judge of quick and dead." Still more striking, perhaps, though mystical in its form and expression, is that passage in John's Gospel : “ For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, and hath given him authority to execute it." And especially there are those Messianic and Apocalyptic passages, which describe the visible descent of the Lord Jesus with clouds and flaming fire and trumpets and a shout and the voice of the archangel. And chief above all seems to stand that wonderful page of the Evangelist Matthew, where the Master himself, speaking in the person of Messiah the King, announces his future coming to judge the nations. It is a page that we must dwell on for a moment, not only because it is so extraordinary, but because it has doubtless furnished the copy for every after description of a scenic judgment of mankind. The discourses, or rather series of discourses, which are ascribed in this Gospel to the Saviour just before he suffered, bring together in a singular manner parables of moral admonition and prophecies of national disaster. These mingle with one another and interchange with one another, till the whole ends with the everlasting ban of separation between the wicked and the good. The impending ruin of Jerusalem is connected so closely with the universal catastrophe of earthly things, as to force upon our minds the old Roman prediction and parallel :

" When falls the Colosseum, Rome shall fall;

And when Rome falls, the world.” If we should read the accounts of Christ's words at that time

[ocr errors]

only as Mark and Luke record them, we should confidently explain them all as relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, and our thoughts would not be led a step beyond that event. But it is different when we come to the passage, Matthew xxv. 31 – 46. To limit this to a point in history, and to take it for only a bolder continuation of what had been said already, as some critics have done, seems to us an unwarranted construction. But, in whatever way we interpret it, we must at least admit that both the second and third Gospels repeat all the terrific imagery of the darkening sun, the falling stars, the shaking heavens, and the Son of Man riding upon the clouds; while in the same breath they declare expressly that the time of those signs is near, — so near that it might be indicated by the budding leaf which showed the summer at hand. It was at the doors” of the houses that were then standing in the streets. That generation was not to pass away till all those things should be fulfilled.

Such is the Scripture testimony; and it has been interpreted according to the letter, and appealed to as authority, in all ages of Christendom, and has left abiding marks of its power upon the public offices of Christian devotion and upon the imaginations of all classes of believers.

66 The Shorter Catechism” sets forth Christ as coming to judge the world at the last day.” The famous Te Deum of the fourth century repeats its profession still, in all languages, "we believe that he shall come to be our judge”; and it is heard in the congregations of every sect where divine service is chanted, our own as well as the rest. The idea of an impending day of general doom, when the heaven and earth shall pass away before the face of the Son of Man revealed in his glory, has always haunted the popular mind, and burst forth at various intervals into paroxysms of apprehension. A season of this kind, even among ourselves, and so recent that the panic of it has hardly yet subsided, may teach us that the generation of arithmetical prophets and superstitious dreamers is far enough from being extinct.

And now let us revise the decision that we have just passed, and see whether or not we have conceded too much.

We have said that the doctrine of Christ judging mankind has the consent of Christian opinion; that it is taught in the school; that it is chimed in the ritual; that it can claim Apostolic testimony; and that the very words of Jesus trace out a scene differing only in details from that which Michael Angelo spread upon the wall of the Vatican. But notwithstanding all these admissions, we are still uncertain as to what progress we have made, or whether we have made any progress, beyond the figures of a lyric or a tableau. We have not arrived at the length or the depth of our theme. We have not solved the problem of interpretation, which is the important problem. How much is image, and how much reality? How much the garb of a peculiar time, and how much the substantial fact that belongs to all time? If we seek to look upon the simple verities of Scripture, a great deal of drapery must often drop. We greatly mistake if it is not so here. At any rate, this is the side of the subject now turned towards us. The question is, Are we to explain the sayings that have been cited according to the letter of them, and as if they were announcing a great act in the drama of our existence, to be presented hereafter before the eyes of the assembled universe? Or are we to understand them metaphorically, and merely as exponents of certain spiritual decrees in the Divine administration ? Not according to the letter, but only in a general and moral. sense. We might suppose this from the necessity we are under of putting a like construction upon other terms of a similar kind. We might suppose it also from the confusion that would be introduced into our views of the mediatorial offices of our Lord, if we should think that he, who came to rule in an inward empire by the temper of meekness and obedience, was to assume such an outward and terrible dominion; that he, who came to lead on a progressive and perpetual life in the hearts of men on the earth, raising those who were dead in their trespasses to a better life and an immortal confidence, was to bow the heavens at a particular period, and open the graves for irrevocable sentences; that he, who so tenderly revealed the compassion of the Father, and dealt so graciously with the most deeply fallen,

We answer,

« ZurückWeiter »