Page images

sent moment to the French people. He racter. If there be one deeply-rooted dewas possessed, we may truly say, by a sire in the modern French Character which deeply-meditated and enthusiastic rever- may be said to be either properly relience for the moral and spiritual indivi- gious, or verging very closely on religion, duality of very human mind; and it was it is the desire for some stronger sense this rooted reverence for the inward free of social unity. Hence the communistic dom of human life which made him resist dreams which the most enthusiastic, and so stoutly the contagious despotism of perhaps the purest popular, writers of Bonaparte's policy, and afterwards sym- modern France so freely indulge. And pathize so eagerly with the popular party hence also the strong hold which the which the Revolution of 1830 brought Catholic Church keeps on a community forward in France. He held that the which has intellectually out-grown its “only glory of a state” consisted in pro- tutelage. With this eager yearning for moting" the free and full development conscious organic unity, for close social of human nature;" and his first intense cohesion, Dr. Channing's writings evince political impressions were due to the no sympathy. In his youth, indeed, and practical mockery of this principle by even later, he dreamt of a community of what was then the greatest nation of Eu- goods; but that was due solely to a rerope. At school he read how the pas- publican love of strict equality and dread sionate tyranny of a Parisian mob—at of selfish avarice: indeed, he truly recollege how the calculating tyranny of garded the close mutual dependence one man's genius-rode rough-shod over which would ensue with thorough averprivate and individual liberty; and an sion, as a great spiritual danger, if not as absolute spiritual horror at all irreverent a necessary evil. But he went further invasion of the inmost freedom of man than this : in his estimation, social life entered ever after into the deepest es- was a mere discipline for the nourishment sence both of his political and religious of individual character; and great as was faith. It might not therefore seem un- the stress he laid on the culture of social natural to expect that the life and writ- affections, it was rather as adding grace ings of Dr. Channing—and especially the and dignity to a self-sustained character writings selected by the authoress of this than as lying round the very roots of bumemoir — would produce a profound man individuality. The English religion impression on the unsettled religious of the last century conceived the indithought of France—indeed, on all who vidual life to be quite as distinct and believe in the spiritual character of free-separable from the human society in dom; and just now more especially, when which it is educated as it is from the they feel the yoke to which, in weariness world of inferior animals; and even Dr. of selfish conflict, they willingly submit- Channing's faith, which presents the highted themselves, pressing heavier and est form of that religion, uniformly reheavier on their necks.

gards social influences as superinduced on Nor is it in any way to our purpose in the individual nature, instead of as havthe present paper to explain at length ing their source and strength in the deepour grounds for fearing that this expecta- est depths of that nature. We do not tion may not be fulfilled. We have only think it possible that his mind and writalluded to the immediate aim of the pub- ings should deeply rouse the spiritual life lication of the French memoir in order to of a people who, if they are groping after call attention to one marked feature of religious faith at all, are certainly seeking Dr. Channing's faith, which, while it con- it from the social side. The French touch nects that faith closely with the various most nearly on the supernatural worldreligious traditions he inherited, certainly on the awe of spiritual inspiration-when renders it unlikely to satisfy the strongest the power of social sympathy has melted religious cravings of the French character away the sense of individual isolation, at the present day. We refer to its moral and kindled anew the exultation of a comand spiritual loneliness, to its strict sub- mon life. Dr. Channing, like even the ordination of social life to the life of the deepest of the religious thinkers of his individual, to the secondary and subservi- time, felt religion to be a solitary life; ent position which it assigns to social and though religious faith led him out laws as compared with those regulating into society, he would never have felt the culture and formation of solitary cha- that society led him involuntarily into a

more vivid religious faith. In short, were we to choose most of the other rethough one of the most profoundly remarkable thinkers of our day. Coleridge, ligious men, not only of his own time, for example, was, in regard to the social but of all times, his writings are not like side of religious faith, much in advance of ly to satisfy the craving of the present Channing ; yet it would be impossible to day—a craving deeper perhaps relatively compare profitably a Christian faith of among the French than amongst us Eng- such complexity of form and element as lish, who are the most reserved of the his with one of such bare, and even bleak, Western nations, but manifestly growing uniformity as Paley's. In order to exrapidly even amongst_us-for a Social hibit the gradual transition from an egoFaith; not, indeed, a Faith to reconsti- tistic to a social theory of religion, we tute society from the old ecclesiastical must study a life and character like Chanpoint of view, but a Faith that recog: ning's whose simplicity is scarcely less renizes, that, so far as it can, explains, and markable than Paley's, so that his far that at least gives free expression to, the greater depth and intensity are brought infinite or religious side of social life and into much more conspicuous contrast. duty.

Paley stood in the same relation to the We seize the occasion, therefore, of the doubts which rose up in men's minds beappearance of this French memoir of Dr. fore the great storm of popular feeling at Channing, to trace the two most conspi. the time of the French Revolution, as cuous stages in the passage of English re- Channing stood to the great after-swell ligious thought into this its social phase; of passionate and turbid sentiment which and we have chosen, therefore, the two it left behind. The doubts which Paley writers who, since the comparatively strove to dispel, were the first surfacemodern date when first any attempt was symptoms of the stirring passions bemade to analyze the human principles of neath: but this he did not feel; he asreligious conviction, represent most sim- sumed the same superficial position as his ply, most tangibly, and within the nar- opponents, and fought against their nomi. rowest compass, the selfish or unsocial, nal apologies for skepticism rather than and the disinterested but solitary or non-against that skepticism itself. Christianisocial, stages of theoretic religion-Paley ty in no way met the views of that age. and Channing. They are writers whom, The comfortable classes found it inconon many accounts, it is instructive to venient and unintelligible; the uncomcompare. The tone of their minds at fortable classes found it ill adapted to first presents almost more than a contrast violent partisanship and predatory tastes.

-an absolute antagonism; and yet they And yet the objections raised to it were are quite capable of comparison. They much less deep and searching then than are both singularly lucid and singularly those of a later date. The skeptics of self-consistent, each a perfect specimen of that day did not grapple with it—they his own characteristic mental type. They moved the previous question.” A great are both of them, too, remarkably consid- revelation of selfishness was at hand, erate thinkers; for they were neither of threatening a dissolution of society in Engthem men whose minds were apt to be land, accomplishing it in France; but it distracted from the main drift of their was not yet revealed. And as a barrister thought by any disturbing fertility of in- takes his objections to hostile evidence be. tellectual resource; and almost every fore he argues on the actual innocence or thing that comes from either of them enormity of the act proved by it, Paley's bears the characteristic stamp of its men- age contented itself with declining to dis. tal origin. Again, while both rely in cuss what Theism and Christianity really great measure for their belief on the were, while it was open to argument Jewish and Christian revelation, both of whether or not there were any primathem--and especially Paley—have the facie reasons for attending to them at child's faculty of passing tranquilly by all all. And Paley accepted the ground thus that they find there which is foreign to assigned to him. He admitted virtually their type of character. We find in this that you could prove a religion to be great simplicity and uniformity of mind, true before you had explained what it belonging to both Paley and Channing, a was; he contended that you might provo great facility for contrasting their forms a Creator from the structure of the unian of faith, which would be wholly wanting verse—that you know his reve frame and

from the evidence of history: and hence, the better feeling of those times. We though assuming a thoroughly selfish mean, of course, by a humane temper, principle of human action, by a judicious pleasure in the happiness, and pain in the combination of this principle with his pre- misery, of creatures in some way or other vious results he strove to rob it of its de beneath ourselves. Paley seems to have socializing tendency: To be selfish with been one of those persons—and his class due regard to divine edicts, “worked is by no means extinct—who, though out” much the same as unselfishness from heartily benignant and profoundly comthe first ; and had the great advantage passionate, are little capable of giving or over it of being, as he supposed, truer to receiving any human sympathy. And it nature.

was perhaps characteristic of his day. But it would not only be unjust to Thus, for instance, it was one of his Paley, it would be fatal to the line of greatest enjoyments, we are told, to see thought we have in view, to refer his animals, even shrimps, happy. “Now theory of selfishness to the character of see,” he said on one occasion to his friend, the man. Paley was a thoroughly prac- after a fit of musing by the seaside; “ only tical person, and his object was to con- look at the goodness of God! how happy vince practical persons. Like all practical those shrimps are !»* And he has himself men, he cared little about the tools he recorded, in the most characteristic pasworked with, so long as they did his work sage of his “Moral Philosophy,” how much effectually. What society at that time more clearly the happiness of a healthy seemed inclined to accept as the strongest infant” seemed to speak to him of God's motive, he eagerly seized, not caring goodness than that of maturer beings. much whether or not it were the strongest I seem,


my own part, to see the bein fact, so long as it were the strongest nevolence of the Deity more clearly in for his purpose, clear and tangible enough, the pleasure of very young children than that is, for broad and effective handling. in any thing in the world. The pleasures This is important to observe, not only be of grown persons may be reckoned partly cause it is justice to Paley, but because it of their own procuring; especially if there indicates the wide prevalence of the social has been any industry, or contrivance, or disease which was then eating out the pursuit to come at them; or if they are heart of religion. Paley adopted the sel. founded, like music, painting, etc., upon fish theory mainly because he did not any qualification of their own acquiring. want to encumber himself with the defense of one which would have been at

* The sketch of Paley's habits by his son, who that time more disputable as well as more was obviously somewhat grieved not to be able to subtle and refined. He thought that the describe a demeanor of more consistent solemnity, fewer were the disputable concessions he gives a very pleasant notion of his simple, kindly, asked for at the commencement, the more

and elastic, if not very profound nature. “His

taste for the objects and works of nature, rather telling and forcible would be his conclu- than any skill in natural philosophy, led him still to sions. He found that the assumption of be fond of gardening, though it now rather became universal selfishness was almost undis- a mere gentlemanly work of superintendence. For puted, and apparently much the least an hour after breakfast and dinner he had his regular favorable for a moral theory; and accord- let nothing interfere, nor any one share

, except his

walks of musing and recollection; with which he ingly he aspired to build up on it a doc- youngest daughter, who with a basket under ber trine of moral and social propriety which arm to pick up any thing that he chose to put into he hoped would be proof even against it, followed him haud æquis passibus. At such the reasonings of the world. The selfish- times he seldom spoke a word ; but now and then

he used to surprise his little companion by bursting ness itself was in the times; the desire to out into the most immoderate laughter, or mouthing manufacture that somewhat unpromising out scraps of poetry or sentences of prose. With raw material into something wearing a the handle of his stick in his mouth, now moving in respectable likeness to virtue and piety

a short hurried step, now stopping at a butterfly, a was his own. Except for the extraordi- flower, a snail; at one instant pausing to consider

the subject of his next sermon, at the next carrying nary vigor of his understanding, Paley was the whole weight and intent of his mind to the arno doubt a sufficiently common-place arch- raying some pots in his greenhouse, or preparing deacon, but probably by no means a cold with the greatest gravity to remove some stick or or selfish person. He was vividly and ac

stand that offended his eye-he presented the most

prominent feature of his mind very obviously, but tively humane; and a humane temper is made it perhaps happy for his public character that one of the most characteristic features of be chose to be alone."

But the pleasures of a healthy infant are luded. His sermons are dull in the exso manifestly provided for it by another, treme; moral disquisitions endeavoring and the benevolence of the provision is so to present to his audience “violent mounquestionable, that every child I see at tives resulting from the command of anits sport affords to my mind a kind of sen- other,” but actually presenting very weaksible evidence of the finger of God, and ly ones. Once only he wrote on a social of the disposition which directs it.” This subject, at a most exciting period. It is most characteristic not only of the was in 1790, when all England feared that writer but of all his writings, and of the the revolutionary excitement which had age in which it was written. He was not broken out in France would extend to unwilling to conceive any agency as di- this country. There never was a man vine that was completely clear of man. who had less sympathy with the great Directly human elements were introduced, passions of multitudes than the Archendless doubts were suggested. Was it deacon of Carlisle. He could, indeed, not the aim of Paley's writings to show understand and express with characterisby how gradual and artificial a process tic strength of conception the apparent the moral nature of man is formed ? incongruities of social arrangements. The Laws of association, habits, “violent mo- celebrated passage in which he describes tives resulting from the command of the complete inconsistency of our properanother”-do not these dress up the mind ty-laws with the natural instincts of aniinto something quite stiff and monoto- mals, and draws his ludicrous picture of nous? The simple instinct of pleasure, the the ninety-nine superior pigeons half vivid throb of untutored enjoyment, was starved, and feeding themselves on the what Paley could alone trust as complete chaff and refuse, in order to keep for the ly natural and divine; and when he weakest and worst pigeon of the flock, could get back to it, though it were only not only more than he can eat, but more in a shrimp” or a “healthy infant,” he than he can conveniently spoil and throw breathed free again, feeling that he had away, proves clearly enough that he apslipped the strait-waistcoat of his moral preciated the prima-facie grotesqueness system. The belief of that day was not of some of our human institutions. But favorable to human nature ; if it held that he never understood in the least the power God had revealed himself once in one of social passion which these institutions man, it held still more strongly that he can call forth; and the tract he issued to had closely vailed himself again from tranquillize excited feeling in 1790 is ordinary men; and in animal happiness amusingly characteristic of the man and and childish inexperience it rejoiced to the education he had received. He called feel secure against the unintelligible union it “Reasons for Contentment,” and marked of complexity and shallowness which it it himself as “the best thing I ever wrote.” found in human nature.

We are not surprised to hear it was not And Paley was a fair representative of very generally read, and by those who his age; more completely at home with read it was not very generally admired.” things than with persons, or at least more It proves more than any thing he ever at home with persons on light superficial wrote that he had not even the concepsubjects than on the deeper principles of tion of the great forces which hold togecharacter, society, and faith. His son tells ther, and of the great forces which rend us that "it was more consistent with his asunder, human society. When you read character to suppress or conceal his feel it, and consider at what time it was writings. On religious subjects he seldom ten, you realize for the first time that he conversed, and rarely spoke at all on them may indeed have supposed his treatise on with any of his family. It is clear from morals likely to confirm and restore social the composition of his later sermons that virtue. The “Reasons for Contentment,” there was not an attempt made to guide are addressed to the poor, and composedly either himself or his hearers by feeling.” point out that the poor have as many or Nor in his earlier sermons was the attempt more pleasures than the rich; and that made with any success; the empty rhe- there is scarce any situation in life equal torie of the age, which distinguished them, in enjoyment to that of a peasant, who shows no trace of real feeling. His sits on summer evenings at the door of strongest human emotion was the genuine his cottage, and “with his children benignity to which we have already al- amongst his neighbors feels his frame and

his heart at rest; every thing about him companions were valued mainly for the pleased and pleasing, and a delight and sympathy they afforded with regard to complacency in his sensations far beyond common things. Almost the only letter, what either luxury or diversion can afford. not on business, that is preserved of The rich want this; and they want what Paley's is singularly characteristic. It is they must never have.” Thus, sitting written to a friend just going to Constanapart in his country parish in Westmore- tinople, and is full of eagerness to see the land, did the frigid-minded divine chant new country through the medium of his his utilitarian lullaby over a world that friend's observation. Paley evidently was rapidly ceasing to acknowledge its feared to have vague or “fine” and gencharm, and had altogether defied its eral descriptions, when he wished for one power. The love of liberty, which, strange close, utilitarian, and adapted to his own as it may seem, is of all passions the most Cumberland experience. He fills his letsocial, (since no man can be really free ter with eleven rules by which his friend without fellowship,) the pulses of national is to observe and describe. He is to comambition, the vindictive hatred for tot- pare “every thing with English and Cunitering aristocracies, which through cen- berland scenery: for example, rivers with turies had kept knowledge and power, as Eden, groves with Corby, mountains with well as justice and honor, to themselves, Skiddaw.” “Get, if you can, a peasant's all these “ violent motives” were foreign actual dinner and bottle.” " Pick


litto Paley's nature. The “happy peasant, tle articles of dress, tools, furniture, essitting at the door of his cottage on a pecially from low life, as an actual smock, summer evening,” might have understood etc.” This is not only essentially characthem better than the archdeacon. The teristic of Paley, but of that part of him sense that society has been dull, profitless, by which he to some extent realized the evil - a slavery instead of a source of joy ideal of the eighteenth century in Eng. and strength; the hope that springs from land. Society then forgot its aims, and a people's harmony; the reverence for devoted itself to improving its machinery something higher than man, which comes —as if that were possible without keepof watching the mighty workings, whether ing its aims in view ; and philosophy and for good or evil, of a people's will—all religion, catching the same inspiration, this the merest peasants have often deep- smiled, not without reason, at the vague ly felt, and even died to realize. And grandeur of idealism, and set itself to unPaley's name would utterly be forgotten derstand and rectify human manners and if “the best thing he ever wrote,” had study the divine mechanics. Paley did had indeed been on a theme which more this in the most effective way. He cultithan any other needed deep insight into vated a familiarity with the arts—human social character, a deep sympathy with or animal-at every odd moment. He social temptations, and a deep fear of wrote his books, we hear, in short loose social sins.

paragraphs; starting away from a page But though a dry-minded man, little of his Natural Pheology to look at someopen to great social influences, Paley's thing in the garden, or copy a recipe for natural force of nature comes out in the cheap broth.” And it is easy to discrimiliveliness of his curiosity and the acute- nate in his writings the traces of these ness of his intelligence concerning the hasty and frequent excursions into the world of creatures and things beneath external world. Not only the abrupt dihim. He was an elastic-minded man, visions, but the exultation of new booty whose intellect was always at work on in the way of a reviving illustration just what we may call the theory of doing. as the idea is beginning a little to fade He would have been the true apostle of away, all speak at once of brief but forcithe recent gospel for teaching the world ble intervals of thought, and of repeated in“common things;" for he not only de- tervals of refreshing communion with the lighted in common things, but what is far ingenuities of nature and art. rarer, he did not learn to understand them Such was the great exponent of the in order to deal with them, but he learnt most popular moral philosophy of the to deal with them for the sake of under- eighteenth century; and Paley's " Moral standing them. His aim was theoretic, Philosophy” was popular*—probably behis procedure was practical. Common things were his companions; and even * He received £1000—in those days a much

« PreviousContinue »