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It would be out of place for us to occupy our pages with disquisitions upon such subjects. We can, therefore, only say that the volume is full of fascinating reading to those who can in any measure appreciate scholarship. Mr. Gladstone has embodied in it the greater part of the results at which he had arrived in his "Studies on Homer and the Homeric age, 1858." In its present condensed and modified form, the book is a great improvement on its predecessor, and will no doubt entirely anpplant it. Headers, too, who are not conversant with Greek, and only know Homer through the medium of translations, would find their views much enlarged, and their enjoyment of the Iliad and Odyssey much increased, by perusing this popular commentary which Mr. Gladstone presents to them. He has not, in our judgment, by any means settled all the questions he discusses; but his volume is a valuable contribution towards the elucidation of them, and a fair conspectus of the present state of information upon many controverted points.
Our motive for noticing the book, apart from the high character and position of the author, is to remark upon certain theological speculations in which he has seen fit to indulge, and which deserve a cursory animadversion from us as the book passes into circulation. The new title which Mr. Gladstone has given to his book is "Juventus Mundi." As many are probably aware, it is derived from Bacon's celebrated apophthegm, "Antiquitas saeculi juventus mundi •" but we think Mr. Gladstone has taken it intermediately from the speculations of that great dreamer of dreams and suggester of thoughts to other men—we mean, Coleridge. In his Essay X. of his third volume of the " Friend," we discover, or think we find, the germ of Mr. Gladstone's speculations, or, at any rate, a striking conformity with them. After some remarks upon the childhood of the human race, as made known to us in patriarchal times, Coleridge goes on to say :—
"Following next, and as the representative of the youth and approaching manhood of the human intellect, we have ancient Greece, from Orpheus, Linus, Musams, and the other mythological bards, or perhaps the brotherhoods impersonated under those names, to the times when the republics lost their independence, and their learned men sank into copyists and commentators of the works of their forefathers. That I include these as educated under a distinct providential, though not miraculous, dispensation, will surprise no one, who reflects that in whatever has a permanent operation on the destinies and intellectual condition of mankind at large—that in all which has been manifestly employed as a co-agent in the mightiest revolution of -the moral world, the propagation of the Gospel—and in the intellectual progress of mankind, in the restoration of philosophy, science, and in the ingenuous arts,—it were irreligion not to acknowledge the hand of Divine providence. The periods, too, join on to each other. The earliest Greeks took up the religions and lyrical poetry of the Hebrews; and the schools of the Prophets were, however partially and imperfectly, represented by the mysteries derived through the corrupt channel of the Phoenicians. With these secret schools of physiological theology the mythical poets were doubtless in connexion; and it was these schools which prevented polytheism from producing all its natural barbarising effects. The mysteries and the mythical hymns and pagans shaped themselves gradually into epic poetry and history on the one hand, and into the ethical tragedy and philosophy on the other. Under their protection, and that of a youthful liberty secretly controlled by a species of internal theocracy, the sciences and the sterner kinds of the fine arts, namely architecture and statuary, grew up together; — followed indeed by painting, but a statuesque and austerely idealised painting, which did not degenerate into mere copies of the sense, till the process for which Greece existed had been completed. Contrast the rapid progress and perfection of all the products which owe their existence and character to the mind's own acts, intellectual or imaginative, with the rudeness of their application to the investigation of physical laws and phenomena; then contemplate the Greeks (Tpaloi del iralSet) as representing a portion only of the education of man; and the conclusion is inevitable." (Friend, iii. 186—189.)
The resemblance between this passage of Coleridge and the following from that part of his work where Mr. Gladstone is explaining the Olympian system of Homer, is most striking :—
"The history of the race of Adam before the Advent is the history of a long and varied, but incessant, preparation for the Advent. It is commonly perceived that Greece contributed a language and an intellectual discipline, Rome a political organisation, to the apparatus which was put in readiness to assist the propagation of the Gospel; and that each of these, in its kind, was the most perfect that the world had produced. I have endeavoured elsewhere* to show, with some fulness, what was the place of Greece in the providential order of the world; and likewise what was the relation of Homer to the Greeks, and to their part of the Divine plan, as compared with the relation of the Sacred Scriptures to the chosen people of God.f I cannot now enter on that field at large; neither can I part without a word from the subject of the Olympian religion.
"In the works of Homer, this design is projected with such extraordinary grandeur, that the representation of it, altogether apart from the general merits of the poems, deserves to be considered as one of the topmost achievements of the human mind. Yet its character, as it was first and best set forth in its entirety from the brain of the finisher and the maker, is not more wonderful than its
• Address to University of Edinburgh, 1866.
subsequent influence and duration in actual life. For, during twelve or fourteen hundred years, it was the religion of the most thoughtful, the most fruitful, the most energetic portions of the human family. It yielded to Christianity alone; and to the Church it yielded with reluctance, summoning up strength in its extreme old age, and only giving way after an intellectual as well as a civil battle, obstinately fought, and lasting for generations. For the greater part of a century after the fall of Constantinople, in the chief centres of a Christian civilization in many respects degenerated, and an ecclesiastical power too little faithful to its trust, Greek letters and Greek thonght once again asserted their strength over the most cultivated minds of Italy, in a manner which testified to the force, and to the magic charm, witb which they were imperishably endowed. Even within what may be called our own time, the Olympian religion has exercised a fascination altogether extraordinary over the mind of Goethe, who must be regarded as standing in the very first rank of the great minds of the latest centuries.
"The Olympian religion, however, owes perhaps as large a share of its triumphs to its depraved accommodations as to its excellencies. Yet an instrument so durable, potent, and elastic, must certainly have had a purpose to serve. Let us consider for a moment what it may have been.
"We have seen how closely, and in how many ways, it bound humanity and deity together. As regarded matter of duty and virtue, not to speak of that highest form of virtue which is called holiness, this union was effected mainly by lowering the Divine element. But as regarded all other functions of our nature, outside the domain of the life to-godward, all those functions, which are summed up in what St. Paul calls the flesh and the mind, the psychic and the bodily life, the tendency of the system was to exalt the human element by proposing a model of beauty, strength, and wisdom in all their combinations, so elevated that the effort to attain them required a continual upward strain. It made divinity attainable, and thus it effectually directed the thought and aim of man
'Along the line of limitless desires.'
"Such a scheme of religion, thongh failing grossly in the government of the passions, and in upholding the standard of moral duties, tended powerfully to produce a lofty self-respect, and a large, free, and varied conception of humanity. It incorporated itself in schemes of notable discipline for mind and body, indeed of a life-long education; and these habits of mind and action had their marked results (to omit many other greatnesses) in a philosophy, literature, and art, which remain to this day unrivalled or unsurpassed.
"The sacred fire, indeed, that was to touch the mind and heart of man from above, was in preparation elsewhere. Within the shelter of the hills that stand about Jerusalem, the great archetype of the spiritual excellence and purification of man was to be produced and matured. But a body, as it were, was to be made ready for this angelic soul. And as when some splendid edifice is to be reared, its diversified materials are brought from this quarter and from that, according as nature and man favour their production, so did the wisdom of God, with slow but ever-sure device, cause to ripen, amidst the several races best adapted for the work, the several component parts of the noble fabric of a Christian manhood and a Christian civilisation. 'The kings of Tharsis and of the isles shall give presents, the kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring gifts.' Every worker was, with or without his knowledge and his will, to contribute to the work. And among them an appropriate part was thus assigned both to the Greek people and to what I have termed the Olympian religion."
Now we are quite willing and anxious to believe that neither Mr. Gladstone nor his predecessor in these speculations, to use the common phrase, meant any harm. But we cannot help thinking that their notions are mistaken, and calculated to mislead. We have no objection to admit that, in a certain sense, the history of the race of Adam was but a long and varied but incessant preparation for the Advent, but we doubt whether we do Bo in the sense in which Mr. Gladstone holds it. If his notion is, that just as God had at one period looked down upon the earth, and beheld "that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," and had therefore visited it in sore wrath and heavy judgment,—and that so also at a later period, in the fulness of time, but upon this occasion in mercy, He had once more visited it, after that for centuries He had given men up to a reprobate mind to do things which were not convenient,—and that the Greeks were a most conspicuous instance of all the vileness of which the Apostle speaks: then, if the crisis of a disorder be the proper time to apply a heroic remedy, we have no quarrel with Mr. Gladstone; for such was the fact.
If, again, after men had for centuries departed away from God, and the further they had wandered the more "vain" they had become "in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts had been darkened, and professing themselves to be wise they had become fools," and they were in this extremity of their folly qualified for the reception of the wisdom of God: then, again, wo and Mr. Gladstone aro at one.
But we do not think that this is his meaning; and at any rate he has not clearly so stated it. We rather suppose him to hold that, just as' the Jew had his acknowledged place in the providential order of the world, so also had the Greek and the Roman; we might add, so have also the Hindoo and the Chinese their allotted place. And if we admitted his statement without qualification and reserve, we should be tempted to suppose that, in the case of the Greeks, their Olympian religion conduced somehow or another to a preparation for Christianity. To this we totally demur. We may grant for the moment, if Mr. Gladstone will so have it, that it was "one of the topmost achievements of the human mind," that a magic charm is thrown around it which can exercise fascination over great minds; but the effect it produces on us is simply, that St. Paul was right when he said that" the world by wisdom knew not God." Nor do we well see how it could be otherwise in a religion which produced holiness "by lowering the Divine element,"—which "made Divinity attainable" by bringing God down in His attributes nearer to man, —which "failed grossly in the government of the passions and in upholding the standard of moral duties,"—and which, whatever influence it had in the formation of philosophy, literature, and art, so deteriorated from itself that it could not hold its own against its own creations, still less against the first introduction of light into its darkness. One thing at any rate is very clear, that such religion is the exact antithesis of what God revealed even under the Jewish dispensation, and still more fully afterwards. If also not to know God is a preparation for Christianity, then was the teaching of tie Olympian religion a preparation for Christianity. To our apprehension, there is a much more suitable explanation of thia Olympian religion, and one much more conformable to revelation. We can see, in the good abiding in it, to which Mr. Gladstone does ample justice, and in the evil which he recognizes, symptoms of that confused tradition of original truth which man, in a blurred and to himself often unintelligible form, had still managed to retain. We do not hold that the Olympian religion was an achievement of the human mind absolutely; we think Mr. Gladstone nearer the truth when (p. 288) he suggests that the "Hellenic portion of the Aryan family had for a time preserved to itself in broad outline no small share of those treasures of which the Semitic family of Abraham were to be the appointed guardians on behalf of all mankind till the fulness of time should come,"—and a sorry use they made of them. The exchange which Glaucus made with Diomed was a faint type of the folly which bartered away the relics of primeval truth for the dreams of distempered imaginations and of debasing fancies, which were assimilated to the original creed, and eventually deprived the Greek religion of every trace that it had ever had a Divine element in it.
As it was with the doctrine, so was it with the practice. In the Homeric times, that is, in the period when all trace of primeval truth had not yet been wholly obliterated from men's minds, we discover what were, when compared with later periods of Grecian history, times of comparative innocence and holiness. Some of the foulest crimes which wrought havoc in