« НазадПродовжити »
logical but spiritual. · But though spiritual, it is neither weak nor impalpable; on the contrary, it is so strong and so consciously real, that we have perforce to make literary dissectors of ourselves before we are able to discover the want of superficial connectedness. In the first and last verses of the poem, which impart their perfume of tender regret to the two which come between, as a casket of sandal-wood sheds its odour upon the treasure which it enshrines, the vague suggestiveness is still in the ascendant. The epithets “cold” and “grey," in the first verse, are exquisitely chosen ; but their intentional use is passionate rather than picturesque. They indeed give distinctness to a picture ; but still more do they help to intensify the suggestion of an emotion. The poem, as a whole, has the characteristics both of poetry and painting ; but its chief charm to those who love it best is identical with that which resides in some sweet strain of mournful music.
I have been discussing the great pulpit question two or three times lately, and your description of the new curate at. St. Cuthbert's arrives very opportunely. The people there must be highly favoured, but I don't suppose they will be at all quick to see what a piece of extraordinary good fortune has fallen to their share. And yet, judging from your letter, it must be extraordinary indeed. A thoroughly intellectual preacher
is a rara avis, as indeed is a thoroughly intellectual man in any profession; but a preacher in whom the intellectual and the spiritual elements exist conjointly in anything like equally large proportions, belongs to the most exceptional species of the black swan race. I fancy it must be this fact which, more than any other single circumstance, accounts for the lack of moral power in the pulpit utterances of the clergy in our day. We have spiritual men who are not intellectual, and we have intellectual men who are not spiritual ; while in some places (particularly in Brookfield) we find, as a general rule, men who are neither the one nor the other. We have on the one side, clearly-defined, wellconsidered theological utterances; on the other, devout meditations and thrilling appeals. It is, however, almost universally true that the men in the first class do not themselves rise into the spiritual region at all; and the men in he second class are unable to raise others. When I was a boy, as you know, I spent nearly all my time among Dissenters. I can never acknowledge fully all my moral and spiritual obligations to them, for they were holy men and women who walked with God, and made me feel that God was walking with them. Still, they were intellectually weak and narrow, and inclined to disparage the entire mental region. No proposition was more consistently maintained among them, than that intellectual power was not necessary for ministerial success; no text oftener quoted among them than the one which declares that God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty, and the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. They pointed to ignorant old women knowing nothing of the alphabet, but filled with the grace of God; and then recited the histories of men whose towering intellects gave a fearful emphasis to their earthly, sensual, and devilish lives. They asserted that as the intellectual was entirely distinct from the spiritual, the purely spiritual work of the preacher needed no intellectual aids; but that, on the contrary, intellectual power often proved the most dangerous of all stumbling-blocks. At that period of my life I think I admired intellect above everything else; and the conclusions of my friends were so repulsive to me, that I not only rejected them but also the premisses on which they were based. The error was natural enough, but I am wiser now. I see that the premisses were right, but unfortunately there were not enough of them; and a link was therefore omitted in the argument which threw the conclusion wrong. The good people forgot that a man may habitually live in the region of spiritual realities and yet not possess the power of raising others to his own position, just as the greatest linguist is not necessarily the best teacher of languages. Spirituality, likę electricity, can only be communicated through a medium denser than itself, and this medium consists of ideas and words. There
is no task that needs more clearness of mind and subtle accuracy of expression than the translation of spiritual truths, which in their fulness can only be spiritually discerned, into such formula as can be appreciated by the unspiritual intellect. Some very earnest preachers attempt to do this, and fail miserably because of their want either of knowledge or mental power; and the failure is more melancholy because one of its most certain effects is the alienation of intellectual men from the spiritual side of religion altogether.
On the other hand we have a large class of preachers who in greater or less degree ignore the spiritual element in religion, and are either theologians or moralists pure and simple. They enforce upon their congregations the preëminent necessity either of assenting to certain articles of faith or of conforming to certain rules of life. They often perform their work as well as it is possible to perform it; but though their sermons may be admirable as intellectual performances or literary compositions, they are, as sermons, simply worthless, because they ignore the very thing for which a sermon exists,—the stimulation of the spiritual energies of the hearers. Such preaching always reminds me of Dickens' description of Mr. Winkle's shooting, which, as a display of fancy shooting was admirable, but as a specimen of shooting with intent to hit anything in particular was a decided failure.
I hope to hear our local Chrysostom next Sunday, or, at the very latest, the Sunday after; for there is an end even of the charms of Avondale, and were this an earthly paradise I should have no excuse for staying in it any longer, for I am becoming a perfect Hercules. Whether I am destined to bestow upon Brookfield the renown which belongs to any parish in which a poet has been a ratepayer, I don't know; but I have of late made nearly a bushel of lyrical poetry of which I inclose a sample. One or two prosaic people who are here say that they cannot understand it. What a pity every one is not in their condition. I think I know two people at least-I am not one of them for whom it would serve as a piece of autobiography. Of all powers possessed by women, the power of spoiling a man's life finally and irretrievably seems to me the most terrible, because one never knows when the fatal influence has exhausted itself. It passes through the man to some other woman, blighting her life with his blight, and so on, and on, to stop-who shall say when or where?