Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

and I know each other pretty well; but how absurd my impressions of you, and yours of me, would seem if we could only for one minute look out of undeceiving eyes, and see each other truly for once. It is a half-ludicrous, half-terrible thought, but I suppose it is true, that neither of us ever saw anything as it really is. I wonder whether we shall when we get to heaven. I dare say not wholly, for we shall carry the self, the ego, with us there ; and the non ego will be still

half-known mystery.

With the alteration of a single word, Shelley's grand lines are even more unalterably true :

Self, like a dome of many-coloured glass,

Stains the white radiance of eternity.”

There are some men whose love of truth is æsthetic, not moral. It is a matter of taste with them; and as such there are necessities to which it must bow. But there are others with whom the love of truth is a passion, the gratification of which is itself the one final necessity; and all other claims, howsoever necessary they may seem, must bow and sink even below the rank of expediencies the moment they set themselves in opposition to it.

I think almost every one must have noticed, and those who have not noticed must have felt unconsciously, how much easier it is to bear scolding or harsh criticism of any kind from those who have not a right to inflict it upon us, than from those who have. I suppose the reason of this is, that we on our side feel we have a right to resent such criticism if we choose ; but if we do not so choose, we have the pleasant consciousness that we are exercising a praiseworthy condescension in receiving it graciously.

You will have heard that the Methodists are trying to get up what they call a revival in their new chapel. There was a meeting last night in the large schoolroom, and I was there. I don't know whether I was revived, but I was a good deal astonished, for it was in some ways the most curious scene I have ever beheld, It proved one thing to me most effectually, that we have not yet reached the dead uniform level of which John Stuart Mill is so much afraid ; for there was enough eccentricity and defiance of conventionality to satisfy the soul of the boldest intellectual rebel. The man who spoke actually conducted a dramatic entertainment, having for its subject -you will hardly believe it, but it is true—the agony of Christ in Gethsemane. His transformations from one character to another were as sudden and complete as those of Mr. Howard Paul. I feel ashamed even to talk of such awful profanity, but perhaps telling you about it will get it out of my head. The wretch absolutely dared to kneel down, holding a glass of water in his hand, and to use those words in which our Lord prayed that the cup might be taken away. Then he jumped up, assumed the character of Judas, and flung his arms round the neck of one of the gentlemen on the platform to represent the traitor's kiss. I can stand a good deal, but you will easily believe I felt myself going cold with horror. After the outrageous, dare-devil blasphemy of some religious people, I must say that the blasphemy of the irreligious seems to me too weak and wishy-washy to be worth mentioning And yet there were some really good people there who seemed to enjoy it. From what I see of the religious world, I am more and more convinced that the man who goes out of his way in search of rapturous and exciting devotional experiences, is not the man whose spiritual sensibilities are most acute. On the contrary, it is because they are so obtuse and lethargic that he finds it necessary to resort to extraordinary methods of arousing them. This fact, when fairly stated, seems almost too self-evident to need assertion; but if we remembered it constantly, it would alter many of our estimates of religious character.

(Those who are acquainted with the phenomena of revivals will read the foregoing account without much astonishment ; but to many readers it will seem simply incredible. I can, however, pledge my word for its truthfulness. The performance of the revivalist gave rise to a brief but rather animated controversy in one of the local newspapers; and the awful parody of the most sacred scene in the world's history found a number of angry, but undoubtedly pious, defenders.)

A man who possesses a belief often does very little with it; but when a belief possesses a man we may expect miracles.

One of the evils necessarily attendant upon mock modesty is, that it issure to end in

very
real
anger.

We rate ourselves at a low figure, and then are enraged with people who estimate us at our own published price: a proceeding which is at once foolish and unjust. Whenever B

reads an essay at the society, he always begins with a long proem of self-depreciation, which is only given that you may contradict it. If you assent to it—and it is generally the only thing in the whole paper to which you can assent—his fury knows no bounds.

What a very foolish waste of power it is to begin any conflict in which you see you must be beaten. This seems very obvious; but it has struck me two or three times lately with all the force of novelty, and I am sure very few people put into practice the principle involved. I know I am myself an atrocious sinner in this respect. I profess to hate argument, and yet I am always trying to convince people who are, beyond all doubt, from some cause not open to conviction. They are either so fully committed to a definite theory or course of action that no retreat is possible, or their nature is in such a condition or stage of development as to be insensitive to the force of a certain kind of argument.

In matters of practice, the remembrance of this rule of life is even more necessary than in matters of speculation. I am full of remorse when I think how often I have spoiled my temper by absurd failures in attacking strongholds which I ought to have known were, for the time at least, impregnable.

We talk of character as that which lies deepest in a man; but there is really something deeper still, and that is the man's self—his original inborn nature. Character is, after all, a semi-external thing. Say that a man is generous : he is lavish not only of gifts but of services, and all his giving flows from benevolence and not from ostentation. This is his character ; but how little you know of a man if you only know that he is generous. How little you know even of his very generosity; for experience teaches us all that no quality is the same thing in two different people, though each may possess it to the full. There is a generosity that wounds, and a generosity that heals; a generosity that draws you to a man and makes you long to be a recipient again for the mere pleasure of taking something from his hand; and a

« НазадПродовжити »