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practically the first writer who developed the original relations of the nobles and of the commons to each other, and the first composition and gradual advance of the latter to an equality with their former masters."
In a note Dr. Arnold adds
“ Niebubr’s religious opinions have been regarded by some persons in this country with great suspicion. I mention this, not with any intention to defend those views of the Old Testament history which have given rise to the feeling against him; but simply to protest against classing him, as some seem inclined to do, with Gibbon, Voltaire, and other real enemies of Christianity. We may be perfectly justified in regarding a man as an unsound guide in matters of opinion connected with the Scriptures, and yet by no means justified in feeling alienated from him as from one who had abandoned or forfeited his own personal interest in the faith and hopes of a Christian. And it so happens that I have been informed, on the most unquestionable authority, by one who knew Niebuhr intimately, and is himself as earnest and sound a Christian as any man living, that Niebuhr is a sincere believer in Christianity."
To these sentiments, which do equal honour to Dr. Arnold as a scholar, a philosopher, and a divine, we cheerfully yield our most cordial assent.
ART. VII.-Le Manuscrit Vert. Par Gustave Drouineau,
2e édition. 2 vols. Svo. Paris. 1832. AMONG the various eccentricities of the modern literature of France, it is surely a sign of improvement that religion is no longer the mark for the disdain and vituperation of the higher class of her writers. Long before the late revolution, the belligerent scepticism of Voltaire and his followers had ceased to be fashionable in that country. A sort of neutrality was established between the school of Deism and that small portion of society which may be called the religious world of France, distinct from the adherents of mere court-superstition. Both might occasionally unite their forces against the government, which they regarded as a common enemy: As every year of political vicissitudes brings with it some additional lesson of the inefficacy of moral systems not founded on spiritual doctrines, the characteristic of many of the more recent writers seems to be a kind of “rapprochement” towards some species of faith—a sort of reluctant, hall-scornful, half-timid advance towards an accommodation with Christianity: as if the mind were disposed to yield to persuasion, yet remained by pride and habit in the ranks of unbelief. Besides, the excesses of the vulgar always produce a sort of reaction in the minds of the mass of superficial reasoners. The multitude of Paris and other great French towns is probably neither more nor less irreligious in 1893 than it was in 1825. But the removal of the enforced observances of the Restoration has encouraged it, on some occasions, to acts of coarse insult and license against the decency of public worship: and these have produced the natural result. The warfare carried on by the populace against the crosses has undoubtedly been as effective an auxiliary in promoting a respect for religion, as the cannon of Lyons and the fusillade of Saint Méry in rousing the doubtful and timid to a sense of the necessity of social order.
The work now before us exhibits strong marks of this peculiar tendency of the public mind. Regarded as a romance, it is an extravagant assemblage of unnatural characters and improbable events; but such is the popular style, to which an author, if he seek for readers, is now obliged to conform himself. But considered with respect to its moral and object, it would appear a singular production in any time or country, and most especially so in France of the nineteenth century. The hero of“ Le Manuscrit
Vert" is a devoted believer--a confessor, and almost a martyr, in the cause of religion, and uniting with the zeal of an anchorite the political ardour of a patriot of the liberal school. He promulgates and defends his opinions in all companies, regardless alike of sneers and defiance: preaches temperance to roués, consistency to statesmen, and celestial love to the nymphs of the coulisses. The whole interest of the book lies in the simple narrative of bis struggles with the world, and in the strong opposition between his character and that of the worldlings with whom he is brought into contact. We do not hesitate to style it a work of unusual interest and pathos: full of meaning and passionate thought, attractive in spite of the strongest improbabilities of situation, of an imperfect style, half-formed on the bad model of M. de Balzac and his imitators, and of much trivial sentiment and observation on matters unconnected with the main object of the romance. This tragic Spiritual Quixote resists the solicitations of impure passion in the first fervour of his youth; when circumstances have rendered that passion legitimate, he resists it alike, because he dares not connect himself with a woman whose principles are incompatible with his own, although the idol of his first love, and possessed of all attractions of person and fortune. After such exertions of virtue, it is almost needless to add, that he is equally proof against the temptations of ambition, of unworthy friendship, and of false honour. Yet after a youth spent in unceasing privations, the conclusion of the tale leaves him unrewarded, except by the testimony of his own conscience ; alone in the world, reduced to poverty, tarnished in reputation (at least according to the false estimate of a vicious society) and grown old before his time through chagrin and suffering. Nevertheless, although poetical justice is thus denied him, the reader is left no less powerfully impressed with the sense of his superiority to his more fortunate competitors for the world's favor, than if success and popularity had been falsely represented as the consequences of religious uprightness in the corrupt circles of a modern metropolis.
But what is the religious system, in behalf of which our sympathy is invoked for the sufferer? Immanuel is indeed a believer; but our author studiously avoids counecting the faith of his imaginary hero with that of any distinct sect or class of worshippers. His convictions and his eloquence are enlisted in the cause of an ideal, philosophic Divinity, a beautiful but vague conception, the God rather of a Platonic enthusiast, than of a sincere and humble Christian. The author would probably say, that to have made a religious hero attach himself to the service of any special creed, would have been an appeal to narrow and sectarian feelings on his behalf.
It may be so; but since not history only, but daily experience also, teaches us that the severest sufferings are cheerfully submitted to by the devotees of any peculiar faith, however absurd and unreasonable its articles may appear to us, while no resignation, no self-sacrifice ever attests the sincerity of the mere Theophilanthropist; we cannot divest ourselves of the feelings of incredulity with wbich we regard the imaginary character thus set before us. The mere names of Pascal, of Gardiner, of De Rancé, connected with their brief histories, which are so familiar to every bosom, excite even the impassible sceptic to a transitory glow of sympathy. But the high wrought philosophy of the young Parisian,
with a mind against its natural bent
Tortured to strong devotion . . who calmly reasons with his Atheist mistress, while he rejects her passionate advances, on the beauty of virtue and the commands of an unknown Deity-appeals so imperfectly to our imagination, as to leave room for a certain importunate sense of the ludicrous.
It is true, however, (as M. Drouineau himself desires us in his preface to remark,) that we are presented with a sort of corrective to the latitudinarianism of the hero in the character of his Mentor, a Catholic priest. This personage is an Ultramontane of the newest edition, after the fashion of Demaistre and Delamennais. His conversation seems to consist chiefly of paragraphs out of the journal (L'Avenir) conducted by the latter eloquent writer. (The doctrines which it supports, by the way, have been recently condemned in a pastoral letter of the Pope) Nevertheless, although this worthy ecclesiastic is a model of virtue and friendship, he can
VOL. XI. NO. XXII.
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 pow. erfully 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 fill
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, tranquillity 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 hopes” (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 erclusiveness, 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 influence 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 sonie 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 " reconstructing society." Catholicism is to be rejected, (according to such writers as M. Drouineau) not because it teaches to wor