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adequate representations of the whole. The fact is, that the New Testament is not consistent with the Old, and both are inconsistent with themselves. There are passages which savour of friendliness to liberty, and others no less friendly to despotism. It gives a blessing in one text, and takes it away in another. Like all collections of books written by many hands, it cannot be made one, either in authorship or in thought. Why, then, claim it as the source of our freedom--as the mainspring of our greatness? They who inspired England in the seventeenth century read the Old and the New Testament through Greek and Roman glasses—through Greek poetry and philosophy, through Roman history and patriotism, and fancied themselves to have found in those “sacred books” what had no existence, save in the medium through which they had read them. And they who in the nineteenth century have raised us still higher in science and political life, obtained their inspiration from sources as foreign to the New Testament as the works of Jacob Bæhme are to those of Auguste Compte. We strongly advise Mr. Rutherford to study history with some degree of care before using its materials; to remember that a falsehood is not changed in its nature by passing through Christian lips, and especially to bear in mind that modern Christianity has no more to do with Jesus than modern Brahminism has with the Vedas. A body of self-elected men have in both cases stepped in to give their interpretation, and to insist that no other shall be received, but the philosopher who identifies their arrogant assumptions with Christianity, disproves his claim to be considered a competent judge.

Mr. Bradlaugh replied fairly enough to the improper style of reasoning and assumptions of his Christian opponent; but he has yet to learn the truth in relation to the character and aims of Jesus. He confounds what men in our Churches have said of him, with what should be said. If he were to study the life of Jesus for himself, it is probable that, like the Irishman at Donnybrook, he would discover that he is fighting the wrong man. He knows that the Gospels are full of contradictions, which prove them to be human, and disprove the popular opinions regarding their being inspired ; but he has no critical justification for assuming them to have no historical value. There are contradictions in the contemporary narratives about both Milton, Cromwell, even about Garabaldi; but if some madman asserted that they were all inspired, Mr. Bradlaugh, when he had disproved that, would not be justified in assuming also that there is no truth in any of the stories. Let him separate the two questions, and there will be some hope of his arriving at the truth. And until he learns to do justice to what is good in the Gospels, he will not be generally believed when denouncing that which is undoubtedly bad. The time has arrived when the whole truth respecting them must be brought out, and if Mr. Bradlaugh desire to aid in promoting that end, he must hold himself ready to do full justice to every noble sentiment found within them. The liberal thinker complains of the orthodox man that hitherto he has justified every Gospel statement and doctrine, because some of them are known to be true and good. But if the liberal thinker denounces the New Testament as a whole, because some of its contents are untrue and evil, he falls into an error equal in its injustice to that of which he complains. What is now demanded is, the love of truth, not the desire to gain party victories. Let the truth be brought fairly out, and there can be no reason for questioning that the triumph of freethought will be secured.




THE PSALMS OF DAVID.' The too common idea that good religious poetry has never been written by any other than Hebrew Bards is quite as wide of the truth as was that of Dr. Johnson, to the effect that good religious poetry cannot be composed. He was a fine old man, very bigoted, but noble withal; a man of true soul, but unhappily so hampered by his surroundings that it only rarely happened he was able to give full expression to the deeper current of his thoughts untainted by prejudice. It is said that Sir Robert Peel was a much greater man than his public life leads the inquirer to suppose; that being so hampered by various early associations he could not give full play to his genius. This is probably true in his case, and certainly true in that of the fine old essayist. The cause for wonder lies not in his frequent failures, but in his numerous successes. That he utterly failed in his estimate of religious poetry even his most ardent admirers must admit; the marvel is that he dared to wield his pen in such a cause. If it were true that men could not compose good religious poetry, why should he have troubled himself about it, to the disgust of his friends and the annoyance of the clergy? It all lay in the fact that he would say all he thought, and that utterly regardless of consequences. For that he has our thanks. We may reject his criticism, but admire his independence. He had mistaken both the nature of poetry and of religion, two facts which will become clear to every man who reads his poetry and his moral essays, and which will easily explain the critical errors into which he fell when launching his thunderbolt against all who set down to compose religious poetry.

In his life of Waller, after expressing the hope that no pious ear will be offended, he proceeds to set forth his argument in favour of the thesis that “poetical devotion cannot often please.” Thus he contends that it is possible for one who has the happy power of arguing in verse to defend the doctrines of religion in a poem because the theme is not piety, but the motives to piety." The case, however, is quite otherwise when the subject is 'contemplative piety, ‘or the intercourse between God and the soul, which cannot be poetical. The reason why not he declares to be because “the essence of poetry is invention, “such invention as by producing something unexpected, surprises and delights.

Poetry pleases by exhibiting an idea more grateful in the mind than things " themselves afford. The effect proceeds from the display of those parts of nature “ which attract, and the concealment of those that repel the imagination; but

religion must be shown as it is ; suppression and addition equally, corrupt it, " and such as it is it is known already. Poetry loses its lustre because it is applied “ to the decoration of something more excellent than itself.”

It is curious that he should have commenced his attack with the statement that good doctrinal poetry can be written, for that is precisely the kind which cannot be written. "No man can set the works of Jonathan Edwards to music, or make poetry out of the institutes of Calvin. Theological and partizan poetry is a misnomer. As well endeavour to write a magnificent sonnet upon the heroism of the Emperor Alexander as a noble poem upon baptismal regeneration. And it is equally curious that he wound it up with so flimsy a sophism. How is religion any nobler than poetry, in any sense superior to patriotism, or the beauties of Nature. Surely martyrdom, whether on the field as a patriot dying for the cause of liberty, or at the stake dying for the cause of free conscience, is, in itself

, as much superior to poetry, as religion can be. There is nothing in poetry to raise it above nature or heroism, which does not raise it equally above religion. The man who dies as a patriot must be nobler than the poet who composes his elegy. The fact is that the critic was confounding the idea of the author who


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writes with the written poem. Poetry, however noble, is, after all, nothing more than the translation of deep meanings out of nature into the vernacular. It is not a new creation in any higher sense than is a book translated from the German into English. The great merit of the poet is that he is able to read the hieroglyphs of nature which others could not understand.

Johnson mistook poetry for painting; conceived of it as a sort of colouring or veneering, and evidently treated the poet as one whose duty it was to make mere deal look like mahogany. To write of it as mere deal would be altogether out of character. He knew of poets who had treated life and nature in that style. If they spake of a shepherd he must have his pipe, and the shepherdess must have her pet lamb, and be called Daphne or Chloe. They were afraid of man as God made him, and dared not introduce him into society unless he were duly painted. It needed that a Robert Burns should come into the world to sweep all those absurdities away, and to show that the Cottar,' as a man, without paint, was the fitting theme for song. It needed the true poet to show the vocations. How shall the coward know the hero ? They who had written about men knew not manhood. They were of the school that clipped the trees into the fashion of peacocks or beehives, and other animate or inanimate forms. They believed in God's works only when mended by men, how then could they believe in man until he had been painted by the poets ? Thus poetry was developed into the art of making nature decent, and men respectable and fit for lordly company. And taking that view of the matter, Johnson reached the conclusion that the poetieal paint-pot could not be usefully employed upon religious topics.

He had, however, no less fatally mistaken the nature of religion. To him it was all written out and printed by authority, having been translated out of the original tongues. That which could not be found in the Bible he would not endow with the title of religion. In our age a nobler truth is taught. We know that as yet only some poor fraction of a Bible has been written, and until the poets do their work it will not be completed. It is for them to study science, history, and philosophy, so as to find out their deeper meanings for embodiment in verse. The true poet finds the words full of meaning which adequately express the truth upon any subject to which the attention of mankind has been directed. A great Homer, Shakespere, Dante, Milton, Burns, even a Byron, are capable of standing for ages as the high priests of mankind, for although they are not so named, they were religious poets. They made high truths become common property. They revealed what had previously been concealed, and although not writing in the Hebrew forms, they were nevertheless God's servants and man's instructors. Is not all truth religion? And when the ordinary man begins to meditate the mysteries of life and death, begins to speak of them, does he not become a poet ?

All noble religious thoughts are thrown by the mind into the poetic form. The soul that is exalted by religious emotions feels that ordinary language is inadequate to express the current of feeling then felt to be flowing within, and seizes upon all objects of nature, art, and life, as the material symbols through which to express what common words will not convey. Every idea is thus embodied in some concrete image—is presented under the substantial form of well-known objects, which at first appear

incongruous but afterwards grow into general repute. Thus the mechanical requisite of good poetry, forcible imagery, is necessitated by the peculiar greatness of the theme, and it is supplied in perfection in exact proportion to the clearness with which the thought to be expressed is internally conceived, He who feels deeply, and who sees clearly, will be the best poet, for sensibility and insight are the very foundation stones upon which all true poetry must be based. And in all those cases wherein we hear of defective utterance, let us rather say

there is defective feeling or perception, for although the inner thoughts may never be adequately expressed, if the thoughts are really great they will form for themselves in the mind some such word-clothing as will cause them to be fairly recognised and honoured amongst men.

And this was as true in the early times as it is now. Indeed, in the early days, all prayer and religious utterance were a kind of song, and what we call lyric poetry was rather the natural language of the heart than the creation of intellect, aided by art, as so many modern writers have undertaken to teach us. Poetry is the language of pure feeling, and in the early days what else but feeling dominated over the human mind ? In the days of Homer the Greeks were as playful children looking with wonder upon all that passed around them, and when they spake it was not as men who had a knowledge of things, but only as those who unreflectingly perceived them. In our own youth we were all poets; some could write, and others only dream poetry, but as Time passed over us and experience crowded into the intellect, we got to see things in another light and in other moods of mind, and poetry passed from us. Reason and observation were then combined to show that our first view was false, and experience laid bare the fact, that too frequently fancy painted in the glorious hues of beauty that which was only the source of sin and shame or sorrow. It was bitter when first we became conscious of the reality of life, but good with all its pain; for how else could we have grown strong, or how else have learned for what life is worth possessing? And as with ourselves so it was in the early history of mankind. All was then poetry and imagination. Science and correct knowledge were unknown. The stars were bright and seemed to be immortal eyes which gleamed from out the abyss of space; and the sea was endowed with life, enabling it now to storm with the fury of a god, and now to play with the gentleness of a lamb. Was not thunder the angry voice of God, and sunshine, was it not His smile, brightening and invigorating all things ? An air of romance was thrown over all things; but it could not last. The imagination cannot feed a people or supply what is required for growing States, and hence the poetical view of life and nature fell into sad disrepute. Politics, war, and social statics thrust themselves forward as the all important topics for discussion, and when a multitude were lashed into fury they had to be attended to. Thus work was found for the several nations, and although it cannot be supposed that they took counsel together and resolved upon a division of the labour, it is nevertheless certain that the labour was divided, for each nation worked diligently at one task, endeavoured to solve one problem in philosophy, politics, art, or religion, and died out when their labour was ended, leaving what they had proven as a priceless gift to benefit all coming generations, and as the practical experience of a people earnest after a truth.

All nations were alike influenced, and if the Hebrew gave more attention to the religious side of life and its emotions, wrote them down with greater clearness, we are not hence to conclude that therefore he naturally surpassed all the others, for such is not the truth. The Greek gave attention to the beautiful, and the Hindoo to the abstract nature of things ; each had a particular work, and the Hebrew did not perform his a whit better than the others. That is altogether false teaching which exalts the work of one nation above the others; quite as false as the old notion that the heart was the most important organ in the body. Take away the stomach or the thoracic duct, and behold the heart is stricken with the palsy of death. The sciences are all equal, though one may be more interesting than another; one runs into, helps to explain, and gives vitality to all the others, and, the deeper the study, the more clearly is it perceived that they are mutually dependant. Now I hold that the relation of the Hebrew to society at large, to all history, must be viewed in precisely the same light. His work was part only of that which had to be done by mankind; he had to write down in clear language somewhat of his spiritual emotions, and to some extent to exhaust that field; but if none other than the Hebrews had preceded us, what now would be our state? Could we even comprehend with practical clearness the ideas he gave us ? Should we be able to reduce them into form so as to advance our citizen life? Would there be any citizen life to lead ? There lies beneath these questions the whole philosophy of history, not now to be unfolded. For how should we show, in few words, the law of order which underlies the life of a nation, giving it aptitudes, appointing functions, and otherwise determining what that nation shall be and do ? It is enough for us at present to admit


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the fact, that unless other nations had worked out some great principles, it would be impossible for us at the present hour to enjoy the amount of good achieved by the Jews. It is the same with humanity in this matter as with England and English heroism. Our Ridleys and Latimers were willing to die in the fire rather than be unfaithful to their convictions, and as we all know the result of their heroism is of unspeakable value ; but alone it would not have blessed us. Other work and other suffering was necessary to render theirs practically available. The war of civil freedom had to be fought out as a companion of the religious; and that won, then the other was secure. So with the several nations. One wrought politically, another artistically, and so on; to the end, that a collective whole of good could be established and handed down.

According, then, to this view, it was the function of the Hebrew nation to supply the world with some eternal types of spiritual beauty, and the work was accomplished. In the Book of Psalms the whole is embodied, and lies freely open for our use; but not as though the highest attainable were there, for even higher than the highest of ancient days will be the thoughts and flights of men yet unborn. And those which are embodied there are neither all pure, nor all perfect, nor the work of one man, as we shall see this evening. The popular idea is that David wrote all the Psalms contained in the collection, and hence derived his name of the “Psalmist.” Of course, as a moment's reflection will show, this idea is not sound. Turn to the one hundred and thirty-seventh Psalm, where you will read the following touching strain of sadness :

“By the rivers of Babylon where, as exiles, we sat,
We wept when we remembered Zion. And
Our harps we hung upon the willows of the land ;
Our captors in derision demanded a song:
They who had wasted us required mirth from our lips,
Saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How in a strange land could we sing the songs of Jehovah ?
Oh, Jerusalem, if I ever forget thee,
Let my right hand forget its cunning;
If thee I do not ever remember.

Let my tongue cleave to the roof of There can be no question made about this. It could not be written until after the return from the captivity of Babylon, so that its earliest date cannot be nearer to David than several hundred years. The same is true of many others; for the Psalms connected with the building and dedications of the second Temple are furnished in the collection with several of even later date. There is one of which a great deal has been made, in favour of David, containing the lines :

“For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.

I had rather stand upon the threshhold of the house of my God

Than recline in luxury in the tents of wickedness.” This passage was not written by David; indeed, in the Bible itself it is called a “Psalm of the sons of Korah,” which may be true; but it was not written until the times of Darius and Zechariah, and belongs to those of the return from the Babylonish captivity and the building of the second Temple.

my mouth.”


(To be continued.)


Printed by W. Ostell, Hart-street, Bloomsbury,

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