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that he was Messiah," and who supposed himself to be thus adducing a supernatural testimony to the divine office of his Lord, would have been surprised to learn that this was no "religious thing." The apostle whose eye was fixed upon the near mapovola, and who found his joy and crown in the theocratic prospect, would hardly have consented to degrade this faith into a mere secular hope. Wherever this idle distinction is drawn, it is invented for the mere purpose of evasion. Everything in the Bible has always been regarded, by its mere presence there, as being religious, until criticism has fastened on it some doubt: but as soon as it becomes incredible, it is suddenly discovered to have no relation to religion. To those who disbelieve it, it has none; but to its believers it was sacred as the doctrines that still remain. This shifting
. line is as purely subjective as the “sense of fitness which, on that ground, our author charges with incompetence; and is just as certain to surrender successive ingredients of Scripture, till each mind and each age “ becomes a Bible to itself.” Dr. Vaughan asks, “how am I to distinguish between the sound and the unsound in the reasonings of the sacred writers ?” We can only do it, he replies, by the exercise of our own minds : and that he prohibits as an infidelity. It follows that we must not do it at all, but take the whole reasoning on trust and ask no questions. This, however, implies that we are forbidden to understand the reasoning which Scripture may spread before us. For no man can understand an argument without either feeling its force or failing to feel it; the successive propositions might possibly be taken on trust; but their logical sequence cannot be owned without being felt; nor can their logical inconsequence be suppressed from the intellectual consciousness by any act of will. What then would our author recommend as the fit attitude of mind for the study of an apostolic argument? We had always supposed that whoever reasons with us appeals, by the very act, to our understanding, and invites a judgment on what he says. But if we are forbidden to draw distinctions between the sound and the unsound, the reasoning is a mockery, and the appeal a snare. The very existence of ratiocination in the Scriptures is at variance with their plenary inspiration and their use as infallible oracles : and when once the least infringement is allowed upon that plenitude of authority, there are nothing but degrees between Dr. Vaughan and his most obnoxious opponents.
The appeal to the evidence of our moral and spiritual nature in matters of religion is egregiously misrepresented when described by our author as yielding the following rule: “We are to receive Christianity as from God, in the measure in which we see that it might have come from man, and only in that measure” (p. 17). Truth which touches the conscience and finds our highest nature, is not made human,-does not cease to be divine,-by simply entering our consciousness. It does not follow that, because we can recognise its worth when presented, we could originate it, if it were not. As well might you say, that because we can see the sunshine, we could make it : and that, since we are insensible to it till it falls upon our sphere and visits our eye, “We receive it as from Heaven, in the measure in which we perceive that it might have come from Earth, and only in that measure." Dr. Vaughan, as often in the windings of this Discourse, supplies the proper answer and the just rebuke to himself, when he says, “The capacity to see
, the reasonableness of a truth when revealed, is confounded with the capacity to discover that truth without the aid of a revelation. The distinction here is so obvious that no philosopher should be pardoned for overlooking it.”
With these few criticisms we quit this little volume; not attempting, with so slight a basis, to lay out systematically the great subject of which it treats. With some of the writers to whom he refers we have no sympathy of faith; with others, only a very qualified accordance : but we think they all deserved a better answer. Had the matter of this Discourse been of a higher order, the manner would probably have been less assuming and the style more restrained within the limits of good taste. The preacher's undeniable vigour degenerates continually into harshness and brow beating, and impresses his readers more with the strength of his antipathies than with the depth of his convictions. Dr. Vaughan is an accomplished man; but he wins our admiration more an historian than as polemic.
ART. VI.-NEW POEMS BY BAILEY AND
1. The Angel World and other Poems. By Philip James
Bailey, author of “Festus.” London: W. Pickering.
1850. 2. Christmas Eve and Easter Day. A Poem, by Robert
Browning. London: Chapman & Hall, 186, Strand. 1850.
RELIGIOUS Poetry is in danger of falling into two opposite vices, either that of dying away in mere moral or theological dissertation, in which case it becomes “ dull and even dreary"-or that of using the mysteries, and infinitude of a divine theme, merely to enhance the interest and heighten the picturesque effects of a vivid and scenic imagination. The latter fault arises commonly from two very distinct causes, either from want of moral reverence in intellects of great power and depth that delight in the excitement of wonder, though they have little of the spirit or humility of worship-a class of minds that have been conspicuous lately in this country as disciples of Mr. Carlyle-or on the other hand, from the mere want of moral sensitiveness and discrimination, which makes them identify physical things with spiritual, and represents the whole of religion to their minds according to the analogies of law and sensuous conceptions. All these faults are common enough in the religious poetry and poetic prose of our own day. The first of them simply makes a religious poem unreadable; the second inexpressibly painful and repulsive to reverential minds ; the last makes it low-toned and disagreeable to all of higher perceptions. Mr. Bailey's new work is so far an improvement upon “Festus," that he never wearies with mere moral and theologic prosing in the short poem before us; and though in one place he gives us a short abstract of the very transcendental views which Wisdom was unfortunately accustomed to inculcate on her pupils, as when she taught
“ The secret harmony of good and ill
yet he never troubles us with any very tedious reflections. In other respects he does not seem to us to be improved. The extreme richness of imagery remains the same, but there seems far less genuineness and earnestness of thought and feeling, and the utter spiritual poverty which is so often to be found in the religious poetry of the evangelical school is not concealed by the brilliant and too luxuriant ornaments of his style. In “Festus," as here, there was a keen appreciation and love of physical beauty, and a powerful delineation of a certain kind of unrefined character of a rather low moral order, but there was no dramatic power, and only that confused physical sort of thought which is forced upon a man of much ability by the constant necessity of self-defence in life. Where there is no imagery in “ Festus,” a well-regulated mind finds considerable exercise for the inalienable right of omission; but while employed on an earthly subject, Mr. Bailey was much more genuine and at home than he is in this angelworld of præternatural good and ill. Genuine Evangelical poetry is not pleasant on subjects of faith at all; at least when it passes beyond the mere depiction of guilt and penitence, its remedies are so gross, and its conceptions of purifying influences so unspiritual, and its tone of thought so shallow, that the whole beauty of poetry is destroyed by the poverty of the theme. It is only from natures rich in spiritual insight like Keeble, Montgomery, or Wesley, that we can draw pure religious poetry; and even with them the physical analogies of the lower orthodoxy are often made too prominent. But to make a poem on the celestial natures above man in any sense a high work of art, requires a depth of spiritual insight and power of conception far beyond the aim of Mr. Bailey's poem. The obvious danger is that of making a world very much brighter and more blessed, or, on the other hand, very much darker and more wretched than earth, without having characters at all on a corresponding difference of scale; so that the angels are likely to be kind, weak individuals, destitute of all reality,-mere forgiving phantoms in white,-and Heaven itself a brilliant scene of physical beauty and peace. Now this is the real way in which Mr. Bailey has gone astray. With all the brilliant metaphor of this poem, there is very little strength, depth, or reality of sentiment in it, and in this respect it is, we think, inferior to “Festus." There is nothing more disagreeable, and even approaching in its tendency to vulgarity, than this disposition in writing of a spiritual world to show no appreciation of higher spiritual natures ;—than this betrayal, in fact, of a disproportion between the senses and the higher aspirations, so great, as to be satisfied to rest in the image of a brighter world, without spending any power in the conception and delineation of the higher life it should contain. It is the extreme difficulty of this task that has kept almost all poets from venturing on a sphere so tempting to a high and devout imagination, and it seems as though it were Mr. Bailey's blindness, not his superiority to its difficulty, which has induced him to undertake it. “In Festus” there is at least one real human character, impulsive, powerful, imaginative, self-confident, pompous and coarse, carried into nearly every scene, and there is no sort of failure in its delineation. But here we have no reality in character of any kind, and notwithstanding the brilliancy of its dress, the poem is felt to have no life; its peculiar theme only has the negative effect of suppressing the unrefinements and roughnesses of earth, without introducing any higher conditions of mind, and so, notwithstanding its orthodoxy, it is liable to the charge of a somewhat heathen tone, in entering on so sacred a subject without the exercise of a spiritual imagination, but only of physical fancy. It is exactly the absence of this defect which has given their immortality to the great works of Milton and Klopstock, where the moral and spiritual thought and feeling which suggested the scenery, breathes through the poem, and the beings are real beings, even though it be rather power and intensity of nature than any difference of kind, which removes them beyond the ordinary latitudes of human nature. Genuine poetry however of its kind, though not of the kind that the pretensions of the poem demand, there is here and there in this little volume, but it is only seldom that it is sufficiently connected with human want or feeling to elevate it above mere shining fancies. In the following passage, however, there is much beauty, though, as everywhere, too little simplicity :