Lectures by Lord Gifford — By whom edited — Germane to and illustrative of natural theology — Number and nature — Their literary excellence — Even poetical — Der laute Lärm des Tages — On attention — On St. Bernard of Clairvaux — (Luther Gibbon) — What Lord Gifford admires — The spirit of religion — The Trinity — Emerson Spinoza — Substance — Brahmanism — Religion — Understanding and reason — Metaphysical terms — Materialism — Literary enthusiasm — Technical shortcomings — Emerson and Carlyle — Social intercourse — Humanity — Liberality and tolerance — Faith — Mesmerism — Ebenezer Elliott — An open sense to evidence.
Gifford Lecture the Eleventh.
I BEG to express to you in the first place the pleasure which it gives me to meet once again an assembly like the present in the interest of these lectures on the Lord Gifford Bequest. Then in the reference that seems naturally next as regards an introductory discourse namely perhaps I may be allowed to say that I might excusably hold no such preliminary to be expected from me on this occasion when what we begin is but the half of a whole that had abundantly its preparatory explanations at first. So far one may incline to accept that probably as a very reasonable view. Still I know not that I can proceed to act on it with any grace in face of the fact of this little book. As one sees it is a handsome little volume; and it came to me bound as it is unexpectedly and with surprise from Frankfort-on-the-Main. It has somehow a singularly simple pure and taking title-page the words on which are these: “Lectures Delivered on Various Occasions by Adam Gifford one of the Senators of the College of Justice Scotland.” This title-page is followed by a perfectly correspondent modest little note to the effect that the lectures concerned are “a selection from a miscellaneous number of others given from time to time by request on very various occasions and to greatly differing audiences the preparation of which was a great pleasure to the lecturer” and if “of necessity sometimes hurried never careless.” “They were in no case” it is added “meant for publication and we print a few of them now only for his friends.” The signatures to that note—the “we”—are Alice Raleigh and Herbert James Gifford; the one the niece so long in loving attention associated with Lord Gifford and the other his son. The lectures themselves as we see are not to be regarded as published; and that I should speak of them here consequently may seem to border on impropriety. But as we see also they are printed for his friends; and I know not that I speak to others than the friends of Lord Gifford when I speak to this audience. I am very certain of this too that I can adduce nothing from these lectures that will not prove admirably illustrative and confirmatory of the express terms in which in the Trust-Disposition and Settlement directions are given with respect to the duties necessarily incumbent on the holders of this chair. It is in that light and for that light that precisely to me at all events these lectures of Lord Gifford's own are very specially welcome. And if now by quotation comment or remark I proceed to make as much as that good to you also I have the hope that the result will prove constitutive as well of a lecture in place a lecture in just such a course as this is a lecture on the subject of Natural Theology and a lecture too even in a way almost at the very hands of the founder himself of this chair itself. There are seven of these lectures of Lord Gifford's and they are respectively named as they come; 1. Ralph Waldo Emerson; 2. Attention as an Instrument of Self-Culture; 3. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux; 4. Substance: A Metaphysical Thought; 5. Law a Schoolmaster or the Educational Function of Jurisprudence; 6. The Ten Avatars of Vishnu; and 7. The Two Fountains of Jurisprudence. Only two of them then so far as the titles would seem to suggest belong to the writer's own profession of law while the rest are literary philosophical or even metaphysical. Three of them in spirit and even more or less in matter might not unreasonably be held to have a direct bearing on the very subject which it has been his will that the four universities of Scotland should be bound in perpetuity expressly to discuss.
What strikes one at first in these lectures and from the very face of them is the constant vivid writing the literary accomplishment that everywhere obtains in them. He says once for example “If first principles have not been carried out if on the firm foundations the walls have not risen rightly by truest plummet perpendicular towards heaven and by bedded block parallel to the horizon; then be sure that sooner or later we must begin again for Nature will find out our failure and with her there is no forgiveness.” Surely that last is what is usually described as a fine thought; and there is concrete reflection throughout as well as felicitous phrase. It is in the same way that he says once: “The prophet can tell his vision but he cannot give his own anointed eye.” What we may almost call technical literary balance is perpetual with him as when he says: “Hinduism offers culture to the educated and wisdom to the wise while with equal hand she gives superstitions and charms to the ignorant and to the foolish;” or when he holds of Emerson that “Many of his essays are refined and elevated poems and some of his poems are really very abstruse and difficult essays.” Genius “takes its own way” he tells us once; “it comes in its own air-borne chariot; it is bound by no forms tied and swaddled in no etiquette of costume. In the rudest garb it enters the dress circle or the robed conclave and white neck-cloths and square caps reverently make room for it.” Similar examples of expression are these: “He (Emerson) is not covered over and covered up swathed and swaddled in his learning like some learned mummies but he wears it like a dress. He possesses it and not it him. He bears it with him like an atmosphere and an aroma not like a burden upon his back. It is used naturally and spontaneously. It flows like a fountain or exhales like a perfume; never forced never artificial never added for show or effect.—Let no one despise learning true learning the lessons of experience or the words of ancient wisdom but remember that the greenness of earth's latest beauty rests on the rocks and the ashes which it took millenniums to form.” Lord Gifford displays always a like literary talent when the occasion calls on him to be descriptive and often then there are tones and accents of even a very veritable poesy as when he says once: “If you will go up with me step by step I think we may hope to reach the mount of Transfiguration and almost to see the glory! If you will only give me your strength and strive upwards with me I think I can almost promise you that even within our hour we shall enter the white cloud that rests upon the summit and feel the dazzling of the light that is ineffable!” Of the Middle Ages he says: “It was a fierce world. No wonder gentle natures were glad to quit it; and when we think of it and realize it we cease to be surprised that dukes and princes peasants and paupers are ready to leave their luxury or their misery and to seek a haven of shelter where during this short life they may say their prayers and then lie down in peace to sleep in death.” “The Middle Ages!” he cries “what strange scenes and pictures do not the words recall! The fortalice of the half-savage baron and the mean huts of his degraded serfs. The proud pomp and spiritual power of the haughty churchman before which the strength of kings and the might of feudalism were fain to kneel. The chivalry of Europe drained time after time to furnish forth the armies of the Crusaders. Religious excitements and revivals passing like prairie-fires over Europe and compared with which modern revivals even the wildest seem but the coldest marsh gleams. Strange and terrible diseases and epidemics and plagues both bodily and mental that mowed down millions as with the scythe of destruction. The spotted plague and the black death and the sweating sickness. The dancing mania the barking mania. The were-wolf and the ghoul. Strange mystical schools of philosophy exciting popular admiration and enthusiasm to us unexampled and inexplicable. And below all the swelling and the heaving of the slow but advancing tide which even yet is bearing us upon its crest.” In all that there is no want of effective description everywhere; but surely the last sentence is in a way sublime! What is loudest in the day what is most visible what attracts the attention and excites the voices of the crowd is not always to us admirable is not always to us cheering is not always to us hopeful; oftentimes it is disappointing dispiriting disheartening; sometimes it seems degrading or is even at times sickening. And then it is that we are glad to think in the strain of that last sentence of Lord Gifford's. That that—on the top—before our eyes—is degrading beastly disgusting; but “below all” there is “the swelling and the heaving of the slow but advancing tide” that “bearing us too on its crest” flows on ever heedless of the temporalities of earth on and on to the perpetuities of heaven.
Of the seven lectures in the little book there are specially three which are more particularly in our way: they are Ralph Waldo Emerson; Substance: a metaphysical thought; and the Ten Avatars of Vishnu. Of the two others which are more or less assonant to the interests that engage us the lecture on Attention as an Instrument of Self-culture may be recommended as in the midst of its excellent general advice containing many useful hints for practical service; while that on Saint Bernard of Clairvaux taking moral and religious occasion from the peculiarities of the theme is an interesting narrative. We may regard it as to some extent a proof of Lord Gifford's glowing sympathy with whatever was heroically moral and religious that he should have given himself so much trouble with and bestowed so much care on the career of the young man of twenty-two who as he says “renounced his inheritance and fortune renounced his nobility of birth and every title of distinction and stood penniless and barefoot a candidate for admission at the gate of the monastery of Citeaux.” He certainly became a great power in Christendom this young man perhaps the greatest of his time; but it was neither for worldly honours nor for bodily comforts. Every preferment was at once rejected by him—him whom Luther “holds alone to be much higher than all the monks and popes on the entire surface of the earth;” while Gibbon says of him he “was content till the hour of his death with the humble station of abbot of his own community.” The life in that community again Lord Gifford depicts to us thus: “They (the monks) were aroused every morning at two o'clock by the convent bell and they immediately hastened along the dark cold passages and cloisters to the church which was lighted by a single lamp. After private prayer they engaged in the first service of the day ‘matins’ which lasted two hours. The next service was ‘Lauds’ which was always at daybreak. Lauds was followed almost without intermission by other religious exercises till about nine when the monks went without any breakfast other than a cup of water to labour in the fields or in the necessary work of the house and this continued till two o'clock. At two o'clock the famished monk was allowed to dine as it was grimly called: and this was the only meal in the twenty-four hours. The dinner consisted almost always of a pottage made of peas lentils or barley sometimes with the addition of a little milk but oftener not. No Cistercian monk under Bernard's rule ever tasted meat fish butter grease or eggs. On this one meal the monk had to subsist till the same hour came round another day—retiring to his hard pallet about nine o'clock to be roused to the same daily round at two o'clock next morning.” This day's “darg” was worse than a Scotch ploughman's yet; and we are not surprised to hear that Bernard was as thin as a skeleton and that “physicians wondered he could live at all.” Still we have to see all this has a charm for Lord Gifford. “All through these frightful austerities” he says “it is not possible to withhold our tribute of admiration; here at least is a man who believes in the unseen and acts out his belief unflinchingly.” That then is what Lord Gifford admires—belief in the unseen and the sacrifice of a life to it. But all through these essays the mood in the main is not a different one. Lord Gifford however it be with the letter of his creed is always spiritually religious. Religious feeling is his blood; and his sympathy is with the Christian. “Uneventful lives are often the most influential” he says; “it is thought not action that ultimately moves the universe.—The ink in the inkstand of a quiet thinker of Kirk Caldy (Adam Smith) now floats the commercial navy of the world; and (to take with reverence the highest of all instances) a few spoken and unwritten words of a young carpenter of Nazareth—words dropped by the waysides and in the fields of Galilee—have regenerated mankind and given His name ‘Christianity’ to half the globe.” And not here only but elsewhere also he would seem to testify almost even to the life of the very letter that is spoken by the Church. Of incarnations he says: “Ever and again man's spirit tells him—‘The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men’ in the crowd or in the solitude by night or by day ever still the heavens are opened the dazzling smites us to the ground and deep calleth unto deep.” “God's revelations are not over are not completed. We have not yet heard His last word we shall never do so. We look for His coming still.” “May we not all unite in the wish which is the prayer Thy kingdom come!” “I find the great central doctrine of Christianity that on which all its other doctrines turn and revolve as on a pivot to be an impressive most mighty and most magnificent Avatar—God manifest in the flesh!” It is in reference to Hindu ideas that Lord Gifford is speaking when he is moved to say “God is manifested in the Trinity! Three essences in one God! Three aspects of the Infinite.” And I may stop here to remark how deeply philosophical Lord Gifford would seem to be in his sense of a doctrine that has proved a stumbling-block and a stone of offence perhaps to hundreds and to thousands within the bounds of Christendom. If what we can number one two three mean and must mean three individual things essentially separate and disjunct then unity in trinity is an expression that can have not possibly any concrete interpretation. I have a vague recollection of having read somewhere of Carlyle that he once somewhat disparagingly illustrated the Trinity by a man in a gig drawn by a horse. The gig was a unit the horse was a unit and the man was a unit: how could these three units be different yet the same; three yet one! If this is true of Carlyle I should be very much inclined to hold that in this instance at all events Lord Gifford was the deeper philosopher. Three aspects of one Infinity says Lord Gifford; while Carlyle refers to three units that are palpably quite as many finites. Carlyle had he wished to illustrate an essential trinity need not have wandered out of his own self. That body of his as he walked about was Carlyle; and that thinking in his head as he wrote his book was Carlyle; and that ego—that I or Me—that was one and the same identical ego all through his body and all through his thinking was Carlyle; and body thinking and ego were three at the same time that body thinking and ego were one: the three were one! Had Carlyle remained within himself and eschewed the gig he might have found an illustration for the Trinity that was to some extent essential and not numerical only. There cannot be any doubt that Lord Gifford for his part at all events was perfectly open to the distinction and quite beyond the hazard of confounding concretion with abstraction. Philosophically he knew that there might be three aspects of the one Infinite; and as a student of the Middle Ages he was perfectly aware of the historical position of the idea ecclesiastically. Lord Gifford terms it “a doctrine of our own Church I mean of Christianity known as the Eternal Procession of the Son and of the Holy Ghost from the Father a doctrine which in scholastic times engaged the learning of the Church and helped to clothe the walls of its spacious libraries.” And perhaps some of us indeed may not have yet forgotten a precisely similar mention in our course last year with regard to the early Church modern German philosophy and the relation of the Son to the world. Another casual allusion of last year's may also be within our recollection which was to an apparent assonance to pantheism in certain expressions of the Bequest. In the religious reference it is in place to say now that some such assonances reappear here in the little book that at present claims us. I daresay we are not unprepared for this when we consider that one lecture is on Ralph Waldo Emerson another on Substance and a third on what concerns Hinduism. Of Emerson Lord Gifford remarks that he “inclines to the higher or subjective pantheism; but he (Emerson) will not limit and he cannot define. Before all such questions he stands uncovered and reverently silent. No proud denial no cynic scoff no heartless sneer escapes him; and without a theory of the universe he clings to its moral meaning.” This is certainly well said as regards Emerson; and it certainly names a very admirable catholic attitude as regards religion which attitude not by any means necessarily pantheistic would do honour to any man Lord Gifford Emerson or another. In the lecture on Substance naturally we are in presence of the arch-pantheist named and described by Lord Gifford as “Benedictus de Spinoza one of the most eminent of the philosophers who have treated of substance.” Of him one cannot fail to see on the part of Lord Gifford an even familiar knowledge. If substance was to Spinoza God it is no less divine to Lord Gifford; for to him. God is the all-pervading substantiality and the single soul that is alone present everywhere. Of animals he says “Their mainspring is the Eternal and every wheel and every pinion is guided by the Infinite—and there can be but one Infinite—this is the root-thought of the fetichism of the Indian or of the Hottentot; and this is what the Egyptian felt when he saw sacredness in the crocodile in the ibis or in the beetle. Said I not” (Lord Gifford exclaims)—“said I not that the word substance was perhaps the grandest word in any language? There can be none grander. It is the true name of God. Do you not feel with me that it is almost profane to apply the word Substance to anything short of God? God must be the very substance and essence of the human soul. The human soul is neither self-derived nor self-subsisting. It did not make itself. It cannot exist alone. It is but a manifestation a phenomenon. It would vanish if it had not a substance and its substance is God. But if God be the substance of all forces and powers and of all beings then He must be the only substance in the universe or in all possible universes. This is the grand truth on which the system of Spinoza is founded and his whole works are simply drawing deductions therefrom.” These are very trenchant expressions; and their full import cannot be mistaken. As a single sample in the Indian pantheistic reference I may quote this: “Whatever Hinduism or Brahmanism may have latterly or in its bulk become still in its purest and highest essence it was (indeed I think it still is and I am glad to think so) a monism a monotheism and in one aspect a pantheism of a pure and noble kind. Pure Brahmanism knows only one God indeed only one Being in the universe in whom all things consist and exist.”
Now whatever pantheism may be and however we may be disposed to regard it surely we cannot revolve in mind these various deliverances of Lord Gifford's without feeling that we can apply to him his own words in regard of Emerson: “Emerson” he says “is not distinctively a religious writer; that is to say he does not profess to teach or to enforce religion but his tone is eminently religious.” And then he goes on to say that do as we may “religion will not be separated from anything whatever: you cannot produce and you cannot maintain a religious vacuum and if you could even secularism would die in it.” That is particularly well said and is surely a great truth. We are too apt each of us to concentrate ourselves into our own abstractions. If we are mathematicians we will be mathematicians only or similarly chemists only physiologists only botanists only and so on. Whereas there is a single concrete for which all abstractions should unite to which they should all tend and in which they should all terminate. And that is religion not religion as it is a dry bone of divinity but religion as it is the vital breath of humanity. You might as well expect digestion in independence of the heart-beat as foison for humanity or any department of humanity in independence of religion. That is the truth of the matter and what Lord Gifford says is the very word for it: Let Secularism once for all effect its religious vacuum and Secularism itself will die in it! Man doth not live by bread alone; and neither will humanity advance on the understanding only. Above the understanding there is reason. The understanding distinguishes and divides and makes clear the many; but it is reason that in vision and in love makes us all one soul while only in the element of religion does the soul find breath. “There is” says Lord Gifford—“there is an eternal and unchangeable system and scheme of morality and ethics founded not on the will or on the devices or in the ingenuity of man but on the nature and essence of the unchangeable God. The individual man Lord Gifford intimates may worship “the phenomenon the appearance; but the noumenon the substance” still is and still is the truth: “it is a high strain of Christianity to worship only the eternal the immortal and the invisible.” In these and other expressions of Lord Gifford's we have observed the occurrence of terms which are strictly and technically philosophical. He opposes for instance phenomenon to noumenon and appearance to substance. “Without the true doctrine of substance and of cause” he says once “philosophy would be a delusion and religion a dream for true philosophy and true religion must stand or fall together;” but of both we are to understand “substance” to be “the very foundation-stone.” There is a “force behind and in all forces” an “energy of all energies.” “Nature! 'Tis but the name of an effect. The cause is God!” These and such like expressions occur again and again in the little book; and “if all this be a part of metaphysics” Lord Gifford declares then “metaphysics can be no empty and barren science.” Accordingly we find no sympathy here with the mere materialistic views and tendencies of the present day. “There are some who say and think”—we may quote by way of example—“there are some who say and think that they could find in the grey matter of the brain the very essence of the soul—to such materialists the proper answer is to be found in the truths of ultimate metaphysics. Only go deep enough and the most obstinate materialist may be made to see that matter is not all the universe. Mind is not the outcome of trembling or rotating atoms.”—“The substance and essence of a man is his reasonable and intelligent soul.”—“The substance of all forms of all phenomena of all manifestations is God.”
I have spoken of literature in connection with Lord Gifford; and there are many keen expressions to bear out the implication some already seen—such phrases namely as “anointed eyes” or “shining countenances;” or “to mete with the measure of the upper sanctuary;” or decisions “straight as the rays that issue from the throne of God;” or his words when he admonishes his brothers of the Law ever in the first place to ascend and meditate on the “moral heights” whence descending he assures them “their pleading robes in the Courts of Jurisprudence will shine with light as from the Mount of Transfiguration.” I have spoken also of philosophy in connection with Lord Gifford and certainly we have seen much that is not alone an acknowledgment of philosophy but is itself philosophy. Still it is not to be understood that I would wish to represent Lord Gifford whether in literature or philosophy as precisely professional. For both he has splendid endowments: in both he has splendid accomplishments. One almost fancies that it was as a literary man he began—witness as he expresses it the “fresh and startled admiration” the “overflowing enthusiasm” with which he read Emerson. “That enthusiasm” he exclaims “ladies and gentlemen I still feel. I rejoice to think that my early admiration was not misplaced. Time with his ruthless mace has shattered many idols of a fond but false worship. But let us thank God if we were not wholly idolators if any of our youthful delights are delightful still if some of the morning colours are unfaded and part of its fine gold undimmed.” To doubt or deny the full liberty of the guild in the teeth of such expressions as these which syllable the very vernacular of the precincts trenches very closely on the mere invidious and pretty well reduces to foolishness what laudation we have already expended. Still with all natural endowment and all acquired accomplishment we fancy we catch here and there a note at times that betrays the Gentile the Ephraimite the visitant rather than the brother. Lord Gifford tells us once for example “of sleight-of-hand of cheiromancy as it is called;” or again we hear of Henry VI. “that drum-and-trumpet thing” which Shakespeare had probably little to do with as being yet a “whole drama grandly original!” We saw some time ago too the phrase “the higher or subjective pantheism.” Knowing that it is from his perusal of Spinoza that Lord Gifford has derived his idea of pantheism one has difficulty in associating “subjective” with it. One thinks that a subjective pantheism would be properly theism and not pantheism at all; at the same time that one knows withal that there is no more familiar commonplace in philosophy than the fact that what the system of Spinoza lacks is precisely subjectivity. Familiar acquaintance with is not in truth exactly technical knowledge of Spinoza. We are accustomed to this. Statements of theories by admirers of their authors which said authors would it may be have been somewhat gratefully perplexed with; finding in them perhaps such partial accentuations or partial extensions as with similar partial limitations or omissions made their own work (so called) strange to them. Such will not prove to readers by any means an uncommon experience. In the immediate reference we can certainly say this that the God of Lord Gifford much as he venerates substance is only very questionably the God of Spinoza and that Lord Gifford had he been familiar with what we may call the accepted statistical or historical return of Spinoza would have written of him from considerably different findings.
But “subjective” is not only objectionably associated with pantheism by Lord Gifford we see also a similar association of it on his part with the word “higher.” “The higher or subjective pantheism” it is said. But philosophically—of any philosophical system that is—the association of “higher” with “subjective” is an association that more than any other perhaps in these days grates. It is the objective idealism for example that to all metaphysical ambition is the higher and not the subjective. To Professor Ferrier it was little short of a personal insult to call his idealism subjective!
Another point in this connection is that Lord Gifford signalizes and dwells very specially on the “learning” of Emerson. Now I do not think that any one formally and fairly a member of the guild however much he might admire Mr. Emerson would feel prompted to call him learnëd—if learnëd that is means erudite technically and scholastically erudite. Miscellaneously no doubt Mr. Emerson was an excellent reader. He read many books and he meditated on them. But he also walked in the woods and meditated there. What he read too was mostly in English. He tells us himself he never read an alien original if he could at all compass a translation of it. Mr. Emerson nowise suggests himself to us in his books as a professed expert in languages whether ancient or modern. Neither are we apt to think of him as a student properly of the sciences or of any science. Even of philosophy so to speak he was no entered student—into what deeps and distances soever and by what means soever his intellectual curiosity may have relatively carried him!
Further in regard to learning when I am told by Lord Gifford this: “He (Mr. Emerson) has edited Greek plays—he has edited several Greek standard authors!”I confess I am astonished at my own ignorance! (He did write a preface to a translation of Plutarch's Morals.)
This is to be said in the end however: That with whatever discount Lord Gifford is literary and philosophical even as Mr. Emerson was literary and philosophical. In fact in reading these lectures of Lord Gifford's we are constantly reminded of Emerson. Lord Gifford would seem to have remained so persistently by Emerson that we may be pardoned if we conceive him to have fallen at times into Emerson's very attitude and almost taken on Emerson's very shape. Again and again in Lord Gifford it is as though we heard the very words of Emerson and in their own peculiarity of cadence rhythm or even music. Lord Gifford at one time must have been inflamed for Carlyle. Nevertheless he has dwelt so long in mildness at the side of Emerson that the passionate voice of Carlyle at the last hurts him. So it is that he says “In Emerson is no savage and vindictive hatred; no yells for the extermination of the wicked and of folly.” We see thus that gentleness is more to Lord Gifford than force. That in fact is the grain of his character; and it comes out again and again in this little book. How he rejoices that intercourse with his fellows for example and the friction of a formed society had as regards himself made “an humbler and more modest man of him than he had been before.” A test that of the amount and quality of the original substance; for it is precisely such a situation and precisely such influences that make the shallow man shallower. It is characteristic of this sound humanity in Lord Gifford that he would have us “regard our neighbour's joy and sorrow” even “his wealth and rank” “in precisely the same way as if they were our own.” That is an admirable touch the wealth and rank! It is a fact that the man who looks through the palings need not envy the man on the other side of them. The scenery the woods the hills the stately architecture are as much his as they are their owner's and in a free transparency of mind unsmutched by a single care. “Every sky” says Lord Gifford and there is his heart's love to nature in the word “gleams morning and evening with loveliness upon us if we but lift our eye to it even from the city lanes” So it is that his fellow is the core always of the thought of Lord Gifford. He rejoices in “the prophecy of the future” “in every high and holy aspiration” and sympathizes “in every effort to elevate the character and improve the condition of man.” Lord Gifford is himself (in a slightly different sense) manly withal. “I am here to-night” he says to his audience on one occasion “freely and frankly to talk with you man to man as friend with friend;” and there is even humour in him. “An old Scottish lawyer” he remarks “quaintly said ‘You cannot poind for charity’ and so you cannot by any form of diligence compel kindness or consideration or courtesy.” As is only to be expected a wise an open and a liberal tolerance is another characteristic of the humanity of Lord Gifford. He will not have us forget that “The Church was the last bulwark of humanity in the Dark Ages” that “the Church and the Church alone was the home of learning and the guardian of letters” and that she took always “the poor and forsaken to her bosom.” “To the everlasting praise of the Catholic Church be it said” he cries “she never knew any difference between rich and poor between the nobly born and the lowly born but welcomed all alike to her loving though somewhat rigid arms: to her every one born at all was well born.” Yet it is with comment on the bigotry and persecutions of this same Church and of his favourite St. Bernard that he says “Truth passes like morning from land to land and those who have sat all night by the candle of tradition cannot exclude the light which streams through every crevice of window or of wall.” It gladdens him even in the same mood of enlightenment to see “some old prejudice given way some new view got of the perfect and the fair.” That is enlightenment akin to the Aufklärung to the enlightenment of name which of course is good so far as it is enlightened; but here is the substantial enlightenment. “A few words now” says Lord Gifford “on the miracles of Saint Bernard. For [in strong italics] he did work miracles—attested by scores of eye-witnesses whose testimony nothing but judicial blindness can withstand.” How explain them? “The Talisman is [in small capitals] FAITH!” “All things are possible to him that believeth!” But then adds Lord Gifford: All “is closely connected with the modern phenomena of mesmerism” etc. It is perhaps too late in the day for any one to dispute or deny certain contraventions of the usual on the part of mesmerism; but this was not so at first. The ordinary routine of common sense which alone was philosophy to the Aufgeklärter the man of enlightenment then—in his freedom from prejudice and his hatred of the lie—the ordinary routine of common sense could not be said to be interrupted without a pang to the heart of this Aufgeklärter in the beginning at the stupidity of the vulgar caught ever by some new trick! It is told of Ebenezer Elliott the Corn Law Rhymer—a warm-hearted honest able perfectly admirable man in his day but still something of that day's Philistine or something of that day's Aufgeklärter—that he was loud in his denunciations of mesmerism as mere “collusion and quackery” but that he unwarily undertook to stake the question on trial of himself. “Accordingly the poet” says the narrator and the operator a man whom I personally knew “sat down in his chair and the moment my hand came in contact with his head he shrunk as if struck by a voltaic pile uttered a deep sigh fell back upon his chair and all consciousness fled from him.” We are not surprised to hear nevertheless that the poet (Elliott himself) alone of the whole company remained unconvinced: he only “rubbed his eyes” and “would have it that he had fallen asleep from exhaustion.” Lord Gifford then has still the substantial enlightenment that is open to all evidence and will not reject because of physical facts others which happen to be psychical.
And with this I will conclude the picture trusting that you will find it only natural and sufficiently in place that with this little book before me—and the information it extended—I conceived an introductory lecture on the Founder of this Chair only my duty and the rather that it necessarily involved much of the matter of Natural Theology.
From the book: