Abbildungen der Seite

keep a restraint upon it by means of his understanding. He will always act from the highest motive, because he is doing what he can do, not what he thinks he can do. The monstrous false character which self had put upon him, and which he had formerly been laboriously wearing, will drop from his soul, and the man in his peculiar and proper manifestation will appear. He will find himself entering upon a congenial employment, if he is a young man, not as an occupation that he is “ about as well fitted for as anything," nor, in the still more common expression of the same irrev. erent spirit, as a profession where “he thinks he can do the most good";— which latter expression suggests, if not hypocrisy, at any rate wonderful discrimination on the part of the one who uses it; for there is an existing state of things, including the number and kinds of trades and occupations in the world, which we are all bound to defend as the only possible, and the best yet reached, in the light of which fact all discussion about the best field of labor is very idle.

No. The spirit in which he labors shall make his occupation the best for him, because he uses it as a help to the growth of his soul. When he has reached up to any of its grades of honor, he will have, not more honor, which, if received as honor, puffeth up, but more experience of the soul, which is an edification.

It is not difficult to come at one's genius, or spiritual life, if only we are simply willing and ready to enter upon the work. A period of doubt, perhaps, is entered upon at once, though this depends upon the mental constitution, during which the understanding seems to lose its office of correcting the vagaries of the religious sentiment, and time restores the harmony of the intellect and the affections, purified by the process, if Christ has been the purifier. But men are not commonly willing to be at such pains.

Every man, to return to the original proposition, idealizes life. I mean, that, whether he ever becomes conscious of it or not, every man's genius gives life its hue for him. Our wishes, the world as we would have it, — that is what we ourselves are.

Children are continually showing their character by the expression of their wishes; and because men, as they grow older, cease to express so much, shall we, for that reason, cease to judge their characters by this simple test? If only you can possess yourself of a man's ideal of life, no amount of morality or immorality need alter the man's character to you; his course may be predicted. In fact, the morality of men is determined to a very great degree by their cir. cumstances.

It is next to impossible, for example, that a descendant of one of the many adventurers who colonized Virginia, and who has always lived under the influences which a State thus colonized would inevitably throw around him, - that such a descendant should regard the gloomy observance of the Puritan Sabbath, which is still kept up in the country towns, as a duty, or as anything but an outgrowth of the atrabilious fanaticism that drove the Puritans hither.

Mackay has a poem called, I believe, “ The Nine Bathers." Each bather would bathe in a differently tinted liquid, and, in like manner, each soul colors the medium in which it chooses to disport itself.

The biographer of Charlotte Bronté mentions the habit of “making out” in which Miss Bronté and her sisters used to indulge, and nothing is more common, if further proof is needed, than to speak of poetry which is Tennysonian or Holmes-y.

Mere respect for his breadth of character, it seems to me, would have secured Mr. Thackeray from all worthy criticism of his competency to be the satirist of the age; but since he has seen fit to defend himself publicly, by saying that he paints the world as he sees it, honestly, delicacy no longer enjoins silence, and the youngest admirer of his books can best tell him that the world needs no such painter to present her defects. If Mr. Thackeray finds Becky Sharps in England, many of his readers find material for a better woman in his Becky Sharp; and if we believe him, as we cannot help doing, when he says that he writes down people as he finds them, we must put a still greater faith in him, and believe and trust that he will one day find himself.

Thackeray's power has never been seriously questioned. Many who have not an intellectual appreciation of his real strength, his power of making things appear, are nevertheless conscious that he makes things appear in a dark light, and this sort of criticism no protestations of sincerity can


If now the tendency to idealize life is granted, and the incalculable advantages of the study of history adequately estimated as revealing the transmission of traits underneath that current of moral or immoral acts which commonly bears the name of history; if, furthermore, such an estimate shall make race to be the important element, and government, education, various manifestations of that element in time; and so, completing the analysis, if individualism shall be allowed a signification, - our knowledge of character becomes of transcendent importance. In the light of this theory, we shall see that the old Greek maxim, Know thyself, was the richest wisdom, which revelation made to be the deepest piety; that knowledge of character in others is merely correlative to knowledge of self; that a true view of life is possible only by a regenerative process, which shall break the husk of self-delusion, and reveal the germ of the genuine self.

I think this fact is easily established by observing the difference in the views taken by readers of books of the characters there portrayed.

As long as self-delusion lasts, all experience ministers to the growth of the false character with which self has endued us. Even if we do not read “ what we most affect,” self will permit us to draw only certain lessons from the books that we do read.

This will be found to hold true either of classes of books, or of particular books.

If we read poetry, we shall see rhythm, or pretty language, or noble sentiment, according to our intellectual character; but the meaning of verse, the logic of the heart, the comprehensiveness of the truths, and the certainty of the prophecies of true poetry, we shall scarcely be looking to find, unless our spiritual eyes have been opened.

Reading history, even after making allowance for the standpoint of the historian, we shall trace the progress, it may be, of religion, or traffic, or of agriculture, specially, and other departments of inquiry shall be subordinate to that special one; or, if the chronicle of events and the figures of the pageant be our study, we shall apply the scale of our individual experience to the narrative, and the ordinary men of history shall put on the countenances of our best and worst acquaintance, or else our common acquaintance shall become like dead heroes of history in our eyes.

Even the mathematics, which, as being based on exact and eternal laws, might be supposed to be superior to the laws of mind, will be found to have been variously formuled according to the genius of the races that have applied to them, and a common experience of men teaches us, that to some mathematics are merely discipline for the powers, while to others they are also food for thought.

But particular books reveal our moral character. We read “ Uncle Tom's Cabin,” and the character of St. Clare seems truly generous and not reckless, or reckless and not truly generous, according as impulse or principle is the rule of the reader's life. In other words, if the faults of a book-character are our own, we magnify them and refuse to see the virtues; if they are not our own, we allow the virtues to overshadow them. Accordingly, we dislike or like such and such a character.

But the spiritual eye discerns the true lesson of every book. It pierces the delusion which self would throw

around us, and allows us to perceive not only the true proportions of the invented characters, but also those of the character of the inventor. Not that the world becomes any fairer to him who has found his own spiritual character, and thus the key to all others. On the contrary, I think that to most people the world would become fouler. But if more vice is seen, so is more virtue discovered. It is simply a deeper life into which the soul retreats, - a life which in its destiny opens toward God evermore, and in its progress continually convicts what was substance of being really show, and whose law of development is that self-sacrificing law which obtains universally throughout nature, the law of love.

If further proof is wanted of the microcosmic theory of mind, and previous to showing that, if we must idealize life, it is better to spiritualize it than to materialize it, we may observe the teachings of Political Economy on the subject of value.

Political economy teaches of no absolute value, only an ideal, ever-shifting value. The labor, or in other words the thought with which a thing is clothed, constitutes the value of that thing.

If man chooses to desire something pleasing as well as useful, the desire will produce the supply, and the sacrifice required of labor or thought to produce the article will measure the value of the article. Man has had for these thousand years many vain imaginings and foolish ideas, and consequently the world is full of foolish and vain values, which, in turn, are each the highest ideal to many who will not recognize their adventitious origin, and sure depreciation.

And here seems a proper place to state and urge the main result of our inquiry, namely, the necessity, considering the speciality which the soul can make every event and person to assume, of a personal regeneration of self to self, as a spiritual standpoint from which to judge of character, and, on the other hand, the necessity for the regenerated soul,

« ZurückWeiter »