Page images

Proteus. The truth seems to be that the Spirit creates its form according to its need, and drops its forms one after another, as the old ones become exhausted and new ones are required. The Church of any period was not manufactured; it grew. De Quincey, speaking of the dense obscurity that hangs about the early period of the Christian Church, — and, indeed, clouds the history of Christianity for some hundreds of years, rendering it extremely difficult to trace events to their causes, or to find the threads by which operations were guided, attempts to account for it on the ground that the moving power was supernatural. Its machinery was not, therefore, like ordinary mechanism, open to human inspection, but was concealed by its very nature. The footprints of the god cannot be traced on the ground. Even if they could be seen, it would be necessary to cover them up, that men might not be utterly confounded by such close contact with the immortals: but to cover them up was needless; they covered themselves up, and in so doing left vast spaces of vacancy where active causes should be found. De Quincey's explanation of this very remarkable fact is purely fanciful, but it falls in with the idea we are advancing; namely, that the Spirit took possession of such forms as were waiting to receive it, filled them as long as they would contain it, then abandoned them to their fate. The Christ's coming was without observation: silently he pushed open the door of the deserted temples, made them his Shekinah for the time, then departed, and mysteriously glided on. The creeds were accretions; the sacraments made themselves; the "conscious stones grew to beauty under the hand of architects who builded better than they knew. Protestants are generally of opinion that the forms under which the Church of the Middle Ages presented Christ are now but empty vessels, with just the faintest aroma of the spirit they once contained hanging about them. In passing from one phase of Protestantism to another, from Lutheranism to Calvinism, from Calvinism to Socinianism, from Socinianism to Unitarianism, from Unitarianism to Rationalism, from Rationalism to Transcendentalism, the Christ Spirit has been continually dropping its old garb, and putting on new, without giving the least

[ocr errors]

symptom of exhaustion in so doing, or intimating that it passes through any change save a change from glory to glory.


Why fear, then, that the destruction of any particular form, or of any particular set or system of forms, or of all existing and prevailing forms, is to be the destruction of the real Christ? He is indestructible as humanity. A form of some kind he will be sure to have, he must have. If it is a mighty form, he will fill it. If it is a slender form, he will swell it out to his own proportions. The infinite is in the atoms. may be an organization or an individual. If an organization, he will be able to animate it with a single soul; if an individual, he will be able to give it the force of a multitude of souls. It may be a literature, as the New Testament is, or it may be a spoken word passed along on the breath of tradition. If it is a literature, the various books which compose it will be made to repeat the same image; if it is a word, the heavens and earth shall pass away while that endures. Yes, the heavens and the earth of Jesus's day have passed away in all but their material aspect. They are not what they were to the minds of men. The stars are not groups of spirits; the moon is not a goddess; the sun is not a divinity; the prince of the powers of the air has taken his flight from the empyrean with his foul band of demons; the centre of the earth is not a realm of ghosts; Sheol has gone; Tartarus has vanished. There are the same skies; there is the same earth; but all that made them what they had been to the human soul, has passed irrecoverably. There are literally new heavens and a new earth; but the word which he committed to the air speeds on with that ripple whose movement never ceases. The tiny pulsations beat the mind's ear, and knock with light finger at every heart; the eternal doors fly open at the airy touch; the Teacher comes in, the Comforter, the Inspirer; the angelic train follows, filling the soul's outer court with the rustling of wings, and making the dome ring with chanting choirs. Is the word inaudible? It has but gone within. The Spirit may not read to you from holy book, but it will look at you from holy eyes, it will breathe upon you in holy atmospheres, it will communicate itself to you through holy characters. “The true Shekinah is man." No church is so magnificent as a

[ocr errors]

noble soul; no sacrament is so efficacious as a pure heart. When the Christ has arrived at this form, the temples may fall. The saving rites are deeds. They never grow old; they never lose their virtue. The recorded actions of Jesus are standing communion-tables; they are cups which have held their wine of life for two thousand years, and are as full of virtue now as they ever were. Every ecclesiastical form has altered; but these remain unchanged. His recorded treatment of the Magdalene, of the adulteress, of the woman who poured the oil on his feet, his praise of the widow and her two mites, his silence before Pilate, his patience under the hands of the soldiers, his prayer on the cross, and a score of lovely things beside, are better than altars and masses and creeds to refresh the fainting soul of mankind.

No less beautiful, no less plenteous in grace, are the deeds he has inspired. The actions of noble men and women stand like wayside shrines all along the path of history. What individual recalls not one sweet life, one gracious heart, one blessed achievement, which to him is a deep fountain of spiritual water? Say what we will about permanent ordinances, the truly permanent ordinances are pious works. The colonel who allowed himself to be taken, in order that his wounded men might escape in the overloaded boats; the student who swam the Potomac three times in face of hostile bullets, pushing a raft covered with disabled soldiers; the lieutenant who, hurt to death, begged, commanded his friend, because he was hurt to death, to leave him, and give his care to those whom there was yet hope of saving, — have set up— we say it with all reverence - have set up among their friends, in the households of those who know them, very sacred ordinances, very holy shrines. To think of such deeds will be for them like touching the hem of Christ's garment; to penetrate into the heart of them will be better than going to mass or attending vespers. The sanctities of heaven and earth meet in a deed of saintliness; and the mystery of transubstantiation is repeated as often as these are remembered by believing souls.

[ocr errors]

Why, then, be apprehensive lest the Spirit Christ be left naked and nebulous among mankind? The danger is not so much that Christ the Spirit will have no form, as that the

form, historical, literary, ritual, will stand unoccupied by Christ the Spirit. To recover him at any cost is the great labor and duty of the time. We can arrange his wardrobe after we have found his person. It might be a good thing to allow him for once to make his own choice of garments from the now richly turnished wardrobe of the world. He has fashioned so many already, that we are very sure he can fashion He has already cast aside so many, that we have no fear of his being left unclothed, even should the proud robes which men have hung on his shoulders be dropped by the wayside, or divided, like St. Martin's cloak, among the poor. The clothes question quite aside, we must have Christ the Spirit, that first, that by all means. It will be as much as we can achieve to open our doors to him in any dress, and give him a chamber in our hearts.


[ocr errors]

We have no intention and no desire to act the part of destructives. We would never shatter an idol that revealed a God. But knowing as we do know how many see no God behind the idol, — knowing as we do know how many, believing the historical Christ to be shattered, fear that the real Christ is gone, we would, passing by the others as not needing what we have to say, speak our word of encouragement to these. We have wished to detach the immortal person from his temporal environment; we have wished to show how little he has been injured by the falling of his house made with hands; we have wished to make him appear walking triumphantly over its ruina.



Preuves que Thomas à Kempis n'a pas composé L'Imitation de N. S. J. C. Par PHILIPPE JAMISEY de Larroque. Paris: A. Durand.

1862. 8vo. pp. 82.

So close is the association in the minds of English readers of the name of Thomas à Kempis with the book of "The Imitation of Christ," that a suggestion of any question concerning the authorship will perhaps seem to them shameless, if not profane, near even to a denial that the several Gospels of the New Testament were written by the authors whose names they bear. Very few who rest in this confident belief are aware that no literary dispute is more ancient, more obstinate, and more inexhaustible than the dispute about the origin of this classic of piety. Centuries before the letters of Junius were written, the honor of writing the "Imitation" was assigned to several claimants, and the final verdict in the case seems to be as far off as ever. There is no way of deciding it; the tradition concerning it has no unity, nor has any name a substantial majority of suffrages. The reasons for believing that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, that David wrote the Psalms, that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, and that John wrote the Apocalypse, unsatisfactory as many of these are, are more numerous than any which sustain the claims of rival monks in the mediæval book of devotion. The best that impartial investigation has been able to do has only proved a negative. Contending partisans have discredited each other's theories, but have not established their own.

To prove a negative is all that M. Philippe Jamisey de Larroque pretends to do in his ingenious essay. His aim is not to show who is the author, but that one at least of the supposed authors is not the real author. He is quite satisfied to correct a mistake, even if he cannot furnish any substitute of truth for the error. If he cannot explore the White Nile to its source, he will at least show that the Blue River is not the head branch of the Father of waters. If he cannot show where the Garden of Eden was, he can at least show

« PreviousContinue »