Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

shall find, on examination, that whatever difficulties may exist as to their character, there is none as to their purpose. They were performed as incentives to action, and not as evidences of truth. They were intended to substantiate the claims of the heroes of the old covenant to special divine favor, rather than to shed any fresh light on the character of God or the destiny of man. When the prophets appeared, — those glorious minstrels who breathed forth the soul of harmony on a jangled age, — we find that miracles became less frequent, and instruction more constant. They anticipated, in many respects, the rising of Christianity over their misty mountain tops, and like the Redeemer, whom they predicted, trusted more to the essential power of truth, than to the collateral force of miracles.

With regard to our Saviour himself, we think it will appear, that his miracles of majesty and love were the free expressions of his character, rather than the formal supports of his mission. He exercised the divine power with which God bad endowed him, not in the way of demonstration, but of philanthropy. He did not say, “Look at these miracles and believe what I declare;" on the contrary, he left his works to produce their own blessed effects on the body, while he put forth his truth to operate, in a similar manner, upon the soul. In some instances, it

may be thought that he appealed to his miracles as an evidence that he was the messenger of God, and, therefore, entitled to be heard ; but even this was not in confirmation of the truth of his doctrine, but of the authority with which he announced it. In the final appeal, he rested the claim of his truth on its intrinsic divinity and power.

Indeed, we do not see how our Lord could have adopted a different method, under the circumstances in which he was placed. The apparent performance of miracles was not peculiar to him. It was not sufficient to authenticate his mission as divine, without reference to other sources of conviction. The very records which describe the miracles of Christ, in form us that similar works were performed by others, who did not acknowledge bis authority, but acted in their own name. It was an age in which portents and prodigies were not uncommon. How, then, was a true miracle to be distinguished from a false one? The Pharisees accused our Saviour of casting out devils through the Prince of the devils; how could this accusation be set aside, but by establishing the divinity of his mission on independent evidence.

If it had previously been made clear that God was with him, there would be no difficulty in admitting that his miracles were wrought by the finger of God. The evidence of the miracles, alone, will not sustain the test of a searchng examination ; for in themselves considered, they afford us no criterion to decide between the miracles of Christ, and the miracles of a pretender. We must view them from a higher point of vision, before they are made to stand out in contrast with all others, in their own peculiar beauty and grandeur.

In like manner, we know of no unerring test, by which to distinguish a miracle of religion from a new manifestation of natural powers, without a previous faith in the divinity of the performer. The phenomena of electricity and magnetism exhibit wonders surpassing the ordinary agencies of nature. Upon their first discovery, they presented all the characteristics by which we designate miracles, except their application to religious purposes. If a miracle is said to have been wrought by one whom we already know to be in possession of supernatural gifts, there is a strong presumption that it may be true; but if the evidence of supernatural endowments is made to depend on the miracle, we ask how we are to know that what appears to be a miracle is, in fact, supernatural, and not a new developement of nature.

If, then, a firm faith in Christianity may be cherished independently of miracles ; if the purpose of miracles be to operate within the sphere of action rather than of thought; and if there be great difficulties in the proof of miracles, without a previous conviction of the divine authority of him who is said to exhibit them, we hold it to be an unsound method to make a belief in them the essential foundation of Christian faith, or the ultimate test of Christian character.

It will be perceived, that in the foregoing remarks, we have not been inclined to controvert the truth of the Christian miracles. They are subjects of historical inquiry, and are to be settled by historical considerations, including that of the character and position of their author. We wish only to maintain what we deem a better mode of examining the evidences of Christianity than that which is usually pursued in the study of theology. The adoption of this mode, we are persuaded, would remove some of the strongest objections of infidels, and convert the timid and wavering faith of multitudes into strong and masculine conviction. Let the study of theology com

mence with the study of human consciousness. Let us ascertain what is meant by the expression, often used, but little pondered, — the Image of God in the Soul of Man. Let us determine whether our nature has any revelation of the Deity within itself; and, if so, analyze and describe it. If we there discover, as we firmly believe we shall, a criterion of truth, by which we can pass judgment on the Spiritual and Infinite, we shall then be prepared to examine the claims of a Divine Revelation in history. If our inward eye is unsealed, we shall discern the glory of God in the Person of bis Son. Our faith will embrace bim, with a vital sympathy and certainty, as the bearer of the highest inspiration of Heaven. We shall experience in our own souls, the miracles of redemption and grace which he daily works therein, and with this conscious perception of his divine power, it will be easy to believe that he who has quelled our earthly passions, and raised us from the death of sin to a life in God, had authority to still the elements and restore Lazarus

from the grave.

G. R.

ART. VII. - On the Proper Character of Poetry and Music

for Public Worship.

Poetry for public worship is musical poetry. To lay down the principles on which it should be constructed we have first to determine the connexion between music and devotion. A musical, religious service should preserve the essential characteristics of music, however modified by the particular subject or occasion. Music and Poetry, as well as the sister arts, Painting and Sculpture, have distinctive attributes, wbile they have a character in common, seeing that they all express the sentiment of the beautiful and perfect. Each of these noble arts supplies a want in our nature. In the world of sights and sounds, words are the “express images ” (so to speak) of the world of thoughts, and feelings, and sentiments. Seen in certain relations and combinations, they address our practical and intellectual powers; seen in others, grouped together in those forms in which we recognise beauty, grace, harmony, they address our feelings and sentiments. What observation

and logic are to the intellect, the beautiful, in shapes or sounds, is to the heart and its undying aspirations. Poetry and the Fine Arts belong to this latier part of our nature. They all work, essentially, the same effect upon the mind, but each in its own way.

Whatever is called poetry, should be in the spirit of poetry; and whatever is called music, in the spirit of music, as distinct from other forms of expression. So in public worship, call not that music, in which it is not recognised that music has a character of its own, apart from the mere sanctity it derives from the church, and from the dignity of its subject; sor, so far as these only are concerned, it might as well be preaching, or praying, or going through genuflections, or shouting. The effect of music is partly intrinsic, and partly borrowed from the subject, or occasion. It is partly, also, conventional; depending for its charm upon old associations. But it is plain, that its intrinsic ought never to be so merged in its adventitious power, as to negative its essential properties. Church inusic, besides a devotional, a solemn, a familiar character, should also have a musical character. The fact that certain music, (no matter what in itself, has in the midst of the splendors of a Catholic Cathedral been identified in the minds of its hearers with a certain sublime effect, is no argument for introducing the same music into a plain Protestant Church. Again, the overpowering, all-blending effect produced by a mighty congregation in the open air, singing together a strain in itself tame and inexpressive, is no argument for having the whole congregation sing in our churches. For, in both cases, it may have been something other than the music, which wrought the effect. Inattention to this fundamental fact, is the fault which includes all the faults in our common church music.

We believe that this will always remain a dead branch in our church service, until loftier notions are held of music in itself; until men shall prize it, and reverence it, as they do poetry ; as they do whatever is most pure, and beautiful, and refining; regarding it, not merely as a source of pleasant sensations, an innocent amusement, but as a thing worthy of serious and devoted pursuit: not as a thing to be called holy when constrained into the narrow forms of the church, and worldly when left to its natural variety as if its eloquence were of the . devil, and it were bad merely because it gives pleasure.

Music is the form, in which have been presented to the world

many of the sublimest conceptions of genius. It has been the whole material wherewith some minds, full of all the poetry, and faith, and sympathies of lise, have wrought their immorial creations. The master-pieces of the art, whether in the solemn forin of the Oratorio and the Mass, or in the little world of the Opera ; in the imposing Chants of antiquity, or in the common Song: whether in the gigantic masses of sound with which Handel, Æschylus-like, has laid the first imperishable models of the higher orders of composition; or in the descriptive strains of Haydn, shisting through every hue of passion, in their inexplicable blending and intertwining of sensations, feelings, and images, all softened down into a general barmony and repose, and resembling the scenery of nature, simple amid the greatest profusion of ornament; or in the melancholy grandeur of Beethoven, who conducts us through dim, vast Gothic vaults, or under the stupendous caverns of earth, where we shrink before the infinite, yet long to tempt its depths, — who stirs those deepest waters in the soul, which roll on in darkness for ever, until the rays from some such master-spirit gleam over them, revealing what is in us; or in the bright suinmer tints reflected in the clear, laughing wave of a Rossini's happy spirit; or in the melting pathos of the young Bellini, whose short years sufficed to draw intensest tragedies from simple life making us to rejoice and weep with others, as if their fortunes were our own : these are works, which bear the sanction of heaven, and, as long as man is what he is, will cherish his noblest sentiments, keep his sympathies warm, fill him with the sense of invisible realities, make him to know the strength, the boundless capacities of his spirit, and render him a willing, an eager listener to the gospel of love.

Music has a meaning in itself. What are some of its essential qualities considered as to its spirit?

In the first place expression. It is the language of emotion, - the natural expression of certain feelings, and those, feelings which tend heavenward, which are the germ of religious faiih. It springs from the same fount with poetry. It is the language of our far-reaching aspirations, our invisible communings; of all that is pathetic, of gratitude and love ;— feelings which make the tongue to falter, and need a more delicate, a more flexible organ than speech.

It is descriptive too, - but not in the way that words, or imitations to the sight, are descriptive. It conveys no definite

« AnteriorContinuar »