صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

as wide's the heavens, to tak’ the worn crater, and the mair sinner, the mair welcome, - hame to His verra heart. Gin' (it) a body wad leave a' that, an' jist get fowk persuadit to speak a word or twa to God Him lane, the loss, in my opinyan, wad be unco sma', an' the gain verra great."

This is said with reference to the Calvinistic doctrine of imputed righteousness, but its application to the theological views of David's neighbours generally is neither doubtful por difficult. David felt that practically his views and theirs came to much the same thing. So they would, in Scotland; so they would not, in England; and Mr. MacDonald shows a fine sense of the difference between Calvinism as apprehended in England and Calvinism as apprehended in Scotland, when he represents David Elginbrod as remaining tolerant and silent in respect to a system from which, as laid down in the Confession of Faith, he would vehemently dissent. An Englishman, reading what we have quoted from the Confession, infers from the words, or rather understands them actually to say, that the tidings of salvation through Christ Jesus are not to be proclaimed freely and promiscuously to mankind. If only a definite and unchangeable number can be saved, is it not, he asks, mere mockery to cry out, “Whosoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely ?' The Scotchman is probably not less logical than the Englishman, but he is more reflective; and, pausing for a moment before he replies, he decides that neither mockery nor mendacity is necessarily involved in the position. In the first place, the preacher does not know whom God has chosen, and he has not the slightest ground for presuming that any man, woman, or child in his audience is not numbered with the blessed. In the second place, it was clearly stated by Calvin, and is insisted npon by the best Calvinistic theologians of Scotland, that in preaching the Gospel, regard is to be had to Scriptural example and to the latitude of Scriptural offers, without reference to what is called the decretive or secret will of God. Lastly, it will be found by all who think out the subject that, since the eternal destiny of God's creatures is fixed and foreknown only in the sense in which all conceivable events, past, present, and future, are fixed and foreknown, there is no reason deducible from the strictest logical formula of Calvinism, why a man should not, without question asked, open his heart to Christ and accept salvation, which would not be equally valid to prevent him from sowing his field, or starting on a journey, or forming any resolution whatever. The practical result is that, in what is generally held to be the most Calvinistic country in Europe, the form of preaching which an Englishınan commonly understands by Calvinism, that is to say, the express limitation of the Gospel The Influence of Calvinism.

7

man.

offer to a few, is all but banished from the pulpit. The Chalmerses, Guthries, Cairds, Macleods, make offer of salvation in the name of Christ as freely, fully, cordially, as was ever done by John Wesley. It was this fact that was present to the mind of David Elginbrod; but only an author who had a nicely accurate acquaintance with modes of thought and feeling in Scotland would have represented it as familiar to his mind. No doubt the faith of Elgin brod goes farther than any Calvinist would go; he believes in universal salvation, though believing at the same time in the punishment of sin; but his faith in the ultimate salvation of all does not disturb his tolerance of what is the vital and energetic side of Scotch Calvinism, namely, its insistence upon the sovereignty of God, and its free and earnest offers of salvation.

For the rest, it must be admitted that David Elginbrod is to some extent an ideal and featureless portrait.

He is an illumination in pure colours upon glass, rather than a living

He wants bone. Set him beside Davie Deans, and the lack of rugged force in the characterization, as compared with that of Scott, cannot fail to be remarked. We do not see him enough in action, and what we have of his talk is too much in the way of set speeches. His prayers are exceedingly beautiful One evening, when he had been gazing at the stars, his prayer at the family altar is this :

0 Thou wha keeps the stars alicht, an' our souls burnin' wi' a licht aboon that o' the stars, grant that they may shine afore Thee as the stars for ever and ever. An' as Tbou hauds the stars burnin' a' the nicht, whan there's no man to see, so haud Thou the light burnin' in our souls, whan we see neither Thee nor it, but are buried in the grave o' sleep and forgetfu’ness. Be Thou by us, even as a mother sits by the bedside o' her ailin' wean (child) a' the long nicht ; only be Thou nearer to us, even in our verra souls, an’ watch ower the warl' o' dreams that they make for themsel's. Grant that more an’ more thoughts o' Thy thinking may come into our hearts day by day, till there shall be at last an open road atween Thee and us, an' Thy angels may ascend and descend upon us, so that we may be in Thy heaven, e'en while we are upo' thy earth. Amen.'

For at least two centuries the Calvinistic theology has played an important and a curiously interesting part in the moral and intellectual education of the Scotch. It was the opinion of Hugh Miller, one of the best of judges, that the influence of this theology in the pulpit and out of it has done more than aught else to give his countrymen that habit of cool and penetrating thought, that reflective sagacity and firmness of intellectual fibre, for which they are famed throughout the

world. The grand point in education, whether of child or adult, is to bring the faculties into energetic action ; and the species of mental activity to which Calvinism has prompted the Scotch is of no ignoble or trivial kind. Under various forms, in philosophy, in poetry, in mythological dream, in theological system, substantially one grand problem has pressed for solution upon

the heart and brain of man. In the tents of Chaldaean sheiks, beneath the starry heavens, before Job was born ; in the great old schools of Greek philosophy; in the night of Milton's blindness, when the vision of earth had faded, that the vision of heaven might beam more bright; in the mason-lodge of Tarbolton village, where Dr. Hornbook tackled the new* fangled notions of an eloquent, dark-eyed lad, named Robert Burns; around ten thousand Scottish firesides in the evening, when a neighbour stepped in to have a 'crack;' the one ancient difficulty of justifying the ways of God to man,' and making out how love can be the law of the universe, when so palpably and terribly, wherever human eye can reach, the wages of

sin is death,' has been discussed. It is a question which resolves itself into that other, of the origin of evil, which all men have now seen to be illimitable and interminable; and it is not bold, either in the way of faith or of scepticism, to affirm, at the present time of day, that it will never be finally settled in this world. Perhaps the urgent and practical spirit of the modern age, with its wealth of new facts fresh from the store-bouses of nature, may divert the minds of our children from speculative questions which have interested all past generations. But this is by no means certain ; and it is certain that, in merely apprehending the alternative positions in those oldworld controversies, in considering the arguments on one side and the other, the intellectual faculties are powerfully exercised.

But it is not merely as affording an opportunity for the gymnastic play of the mind that Calvinism figures in George MacDonald's descriptions of Scottish character and manners. With a more fine and subtle touch he shows it as incidentally colouring and modifying the course of life, and bringing out the humours of character. The interview between Mr. Cowie, a simple-minded pastor, and Annie, a girl only a few years removed from infancy, whose father had recently died, is an example of this sort. Annie had gone to hear sermon in one of those seceding chapels in which a more rigid Calvinism might generally be counted upon than was furnished in the parish church. Annie is the first speaker. *He preached a gran' sermon, sir.

But

be able to bide myseľ sin'syne. For I doubt I'm ane oʻthe wicked ’at God lates, and I'll never win to heaven at a', for I canna help forgettin' Him

Dicine and Human Fatherhood.

9

whiles. An' the wicked 'll be turned into hell, and a' the nations that forget God. That was his text, sir. And I canna bide it.

In the bosom of the good man rose a gentle indignation against the schismatics who had thus terrified and bewildered that sacred being, a maid-child. But what could he say? He thought for a moment, and betook himself, in his perplexity, to his common sense.

* You haven't forgotten your father, have you Annie ?' said he. 'I think about him maist ilka day,' answered Annie.

'B'it there comes a day now and then when you don't think much about him, does there not?'

“Yes, sir.

• Do you think he would be angry with his child because she was 80 much taken up with her books or her play ?' • I never play at anything, sir.'

Well— with learning songs to say to Alec Forbes and Willie MacWha—do you thin is he would be angry that you didn't think about him that day, especially when you can't see him ?' • 'Deed no, sir. He wadna be sae sair upo' me as that.' What would he

say,
do

you think?'
*Gin Mr Bruce were to cast it up to me, he wad say,

“ Lat alane the lassie. She'll think about me the morn-time eneuch.”'

. Well, don't you think your Father in heaven would say the same?'

• Maybe He micht, sir. But ye see my father was my ain father, and wad mak' the best o' me.'

. And is not God kinder than your father?'
• He canna weel be that, sir. And there's the Scripter.'
* But He sent His only Son to die for us.'
'Ay-for the eleck, sir,' returned the little theologian.

* Now this was more than Mr. Cowie was well prepared to meet, for certainly this terrible doctrine was perfectly developed in the creed of the Scotch Church ; the assembly of divines having sat upon the Scripture egg till they had hatched it in their own likeness. Poor Mr. Cowie ! There were the girl-eyes, blue and hazy, with tearful questions, looking at him hungrily. ( starving little brothers and sisters! God does love you, and all shall be, and therefore is, well. But the minister could not say this, gladly as he would have said it if he could; and the only result of his efforts to find a suitable reply was, that he lost his temper—not with Annie, but with the doctrine of election.

‘Gang ye haine, Annie, my bairn,' said he, talking Scotch now, ' and dinna trouble yer heid about election, and a that. It's no' a canny doctrine. No mortal man could ever win at the bottom of it. I'm thinkin' we haena muckle to do wi't. Gang hame, dawtie, and say yer prayers to be preserved frae the wiles o' Sawtan. There's a sixpence to ye.'

His kind heart was sorely grieved that all it could give was money. She had asked for bread, and he had but a stone, as he thought, to give her. So he gave it her with shame. He might, however, have

reversed the words of St. Peter, saying, 'Spiritual aid I have none, but such as I have give I thee ;' and so offered her the sixpence. But, for my part, I think the sixpence had more of bread in it than any theology he might have been expected to have at hand ; for, so given, it was the symbol and the sign of love, which is the heart of the Divine theology.'

Little Red Riding Hood, agitated in the deeps of her small being by the fear of impending damnation, on account of her exclusion from the number of the ‘eleck, and presenting herself to her parish clergyman for consolation, is a figure new to literary art and not without interest. It is a figure which George MacDonald may easily have drawn from life. The worst practical effect of high Calvinistic preaching is that it leads precisely the most fine, tender, and humble souls into mazes of agonised self-questioning. Reckless men and women, of strong animal propensities, put the matter aside with careless fatalism. If they must be damned, they must; if the elect, they will be effectually called some day; the whole affair they leave in other hands. Persons of less frank and hardy disposition, but perhaps a profounder and baser selfishness, have no great difficulty in satisfying themselves, after a period of real or affected mental suffering, that they are of the elect; and, though they are henceforth generally moral, and their zeal in missionary and philanthropic enterprises may be counted on, there is to the last a tang of selfishness in their religion, and one duty in which they take special delight is that of sympathising with God's judgments upon all who are not of the peculiar people. But the conscientious and humble-minded child, and the young man or young woman of specially sensitive, self-accusing, sympathetic, and tender disposition, are apt to be tortured with doubts, which to them seem profane, respecting the benevolence of God to His creatures in general, and are prone to the belief that they in particular are not among the chosen. One of the most delicate, kindly, innocent, and beautiful natures that ever existed was that of William Cowper; and it is impossible not to see that it was the modesty, the noble diffidence, the selfdepreciation of the man, which made it impossible for him to believe that, though others might be saved, he could be anything but a castaway. In the case of Cowper, a liability to mental disease existed from the first; but minds, like bodies, of delicate and exquisite organization, are specially liable to derangement; and there are probably few earnest Calvinistic pastors, either in England or in Scotland, who have not been perplexed and distressed to find that precisely those of their Hock in whom the child-nature most prevailed, and whose emotions were most tremulously tender and true, had the

« السابقةمتابعة »