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We are compelled by the facts to believe that it has not, and cannot, neutralize the general tendency of the education given; we cannot, therefore, see any just ground for the expectation that there will be any other result, so long as the foundation-stone of that education is rigid exclusion of the Bible. And here we must emphatically ask, if such be the fruit gathered from years of this higher education, with access to English literature, and some reflected light of Christian truth contained therein, what hope is there that the necessarily elementary education of the lower classes, debarred from even this reflected light, should yield any better result? Is it the part of a wise and enlightened statesmanship to sow the seeds of infidelity broadcast, and let loose the passions of men free from all restraint; or can we from such a course expect to secure the moral and social elevation of India ?
May we not, in conclusion, appeal to the Christian men and women of England, whether the time has not arrived for them to enforce upon the Government of India the paramount duty of combining with education sound moral instruction, as that which can alone make national education a blessing, and avert from India the bane and curse of universal and demoralizing infidelity ?
SHAIRP'S STUDIES IN POETRY AND PHILOSOPHY. Studies in Poetry and Philosophy. By T. 0. Shairp, Professor
of Humanity, St. Andrews. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas. 1868.
SOME months ago, there was a report that the Eddystone lighthouse had been swept away. When it spread throughout England, men's hearts failed within them for fear. Fathers and husbands, sons and daughters, were traversing the seas from all quarters of the earth; their advent was hourly expected ; the extinction of that light might have been to multitudes the extinction of all earthly hope and joy. But the rumour was unfounded; the wild waters of the Atlantic had surged round its base; the stormy winds had lifted up the waves above it, but had not prevailed to extinguish its flashing signals; it was left as a beacon to the mariner, and gradually the ocean swept past it as of old, heaving and tossing, but harmless and subdued. Some temporary obscuration had occurred when the storm was at its height; some few perhaps made shipwreck in the darkness where they had looked for light; but whatever was the damage, it was not permanent, the losses,
was left not prerany winds of the Ain But the multitude ted;
t it as Deacon to te, extinlifted un', had so rumour the
if any, were individual, sore and grievous in particular cases, but not affecting national welfare or England's greatness. Somewhat the same, we believe, is the posture of our beloved Church in the present crisis. Furious storms are raging around it, and ever and anon anxious thoughts for its permanence fill the mind, and evoke the prayers, of those who love the walls of our Zion. It may not be amiss, in such a season of trial and conflict, to look back as well as forward.
It was in the midst of a hurricane of opinions the most wild and conflicting, that the Founders of the “ Christian Observer" addressed themselves to the work before them. Like the winds let forth from the cave of Æolus, these opinions had swept before them thrones and altars, dominations, principalities, and powers. In France, Christianity itself had suffered total eclipse, and very ineffectual was the light which it beamed forth amongst ourselves; dogmatic theology was a thing of the past, and morality was inculcated in its stead, to an extent which might have satisfied the fancies of the broadest of modern Broad Churchmen. We do not intend to expatiate upon this, nor to trace the progress of religious revival which took place in the midst of all this confusion and anarchy, as the question has been recently alluded to in our pages. The subject must ever in its details be interesting to English Christians, but many must be familiar with it. With some it must be a matter of household and family tradition, in which, if so minded, they may rejoice for the honour put by God upon their forefathers. It is with another and totally different aspect of the matter that we propose to deal in the present article, affording grounds for encouragement in the present crisis, and which can be amply illustrated from the interesting volume of Professor Shairp, which we introduce to the notice of our readers.
What, then, is the attitude assumed by a large number of literary and scientific men of the present day towards Christianity? As a rule, it may be said, they eschew the scurrility and blasphemy which were so conspicuous in the writings of the last century,-at any rate, they have not reached that point yet. Occasionally there are manifestations of such a spirit, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak; but such is not the general tone. The prevailing attempt is to ignore Christianity as a matter wholly superfluous; as a creed out-worn, which has had its day, and which, in common with other systems of the past, is to be laid aside as inconsistent with the enlightenment of the times. The existence of a God, the Divine nature of our blessed Lord, the eternity of punishment, the efficacy of prayer, the inspiration of the Bible, are more or less impugned, and the maintenance of such tenets is Vol. 68.-No. 377.
held to be unworthy of a philosophical mind. Some creed not yet apparently agreed upon, or no creed, is to be substituted for the belief of past ages. Meanwhile a supercilious toleration is extended to Christianity, which is left standing, as we see empty houses awaiting their demolition when some new railway is to pass over their site. What the result may be in due season, when such doctrines shall have permeated through the masses and given shape and tongue to the careless sensual infidelity which characterizes multitudes, it would be hard to predict with certainty. All we know at present is, that the fathers are eating sour grapes; and it is a conclusion which has met with its fulfilment in time past, that the children's teeth will be set on edge.
Now, unquestionably, to many of the more intellectual and accomplished of the rising generation it is a stumbling block that so many, confessedly their superiors in learning and scientific acquirement, are thus contemptuously putting Christianity aside. Meanwhile, no pains are spared to instil into their minds that all the home training which they have received is weak and womanish ; and the temptation is great to a clever youth, when he is invited to take his seat in the high places and deliver his judgment on the value of the credentials which Christianity propounds. Works written with a confessedly religious aim are put out of court as ex parte statements, the productions of men whose minds are saturated with decaying superstitions. Religion and religious things are held to be a weariness; and where the heart is not given to God, we cannot marvel that such views find ready acceptance. It is free, it is manly, it is intellectual, it is philosophical, to elaborate new systems which shall accord with a spirit of progress and the gradual advancement of mankind in knowledge and virtue. How, then, is this difficulty to be met ? We know of no sovereign remedy for such delusions but the grace of God and the communication of the gifts of His Holy Spirit. These gifts are promised in answer to prayer, and the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man or a righteous woman availeth much both for themselves and others. These things, however, lie out of the reach of the careless and irreligious, and it often would be impossible to make such comprehend the value and the efficacy of them.
We are, however, told in Scripture, that when suitable opportunity offers we are to "answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” When, then, the modern infidel would attempt to persuade us that all wisdom is in him and his compeers, that none but the weak and ignorant are capable of submitting to the doctrines of Christianity, and that the result of the rejection of religious teaching will be like passing from a state of bondage into freedom and from darkness into light, it may be worth while to enquire whether these things, judged in an impartial spirit, are so; still more, whether they have indeed been so. For the discussion of such a subject, Professor Shairp’s volume is calculated to be very useful; and although we differ with him in many important points as to the men and the subjects which he dilates upon, we on that account all the more readily avail ourselves of his valuable and interesting statements. “On all hands,” he says, “ this is proclaimed to be an age of disintegration, when all old things must either be reconstructed or disappear; an uneasy, restless searching after something larger and more satisfying is no doubt visible on the surface both of books and society." In this opinion most persons will coincide; so far, at any rate, that such proclamation is loudly made, and that with many the wish is father to the thought. He then goes on to ask whether, in this mood of men's minds, something may not be learnt from the experience of Wordsworth and Coleridge? They were, in his judgment, two men of the most original genius and of the amplest power that have arisen in England for a century and more. Born into an age fuller of anarchic change than our own, they threw themselves fearlessly on the times ; broke with old faiths and institutions, in search of truth, as he terms it; set their faces to the wilderness, and, after sojourning there for a season, came out on the other side and found peace. He adds, “To a sense-bound age, rejoicing in a mechanical philosophy, they came speaking from the soul to the soul. Younger men, one by one, turned towards them, and found in their teaching that which at once called out and satisfied their aspirations as no other writings of that time did. Whatever is best, deepest, most spiritual in the thinking and feeling of the last thirty years, is either their product, or akin to it. But now, again, the recoil has come, and we are once more in the midst of a way of thinking which excludes the spiritual.” We have quoted the foregoing passages, which embody Professor Shairp's views; and as these two great men unquestionably did exercise influence over many minds, the circumstances and results of their career, as related by Mr. Shairp, may well engage our attention.
In the judgment of his mother, a wise and pious woman, who died when he was eight years old, William Words. worth was the only one of her children about whom she felt anxious. She foresaw that he would be remarkable either for good or evil. He was a wayward and headstrong boy ; his school education most desultory, but admirably adapted for the future poet. At Cambridge his career was wholly -undistinguished; he left it with awakened powers, but no special turn for any profession. At this period of life he was a patriot and a republican, longing for a government of equal rights and individual worth. His whole hopes were staked upon the French Revolution; he anticipated a time when abject poverty was to disappear, and equality to bring in a golden age of happiness and virtue. He was in Paris in 1792, when Robespierre was in power. Years afterwards, his dreams were troubled by ghastly visions of scaffolds hung with innocent victims, or of crowds ready for butchery, and mad with the levity of despair. In his sleep he seemed pleading in vain before the savage tribunal, from whom he hardly escaped, having been recalled to England by what he afterwards owned to be a gracious Providence. Still he clung to his republican faith and his hopes of the revolutionary cause. In answer to all taunts he retorted that the excesses of which the French were guilty were only the overflow of a reservoir of guilt which bad been filling up for centuries by the wrongdoing of kings and nobles. At length, overwhelmed with shame and despondency at the shipwreck of his golden dreams, he turned to probe the foundation on which all society rests. Not only institutions, customs, law, but even the grounds of moral obligation and distinctions of right and wrong disappeared. Demanding formal proof and finding none, he abandoned moral questions in despair. Professor Shairp considers that we are not wrong in supposing that he grew sceptical of all those higher faiths which cannot be demonstrably proved. Such was Wordsworth at the age of twenty-three; a wild republican, a religious sceptic; in theory, “ the grounds of moral obligation, and distinctions of right and wrong" for him had no existence, although he seems to have been mercifully preserved from reducing his theory to practice.
In his great poem, “The Excursion," we have a record of these early mental conflicts. In the following extract Wordsworth's argument is propounded by Professor Shairp, and the manner in which the problem is dealt with.
“A being like the Solitary, by domestic bereavement, and by ardent hopes of the first French Revolution, too rudely disappointed, driven into scepticism and despondence-how can such a one win his way back to sympathy with man, and to faith in God? The outward circumstances of such a subject may vary, but itself is of perennial import. French Revolutions may not repeat themselves with every generation, but unbelieving cynicism is an evil of continual recurrence-an evil which is not checked by, but would rather seem increasingly to attend on, our much-vaunted march of mind. As to the poet's way of dealing with the problem, there is ground for the disappointment which many have felt, that the truths of revelation, though everywhere acknowledged, are nowhere brought promi