« 上一頁繼續 »
Beaumont and Fletcher, on Fuller, on Sir Thomas Browne, an Essay on the Prometheus of Eschylus, and other miscellaneous writings. Vol. iii. contains Formula Fidei de S. Trinitate, A Nightly Prayer, Notes on the Book of Common Prayer, on Hooker, Field, Donne, Henry More, Heinrichs, Hacket, Jeremy Taylor, The Pilgrim's Progress, and John Smith, and a Letter to a Godchild.
Vol. iv. contains Notes on Luther, St. Theresa, Bedell, Baxter, Leighton, Sherlock, Waterland, Shelton, Andrew Fuller, Whitaker, Oxlee, A Barrister's Hints, Davison, Irving, and Noble, and an Essay on Faith. The present edition of the Literary Remains is nearly exhausted. In a fresh edition new matter will be added from marginal notes, probably in a fifth volume. Archdeacon Hare speaks of The Remains in the preface to his Mission of the Comforter in a passage which may fitly be produced here.
"Of recent English writers, the one with whose sanction I have chiefly desired, whenever I could, to strengthen my opinions, is the great religious philosopher to whom the mind of our generation in England owes more than to any other man. My gratitude to him I have endeavored to express by dedicating the following Sermons to his memory; and the offering is so far at least appropriate, in that the main work of his life was to spiritualize, not only our philosophy, but our theology, to raise them both above the empiricism into which they had long been dwindling, and to set them free from the technical trammels of logical systems. Whether he is as much studied by the genial young men of the present day, as he was twenty or thirty years ago, I have no adequate means of judging; but our theological literature teems with errors, such as could hardly have been committed by persons whose minds had been disciplined by his philosophical method, and had rightly appropriated his principles. So far too as my observation has extended, the third and fourth volumes of his Remains, though they were hailed with delight by Arnold on their first appearance, have not yet produced their proper effect on the intellect of the age. It may be that the rich store of profound and beautiful thought contained in them has been weighed down, from being mixt with a few opinions on points of Biblical criticism, likely to be very offensive to persons who know nothing about the history of the Canon. Some of these opinions, to which Coleridge himself ascribed a good deal of importance, seem to me of little worth; some, to be decidedly erroneous. Philological criticism, indeed, all matters requiring a laborious and accurate investigation of details, were alien from the bent and habits of his mind; and his exegetical studies, such as they were, took place at a period when he had little better than the meagre Rationalism of Eichhorn and Bertholdt to help him. Of the opinions which he imbibed from them, some abode with him through life. These, however, along with every thing else that can justly be
objected to in the Remains, do not form a twentieth part of the whole, and may easily be separated from the remainder. Nor do they detract, in any way, from the sterling sense, the clear and far-sighted discernment, the power of tracing principles in their remotest operations, and of referring all things to their first principles which are manifested in almost every page, and from which we might learn so inuch."
The last posthumous work of Mr. Coleridge, published September, 1840, is entitled Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit, and consists of seven letters on the Inspiration of the Scriptures. It should be understood that this work is intended not to undermine the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, or in any degree to lessen the deep reverence with which it is regarded by Christians, but to put that belief on a better foundation than it commonly rests upon. "Let it be distinctly understood," the author says, "that my arguments and objections apply exclusively to the following Doctrine or Dogma. To the opinions which individual divines have advanced in lieu of this doctrine," for instance, I suppose, the strange fancy that the words of the Bible are not divinely dictated, that the language is human and yet exempt, by divine power, from any possible admixture of human error," my only objection, as far as I object, is-that I do not understand them.I said that in the Bible there is more that finds me than I have experienced in all other books put together; that the words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and that whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit. But the Doctrine in question requires me to believe, that not only what finds me, but that all that exists in the sacred volume, which I am bound to find therein, was not alone inspired by, that is, composed by men under the actuating influence of the Holy Spirit, but likewise-dictated by an infallible intelligence; that the writers, each and all, were divinely informed as well as inspired.-I can conceive no softenings here which would not nullify the Doctrine, and convert it to a cloud for each man's fancy to shape and shift at will. And this doctrine, I confess, plants the vineyard of the word with thorns for me, and places snares in its pathways." He proceeds to show how the doctrine in question injures the true idea of the spirituality and divinity of the sacred volume, and directly or indirectly tends to alienate men from the outward Revelation. A second edition of this little work will soon be prepared.
The book has been denounced in strange style by some who do not profess to have it. These reasoners assume in the first place that both the tendency and object of it is to overthrow Christianitywhereas any one who reads it, and not merely what a hostile spirit has predetermined to find in it, can not fail to perceive that at least
the writer's object is to guard and exalt the religion of Christ. But, secondly, forgetting that the book is intended to overthrow Christianity, they urge that Christianity has done very well hitherto without such views as it propounds, and that very great thinkers and good men have lived and died, in the faith and fear of the Lord, without the knowledge of them ;-as if the wants of the Church were in all ages exactly alike; or as if there had not been in all ages clouds over the sunshine of faith, occasioned by the difficulties which the writer seeks to remove; or as if it were not true that the more light men obtain on one side of the region of thought the more they need on other sides; as if greatness and goodness, in their application to men, were not relative terms, and the best and wisest of mortals, that have appeared upon earth, had ever been free from error and imperfection! I should think there is hardly a foolish or evil notion on any subject which might not be screened from attack by such arguments as these. And, even were they not such mere weakness, of what force can they be with those, who take for their motto, as Mr. Coleridge did from first to last that all men may know the truth and that the truth may set them free? Religious truth and religion are identified in Scripture, or at least represented as one and inseparable; and how can a man obey the truth or minister to it, except by setting forth, what, after the widest survey of the subject which he is capable of taking, he believes to be the truth?
The suggestion that no man should examine such subjects or call in question prevailing views in religion save one who starts from a high station of holiness and spiritual light, can be of little value unless accompanied by a criterion of holiness, both as to kind and degree, admitted by all men. Prevailing notions are often utterly erroneous, and if none might expose what they believe in their hearts to be wrong and injurious views, till it was proved, even to their adversaries' satisfaction, that they were far advanced in true sanctity, wrong views would be the prevailing ones till the end of time. Providence works by finer means than enter into this sort of philosophy, making imperfection minister to the perfecting of what is good and purifying of what is evil.
Whether or no the views of St. Jerome and other ancient Fathers concerning Inspiration are, as has been affirmed, something far deeper and higher than we, in our inferior state of spirituality, can conceive, I do not presume to decide; but yet I would suggest, that high and spiritual views in general are capable of being set forth in words, and of gradually raising men up to some apprehension of them. They do not remain a light to lighten the possessor and mere darkness, or a light that closely resembles a shade, to the rest of the world. Things that pertain to reason and the spirit appeal to the rational and spiritual in mankind at large; they tend to elicit the
reason and expand the understandings of men; deep calleth unto deep; and if the teaching of Paul and John is now in a wonderful manner apprehended by peasants and children, who hear the Gospel habitually, St. Jerome's notions of Inspiration, if truly divine and evangelical, would by this time be generally apprehended by Christians in the same way, and by the wise and learned would be comprehended more intellectually and systematically. Whereas, can it be denied, that no consistent scheme of Inspiration has ever been gathered from the teaching of those ancient Fathers? They who believe that such a scheme is contained in their writings, explicitly or implicitly, will do well to unfold it. Merely to talk about such a thing in a style of indefinite grandeur is but to conjure up a mist, by the spell of solemn sounding words, to mock the eyes of men with a cloud castle for a season-a very little season it is during which any such piece of mist-magnificence can remain undispersed in times like the present, except for those who had rather gaze on painted vapors than on realities of a hue to which their eyes are unaccustomed.
I have not been able to obtain any exact account of all my Father's courses of lectures, given after his visit to Germany, but find, from letters and other sources of information, that he lectured in London, before going to Malta, in 1804; on his return from Malta, in 1807; again in 1808; in 1811; in 1814, in which year he also lectured at Bristol; in 1817; and, for the last time, I believe, in 1819. His early lectures at Bristol are mentioned in the biographical sketch.
The poetic or imitative art, an ancient critic has observed, must needs describe persons either better than they are, at the present time, or worse, or as they are exactly. The fact is, however, that in literary fiction individuals can seldom be exhibited exactly such as they are, the subtle interminglings of good and evil, the finely balanced qualities that exist in the actual characters of men, even those in whom the colors are deepest and the lines most strongly traced, being too fine and subtle for dramatic effect. Indeed it is scarcely possible to present a man as he truly is except in plain narrative; his mind can not be properly manifested save in and through the very events and circumstances which give utterance to his individual being and which his peculiar character helped to mould and produce. When taken out of these and placed in the alien framework of the novelist or dramatist it becomes another thing; the representation may convey truth of human nature in a broad way, and seem drawn to the life, if the writer have a lively wit, but as a portrait of a particular person it is often the more a falsehood the more natural it appears.
To poetic descriptions these remarks do not apply. They are, for
the most part, mere views of a character in its elevated and poetic aspects-tributes of admiration to its beautiful qualities. Such are the fine stanzas, already quoted, in which the poet Coleridge is described by the great Poet, his Friend: and such are some less known, composed by a poet of a later generation, who never saw my Father face to face. Of these the last four will serve for a conclusion to this sketch. I give them here for the sake of their poetic truth and the earnest sympathy they manifest with the studious poet
Philosopher contemning wealth and death,
Yet docile, childlike full of life and love,
though they are not among the very finest parts of their author's thoughtful and beautiful poetry.
No loftier, purer soul than his hath ever
(From infancy to age)
Of knowledge: sedulous and proud to give her
The whole of his great heart for her own sake;
For what she is; not what she does, or what can make.*
And mighty vices from afar came to him;
Spirits of night and noontide bent to woo him
He stood the while, lonely and desolate
As Adam when he ruled a world, yet found no mate.
His loftiest Thoughts were but like palms uplifted;
His sweetest songs were sighs.
Adown Lethean streams his spirit drifted,
Coleridge, farewell! The great and grave transition
Has come to thee. Through life a goodly vision
Soft be the sound ordained thy sleep to break
When thou art waking, wake me, for thy Master's sake!
* Here seems an allusion to an anti-utilitarian maxim of Bacon's, which is very expres Bive of my Father's turn of mind:-Et tamen quemadmodum luci magnam habemus gratiam, quod per eam vias inire, artes exercere, legere, nos invicem dignoscere possimus, et nihilominus ipsa visio lucis res præstantior est et pulchrior, quam multiplex ejus usus; ita certe ipsa contemplati: rerum, prout sunt, sine superstitione aut impostura, errore aut confusione, in se ipsa magis digna est, quam universus inventorum fructus. Novum Organum, Part of Aph. cxxix.
+ From a volume containing The Search after Proserpine. Recollections of Greece and other Poems by Aubrey de Vere, author of The Fall of Rora.