Imágenes de páginas

he looks after his parks and woodlands. All day long he is in the open air, getting vigour from the sun. So he grows like one of his ancestral oaks. It must not be supposed that such vigour is unattainable from the great solar source upon a cloudy or rainy day. The light is there, though retarded : no cloud that ever overspread the sky could intercept the solar influence.

In taking as an instance of high physical health the typical country gentleman who abstains from politics, I may be accused of ignoring my theory that ideas are life. It is not so. There are ideas beyond the limits of the House of Commons, the Stock Exchange, and the newspapers. The life of an English country-gentleman is singularly like the life of Homer's heroes . .. who indeed were simply a set of Greek country-gentlemen, obliged to unite and punish the people of Troy, a city of sea-robbers and Sybarites. They relucted for a long time, just in the predicate of substance that it is always varying; of spirit, that it knows no variation. What we regard as change in human character is merely its revelation through the changes of circumstance. The power that we call Shakespeare was as great when the poet was a baby-ay, and before—as when Hamlet was conceived ; it is as great now, somewhere; it can be neither diminished nor increased. This is true of all possessors of the immortal Spirit. I will not say that all mankind are such.

Asgill, who was expelled for heresy from both the Irish and the English Houses of Commons, and who passed in the King's Bench the last thirty years of his life, had made up his mind not to die at all. “Die when we will,' he writes, and be buried when we will, and lie in the grave as long as we will, we must all return from thence and stand again upon the earth before we can ascend into the heavens.-Hinc itur ad


[ocr errors]

Astra. Now the assertion of Christ concerning himself was, that man by him may live for ever. And this is that magnetick which hath drawn the world after him.'

Now, if these words of his are words only, then was he an impostor, and his doctrinė is false. But if this assertion of himself be true, that man by him may live for ever, then all our attempts beneath this are mean and cowardly, as counting ourselves unworthy of eternal life.

Elsewhere he asks: What then is death ? Why, 'tis a misfortune fallen upon man from the beginning, and from which he hath not yet dared to attempt his recovery. And it serves as a spectrum to fright us into a little better life than (perhaps) we should lead without it.'

And he puts his faith in his own theory in language too strong for the year 1700. · If, after this, I die like other men, I declare myself to die of no religion. And in this let no one be concerned for me as a Desperade : for I am not going to renounce the other parts of our religion, but to add another article of faith to it, without which I can't understand the rest; and if I lose this additional article by failing in this attempt, I have as much religion still left as they that pity me.'

Mr. Cook, who has made a careful study of this remarkable man, thinks that in his later years Asgill renounced his creed in its literal meaning, and interpreted it mystically. It must surely have occurred to so severe a logician that no material form is permanent : had he lived a century and a half later he would have apprehended the great theory of modern science, that no particle of matter is for a moment at rest. The world perishes in all its atoms every instant, and is in all its atoms renewed. Scientific discovery, which to some minds brings the conclusion that the universe is an amazing automaton, convinces

present God.

me irrefragably that there exists an ever

Men of intellect, ingenious and inquisitive, are most useful when they bring us news of undiscovered natural processes; but if they turn theory-builders, and construct the universe from their own limited notions, they act like some stonemason employed to chip blocks for a cathedral, who explains and criticizes the scheme of the architect. Quod in natura naturata Lex, in natura naturanta Idea dicitur. They, however, deify Law, being unable to conceive the existence of a Deity with Ideas. I suppose that famous fly on Æsop's wheel thought the wheel a living power, and ignored the waggoner altogether.

In an essay designedly desultory, I venture to think Asgill worth passing mention, though I differ from him toto coelo. Indeed the idea which I attempt to enforce could never have entered his brain, or he would not have desired to turn this planet into a colony of

« AnteriorContinuar »