« السابقةمتابعة »
an able writer, the persuasiveness of a fine orator; the grave authority of a divine, and the shrewd sagacity of a politician. These qualities were often during a long life called into exercise, and, upon the whole, they were exercised for good. He was upon numerous occasions negotiator, adviser, mediator, in the civil and other wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants ; not seldom he was the reconciler of parties among the Reformed themselves. While Calvin lived, Beza attached himself to his person with what we are tempted to call a savage fidelity ; and when Calvin died, Beza attached himself to his memory with a fierce devotion. Beza, though not by nature of ungentle temper, yet, whenever his master's opinions are concerned, imbibes all his master's passions. For the opponents of Calvin he had no mercy in this world or the next; burning bere, as well as hereafter, according to his view, was their proper destiny: He wrote a book to prove it. He would have sacrificed their lives in Calvin's presence; he immolated their good names upon his tomb. He did not see the tortures of Servetus, but he fully justified them. We are not called on here to point out the inconsistency of such a principle with Protestantism; we are not called on to point out its worse than inconsistency ; we have to do only with events, and inferences that flow from them. The event in the present case is, that Beza issued a treatise to sustain the doctrine of persecution ; our inference from it is, that, so far as any man can become accountable for the errors of his age or of a system, Beza charged himself with the death of Servetus, and with all the misery which such a doctrine has ever caused. Still, although he did write in favor of killing heretics, we think, that, with the prophet's mantle, the disciple did not retain more than one third of the prophet's spirit.
Our general idea of Calvin's character 'may be gathered incidentally from what we have already written. We have said that he had greatness, but not the greatness which we can love. His intellect was of exceeding subtilty and strength ; but it was narrow, definitive, and hard. It had keenness and consecutiveness, but it was not high, broad, or suggestive. It was the intellect of a schoolman, not the intellect of a philosopher. It was aided by a memory equally extraordinary for accumulating and retaining ; into which all knowledge was gathered that had any affinity with its speculative tendencies; and in which, however multifarious, order
and arrangement placed it ever at command. The industry of Calvin was superhuman ; and the amount of mental work which he accomplished, not in occasional efforts, but in sustained regularity, is one of those marvels of fact, which, though setiled by evidence beyond doubt, seem still incredible, which transcend our conception, and yet compel our belief. His sincerity was unquestionably pure, and his consistency inflexible. His life was one of unmitigated employment; and even if his disposition inclined him, his avocations did not permit much social relaxation or much social companionship. His ideas of duty were almost ascetic, and in practice he was faithful to his ideas; so that if his conscience imposed a stern rule upon others, it imposed as stern a rule upon himself. His piety was genuine ; it was true to his own views of religion ; and in the estimate of personal character, we have no right to judge it by any other. He loved power, but he did not love money. Intolerant in opinions, in worldly concerns he was liberal. He coveted dominion, he obtained and he held it; but he was disinterested in all besides.
Calvin's intellect, we have observed, was energetic and distinct. But Calvin was defective in most of those qualities that adorn and enlarge, elevate and soften intellect. He was void of idealism and sympathy. Even in bis religious experience we find no aspirations, visions, strugglings, ardors, or ecstasies. We never find him, like Paul, looking back with strong but sad affection to his former brethren, while we observe him constantly stigmatizing the faith in which he was trained by terms of odium and rancor. Making every allowance for opposition to creeds supposed to be destructive, still a man of genial nature does not entirely cast off, in the utmost zeal of conversion, the associations that wound about his youth. Nor had Calvin personally any reason to be angry with the Church of his boyhood, or with its members. He was early in the enjoyment of a portion of its worldly goods ; and his abilities were fostered and protected in their first development by a generous and noble family of that Church. But we do not find in him, as we do in Paul, any deep-felt desires for interchange of heart even with the members of his later faith; nothing like those words of longing and affection that fill the Epistles of Paul with such inspirations of humanity. Neither do we ever discover in Calvin any of those mighty con
flicts between the higher will and the actual, which reveal to us in the great Apostle the compass and the grandeur of the spiritual life ; and as with the Reformer there are no conficts of the soul struggling in the flesh, so there are no rapt enjoyments that free it from the body and carry it in visions up to heaven. Poor as a spiritual man, he also fell short in all that makes the poetic or the social man. Outward nature was dumb to him, and blank. To say that he held not communion with the sounds and forms of creation ; that he went not beyond the veil that hides from the sensuous the deep things of the universe ; that he did not trace the latent analogies that link together the wondrous diversities of nature, and join them all by a living bond to thought ; that he did not question nature with cunning skill, and pluck out the heart of her mystery ; – to say this would imply, what we by no means intend respecting Calvin, a comparison of him with men of the higher imagination. We might test him by a lower order and find him wanting. He evinces no sense of beauty. The stars do not shine for him, or flowers grow; ocean and mountains, the glory and loveliness of skies, the changes of the day and the changes of the year,
sources of pleasure or illustration, seem as if to him they had no existence. It is rarely thus with men of the loftiest devotion ; thus it was not with Isaiah ; thus it was not with David. Calvin shows no liking for the arts. Painting, or music, or poetry, does not appear to have been among his enjoyments. Within the range of his acquaintance we find no painter, no musician, and Beza is the nearest approach to a poet. But before Beza saw him, he had repented of his poetry ; and, indeed, unless his translation of the Psalms be esteemed poetry, he never wrote any that he should not have repented of.
The influences of living society fell as barren on the heart of Calvin, as those of the arts and outward nature. We conceive of nothing free, cheerful, gladsome in his presence ; no pranks of childhood, and no joy of men. He is not one whose gown we can fancy children plucking at, to share his smiles. We can imagine near him no careless wit, no jestings, no songs, no merriment, no gay babble, no shaking of the sides heaving, from the irrepressible gladness of the heart, with gushings of delight that must have expression, that will not be silent. We never conceive of him as of objects at noontide, receiving the direct light from heaven,
VOL. XLIII. — 4th $. VOL. VIII. NO. II. 17
and rejoicing in its fulness ; sharing it with others, and not obscuring it. His presence, on the contrary, seems a perpetual shadow, and all within the range of it covered with gravity and gloom. The prophet of everlasting and infinite calamity to human souls, he is himself frigid, but not afflicted. His word to the mass of our race is a word of eternal death, yet his limbs do not tremble, and his eyes are not wet. Pallid, calm, and ghastly, he rises before our fancy as one fit to announce the funeral of the universe.
We will conclude this paper by giving the sum of our impressions. Supreme in the vigor of his intellect, Calvin was small in the compass of his sympathies. He was poor in sensibility, in fancy, in affection, in gentle associations ; and without these the scholar is but a machine of words, and the thinker but a machine of logic. Who ever feels towards Calvin as he does towards Luther ? Those manly, though often stormy, passions, that mingled in the life of the majestic German, endear him to our humanity ; for there always lie below them a benignity and sweetness of nature, that gleam through the tempest, and that shine out with softened lustre when the tempest ceases. All honorable antagonists of Luther speak now of him with respect, and sometimes with enthusiasm. They see in him a robust opponent, who gave desperate blows, but gave them bravely. His friends lose sight of his faults in the depth and breadth of the excellence that absorbs them. They behold a great heart panting in him ; often violent and often indignant, but big enough for a huge pity as well as a huge anger. We can picture Luther to ourselves melted with sorrow. see his broad bosom heaving with grief. We can see tears on his noble face; and we can feel that he is of our kindred. It is not thus that we feel about Calvin. Except in theological zeal and theological passions, he presents himself to our thoughts as a sombre and dogmatic intellect. We cannot set him before our fancies in woe or bliss ; we cannot picture him in weeping or laughter ; we cannot regard him as associating cordially with men in their daily life, interested in their occupations, sharing their emotions, entering into their afflictions, and brightened by their pleasures. Taken from the palpable events of his biography, we cannot otherwise shape his existence to our minds than as the personification of his system, the incarnation of the Institutes.
In some future paper, we shall examine the connection of Calvin with Servetus.
1847.) Relation of Liberal Christianity to our Age. 187
Art. II. – RELATION OF LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY TO
OUR AGE AND COUNTRY.
[An Address, delivered before the Ministerial Conference in Boston, May
26, 1847. By Rev. Samuel BARRETT.] As a class of Christians, we are devoted, in part, to a peculiar work. In our distinctive character and associated capacity, we are pledged, as to other duties, so to the correcting of an erroneous theology. Unlike all other sects, with the exception of two or three, we seek to spread a purified Gospel. Amid the confusion of many conflicting creeds, all of which we regard as the product of human invention, it is our aim and endeavour to bring back the minds of men to the few great principles which, proceeding from the divine fulness of the Master, Jesus, converted the souls of the first disciples ; which have sustained the vitality of the Christian system in every age; which our own times especially need, io disarm skepticism and conduct the process of social regeneration ; and which alone, we believe, can fulfil to the future the special promise of the Saviour respecting his Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," and the hope inspired by his teachings in general, that the Gospel will sanctify and save the world. We feel, or think we should feel, that we have a mission, though in character somewhat different from, yet in obligation not less sacred than, that of the apostles themselves ; the mission which devolves on all who, in possession of truth, can aid the progress of thought, and, breathing the spirit of charity, are fitted to win men to the love of their Father in heaven and of their brethren on earth.
Not unnatural, therefore, is it, nor altogether useless, I would fain think, will it be for us, to consider the relation of Liberal Christianity to our age and country, the circumstances and events which do or will affect that relation, and particularly such tendencies of the times, if such there be, as are suited to encourage the hopes and quicken the efforts of ministers whose religion and lot and duties are like our own.
I have used ihe epithet Liberal. The word Unitarian might have been employed. Both of them well enough suit me. But it is a matter of little moment whether or not we care often to designate our faith by any name except that of Christian, compared with the fact that we all agree in pro