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The most instructive works, and the most momentous events, when two years old, are passed by and forgotten. Tar-water, metallic tractors, electricity, galvanism, mustard-seed, respirators, brandy and salt, homeopathy, hydropathy, twelve ounce doctors, St. John Long, Morrison, each in rapid turn, occupy the throne of medicine, and despotically sacrifice some hecatombs of lives of their free, self-devoting subjects.
And the love of truth is lost in this reckless, heartless, headless search after what is new and exciting. Josephus notices that the Greeks were not given to truth. “Græcia mendax” fell into a gibe and a proverb. The Greeks had received many truths historically, such as the origin of the world, the rotundity of the globe, the central position of the sun, and others ;- but they philosophized themselves out of the knowledge and belief; and having reasoned everything backwards and forwards, and over and over again, and found that every opinion might be supported by argument, but that none could be made conclusive, they became reckless of reality and truth, as if there were no such thing in effect; and wearied with effort and excitement, and fruitless hopes, and vain discussions, settled at length into a sceptical indifferentism. We are approaching towards the same end, by a similar process.
But one marked distortion of feature, under this head, which likens us to the Grecian monster, is in respect of artistical falsehood. It is of the essence of the fine arts, and the beau ideal, to deal in untruth. This taste and acquirement we boastfully borrow from Greece; and it has tended as much as anything, from
the beginning, to draw us into kindred and unison with the Græcia mendax.
The very profession of the fine arts, of poetry, painting, sculpture, the drama, is to misrepresent nature; and oratory also and rhetoric, which is “the chair of lies," bring the falsehood down to practice, and the business of life. Unities and exaggerations, of time and place, and light and colour, are required, which nature does not present. We are as false in requiring exaggeration of shade, as the Chinese in using none. Uniformity in feature and face is resorted to in sculpture, which are not found in the real example. High foreheads are pourtrayed and exaggerated, to suit an opinion, so as to falsify philosophical truth. Great minds are put into tall bodies; giving the lie to general experience. St. Paul is painted as a tall man, giving the lie to sacred history. So orators, generals, statesmen, emperors, philosophers, are made men of great stature. The most ridiculous instance is that of making a poet taller than his companions.
Musæum ante omnes; medium nam plurima turba
Hunc habet, atque humeris extantem suspicit altis.t All these things are deliberately and studiously practised, and imitated from the approved example of Greece; and the world admire and doat on them; and the artists obey the servile tastes and dicta of their patrons, and pride and pique themselves upon the purity and truth of their own work, and have not the sense and understanding to say, “is there not a lie in my right hand ?" Even histories are written to support opinions, and for
+ Virgil. Æneid, 6, 667.
display, and as exhibitions of fine writing, and not as plain narratives of facts; being in this respect also imitations of the Greeks, and opposite to the spirit and practice of the Asiatic nations. They are made exercises of skill and trials of ingenuity, to see how far facts may be accumulated and marshalled, to support particular theories and prejudices of parties. Josephus says, in like manner, of the Grecian historians, “ that they were not solicitous for the discovery of truth.”*
This habit of mind, thus in alliance with falsehood, is praised by us, and sought after as the standard of truth in taste; and the like taste and spirit extends to our habits of judgment in other subjects. Our principles of reasoning become artificial as our tastes in the fine arts, and as nearly bordering upon falsehood. An artificial refinement of mind, and a classical education and exercise in the habits of thought and reasoning, are considered an essential preparation for the acquisition of knowledge, and the discovery of the highest truth. A man must have a gentlemanly education to fit him for the true study and discernment of Christianity. That is, a falseness of mind is the best preparative for truth. No wonder that such a system should give the lie to the words of Gospel truth, and say, “ Many wise after the flesh, many mighty, many noble are called.” “ It is easier for the rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” It is no wonder, that the teachers and observers of such a system, should have assumed to them selves the key of knowledge; and should neither enter
Josephus con. Apion. bk. 1, s. 5.
in themselves, and should hinder those who would enter in. The simplicity of the Gospel and the Cross is again to us Greeks foolishness. *
If Jesus Christ were to appear again among us in poor and lowly guise, and walking in a humble station of life, is it likely that we should recognize him?
* The Quakers have, more than others in modern times, acknowledged the ability of the poor to comprehend the whole of Christianity ;-—and they reject the notion of using classical literature in aid of it. They say,
men of deep learning know frequently less of spiritual Christianity than those of the poor who are scarcely able to read the Scriptures.” They contend, that “ if the Scriptures were the most vitally understood by those of the most learning, then the dispensations of God would be partial, inasmuch as he would have excluded the poor from the highest enjoyment of which the nature of man is susceptible, and from the means of their eternal salvation.”
They reject all school divinity, as necessarily connected with the ministry. They believe that if a knowledge of Christianity had been obtainable by the acquisition of the Greek and Roman languages, and through the medium of the Greek and Roman philosophers, the Greeks and Romans themselves had been the best proficients in it; whereas the Gospel was only foolishness to many of these. They say, with St. Paul to the Colossians, “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.' And they say with the same Apostle to Timothy, “ O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith.'"
(1 Tim. vi. 20, 21.) “ We find Justin the Martyr, a Platonic philosopher, but who was afterwards one of the earliest Christian writers after the apostles, and other learned men after him down to Chrysostom, laying aside their learning and their philosophy for the school of Christ. The first authors of the Reformation also contended for this doctrine. Luther and Calvin, both of them, supported it. Wickliff, the first Reformer of the English Church, and Tyndal the Martyr, the first translator of the Bible into the English language, supported it also. In 1652, Sydrach Simpson, master of Pembroke
If Jesus Christ is to come again in the flesh, shall we receive and recognize him?
Will not our Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall come again, be denied in Christendom ?
Hall, in Cambridge, preached a sermon before the university, contending that the Universities corresponded to the schools of the prophets, and that human learning was an essential qualification for the priesthood. This sermon, however, was answered by William Dell, master of Caius College, in the same university; in which he stated, after having argued the point in question, that the universities did not correspond to the schools of the prophets, but to those of heathen men ; that Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras were more honoured there than Moses or Christ; that grammar, rhetoric, logic, ethics, physics, metaphysics, and the mathematics, were not the instruments to be used in the promotion or the defence of the Gospel; that Christian schools had originally brought men from heathenism to Christianity, but that university schools were like to carry men from Christianity to heathenism again.”—Clarkson's Portraiture of Quakerism, vol. ii. 134, 135, 249, ed. 1807.
Unhappily the Quakers have been departing from some of their best principles, of simplicity in education and manners; and hence they have given scope to the dangerous points in their system to develope themselves, which are leading many of them into infidelity.