« 이전계속 »
COLERIDGE AND 8TERLINO.
your peril do not try believing that." Such is his criterion of what must not be believed. Coleridge and Sterling would of course have indignantly denied that they forced themselves to believe anything which the light of their mind pronounced incredible; and the burden of proving insincerity lies, in each case, upon him who makes the charge.
Carlyle boldly affirms that Coleridge and Sterling had not fairly vanquished their doubts. The one, he would say, was an irresolute dreamer; the other he portrays as a brilliant but restless creature, who entered the Church of England because the mood of the moment, the influence of Archdeacon Hare, the mystification of his ideas by Coleridge, his own failure to find lodgment in any lay profession, and the bitter consequences of his foolish intermeddling with Spanish polities, made him fancy that he really accepted Church theology. "Coleridge's talk and speculation," says Carlyle, "was the emblem of himself; in it, as in him, a ray of heavenly inspiration struggled, in a tragically ineffectual degree, with the weakness of flesh and blood. He says once, he ' had skirted the howling deserts of infidelity;' this was evident enough; but he had not had the courage, in defiance of pain and danger, to press resolutely across said deserts to the new firm lands of faith beyond; he preferred to create logical fata morganas for himself on this hither side, and laboriously solace himself with these." As for Sterling, he told his own brother, long afterward, that his case, in taking orders, was like that of "a young lady who has tragically lost her lover, and is willing to be halfhoodwinked into a convent, or in any noble or quasi-noble way to escape from a world which has become intolerable." The ground, therefore, on which, justly or unjustly, Carlyle refuses permission to Coleridge or Sterling to abide in the old Churches is not that celestial gold may not yet be "dug there," but that neither the one nor the other really, rationally, honestly believed that it was the gold of heaven.
All this suggests two remarks—first, that one would like to hear Coleridge and John Sterling themselves on Carlyle's virtual allegation of their insincerity, and secondly, that, apart from all consideration of the circumstances of Coleridge and Sterling, we may challenge the justice of Carlyle's sweeping charges of insincerity against the Christian ministry and religious community in general. The touchstone which Carlyle applies, consciously or unconsciously, to earnestness and sincerity, is vehemence. He makes an exception, indeed, in favor of Goethe, whose procedure in respect of vehemence, and all kinds of heat verging on fanaticism, is directly the reverse of that of his panegyrist, these being in Goethe's eyes the infallible notes of a more or less distempered action of the human mind. But though Carlyle has extolled, in some of his most eloquent passages, Goethe's condor-like poise above the storm region, in the cloudless, windless blue of all-embracing sympathy and perfect tolerance, he has in practice been as unlike Goethe as possible. I can hardly conceive anything that would have affected Goethe with a keener sense of antipathy than the Latter-day Pamphlets, and certain parts of the Life of Sterling. Had Goethe lived to witness the later developments of his disciple's teaching, he would, I believe, have alleged them to be, in some essential respects, deviations from the fundamental principles of his own. The change of the old into the new is figured by Goethe, not under Carlyle's image of a burned-up edifice in the ruins of which you dig for, here and there, a piece of sterling gold or a gem of price, but under that of a dwelling gradually irradiated, in all its stones and timbers, by transforming light, until the whole becomes pure silver. Accordingly, Goethe delights in sympathetically realizing for himself types of Christian character; and not only refers in terms of profoundest reverence to Jesus Christ, but makes contributions of great value and unexceptionable orthodoxy to the exposition of Christian ethies. Goethe never GOETHE AND CARLYLE.
assails or renounces Christianity, but directs all his efforts to purge the popular creed from superstitious or inhuman characteristies, and to elevate its professors into that largeness of intellectual glance, and that breadth of moral nobleness, which befitted the religion that cannot die.
In all this the practice of Carlyle presents, I repeat, a striking contrast to that of his master. It is no doubt true that Carlyle never speaks, except in reverential terms, of Jesus Christ. He agrees with Goethe that Christianity is the supreme religion, and that the race cannot recede from it. And yet he never, so far as I know, alludes, except contemptuously, to those Christian writers who have made it their aim to show how the Christian religion may embrace within its compass all real truth. Take the instance before us—that of Coleridge. Even if Carlyle succeeds in showing that there is no practical value in Coleridge's distinction between reason and understanding, it has still to be considered whether, in his work, The Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit, Coleridge did not do good service by substituting for the old superstitious theory of inspiration, which embraced the unnatural conception of men reduced to mere automata, writing down the Scriptures like machines, the intelligent idea of a succession of men feeling and exemplifying the inspiration they embodied, and representing, in their life and writings, successive stages of the religious education of mankind.
Do we find, on examination, that Carlyle's view of the Christian ministry as obsolete, and bound to make way for men of letters, is practical and sagacious? I answer, No. In all ages hitherto the body of organized preachers of truth and performers of religious rites—in one word, the priesthood—have been recognized as playing a part which was of value in itself, and which was not superseded by the part played by the prophet. One of the main reasons, acknowledged by writers of all schools, why the old Hebrew system performed its inestimable service to the cause of spiritual civilization, was that the ordinary ministrations of the priest were in it harmoniously associated with the extraordinary ministrations of the prophet. The office of the prophet was more peculiar, honorable, and terrible than that of the priest; and the priesthood—the professional clergy—might prove false to the national faith, as in the days of Elijah, while the prophet risked his life in maintaining it. Since Carlyle insists strongly upon the perpetual existence of prophetic inspiration, and admits again and again that there is imperishable truth in Christianity, might not Coleridge have fairly urged that the clergy of the Christian Churches, on condition of their listening attentively to every accent of inspired moral genius, and reverently considering every demonstrated fact of science, could still do good service in their day and generation? No doubt Carlyle might reply that the Churches are fenced round with creeds and articles; but Coleridge might press him to mention where he has declared that a Christian clergy, not hedged in by creeds and articles, are justified in prosecuting their ministry—that is to say, in making the most of those symbols, which, on his own showing, are not to be cast aside until the sap and verdure of life have utterly gone from them. I am not aware that Carlyle could silence Coleridge by any definite information on this point.
But Coleridge might take up a still stronger position against Carlyle by asking why, in deference to inspiration in the present, he virtually declares the inspiration of the past to be so far beneath the level of contemporary progress, that sincere faith in it, on the part of the Christian clergy, has become incredible and preposterous. If John Sterling allowed himself to be " hoodwinked" into orders as a sentimental girl is decoyed into a convent, there is not a word to be said for him, and we must agree with Carlyle that his taking orders was "the extreme point of spiritual deflection and depression" in his career. But beforc we admit the validity of this precedent, STERLING AS CURATE.
as applied to the Christian clergy in general, we are bound to inquire what was the nature of the work which, while he acted as Archdeacon Hare's curate, Sterling performed. Let us read what Carlylo says on the subject. He quotes largely from Hare, but does not cast a shadow of suspicion on Hare's trustworthiness as a witness.
John Sterling As Curate.
By Mr. Hare's account, no priest of any Church could more fervently address himself to his functions than Sterling now did. He went about among the poor, the ignorant, and those that had need of help; zealously forwarded schools and beneficences, strove, with his whole might, to instruct and aid whosoever suffered consciously in body, or, still worse, unconsciously in mind. He had charged himself to make the Apostle Paul his model; the perils and voyagings, and ultimate martyrdom of Christian Paul, in those old ages, on the great scale, were to be translated into detail, and become the practical emblem of Christian Sterling on the coast of Sussex in this new age. "It would be no longer from Jerusalem to Damascus," writes Sterling, " to Arabia, to Derbe, Lystra, Ephesus, that he would travel; but each house of his appointed parish would be to him what each of those great cities was—a place where he would bend his whole being, and spend his heart for the conversion, purification, elevation of those under his influence. The whole man would be forever at work for this purpose; head, heart, knowledge, time, body, possessions, all would be directed to this end." A high enough model set before one—how to be realized! Sterling hoped to realize it, to struggle toward realizing it, in some small degree. This is Mr. Hare's report of him:
"He was continually devising some fresh scheme for improving the condition of the parish. His aim was to awaken the minds of the people, to arouse their conscience, to call forth their sense of moral responsibility, to make them feel their own sinfulness, their need of redemption, and thus lead them to a recognition of the Divine Love by which that redemption is offered to us. In visiting them he was diligent in all weathers, to the risk of his own health, which was greatly impaired thereby; and his gentleness and considerate care for the sick won their affection; so that, though his stay was very short, his name is still, after a dozen years, cherished by many."
flow beautiful would Sterling be in all this: rushing forward like a host toward victory; playing and pulsing like sunshine or soft lightning;