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RELATIONS BETWEEN RELIGION AND ART.
ALTHOUGH my subject has to do with Art, I must begin with the frank avowal that I have no pretensions whatever to call myself an Artist. My whole acquaintance with Art simply amounts to this, that, with perhaps some natural appreciation of colour, and proportion, and harmony, it has been always a matter of choice, and, indeed, I might almost add, a matter of conscience with me also, to lose no opportunity of visiting and of studying, as I might, whether in this or in other countries, whatever higher works of Art might be found at any time around me. And thus I have been able not only to enjoy many a delicious treat, but also to store my memory with many an agreeable, and I think, too, with many an improving recollection. And I say this, my dear young friends, not for my own, but for your sake. Rely upon it, you will be helped upon your way by all that multiplies your resources, and refines your tastes. Acquire a painter's eye, even though you cannot handle a painter's brush, and the objects of every landscape will group themselves in new attractions; there will be new richness in every gleam of light, new emphasis in every deepening shade. Investigate the principles, or search out the history of Architecture, and every stone in ancient Church or ruined tower will speak with you of the forgotten past; nay, many a time you will stumble on some point of surpassing interest, while you thread the darkest alleys or most crowded thoroughfares of the City. Endeavour to attain for yourselves to some artistic exercise, and many an evening hour, which would otherwise hang heavily on your hands, will then be gladly set apart for pursuits which are at least innocent and elevating, and which often help to hold the breach against the ingress of temptation and self-debasement.
But, to come to the matter in hand,—the Relations between Religion and Art. Are there then, indeed, any such relations ? To this question I believe that there are some good men who would not hesitate to answer, No. Religion, they would argue, is a purely spiritual, and Art, upon the other hand, a purely material thing; and, therefore, these two are plainly incompatible with each other. Let Art, by all means, range the universe of Sense, and there set up her studios, and achieve her triumphs; but Religion-it is for her to confine herself within the limits of the intangible and the unseen, and every alliance which she forms with matter can tend only to her depravation and enslavement.
There is at first sight, perhaps, a seeming truth in reasonings such as these. But their value is, I am persuaded, less real than apparent. The absolute divorce of matter from spirit, as though they had no common interests, is rather a dogma of human imagination than a verity of the Divine ordainment. Man himself, and especially when he rises to his true and normal type in the great Son of Man, is God's own living answer to the cavil that matter is essentially a corrupt and unhallowed thing. And the Sadducee, who denied all spiritual existences, was scarcely a greater blasphemer against the Father of spirits, than was the Manichee of a later day, who boldly impeached the Creator of men's bodies as the author of a foul creation. But, not to pursue such disquisition further, it is enough for my present purpose to say that, complex beings as we are, God requires at our hands not the homage of our spirits only. The presentation of our bodies also as “a living sacrifice," appertains just as emphatically, even at this present time, to our “reasonable service;" while in the vision of the pregnant future and of its splendid destinies we see the risen body reunited to the ransomed soul, and both alike engaged in His worship, and setting forth His glory.
Now the laws which thus govern man rule also in all around him. The complexity of his nature reflects itself in everything with which he has to do. A spirit without a body, a form, or a letter, in which to dwell, and act, and manifest itself, except only in our abstract conceptions of Deity, is a thing utterly unknown to us. The most sublimated revelation demands some vehicle for its conveyance, if man is to receive and understand it. The most abstract truth had no abiding place among us if it were not for the work of the pen, or the impression of the type, or the illustration of the diagram, or the utterance of the tongue. The wildest irregularity of the Puritan was after all a form-a form of protest if you will-but yet, in spite of his aversion to forms, an informal form of worship, a formal nonconformity. In a word, do what we will, we never can get wholly rid of the sensible, nor is the purely spiritual ever to be attained to. Meanwhile, the sovereignty of God is an universal sovereignty. He is the liege Lord of all creation, and His righteous requirement is the fealty of every power that He has given, and every creature that He has made. And it belongs accordingly to true Religion, instead of withdrawing herself, even if she might, within the narrower circle of spirit, to forth rather in her Master's name, claiming for Him the realms of sense