Page images

earth, which are full of the habitations of horrid cruelty. Apart from its Divine origin, intrinsically and absolutely, it is by far the noblest and most compendious system of ethics ever imagined or promulgated.

The greatest of the ancients, we have seen, were nearly agreed as to certain moral maxims and rules for the practical guidance of life. The little child, however, in these latter days has this additional and unspeakable advantage over the heathen philosopher, that it has access to the precepts and recorded example of the Saviour.

So many admirable treatises have been written expressly on the ordering of our lives by the good among Christians of every denomination, and the works of great authors, in widely different walks, abound in so many luminous passages, all converging to a focus, and unmistakably tending in this one direction—viz., the restoration of life's harmony and beauty by becoming God-like through Christ~that instead of enumerating or analyzing systems of morals, or attempting new statements where truth has been so nobly and variously expressed, we have in the present Division drawn the outline of our argument from the pages of Inspiration itself, and illustrated it by copious extracts from some of the more prominent writers. Although we may have enunciated little that is new in discoursing of the Beautiful in Life, yet, viewed relatively in connection with preceding sections, we trust that truth has been invested with some fresh interest. That which blossoms in the light of heaven has its roots hid far down in the region of inert matter; while cycles of change and endless reproduction pervade and ceaselessly mingle the organic again with the inorganic. Musing on the fading flower, the falling leaf, the passing bell, or the existence of evil itself, man for the time is sad, till the thought of rejuvenescence arises to dispel the gloom and he is at length with the poet led hopefully to exclaim,

"Even through the hollow eyes of death,

I spy life peering !" Of this the last Division we would remark, as did Sir William Temple of his treatise on “Health and Long Life," "I may not,” says he, “be able to inform men more than they know, yet I may, perhaps, give them the occasion to consider more than they do.”l

In few words, we have endeavoured to show that the existence and reasonableness of a moral law has in some degree ever been felt and acknowledged by philosophers; that in the same way, under the influence even of natural religion, love enlarges both heart and vision for the perception of Beauty, but that the brightest torches of human knowledge, seen amid the lingering, flickering reflections of lost light, like glow-worms "pale their ineffectual fires” before the dawn of Revelation.

From this divine source we have shown :—that in Eden man was holy, and therefore happy, until sin like a harsh discord jarred the primal harmonies, putting man out of tune, as it were, with the universe:--that Christ, by his sacrificial death, has again led him back to the key note:-that sin, the cause of spiritual blindness, and all imperfect sympathies, is for wise ends mysteriously permitted to exist, and will ultimately be overruled for good:--that as Christ is the highest type

1 Works, vol. i., p. 272—first edition.

of moral perfection or beauty, life becomes beautiful only in proportion as it resembles Him. This portion of the subject we have illustrated with numerous choice extracts, the finest passages, indeed, we have met in the course of our reading. We have, then, spoken of the reflex influences of Christianity, which can scarcely be over-estimated; and shown that the due exercise of genuine courtesy, gentlemanly bearing, the numerous train of minor graces, virtues, and accomplishments, which tend so much to sweeten the intercourse of life in short, the highest manifestations of cultured mind in connection with kindly heart and ready hand, are only to be found in the true Christian ; for to him alone these invaluable · qualities are native, forming both the strength of the pillar and the lily-work on the top-its base and capital.

We have next shown that the due cultivation of Science, Art, and Literature, enlarging the field of the Beautiful, is not inconsistent with the most serious Christianity; nay, that these must be permeated with its genial spirit in order to attain their legitimate and highest ultimate end, the advancement of God's glory.

And, lastly, we have endeavoured to show that the whole universe,

"Still throwing up The golden spray of multitudinous worlds."

being one vast system of interpendent harmonies,—from the most minute atom, up through crystal, plant, and animal, to man; again, from man's present state to the resurrection body, “fashioned like unto his glorious body;" and thence to our Lord and God,-LOVE is the grand key-note of the whole.

We might adopt Herbert's remarkable and far-reaching words :

"My music shall find thee, and every string

Shall have his attribute to sing;
That altogether may accord in thee,

And prove one God, one harmony." Love to Him who first loved us, working a change as great as when the blind are made to see and the deaf to hear, miraculously influences both the perception and realization of this harmony, thereby inciting and impelling each, as Milton so beautifully expresses it;

“To fill his odorous lamp with deeds of light!"


We have now, however imperfectly, accomplished the task which we prescribed to ourselves in undertaking this work.

We have endeavoured to show seriatim, as well as throughout the various divisions :

God the grand Primal Source of all Beauty or Perfection;

The Mind of man, and outward Nature, both governed by positive laws, the free operation of which results in Beauty;

That man, in accordance with these all-pervading laws, appropriates and subordinates the outward for the expression of the inward, the material for the spiritual, in the creation of beauty; this being the very highest function of Art, as means to an end ; for

“Art is much but love is more;
Art symbolizes heaven, but Love is God

And makes heaven.” 1 And in the last portion—newly summed up—we have shown, that man, originally made upright, fell from his high estate, sin marring the fair music and thereby dimming his perceptions of the Beautiful; that harmony has again been restored by the atoning death of our

1“Aurora Leigh," p. 392.

« PreviousContinue »