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of originality, have all had a religious origin; have sprung up and taken their growth in and for the service of religion. The earliest poems everywhere were sacred hymns and songs, conceived and executed in recognition and honour of the Deity. Grecian sculpture, in all its primitive and progressive stages, was for the sole purpose of making statues of the gods; and when it forsook this purpose, and sophisticated itself into a preference of other ends, it went into a decline. The Greek architecture, also, had its force, motive, and law in the work of building religious temples and shrines. That the Greek Drama took its origin from the same cause, is familiar to all students in dramatic history. And I have already shown that the Gothic Drama in England, in its upspring and through its earlier stages, was entirely the work of the Christian Church, and was purely religious in its purpose, matter, and use. That the same holds in regard to our modern music, is too evident to need insisting on: it all sprang and grew in the service of religion ; religious thought and emotion were the shaping and informing spirit of it. I have often thought that the right use of music, and perhaps that which drew it into being, could not be better illustrated than in “the sweet Singer of Israel,” who, when the evil spirit got into King Saul, took harp and voice, and with his minstrelsy charmed it out. Probably, if David had undertaken to argue the evil spirit out, he would have just strengthened the possession; for the Devil was then, as now, an expert logician, but could not stand a divine song.
Thus the several forms of Art have had their source and principle deep in man’s religious nature: all have come into being as so many projections or outgrowths of man's religious life. And it may well be questioned whether, without the motives and inspirations of religion, the human soul ever was, or ever can be, strong and free enough to produce any shape of art. In other words, it is only as the mind stands dressed in and for religion that the Creative Faculty of Art gets warmed and quickened into operation. So that religion is most truly the vivifying power of Art in all its forms; and all works of art that do not proceed from a religious life in the mind are but imitations, and can never be any thing more. Moreover the forms of Art have varied in mode, style, and character, according to the particular genius and spirit of the religion under which they grew. There is a most intimate correspondence between the two. This is manifestly true of the old Egyptian and Grecian art. And it is equally true of Christian art, save as this has been more or less modified by imitation of those earlier works, and in so far as this imitative process has got the better of original inspiration, the result has always been a falling from the right virtue of Art. For the Christian mind can never overtake the Greek mind in that style of Art which was original and proper to the latter. Nothing but the peculiar genius of the Greek mythology could ever freely and spontaneously organize or incarnate itself in a body of that shape. The genius of Christianity requires and naturally prompts a different body. Nor can the soul of the latter ever be made to take on the body of the former, but under the pressure of other than the innate and organic law of the thing. For every true original artist is much more possessed by the genius of his work than possessing it. Unless, indeed, a man be inspired by a power stronger than his individual understanding or any conscious purpose, his hand can never reach the cunning of any process truly creative. And so in all cases the temper and idiom of a people's religious culture will give soul and expression to their art; or, if they have no religious culture, then there will not be soul-power enough in them to produce any art at all.*
* On this subject Schlegel has some of the wisest and happiest sayings that I have met with. For example: “All truly creative poetry must proceed from the inward life of a people, and from religion, the root of that life.” And again: “ Were it possible for man to renounce all religion, including that which is unconscious, or independent of the will, he would become a mere surface without any internal substance. When this centre is disturbed, the whole system of the mental faculties and feelings takes a new shape.” Once more, speaking of the Greeks: “Their religion was the deification of the powers of Nature and of earthly life; but this worship, which, among other nations, clouded the imagination with hideous shapes, and hardened the heart to cruelty, assumed among the Greeks a mild, a grand, and a dignified form. Superstition, too often the tyrant of the human faculties, here seems to have contributed to their freest development. It cherished the arts by which itself was adorned, and its idols became the models of beauty But, however highly the Greeks may have succeeded in the Beautiful and even in the Moral, we cannot concede any higher character to their civilization than that of a refined and ennobling sensuality Of course this must be understood generally. The conjectures of a few philosophers, and the irradiations of po etical inspiration, constitute an occasional exception. Man can never altogether turn aside his thoughts from infinity, and some obscure recollections will always remind him of the home he has lost.”
As I am on the subject of Art considered as the offspring of Religion or the religious Imagination, I am moved to add a brief episode in that direction. And I the rather do so, forasmuch as Artistic Beauty is commonly recognized as among the greatest educational forces now in operation in the Christian world. On this point a decided reaction has taken place within my remembrance. The agonistic or argumentative modes, which were for a long time in the ascendant, and which proceeded by a logical and theological presentation of Christian thought, seem to have spent themselves, insomuch as to be giving way to what may be called the poetical and imaginative forms of expression. It is not my purpose to discuss whether the change be right or for the better, but merely to note it as a fact; for such I think it clearly is. I presume it will be granted, also, that as a general thing we need to have our places of worship and our religious services made far more beautiful than they are; and that indeed we cannot have too much of beauty in them, so that beauty be duly steeped in the grace and truth of Christian inspiration. But Art has its dangers here as well as its uses: especially it is apt to degenerate from a discipline of religious virtue into a mere relaxation, losing the severity that elevates and purifies, in what is merely pretty or voluptuous or pleasing. It is therefore of the utmost consequence what style of beauty we cultivate, and how the tastes of people are set in this matter.
ne chastens to be che good for gwer to cha
Now Christianity is indeed a great “beauty-making power"; but the Beauty which it makes and owns is a presence to worship in, not a bauble to play with, or a show for unbaptized entertainment and pastime. It cannot be too austerely discriminated from mere ornament, and from every thing approaching a striking and sensational character. Its right power is a power to chasten and subdue. And it is never good for us, especially in our religious hours, to be charmed without being at the same time chastened. Accordingly the highest Art always has something of the terrible in it, so that it awes you while it attracts. The sweetness that wins is tempered with the severity that humbles; the smile of love, with the sternness of reproof. And it is all the more beautiful in proportion as it knows how to bow the mind by the austere and hushing eloquence of its forms. And when I speak of Art, or the creation of the Beautiful, as the highest and strongest expression of man's intellectual soul, I must be understood to mean this order of the Beautiful : for indeed the beauty (if it be not a sin to call it such) that sacrifices or postpones truth to pleasure is not good;
"And that which is not good is not delicious
To a well-govern'd and wise appetite.” In all our use of Art, therefore, it stands us much in hand to know that true Beauty is indeed an awful as well as a pleasant thing; and that men are not in a good way when they have ceased to feel that it is so. Nor can I deem our case a very hopeful one when we surrender ourselves to that style of beauty which pleases without chastening the soul. For it is but too certain that when Art takes to gratifying such an unreligious taste, and so works its forces for the pleasing of men without touching them with awe, it becomes no better than a discipline of moral enervation. Perhaps this same law would silence much of the voluble rhetoric with which a certain school of writers are wont to discourse of the great Miracle of Beauty which has been given to men in the life and character of the blessed Sav
iour. For I must needs think that, if they duly felt the awfulness of that Beauty, their fluency would be somewhat repressed; and that their eloquence would be better if they feared more and flourished less.
But the point which these remarks are chiefly meant to enforce is, that there is no true beauty of Art but what takes its life from the inspirations of religious awe; and that even in our highest intellectual culture the intellect itself will needs be demoralized, unless it be toned to order by a supreme reference to the Divine will. There is no true school of mental health and vigour and beauty, but what works under the presidency of the same chastening and subduing power. Our faculties of thought and knowledge must be held firmly together with a strong girdle of modesty, else they cannot possibly thrive; and to have the intellect “undevoutly free,” loosened from the bands of reverence, is a sure pledge and forecast of intellectual shallowness and deformity.*
* Since this was written, I have met with some capital remarks, closely bordering upon the topic, in Mr. J. C. Shairp's Studies in Poetry and Philoso phy, a book which I cannot but regard as one of the choicest contributions to the literature of our time. The passage is in his essay on The Moral Dynamic, near the end:
“There are things which, because they are ultimate ends in themselves, refuse to be employed as means, and, if attempted to be so employed, lose their essential character. Religion is one, and the foremost of these things. Obedience, conformity of the finite and the imperfect will of man to the infinite and perfect will of God, this, which is the essence of religion, is an end in itself, the highest end which we can conceive. It cannot be sought as a means to an ulterior end without being at once destroyed. This is an end, or rather the end in itself, which culture and all other ends by right subserve. And here in culture, as in pleasure, the great ethic law will be found to hold, that the abandoning of it as an end, in obedience to a higher, more supreme aim, is the very condition of securing it. Stretch the idea of culture, and of the perfection it aims at, wide as you will, you cannot, while you make it your last end, rise clear of the original self-reference that lies at its root; this you cannot get rid of, unless you go out of culture, and beyond it, abandoning it as an end, and sinking it into what it really is, – a means, though perhaps the highest means, towards full and perfect duty. No one ever really became beautifui by aiming at beauty. Beauty comes, we scarce know how, as an emanation
from sources deeper than itself. If culture, or rather the ends of culture, are to be healthy and natural growths, they must come unconsciously, as results