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"Is it strange
That our diviner impulses, great thoughts,
To bend our love unto his Father's breast,
As children than as brothers."
And this was Dr. Channing's constant creed; not that he would have held it in any sense depreciative of the moral dignity and independence of human will, but simply in this, that the ultimate and deepest religious life of man cannot include any human sympathy and social unity,—that it is in a depth below the deepest life of society, and is a direct act of duty or love to the Father of spirits. This faith underlay all Channing's writings. But is it true? Is it given to human spirits to be children at all without being also brothers? The law of society is written on the individual conscience; and spiritual life is not possible to individuals at all if you strike out the social conditions under which it is invariably found. Indeed, truth itself, the search for which is usually supposed to isolate the mind, is truth no longer if you erase the conditions of society. We perceive all complete and perfect truth through others more than through ourselves. It is through our union with others, through their life in our minds and ours in theirs, that even the most solitary acts of true spiritual life become possible. The mysterious power of social influence is not merely an aid to the perception of truth, but the very condition of holding it. Suppose for a single instant that the mind could be absolutely isolated,-no longer drawn towards this mind for clearer intellectual vision, or able to read its moral experience under the fascination of that,-and it would shrink up into absolute individuality-the narrowness of spiritual death. Possibly Dr. Channing's school might reply, that the value of all social influence is only to open to us as it were the character of God; and that, He remaining, all our moral experience would remain, even though every human being were annihilated. Yet is this true? Is not the greater part of our spiritual life as a matter of fact, still conditioned by the individual channels of human influence through which we have drawn it? Would "progress"--would life, as we understand it, that is, the growth of thoughts and faculties, all of which have immediate and direct concern with the society in which we are placed,-be longer possible if the very law of our being, the very condition of our conscience, the very spring of our piety, were annihilated by the annihilation of the other members of that living body of which we are part? It is the condition of human life that we could not be children at all without also being brothers. The social law of our being reaches,
we are confident, to the deepest depth of our most solitary life. A man's individual life could not grow, nay, could not be that of a man at all, could he be truly cut off from the community of man; even in solitude and isolation it is the life of a social being so long as it is human.
Channing's difficulty in realising this truth lay, we believe, in his religious position. He had grasped for himself the truth of moral freedom. Brought up in the gloomy belief that the shadow of predestination hung over the world,-that there was nothing for man to do but to live his appointed lot, the truth had suddenly dawned upon him that he had indeed a free creative will, a power of really becoming a "fellow-worker" with God. This conviction inspired him at once with that profoundly generous view of human nature" so much exaggerated—or at least so little balanced by the belief which is its counterpart-in his school. And yet the sole point on which he rested this constant assertion of the "dignity of human nature" was moral freedom. All the involuntary affections and instincts of man he was inclined to distrust in the comparison; at least he held that they were to be always and invariably tamed, ruled, kept in abeyance; our likeness to God consisting in this solitary and lordly will. Hence he became something of a moral idealist, straining the power of the will, both in theory and in practice, beyond its true limits. He held up to himself a conception of duty that necessarily made his religious faith seem one of mere aspiration-a restless striving after an "ideal," instead of a quiet trust in the mighty arm of God. He wanted, in order to complete his type of faith, an adequate belief in the divine capacity of the involuntary side of human nature-an adequate trust in the life and conditions of feeling imposed upon the will, as well as in the freedom which those conditions circle. He needed to believe that God's life as well as his love runs through these natural channels; that likeness to him does not consist in becoming as near as we may to pure creative wills; that the divine Word unites and inspires not only our human natures, but our human natures on their human side. This was Channing's difficulty in finding a social character for his religion. He thought, in common with his Unitarian school, that religious union came only from the infinite side; that it was the common arch bending over us all, and that alone, which rendered common worship natural. Once take that view, and it is impossible not to deprecate secretly the limitations of humanity; not to think we were meant for something diviner than those limitations; not to strain at an assimilation to God on the free and voluntary side. But those who believe that the Word could really become flesh, and that the same Word does really still perennially penetrate with
life and draw together into unity the individual souls of men, are not in danger either of laying too heavy a burden on the individual will, or of deprecating the binding power of social, even though they seem purely human, ties. They believe that the will of man, free as it is, is not meant to guide, but only freely to follow guidance; and that the less it strives to carve out its own path, the more quickly and freely it will ascend.
The defect we have pointed out in Channing's type of faith shines out especially in his doctrine of humility, which—genuinely humble as the man himself was-is the meagrest and falsest in effect of any part of his teaching. "Humility," he said, "is the virtue of an enlightened understanding." It "has its foundations in a correct estimate of our characters. . . . . It is to be formed not by fixing our thoughts exclusively on the worst parts of our conduct, and ascribing the guilt of these to our whole lives, but by observing our whole lives impartially, surveying the good and the evil in our temper and general deportment, and in this way learning to what degree we are influenced by the various dispositions and principles which enter into our character." Now had this been the description of the mode of truly estimating what our characters are like,-what are our tendencies and dangers, it would be true enough; but pride consists in the desire to reject assistance, to undervalue the assistance we have received, to stand alone where our nature is not capable of standing alone. Humility has nothing to do with " enlightened understanding," it is a willingness to see our need of help,-to recognise to the full the reality and amount of the help we have received. The clearest vision is consistent with pride,-for we may discern, but discern most reluctantly, how little we are. It is in the desire to claim a power we have not, not in the mistake of claiming it, that the sin against humility lies. Nor could any question of measuring present dispositions, and weighing out individual temper arise in such a case. It is of course no humility to affect a lower estimate of ourselves than we really have; but it is not a question of estimate at all; it is rather whether we are inclined to credit ourselves with powers and dispositions which have been formed in us by no power of our own. Those who feel that right consists in simply not resisting the divine life in us,-in declining to make a false choice,-and that no higher power than this is within the limits of human freedom, must feel that humility has more to do with the willing recognition of the divine life and Word in us, than with any microscopic attention to our own characters. In fact, the duty of estimating our own characters accurately is seldom a duty at all. If we are really eager to recognise the Light that shines into us, we shall have no need to catalogue the dark lines in the spirit on which it falls.
But though we believe that Channing's faith was, for the reasons we have enumerated, not adequate to satisfy the yearnings for a social religion, its deficiencies were perhaps a blessing to his country. The growing power of the American democracy was even then beginning to threaten individual freedom. Even then "manifest Destiny" was pleaded against individual conscience. Even then the ocean of popular opinion threatened to engulf the calm and deliberate judgments of private thought. Channing's faith-nay, the very deficiencies of his faith-led him to stem this tide. He did not respect, he dreaded the encroachments of social opinion. He raised his voice with undismayed courage against the most terrible of these "manifest destinies," -Democratic Encroachment, Slavery, and Annexation,-which are to the States of America what Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos were to the States of ancient Greece. Without exaggeration and without timidity he denounced the greatest political sin of his day. Habitually self-restrained even in indignation, his clear sweet voice was heard where the voice of stormy invective would never have been listened to. His faith was something like that of a high-mettled child,—so simple, so eager, so ideal. It did not give him all the command of social forces which he might otherwise have wielded; but if it had not all the breadth of a maturer religion, it had all the immunity from corrupting elements, the spotless purity, of a faith that has grown up in the solitude of one meditative spirit. Amidst the raging tempests of American politics at the present day, we doubt if any living voice has so much power to strengthen the hands of Northern freedom, and disarm the fierce passions of the South, as the clear keen words of Channing. He had not the faith that would closely knit together a great society, but he had a faith that could purify it from its social selfishness.
ART. VII.-EARL GREY ON REFORM.
Parliamentary Government considered with reference to a Reform of Parliament: an Essay. By Earl Grey. London, 1858. LORD GREY Would have saved his readers some disappointment if he had simply announced an essay on Parliamentary Government. As such his book is valuable both from the strong clear sense of his remarks on the results of various lines of policy, and from his authority as a witness to the existing facts of our constitution, not ill-placed for taking a dispassionate view. In the latter capacity he has done good service in calling attention to
many of the features which distinguish that form of polity at present subsisting among ourselves from others which likewise admit popular representation to a greater or less extent. But he mostly "works in the deeper strata of the matter," as Mr. Carlyle says; and there are few or none of those practical suggestions which we should naturally look for in a book appearing with such a titlepage, at a time when a new Reform Bill was supposed to be at hand.
Another omission has been referred to with high praise by some of our contemporaries. It is most true that Lord Grey proves himself to belong to the modern type of English statesmanship by ignoring all theories of representation based on notions of the inherent rights of a free community; and confines himself to stating and weighing a great variety of practical advantages and disadvantages attendant upon various systems. This is the course almost universally adopted by recent English opponents of democratic ideas; and it has many notable precedents in its favour. It distinguishes those who pursue it alike from dreamers of the study, and from those who spin webs of theory to hide their want of specific information. It gets rid of some controversies which will never be settled, and of some classes of opponents whom it is neither possible to satisfy nor worth while to be always refuting. It suits well that tone of scepticism, mildly cynical and conspicuously indisposed to the labour of grappling with principles, which is epidemic in our society of to-day. It commits to nothing, and leads to none of that one-sided stress of mind in argument which makes both sides forget necessary qualifications, offend quiet people, and rush into some untenable position. Above all, it affords to those who wish that nothing should be done, a reasonable anticipation that nothing will be done while people are persuaded to stand balancing pros and cons, and working hard calculations of political probability. Yet with all these unquestionable advantages, it may be doubted whether the method has not received more praise than it deserves. It is right to press all these particular matters on public attention; but men seldom, if ever, act from more than one real motive at a time, and they do not decide large questions by casting up two columns of pros and cons, and striking a balance. No process is more difficult or more deceptive, and the vote is generally staked upon some leading characteristic or evident result of the one opinion or the other. Why does that characteristic or result attract the perplexed attention and fix the wavering mind, but because it is felt that there opposing principles join issue and conflict? Other matters may illustrate the point, lead up to the point, show how much must be sacrificed on the one side or the other, whichever way the point is decided; but there is the point itself, there is what gives interest to the