« PreviousContinue »
269 his moral condition remain as before ; but the sluggish disinclination which he opposes to it, necessarily rises to positive hatred and obstiDate resistance to what is holy and divine. If a ray of divine light meets one, he cannot, as many would like to do, pass by it with quiet unconcern and indifference ; but, if he closes himself to the light, he is driven to bitterness and spite against it. In relation to such a one, the means of spiritual recovery not merely lose their saving efficacy, bat immediately operate in an opposite manner. Christ himself hath expressed this law in those words of deep moment: Whosoever hath, to bim shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath, Matt. 13: 12.
The New Testament speaks of one sin as absolutely unpardonable, the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost, Matt. 12: 31, 32. Luke 12: 10. Mark 8:28. This sin is not designated by Christ as one particular kind of unpardonable sins, but as the alone unpardonable sin, in express distinction from all others. We conclude, therefore, that the acme of sinful development in every instance, unless prevented by redeeming grace, is blasphemy of the Holy Ghost.
The nature of this sin may be understood by a view of the system of God's revelations to man. They who have merely the light of nature with regard to God and holiness and eternal life, do not commit this sin, for the dispensation of the Spirit has not yet been given to them. It is the office of the Spirit to take of the things of Christ and to show them unto men. He who refuses to accept the salvation of fered to him by the Spirit of God in Christ, sins against the highest and final revelation of God's mercy to man. It is the sin unto death, 1 John 5: 16.
Divine Love draws to itself all that does not resist its drawing ; but in the freedom of the will there is the possibility of eternal sin. ning, and consequently of eternal damnation. Sin is something spiritual in its nature. It is the setting up of one's own will in opposition to the will of God. The body is rather a check upon it than an incentive to it. The fine, subtle poison of selfishness receives in the earthly corporeity an allay, as it were, of gross material, which retards its diffusion through all the veins and nerves of the inner life, and prevents it from uncovering its satanic depth ; and what is to hinder the sinful self-will, when free from the body, from manifesting the intensity of its hatred against God and his holy law?
It is sometimes objected, that it is inconceivable that an element of
| Vid. Schaf's Treatise Ueber die Sünde wider den heiligen Geist.
disorder should exist forever in any part of God's universe. But this difficulty is solved by the correct idea of punishment. Opposition to the Divine will does not prevail, but is then absolutely vanquished when the entire condition of the beings, in whom it is, is a condition of punishment. God will certainly realize his idea of the world in all its completeness; but whether every member of the human family shall, as one of the redeemed, have a share in this realization, cannot a priori be decided; and the words of Christ with regard to the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost, decisively deny it. The manifold wisdom of God has at command infinitely many ways and means for the attainment of its ends; should the individual withdraw forever from the place where he might be an accord in the harmony of the whole, yet creative wisdom has certainly otherwise provided that nothing shall be wanting to this harmony; but he, even by his opposition and against his will, will be obliged to affirm the same. He who will not humble himself in order to be truly exalted, who will not die in order to live, all hatred and yet utterly powerless, unceasingly raging against God, will yet be obliged forever to acknowledge him as the almighty Creator of all things, whose he is and whom he is bound to obey.
There is One among men who is wholly free from evil; and this his freedom he imparts to all who become one with him by the act of justifying faith. But still they have this freedom only in him, not in themselves; still their being-in-bim is not become a perfect being-in-themselves; still their self-will is not entirely purified and glorified ; therefore, every exercise of their consciousness of being one with him, is ever conditioned by a new giving up of self. It is the significancy of the Christian hope, that one day all which they have in him, they will at the same time perfectly have in themselves. Then the broken accords, which now, like the sound of far distant music, we can but faintly hear, will become united in a full chorus of harmony, from which every dissonance has wholly vanished away.
Human language may be regarded under two opposite aspects, or according to two diverse theories. The first of these, which may be termed the mechanical theory, considers words as nothing more than the materials of thought, out of which the mind constructs its own works in much the same manner as a builder does a house. According to this view, language is something wholly external and artificial, which can be analyzed and put together like any other mechanical product. Words are indeed the signs of thought, but the signification is wholly arbitrary, like that of an algebraic formula. They stand for thought as its representative or substitute, not as its manifestation. There is no interior and vital connection between the two, organizing them into one, but only an outward, mechanical union. There is properly no soul of language, and therefore no life of its own.
The other view is the result of a deeper and more philosophical insight into the nature of language, according to which words are not so much the materials or instruments, as the natural body of thought, and language is not a dead mechanism, but a living organic growth, springing directly out of the life of thought, partaking its vitality and pervaded and organized by its spirit. According to this theory, words are not mere arbitrary signs, representing something beyond them, but the manifestation of a spirit that lives in them. Their power is not conventional and fixed, like the signs of algebra, something which can be measured and weighed by definitions, but is rather a spiritual and inward power, like that which resides in a human countenance. Language in short, like man himself, is a living thing, subject to the laws and conditions of life. It is the synthesis of two elements, which must be considered together, in their vital unity, as the presence of one and the same fact.
It is evident, at a glance, that we have here touched upon what will be deemed no slight or unreal distinction. These two theories of language differ in their essential and radical idea, and like all other radical differences, must produce a corresponding diversity of effects. According to the idea we have of what language is, will be our everyday use and interpretation of language. This idea will not slumber in theory, but will pervade and affect, more or less, the whole body and life of literature.
What we propose in the present Article, however, is not to vindicate a theory but to use it. .Accepting the truth of one of these conceptions, we shall employ its light in exploring some of the interior or vital laws of language.
It is hoped that the triteness of the theme will not deter the reflective reader from a fresh examination of it, since it is among such common subjects of inquiry that the springs of all that is highest, most earnest and practical in human life lie hidden.
As guide and goal to our investigation, we shall endeavor to keep in view its twofold practical bearing on the interpretation of language and its use in what is termed “style ;" for if a true idea of virtue be essential to a perfect style of piety, a true idea of language and of the relation between words and thoughts, is not less essential to a perfect style of writing.
Language we have said, considered as embodied thought, is made up of two elements, which we may designate as soul and body; or, if we adopt a more strict analysis, of three, which three parts may easily be distinguished and referred to their several sources or provinces, mind and matter, the world of spirit and the world of sense. There is, first, the sound or articulate enunciation; next, there is the image or sensible type, some fact or appearance of nature, represented to the eye of the mind in every word. This, we say, belongs to every word, and may be discovered by tracing it to its origin, though in very many words of common use the image is lost or fallen away, and the verbal symbol stands in immediate connection with the idea. Lastly, we have the thought itself, or idea, something purely spiritual, born within the mind, of the mind's own essence. This innermost part, the proper soul of language, may be most clearly distinguished in what are called "abstract ideas,” i. e. ideas abstracted from all sensible phenomena; although these cannot be represented without the aid of some form or image.
Take as an example the first pure idea of the reflective conscious. ness, that of soul or spirit. This in all men, and hence in all languages, is the same. While it slumbers in the mind as an idea, it needs no language, and therefore no outward image. But in order to be communicated this idea must link itself to something sensible. Hence the words spirit, spiritus, arvejua, niin, etc., all of which signify breath, the outward and natural symbol of soul, or the invisible principle of life.
Language then is not essential to the existence of thought, but only 1849.] The Relation of Language to Thought.
279 to its expression or manifestation. Pure thought, like pure spirit, is certainly a conceivable thing, however rare or impossible it may be to find it. It may exist in the mind as an idea, just as the mind itself may exist without the body; but in order to manifest itself, to become an actual as well as an ideal existence, it must be clothed upon” with some outward or sensible form. Now there are three modes in which thought can become external. First, the form may be strictly material, as in the plastic or fine arts; or secondly what, for want of a better term, we may call phenomenal, as in actions; or thirdly verbal, as in language. It is with this last form or vehicle that we have more immediately to do, although the essential principle in all is the same.
Thus it will be seen, that language holds a relation on the one side to thought, since it is the expression and embodiment of thought, and on the other to nature, since it must draw upon nature for its materials. Language may thus be said to stand as a mediator between spirit and matter, or between thoughts and things, not as being something intermediate between both, but as reconciling and uniting both in one organic whole.
We proceed to trace out, more distinctly, this twofold relation.
I. The relation of Language to Thought. The nature of this relation may be best defined by calling it an organic and vital relation; the same in kind as that subsisting between the soul and body, or between the life of the plant and its organized form. We use the terms “organic” and “vital” in distinction, on the one hand, from an arbitrary, and on the other from a merely outward or mechanical relation. Thus it is not an arbitrary or accidental circumstance which determines a certain specific form and structure to the oak, another to the vine, and another to man. The laws which constitute each living thing what it is, constitute and preördain the precise form in which it shall develop itself; insomuch that we say, the oak is included in the acorn, and grows out of it, although not one of the future materials of the tree is contained in it. Again, the animating principle in man and the organific principle in the tree, are certainly distinct things from the material organisms with which they are found combined ; yet the two are held together by more than a mechanical union. The latter is not a mere instrument, but the organ and body of the former. The life-principle in each penetrates, pervades and assimilates the material part, so that both become truly one. What we see is no longer the same when existing as the organ and vehicle