On this page
- Text (2)
Note: This text has been automatically extracted via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. The text has not been manually corrected and should not be relied on to be an accurate representation of the item.
Additionally, when viewing full transcripts, extracted text may not be in the same order as the original document.
find teeth opposite each other . History ( which he regards as " a great moral entetprize ' * undertaken by God ) , furnishes him with a variety of illustrations . Nothing is too trivial for himj nothing but will fit in with his theory . The accident or ignorance which made Ptolemy ' s map of the world a < ruide to the discovery of America , was contrived bv the hand of God , in order that the raw world might be evangelized . God ' s hand i * also visible in the great prevalence of the EngUsh language ;~ " Another facility for the universal spread oftha Gos-Del in Vhiok tb * hfitf ot Providence » mlwtly di *~ && , !* $ veryg »» tm ^^ of ^ BngUs ^ n « rt *« W » cqu Bited
SS ^ aToo w . p » W » » with that language , ' which U flattering $ p us , and deeidedly a mercy of Providence to our clergymen . Christianity , of course , could not be spread over the world in any other language so effectively . You cannot imagine the French language evangelizing the world ; nor the German ; as for the Italian , it is " bastard L , atin "; Spanish , Portuguese , and Dutch are qwte incompetent , Any unbiassed critic must see that Engtisn is the only sensible , intelligent , honest , evangelical language ; arid , therefore , it * gjfe&fc prevalence is providentjaj . But , here is more good
news ; - « « ' The hand of God Is abundantly risible , too , in the encreased demand for the sacred Scriptures . I speak now more especially of antichristian nations . The people in almost every portion ot the world show an unwonted desire to besoms acquainted with the Christian s ] Bibl / e , though generally opposed by the priesthood . Whence this desire , if not wrought into the world s mind by the Spirit from on high ? The Bible and the paganism of India , or of Rome , cannot lopg live together . We may , therefore , regard this desire to possess and read the pure Word of God , both as a providential preparation and a premonition of the speedy corning of the Messiah ' s kingdom . " Not only in general events , but in biographical anecdotes our author boldly reads the handwriting
he is so familiar with , ihus : •—" John Newton was another chosen vessel ; and how did Qod watch over him when calamity , pestilence , or disease was near , and shield him from danger , while yet his heart was enmity to God ! We quote a signal instance ; ' Though remarkable for his punctuality , one day some business so detained him that he came to his boat much later than usual , much to the surprise of those who had observed his former punctuality . He went out in his boat , as heretofore , to inspect a ship , but the ship blew up just before he reached her . * Had he arrived a few minutes sooner , he must have perished with tnose on board . " Very comforting to John Newton ; less so to " those on board " ! Read this also : —
" An obspure female ig born in Persia . At sn early age she is left an orphan . An uncle adopts her , and hopes she may yet solace his declining years . She is beautiful , lovely , modest , yet nothing points her out to any enviable station above the thousands of the daughters of Persia . To all human forethought she would live and die unknown as ehe was born . But the Church of God i « scattered throughout the hundred and twenty and seven provinces of Persia , Esther is a daughter of the captivity ; and God would raise up some guardian spirit to saT « his people from an impending danger , and honour them in th « sight of the heathen . The palaoe of
Shushan , and the gorgeous court of the Shah , shall stand in awe of Esthers God . By a singular train of circumstances the obscure orphan is brought to the notice of the k > ng , finds favour , and is called to share with him the honours of his throne . And what deliverances she wrought for her people , how she brought them out fronn their long obscurity , and gave them notoriety and enlargement , and prepared the way for their restoration to their native land and to the Holy Hill of ' / Aon , is known to « U who have traced the hand of Providence in this portion of Sacred History . "
How ineffably silly all such writing is , may be shown b y employing the same method to the biography of a scoundrel- " An obscure female was horn in London . She was bred up by poor parents . In early life she married a Mr . Brownrigg . To all human forethought she would live and die unknown . But God ' s parish children are scattered around her neighbourhood . She takes some of them as apprentices , und history saith that parishes still stand in awe of her name . " Now , one must read the hand of God in Mrn . Brownrigg ' s career no less than in Esther '** . And if one were to pursue the enquiry , no great amount of research would ho needed to write u companion volume to this , entitled , "The | Jai » d of the Devil in History /'
There J 3 one other point upon which we may remark . When those gentlemen who are uo perfeetjy at home in all the designs of Providence lay out the scheme of this world before us , and prove that the spread of the Gospel ( mainly through 1 'ingliHli ministers ) all over the world is the aim and end of this mysterious universe of ours , the reflectio naturally enough occurs that the machinery is gigantically disproportionate to the result , and & ¦*
if to see mankind Accept the Gospel was the great aim of the Creator , he might have accomplished it in less time and with less means ; but they always have an answer ready : — " That , in working out the stupendous problem of the redemption of men and of nations , God takes time . Moral revolutions are of slow development . The works of Providence , more especially , perhaps , than those of creation , have & direct reference to the display of the divine character , and to the exhibition of man ' s character . It was needful , therefore , that these works be prolonged , that the book of Providence He open continually for perusal . It had been ea « y for God to sp «« k the heavens and the earth and all therein , into existence in a . moment of time i instantaneously to give form . fsrtiUty , and
beauty tQ the earth , and matured perfeptteu te the ammal , mineral , and vegetable worlds . But God phope to lay open his works to inspection , that they might be examined piece by piece , It had been easy for God to have brought his Son to die a sacrifice for sin , immediately on the fall of man . But a th . pusa . nd sublime purposes bad then failed ; God ' s glory had been eclipsed , and man ' s redemption been another thing . Four thousand years should be filled up in preparation ; not a change or arevolution should transpire which was not tributary to the one great purpose . The Hand of God was all this time busy | n well-direatsd efforts ; not an abortive movement , not a mistake , not a retrograde motion , did he make . All was onward , and onward as rapidly as the nature of the work permitted . There was neither hurry nor delay , "
Jf that excuse were offered for a human legislator we know what would be said ! For ourselves we think it rather hard upon humanity that four thousand years should be required for that which a moment might have accomplished , especially as so many thousand heretics are to be everlastingly damned for their share in the " preparation "—if we may believe the same gentlemen who know all about this and cognate matters , Seriously , we think works like the present are profoundly irreligious , and they cannot be too
strongl y reprobated . They are blasphemies against the Deity , and they distort the minds of simple and devout persons who always close their eyes whenever God is mentioned . It is owing to the unchallenged promulgation of such ignoble books as these that superstition still lingers amongst us . No one likes to discountenance them ; at least no clergyman or church-going reader ; because they are thought " useful in keeping up religious feeling , " When others , like ourselves , raise a word of protest , it is not accepted as a protest of sense against drivel , but as the " scoffing" of an " infidel . " May we ever be infidels to such a faith !
mackay ' s " egeria . " Egerla , or the Spirit of Nature ; and Other Poems . By Charles Mackay . Bogue . In fulfilment of a promise made some time ago , during a pressure of other matters , we now return to this volume , then slightly mentioned . One of the main causes of the reawakening of poetry in these latter days may be found in the fact that poets are more and more disposed to find in their art a solemn meaning and the responsibility of a divine commission . Men have ceased to content themselves with the petty belief that poetry ia a mere affair of ornament and idle recreation .
They have found that it is the voice of their most passionate longings , much more than of their lightest humours j and that its commands can only be worthily fulfilled by him who has a reverent sense of the awe and mystery of creation , and faith in the majesty of the human heart . Greater than the priest , because more final and all-embracing , the poet of the present day has , nevertheless , assumed to himself something sacerdotal and Druid-like ; he preaches , as well as sings , out of the gloom of his oracular forests . Hut mark the difference : unlike the priests of any recognized and formal system of faith , he treats of the destiny of the whole human race , and of the march of the universe towards the millennium which shall he for
all , and of the sympathies which interfuse all things , making them one within the reposing harmony of God , not of the egotistical pretensions of any sect , or the exclusivcncsH of any book of traditions . It is thia which has given to the poetry of the last thirty yearn its deeply and truly religious character , a character which bus removed it equally from the two poles of barren scepticism and pharisaical bigotry .
Mr . Mackay ' a writings have been particularly distinguished by this spirit . Hi « poetry hay always " beaten twin pulses with humanity j" and it has found its reward in the loving admiration of crowds of readers , He is deeply imbued with a sense of the utility , as well aa beauty , of his art ; and has prefixed to his present volume of poems an introductory essay , in which he argues that Poetry in
not , as a living verse-writer has thoughtlessly called it , a thing of " shows and seems . * ' Mr , Mackay thinks that Bacon is in some measure responsible for the false idea of Poetry which has long prevailed , because that great philosopher , in hisiBssay on Truth , confounds all fiction with lying . This is certainly a great mistake ; but Mr . Mackay should recollect that Baeon has , on another occasion , borne noble testimony to the divinity , and , therefore , neoessarily to the truth , of the greatest of the arts . " Poesy , " he says , in the Advancement of Learning ff seem deservedly to have some participation of divineness , because it doth raise the mind , and exalt the spirit with high raptures , by proportioning
the shows of things to the desires ot the mind , and not submitting the mind to things , as reason and history do . ' * Mr . Mackay ' s idea of Poetry is so universal that he would make it include even politics and sciencej and we quite agree with him that whatever is interesting to the human soul comes properly within the sphere of verse j but » with respect to politics ( though he disclaims partypohtics ) , we would warn him against too great a tendency to select bis Bubjeats from the passing events and agitations of the day . The Poet must deal with the spirit of man in its elemental aspects ; not in its temporary exigencies and manifestations .
Egeria—the chief poem in the volume now before us—is in blank verse , and in five cantos . The first canto introduces us to two figures seated by the seashore ; one of whom , though " youngand fair , " seems stupified by some unutterable grief . This is the hero of the poem-r-Julian the Misanthrope . He has been a philanthropist—a dreamer of magnificent dreams for the benefit of humanity , and for the extirpation of misery , disease , and crime ; and the world has laughed at and persecuted him
till his heart becomes moody , and his faith in good is obscured , and he doubts all things except the universality of pain . His friend Montague , to whose sister Julian is betrothed , endeavours to rouse him from this state of mental cowardice ; and , failing by dint of rhetoric to effect that object , takes him to a certain grove haunted by the goddess Egeria , or the Spirit of Nature—she to whom the old Roman King , Nuraa Pompilius , repaired , when he was compiling his code of laws . In this forestwhere
" A cool dim twilight , with perpetual haze , Crept through the intricate byways of the wood , And hung like vapour on the ancient trees . " Montague contrives , by certain mesmeric passes of the hand , to project the Spirit of Egeria into the brain of Julian , who at once stands before that mysterious presence , and is conscious of a larger universe , and of mightier meanings in the hearts of things than he had ever before suspected . He desires to know why there is any such principle as Evil , and Egeria does her best to enlighten him . But it must be confessed that this is the weakest
part of the poem ; and we think Mr . Mackay had better have let it alone . The goddess takeshVast trouble to inform her mortal questioner that the whole world teems with breathing , sentient life , and that all these manifold organizations of vitality are subject to pain and death ; all which he knew beforehand—that being the very thing which had made him hypochondriacal . bhe also tells him that Good could not exist without the counteracting pole of Evil ; that we could not enjoy unless we also suffered . But we must beg leave to observe that this is a violent and arbitrary assumption
which we do not think any human being has a right to make , and against which the iflost fervent desires of our nature protest . We are taught to expect a future state of being- which shall not he stained by the least shadow of grief ; and Home of the wisest among us do not despair of the earth itself becoming in the lapse of time a Paradise like that which existed in the fabled Golden Age . Why , in the meanwhile , there should bo this gigantic neceHnity for pain is a problem over which the mind
reels impotently , and , after long meditating , loses its equilibrium . Misanthropy und distrust of tho conquering spirit of Beneficence will not help usnay , will do us infinite harm ; but the obstinate questioningH of misanthropes find too deep un echo in our hearts to bo pooh-poohed by feeble jteratioiiH of " It is no , and it alwayH must be so . " l ^ et uh work iu fuith and hope , though in humbleness , [ t will be a noble belief ( even if it prove an error ) that Evil is but a temporary development in pur progress to the perfect world .
Julian however , is cured of his melancholy , and resolves to lead a life of action rather than o ( indolent speculation . His love of the world and of his
jp . j , 1851 ] gftg Utarxer . 109
Leader (1850-1860), Feb. 1, 1851, page 109, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/l/issues/vm2-ncseproduct1868/page/13/