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original plan of promulgating the old doctrines. By and by, intercourse with Coleridge, added to his own restless spirit of speculation, began to shake his confidence in many parts of our ancient creeds. A new system, of colossal proportions, founded, indeed, on the basis of Scripture, but ascending till its summits were lost in mist, began to rise under his Babylonian hand. He saw, too, for the first time, the mountain-ranges of prophecy lowering before him, dark and cloud-girt for the most part, but with strange gleams shining here and there upon their tops, and with pale and shadowy hands beckoning him onwards into their midst. These were to him the Delectable Mountains, and to gain the summit of Mount Clear became henceforth the object of his burning and lifelong ambition. He toiled up these hills for many a weary hour and with many a heavy groan, but his strong faith and sanguino genius supported him; in the evening of each laborious day he fancied he saw, on the unreached pinnacle,
"Hope enchanted smile, and wave her golden hair;" and each new morning found him as alert as ever, climbing the mountains towards the city. Again and again, he imagined that he had reached the far-seen and far-commanding summit, and certainly the exaltation of his language, and the fervor of his spirit, seemed sometimes those of one who was beholding a "little of the glory of the place;" but, alas! the clouds were perpetually gathering again, and many maintained that the shepherds Watchful and Experience (whatever Sincere might have done) had not bid him "welcome to the Delectable Mountains," and that he had mistaken Mount Clear for Mount Error, which hangs over a steep precipice, and whenco many strong men have been hurled headlong, and dashed to pieces at the bottom
It was certainly a rapid, a strange, a fearful “progress," that of our great-hearted pilgrim during the ten last years of his life. What giants he wrestled with and subdued—what defiles of fear and danger he passed—what hills of difficulty as well as of delight he surmounted—what temptations he resisted and defied—what by-paths, alas! too, at times he was led to explore! All subjects passed before him like the animals coming to be named of Adam, and were scanned and classified, if not exhausted; all methods of "concluding". men into the obedience of his form of the faith were tried ; — now he “piped” his Pan's pipe to the mighty London, that its inhabitants might dance; now he“ mourned to them his wild prophetic wail, that they might lament. All varieties of character he met with and sought to gain all places he visited—all varieties of treatment and experience he encountered and tried to turn to high spiritual account. We see him now preaching among the wildernesses of Golloway, and seeming a Renwick Redivivus, and now, Samson-like, overthrowing the Church of Kirkcaldy, by the mere pressure produced by his popularity. Now he is seen by Hazlitt laying his giant limbs on a bench in the lobby of the Black Bull, Edinburgh ; and now, at five in the morning, in the same city, ere the sun has climbed the back of the couchant lion of Arthur Seat, or turned the flag floating o'er the Castle into fire, he is addressing thousands in the West Church on the glorious and dreadful advent of a Brighter Sun from heaven. Now we see him (as our informant did) sitting at his own hospitable morning board, surrounded by a score of disciples, holding a child on his knee, a tea-pot in his hand, and, with head and shoulders towering over the rest, pouring out the while the strong element of his conversation. Now we watch him shaking farewell hands with Carlyle, his early friend, whom he has in vain sought to convert to his views, and saying with a sigh, “I must go up this hill Difficulty ; thou art in danger of reaching a certain wide field, full of dark mountains, where thou mayest stumble and fall, and rise no more." Now he pleads his cause before the judicatories of the Church of Scotland where he is sisted for error, but pleads it in vain ; and in the afternoon of the day on which he has been cast out from her pale, stands up with tears in his eyes, and preaches the gospel in his own native Annan to weeping crowds. Now he prevents the dawning to translate “ Ben Ezra" into English, and to prefix to it that noble apology for the Personal Advent, which a Milton's ink might have written and a martyr's blood sealed. Now he appears, after years of estrangement, before the view of his ancient ally, Carlyle, suddenly as an apparition, in one of the parks, grey-haired with anguish, pale and thin as a spectre, blasted, but blasted with celestial
fire, and they renew friendly intercourse for one solemn hour, and then part for ever. And now he expires in Glasgow, panting to keep some dream-made appointment in Edinburgh, whither he was bound, but saying at last, with childlike resignation, “Living or dying, I am the Lord's."
From his life, thus cursorily outlined, we pass to say a few words about his works, and genius, and purpose. In comparing the divines of the seventeenth century with those of our own day, there is nothing more remarkable than this—the vastly greater amount of good literature produced by the former. They were not, to be sure, so much engrossed with soirées, Exeter-Hall meetings, and visits, as the present race; but their pulpit preparations were far more laborious, and yet they found time for works of solid worth and colossal size. Our divines, too, are determined to print, but what flimsy productions theirs in general are, in comparison with the writings of Howe, Charnock, Barrow, and Taylor! There is more matter in ten of Charnock's massive folio pages, than in all that Dr. Cumming has hitherto published. Chalmers and Irving, of course, are writers of a higher order, but even their works cannot be named beside those of our elder theologians, whether in learning, in genius, in power, in practical effect, or even in polish. In proof of our statement, we invite comparison between Chalmers's “ Astronomical Discourses? or Irving's " Orations” and the “ Christian Life” by old John Scott; and, waiving the question as to which of the three possesses the greatest intellectual power and eloquence, we challenge superiority on behalf of the elder, even in respect of correctness, grace, and every minor merit of style. Vain to say that the works of Chalmers and Irving were written in the intervals of varied and harassing occupations. So were those of the old divines. Vain to say that in the Scottish schools and colleges, at the beginning of this century, little attention was paid to composition—in the schools and colleges of the seventeenth century we believe there was still less. The true reasons are to be found in the simple fact, that these olden men were men of a still higher order of intellect—that, besides, they had more thoroughly trained themselves, and that a still loftier earnestness in their hearts was strengthened and inflamed by the influences of a sterner age. As Milton
to Bailey and Tennyson, do Howe and Barrow stand to Chalmers and Irving.
Yet we mean not to deny that some of Irving's productions are worthy, not only of his floating reputation, but of that gift in him which was never fully developed, or at least never completely displayed. In all his writings you see a man of the present wearing the armor of the past; but it is a proof of his power, that, although he wears it awkwardly, he never sinks under the load. It is not a David clad in a Goliath's arms, and overwhelmed by them; it is the shepherd-giant, Eliab, David's brother, not yet at home in a panoply which is not too large for his limbs, but for wearing which a peaceful profession and period had not prepared him. Irving, in native power, was only, we think, a little lower than the men of the Elizabethan period, and of the next two reigns. He was originally of a similar order of genius, but he had given that genius a less severe and laborious culture, and he had fallen upon an age adverse for its display. Hence, even his best writings, when compared to theirs, have a certain stiff, imitative, and convulsive air. There is nothing false in any of them, but there is something forced in most. You feel always how much better Irving's noble, generous thoughts would have looked, had he expressed them in the language of his own day. Burke had as big a heart, a far subtler intellect, and richer imagination than Irving, and yet how few innovations, and fewer archaisms, has he ventured to introduce into his style. Hall and Foster, too, are as pure writers as they are powerful thinkers. Thus, too, felt the public, and hence the boundless popularity of the man was not transferred to his books. His two best productions are, unquestionably, his Prefaces tɔ " Horne on the Psalms," and to “ Ben Ezra." Nothing can be finer than his defence of David, and his panegyric—itself a lyric—on his psalms in the former, and the apostolic dignity, depth, and carnestness, which distinguish the latter. Why are these, and some of his other smaller works, not reprinted?
The genius of Irving was not of the purely poetical sort, it was rather of that lofty degree of the oratorical which verges on the poetical. In other words, it was more intense than wide. His mind was deeper than that of Chalmers, but not so broad or so genial-it was in some departments more pow
erful, but not so practical. Many of his ideas, he rejoiced to see, as he said, “looming through a mist.” Even the poetry that was in him was rather of the lyrical, than of the epic or dramatic sort. The lyrical poet does not look abroad upon universality—he looks straight up from his lyre—some intense idea at once insulates and inflames him, and his poetry arises bright, keen, and narrow, as a tongue of fire from the altar of a sacrifice. It was so with the prose of Irving; his flights were lofty, perpendicular, and short-lived. He has left very few of those long, swelling, sustained, and victorious passages which characterise the very highest of our religious authors, nor, on the other hand, are his pages thick with sudden and memorable felicities of thought. They are chiefly valuable for those brief patches of beauty, and bursts of personal feeling and passion, which recall most forcibly to those who heard him the remarkable appearance and unequalled elocution of the man. For, emphatically, he himself was "the Epistle.” We admit most frankly, even though the admission should have the effect of producing distrust in our own capacity of criticising one whom we never saw, that, to know his genius fully, it was necessary to have seen and heard him--only those who did so are, we believe, able to appreciate the whole power that was condensed in that marvellous “earthen vessel,” the appearance of which, especially in his loftier moods, suggested an energy within, and a possibility before him, which made his works, and even his public preachings, seem poor in the comparison. Let us remember, too, the age at which he was removed. He was barely forty-two, an age when nine-tenths of clever men have not even begun to publish. And he had advanced at such a rate. It was true that latterly he fell into a singular hallucination, or, at least, a one-sidedness. A gentleman told us, that, calling on him once, and complaining that his published writings were not quite worthy of his fame, Irving pointed to a mass of MS. below his study table, and said, "Look here, sir! There are there scores of sermons incomparably superior to aught I have published. But when I wrote them I was under the impression that I must fight God's cause with the weapons of eloquence and carnal wisdom; I have learned otherwise since, sir, and believe that the simpler and humbler I am in my language, God will prosper my ser