MR. SCOTT'S DISCOURSES.*
SEVERAL notices of Mr. Scott have appeared III this journal. General readers may have thought some of the expressions in them exaggerated ; those who knew the subject of them will have been more likely to deem them cold. If power is tested by the super- ficial impression which it makes on a number of minds, he would pass for weak ; if it is measured by its penetrating and permanent effect on the life and characters of those with whom it comes into contact, he had all the signs of possessing that power which we ordinarily and rightly associate with the name of genius. His thoughts always generated thoughts ; none could merely accept his words as oracles if they wished to do so ;
he could not impart except by quickening the faculty which
receives. Such a man cannot be successful in diffusing opinions; he will create no sect ; general society will know
almost nothing of him ; he will never harangue crowds ; clever sayings of his will seldom be repeated ; clever men will deem him vastly inferior to themselves. But those who have come near him will find that he has sifted their opinions, that he has kept them from sects, and taught them to profit by sects, though he has affixed his own name to none ; that he has given, them an in- terest in ordinary society—in all human beings—which without him they should not have had ; that he has enabled them to per- ceive the difference between the eloquence which conies from living fountain, and the declamation which is merely stirred by external occasions or the contagion of numbers ; that he has uttered the sentence which they needed, and which has exposed sophistries and confusions in their minds, whether it took the form of an epigram, and was available for quotation, or not.
Mr. Scott being evidently a teacher of this kind, we do not
wonder that his friends should feel nervously sensitive about the effect which discourses like those contained in this volume may have upon the public, even- upon that portion of it which is capable of recognizing a true voice. The writer of the graceful and instructive preface which introduces the volume exhibits many tokens of fear on this subject ; one reason for it is stated with great felicity in the following passage :— " His lectures were always emphatically addresses. They were not, as valuable and interesting lectures very often are, merely his thoughts on a particular subject, spoken instead of written. They were addressed to his audience. Instances of what is meant will strike the reader who turns to the commencement of any of the lectures on Social Systems ; he will see how the whole form of the thought (the matter of course is unaffected by it) is determined by the particular set of minds with which the lecturer felt himself in contact ; he will imagine, for instance, how different the lecture on Chartism would have been, had it been addressed to Chartists. No commentary can fill up the gap between the impressions of hearer and reader; nothing can compensate for that piercing glance, which was felt as vivifying the spoken words into a force not their own, and approaching in its effect to a physical mani- festation of Truth ; for that varied rise and flow of utterance which would have impressed on an intelligent foreigner, ignorant of the lan- guage used, something of its import and much of its power."
What is said here of Mr. Scott's extemporaneous lectures will be confirmed by all who heard them. They were quite tan- like senatorial or forensic speeches ; they were still more unlike sermons from a pulpit ; they were as nearly as possible the reverse of the appeals which cause Exeter Hall to ring with shouts and clapping of hands ; they had none of the coldness of mere pro- fessional lectures ; yet they affected persons accustomed to these styles of oratory, and not acquainted with Mr. Scott, or prepared to agree with him, in a way in which they had not been affected by very able debaters, advocates, preachers, or doctors. They found themselves neither argued nor thundered into a conviction ;
they might accept or reject the conclusions of the teacher ; it seemed as if he and they had not been busy with premisses ; as if he had been discovering to them principles in themselves which they must take account of, add which must lead to actions, whether they could reduce them into words or not.
Discourses of this kind, delivered by a man who was literally
• Discourser. By Alexander .1. Scott. M.A., Psofossof of Logic in oneled COliegeo Manchester. London: Macmillan. 1806.
expressing himself, who was thinking whilst he was speaking, and the remarkable clearness and.force of whose speech depended on this very fact, so that he seemed to be holding intercourse with his audience, to be conferring with them, and enter- ing into their questions and perplexities, must lose much pf their flavour if they are written down afterwards by the author himself. How much more must they suffer when they are, as is the case with most of those in this volume, reported by others ? We are astonished not at the failure of these reports, but at their success. They bear testimony to the capacity of a speaker who could communicate so much of his meaning to professional scribes, disciplined by the rules and practice of their craft to calculate on certain turns of phrase and a recurring cadence, of which mind and ear were equally dis- appointed by this lecturer. But if more of the sense has been preserved than we could have supposed possible, Mr. Scott must
• have felt, when the reports were submitted to him for correction, what had been lost. A man, especially a busy and suffering man,
on whom such a task is imposed, is likely to become almost desperate in the effort to recover what cannot be recovered. The writer of the preface has pointed out one or two instances in which Mr. Scott suffered direct contradictions to remain in print, the result evidently of a collision between that which he found and that which he was interpolating. A student may gain some curious instruction in the criticism of documents, even some vela- 'able hints of a higher kind, by observing these perplexities. But it is not surprising that the admirers of Mr. Scott, knowing how little help his book will receive from the patronage of any school, -what an interest the partizans of every school may feel in disparag- ing him, should fear that flaws of this kind will destroy the influence of his remains on the age, and will offer an excuse for the opinion that any high estimate of him has been a mistaken one.
Admitting that these discourses convey no adequate notion of Mr. Scott's most remarkable qualities,—especially of his keen sense of humour, and the deep pathos which is seldom far away when humour is present, and which could not well be wanting in one who suffered bodily and mentally as he did—we yet trust that they will be appreciated. We think there is in them not merely the most solid worth, but just the kind of worth which a number of men in all schools are looking for, and which they are not likely to obtain from any one who has not passed through the severe and very peculiar training to which Mr. Scott was subjected. Attempts to reconcile the dogmas of theology with the claims of social science or of physical science we have by the hundred ; every day gives us a new one, and every day, we think, increases the sense of dis- satisfaction with these experiments, the suspicion that they have been undertaken with a purpose, that theology and social science and physical science have been compelled to part with something —perhaps each with its very essence—that it may not affront that which has been matched with it. The parts of the mixed Con- stitution-are admirably, adjusted in the paper programme ; there is a painful feeling in the minds of all people who have studied it that "it will not.march."
Mr. Scott began with no such design as this. He was bred a theologian, in that country where theology assumes, not as in old Universities, a kind of traditional domination over other studies, but an actual dominion over human life and thought and action. Nowhere so much as in Scotland has this supremacy made itself felt ; scarcely more in those who submit to it than in those who rebel against it ; scarcely more in the disciple of John Knox than in the disciple of David Hume. With both alike the issue is not about Christianity, or some form of Christianity. God must be in the thoughts of the Scotsman, as of the Jew, as an object of terror, or hope, or denial ; either as the ground of all human thought and action, or as One who by this or that contriv- ance is to be kept at a distance from men, or is to be proved not to have anything to do with men. Mr. Scott was nurtured in a land and a time in which these alternatives were presented to him ; he had to face them, not as Englishmen often do, through mists and veils, but distinctly and openly. The first three essays in this book 'will show how he faced them. The tracts "On the Divine Will" and on "Acquaintance with God" were published more than thirty years ago. That on "Revelation" must have been published above twenty. They had a very limited circulation; perhaps not a dozen of our readers ever heard of them. They are quite unpretending, are written for the simplest reader, and are free from the philoso- phical phraseology which Scotan,ien often introduce even into their conciones ad populum. Yet they enter into the very heart of the questions which have been occupying and are occupying the deepest thinkers of this day. The reader of them will perceive that Mr. Scott believed not in a "Deity," or a ,1 Divinity," or a
"Providence," or in any of the abstractions which save so many from looking at an Abyss of Nothingness, but in Gon,— in a Being without whom he could not be ; in a Will to all good without whom he could desire- no good ; in One who sought acquaintance with men, who discovered Himself to men, seeing that He had formed them to demand such a discovery, had made them incapable of fulfilling their function in the universe without it. Such a theology has nothing of the effeminacy of modern religion ; it is of the old Calvinistical type ; it could grow on no soil in which Calvinism had not struck its roots. Yet it is, as any one who reads Mr. Scott's tracts will perceive, a more resolute and effectual struggle against Calvinism than the disciples of Arminius or Grotius have ever been able to maintain ; for it seeks a ground deeper than that sovereignty which the modern Calvinist recognizes as the pillar of the universe ; it finds in the righteousness which the older Calvinist could only conceive as a security for his salvation, a hope for mankind.
These essays were written and published in England, but they could not, we think, have been conceived in England ; their Scotch parentage is unmistakable. Of the discourses on social questions which follow the same cannot be said. Hard English experiences, inward as well as outward, must have gone to their production.* They belong to that period between the revolution of 1830 and the establishment of the French Empire, which was fuller than any other in France, England, and Germany, of social sys- tems, some based, or professing to be based, on Christianity, some utterly dispensing with it. Before that time and during that time Mr. Scott passed through a discipline which led him to recognize the close connection between theology and the order of society, between theology and any attempt to reform society ; which led him also to perceive how the theologian may deny the actual government of God over families, and nations, and mankind, through his reverence for an organization which he supposes to have been divinely transmitted or divinely established and lost. He had worked with Mr. Irving, had loved and reverenced him, had entered into his belief that the Church needs to recognize a spiritual power which it has practically denied. But he had become utterly disheartened by Mr. Irving's worship of organiza- tion, as if the Church were a machine contrived to do a certain work in the' world, and as if the Spirit within it was in the machinery to make it more effectual, not in the human beings of whom the Church consists. His protest against this conception of a divine society ref t him in great sadness and isolation ; unable to find a home in the Presbyterian body, which kept him aloof by its Westminster Confession ; unable to join the English Church, which (so it was represented to him by its most vigorous champions), demanded the recognition of episcopacy as an exclusive system handed down from the past, defying and denouncing the movements of thought in the present day, prohibiting any expansion in the future; still less able to unite himself with the Apostolic Church of Gordon Square or with that of Rome, or to shut himself up in any of the Dissenting communities. He certainly did not cherish this separation, but longed earnestly for deliverance from it. But it enabled him, so at least we think, to understand better than most men the cries and cravings of his countrymen, and of many besides his countrymen. It enabled him to discern the radical vice of Romanism, as well as of Socialism—of the oldest as well as the newest Materialism ; and yet to recognize the necessity for a human fellowship, of which both bear witness, and to see how the basis of that fellowship must be laid in that which is deeper than humanity. His recognition of the meaning, the work, and the permanence of the Jewish Theocracy in this sense gives his essay on "The Kingdom of Christ" a quite peculiar value. Were it really studied, many of the recent controversies which turn upon the authority of the Old Testament documents would look very trivial; thedefenders as much as the impugners of those documents wouldfeel that they had only approached the edge of the subject which they were professing to settle. And the lectures which follow on " Romanism," "Socialism" and " Chartism " would be perceived to rise out of this, and to derive their force from it. The second of these, the writer of the preface remarks, might in our day be rather called an essay on "Secularism." Negatively the observation is true. It is that quality in °went= (this was the English name for Socialism in 1841) which has been inherited by the modern Secularists, the denial or ignoring of any spiritual principle, which Mr. Scott specially dwells upon as its weakness. But Secularism is not an attempt to construct a society, only to suppress some thoughts
• Mr. Scott at one time proposed to write a biography of Dante, whom he passion- ately admired. Had he accomplished this design, we might have learnt no new facts about the poet, perhaps obtained no fresh criticism, but we question whether any ono of Dante's countrymen would so thoroughly have entered into the union of his theology with his political struggles and his personal agonies.
or conceptions which are supposed to interfere with the working of one. Mr. Scott certainly meant to speak of persons who were occupied with an ideal of society, though their mode of realizing the ideal might be to establish a pure materialism.
We have not yet made any extracts from these lectures. We must find room for one, which strikes us as specially impressive, from that on " Schism ":—
" Some would be disposed perhaps to conclude, that if unity is not con- stituted by opinions, or by forms, or by any manner of external cohesion among men whatever, we are then left in the pleasant and desirable position of - being altogether• free to form each an opinion for himself ; and then in regard to our neighbours, free to agree to differ, holding that every man has the same right to his private opinion that I have to mine ; and that therefore unity will be more readily brought about by an increasing carelessness as to the judgments which men hold in regard to truth. Now, there. are two very important elements of the calculation here entirely left out of sight. According to the view we have derived from Scripture, it is the Truth that is to unite men. If that be the right view, nothing but the truth can do it ; and the man who desires unity will desire Truth exactly in thn same proportion, and will mourn over that untruth which he can see to oppose anywhere this organizing Truth, with a force exactly proportioned to his desire of unity. The man who is careless as to men's judgments about Truth, is really care- less about unity he is contented that each man should live apart-- should have a little sanctuary or shrine for himself, with which his neighbour is not to meddle,. making with his neighbour a compact, that on the other part he will leave to him a corresponding little sanctuary of his own. This is infidelity ; and it is a great subject of-regret, that those who are not infidels should at any time countenance this false liberalism, by speaking as if they meant the same thing with those who talk in this manner, because they are altogether sceptical as to the possibility of man's attaining to Truth in any of the higher objects of his -contemplation. No, I care-not.--it is needless for any of us to care—for any man's opinion who does not regard Truth as a thing above him, out of him, and entitled to absolute rule and authority over him : over which he has no rights, but which has a boundless right .over him. And every man thus feeling for himself, must feel in the same manner in regard to others. To speak of men's having a right to their own opinions, in the way in which it is often done, is to make• man a master where he ought to be regarded as the servant. He is under bonds to the Truth. All his obligations are grounded on his obligation to seek and embrace and act upon the Truth. Take that away, and you take every one away. And therefore, with seriousness, as in the presence of our Master, two men ought to stand together to ask—what is Truth, that Truth to which both of us are bound to bow ? not that Truth which each of us may give from him as his own private property, as he parts with his coin, or as he puts his signature to a bill."
These remarks remind ns of that third subject to which we adverted at the beginning of this notice—the subject of physical science. The preface alludes to it as the one upon which Mr. Scott dwelt most in his later years. We ourselves heard a series of lec- tures of his, "On the Unity of Natural Forces," of which we trust some record may appear in another volume. As in the case of social questions, he proceeded to this question with as much freedom from any restraints of theology as Mr. Huxley or Mr. Tyndall would desire ; rather with a thorough conviction, derived from theology, that it was his duty to seek for troth, and bow to truth wherever it is revealed ; that not to do so—to set up any opinions against truth—is treason against the Divine Majesty. In one sense therefore he acted upon the Conateist notion, which, if it applies to the life of the world, must apply to the life of: the indivi- dual. He began from God—as they would say, from theology ; he went on to the laws and conditions of human existence—which they might call metaphysics ; he arrived, finally, at inquiries respecting physics, or what they would describe as the Positive. But instead of leaving the belief of childhood behind when he entered on the studies of manhood, those studies enabled him to realize more thoroughly his original ground, to feel that the universe must fall to pieces if that is undermined.