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RELIGIOUS CHARACTER OF WORDSWORTH'S POETRY.

IN our last Number, our readers were presented with an article on the religious character of Wordsworth's Poetry, with special reference to the poem of "The Excursion ;" and a hasty postscript intimated, that it had been sent to the press in entire ignorance that there was reason for expecting the event which actually happened at the time, and which left England to mourn the loss of the most illustrious poet of these later days. At such a moment, the critic and reviewer should be dumb. They have no place in a funeral train. Had we uttered his name, we should have wished only to express our sense of the honour due to one whose genius was always pure, and serious, and noble, when compared with those who have employed their splendid talents in the service of the darker passions, or the tastes of the world, or a mere imaginative impulse; and to state our belief that those more distinct truths of Revelation and peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, which, in his great poem, too much withdraw their shining, had thrown an increasing light upon his own soul, as he advanced towards eternity.

We now refer to the subject for the sake of introducing an extract from a letter which we have received in allusion to that article; and which will give pleasure to our readers, by the confirmation which it affords of the persuasion which we have just expressed.

"A comparison of the Edition of the poet's works in 1846, with that in 1836, brings out one most interesting fact, namely, that certain alterations have found their way into the last Edition, betokening (as it would seem) a consciousness in the poet himself of the existence of the defect which has been pointed out; and he has sought to make amends for it by taking opportunities of giving expression to the distinctive views of the Gospel in some places where the want had been felt before.

"Thus after the touching story of Margaret, one feels the comment made by the 'Wanderer' very unsatisfying, if we only read the old Edition, which has (p. 37),

"My friend, enough to sorrow you have given,
The purposes of wisdom ask no more;

Be wise and cheerful, and no longer read
The forms of things with an unworthy eye.'

"But in the Edition of 1846, we have this alteration and insertion after the two first lines :

"Nor more would she have craved as due to one,

Who in her worst distress had often felt

The unbounded might of prayer; and learned with soul
Fixed on the Cross, that consolation springs

From sources deeper far than deepest pain

For the meek sufferer. Why then should we read,' &c.

"Here the poet seeks to point out the true source and channels of consolation in suffering, evincing at the same a consciousness of having omitted this before. Again, a few lines lower down, we have in the earlier Edition

"What we feel of sorrow and despair

From ruin and from change, and all the grief
That passing shows of Being leave behind,
Appeared an idle dream, that could not live
Where meditation was.'

"Now, after the words 'idle dream,' we have

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Thus Christianising what was previously only meditation in the abstract. Then again, at p. 194, the matron of the mountain cottage, left all day alone, after mentioning the various ways in which her solitude is cheered, does not now conclude as she once did.

"But above all my thoughts are my support,'

in the later edition we hear her add

"My comfort-—would that they were oftener fixed
On what for guidance in the way that leads
To heaven, I know, by my Redeemer taught.'

"Other passages might be found where alterations or additions have been made in the same spirit. All this is to me exceedingly touching and striking. These additions may perhaps appear not to be in perfect sympathy with the sentiments which they follow-engrafted upon, rather than growing out of them— but so much the more distinctly do they mark a self-consciousness of previous defect, and a desire on the part of the old man to bear testimony, in his declining years, to the reality of those principles of religion which were increasingly to him the source of peace and comfort."

To this extract we will add only a few words, which may serve to prevent misconception as to our purpose in insertingit. Our Review was based, and our estimate of the religious character of the poem formed, upon the Edition of 1846, in which these alterations appear; so that we do not now refer to them with any view of modifying what was there said as to the tone of the work as it now stands. It was asserted that many serious and touching acknowledgments of revealed truth were scattered here and there, though they did not appear to exercise their due influence over the general course of thought. But that some of these acknowledgments have been added in later years, not in obedience to any demands of public taste, (for the demands of public taste are not for such things as these,) but simply from the promptings of the poet's own mind, dissatisfied with what he once felt sufficient, and desirous to utter what once had not risen to his lips-this appears to us a fact so interesting in regard to the work, and so much more interesting in regard to the man; so significative of thoughts working in the right direction, and so suggestive of spiritual progress, that we feel sure many of our readers will thank us for placing it before them.

ARCHDEACON

WILBERFORCE ON BAPTISMAL REGENE

RATION.*

To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

SIR,-As the Archdeacon of the East-Riding of Yorkshire has entered the lists with Mr. Goode, on the question of Baptismal Regeneration which now agitates the Church, I beg to offer a few passing remarks on the subject, which may not, I trust, be unacceptable to your readers.

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He begins with stating that "the controversy respecting Baptismal Regeneration has of late assumed a new form, and shifted the ground on which is was formerly contested;" and one object of his work seems to be, to find fault with Mr. Goode for having broken up this new ground of controversy. Now it appears to me very unfair to cast the blame of such a course (if it deserve blame) upon Mr. Goode; since, as the Archdeacon proceeds to show, it was Archbishop Laurence who cast the first stone in this direction, for it was one of his constant objects," as a "main advocate" for the views entertained by the Archdeacon, " to identify the denial of this doctrine" with the system of Calvinism. And yet I do not perceive that the Archdeacon inflicts even the most gentle rebuke on the man who opened up this controversy on his own side, while he has much to say against Mr. Goode for coming second in the fray, and for attempting fairly and fully to meet the palmary argument of Archbishop Laurence. Was that a good line of argument in the hands of the Archbishop, which is a bad one in the hands of Mr. Goode ?

The

2. The Archdeacon says, "Mr. Scott asserts distinctly and repeatedly, that the denial of Baptismal Regeneration has no sort of connexion with the obnoxious tenets of Calvin." expression, "no sort of connexion," is substituted for Mr. Scott's real language, "no necessary connexion." The reader will easily perceive how great a difference there is between the two assertions; and it is on this difference that the Archdeacon imputes to Mr. Scott's words a meaning which they will not bear, and which, as the context shows, had never entered into his own mind. Mr. Scott had purposely avoided the introduction of the doctrine of Calvinism into his controversy with Dr. Mant. When Dr. Laurence threw himself into the arena, he roundly maintained that on no other than Calvinistic grounds could Mr. Scott's views on Baptism be upheld. And he therefore inferred, that Mr. Scott must be a Calvinist, though he allowed that little, if anything, on the subject had appeared in his work. This mode of assault was properly resented by Mr. Scott as disingenuous and unfair. He had never appealed to any Cal

* Having seen reason to delay our notice of the Bishop of Exeter's Letter and Mr. Goode's reply, we are glad to give insertion to this clear and able paper, without pledging ourselves, more than in other miscellaneous papers, to the adoption of every word and sentiment contained in it.

CHRIST OBSERV. No. 140.

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vinistic argument or authority in support of his views. Why then should another topic be introduced into the discussion, which would have extended the controversy beyond all reasonable bounds? It appeared that the whole was done to bring odium upon the evangelical combatants in the cause, and to produce if possible a division in their ranks. Mr. Scott resisted the unprovoked challenge, and refused to meet his opponent on the new ground to which it was proposed to transfer the contest. And, therefore, he said that " the question"-namely, the question he was discussing,-" was not Calvinistic;" he had never thrown it into that shape, and never required it to be considered in reference to Calvin's doctrine. To show what he meant, by saying that it had no necessary connexion with Calvinism; he proceeds to refer to the Quakers, Socinians, and especially the Wesleyan Methodists, who were all far removed from Calvinism, but who yet, with one voice, rejected the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration. Where, then, is there the slightest ground for the assertion that Mr. Goode takes for granted as the very basis of his position, that which Mr. Scott had so emphatically denied?"

That Scott and Goode should have assailed the High Church doctrines on different sides, is no proof that they were, in any way, opposed to each other. Mr. Scott would fully have admitted the force of Mr. Goode's reasoning; and Mr. Goode, the force of Mr. Scott's. The truth is, that the system which the Archdeacon would defend is assailable at more points than one; as every erroneous and unscriptural system is, and must be. And while, I have no doubt, it was wise and proper in Mr. Scott not to allow himself to be drawn away from a point of attack which he had deliberately chosen, and by means of which he compelled Dr. Laurence to abandon several of the positions which Dr. Mant had endeavoured to fortify; it is equally expedient that Mr. Goode should now bring fresh evidence bearing on the question, confirmatory of that before adduced, and showing that whatever ground might be chosen, by the most acute assailants of the hypothetical principle, in reference to the Baptismal Service, was all alike untenable.

3. It is of great importance to keep the true question at issue fully in view; which is, "Whether Baptism is or is not invariably, and in every baptized infant, the means of spiritual rege'neration, in the fullest sense of the terms." To allow any exception, any case in which the grace may be separated from the outward act of Baptism, either by preceding the act, or following it, or being entirely absent, is fatal to the system of what is now called "Church doctrine." As also is the acknowledgment that the term regeneration is to be understood in any qualified sense in the Service. Every instance, therefore, which can be adduced from the writings of the Reformers, and from authors of weight and influence in the Church, in which concession is made on either of these points,-and such instances are, as Mr.

Goode has shown, innumerable,-tends to establish the fact that in the Service of Baptism, the Church did not intend any such absolute limitation of the terms employed, as is now vehemently contended for by Tractarian writers in general, and by Archdeacon Wilberforce in particular.

وو

To meet the formidable assault of Mr. Goode's elaborate Treatise on Baptism, the Archdeacon devotes his first chapter to a consideration of the question, "What is regeneration?" He founds his explanation on a theory which he had taken much pains to establish in his previous work on the Doctrine of the Incarnation, into a discussion of which it is unnecessary here to enter; and he brings out this answer,-Regeneration "is the effect of that gift of grace which the Father of all mercies was pleased to embody in the Manhood of the Incarnate Son, that thereby Humanity at large might be reconstructed; and which, in Him and by Him, is received by those happy members of the family of man to whom the Gospel comes, and by whom it is not rejected through unbelief or impenitence." It is obvious to remark, how destitute this language is of the simplicity of plainness of the Holy Scriptures. In defining a doctrine of such primary importance, we might have expected that the writer would hardly have spoken otherwise than (to use the language of Ridley) the very text doth, as it were, lead him by the hand." At all events, we might have looked for something which could easily be understood. But how many definitions will be necessary before the above definition can be made plain! First, what can be meant by a "gift of grace being "embodied in the Manhood of Christ?" Gifts of grace are understood to be spiritual gifts. These gifts were granted to holy men of old without any embodiment that we read of. Now to suppose that under the Christian dispensation they need any embodiment, in order to render them capable of communication on the part of God, or of reception on that of man, is at least to go backwards from what is spiritual to what is material, rather than to advance from the material to the spiritual.-But the darkness thickens as we proceed; for, secondly, what can we understand by "Humanity at large" being "reconstructed" by this embodiment of grace in the Manhood of Christ! Humanity was constructed on the sixth day of the creation; and though man was injured and depraved by the Fall, we do not find that his humanity needed reconstruction. He has the same organs, the same senses, the same component parts, as before. His heart needs to be changed; not his humanity reconstructed. Hence the Scripture terms, regeneration, renewal, conversion, &c., all apply to the change required in his moral character, not to the reconstruction of his humanity. Thirdly; this grace, which thus reconstructs humanity at large, is received in and by Christ, "by those happy members of the family of man to whom the Gospel comes, and by whom it is not rejected through unbelief or impenitence." Who that reads this definition would conceive that

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