« ZurückWeiter »
as he approached you. Through the faces of most men, even of geniuses, the soul shines as through a mask, or, at best, a crystal; we look behind a shield for the heart. But, with those of seraphic nature, or so filled with spirit that translation may be near, it seems to hover before or around, announcing or enfolding them like a luminous atmosphere. Such an one advances like a vision, and the eye must steady itself before a spiritual light, to recognize him as a reality.
Some such emotion was felt by Lord Herbert as he looked on his brother, who, for a moment or two, approached without observing him, but absorbed and radiant in his own happy thoughts. They had not met for long, and it seemed that George had grown from an uncertain boy, often blushing and shrinking either from himself or others, into an angelic clearness, such as the noble seeker had not elsewhere found.
But when he was seen, the embrace was eager and affectionate as that of the brother and the child.
"Let us not return at once,” said Lord Herbert. "I had already waited for you long, and have seen all the beauties of the parsonage and church.”
"Not many, I think, in the eyes of such a critic," said George, as they seated themselves in the spot his brother had before chosen for the extent and loveliness of prospect.
Enough to make me envious of you, if I had not early seen enough to be envious of none. Indeed, I know not if such a feeling can gain admittance to your little paradise, for I never heard such love and reverence expressed as by your people for you."
George looked upon his brother with a pleased and open sweetness. Lord Herbert continued, with a little hesitation—“ To tell the truth, I wondered a little at the boundless affection they declared. Our mother has long and often told me of your pure and beneficent life, and I know what you have done for this place
and people, but, as I remember, you were of a choleric temper.'
"And am so still!"
“Well, and do you not sometimes, by flashes of that, lose all you may have gained ?"
"It does not often now," he replied, "find open way. My Master has been very good to me in suggestions of restraining prayer, which come into my mind at the hour of temptation."
Lord H.-Why do you not say, rather, that your own discerning mind and maturer will show you more and more the folly and wrong of such outbreaks.
George H.-Because that would not be saying all that I think. At such times I feel a higher power interposed, as much as I see that yonder tree is distinct from myself. Shall I repeat to you some poor verses in which I have told, by means of various likenesses, in an imperfect fashion, how it is with me in this matter?
Lord H.-Do so! I shall hear them gladly; for I, like you, though with less time and learning to perfect it, love the deliberate composition of the closet, and believe we can better understand one another by thoughts expressed so, than in the more glowing but hasty words of the moment.
Prayer the church's banquet; angel's age;
The soul in paraphrase; heart in pilgrimage;
The Christian plummet, sounding heaven and earth.
Engine against th' Almighty; sinner's tower;
Reversed thunder; Christ's side-piercing spear;
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear.
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss;
Heaven in ordinary; man well drest;
The milky way; the bird of paradise ;
Church bells beyond the stars heard; the soul's blood;
Lord H.-(who has listened attentively, after a moment's thought.) There is something in the spirit of your lines which pleases me, and, in general, I know not that I should differ; yet you have expressed yourself nearest to mine own knowledge and feeling, where you have left more room to consider our prayers as aspirations, rather than the gifts of grace; as—
"Heart in pilgrimage;"
"A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear."
In your likenesses, you sometimes appear to quibble in a way unworthy the subject.
George H.-It is the nature of some minds, brother, to play with what they love best. Yours is of a grander and severer cast; it can only grasp and survey steadily what interests it. My walk is different, and I have always admired you in yours without expecting to keep pace with you.
Lord H.-I hear your sweet words with the more pleasure, George, that I had supposed you were now too much of the churchman to value the fruits of my thought.
George H.-God forbid that I should ever cease to reverence the mind that was, to my own, so truly that of an elder brother! I do lament that you will not accept the banner of my Master, and drink at what I have found the fountain of pure wisdom. But as I would not blot from the book of life the prophets and priests that came before Him, nor those antique sages who knew all
That Reason hath from Nature borrowed,
Or of itself, like a good housewife spun,
What willing Nature speaks; what, freed by fire:
As I cannot resign and disparage these, because they have not what I conceive to be the pearl of all knowledge, how could I you?
Lord H.-You speak wisely, George, and, let me add, religiously. Were all churchmen as tolerant, I had never assailed the basis of their belief. Did they not insist and urge upon us their way as the one only way, not for them alone, but for all, none would wish to put stumbling-blocks before their feet.
George H.-Nay, my brother, do not misunderstand me. None, more than I, can think there is but one way to arrive finally at truth.
Lord H.-I do not misunderstand you; but, feeling that you are one who accept what you do from love of the best, and not from fear of the worst, I am as much inclined to tolerate your conclusions as you to tolerate mine.
George H.-I do not consider yours as conclusions, but only as steps to such. The progress of the mind should be from natural to revealed religion, as there must be a sky for the sun to give light through its expanse.
Lord H.-The sky is-nothing!
George H.-Except room for a sun, and such there is in you. Of your own need of such, did you not give convincing proof, when you prayed for a revelation to direct whether you should publish a book against revelation ?*
* The following narration, published by Lord Herbert, in his life, has often been made use of by his opponents. It should be respected as an evidence of his integrity, being, like the rest of his memoir, a specimen of absolute truth and frankness towards himself and all other beings:
Having many conscientious doubts whether or no to publish his book, De Veritate, (which was against revealed religion, on the ground that it was improbable that Heaven should deal partially with men, revealing its will to one
Lord H.-You borrow that objection from the crowd, George; but I wonder you have not looked into the matter more deeply. Is there any thing inconsistent with disbelief in a partial plan of salvation for the nations, which, by its necessarily limited working, excludes the majority of men up to our day, with belief that each individual soul, wherever born, however nurtured, may receive immediate response, in an earnest hour, from the source of truth.
George H.-But you believed the customary order of nature to be deranged in your behalf. What miraculous record does more?
Lord H.-It was at the expense of none other. A spirit asked, a spirit answered, and its voice was thunder; but, in this, there was nothing special, nothing partial wrought in my behalf, more than if I had arrived at the same conclusion by a process of reasoning.
George H.-I cannot but think, that if your mind were al
race and nation, not to another,) "Being thus doubtful in my chamber, one fair day in the summer, my casement being opened to the south, the sun shining clear and no wind stirring, I took my book, De Veritate, in my hand, and kneeling on my knees, devoutly said these words:-O, thou eternal God, author of the light which now shines upon me, and giver of all inward illuminations, I do beseech thee, of thy infinite goodness, to pardon a greater request than a sinner ought to make. I am not satisfied enough whether I shall publish this book, De Veritate. If it be for thy glory, I beseech thee give me some sign from heaven; if not, I shall suppress it.—I had no sooner spoken these words, but a loud, though yet gentle noise came from the heavens, (for it was like nothing on earth,) which did so comfort and cheer me, that I took my petition as granted, and that had the sign I demanded, whereupon, also, I resolved to print my book. This, how strange soever it may seem, I protest before the Eternal God, is true; neither am I any way superstitiously deceived herein, since I did not only clearly hear the noise, but in the serenest sky that ever I saw, being without all cloud, did, to my thinking, see the place from whence it came."
Lord Orford observes, with his natural sneer, "How could a man who doubted of partial, believe individual revelation ?"