W. H. Cooke.

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last, through pain, decrepitude, and tears ! Not lightly, not
lightly, but how wisely and kindly, when once we learn to see
it so, does the Lord of our life lay on us the burden of his
yoke, and guide us by his rod and staff, and bid us come to
Him that we may have rest !

This is the particular lesson which is taught, and the special
condition which is addressed, in this book of meditations. One
is struck, in reading it, with these two things ; — ? first, the defi*
nite and objective nature of the faith which it asserts, widely
different from the mere sentiment or emotion of piety ; and,
secondly, the singleness and sincerity of its method, which
never deals evasively with the fact, but confirms the faith by
looking straight in the face of whatever is most painful and
dark in men's experience. Both these are highly characteristic
of that " courage in belief" of which we have spoken before.
We add a few words only, in furtlier illustration of the point
which they present.

There is no intellectual task more difficult than to brin^
home to our thought that direct, personal, conscious relation
between each human soul and its Creator, which is assumed as
the groimdwork of these religiqus meditations. Probably — at
least in our ordinary mental moods — it is strictly impossible.
The attempts which have been made, couched in processes of
logic, to meet the mystery, or answer the difficulty which the
reason finds in the overwhelming thought of One who '^ besets
us behind and before, and lays his hand upon us," are simply-
futile ; and we had best cheerfully admit them to be so. Such



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1863.] Zschokke's Religious Meditations^ 207

proof as that primary truth is susceptible of, must come to the
soul through the medium of emotion and experience.- Proba-
bly the nature of our belief in it remains to the last rather
emotional than intellectual. The truth is taught by assertions,
not by proofs. The assertions must find some response in the
soul itself, before the proof becomes legitimate. CredaSy ut in-
teUigas. We must believe, before we can understand. '^ Facts
before reasoning " is the right method in faith and morals, as
well as in geomet^. How is it, for example, that the particular
truth spoken of is likely to strike home as a fact of experience,
and not as the mere dogma of a creed ? Perhaps in some such
way as this. As we look back on what life has shown us already,
we seem to see that it was scarcely any choice of ours what
post we should stand in, what work we should do, what sort of
success we should find, or what sort of trial we should bear.
We seem to have accepted them, — not chosen them. To will
was present with us ; but for ourselves we should have laid
out the line of service very differently. None of us can take
the full measure of his powers beforehand. None of us can
guess what successes, losses, crosses, or gains will come to
him, — what accidents he must encounter, — how his own will
must clash with the will of others. All these, which make so
sharply marked and so large a figure in the pattern of life as
we look back on it, are out of sight, not to be seen, not to be
provided for, hardly to be guessed at, when we try to antici-
pate what that pattern will be. Do our very best to forecast
and judge and determine, there is the wide margin which is
quite beyond our eye to see or our power to control. We may
hoist the sail, and govern the helm, and study the laws of the
elements that bear us on ; but when we are once afloat, it is
the infinite Deep below, and the infinite Space around. The
two oceans, of wave and wind, hold us between them in an
embrace we cannot quit ; and our surrender to them, in the
last resort, is as absolute, as helpless, as complete, as that o£
the child who is hushed by their rocking or frightened by their
roar and swell.

This lesson of dependence, which appeals, perhaps, most
powerfully to men of the most resolute and energetic wiU,
suggests the first clear thought of that Sovereign Will which



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208 Zschokke*s Religious Meditations. [Sept.

makes the fixed point of our dependence. Such theologians
as Schleiennacher, Twesten, and De Wette, who place the
original source of religion in the feeling rather than in the
understanding, have made this point of view intellectually
, familiar to the student of the philosophical schools. The only
way in which it can be made practically familiar to anybody,
is by the process of meditation or direct intuition, by which
the truth itself, rather than theories and reasonings about it,
is brought into direct contact with experience. Herein con-
sists the function of this class of writings. They help us very
little in our philosophy ; but, where they help us at all, it is as
it were magnetically, by the mere temper of theii: faith. Com-
pare, for instance, the faulty logic with the genuine conviction
of the following : —

" That uneasiness which some people feel at the thought of immor-
talitj and the future destiny of the soul, and which almost takes the
form of doubt, is owing to their thinking that they must be able to give
proofs of that which it is as useless as it is impossible to prove. It is
impossible, because most persons understand by proof a kind of sensual
perception and demonstration of futurity, which no one. could ever pre-
tend to. Even after death the thinking spirit can have no other test of
its immortality than the consciousness that it exists and wili continue to
exist, and the like consciousness it possesses in this life. But in this, as
in the future life, this feeling or consciousness is matter of the imme-
diate present ; the conviction is not derived from the future, for that has
no existence except in idea. When the future has been reached, it is

no longer future, but present The immortality of the spirit is a

fact Of what avail to prove it ? This is not an acquired thought, not
an opinion, the opposite of which might be demonstrated. It is not a
faith which we are at liberty to adopt or to reject, — no ; it is an intui-
tion, proceeding from the innermost depths of our spiritual nature, — it
is a necessary part of our consciousness."

Plato compares the glimpses of divine truth which most
men gain to the dim and shadowy light of a cave, which
shows us real things as if they were phantoms. And the
clearer light of a spiritual or revealed faith is to most minds
at best as the dimness of the early ^awn. It is only by a
process of special training that the eye is wonted to see things
visible by that half-light. The patient waiting, and the baffled



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1863.] Zschokke's Religums Meditations. 209

trials, and the steady gaze, by which we accustom the eye to a
shaded room after the glare of noonday, may be compared to the
kind of mental effort — so different fi*om the firm, quick grasp
of logic — which follows the train of religious " meditations,"
till the clear conception has grown familiar, and is assimilated
with our habitual thought. Something must be trusted before
much can be learned. It is in this way we apprehend the
spirit of the following passage : —

" There was a time when the thought of death and the grave over-
whehned me and made me shudder. How could I, indeed, love death
and the grtive, when to me they were only the great gulf that threat-
ened to swallow np my happiness ? Then the earth was still a heaven
to me, and thy heaven, O God ! a sacred desert, in which I thought of
myself as a stranger, whom no one there knew or loved. And I feared
death, and recoiled from the unknown land.

" Now it is the goal of my longings ; there is my haven of rest, my
home, all that I most treasure ! There are the companions of my heart,
of my life! And when I feel most happy among my friends on earth,
the thought comes to me, ' In heaven thou wilt be happier still ! ' When
gloom settles on earthly things, I say to myself, ' All will be clear and
unclouded there!'**

That courage which trusts in celestial things must also dare
to look at the dark side of earthly things. It is not defeated
by its failure to understand the reasons of them. Indeed, the
first condition of it is that act of will which surrenders the
soul, childlike, unquestioning, to a power which we are sure
has a right to govern, and will not command in Tain. The
assurance is a religiolis condition, not a logical result. No
merely intellectual process that we are capable of is able to
reconcile (as we call it) our philosophy with our faith, — to
show how the facts of human life square with wlat we are
taught of the wisdom and love of God. What we do assert,
and all that we can claim, is, that the space between them is
bridged over in the experience of every one who has taken the
practical, and not the speculative, method to confirm his lEaith.
He waives the effort as he feels his inability to compass the
logic of 80 vast a matter. When he comes to the point, — when
he must meet God's angel (as it were) face to face in a narrow
way, where neither can turn out, — he must fling his theories
18*

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ry- Vrr



210 Zschokke^s Religious Meditations. [Sept.

away, and submit himself like a little child. This, as« we
understand it, is the method of all genuine '^ meditations "
on religious things. If their method were scientific or philo-
sophical, they would fail of the precise end they have to serve.
They do not profess to tell us the inscrutable reasons by which
the Infinite Providence is guided. They only speak the mood
in which the mind accepts its dispensations. They utter the
faith, without which the heart would break, or consume itself
in its lonely agony. Clear and intelligent as it may seem, at
times, there are other times when it must be to us simply a
blind faith, — yet blind in the same sense as when a poor little
bandaged and suffering child once put her hand in ours, and
we led her blindfold through the streets of a strange city. So
it is

*' That the feeble hands and helpless
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness,
And are lifted up and strengthened."

" They that are sick " need the physician, not just now the
physiologist. When the act of surrender has come, and the
soul's health is in some degree restored, then it will be time to
set about the task of interpretation. Just now, everything
is staked on the previous ppocess of reconciliation. And for
this we need, as the first condition, a submission as absolute
and complete as when one with a bruised and broken frame
resigns himself to sleep, that Nature's healing powers may go
on unhindered. As for the natural ills of life, we bear them
if we must ; we contend against them while we can ; we study
them intelligently as we may, so as to shield ourselves and
others from them. But presently comes a time when these
common precepts of prudence are felt to be but vain and
untimely talk. Then, the only practical wisdom, the only
sound philosophy, is that whose first word is Trust. Then,
" faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of
things not seen," — the only evidence of which as yet they
can admit. It is not an intellectual, but a moral, or rather a
religious process, by which that repose of mind must be won,
— the first condition of a higher life in us, that without which
any religion at all would be impossible, unless it were the blind
groping after an " unknown God."

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1868.] Zschokke's Religious Meditations. 211

Perhaps there is only one intellectual statement, absolute
and unqualified, to which this primary faith is committed. It
is simply this, — that the soul is safe with a God of love and
tnUh. Is it meant by this that his dealings are always gentle
with us, — that his yoke is always easy and his burden light, —
that we can always /ee/ sure, as well as be sure, of that fatherly
and protecting love ? No ; it is not by indulgence and ease
that he rewards his faithful ones. The reward he promises is
to give them a larger measure of fidelity, — ability to do more
and su£fer harder things, — more spiritual strength and light.
If there is one lesson more familiar than another in the teach-
ing of religious history, it is that difficulty and not ease, toil
and not rest, sufTering and not relief, is tli9 portion he assigns
often to those nearest his own heart ; for so the law of the
higher life in them is made manifest. It is a nobler thing to
obey a sunmions to peril and pain and toil, than one which
promises else, security, and delight. Such blessings, indeed,
we crave for ourselves perhaps, — at any rate for those we
love. But Hb judges for us otherwise. Often indeed '^ He
giveth his beloved sleep," which is forgetfulness of care and
pain ; but still oftener hardship, that the soul may ripen its
better strength ; grief and loss, that it may throw itself utterly
upon his mercy. " Soldiers ! " said a patriot captain to his
little company of banished men, ^' in recompense of the love
you bear your country, I oflFer you hunger, thirst, cold, war,
and death. Who adepts the terms, let him follow me." The
enthusiastic legion followed him to a man. This is the temper
which is appealed to, and never in vain, when man's noblest
service is required of him.

We believe, also, that it will be found that the mind gains
m intellectual certainty and repose in the direct ratio of its
reliance on what we might call the spiritual method of proof.
An imperfect, though a real, test of this method is found in
simply following, without any captious criticism, the train of
meditation in such a volume as the one before us. The titles,
as we read them, suggest matters very far and foreign from
our ordinary moods of thinking, — the benefits of loss and
pain, the strength that is born of weakness, life out of the
shadow of death, and the recognitions of love reunited beyond



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212 Henry James an Creation, [Sept.

the grave. We are conscious that these belong to quite an-
other plane and department of thought, and are accepted by
quite other categories of belief, than what we are familiar with
in our common.mood8. Yet not perhaps more unfamiliar than
the methods which apply to the higher mathematics, — which,
indeed, are but a series of peculiar intuitions, — and certainly
far more within the reach of common minds. We fall by quick
sympathy into the writer's vein of thought or feeling ; we fol-
low the hints and suggestions of one page jafter another ; we
are won by degrees to see the object which he sees, under the
light that gradually grows clearer to our vision ; — till we find
that the topics, the method of treatment, and the points of ob-
jective belief thafll^eemed most remote have grown familiar
and real to us. The impression fades, as all such impressions
must ; but the process is open to us to renew when we will«
And the perfect peace of believing will be found precisely when
this method becomes habitual ; when — like our physical con-
ceptions of light and heat — it gives the plain and fandliar
interpretation of life's vast perplexity of facts and things.



/ Art. v. — henry JAMES ON CREATION.

Suhstance and Shadow : or^ Morality and Rdigion in their delation
to Life : an Essay on the Physics of^Dreaiion. By Henry
James. Boston : Ticknor and Fields.

If any one, having read this book, and differing from its
conclusions, should wish to describe it, in its own style, —
copying the mode of speech which Mr. James himself uses
toward the philosophers and theologians from whom he differs,
— he might say thus : —

" In previous works it has fallen to the lot of Mr. James to
utter ^ a vast deal of error on every metaphysio topic he has
broached,' but in this book he has reached ^ the triumphantly
paralytic result ' of turning Morality inside out, and Religion
upside down, ^ by his bewildered gabble.' He explains free-



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.] Henry James on Creation. 213

dom to be a mere trick which God has put upon us, like
^ a frivolous game of bo-peep/ or ^ the chase of a kitten after
its own tail.' God hais made us to belieye ourselves the
source of what we do, and morally responsible for it. He
has made us so that we cannot help thinking a good man
better than a bad man ; but this Mr. James has found out,
by an attentive study of Swedenborg, to be all illusion and
bosh. According to him, God is the greatest liar in the uni-
verse, for he compels every man by his constitution to believe
what is in fact a most pernicious and soul-destroying deception,
—the substance, indeed, of all real evil. To be sure, now that
Swedenborg has come and found him out, and now that Mr.
James has written this book, God cannot cheat us any more.
But we are no better off for that ; for though believing this
deceptive opinion, that we are responsible for what we do,
destroys the soul, yet not to believe it prevents us from having
any soul to be destroyed. God pushes us off from himself,
and helps us something by cheating us ; but if we do not find
out the deception, we are ruined forever. Mr. James con-
siders this ^ dapper little pedantry as the consummate deliver-
ance of Philosophy,' and with ^ shallow and boisterous effort
pushes his metaphysics to their last gasp of absurdity.' He
^ denies our knowledge of the veracity of the finite,' in denying
the testimony of consciousness to our personal self-determining
power. And as all of our knowledge of God, by his own con-
fession, depends on the truth of consciousness, ' he puts our .
belief of the Infinite upon a mere arbitrary basis^ authority,'
— that is, of Swedenborg. Mr. James would feed us on ' this
delicious diet,' while by his frenzied faculty of nomenclature
he upsets all established definitions. Morality he defines as
* the sentiment of selfhood or property which every man not an
idiot feels in his own body.' The morality of General Sickles,
therefore, consists in believing that the leg he lost at Gettys-
burg, and which is now preserved in the Surgical Museum at
Washington, belongs to him, and not to that institution. This
'jolly philosopher' also declares, — if we may believe * such
an exquisitely fuddled adept,' — that Religion means ' the
conscience in man of the forfeiture of the Divine favor,' and
pronounces it (page 5) to be ' the germ of all humane cul-



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214 Hewy James on Creation. [Sept.

tare ' ; while (on page 9) he states that it ^ Mis ererywhere
across the page of human history, darkening the face of day,
turning the fairest promise of nature to blight.' Yet this
^ bastard disciple/ this ^ remorseless traitor to religion and
science/ is sufficiently ' vivacious in absurdity/ and occasion-
ally utters ^ a pious hiccup,' intimating that he is, after all, a
sort ^ of serious-minded hodman,' quite in earnest to overturu
all morality, philosophy, and religion, in order that we may
learn from him the great secret of the ^ Physics of Creation,'
which consist, in the last result, in God's ' giving substance to
a form.' Where the form came from to which he gives sub-
stance Mr. James neglects to mention, it being a matter of
small consequence. The great truth of creation consists in
this, that God ' can only create what is not himself, what is
alien to himself, what is intensely hostile and repugnant to
himself (page 54) ; and yet (page 263) he declares that
^ Creation means, on the part of the Creator, the giving being
or substance to what is intrinsically void of being or sub-
stance,' which (page 264) is equivalent to * life.' The Cre-
ator, therefore, is stated to create by giving his *own life, and
yet he is also declared to create by making something alien
or foreign from himself. This, it seems, is the * Physics of
Creation,' — this the logic which is to overturn all existing
philosophy and theology ! Such reasoning, ^ which would
scandalize a Hottentot,' sueh a ^ pinchbeck evangel ' as this,
has inflated Mr. James to such a degree, that he grows ^ radi-
ant, twittecing, and alert with preternatural activity ' over his
own prowess, which is, at best, only ' spiritual buffoonery.' "

We have given the above as a specimen of what an angry
opponent of Mr. James might say, by merely turning against
him his own language toward his antagonists. But we, being
neither angry with Mr. James, nor yet his opponents, but
desiring to learn what he means, and to appreciate his sincere
thought, have no desire thus to retort. He has, indeed, more
of the bullying style of argument than suits our taste. This
kind of intellectual rowdyism, first introduced by Thomas
Carlyle, and in which Buskin and others are such adepts, does
not commend itself to our judgment as modest or handsome.



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1863.] Henry James an Creation. 215

Still, ibis is a matter of taste. It concerns only the form of the
book, not its substance. The questions raised by Mr. James
are too serious to be postponed to any esthetic considerations.
Besides, there is often a good reason for laying aside the pol-
ished language of scholars, and adopting titiis sledge-hammer
manner of appeal. Prophets have always been somewhat
fierce in their phraseology. When rocks of old routine and
self-complacent dogmatism are to be broken in pieces, the
word of the Lord often becomes a hanmier and a fire. ^^ What
went ye out into the wilderness to see ? a man clothed in soft
raiment ? " No. Men of polished address and gentle man-
ners will never do the work of John Baptist, — will never
bring down the mountain of ancient prejudice, or fill up the
valley of lethai^c indi£ference, and so prepare the way of the
Lord. Having, therefore, thus intimated our objections, on
grounds of taste, to Mr. James's style, we pass on to some-
thing more important.

The use of terms in Mr. James's book is more questionable
than the good taste of his style. What right has any one, we
may ask, ^ use all his principal terms in unusual senses ?
To this we reply, that, if a thinker finds it necessary for pur-
poses of geometric reasoning, and in order to precise expres-
sion, to give new definitions to certain words, he has a right
to do so; provided he distinctly explains the new sense in
which Jbe uses them, and adheres to that sense throughout.
lit. James does the first, but not the last. He defines Morality
as meaning, not goodness, but the feeling of self-deternoination,
which makes a man feel himself responsible for his actions.
But in the after part of his book he attacks morality as
though it meant a higher degree of external virtue. Thus
(page 190), he describes the moral man as one who has a
great deal of outward worth. Again, he defines Religion as
die sense of separation from God through sin, but afterward
(as on page 219) he attacks religion in the sense of out-
ward religious practices. " Creation " he seems to us to con-
fuse still more ; and this is a more important objection, since
the very essence of his purpose is to show what creation really
is. Does creation, then, according to Mr. James, mean giving
substance or life to man ? or does it mean, in his opinion,



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216 Henry James on Creation, [Sept.

giving him form and outward constitution ? He appears to us
to have left this point confused. He says very distinctly
(page 54), '^ God does not create what is himself, but what is
not himself; what is alien to himself; what, indeed, is in-
tensely opposite and repugnant to himself.^' But (on page
264) he defines creation as ^^ giving inward being or life to
what is in itself only form." But life is God himself, accord-
ing to Mr. James ; hence Gk)d creates himself, and not what
is alien to himself, as before posited.

But passing by these objections or difficulties, which a brief
explanation might set aside, let us grapple with the main
points of the argument.

And first, we are struck, in reading the book, with its for-
eign; antique. Oriental, or inverted style of thought. It seems
not to have been written in New England, but in Egypt or
Persia, — not in the nineteenth century after Christ, but the
nineteenth century before him, — not by one inheriting the
training of American Orthodoxy, but by one fed on the vast
abstractions of the Yalentinian Gnostics, reinforced by the An-
tinomianism of Marcion. He everywhere moots theosophic
questions, not psychological ones, — thus ignoring his own cen-
tury and its tendencies, and -taking up the problems of the early
East. The great question with us is the " origin of evil " ;



Online LibraryW. H. CookeThe Christian examiner, Volume 75 → online text (page 22 of 49)