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in the presence of the mightiest representatives of the empire and the church. From that period, he did not bring forward anything essentially new against the Roman Catholic church. The principal battles on his side had been fought, and he had dismantled, for all times, the chief fortresses of the Papacy.
But there still remained for the Reformer another, and equally important work, although in many respects more difficult and unpleasant. He had to cut off the excrescences of his opposition to the Papacy, to curb the excesses of the movement which he had himself begun, and thus to save it from a complete degeneracy into a lawless radicalism. This false tendency manifested itself first in Wittenberg, and partly among the friends who sympathized most deeply with Luther's views, during his retirement in his Patmos at Eisenach, and like a shadow accompanied the progress of the Reformation through all Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland, and England. Luther did not wish to destroy the church, but merely to purify it; nor to annul the sacraments, nor bring them down to insignificant ceremonies, but merely to cleanse them from superstitions and additions; not to rend the uni. ty of the church, and open door and gate to sectarianism, but only to break the bonds of tyranny over the conscience, and dissipate the false semblance of an external conformity; not to make Christians free in untamed recklessness and arbitrary notions, but with rational liberty conformed to law. Therefore, instructed by the occurrences at Wittenberg, he contended from a sound, catholic point of view, against the ultra Protestants and pseudo-Protestants of his time; he defended ecclesiastical discipline and order against wild and factious enthusiasts, the obligations of the law against Antinomianism, the lawfulness of Paedo-baptism against the Anabaptists, the mystic significancy of the eucharist against an abstract intellectual, rationalizing tendency; in short, the idea of the church of history and of authority, against an exaggerated religious and intellectual subjective tendency, perilous to Christianity itself. This is the catholic, the churchly, the positive, the constructive aspect of Luther's efficiency. It was this, too, which saved Protestantism in the narrower sense, the product of his earlier efforts, from destruction. It is of the highest importance that we understand both these elements in Luther's character, and recognize their mutual relations. Unhappily it is only the anti-Roman Luther who is usually appreciated among us; but the anti-pseudoProtestant, the anti-sectarian, the anti-rationalistic, the evangelical catholic, and churchly Luther, is wholly ignored and misunder
stood. But for our times and our land, it is the latter which is of the greatest importance. Our chief enemy at present is not the Papacy of Rome, but a false Protestantism, a sectarian spirit, and those rationalizing tendencies in the very midst of us, which im. pair our powers, promote the growth of Catholicism, and threaten at last the total abolition of the true character of the church. If we prevail over these enemies, Rome has no power over us, and no future in this land of freedom. So long as we are subservient to the sectarian spirit, and, in our attacks against Rome, take the anti-ecclesiastical and anti-historical position of ultra and false Protestantism, all our shafts will fall back upon ourselves, and a few years will teach us to be careful and to tremble for our own existence. For our part, we have too much trust in history, or rather in the unseen and all-wise Ruler of history, not to hope with all assurance that our Protestant theology and church will soon come to a consciousness of the dangers that threaten us, will enter into the right way, and at last issue forth victorious from its struggle against its foes.
Dr. Sears might make a valuable contribution to this purpose, if, in a second volume, he should bring before our theological youth who are learning German, some of Luther's writings in his contest against ultra Protestantism, and for the church and its institutions, and thus complete the portrait of this greatest of the Germans. As poet, as husband, as father, as friend, and as correspondent, Luther deserves to be known amongst us; and De Wette's collection of his letters presents for this object the richest materials. This might easily be combined with the plan we have proposed; and in taking leave of the honored author, we wish him the needful leisure and inclination for its accomplishment.
SHAKESPEARE – THE OLD AND THE NEW CRITICISM ON HIM.
By Rev. Leonard Withington, Newbury.
Sic fautor veterum, ut tabulas peccare vetantes,
Horace to Augustus, I. 23—27. As our discourse will be on criticism, it may be well to begin by asking, What rank it holds in literature, and how the judicious critic compares with the inventing poet. Genius is the quality of the one; judgment of the other. Criticism, though subsequent, has some place in the world of learning. It is secondary to genius as the moon borrows its light from the sun. Very little credit is due to that recognizing criticism, which uever discovers and can only be directed. Still less is due to the prattle of affectation; the last echo of absurdity. Some seem to have no consciousness of their own. Their very taste is manufactured for them. The cant of criticism is supremely absurd. Dr. Goldsmith has well remarked that "the praise which is every day lavished upon Virgil, Horace and Ovid is often no more than an indirect method the critic takes to compliment his own discernment. Their works have long been considered as models of beauty and to praise them now is only to show the conformity of our taste to theirs; it tends not to advance their reputation but to promote our own.
Let us then dismiss for the present the pedantry of panegyric." How much of this self-praising criticism is there in the world! The true meaning is : See what a fine taste I have! My mind is actually in contact with the author, I admire. I am actually a congenial spirit, and you are a barbarian, if you do not agree with me. You may often stop the mouth of such an idolater by just asking him for a little analytic discrimination.
Yet criticism has done an important office in the world. If there were none to judge it would be in vain to write. The truth is, when a work of genius first appears, by its breaking through
2 Review of Barrett's Translation of Ovid's Epistles.
Value of true Criticism.
conventional rules, its own excellence operates against it.' The common taste has been formed on different models. All the diletantteism of the upper circles is against it; and the people need to have their attention directed to the recondite beauties which they are too idle to pursue and have too little skill to find. Thus Addison held his classic torch before the statue of Milton, and thus every great poet has had his gentleman-usher to introduce him into the saloon of his reputation. That divining criticism, which foresees the result of an untried experiment is no mean quality; and is certainly of essential service. When Dr. Bentley, for example, long before the place of Newton was fixed, and who had from his previous studies every temptation to be a pedant to the old philosophy,—when Bentley, I say, so liberally sounded the praises of the new philosophy, he showed as much discernment in this kind of criticism as he ever did in restoring the reading of an ancient manuscript. When Pope received from the booksellers the manuscript copy of Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination, and told him to offer no mean price, for this was no every day poem ; when our Franklin commended Cow. per's Task (for never were there two geniuses more different than Franklin and Cowper); when Gifford predicted the success of Byron, it was by a sagacity which was only second to the productive
power. To enter the tangled forest and amidst its thick bushes and darkening boughs to discover and point out the infant magnolia, is next in merit to planting the tree. Let no man then despise the original critic; for discerning judgment follows close on the path of inventing genius. While the one weaves the deathless laurel, the other winds it on the deserving brow.
We have of late years had a vast mass of very cheap criticism. It consists in rapturous admiration of what has often been admired before. It looks up to the sun and says-not merely that it is bright—but that there are no spots on it. It places its discern- . ment in having no discrimination. Shakespeare himself, if con. sciousness ever reaches the tomb or the world beyond it, must blush, I apprehend, at the wholesale praises heaped upon him, which certainly he never attempted to deserve.
A remarkable change has taken place within forty years in the criticism on this author. The critics of the old school allow that he is a great genius and has boundless invention; but they contend that his works are very imperfect; he mixes beauties and
Sometimes at least; there are works, however, which strike the universal heart.
absurdities together; he is a wonder, considering his age; but it would be very strange, if he were an overmatch for the general improvement of the whole mass of society. He had divine impulses, but they sometimes led him wrong. Milton in two lines has involved his character:
“ Or sweetest Shakspeare, fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.' He is Fancy's child and her sweetest progeny, but then his notes are wild and rustic. Dryden, who had some right to teach others in an art in which he so well excelled himself, says: "He was a man of all the moderns and perhaps the ancient poets who had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him and he drew them, not laboriously, but luckily. When he describes anything, you more than see it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation. He was naturally learned ; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inward and found her there. I cannot say he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat and insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clinches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him.2 No man can say that he ever had a fit subject for his wit and did not raise himself as high above the rest
of poets :
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi. The consideration of this,” continues Dryden, “made Mr. Hales of Eton say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever writ, but he could produce it much better done in Shakespeare; and, however others are now generally preferred before him, (i. e. in Charles the Second's day,) yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him Fletcher and Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem. And in the late king's court, when Ben's reputation was at the highest, Sir John Suckling and with him the greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakespeare far above him.”3
'L'Allegro, lines 133, 134.
· Not exactly so; the great fault of Shakespeare is that he often lurches you on the most solemn occasions. He trifles when you want him to be serious, and after raising your expectation to the highest pitch, presents you with the meanest buffoonery.
Essay on Dramatic Poetry ; Dryden's Works, Vol. I. p.