« ÎnapoiContinuați »
remember the hard, unimaginative, superficial minds of many whom he may have known as disbelievers in religion; though he will not mistake us as professing to describe more than one class of skeptics in these terms.
Now whatever instances may be named of infidelity in men of poetical genius, (for the best gifts may be abused), we deny that skepticism is characteristic of genius. Men of such minds are not naturally inclined to doubt. Even when they reject one form of religion, they often show a tendency to faith, akin to credulity or superstition, in some other which may not appear to present the same difficulties. The poet feels none of the incapacity which we have described; to be above the mere understanding, while not contrary to reason, gives no shock to his faith; to be based on no flattering views of our nature, is no objection to a system. On the contrary, he could not be content to rest his faith on any foundation which is not laid deeper than the faculty judging according to sense; he could not long satisfy himself with a religion which did not penetrate deep enough to meet and apply itself to the everlasting wants of his moral being-to lift him up from the dark abysses of his ruin to the light and love of heaven.
Let it not, then, be thought a visionary notion if we assert our belief, that a cordial communion with the poetical mind, has a tendency to remove those obstacles to a habit of belief which arise from the predominance of the lower faculties. We feel assured, that with the cultivation of the imagination and the higher taste founded in noble sensibilities, and the cherished tendency to notice the phenomena of our own nature, will dispose and enable Christians to enter more heartily into the beautiful and sublime, the sweet and consoling, the solemn and profound spirit of the religion which they profess to believe. Those who feel with us on this point will gladly admit that here the influence of genius is one instrument, by no means unimportant, in effecting a cultivation nearly connected with religion.
5. Should we be thought to make too much of this point, yet we have no distrust in this truth, viz. that the feeling with which the poet regards the beautiful is akin to true moral feeling, and in its nature finds its satisfaction and repose in the infinite beauty and good which are the direct objects of the religious sentiment in its highest form. The arts of civilization have an end in view,-and that an earthly end. So far as devotion to them in practice or in studies may produce any analogous moral effect, it must be to confirm in selfishness. But it is not so with the devotion of the poet to the object of his love.
He satisfies the inward requirements of his peculiar powers in developing and separating the beautiful in all things. The poet is the lover of beauty. With what end? The merest slave to the useful would not venture to suppose that he could have any end in view, which could be brought within the description of the interests of this working-day world. The poet loves the beautiful for itself. The act of perceiving it-of throwing it, by his own powers, as a spiritualizing veil over the face of nature
is self-rewarding. Thus, though he may be called to act, like others, in his daily life, in reference to selfish ends, yet his peculiar poetical life is governed by another law.
Now if there be any superior fitness for exhibiting the principle of religion, founded in the gifts or cultivation of the mind itself, we claim it eminently for the disposition of genius to love its objects for themselves alone. It is the same habit, though the object be not the same, as exhibits itself in the good man's love of virtue, of truth and right, of the holy and the heavenly. There is no religion in the mind until it comes to that disposition. We fear this assertion may appear startling, for there is now (it appears to us) a great disposition to forget that religion (as to its end) consists essentially in coming to love the law of right and duty, which is the law of God, for itself, and to build up piety on worldly principles. Our selfishness is so much appealed to, that we come to consider religion to be a mere scheme for making sure of our eternal interests. We seem to see in our age a thousand peculiar influences at work to induce in religious persons the habit of judging all things, in the same spirit, by empirical results, substituting the maxims of expediency for the absolute law of right.
Most truly, therefore, is it a work of moral culture, and of the most desirable kind, to form and cherish even in reference to natural beauty, a love without a selfish end; for the habit formed in reference to one class of objects can hardly fail to have its influence upon the mind of the Christian in reference to that beauty which is above nature and time.
6. There is one more feature of the cultivation which we are disposed to claim as being peculiarly formed by communion with poetical genius, which we should be afraid to insist upon in sober prose, if wise men had not seriously done so before us. There is no habit of mind on which successful moral or intellectual effort more depends than a placid, cheerful, equable temper. The breath of spiritual life is drawn with difficulty in the thick air of depressed spirits; the wings of creative power move wearily, and finally sink down in the same atmosphere. In a mind so alive to various impressions as that of the Poet,
alterations of spirits would be sudden and irresistible, if he did not possess likewise a restorative and refreshing power within"Secret refreshings, that repair his strength, And fainting spirits uphold."
That gift he possesses in his imagination. By that power his most arduous efforts are made, his highest excitements created; yet it has also gentle and playful movements, which restore the strength it had so largely called upon before. It is a creative and modifying power. Its lighter workings are gently excited by the various pleasing forms and changes of nature— by whatever solicits a passing attention
"To make the shifting clouds be what you please,
Own each strange likeness issuing from the mould
to put conscious life and enjoyment into the manifold growth which is springing up in noiseless rushing over the whole face of nature-to interpret the passionate singing of birds-to moralize over the trailing and soiled vines, or
"The rathe primrose that forsaken dies,"—
in these is his delight-in these sports of fancy and imagination his mind clears itself by its own spontaneous efforts. Other causes must be coincident, we grant; the discomposure against which one strives must not be
"Pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel."
We speak of every day wants and every day refreshments.
Now we grant it is only in the higher degrees of that branch of mind which is kindred with genius, that the imagination dwells in sufficient power to be susceptible of culture like this. Yet there are such degrees. Below the mind, which-freely balanced in its own powers-is adequate to original creation, there are orders which possess more or less of the same creative element of imagination-enough to follow, in perfect sympathy, where genius has gone before, enough to shed a cheering light upon their other gifts. Minds of that order are susceptible of culture in this respect. If, without such cultivation, they would have walked over the face of nature heedless, or with only a pleasure to the outward eye, they may, by an awakened sympathy with the poetic imagination, be enabled to send their thoughts abroad on other errands, to return with other delights. Through such influences, that state of cheerful activity may be kept up, on which other branches of cultivation so much depend. But to the religious mind, how elevating, how solemnizing the gentle workings of this restoring power! To what a
devout purpose may not his imagination give new form and being to the objects with which it plays! How fair a handmaid to the noblest exercises of religion may not that faculty be, which-existing in a higher degree-forms the distinctive power of the poet!
But we need not longer dwell upon the characteristics of poetic genius. If those which we have already brought forward have any weight, they will be enough to satisfy the reader, that the study of true poetry may do much more than to furnish a delightful amusement ;-that it may exert an influence upon the mind favorable to the expansion of the principle of religion itself. And if such a conclusion may be drawn from a survey of the characteristics of genius in one department of mind alone, it will be confirmed and strengthened by calling to mind other atributes which distinguish the same order of mind when producing its creations in other fields of art-in every province of genial production, of poesy in the comprehensive meaning of the word. The reader will then be satisfied, that if hitherto, while he felt it to be his duty to seek the cultivation of his mind from books, he has confined himself to those which profess to furnish him with the knowledge which it is the fashion to call "useful," he has been neglecting, to his loss, a whole class of works peculiarly addressed to those faculties by which the principle of religion is chiefly manifested, and which are therefore eminently instruments in effecting a kind of cultivation of great worth to the Christian. We would urge him to retrieve his loss. Without pressing him to give to such studies a disproportionate attention, we would encourage him to bring his faculties under the awakening, enlivening, cultivating influence of those minds, which have been distinguished from all others by the possession of original creative power. Let him not hope, however, to attain any worthy success by hasty, superficial reading, such as one vouchsafes to the ephemeral literature of the day. Let him remember, that he is not reading for the story's sake, nor even simply for the instruction's sake, but that he may appreciate and feel the influence of mind in the displays of its creative energy. To that end his own mind must follow out and reproduce each creation. But can we, of an inferior order, pursue without effort the bold steps of rapt genius, "leaping perchance from star to star?" No. We do not even see the profounder and essential beauties of works of genius at first sight. And if works of true creative art must be studied in order to see their beauty, much more must they be studied in order to form our minds to something of the same character. That such an attainment in cultivation is possible, as it is desirable,
we cannot but believe, though our zeal for it should be thought to be somewhat exaggerated by the unforgotten enthusiasm of our youthful days.
ART. VIII.-1. A Discourse on the Pastoral Care. By Bishop BURNET. Fourteenth edition. Rivington & Cochran. London, 1821.
2. The Christian Ministry, with an Inquiry into the Causes of its Inefficiency. By the Rev. CHARLES BRIDGES, B. A. 2 vols. First American, from the second London edition. New-York. Published by J. Leavitt, 1831.
3. The Pastor at the Sick Bed.
By CHRISTIAN OEMLER, Pastor at Weimar. Translated from the German by the Rev. ALBERT HELFFENSTEIN, Sr. Philadelphia. Grigg & Elliot, 1836.
WE regard it as a good sign, at the present day, that greater attention is directed to the subject of ministerial labors. The opinion is yearly becoming stronger, that he who ministers at the altar should be eminent alike for the purity of his life, and the devotedness of his labors. One effect of this, is the more general circulation of works on the subject of the ministry. The titles of some of these we have placed at the head of this article. The Pastoral Care of Bishop Burnet, first published in 1682, has passed through many editions, and been, we doubt not, extensively useful. The Christian Ministry, by Mr. Bridges, is a valuable book, which should be familiar to the student of theology, and to the pastor. The third work, by Oemler, differs somewhat in character from both the others. It speaks of the pastor only "at the sick bed;" when he is called to minister to those who have been awakened to concern, by the agonies of dissolving nature, and a view of the eternity just opening before them.
We have mentioned these as fair specimens of the class of works to which we allude. Excellent as they all are, there is one subject, however, in relation to the duties of a clergyman, which we think in most of them has not received its due proportion of notice. We refer to the duty of PASTORAL VISITING. In devoting, therefore, the remainder of this article to some remarks on this topic, we shall endeavor to enforce its importance; and show the advantage which would result to the