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PART SEVENTH.
UNION WITH GOD IN THE WORK OF MAN'S REDEMPTION.



CHAPTER VIII.


ON UNION WITH GOD IN THE REDEMPTION OF THE ARTS AND LITERATURE.


Of the necessity of a divine guidance in art and literature.— Of the early opinions among men on this subject. — Of union with God in the mechanic and other subordinate arts. — Of union with God in the fine arts. — Illustrated from the paintings of Raphael.— The subject pursued in its relations to history and poetry. — Its application to seminaries of learning.— Reference to a pious teacher. —Concluding Remarks.

IF God is man's great teacher, as we have seen in a former part of this work, then, in his efforts in acquiring knowledge, he will be likely to go astray and to seek out hurtful ”inventions,” [Ecclesiastes 7: 29] so far as he does not accept a divine guidance. It is, therefore, not too much to say, that the Holy Ghost, the inward teacher sent down from heaven, both ought to be, and that he is designed to be, the great master in art and literature. And it is worthy of notice, that heathen nations, who everywhere give evidence that they have some glimpses of the truth, agree in ascribing the early inventions in art, and the early works in poetry and music, either to a divine agency or to human agency aided by divine. According to the mythology of the Greeks, it required the skill of Mercury to invent the lyre; — and there could neither be poetry nor music without the aid of Apollo and the muses. Accordingly, the great poets of the Greeks and Romans frequently begin their works by a distinct recognition of their dependence upon a higher power, who gave inspiration to their thoughts. And it is worthy of notice that Livy, in the commencement of his work on Roman history, (certainly in many of its attributes one of the most perfect and interesting works of that kind,) proposes to his readers, that they should imitate the custom of the poets, and commence their undertaking by supplicating the presence and aid of the gods.

2. But it is needless to recapitulate instances. The idea that a higher power was needed in the development of all good things, was so universal in the early periods of the human race, that it might well be called an instinct of man's nature. The ideas which men then entertained of God, were oftentimes very imperfect, and perhaps generally so; but, whatever they might conceive him to be, they had a conviction, which entitled to higher and better practical results, that he was the true source of all good. Mr. Dryden has alluded to this early conviction in some happy lines:­

"When Jubal struck the chorded shell,
His listening brethren stood around,
And wondering, on their faces fell,
To worship that celestial sound.
Less than a God they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell,
Which spoke so sweetly and so well."


3. Readily, and with entire strength of conviction, do we yield our assent to the great truth, which is thus imperfectly indicated in benighted times and by the the light of nature, while it is clearly asserted and illustrated in the Scriptures. All poetry, all music, all painting, all statuary and architecture, all wisdom in legislation, all useful mechanic invention, everything whatever, which has in it the elements of living truth and beauty, implies the fact, as it seems to us, of the presence and aid of a divine power. At any rate, so far as these things, or things of a kindred nature, are done or attempted to be done without divine aid, so far they are attended with imperfection. And so far as they are imperfect, and could be carried into effect otherwise and better than they are, so far they stand in need of redemption; — a redemption, which comes to them through the mediation of Jesus Christ, as truly as redemption comes in any other form from that source.

Believing, therefore, that the work of redemption and restoration extends to all things, and that no art or work of man can be carried to its highest and most beneficial results without God's presence, we proceed now to illustrate the union of God with man in the redemption and perfection of the arts and literature.

And, in doing this, we shall first refer briefly to those arts which, though very useful and necessary, are generally regarded as comparatively low in rank. Our view is, that the divine presence and aid are necessary in the development and application of all such arts, however humble they may be thought to be. The art of agriculture, the mechanic arts, the arts connected with domestic life, all of them not only admit, but require, the union of the divine with the human, in order to secure their perfection and their proper use. We do not hesitate to say, that the man who holds the plough, the man who lifts his arm of toil in the workshop, can do it usefully and happily, only so far as he does it in connection with God. The true doctrine is, — God in
all things. God made the earth; — God sends the rains, that fertilize it. But this is not all. It is equally true, whenever and wherever the original harmony of things is readjusted, that God guides the hand that guides the plough, and smites in the hand that smites the anvil. And the laborer and the artisan are not in true union with God, until they have dispositions which will lead them to pray and to believe that this may be the case.

4. And especially may this be said, because all arts and labors have relationships and influences beyond what is first presented to our notice. It is obvious, for instance, that God designs that the Gospel shall be preached in all lands. And this great and benevolent design as obviously involves the fact, that missionaries must be sent just as far and as widely as the Gospel is to be preached. And every one perceives that they cannot thus go from land to land, and over intermediate seas, without the aid of ships and other conveyances. Those, therefore, who build ships, and those who navigate them, and those who develop and perfect the principles and methods of navigation, are all in the natural line of divine cooperation; that is to say, — they are doing a sort of work which God designs and wishes them to do. And if they will only add the spirit of union to the form of union, then they are actually in the state of union, so far as this particular thing is concerned and will do just what they ought to do. And without the spirit of union, which leads them to look to God in everything, they will fail to do what they ought to do. God, dwelling in the soul, is just as necessary to make good sailor as to make a good preacher.

God not only needs missionaries, who are to be met abroad in ships; but he needs Bibles to be distributed by those missionaries. But Bibles must be printed; and they cannot be printed without printers to do the work. Printers, therefore, are as necessary in their sphere as missionaries. And the remark which has just been made, may be repeated here, namely, that the presence of God in the soul is as necessary for printers, in order to help them do their work properly, as it is for others. And this is true of every art and calling whatever. No art ever comes to its ultimate and highest good, and never can come to such good, except so far as it has God in it, both to approve the thing done, and to direct and aid in doing it.

5. And this we understand to be the doctrine of the Bible everywhere. When Moses was required to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, it was necessary that he should employ mechanics. But the fact of their being mechanics did not exclude the idea of their being taught of God. On the contrary God seemed to be unwilling that any should be employed except those in whom his own spirit of wisdom dwelt. He did not propose to do the work miraculously; — but, in using human instrumentality, he was desirous of finding men of such dispositions that he could enter into them; and working unitively, if we may so express it, perfect the human thought by harmonizing it with the divine. The passage in relation to this matter is one of great and beautiful interest.

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, — See, I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah

“And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; — to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.

“And I, behold, I have given with him Aheliab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; — and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee.” [Exodus 31:1-5; also, 36:1-4.]



The following striking stanzas of George Herbert, an old English poet, now almost forgotten, illustrate and sustain some of the views which have now been expressed.

TEACH ME, MY GOD AND KING.

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it unto Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest
And give it thy perfection.

A man, that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heaven espy.

All may of Thee partake,
Nothing can be so mean,
That with this tincture — FOR THY SAKE
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant, with this clause,
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes
that, and the action, fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.

These views will apply easily, and perhaps still more strikingly, to the liberal or fine arts, and to the various forms of literature. If a divine guidance is necessary to make a man perfect in the more common arts of life, so that he cannot build his own habitation, or do any other mechanic work as he ought to do, without God to help him, still more is such guidance necessary in those arts which imply higher exercises of the intellect, such as painting and sculpture. Give a man all the requisites of a great painter, a practiced hand, an eye alive to all the beauties of external nature, a creative imagination; — and then add a heart in alliance with God, and rich in holy feelings, and it is not easy to limit the beautiful and sublime works which his pencil will give rise to. The same may be said of sculpture and of architecture in its higher forms.

And such are the difficulties attending these arts, when it is proposed to carry them to their highest results, — so much invention is necessary, so much care in the relative adjustment of the parts which a happy invention has given rise to, so much wisdom and skill in conveying inward thought and feeling by outward form and gesture, — not to speak of other difficulties and other requisites, that all great artists, if they sympathize with their own aspirations, and are true to the instincts of their own nature, feel very much their need of a higher power to guide them. They know that nothing but God could carry out and complete the outlines of beauty and grandeur, which often float vividly before them; — and, under the pressure of this conviction, their souls instinctively yearn for the possession of that divine presence and aid, which would enable them to complete what their imaginations have conceived.

The subject of one of the great paintings of Raphael is "Paul preaching at Athens." The conception of the apostle as the living embodiment of a new and purer religion, his position in the front and on the steps of a heathen temple, the mighty power of truth and Christian benevolence which struggles forth in his dignified but fervent attitude and action, the different groups that stand or are seated around him; — some calmly indifferent and skeptical; — some expressing in their countenances the mingled feelings of fear and hatred; — others yielding a rational conviction, and showing the signs of true sensibility and rising hope; — all combined together present a scene of the greatest conceivable interest. How is it possible that a great painter, who appreciates the magnitude of such a work, the exceeding difficulties attending its execution, and the mighty moral influence which follow a successful result, can enter upon it, without first praying to God for wisdom and help, and without continuing to pray for them at every successive step?

Literature also will fail to arrive at and to sustain itself in its perfected life and beauty without the spirit of God in it. Take, for instance, the single department of history, which is undoubtedly one of great importance and interest. The importance of history is seen, when we consider that the history of the deeds and sufferings of man is at the same time the history of the dealings of God with man. It details the conflicts of virtue and vice and anticipates, in the conclusion of its pages, the destruction of the one, and the final victory of the other. There is a close connection between human history and the coming of Christ in the world; — as the incidents in the history of all nations, previous to that event, seem to have been arranged in reference to it, and all subsequent history has been influenced by it. And, in this point view, many judicious persons have been disposed with much reason, to set a high value upon the work of President Edwards, entitled "The History of Redemption." The object of this interesting work is, to give an outline of the history of the human race, in connection with the history of redemption; — uniting the two in such a manner as to show their reciprocal relations and influences. And the history is exceedingly valuable, not because it illustrates the idea of history in all respects, but because it so fully introduces an element, or point of view, which is generally left out.

As a general thing, history has limited itself to giving an account of national wars. It has been so written, for she most part, as to be a commemoration of deeds of violence, so that he, who kills the most and conquers the most, however deficient in civic and moral virtues, holds the prominent position, and is made the subject of undue panegyric. But history, in order to be a true record of the human race, should embrace not only war, but also civil and political events, and the progress of the arts and literature; — so that the man, who serves his country by peaceful labors and excellencies, may have his reward, as well as the warrior.

A favorable change, however, has already taken place. The spirit of the Gospel is beginning to take effect. The rights, the happiness, the immortal interests of the masses of men are receiving a consideration which they have not received before. And history at last sees the wisdom of placing the man who has made improvements in some useful art, or has done some benevolent deed, on a footing at least with those who command armies. And so far as the historian, looking to God and receiving direction from that source, has an eye to the good of mankind and the claims and advancement of virtue, he is in union with God. And this is at the same time his highest honor, and the source of his highest power.

8. The doctrine of divine union applies to everything. We may, perhaps, further illustrate it, in its connection with literature, by some references to poetry as well as history. Without stopping to say what poetry is, or on what principles it operates, every one knows that its influence has been very great. But it is to be regretted, that, like history, it has been employed, for the most part, in immortalizing deeds of cruelty, and in giving luster to crime. Or, if it should be said in modification of this statement, that it has given a larger share of its attention to love than history has, it ought to be added that the love which it celebrates has not always been that refined and pure love, which receives the sanction of Christianity.

It is a matter of great satisfaction, however, that a change is beginning to take place in this department of literature, as well as in others. The eclat of war, although it has yet a strong hold upon fallen humanity, is much diminished; and domestic affections, regulated and refined by religious sentiment, are more highly appreciated, as compared with irregular and sinful desires. Rural and domestic life and other subjects, such as are congenial with the truths of nature, and with the spirit of the Gospel, are beginning to find hearts that can estimate, and pens that can develop, them. The man who writes a poem after the manner and in the spirit of the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, or, taking more recent examples, in the spirit of the Seasons of Thomson and the Task of Cowper, in which the beauties of nature and the humble virtues of agricultural life are celebrated, does a great work for God and humanity. The Scotch poet, Burns, has sung both of war and love; and few persons have touched with a stronger hand those mighty passions; but the time is coming, when the gentler and purer virtues, which are celebrated in his beautiful poem, entitled "The Cotter's Saturday Night," will excite a wider and deeper interest.

9. Poetry has done much for vice. The day has come when it is expected to do much for virtue. This is not an art in which it is safe for a man to separate himself from God. Let it be employed in showing the deformities of wickedness and the excellences of goodness; in depicting the beauties of nature, and in describing the attributes of the God of nature; and in encouraging men to walk in the paths of truth and peace.

Among other things, it ought not to be forgotten that poetry has its religious uses. If angels sung at the birth of the Saviour, certainly there is more reason that men should sing. The author of a good hymn, expressive of sentiments of Christian piety, may feel that he has lived and labored to some purpose. In enumerating those who through divine grace have done a good and great work for God and his church, we should not be likely to forget the names of Watts, Cowper, and Wesley. How many thousands of hearts, in successive ages, have been cheered by the simple but impressive stanzas, the author of which I believe is unknown, which begin with the lines: —

"Jerusalem! my happy home!
Name ever dear to me."


But whatever a person undertakes to write of this kind, whether hymns or poetry which is more secular in its character, it is very certain that he can do nothing well, without God to help him. If the ancients needed the aid of Apollo and the muses, it would be a shame to a Christian poet to attempt to write without the aid of that divine inspiration which Christianity teaches him to supplicate. And, accordingly, Milton was unwilling to proceed in his great work, the Paradise Lost, without first invoking the divine assistance:­

"And chiefly Thou, O Spirit! that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou knowest."

10. It is hardly necessary to say, that this subject has an intimate connection with the establishment of institutions for the education of the young. It is a part of God's plan to teach man by the aid of his fellow-man, and to secure his cooperation by means of educational institutions. And looking at such institutions in this light, namely, in their relation to God, it seems to us that the time has come when they should be formed upon new principles, — in part at least. Christians will not do justice to themselves, and will not fully unite in God' s designs in reference to man's redemption, until the learned institutions they establish and support shall combine with the cultivation of the intellect the higher and nobler object of the restoration of the heart to its Maker. It should be written upon the walls of every seminary; — Education for Truth, for Humanity, for God.

The state of things is far different from this. If we had no other evidence of this remark, we might find it in one fact which all are acquainted with. We have reference to the general exclusion of the Bible from the list of books which are systematically and thoroughly studied. If the Bible were estimated by its literary merits alone, it ought not to be condemned to such an exclusion. Considered simply as documents, which threw light upon the origin of the human race and the early history of mankind, there are no books more worthy of being studied than the five books of Moses and the other historical books of the Old Testament. We would not easily yield to others in our admiration of the writers of Greece and Rome; but, looking at them in a merely literary point of view, we find the poets of those countries excelled by the Psalms of David and by many passages of the prophets; — and probably no one will say, that the moral doctrines of Socrates and Cicero, eminent and enlightened men as they were, are to be brought into comparison with the divine teachings of the Son of God. But on such a subject we might be distrustful of our own opinions, were it not that they are in harmony with sentiments frequently expressed by literary men of so much learning and eminence, that their right to judge in such a matter will not be likely to be questioned. The subject, for instance, is repeatedly referred to in the writings of Sir William Jones He says, on one occasion, "I have carefully and regularly perused the Holy Scriptures, and am of opinion, that, independent of its divine origin, the volume contains more sublimity, purer morality, more important history, and finer strains of eloquence, than can be collected from any other book, in whatever language it may have been written."

But if the Scriptures are thus valuable in a merely literary point of view, it would be difficult to express their importance, considered in their moral and religious relations. It is in this view that they present claims, which can be brought forward in support of no other system and no other book.

11. The mere study of the Bible, however, is not enough. There are institutions at the present day, in which the Bible is carefully studied; — but less with a reference to moral than intellectual culture. The study of the Bible for the mere purpose of increasing our amount of knowledge, is not all that is needed. It should be studied with a view to the supply of our moral and religious wants. There should, therefore, be a distinct recognition, in every institution of learning, of man's alienation from God, and of the necessity of his restoration. Upon these two great subjects, which are vital in every true system of mental culture, all possible light should be thrown. And it ought to be understood that no person is to be regarded as thoroughly educated, who cannot say that he has given his heart to God at the same time that he has given his intellect to the pursuit of the truth.

Nor are such views to be considered as impracticable There are principles, perhaps not yet fully ascertained, which will result, (we will not say infallibly, but certainly as a general thing,) in spiritual renovation. And it seems to be a part of God's plan, that they shall be applied in connection with the relationship of man with man, and their mutual agency one upon the other. In all institutions, therefore, there should be living teachers, men "full of the Holy Ghost," who should be able to explain and apply the principles which are found in the Bible. If such institutions could take the place of many which now exist, the favorable results to morals and religion would be immense.

12. In early life I had the privilege of being associated for a short time, in an institution, where it seemed to me that some of these views were happily illustrated. Studies always opened in the morning and closed at night with religious services. The first half hour of every morning, in particular, was devoted to the reading of the Scriptures, the explanatory and practical remarks of the worthy and learned instructor, and to prayer. And it was understood by all, whatever might be the state of their own minds, that this religious exercise was regarded by the teacher as one of preeminent importance. When he came before his pupils on this occasion, they did not doubt that he had first commended them to God in private; and that of all objects which he desired and had at heart, there was none so dear to him as their souls' salvation. Every movement was stilled; — every voice hushed; — every eye fixed. And whatever might be their creed or want of creed, their religious adhesions or aversions, such was their sympathy with his obvious sense of responsibility and his divine sincerity, that even the hearts of the infidel and the profane were cheerfully laid open before him; — so that with their own consent he was enabled, by means of his prayers and warnings, to write upon them, as it were, inscriptions for immortality. I was not a pupil in the seminary to which I refer, but an assistant teacher; and had a good opportunity to observe and to judge. My own heart never failed to be profoundly affected; — and, from what I have learned and known of his pupils since, scattered as they have been in all parts of the world, and engaged in various occupations, I have no doubt that God eminently blessed the faithful labors of this good man, and that he was permitted to realize in his instructions, to an extent not often witnessed, the beautiful union of the culture of the heart with that of the understanding.

13. Christ came into the world to redeem man to God; — in other words, to restore him to God by redemption; — that is to say, by the purchase of his own blood. The object is secured, and man is restored to God, whenever God becomes the in-dwelling, the universal, and permanent principle of his soul. And the restoration of man involves the restoration of all that pertains to man. The restoration of man is, at the same time, the restoration of the family and of civil society; the restoration of art and literature. It implies the extinction of vice, the prevalence of virtue, the dignity of labor, the universality of education, and the perfection of social sympathy and intercourse. And no man is, or can be redeemed, in the truer and higher sense of the terms, without being, in his appropriate degree and place, a co-worker with God in all these respects.