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at all, in any sense of the word belief,no belief but one definable as mere theoretic moonshine, which would never stand the wind and weather of fact." p. 164.
Evidence of the struggle that was going on between a belief in the Gospel of our blessed Saviour, and in that according to Goethe, may be traced in the following extracts from a letter to Carlyle :
"As to reading, I have been looking at Goethe,-much as a shying horse looks at a post. In truth I am afraid of him. I enjoy and admire him so much, and feel I could easily be tempted to go along with him. .. A thoroughly, nay, intensely pagan life. I never take him up without an inward check, as if I were trying some forbidden spell." p. 193.
The subjoined extract from a letter to his little son, affords us also further melancholy proof of the knowledge that was in him,-not, however, as constituting the firm rock on which he had built his house, which, as we shall see, falls when the storm comes, the rains descend, and the floods rise
"If you try to be better for all you read, as well as wiser, you will find books a great help towards goodness as well as knowledge, and above all other books, the Bible; which tells us of the will of God, and of the love of Jesus Christ towards God and men."
Assuredly this is but meagre counsel for a christian minister to give his son. How much more hopeful, both for father and son, would have been the direction to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit in implanting and perfecting repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. "Poor Sterling," he would have his boy, "try to be better" by reading books. Many an unlettered saint is far better by the hearing of the Word alone.
We meet with names among the most intimate friends of his latter time, which are now before the world under aspects different from what evangelical Christianity points out as the best for the hour of death. Strauss' work is often in his hands, and has its effects on his unstable mind. But we draw to the end.
What loss of all confidence, what dreary hopelessness, is faintly conveyed in the following passage from the last letter received by Thomas Carlyle from the dying Sterling :
"I tread the common road into the great darkness, without any thought of fear, and with very much of hope. With regard tainty indeed I have none. to you and me I cannot begin to write; having nothing for it but to keep shut the lid of those secrets with all the iron weights that are in my power. Towards me it is still more true than towards England, that no man has been and done like you. Heaven bless you! If I can lend you a hand when THERE, that will not be wanting. It is all very strange, but not one hundredth part so sad as it seems to the standers-by." p. 33 1.
Contrast such a letter of this "christian" minister with the letter of one of the first christian minister,-formerly his own model,-“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me, a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day." How different the conclusion to which we now arrive! "Surely it is an evil thing, and very bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God." Such was the reflection which the life of Sterling suggests to our mind, equally applicable to the Jews of old and to Christians now.
"Poor Sterling!" as his biographer repeatedly apostrophises him,-aye, and "poor" Carlyle, and "poor" every one who has no part in the riches of Christ, who cannot in his dying hours look to the cross of Christ, and see all his sins and sorrows nailed there,-who cannot, rejoicing in justification by faith, and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, look up to God as his reconciled Father through the atonement of Christ.
John Sterling's literary labours, like his whole life, were desultory, discursive, few,-one novel, two or three indifferent poems, and sundry contributions to magazines. In all human attributes, most attractive, and it may be said lovable, was his character. If any doubt had existed on the fact or the extent of scepticism in
this bright human intelligence, Thomas Carlyle has now removed it; the biographer has torn off all disguises, and has exposed to view a melancholy wreck,a fearful and lasting beacon, to endure so long as the writings of this biographer shall last, which, for this particular occasion, we fear will be longer than we could have wished.
This biography itself, -as a literary work, we may remark that it has less of the author's flagrant faults of corrupt Germano-English than some other of his works; for the matter, it has in the same proportion, more than any work by the author, an unblushing avowal of disbelief: it expresses no avowal of belief in any thing, unless it be the author's supreme contempt of every one's opinions but his own, a towering assumption of superiority to all creeds, an implicit confidence in his own notion that all creeds are but forms of cant. It would seem that the bolder the sceptical scorn, the less need of ambiguous phraseology. This book is partly a contradiction of some of Carlyle's former writings, while it is a clearer development of sentiments hitherto couched in obscure verbiage; e. g. it contrasts with the "Letters and Speeches of Cromwell;" it has a relation to "Sartor Resartus." The admirers of Mr. Carlyle's writings have always felt perplexed to know what opinions, if any, the author really held upon religion; there can henceforth be little doubt upon this point. In this last production of his pen he has removed the mask, and avowed, even claimed, his share of that teaching which resulted in the cheerless prospect of death that Sterling so faithfully described from his own feelings as the natural fruit of cold intellectual scepticism.
Mr. Carlyle's writings may have roused many from idleness, or frivolity, to the manly performance of their worldly duties; they here, however, furnish evidence that mere earnestness in work, unless under the controul of the highest motives and principles, is nothing more than walking in a vain shadow, how completely soever Mr. Thomas Carlyle may suc
ceed in disguising the fact by peculiarities and force of style. This truth we would fain hope that the author may himself yet discover, and live to apply his great powers of mind to the effecting of some degree of reparation for the incalculable errors fostered and promulgated by his writings,— in none so openly as in this essentially lamentable and bad book.
MAN HIS RELIGION AND HIS WORLD. By the REV. HORATIUS BONAR. pp. 238. London: Nisbet & Co. The character of the above Work may be gathered from the following passage extracted from Mr. Bonar's preface:
"No minister of Christ can have had intercourse with the religious world," many dealings with his people, or much without being constrained to suspect that the shapes and phases of formalism or nominalism are far more varied and sub
tle than could at first have been believed. The false has a thousand gradations, each rising nearer and nearer to the true; the unreal takes on many guises so like the real; the forged so resembles the authentic; the stolen is so like that honestly obtained; the imitated is so like the original; the human so like the divine; that whilst he soon begins to suspect the hollowness and spuriousness of much that he sees, it is with exceeding difficulty that he can lay his finger on the exact line or point of difference, and say, 'Here is the root of bitterness-thus and thus it has sprung up.' "
Mr. Bonar illustrates these remarks by a very solemn anecdote, related by Krummacher :—
"It shews how very far a man may go in religion, while all is hollow; and this without any direct hypocrisy or wish to deceive.
"Several years ago there lived not far from us a very gifted preacher, who had, at the period of which we speak, for a considerable time, announced with great energy and success the word from the cross, and who, as we may suppose, had his share of enemies. One of his distaste for the truth, had long ceased to opponents, a man of information, from a frequent the church. One Sabbath morning he thought he would once more hear the stern man preach. He went to church
The preacher treated of the narrow way, which he made neither smaller nor wider than it is made in the Word of God. During the sermon, the visitor thinks
within himself- How is this ?-if what the man is saying be the truth, O my God, what will be the consequence ?' This thought cleaved to him. Wherever he went he heard the whisper in his heart-Is it truth or falsehood? At last he thought of going to the preacher to ask him, upon his conscience, if he was convinced of the truth of what he had asserted. 'Sir,' he accosts the preacher, 'I was one of your hearers a short time since, when you preached the only way of salvation. You have disturbed my inward peace, and I cannot refrain from asking you solemnly, before God, and upon your conscience, whether you can The minister prove your assertions.'
replies with decisive assurance, that he had spoken God's word, and consequently infallible truth. O my God!' exclaimed his visitor, 'is it thus ? Dear sir, what will become of us?' Of us, thinks the minister, rather startled; and repulsing the strange 'us' from his heart, he commences expounding to the querist the doctrine of redemption, and exhorts him to repentance and faith. But the latter, as if he had not heard a single syllable the preacher was saying, interrupts him and with increasing warmth repeats the anxious exclamation, 'If it is the truth, dear sir, I pray you, what shall we do ?' Terrified, the preacher staggers back. We, he thinks; what means this we? and striving to conceal the uneasiness and confusion of his heart, he begins anew to explain and exhort. Tears start to the eyes of his visitor, and, clasping his hands like one in despair, he exclaim with a voice that might have moved the very stones, 'Dear sir, if it is the truth, then we are lost!' The preacher stands pale and trembling, and his speech fails him. He casts his eyes to the ground, and then embracing his visitor, amid sobs, he says, My friend, down into the dust, and let us pray and wrestle,' They bend their knees, they pray, they embrace each other, and the stranger departs. The preacher locks himself up in his chamber, and on the Sabbath following he is indisposed, and unable to appear in the pulpit. The next Sabbath is the same. On the third, he appears before the congregation grief-worn and pale, yet with looks of joy, and commences his sermon with the affecting declaration that it was only now that he also had made his way through the narrow gate.'"
In this small volume Mr. Bonar enters upon a very searching examination of the different phases of religious profession, whether as exhibited in the direct opposites of character, in which men frame and express for themselves their own independent notions of the things pertaining to God and His worship,-as also in the slavish following of opinions and forms derived from mere hereditary prejudices, the force of education, or any similar unthinking principle of action :
"If we receive truth because our fathers received it, ours is a hereditary creed; if we receive it because the Church has transmitted it to us, it is a traditional creed; if we receive it because of its venerable age, it is an antiquarian creed; if we receive it because great or even good names are affixed to it, it is a man-taught creed; if we receive it because reason has wrought it out and recommended it, it is an intellectual creed. In all these cases it is a human creed, resting upon human authority. It can be traced no higher than a human source, however true in itself. In other words, it has not been honestly come by-it has been stolen.' God Himself is the only authority we can recognise; and God has said it' is the only resting-place for our faith. If it contents itself with any other foundation, it is either credulity or unbelief, or both together. 'God hath spoken' is the one foundation of our faith; not our fathers held it, or our church received it, or our authorised creed embodies it, or our best divines have maintained it, or reason has demonstrated it; for to believe what God has said is one thing, and to believe it simply because He has said it, is another. It is quite possible to receive God's words, yet not to receive them solely because He has spoken them.
"We do so, when, in our inquiries, we consult man before consulting Godwhen we study first and pray afterwards, or when we study without prayer at all. In such study much apparent progress may be made in apprehending word;' much truth may be reached, so that our orthodoxy will be unchallengeable even in its minutest formulæ, but it will not be honestly attained—it will be 'stolen ;' not gotten from its true Owner, but derived from man or from self, God not being consulted in the matter, Ah! it is not, first the study and then
the closet-but, first the closet and then the study; it is not, first the commentary and then the Bible-but, first the Bible and then the commentary; it is not first theology and then Scripture-but first Scripture and then theology; else we are but purloiners of Divine truth, not honest purchasers of Him who has said, 'Buy the truth, and sell it not.' It is in fellowship with Father, Son, and Spirit, that we must acquire our orthodoxy, and arrange our systems, and get hold of the form of sound words, and stablish ourselves in the faith. If this connexion be dislocated, if this order be reversed, then are we pursuing an unlawful and unblest course; we are stealing God's words from our neighbeur instead of getting them where He would have us get them, in a far truer and mor, blessed way-directly from Himself.
Thus much for Mr. Bonar's view of man and his religion. Mr. Bonar in like manner accurately anatomizes man's view of this world, in his thoughts of the present; his theory of progress; his hope of the future; and he ends with bringing all man's miserably poor, and at best, but limited views of the world, its present and its future, in strong contrast with the Divine verdict pronounced on all things past, present and to come.
has been a series of sinkings and risings,.. yet that now such vibrations are to cease, and the buoyancy of the world is to be left unhindered to bear it upward. The Divine finger, both in providence and prophecy, pointing to a different scene. It shews us this mysterious purpose of Jehovah still at work, pursuing its resistless though apparently most tortuous course, whatever statesmen or philosophers may plan or speculate. It reveals many a winding, many an obstruction. many a fearful break still in prospect, many a terrific descent down which our world shall be precipitated, ere it reach its destined elevation and stability. It tells us that the world's worst days are not yet passed, and that, however near morning may be, midnight is between."
"This is the theory of the world' which Scripture in such manifold forms presents to us. God's purpose-His eternal purpose-is spread out before us, not darkly or briefly, but in detail; and this purpose, by which all things, great and small, are steadily regulated, is in regard to the future, manifestly a continuation or unfolding of principles already in play, and which have been acted on from the beginning. Whatever view we may take of the details of that purpose, respecting the events of the latter day, it is of no small moment that we should recognize a Divine purpose throughout.—a settled, adjusted scheme of action and course of event,-a determinate ordering of all things, which, while it bears on unswervingly in its own fixed line, throwing aside to right and left the thousand vain schemes of man, leaves no room for the infidel to mock, and gives no excuse to the fatalist to fold his hands.
"Many seem to be fully persuaded that the darkest days of the earth are over, and that, though its history hitherto
In these days of much and varied religious profession, and of ceaseless activity, when men, both religious and worldly, are striving, each according to their several estimate of the value of principles impregnated by Divine or fleshly wisdom, to ameliorate the condition of their fellow men, -this short analysis by Mr. Bonar, will serve as an able auxiliary to detect what is hollow in the personal profession of religion; and what is of man, and what is of God, in the views taken of the aspect, the wants, and the destinies of the world.
THE SCRIPTURE POCKET-BOOK FOR 1852. Religious Tract Society.
The Religious Tract Society have again issued for the coming year, their usual very useful Pocket-Book. It contains a very pretty, and we believe a faithful and beautifully coloured frontispiece of Torquay, with its harbour and surrounding heights. With the usual information of an almanack, this publication combines the peculiar features of a diary, with a good selection of Scripture texts, well fitted to suggest a profitable daily meditation. The latter portion of this PocketBook is filled with interesting scraps from various religious authors, both in prose and poetry. The christian lady will find either in this book or its elder published contemporary—
"The Christian Remembrancer," a useful and suggestive pocket companion for the new year.
HISTORY OF A FAMILY BIBLE. pp. 150. J. F. Shaw.
THE CASKET RIFLED; or, Guilt and its Consequences. By MRS. BEST. 18mo, pp. 135. J. F. Shuw.
These are two interesting little books by the well-known authoress of the "Tracts on the Old and New Testament." Mrs. Best has in each little volume blended together in a tale, a collection of facts, to set forth real christian principle, and the only source of strength in the hour of temptation; while in the latter volume
she has made the "History of a Family Bible" tell its own tale of the Book of God being "our guide in life, our solace in affliction, and our help in adversity." For rewards in schools, and for our coming Christmas
The whole series of the Lectures tion on the deep meaning conveyed are full of richly illustrated instrucby the miracles of Jesus, not only in their then signification, but in their The introductory remarks on the true nature bearing upon after-times. of a miracle are particularly valua dently thrusting into the light of the ble at a time when Rome is impunineteenth century her false and ridiculous tales, to which she dares to
rewards or remembrances of love, either of these little books will be
both an acceptable and an unexcep- give and demand the same credibility tionable gift.
as the wonders which Jesus wrought.
In mentioning one of Dr. Čumming's last works, we expressed the fear that he was in danger of overpublishing, and so, satiating his readers; but whoever will procure and read these "Foreshadows" will think with us, that, while he feeds his own congregation with such a provision from his almost exhaustless store, the Church at large will be much benefited by the occasional publication of such a volume as that before us.
or Lectures on our
value of the whole of its contents. The book has again come under our notice, and a fresh perusal has made us desirous to record the pleasure and profit its pages have given us.
We think it well that Dr. Cumming has printed these sermons as actually delivered, without giving them "the exact polish resulting from elaborate writing;" for, apart from that accuracy in doctrine and statement which all public ministrations should exhibit, we cannot but agree with their author that these utterances from the
pulpit "retain, in consequence, a freedom and simplicity that will render them more useful to the popular mind."
In our last number we published an extract from Dr. Cumming's volume on "the miracles of our Lord,' which gave a very fair sample of the