Abbildungen der Seite

hardly be said to shine in argument. His spiritual persuasions serve rather as a foil to the more enlightened opinions of his pupil. He is, in fact, introduced rather as a type of the past, than as a model for the existing generation.

What then is to be the final result of all this longing after novelty, these restless hopes of amendment, this dissatisfaction alike with existing dogmas and existing scepticism, which are so powerfully manifested in these volumes, and indicated by a thousand circumstances in the present state of France? Our endeavour is rather to characterize, if we can, the symptoms of this peculiar crisis of a great national disease, than to venture on any rash predictions as to the future forms which it may assume. We have before us a pamphlet intituled “ Two Sermons on the religious state of our epoch, its evils and remedies (par Antoine Vermeil 8vo. 1832.)” They are the work of a Protestant minister of Bordeaux, who takes a similar view of the spiritual wants and condition of his countrymen. “ This want," he says, (the want, namely, of religion, or at least of some strong conviction in the room of systematized doubt,) reveals itself in the tendency of all minds, in the agitation and uneasiness of every heart. Men do not believe, it is true; but they no longer plume themselves on their incredulity. They are not pious; but they have ceased to ridicule and denounce piety in others; and even as to themselves, they no longer laugh at its absence, but rather regret that they have it not. Notwithstanding all our levity and carelessness, we feel in secret that something is wantiug to us. Positive interests no longer suffice us. While we still demand every day from society some great political event, and from literature some strong or rather convulsive excitement, we no longer turn away disdainfully, as heretofore, from religious questions; we even feel some pleasure in hearing them agitated. We listen, with a concealed satisfaction, to modern philosophy, while she repudiates the materialism of the last age. We follow with curiosity the progress of new doctrines; anxious (although unwilling to allow it) to find in them something which may up

the void of our hearts and consciences, which may detach our interest from mere temporal questions, and give us, by arresting our doubts, power over our passions, tranquility in suffering, confidence for the present and security for the future.”

Although not strictly connected with the subject of our preceding observations, we will extract the following remarks of this writer, on the causes which prevent the faith which he himself professes from exercising that beneficial influence which might have been hoped from it, amid this general longing for spiritual regeneration: "Its bopes" (those of Protestantism) "are well founded, and its rights


are incontestable, for it has in its favor its principles of tolerance and free inquiry, and above all, the accordance of its doctrines with the Scriptures. But perhaps, in order to fulfil its mission, it stands in want of renovation and revival in some of its forms ; and above all, it must avoid, even while it renders its faith more and more evangelical, that spirit of retrogression, of exaggeration and exclusiveness, which invariably shows itself wherever life is renewed within its bosom."

Whoever has studied the recent history of many of our sister churches abroad will feel the truth of this observation. The rationalism of German divines is much talked of in this country, as one cause of the stationary position which has so long been occupied by the hosts of the reformation. But surely this is not the only enemy that works unintentional mischief in the camp. Such scenes as were witnessed, a few years ago, among the churches of Switzerland, must have no small intluence in deterring the observant sceptic from an approach to Christianity. The partizans of exaggerated opinions consider all those, who do not adopt them in full, as completely out of the pale of orthodoxy, as actual unbelievers; they combine and associate together by means of emissaries in distant countries, and endeavour everywhere to excite an exclusive spirit, to create a sort of tacit schism in the bosom of every national church. We are far from justifying the hasty and violent measures which were adopted in sone places, where niagistrates made common cause with the clergy against these busy agitators. But we cannot wonder if the effect produced by those unfortunate tracasseries, in many who witness them, is to confirm their irreligious prejudices, or to make them prefer the peaceful, apathetic tolerance of Romanism, such as it now is in the more enlightened countries of Europe.

It is curious to remark how much even the most Christian among French writers are in the habit of regarding religion, not with a view to its personal influence on individual man, but rather as a social principle, an element of a political system. This tendency seems to arise, naturally enough, from the absence of that inveterate religious feeling which education alone can give. Unaccustomed to give any part of his attention to such topics at an early age, while politics, on the other hand, are the very element in which his reasoning powers first learn to exert themselves, the earliest thought of the Parisian, when his meditations are turned at last to the most important of all subjects, seems to be, not how the matter stands between God and his own heart, but what may be the effect of Christianity on the mass-not whether it is true or false, but whether it will serve, or no, as a principle for“ constructing society.” Catholicism is to be rejected, (according to such writers as M. Drouineau) not because it teaches to wor


ship, instead of God, the creatures of human invention, but because it begins to dwindle into a mere set of forms and observances, and thereby to lose its influence. Protestantism-not because its dogmas are untrue, its belief too much or too littlebut because it is " froidement stationnaire.The new attempt to reform Catholicism in France, or the church of the Abbé Chatelnot because its doctrines and sentiments are as lukewarm as those of Laodicea, but because it is a “Catholic quasi-legitimacy,” an effort to bring the church to the support of the state with somewhat more of decent reserve in the connection. Whoever has read the works of Chateaubriand will recognize this habit of looking at Christianity as a painter looks at his canvass—not as a real and living principle, but as a means of producing effect.

We know of no authority to which we can refer our readers with more satisfaction, in confirmation of our views on this subject, than to an excellent sermon lately published by the Rev. Hugh Rose, Christian Advocate in the University of Cambridge, with some introductory observations respecting the state of religion in France, and more especially regarding the sect of the Saint-Simonians. We have found no notice of the opinions of this clique of politico-economical fanatics so accurate, in so short a compass, and at the same time so impartially just in its estimate of the great talent shown by their writers, not so much in constructing their own theory, as in pointing out the defects of the present state of society, and reducing its past history to a bold and comprehensive system. There is a fantastic tale of Hoffmann, of which the hero is a musical virtuoso. He is thoroughly acquainted with the theory of his art; criticizes all the peculiarities of the modern school with wonderful justice; points out the latent causes of its deficiencies ; and astonishes his hearers by the accurate analysis which he gives them of their own sensations of pleasure and pain arising from peculiar tones. He hints, moreover, that he is in possession of the true secrets of some famous deceased performers, as well as of the actual instruments with which they had wrought such miracles. The curiosity of his hearers is strongly excited, and one of them is at last favoured with a separate interview, in order to be initiated into these abstruse mysteries. The virtuoso takes down from his study wall a genuine Cremona of ancient date-the very instrument, as he declares, to which Tartini had once given life-takes it in hand with reverence, and produces nothing but a most horrible compound of dissonant extravagances, without the least approach to any kind of harmony—while he questions his astonished pupil, with much solemnity, as to the effect produced on him by these wonderful tones, the quintessence of all music. Is there not something in the madness of this

“ Fanatico" which reminds us, not of the Saint Simonians only, but of many other soi-disant reformers of society, who raise our expectations by eloquently demonstrating its vices, and destroy them again by the glaring defects of the systems which they propose to substitute for it.

As for this renowned association, its extravagances, and the gross impurities with which its youthful leaders have lately soiled the moral character which its doctrines had previously borne, have sunk it for the present low enough in public estimation. But we are much mistaken, if many of its economical dogmas are not deeply rooted in the popular mind, both of France and England; and if its invocations to the human sense of religion, however misapplied, do not find an echo in the breasts of thousands whose fathers have reared them in ignorant contempt of all faith, and who are now vaguely endeavouring to seek it out for themselves. Both will probably bear fruit; the first, in fomenting revolts against the rights of property, which may produce evil for a time, but must prove ultimately inefficacious, being directed against the common habits and instincts of mankind; the last, let us hope, in preparing the way for the gradual readmission of Christianity into the heart of a society which has rather outwardly rejected it from mistaken pride, than from being dead inwardly to its preserving influence. But of this, as of the other tendencies of the busy Spirit of the age, we can but say

in the words of the old German rhyme Ist's Gottes Werk, so wird's bestehn,

Ist's Menschen Werk, wird's untergebn!"

ART. VIII.-1. Du Rabbinisme, et des Traditions Juives. Par

Michel Berr (de Turique). Paris. 1832. 8vo. 2. Résumé de l'Histoire des Juifs Modernes. Par Léon Halevy.

Paris. 1828. 18mo. The days have gone past, we hope for ever, when no Christian writer dared to speak of a creed differing from his own in any terms but those of contemptuous reprobation and horror; when theologians seemed to attribute such weakness to their holy religion that they feared it would be injured if the claims of any other were fairly investigated; and when to hint that belief in the Koran or the Talmud did not afford primâ facie evidence of obstinacy and perversity, was a crime little if at all inferior to Atheism. No better system could bave been devised for strengthening the incredulity of the infidel, increasing the doubts of the sceptic, and weakening the confidence of the true believer; but it was naturally patronized by that large majority of men who find it easier to dog

matize than to reason, and who apply odious nick-names to save themselves the trouble of refutation. “ We have not so learned Christ.” Far from searching the different religions spread over the globe with an anxiety to discover nothing but abominations and absurdities, we feel more anxious to search out their latent truths and their concealed merits: the aberrations of the human intellect gratify not our pride, fill us with no unholy triumph; when we read of superstitions, we exclaim pot “ Thank God! we are not as other men;" such feelings we leave to the Pharisees of Christianity, and sighing over the frailty of our nature, try to find under the clouds of error and the veil of superstition some principle of good. There be those that would limit the dominion of truth to Christendom, to the Protestant nations, to a favourite sect, or even to a single chapel; we assign no limits to its empire: we find it to be sure frequently corrupted, defiled, hidden beneath a crowd of human inventions, and we acknowledge revelation to be necessary to its full development; but we still find it wherever we search; for, with Victor Cousin, we believe that " no privileges, no castes exist in human nature.”

It would be an easy matter, after the good old fashion, to present our readers with a portraiture of Judaism at once ridiculous and revolting. The Talmud would suffice to supply a score of volumes substantiating all the charges that the enemies of the Jews have urged against them since the first foundation of Christianity. It gives false and degrading notions of the Supreme Being; it inculcates anti-social principles; it prohibits the free exercise of reason ; it invests the Rabbins with a plenitude of power, such as no priesthood ever possessed; " it makes void the commandments of God by its traditions.” Hence some of the ancient polemics would at once conclude, that the Jews, who profess to believe the Talmud, must of course be liable to all these imputations. But belief is not quite so logical a process as such reasoners try to prove it; there is what Paley well calls an otiose assent to articles of belief-an assent somewhat like that given to the history of Nadir Shah, or the descriptions of Pekin, which produces po practical effect on life or conduct. But persecution and disqualitication frequently change this dead letter into a living spirit; the dogma which was nearly lost in the dust of ages comes to light when unwisely assailed by violence or by obloquy; the article which had sunk into oblivion is raised by its enemies into a principle of action. There never was a people in whose bistory this truth was more fully manifested than the Jewish; but unfortunately, the seasons of persecution that brought out all tlfat was pernicious iu their creed were much more numerous than those iu which they were permitted to display its better qualities.

« ZurückWeiter »