Abbildungen der Seite


It was during his residence in the last named place that he performed the most of his literary work. Marvelous does it seem to find this young man writing articles for the best reviews of England, learning languages and dialects in order to apply their treasures to his commenced magnum opus, ministering to the spiritual wants of a large congregation, and all this with a constitutionally delicate and now diseased body. The consumption had fastened upon his lungs, and cessation from ministerial labor was his only reasonable hope of protracting life. It was a bitter day to him when he parted with his Church, but submission to God was no new lesson for him to learn. The subsequent intervals of strength he devoted mainly to composition; and he died in great peace of mind in the thirty-fifth year of his age, but shortly after the emphatic utterance of the words, “ Yes, God is very good.” Thus ended, calmly as a summer day, a life singularly earnest, spiritual, and suggestive. Of all men Dr. Vaughan was best adapted to sketch it, for the intelligent interest and counsel of the father had much to do with the molding it; while in return there were confided to that father's heart all the plans, and hopes, and prospects of a nobly gifted son.

In passing through the rich gallery of the Essays we will only linger a moment before a few of the finest paintings. The article on Origen was Mr. Vaughan's first essay in Church history. The sources from which he was required to draw his materials were obscure and chaotic; but patient study, a sound judgment, and the imagination of the true poet have clothed the Alexandrian Father in such a modern but truthful dress as the most ardent admirer of patristic times would have deemed impossible. You are transported to an enchanted country, a Ulysses on Ogygia, but without the dangers of shipwreck or the wiles of Calypso. We first read the Origen in travel, commencing on the cars, and concluding in a superannuated, creaking stage. When finished it was like awaking from a dream; certainly were all history written in such a style, the world would read it as the richest romance. The studies pursued in connection with Origen, awakened in Mr. Vaughan's mind not only an interest in the mysticism of that day, but a strong inclination for the study of religious opinions throughout the Middle Ages. This was the source of his best essays, as also of the work on which his reputation now rests. In an article of the Eclectic Review, which we are guaranteed in ascribing to the chaste and scholarly pen of the Rev. John Brown Paton, of Sheffield, we find this mention: “This first historical study of his [the Origen of Mr. Vaughan]

! we doubt not was the seed, accidentally dropped, which brought

[ocr errors]

forth such stores of fruit in Hours with the Mystics. His chief articles, written afterward, hover near the same subject, showing the fascination with which it engrossed his mind." The monograms in Schleiermacher and Savonarola and his Times, abound less in imagery, but have magic power to transport the reader to other times and lands. They were conceived and studied during the author's student life in Germany. There is no thinker of modern times more misunderstood than Schleiermacher; and we have here such a clear setting forth of his doctrines and their merit that we have not been able to find an approach to it in our language. It may be profitably studied in the absence of a rigid investigation of the varied works of the great Berlin professor and preacher. We have then reviews of Mackay's Religious Development in Greece, Kingsley's Hypatia, Lady Holland's Sydney Smith, and Young's Christ of History. This last paper is a manly defense of the supernaturalism of Christianity. It proves the author to have been trained in the school of Henry Rogers, only a tithe, it may be acknowledged, of the service rendered by the Independent Church of Great Britain to the cause of evangelical truth. We trust the barriers she has raised may successfully resist the further progress of German Rationalism in England. The next essays are on Lewes's Life and Works of Goethe, French Romances of the Thirteenth Century, and some Fragments of Criticism. The work closes with two poems, Antony, a Masque, and The Disenchantment. Many of the articles in these two volumes attracted marked attention as they appeared, but that false dignity which requires a man's property to circulate without his name, precluded the possibility on the part of many from identifying their author. We meet a number of old friends in this work whose acquaintance we first made in the Eclectic Magazine of New York. It makes them doubly dear to us to know the writer's name, and something of his interesting life. But his pen will yield no more of that rare fruit, in which beauty of style, deep research, and kindness of heart ever held such friendly company.

But the Essays and Remains of Mr. Vaughan were only the coastings of his venturesome youth, the mere pleasure-trips of his genius. The great voyage of his life, by which we become possessed of so much treasure, is Hours with the Mystics. The work is in the form of a dialogue. A circle of friends converse about the Mystics and their doctrines. They read essays also, and thus, by a pleasing variety, they pass through the entire field of mysticism down to the death of Swedenborg. Verily these intimates have chosen a strange topic; but let us sit down with them and listen to

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

what they say. First of all let us hear one of them define their theme:


." Mysticism, whether in religion or philosophy, is that form of error which mistakes for a divine manifestation the operations of a merely human faculty. ... Speaking of Christian mysticism, I should describe it generally as the exaggeration of that aspect of Christianity which is presented to us by St. John.

.. I refer chiefly to that admixture of the contemplative temperament and the ardent by which he is personally distinguished, the opposition so manifest in his epistles to all religion of mere speculative opinion or outward usage, the concentration of Christianity, as it were, upon the inward life derived from union with Christ. This would seem to be the province of Christian truth especially occupied by the beloved disciple, and this is the province which mysticism has in so many ways usurped. . . . Thus much I think is evident from our inquiry, that mysticism, true to its derivation as denoting a hidden knowledge, faculty, or life, (the exclusive privilege of sage, adept, or recluse,) presents itself

, in all its phases, as more or less the religion of internal as opposed to external revelation, of heated feeling, sickly sentiment, or lawless imagination, as opposed to that reasonable belief in which the intellect and the heart, the inward witness and the outward, are alike engaged."

Thus much for mysticism; as to the real Mystic, let us hear Charles Kingsley as he has described him in Fraser's Magazine :

“ A Mystic, according to the Greek etymology, should signify one who is initiated into mysteries, one whose eyes are opened to see things which other people cannot see. And the true Mystic, in all ages and countries, has believed that this was the case with him. He believes there is an invisible world as well as a visible one--so do most men; but the Mystic believes also that this same invisible world is not merely a supernumerary one world more, over and above the earth on which he lives, and the stars over his head, but that it is the cause of them and the ground of them ; that it was the cause of them at first, and is the cause of them now, even to the budding of every flower, and the falling of every pebble to the ground; and therefore, that having been before this visible world it will be after it, and endure just as real, living, and eternal though matter were annihilated to-morrow.”

With these data in view we are now prepared to trace the course of that changing but fascinating ignis fatuus called mysticism, which first rose far back in the early and shadowy history of Hindoostan. We afterward find it standing over Alexandria in the time of Philo and Plotinus; then attracting the attention of the Greek and Latin Churches; and after trying to eclipse the scholasticism of the fourteenth century, we behold it leading some of the Reformers to the wildest extremes of fanaticism. For a while it lingered over the romantic and chivalrous, though superstitious land of Spain; then shooting across the Pyrenees, it dazzled the master minds of the brilliant reign of Louis XIV. In England it shone with decreased luster, but only to burst forth with more than its ancient splendor over the land of Emanuel Swedenborg. How fitful its course, how unsteady and different colored its light! Truly “it has


[ocr errors]

been incorporated in theism, atheism, and pantheism. It has given new gods at every step, and it has denied all deity except self. It has appeared in the loftiest speculation and in the grossest idolatry. It has been associated with the wildest license and the most pitiless asceticism. It has driven men out into action, it has dissolved them in ecstacy, and frozen them to torpor. . . . It has no genealogy. It is no tradition conveyed across frontiers, or down the course of generations, as a ready-made commodity. It is a state of thinking and feeling to which minds of a certain temperament are liable at any time or place in Occident or Orient, whether Romanist or Protestant, Jew, Turk, or Infidel.” But as flowers, however unlike to the uncultivated eye, are subject to system and class, and are often found to harmonize in species, so there åre landmarks even to the extravagances and antipodal developments of mysticism. They can all be embraced in three classes ; 1. The theopathetic; 2. The theosophic; 3. The theurgic. The first of these is subdivided into transitive and intransitive. To transitive theopathy belong “all turbulent prophets and crazy fanatics. . . . such as Tanchelm, who appeared in the twelfth century, and announced himself appointed as the residence of deity; as Gitchel, who believed himself appointed to expiate by his prayers and penance the sins of all mankind; or as Kuhlman, who traversed Europe, the imagined head of the Fifth Monarchy, summoning kings and nobles to submission. . . . But we must not forget that this species of mysticism has been found associated with the announcement of vital truths, for instance, by George Fox and the early Quakers." Intransitive theopathy claims such men as St. Bernard, notwithstanding his many active labors, together with Suso, Ruysbroek, Molinos, and all the Quietists. Second: theosophy. “ The theosophist is one who gives you a theory of God, or of the works of God, which has not reason but an inspiration of his own for its basis.” Plotinus and Behmen are the representatives of this class. Third: theurgic mysticism. The theurgic Mystic "works marvels, not like the black art by help from beneath, but as white magic, by the virtue of talisman or cross, demigod, angel, or saint. . . Is not content, like the theopathetic, with either feeling or proselyting, nor, like the theosophic, with knowing; but must open for himself a converse with the world of spirits, and win as its prerogative the power of miracle.” Jamblicus, Dionysius, Proclus, Apollonius of Tyana, Peter of Alcantara, Asclepigenia, and St. Theresa were theurgic Mystics.

The most striking characteristics of mysticism, as they were developed in different ages, are to be found combined in its very

earliest history. The Bagvat-Gita of old India contains a species of mys

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ticism in many respects identical with that of Christendom. The Hindoo Mystic aimed at an ultimate absorption into the Infinite, which amounted, in fact, to the destruction of personality. But to reach this, the trance, a withdrawal into the inmost self," must be inculcated. The Bagvat-Gita also contains pantheism in abundance, which Hegeliaus must know is the key-stone to the superstitions of modern India. Besides this, it recognized miraculous powers in man, and obliterated the distinction between good and evil.

Mysticism appears next in connection with Philo, at Alexandria, “the first meeting place of the waters of the eastern and western theosophies." It was the labor of Philo to harmonize the Old Testament with his favorite philosophy, Moses with Plato. We now meet ascetic mysticism full in the face as practiced by the Therapeutæ. "Their cells are scattered about the region bordering on the farther shore of the Lake Mareotis. The members of either sex live a single and ascetic life, spending their time in fasting and contemplation, in prayer or reading. They believe themselves favored with divine illumination-an inner light. They assemble on the Sabbath for worship, and listen to mystical discourses, or the traditionary lore which they say has been handed down in secret among themselves. They also celebrate solemn dances and processions, of a mystic significance, by moonlight on the shore of the great mere. Sometimes, on an occasion of public rejoicing, the margin of the lake on our side will be lit with a fiery chain of illuminations, and galleys hung with lights row to and fro with strains of music sounding over the broad water. Then the Therapeutæ are all hidden in their little hermitages, and these sights and sounds of the world they have abandoned make them withdraw into themselves and pray.” Meanwhile Plotinus appears upon the stage as a leading character. So numerous were the systems of philosophy that presented themselves to his mind, that he is tossed on a sea of doubt and perplexity. While in this state of mind he accompanies a friend to hear Ammonius Saccas lecture. Ammonius is the champion of eclecticism. The two friends find him declaring that Plato and Aristotle can be reconciled. Plotinus is ravished at the lecture; he is soon a willing student at the feet of Ammonius. With the new disciple Platonism becomes everything; "it alone can save men from the abyss of skepticism.” He grows more charmed with his teacher every day, and in process of time he emerges the veritable father of Neo-Platonism. The points of difference which our author lays down between Platonism and Neo-Platonism are condensed into one very sound and intelligible paragraph :

« ZurückWeiter »