Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

put into it something of everything he has ever read or heard of. But the limits of a local annalist are elastic and undefined ; and the breeziness and the spice of other salt than that of Cape Cod air's will whet the appetite of Mr. Rich's readers for the somewhat thin and musty quality of some of his local traditions, and refresh them through the bare and sandy regions of family record, and the history of local magnates and events, which must to the general reader be sometimes suggestive of the flat and luxury-lacking landscape of the Cape. Yet are they for the most part records and traditions worth preserving, for their interest to those to whom that landscape, social as well as actual, is or has been familiar and dear, as well as to the antiquarian and student of local manners; and the author has banished dulness from his book so completely as to make it certain that it will have not only such, but many other readers. It is a pity that it was not corrected and sifted by a thoroughly competent proof-reader.

BOOKS RECEIVED.

From George H. Ellis, Boston. Martin Luther, A Study of Reformation. By Edwin D. Mead. Price $1.25.

From the American Unitarinn Association, Boston, The Works of Orville Dewey, D.D. With a Biographical Sketch. New and complete edition. Price $1.00.

From Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston. Tennyson's In Memoriam. Its Purpose and its Structure. A Study

By John F. Genung. Price $1.25. The Works of Virgil. Translated into English Verse. With Variorum and other Notes and Comparative Readings. By John Augustine Wilstach. Two volumes. Price $5.00.

From the Universalist Publishing House, Boston. The New Covenant, commonly called the New Testament.

Vol. I. The Four Gospels. By J. W. Hanson, D.D. Price $1.00.

From Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Kadesh-Barnea. Its Importance and Probable Site. With the Story of

a Hunt for it. By H. Clay Trumbull, D.D. Price $5.00. Among the Holy Hills. By Henry M. Field, D.D. Price $1.50. Where did Life begin? A Monograph. By G. Hilton Scribner. Price

$1.25. John Bull and his Island. By Max O’Rell. Paper. Price 50 cents. A Day in Athens with Socrates. Translations from the Protagoras and

the Republic of Plato. Price 50 cents. For sale by Estes & Lauriat. History of the Christian Church. By Philip Schaff. A new edition,

revised and enlarged. Vol. III., A.Þ. 311-600. Price $4.00. The International Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. VI. The

Epistle to the Romans. By Prof. M. B. Riddle. Price $1.00. Luther. A short Biography. By James Anthony Froude. Paper.

Price 30 cents.

[blocks in formation]

ORVILLE DEWEY'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY, LETTERS, AND

COLLECTED WORKS.

What a man once selfishly said to himself of his attraction to a particular woman, It will not last, is by not a few in our time affirmed of all we mean by religion. Gods as well as men die in Assyria, Canaan, Greece, Egypt, and Rome, and leave but their names. "Pan is dead," writes the poet. Jehovah is a sound among the sepulchres of the past. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, unlike the third in a composer's scale, make a musical chord no longer, save to sectarian or theological ears.

The terms are not co-equal. The interval is incomplete. Forms of worship change, and doctrinal creeds are a dissolving view. All the old denominational lines are rubbed out. Rome, boasting that like God she is always everywhere and forever the same, cannot hold her own, but retreats as she fights. Is there aught in piety or preaching that can stand ?

In dwelling on what is transient, what is permanent may be overlooked, as gazing through a kaleidoscope takes off

our eye from the features of the world. Man has not ceased to be a religious creature, nor can, till the species is extinct. That religious sentiment, which is the deepest of passions, is coeval with intellectual curiosity and with the love of beauty and harmony. Could the human faculties all decease, that of wonder and admiration were the last to go. Sentiment will survive argument, as the great rivers, Mississippi and Danube, hold their course to the sea, while hill and plain waste and crumble into the waters as they run. Imaginative pictures and logical schemes of supernatural things vary; but the realities remain, like traits of the landsca or layers of the earth at which geologists pick or successive artists try their hands. The sceptic errs by exaggeration or disproportion, as he satirizes alteration in the plans of salvation which controversial ecclesiastics construct. The saints are caricatured by him, not portrayed. The basis of prayer is beneath the granite of the globe. There is a chord stretched in our bosom, the heart's master-string, which cannot be broken or unscrewed. It vibrates whenever it is struck. The man who has lived for seventy years will say that the music now differs not from the sweet resonance in his childish years, whatever discords have been scored out or variations, as in some familiar air, it may be of Home, Sweet Home" or "The Last Rose of Summer," are introduced. Sin is but the shadow of sanctity. We paint the devil blacker than he is, as did James in his Epistle, and Goethe in Faust, though Burns did not; and, with rhetorical extravagance, we overstate the gloom of the ancestral faith. Our sires had a way to creep out of their dogmas; for, despite the pessimists, human nature has not in any age either found or considered life to be a curse. The poor culprit, doomed to hell, averred that God would fix that fire so that he could stand it; and mankind is a child that will play on the edge of the pit. Dr. Dewey, in his autobiography, tells of a theatrical representation in a meeting-house, and of an evening ball after the raising of a church-building in his boyish days; and I remember that the only time I tried to dance was at a school my parents sent me to, from my

Calvinist and Free-will Baptist home, more than sixty years ago. Æschylus would not have written of the laughing sea, but that men about him in their meetings made merry; nor would the waves have clapped their hands to the psalmist David, but for some smiting of happy palms on feast days he had witnessed in his fellows. The strait-laced devotion of New England came in with the Puritans, not over with the Pilgrims. It was imitated by modern from ancient pharisees, while genuine religion in all lands and ages has been the chief earthly joy.

So the race, charmed with devotion still, is not likely to listen, but turn a deaf ear now to such congenital deafmutes for the heavenly voices as would confine our regard to terrestrial noise. We shall not follow the pseudo-seers, who wear blinders to celestial things, hold heavenly visions to be sidelights that but lead astray, and advise us to handle the telescopes that sweep the starry skies, but to trust no one who pretends to embrace a future paradise in his prophetic view.

Worship is unstable in its modes and articles, but not casual in itself, nor dependent on material arrangements of ritual, on an order of service and costume; nor fenced in by the barbed wire of any dogmatic points. It underlies custom. It is deeper in our nature even than thought. It is an immortal sensibility our flesh quivers with, and which the seventh heaven will nurse after all the lenses and joints of our observatories are shut into their cases or a prey to cobwebs and dust.

By what name, that of a sentiment or the sentiment, shall it be called? Liberal religion or Unitarianism, beginning with criticism of what seemed absurd in the traditional faith, ran into rationalism, with radicalisin and free religionism for its orderly successive steps, but every one of them with a providential purpose.

Yet the warrior is bruised in the fight with which he scatters his foes; and, in our polemics, the grace of our religion has suffered, while superstition has been overthrown. Religion itself has been branded as a figment by those who, signing off and coming out from the

main road, have reached the barren end of their independent and narrow lane. What can materialists, agnostics, and atheists do but discount and protest this paper of piety, when no credit runs but for this life at their lower bank? Some of our most illuminated teachers, wishing to comprehend and analyze the deity in their private brain, have scorned and condemned as emotional all the popular petition and praise. But, when the emotions are taken away, little, if any, religion is left; and, in the sequel, a certain dry and hard quality in the pulpit betrays that the business is to perform a funeral ceremony, not to welcome a living guest,— as men and nations have their histories and biographies published after they are dead.

No doubt the intellect has in this matter of adoration a part to act. The rapt Quaker, the fervent Methodist, the total-immersion Baptist, and metaphysical Congregationalist, as well as the unprogressive Romanist, with Chinese immobility for his mark, comes to a staud-still of intelligence, and travels a bark-mill round in his repeated ordinance and phrase, which threatens stoppage and death in the circulations of the heart, —- the very fate which the know-nothing philosophy of our assuming advanced thinkers for their followers incurs. But the agnostic is only the old gnostic risen from the dead. What claim of knowledge is so positive and great as that of knowing all there is to be known, and walling out as unknowable the universe besides, as towns and empires once built barriers of stone against the remainder of the globe! Even Mr. Spencer's definitions are like those pillars of Hercules beyond which it was decided no ship could sail. Scandinavian and Genoese were coming to leave behind the Straits of Gibraltar and the North Sea; and many a spiritual secret yet of creation and creator, evolution and evolver, as we sound on our deep and perilous way, we shall wrest from mist and dark. That eternal consciousness of divinity, as the sensitive cord of all human kith and kin, will be a telegraph never disconnected betwixt the ends of the earth. He abjures his privilege, abdicates his native sovereignty, and discrowns his own

« VorigeDoorgaan »