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his age and experience, and which therefore may be considered the very cream and essence of his wonderful genius, this characteristic element obtains a prominence that cannot fail to have struck his most cursory reader. Out of these fifty-eight short essays, I have found, in twenty-four of them that treat more exclusively of moral subjects, more than seventy allusions to Scripture. So natural was it to borrow a figure of his own—for his great mind “to turn upon the poles of truth," and to revert to its great fountain-head, in support and confirmation of his own profound conclusions.
An analogous moral tone is so abundantly apparent in the works of Milton, that it is unnecessary to particularize it; and although the nature of the controversies that vexed his times, and in which he took so prominent a part, would have been more than sufficient to have given his prose writings this particular colour and bent, yet in his poems,“ the immortal part of him," a similar spirit pervades every page. To such heights of moral grandeur, indeed, does it lead him, in some of those sublimer passages of his, that one feels as he reads that they have been written in the conscious over-shadowing of that same Spirit
, from under whose cloud-veiled majesty on the mount issued the eternal politics of heaven.
In an almost equal degree downwards toward our minor writers will this feature be found to exist, and there is scarcely an abiding name in literature in which it is not a notable characteristic. This unconscious coincidence between the morality of the greatest minds and that of revelation suggests a field of inquiry, tempting indeed to enter, but of too extended a character to be treated, as the fertility of the subject would require, within the narrow limits of a preface. That such a coincidence, however, is not altogether the mere result of educational prejudice, as some no doubt will be ready to assume, is quite evident from the fact of its having been sometimes conspicuous in the works of men singularly heedless of Scripture morality, and even of men, the general tone of whose works has been notoriously out of keeping and opposed to it; and further, by the fact that it also holds good in many cases between the morality of the New Testament and the minds of men who wrote before the Christian era. The Christianity of Platonism affords an interesting evidence of this. The coincidence, I imagine, is no mere outward accident of education, but a God-implanted principle, radical and innate, the very natural homage of the greatest spirits to the Father of all spirits, the irresistible gravitation of all moral genius to its common centre.
But by far the most prominent example of this deference and homage paid to revealed truth will be found in the works of Shakspeare. As he excels in nearly all other points, so also is he greatest in this. So perfectly impregnated with the leaven of the Bible are his works, that we can scarcely open them as if by accident without encountering one or other of its great truths which his genius has assimilated and reproduced in words that seem to renew its authority, and strengthen its claims upon men's attention.
The character and extent of Shakspeare's education is a subject which has been discussed already ad nauseam—one of those unfortunate points of which so little is known, that every one thinks himself entitled to have his say in it. But if internal evidence from his works has any place in the argument at all, the most extreme disputants on either side the question will readily concede that one of the principal influences that moulded and guided his intellect—that one of his great teachers indeed was the Bible. It is not only apparent in the tone of his morality, but in the manner of it also. Both the spirit and the letter bear witness. It has left its impression not only on his mind, but on his idiom, on the exquisite simplicity of his diction, and on the intense homeliness with which he brings his truths to bear on men's “business and bosoms," while his innumerable allusions, direct and indirect, to Scripture history, persons, places, events, doctrines, parables, precepts, and even phrases, discovers a familiarity with the Bible, that proves it must have been eminently the book after his own heart.* The Reformation tinged the entire literature of the Elizabethean era with the same spirit. It was the distinguishing feature of the time, and naturally enough culminated in the greatest genius of the time. The awakening spirit of religious freedom, that early in the century had received such an impetus from the fire then kindled in Germany, and that had been so mightily aided by the art of printing, then established in the country for about half a century, had now fairly taken root in the English character. Men's minds were on the rack of curiosity, eager to anticipate the result that so many open Bibles would surely bring about, and so to speak, were waiting upon the men who could popularly incorporate the glorious element in their literature. Modern civilization can scarcely
* And there can be little doubt but that he could have endorsed the following confession of one of the greatest of modern writers, who, with considerable justice, has been called the Shakspeare of Germany. “It is a belief in the Bible,” says Goethe, “which has served me as the guide of my literary life. I have found it a capital safely invested, and richly productive of interest.”