« PreviousContinue »
Substance of Unitarianism.
is content to put up with talent in place of excellence, the man himself will easily dispense with virtues which it requires effort and self-denial to form. How many great men, of admirable powers, when you look into their lives, are found low, selfish and unworthy! But the world bears patiently with them. It even sustains, honors and defends them. And how is it to be expected that they should find out their own unsoundness, and condemn themselves. How many popular writers find multitudes of readers, full of enthusiasm for scenes and characters which would shock them, if the thin veil of lying sentiment which talent spreads over them were lifted away. Mere sacred names, too, are no security that the right principles and affections shall be there. There are great religious men, so called, who, with self-sacrifice always on their lips, are eminently selfish, and who, except in words, give no impression that they have known the faith of love! And many there are who proclaim themselves philanthropists, evidently feeling as if humanity would die with them, while to the eyes of others they seem possessed with that very spirit of selfish hatred and exclusion, out of which the social evils grow. Their admirers exalt them as the only stars in our dark sky; but if they are ordained to shine in the firmament forever, it will be like the red planet Mars, which kindles with fiery brightness, while it is the only one in which the telescope discovers vast regions of ice and snow.
But, without saying more of the union of priest and king, or rather, of holiness and power, let me add, that it is one of the chief advantages of that body of Christians with which we are connected, that they insist on character in its wholeness and harmony as the essential thing. Doctrines have their place, services and forms are not without their importance; but character assembles all else within itself, and where holiness is found, the demands of Christianity are answered. I do not mean to say, that, in practice, we lay more stress on character than other Christians; but they all appear to have something or other, by which a man may recommend himself to their good opinion and cover up the want of Christian principle within, — some creed which he can accept, some services in which he can engage, some transitions of feeling which he can pass through ; by some profession he can gain their confidence
and be regarded as a Christian. While among us there is no livery nor veil, no Sabbath dress which one can wear as a disguise; if he has not religious principle, there is nothing to conceal the want of it from himself and others. And this is an eminent advantage: for if a man is not a Christian in reality, he cannot find it out too soon.
So then, this want of uniform and marshalled array, though it makes against our numbers, though it gives our sect, if I must use the word, an aspect less imposing than that of others, may yet be of service to our souls.
This idea of the supreme importance of character is the substance of Unitarianism. When we hope that our principles may prevail, it is the same as desiring that character may be regarded, above all professions, as the chief element of faithfulness in this life and salvation in the other. It is often said that Unitarianism is dying away: and if by that is meant the party, one could wish it might be true; because our party, like every other, came into existence for a purpose, and Divine Providence never suffers anything, not even a red leaf to fall, till the purpose for which it exists, has been answered. If therefore, the Unitarian sect is passing by, it conveys the glad tidings that its warfare is accomplished and its work is done; in other words, that the world are receiving this great truth of the transcendent worth of character, and need no longer to have it pressed upon them by an active and earnest party. But even if our sect were dissolved, its voices silent, and its records scattered to the winds, still Unitarianism, by which I mean this principle in question, that character is all in all, and that the want of it is want of everything, can never perish so long as the Gospel of Christ endures. It has already spread fast and far: other sects are looking less to what a man professes, and more to what he is. And the time is coming, when the follower of Jesus in heart and life, with whatever religious opinions, will be acknowledged by Christians as readily as he is now accepted by his Master and his God.
Let us then remember and maintain this truth to the full extent of the words, “ The kingdom of God is within you." Let us hold it forth as the great aim and effect of religion, to make men priests and kings indeed; inspiring them with a love of holiness and giving them power in the hearts of
Artistic Representations of the Trinity.
Suffer them not to think of outward gifts and blessings in place of principles and affections; for the strait and narrow path of holiness alone leads to the offices and honors which Jesus Christ bestows. The sceptre and the crown are within ; the coronation and the investiture are not seen by human eye. In the heart shall the throne and altar be established, and there shall the kingdom and the glory come. While the Christian labors in his humble sphere, unknown and unhonored of men, the eye of the angel sees the corruptible within him putting on incorruption, and the mortal immortality; and while his strong heart bleeds with the sorrows of his pilgrimage, the seraph's diadem, unseen by the world, surrounds his manly brow. May all the words of heaven which speak of blessings and honors, remind us of invisible things. Let us look, "not at the things that are seen, but at those which are not seen.” Because they are unseen, they have less attraction for us now; and yet if they were visible, they would be dust and ashes; but because they are invisible, they endure forever.
Art. III. - ARTISTIC REPRESENTATIONS OF THE
The very curious and interesting work named below,important too, as contributing to a knowledge of Christian history and the ideas underlying it, - forms part of a collection of Inedited Documents on the history of France, published by order of the King, under charge of the Minister of Public Instruction. It belongs to the third series of the collection, entitled Archæology. The specific title of the series, “Iconographie Chrétienne,” indicates its nature, that is, a description of artistical delineations and images derived from Christian monuments, - existing in statues, or found in paintings on glass, in mosaics, frescos etc. The present volume is confined to representations of God, or the several persons of the Trinity, and is to be
Iconographie Chrétienne. Histoire de Dicu. Par M. Didron, de la Bibliothèque Royale, Secrétaire du Cometé Historique des Arts et Monuments.' Paris. 1843. 4to. pp. 624.
followed by a further publication containing representations of angels, the Virgin Mary, saints and martyrs, the devil, symbolical figures in the Apocalypse, and the like, - beings real or imaginary. The author, M. Didron, one of the superintendents of the Royal Library of Paris and secretary of the Historical Committee of Arts and Monuments, exhibits learning and diligence competent to his task, and received ample assistance from men versed in antiquity and the arts. The volume contains one hundred and fifty well executed engravings, all taken from authentic monuments, and accompanied with an explanation, or sort of running commentary in which are given dates, localities, and whatever is needed to a thorough comprehension of the subject.
Some idea of the richness of the materials used by the author, and their sources, may be formed from facts stated in his Introduction. Thus, after observing generally that between the ninth and seventeenth centuries Christianity caused to be sculptured, chiseled, graven, painted, woven (as in tapestry) an innumerable multitude of statues and figures, in cathedrals, parish churches and chapels, in collegiate institutions, abbeys and priories, he specifies particular churches which are ornamented by two, three, and even four thousand statues in stone, and others, and some of the same, which contain three, four, five thousand figures painted on glass. Every old church, however small, contained some; and the subjects of all, with few exceptions, were religious. Though the number of these ornaments is now much diminished by the injuries of time, by violence and accident, yet in some of the churches they still exist entire, and in others a great part remain. Then the manuscripts of the middle ages furnish many materials for the copyist’s and engraver's art, of use in such a work. Not satisfied with what could be collected from these sources, however, M. Didron travelled extensively in Italy and Greece, proceeding as far as Constantinople, and appropriating to his use whatever he found, suited to his purpose among the relics of ancient Christian art, in catacombs, on sarcophagi, and elsewhere.
The object of M. Didron's volume is not to illustrate theology, nor to trace the development of religious ideas or doctrines, through the remains of Christian art; not, strictly speaking, to exhibit the influence of theology upon art; but
to give a history of the results of the art of representation (l'art figuré) viewed chronologically in its various phases as employed on religious subjects and modified by Christian ideas. That is, his design is wholly artistic. This renders his production only the more valuable for the purpose to which it may be applied by the theologian, and especially the student of Christian history and antiquity, since he writes with no sectarian views, and as the advocate of no theory. To be sure, his work comes out under Catholic auspices, and he is careful not to offend the prejudices of the Church. He everywhere recognizes the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. Nothing could be further from his thoughts than to furnish materials by which the modifications which this doctrine from time to time received, or the tendencies of practical and speculative minds on the subject, might receive illustration; yet this he has in some sort done, and the evidence thus incidentally furnished from authentic sources will be used by the future historian of the doctrine. It is not our intention at present, however, to consider the work under this aspect. Nor shall we enter into any discussion on the purpose for which painting and statuary were originally introduced into churches, erroneous as M. Didron's views appear to be on this subject, but shall content ourselves with stating, in the briefest possible manner, a few general facts relating to representations and symbols of the Divinity (Father, Son and Spirit) in Christian works of art.
There are no early artistic representations of the Father,
none, Didron says, before the twelfth century. The early artists put the Son in his place in scenes connected with Old Testament history, being restrained by reverence from an attempt to give an image of the Father. When the Father is first introduced, only a hand, extended from heaven or from the clouds, and indicating his presence, visible. This is sometimes rayed and the fingers are open to express the Divine favor dispensed upon earth, and sometimes it has the form of benediction,* or holds out to
* In the Latin form of benediction the three first fingers, or two fingers and the thumb, are open, and the other two shut; in the Greek form the index or first finger is open, the second and little finger slightly curved, and the thumb crosses the ring finger, thus producing a figure somewhat resembling the Greek monogram of the name of Christ. In the study of works of Christian art these matters, seemingly triling, are of some importance.