Page images
PDF
EPUB

the race.

of this disorganizing school. The freedom and independence of all, not only outwardly but inwardly also, is conditioned always by the position assigned to them of God in the social organ. ism to which they belong. All are free only as comprehended in given social relations, and in the measure of their correspondence as parts with the idea of the whole. The proper unity of life, as an organic system, involves of necessity the conception, not simply of manifold distinction, but of relative dependence also and subordination. Of this we have a broad, perpetual exemplification, in the constitution of the sexes. The school which we have now in view, affects to vindicate what it calls the rights of woman against the authority of the stronger sex, as though this had taken advantage of its accidental physical superiority in this view, to assert a primacy and lordship here, which is in full violation of the original and proper equality of

The savage, it is said, turns his wife into a slave, the instrument of his own pleasure and convenience; and it is only a higher order of the same barbarism, by which in the reigning structure of our present civilization, the whole sex is shorn of its political and public rights and forced to devote itself to the service of man in the nursery and kitchen. We need in this respect, we are told, a reconstruction of society in such a way, as ihat among other abuses this Mohammedan prejudice also may be fully abolished, admitting woman thus to a free participation in all public counsels and transactions, so far as she may show ability for the purpose, and placing her on full level with the opposite sex both at home and abroad. So runs the theory. It has the universal custom of the world against it, and also what would seem to be the most explicit testimony of the bible. But of this we speak not at present. We meet it here with the moral geology, if we may so term it, of our human nature itself, drawn forth with overwhelming evidence, from the everlasting mountains of its original constitution. The theory in question is just as unphilosophical, as it is unbiblical and contrary to all history. It violates morality and nature alike.

It is by no accident, or violent wrong merely, that woman is made to occupy a secondary rank in the economy of human society. Her outward weakness makes it necessary, to some extent; but this itself is only the index of a still deeper necessity for it in her spiritual constitution. All the purposes of her being, all the conditions of her welfare and peace, all the laws of her interior organization require this subordination to the other sex, and urge her towards it as the only possible way in which her personality can be made complete. This relation of

[ocr errors]

dependence needs to be well fortified indeed against abuse; as it may run easily otherwise into vast tyranny and wrong; but still it remains forever indispensable in itself to woman's proper life, and under its normal character constitutes emphatically her spiritual salvation. It is not in her physical nature merely that she is formed to lean on man as her necessary prop and stay. He is the ultimate centre also of her personality, through which alone she can stand in right organic communication with the general world, and so attain to true and solid freedom in her own position. No agrarian radicalism can ever change the moral order of humanity here; for we may say of it, precisely, as the Psalmist does of the constitution of the planets: “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven!” The emancipation of these heavenly bodies from their appointed orbits, were just as rational an object of reforming zeal, as to set woman free from her natural subordination to the headship of man. All such freedom is monstrous in its very nature; and the wrong which it involves can never fail to avenge itself, with terrible moral retribution on all concerned in it, wherever it may be allowed. Most disastrous will be its action on woman herself, if she can be tempted thus to forsake her own character and sphere. She must unsex herself more or less in the very step; and by doing so, she is necessarily shorn, to the same extent, of all her native dignity and strength. The more thoroughly masculine she may prove herself to be in this way, the more fully and certainly will it be at the cost of all true respect whether public or private. The process of such unnatural self-dereliction exerts unavoidably, at the same time, a demoralizing influence on her own spirit. She becomes in reality coarse, and the fine gold of her nature is turned into what must be counted at best but common brass. Society too is made to suffer necessarily, by the perversion. It requires a certain amount of moral fanaticism, in the first place, to endure at all any such aberration of the sex from its proper sphere, and the thing itself can never fail subsequently to aggravate the evil out of which it thus springs. The influence of woman exercised in this form, is not at all to refine the face of life, but to render it vulgar and harsh. Such an “emancipation,” made general in any community, would involve the overthrow ultimately of all taste and refinement, the downfall of all morality and civilization.

It deserves to be well considered, at the same time, that this doctrine of the full co-ordination of the sexes in the social system, strikes necessarily at last at the sanctity of the marriage relation itself. It is the subordination of the female nature to

that of man precisely, which makes room for that peculiar union of the two, in which the true idea of marriage consists. The possibility of such an inward personal oneness as it requires in the case of husband and wife, turns not simply on their difference of sex, but on the order also in which this relation is found actually to hold. The common personality which is thus created, must have a real centre on which to rest; and the corres.

a pondence between the sexes is such, that this is fully and necessarily determined to the one side only, and not to the other. The help which each needs here in the other, is not at all, in this respect, of parallel character. The whole nature of woman urges her towards man, as the necessary centre of her own being; her personality is so constituted, that it can be perfected only by falling over upon the deeper and broader consciousness of man, as its ultimate support. The personality of man on the contrary, is constitutionally formed to take this central position, and is made complete by woman, not as the basis of his being, but as the necessary integration simply of its proper compass and volume. So related the two are suited to flow together in the power of one and the same life, and may be expected to do so when the proper conditions are present, by the mysterious union of marriage; which, in such view, is no outward temporary contract of merely civil nature, no simply moral partnership, however high and solemn, for purposes beyond itself; but a mystical sacramental bond rather that reaches into the inmost sanctuary of life, and is thus of indissoluble force by its very nature. All this however is made to assume a different aspect, as soon as we lose sight of the order which holds in the original interior economy of the sexes, and under the pretence of restoring woman to her inborn rights, admit such a view of her nature, as sets it in full parallel with the opposite nature of man. There is no room then for the idea of marriage, as the organic comprehension of two lives in the power of a single personal root. It is impossible to withstand the fatal error, by which it is resolved into the conception of a simply outward compact, between independent parties, for mutual convenience and profit. Then of course its inviolable sanctity is gone, and no good reason can be assigned why it should not become as free finally.as social partnerships of any other kind. So it is that all Socialism, having no sense of the true nature of the sexual union, as the basis of all morality and society under a settled and necessary form, shows a tendency always in fact, whether it be owned or not, to run into that worst form of agrarian disorder, by which the marriage tie itself is proclaimed a mere social abuse. In its pretended

[ocr errors]

regard for the freedom and dignity of woman, it robs her of the entire glory of her sex and takes away the last bulwark of her independence and strength.

J. W. N.

THE NEW TESTAMENT MIRACLES.

Notes on the Miracles of our Lord. By RICHARD CHENEVIX

Trench, M. A., Professor of Divinity, King's College, London ; Author of " Notes on the Parables of our Lord," Bc., 8c. From the last London edition. New-York: D. Appleton & Co. Phila.: G. S. Appleton. 1850. Pp. 375,

8 vo.

a

This is a work which it is a pleasure to read, and a privilege to recommend. We are glad to find too that it has been favorably noticed by our religious press in general ; though we feel very sure that a good deal in it, if fully understood, could hardly pass muster with the principles of censorship, to which this tribunal is to a large extent mechanically committed. Trench is a favorite with us among living English writers. We became acquainted with him first, through his work on the Parables ; which we are glad to see has come lately to a second American edition. The present volume on the Miracles is fully in the same strain. As a writer, his style is considerably defective; the neglect of rhetorical composition amounting at times to downright carelessness and disorder. But there is a continual freshness and richness in the matter of his thoughts, which causes the intelligent reader to lose sight of this fault, and carries him forward in spite of it with enduring interest and attention. There is nothing dull or heavy in what be writes. On the contrary,

. his pen is always full of vivacity and spirit, as well as replete with the most sound and wholesome instruction. There is a truly felicitous combination besides, in all his works, of learning and popularity. The results of the finest scholarship are brought into view continually, in a form to reach and affect the most common reader; provided only some proper spiritual susceptibility be at hand, to make room for the impression, A deep vein of piety runs through every page, of the most truly evangelical order; not after the flat prosy style of much that affects to carry away the whole honor of this title, and which turns out

[ocr errors]

at last to be itself only powerless cant and sham; but in the sense of a heartfelt communion with the life of the gospel, under its own actively living form.

The writer shows himself fully at home in the literature of his subject, both modern and ancient. He has however a special fondness for the old patristic divinity; and it is with good effect he brings it to bear continually on what he has in hand, particularly in the way of notes, whether for the purpose of confirmation or contrast. He abounds especially with rich racy quotations from St. Augustine; for whom he appears to entertain a more than common reverence and regard. He shows himself well acquainted also with the later theological learning of Germany; and possesses the art, (which all have not,) of steering the proper medium with regard to it, between slavish dependence upon it, on the one side, and no less slavish contempt (or show of contempt) for it, on the other. It is a poor business certainly, to hang to the skirts simply of such foreign science, in a purely passive way; and the affectation of those who do so, is at all times deserving of pily and scorn. But it is hardly necessary to say, that the mere converse of this carries with it in itself no argument either of freedom or of strength. There is room for sorry affectation on that side too. A man may ring changes on iranscendentalism, and revile the names of Kant and Hegel in round style; and yet be not much of a pliilosopher himself, when all is over. He may even abuse Schleiermacher, and still furnish no sure proof by it of his own superior orthodoxy or learning. That is after all a cheap reputation for either, that is sought or acquired in any such cheap and poor way. In the author before us we are glad to find nothing of this sort. His independence is not blind. There is reason in his criticism.

The work here under notice is introduced with a Preliminary Essay on Miracles, which we consider admirable in its kind, and particularly worthy of being read and studied. The first chapter treats of the Names of Miracles. “Every discussion about a thing will best proceed,” we are told, “ from an investigation of the name or names which it bears; for the name ever seizes and presents the most distinctive features of the thing, embody. ing them for us in a word. In the name we have the true declaration of the innermost nature of the thing; we have a witness to that which the universal sense of men, finding its utterance in language, has ever felt thus to lie at its heart; and if we would learn to know the thing, we must start with seeking accurately to know the name which it bears." Here is

a

« PreviousContinue »