페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

tempted previously, of the hygienic method. What, to the eye of God, reveals itself as guilt—i. e., wilful and chosen badness, deliberate cruelty, inhuman selfishness—will never, I believe, be identified with disease; but in a vast proportion of cases, the patient investigation of science, Christian and kind, discovers that what seemed guilt has been rooted in disease; and my own profound conviction, fixed in me now for a good many years, is that, in a society approximately Christian and scientific, the prison would, to a very great extent, be turned into an asylum. Entire provisional forfeiture of freedom, with subjection to hygienic treatment, physical and moral, would practically have all the severity required, for purposes of punishment, except in extreme cases. And for extreme cases, the kindest as well as the justest treatment would be death.

CHAPTER XI.

ON CANT AND SHAM RELIGION.

r I ''HE Latter-day Pamphlets, issued singly in the second half of 1849, appeared collectively in 1850, and in the year following—the year of the first International Exhibition—we find Carlyle employed in writing the biography of John Sterling. The interest of that book lies chiefly, in fact almost solely, in this—that in it we learn what is Carlyle's practical solution of the religious problem of his time. That problem comes up in the Latter-day Pamphlets, and no criticism of the Pamphlets can have a pretence to completeness if it omits consideration of the views therein presented on the religious question; but the Life of Sterling is an illustrative comment of the most pertinent and instructive kind on the religious principles advocated in the Pamphlets, enabling us to translate the abstract into the concrete, to mate principles with facts, to say specifically how, in a given example, Carlyle proposed that religious doubts and difficulties should be dealt with. What, then, are the religious principles enunciated in the Latter-day Pamphlets?

The type and embodiment of what, in connection with religion, he regards as supremely wrong, Carlyle finds in Ignatius Loyola. Let no Protestant, however, lay the flattering unction to his soul that it is on Jesuits and Roman Catholies alone that Carlyle pours his fiery indignation. "For some two centuries," he says, "the genius of mankind has been dominated by the Gospel of Ignatius, perhaps the strangest and certainly among the fatalest ever preached hitherto under the sun." Two centuries ago, when Oliver Cromwell sank, and Charles II. rose, we Protestants of Great Britain, "deeply detesting the name of Saint Ignatius, did nevertheless gradually adopt his Gospel as the real revelation of God's will, and the solid rule of living in this world." The essential purport of this Gospel he sums up in two sentences. "That to please the supreme Fountain of Truth your readiest method, now and then, was to persist in helieving what your whole soul found to be doubtful or incredible. That poor human symbols were higher than the God Almighty's facts they symbolized; that formulas, with or without the facts symbolized by them, were sacred and salutary; that formulas, well persisted in, could still save us when the facts were all fled."

Two heads .and fronts of offending are to be distinguished here. Our first offence is that we do not dare to disbelieve what is incredible. We think it prudent and virtuous to shilly-shally between truth and falsehood; we try to hush up inquiry; we strangle our doubts, and seek to persuade ourselves that reverence and piety are our motives for so doing. "' Be careful how you believe truth,'" cries the good man everywhere: "' composure and a whole skin are very valuable. Truth—who knows?—many things are not true; most things are uncertainties, very prosperous things are even open falsities that have been agreed upon. There is little certain truth going. If it isn't orthodox truth, it will play the very devil with you.'" The principle on which these pseudo-virtuous persons proceed is "that God can be served by believing what is not true;" that it is a duty "to put out the sacred lamp of intellect within you; to decide on maiming yourself of that higher Godlike gift, which God himself has given you with a silent but awful charge in regard to it." This cowardly prudence, this willingness to make shift with half-truths, or even to make believe that incredibilities are truths, this distrust and suspicion of the aggressive intellect, associated with a mawkish and maudlin sanctimoniousness of phrase, go to form what Carlyle

[blocks in formation]

names cant. Against cant he has always inveighed with a vehemence that would have been frantic, if any degree of vehemence in adjuring your friends not to drink what you believe to be deadliest poison could deserve the term.

The second point in Carlyle's general accusation is that we cling to symbols after they have become obsolete, that we make more of the symbols than of "the God Almighty's facts they symbolized." In Sartor Resartus, he teaches that political institutions are but the form and embodiment of truths, ideas, spiritual facts, and that, when the spirit has departed, the material form ought to disappear. All religions, in like manner, are represented by symbols, and it is the inevitable and universal law that the symbols grow old and perish. To try to perpetuate them when they have lost vitality is a criminal error, fraught with baleful consequences. These two charges— sham-belief and worship of dead symbols—are intimately connected with each other, and both may be included in the central, all comprehending iniquity of cant.

The symbols must go. They wax old as doth a garment, and it becomes an imperative duty to fold them up and change them. The truth embodied in the symbols, if really true, is, he admits, imperishable; he grants, also, that man must have his symbols, that the soul cannot feed on abstractions, that religion in the sense of felt and owned relationship to the Infinite is essential to national health. To the knowing scepties of an irreverent age he frankly announces that their reduction of man to a mere intellectual animal or a machine is preposterous. "My enlightened friends of this present supreme age, what shall I say to you? That time does rest on eternity; that he who has no vision of eternity will never get a true hold of time, or its affairs. Time is so constructed; that is the fact of the construction of this world. And no class of mortals who have not—through Nazareth or otherwise—come to get heartily acquainted with such fact, perpetually familiar

o*

with it in all the outs and ins of their existence, have ever found this universe habitable long." In all Carole's writings, there are, perhaps, no words more important than these. He proceeds to refer to certain lessons of history which are so well-known that it is trite to quote them, but whose triteness does not in the slightest degree impair their validity or importance. There had been no heroic old Rome, there had been no early Greece, resplendent to all time, if those fathers of modern Europe had not known "that in man's life there did lie a Godlike, and that his time-history was verily but an emblem of some Eternal." Generations without faith, such as he declares ours to be, have ceased to believe in the old symbols, and yet cannot provide new ones. "They sit as apes do round a fire in the woods, but know not how to feed it with fresh sticks." Deeply significant in this connection is his judgment on

The Church.

Church, do you say? Look eighteen hundred years ago, in the stable at Bethlehem: an infant laid in a manger! Look, thou ass, and behold it; it is a fact—the most indubitable of facts; thou wilt thereby learn innumerable things. Jesus of Nazareth, and the life He led, and the death IIe died, does it teach thee nothing? Through this, as through a miraculous window, the heaven of martyr heroism, the "Divine depths of sorrow," of noble labor, and the unspeakable silent expanses of eternity, first in man's history disclose themselves. The admiration of all nobleness, Divine worship of Godlike nobleness, how universal it is in the history of man!

But mankind, that singular entity mankind, is like the fertilest, fluidest, most wondrous element, an element in which the strangest things crystallize themselves, and spread out in the most astounding growths. The event at Bethlehem was of the year one; but all years since that, eighteen hundred of them now, have been contributing new growth to it, and see, there it stands: the Church! Touching the earth with one small point; springing out of one small seed-grain, rising out therefrom, ever higher, ever broader, high as the heaven itself, broad till it overshadow the whole visible heaven and earth, and no star can be seen but through it. From such a seed-grain so has it grown: planted in the reverences and sacred

« 이전계속 »