Page images
PDF
EPUB

sions, in the name of himself and his fellow Apostles, declared this conviction. Yet, neither be nor any of the Jews had any idea of the great event which was to form the commencement of this blessing,—of the sacrifice which the Saviour himself was about to make, in order to present “the first fruits”—the actual specimen of the life-everlasting. Nay, they were all living in gross error concerning the means of its attainment, and the dispositions of mind which were the prerequisites for its acquisition. Jesus had strongly inculcated that meek endurance of injuries, and all those mild and benign virtues which form such distinguishing traits in his religion, and had very distinctly predicted his own sufferings, death, and resurrection; but so strong was the prepossession of the Jews, in favour of a conquering instead of a suffering Saviour, that his efforts hitherto appear to have been almost wholly ineffectual in producing the views or the dispositions he aimed to inculcate. They had no idea that the Messiah must "suffer,” and thus enter into his glory;" and as they had no such expectation concerning him, so they had no conception of being themselves called to adopt a similar course. Had Jesus never suffered and died, but passed, as his disciples seemed to expect, by an easy transition to his everlasting glory, they would have anticipated the same easy transition on their part; and that calm resignation to death, and all those suffering virtues which form such distinguishing traits in the Christian character, having received no exemplification in his own person, would never have been called into action among Christians. The great lesson, of resigning the present life, and of enduring, with humility and meekness, all the sicknesses and sorrows, all the hardships and oppressions incident to it, terminating in death, under the “sure and certain hope of a resurrection to life everlasting," would have wanted its crowning proof and encouragement in the example of the Saviour himself.

Though he lived in lowly poverty, denying himself all worldly possessions, or outward badges of distinction, yet, exercising an absolute authority in removing the diseases of others, in averting the ills of mortality in every form and shape; professing, moreover, his design of imparting eternal life to the faithful and obedient, nothing, perhaps, appeared more incredible than that he should himself become the victim of mortality in its most ignominious and agonising form. This, however, he resolved, from the very commencement of his ministry, voluntarily to undergo. It was an event necessary to the completing of his example in every point of view. He had called upon his disciples to “take up

their crosses and follow him,”-to be ready, if required, and required they were, under the persecutions to which they were afterwards exposed, to undergo any sufferings to which they might be subjected, while openly, though meekly, maintaining his kingdom and righteousness. This manifestly implied, and seemed to require, that he should take the lead in this course of meek and patient endurance, even unto death. The faith of a glorious issue in a resurrection to eternal life, a state“ incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away,” was first to be exemplified by his own submission to death, in the full expectation of the predicted resurrection. This event, therefore, he constantly keeps in view, calmly predicting it before both friends and enemies on various occasions, and with increasing clearness and particularity as the moment of its realization approaches. He represents it as a voluntary act of submission, undergone in obedience to God, “ for," or on behalf of his followers,—“ of many." Every arrangement seems to have been made, by the course he pursued, and the overruling providence of God, for rendering it as public and notorious as possible, for the full trial and exhibition of his temper and conduct on the occasion, and for drawing the marked attention of men of all characters and descriptions, to every circumstance relative to his sufferings and death, and to his conduct and demeanour, up to the last moment of his mortal existence. How remarkable is his exit! Having received the vinegar, in accomplishment of a prophecy of his royal ancestor applying to him, he said, “ It is finished;" ~ Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;" “and bowing his head, he expired.” Every word and action, up to the concluding moment, is calm, open, and in the highest degree exemplary. He endures his sufferings with the most tranquil patience and magnanimity; the rancour of prejudice and malignity disturbs not the pure benignity and piety of his spirit; but he is perfectly composed, amiable, and resigned unto the end. The prospect of immortality, as the blessing of God upon himself, and as the pattern of the like blessing to be conferred on his disciples, and on the human race, as they respectively advance to a meetness for its reception, formed his support under these severe trials. He thus fully exemplified the faith which he required from others, and the admirable manner in which it can operate on the human character. He thus demonstrated that the greatest evils appertaining to this mortal state, terminating in death, with no other ground of reliance but the promised intervention of God for a complete restoration of life and advancement to immortality, can be rendered in the highest degree influential in promoting moral excellences of the highest order. How valuable is such an exhibition of the moral capabilities of man!—how striking the evidence it affords, that the greatest of evils, under the Divine superintendence, are rendered wholly subservient to the greatest of blessings!-admitting that this resignation to death, was, in the case of Jesus, and will, in all corresponding cases, be followed by the anticipated result.

(To be continued.)

THE AGENTS OF CIVILIZATION.
A SERIES OF LECTURES.—LECTURE FIFTH.

THE ARTIST. All Art is, in its original form, an imitation of Nature. That it subsequently becomes something widely different from this, is manifest; but this is its first province, its first employment. There is nothing in which man can be said to be wholly an inventor, at any period of his social developement. His most original creations are evolved from previously existing materials. Genius is not what many suppose it, the faculty of constructing for the admiration of mankind, what is wholly and strikingly new; it is, in fact, Creative Taste, the faculty of selecting and combining what makes as near an approach as possible to objective completeness, and subjective harmony. But, though man can never be said, in the proper sense of the term to invent, still, he is more an inventor in the only allowable acceptation of the word, the higher the culture of the period on which he is cast. Man, the animal, groping dimly and rudely towards the dawnings of religious and moral conception and sentiment, can have not even the faintest dreaming of what, in ordinary language, is called a system. Thrown, a vigorous but untutored thing, into the midst of God's fair, fresh, and gladsome world, what is his first impression? That of pleasure. What is his first utterance? That which attempts to delineate the impression of pleasure which he has received, or is receiving. Suppose him to pass through a succession of impressions, agreeable or disagreeable, and through a succession of utterances, each more complicated than the preceding; still, it is long before you can imagine him endowed with a systematic grasp of any topic of thought, or any mode of action. For system implies experience, an accumulation of truths, gathered from the events and the records of ages that have passed away. The first human being that ever endeavoured to build up a system, must have done so, not from the circumstances of his own life, but from the striking analogies which tradition breathed into his soul, when tradition was the theme of his meditation. Without system, primeval man was of course the slave of instinct, of impulse, of necessity: and we are all the slaves of these three tyrants, in the precise degree, that we neglect to systematise our knowledge and our activities. It was the difficulties of man's position, therefore, which formed him into an Artist. All his art consisted in the armour of defence and the weapons of attack, which he was compelled to adopt towards his enemies of every description. And it is this coarse, incipient phase of art, in which it is a pure imitation of nature. To protect him from the inclemency of the seasons, whether in his dwelling or in his garments; to extract from the earth, the fruits that were to form a principal portion of his sustenance; to vanquish the wild beasts of the desert; to battle with his human foes; he would do nothing, but what he had seen already done. He might improve upon his models; but he could do so only by uniting two or more elements, which he had already witnessed, as existing apart. This, to be sure, gives a seemingly humbling view of man's early efforts as a self-civiliser. But, if it is humbling on the one hand, it is inspiring on the other. If our race, from such meagre, feeble beginnings has risen to its present expansion and supremacy, what may we not yet ex

ect it to attain ? If a time was, when it had to gain all its knowledge of art from brutes, and even from lifeless matter; what fields of moral conquest must yet be reserved for its prowess ? Nothing more cheering to the believer in human perfectibility, than the first step that man took as a barbarous imitater. Grander to such a one, is the vision of man's attempt to give some small amount of additional security to the care that constituted his first habitation, than the proudest triumphs of which architecture, with its towers, its palaces, and its cities, can boast. His heart can draw strength from the vision, strength not alone for his speculative faith in a great truth, but strength to work, strength to stand forth as the opponent of error and despotism, strength to be a prophet at the call of conscience, and an emancipator at the call of freedom.

The birth of art, the useful, you thus perceive from what I have stated, preceded the birth of art, the ornamental. The latter, indeed, was the offspring of the former. After that useful arts came to exist, no causes arose creating the existence of ornamental arts, as separate and independent agencies. Of course, if man had not the natural love of striking colours and striking forms, ornament, either as an idea or a fact, could never have originated. But this natural love of the striking in colour and in form, was, in its earliest manifestations, not the capricious embodiment of an undisciplined fancy, but a gaudy dress thrown round some object habitually used for a practical purpose. Ornaments no doubt came to be employed, which had no obvious connection with the useful or the practical: in such cases, however, the justest conclusion is, that it is our ignorance of their history, which renders us unable to trace the connection. There are many ornaments at the present day, in all the departments of social life, which seem exceedingly ridiculous; and which yet, must once have had their significance, though now it is lost or forgotten. To take a particular

« PreviousContinue »