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from the natural order to the supernatural, and involves sheer atheism as its logical consequence, as much as it does when confined to the order of nature. If God abandoned his Church to the care of men, and they through their ignorance and perversity corrupted it, so that for at least eight hundred years the true Church was no longer to be found on the earth, what surety can you give, or have you for yourselves, that, even if
you could restore it, as your fruitless efforts for three hundred years show you cannot, men would not soon corrupt it again.
Your grand error, my young friends, is in the denial of Providence. Some of you are out-and-out Epicureans, and hold that God made the world, gave it a kick, set it agoing, and bade it go ahead on its own hook and take care of itself"; others among you do not say quite so much of the natural world. You are willing, one division of you, to say that he had so much regard for the world that he founded a Church for its redemption and salvation, and another division of you, that he made a revelation for its benefit; but you both agree that he abandoned the Church or the revelation immediately to its
threw it upon the great concourse of men, and said, Here, take it, and make the most of it. I have no further concern with it. Here you deny the providence of God in the supernatural order. Now I beg you to reflect seriously on this denial. God has created the world from nothing, and it is only by virtue of his immanence in the world through that creative act that the world exists or does not return to nothing. But he remains thus immanent, and all created power is insufficient to annihilate or displace a single monad. By the same free act of his will by which he created the world he preserves it, and suffers no change in its physical constitution to take place but according to his own good will and pleasure. So also by his grace has he created the Christian order, or the “new creation,” the Church and all that pertains to it, and it subsists only by virtue of his immanence in it through his act of grace creating it, and were he to cease for a single moment to be so immanent in it, it would sink instantly back into nothing. So long as so immanent, it is and must be preserved, and all the powers of earth and hell strive in vain against it. Men may beat against it, and break their own heads in the shock, but they cannot move or injure it. There is, then, no medium between its entire indefectibility and its total ceasing to be. Your theory, whether you call it the Church or simply revelation, of its gradual, partial, or total corruption, is unten
able, and you have no middle ground on which to stand betu een the Roman Catholic Church and the absolute denial of Christianity ; and if you deny Christianity, you have nothing but sheer humanism, the absolute divinity of human nature, putting man in the place of God, setting him in the temple of God to show himself and to be worshipped as if he were God.
LITERARY NOTICES AND CRITICISMS.
1. — The Scarlet Letter : A Romance. By NATHANIEL Haw.
THORNE. Boston : Ticknor, Reed, & Fields. 1850. 12mo.
MR. HAWTHORNE is a writer endowed with a large share of genius, and in the species of literature he cultivates has no rival in this country, unless it be Washington Irving. His Twice-told Tales, his Mosses from an Old Manse, and other contributions to the periodical press, have made him familiarly known, and endeared him to a large circle of readers. The work before us is the largest and most elaborate of the romances he has as yet published, and no one can read half a dozen pages of it without feeling that none but a man of true genius and a highly cultivated mind could have written it. It is a work of rare, we may say of fearful power, and to the great body of our countrymen who have no well defined religious belief, and no fixed principles of virtue, it will be deeply interesting and highly pleasing.
We have neither the space nor the inclination to attempt an anal. ysis of Mr. Hawthorne's genius, after the manner of the fashionable criticism of the day. Mere literature for its owo sake we do not prize, and we are more disposed to analyze an author's work than
himself. Men are not for us mere psychological phenomena, to be studied, classed, and labelled. They are moral and accountable beings, and we look only to the moral and religious effect of their works. Genius perverted, or employed in perverting others, has no charms for us, and we turn away from it with sorrow and disgust. We are not among those who join in the worship of passion, or even of intellect. God gave us our faculties to be employed in his service, and in that of our fellow-creatures for his sake, and our only legitimate office as critics is to inquire, when a book is sent us for review, if its author in producing it has so employed them.
Mr. Hawthorne, according to the popular standard of morals in this age and this community, can hardly be said to pervert God's gifts, or to exert an immoral influence. Yet his work is far from being unobjectionable. The story is told with great naturalness, ease, grace, and delicacy, but it is a story that should not have been told. It is a story of crime, of an adulteress and her accomplice, a meek and gifted and highly popular Puritan minister in our early colonial days,
- a purely imaginary story, though not altogether improbable. Crimes like the one imagined were not unknown even in the golden days of Puritanism, and are perhaps more common among the descendants of the Puritans than it is at all pleasant to believe ; but they are not fit subjects for popular literature, and moral health is not promoted by leading the imagination to dwell on them. There is an unsound state of public morals when the novelist is permitted, without a scorching rebuke, to select such crimes, and invest them with all the fascinations of genius, and all the charms of a highly polished style. In a moral community such crimes are spoken of as rarely as possible, and when spoken of at all, it is al. ways in terms which render them loathsome, and repel the imagination.
Nor is the conduct of the story better than the story itself. The author makes the guilty parties suffer, and suffer intensely, but he nowhere manages so as to make their sufferings excite the horror of his readers for their crime. The adulteress suffers not from remorse, but from regret, and from the disgrace to which her crime has exposed her, in her being condemned to wear emblazoned on her dress the Scarlet Letter which proclaims to all the deed she has committed. The minister, her accomplice, suffers also, horribly, and feels all his life after the same terrible letter branded on his heart, but not from the fact of the crime itself, but from the consciousness of not being what he seems to the world, from his hav, ing permitted the partner in his guilt to be disgraced, to be pun. ished, without his having the manliness to avow his share in the guilt, and to bear his share of the punishment. Neither ever really repents of the criminal deed; nay, neither ever regards it as really criminal, and both seem to hold it to have been laudable, because they loved one another,- as if the love itself were not illicit, and highly criminal. No man has the right to love another man's wife, and no married woman has the right to love any man but her husband. Mr. Hawthorne in the present case seeks to excuse Hester Prynne, a married woman, for loving the Puritan minister, on the ground that she had no love for her husband, and it is hard that a woman should not have some one to love ; but this only aggravated her guilt, because she was not only forbidden to love the minister, but commanded to love her husband, whom she had vowed to love, honor, cherish, and obey. The modern doctrine that represents the NEW SERIES. VOL. IV. NO. IV.
affections as fatal, and wholly withdrawn from voluntary control, and then allows us to plead them in justification of neglect of duty and breach of the most positive precepts of both the natural and the revealed law, cannot be too severely reprobated.
Human nature is frail, and it is necessary for every one who standeth to take heed lest he fall. Compassion for the fallen is a duty which we all owe, in consideration of our own failings, and especially in consideration of the infinite mercy our God has manifested to his erring and sinful children. But however binding may be this duty, we are never to forget that sin is sin, and that it is pardonable only through the great mercy of God, on condition of the sincere repentance of the sinner. But in the present case neither of the guilty parties repents of the sin, neither exclaims with the royal prophet, who had himself fallen into the sin of adultery and murder, Misere mei Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam ; et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam. Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea; et a peccato munda me. Quoniam iniquitatem meam cognosco, et peccatum meum contra me est semper. They hug their illicit love; they cherish their sin ; and after the lapse of seven years are ready, and actually agree, to depart into a foreign country, where they may indulge it without disguise and without restraint. Even to the last, even when the minister, driven by his agony, goes so far as to throw off the mask of hypocrisy, and openly confess his crime, he shows no sign of repentance, or that he regarded his deed as criminal.
The Christian who reads The Scarlet Letter cannot fail to perceive that the author is wholly ignorant of Christian asceticism, and that the highest principle of action he recognizes is pride.) In both the criminals, the long and intense agony they are represented as suffering springs not from remorse, from the consciousness of hav. ing offended God, but mainly from the feeling, especially on the part of the minister, that they have failed 10 maintain the integrity of their character. They have lowered themselves in their own estimation, and cannot longer hold up their heads in society as honest people. It is not their conscience that is wounded, but their pride. He cannot bear to think that he wears a disguise, that he cannot be the open, frank, stainless character he had from his youth aspired to be, and she, that she is driven from society, lives a solitary outcast, and has nothing to console her but her fidelity to her paramour. There is nothing Christian, nothing really moral, here. The very pride itself is a sin; and pride often a greater sin than that which it restrains us from committing. There are thousands of men and women too proud to commit carnal sins, and to the indomitable pride of our Puritan ancestors we may attribute no small share of their external morality and decorum. It may almost be said, that, if they had less of that external morality and decorum, their case would be less desperate ; and often the violation of them, or failure to main. tain them, by which their pride receives a shock, and their self-complacency is shaken, becomes the occasion, under the grace of God, of their conversion to truth and holiness. As long as they maintain their self-complacency, are satisfied with themselves, and feel that they have outraged none of the decencies of life, no argument can reach them, no admonition can startle them, no exhortation can move them. Proud of their supposed virtue, free from all self-reproach, they are as placid as a summer morning, pass through life without a cloud to mar their serenity, and die as gently and as sweetly as the infant falling asleep in its mother's arms. We have met with these people, and after laboring in vain to waken them to a sense of their actual condition, till completely discouraged, we have been tempted to say, Would that you might commit some overt act, that should startle you from your sleep, and make you feel how far pride is from being either a virtue, or the safeguard of virtue, or convince you of your own insufficiency for yourselves, and your absolute need of Divine grace.
Mr. Hawthorne seems never to have learned that pride is not only sin, but the root of all sin, and that humility is not only a virtue, but the root of all virtue. No genuine contrition or repentance ever springs from pride, and the sorrow for sin because it mortifies our pride, or lessens us in our own eyes, is nothing but the effect of pride. All true remorse, all genuine repentance, springs from humility, and is sorrow for having offended God, not sorrow for having offended ourselves.
Mr. Hawthorne also mistakes entirely the effect of Christian pardon upon the interior state of the sinner. He seems entirely ignorant of the religion that can restore peace to the sinner,
- true, inward peace, we mean. He would persuade us, that Hester had found pardon, and yet he shows us that she had found no inward peace. Something like this is common among popular Protestant writers, who, in speaking of great sinners among Catholics that have made themselves monks or hermits to expiate their sins by devoting themselves to prayer, and mortification, and the duties of religion, represent them as always devoured by remorse, and suffering in their interior agony almost the pains of the damned. An in. stance of this is the Hermit of Engeddi in Sir Walter Scott's Talis. man. These men know nothing either of true remorse, or of the effect of Divine pardon. They draw from their imagination, enlightened, or rather darkened, by their own experience. Their speculations are based on the supposition that the sinner's remorse is the effect of wounded pride, and that during life the wound can never be healed. All this is false. The remorse does not spring from wounded pride, and the greatest sinner who really repents, who really does penance, never fails to find interior peace. The mortifications he practises are not prompted by his interior agony, .