17 APRIL 1880, Page 3

M. Renan's brilliant Hibbert Lectures,—full of lively imagination, and a

critical dogmatism very curious in one

who treats spiritual dogmatism with so much severity,—have attracted audiences of the most eager kind. One of the chief features of the lectures was M. Renan's marked horror of demo- cracy, and his admiration for episcopacy, especially as ad- ministered with the help of the naïf " electioneering man- ceuvre," as M. Renan regarded it, of a pretended de- signation of the Bishop by the Holy Ghost. Democracy, he said, is often highly creative, but only on condition that it gives birth to "conservative and aristocratic institu- tions," which may "hinder the revolutionary fever from being indefinitely prolonged." Nevertheless, M. Renan made in his last lecture a most eloquent protest against denying liberty to those who would deny it to us,—evidently a hardly- disguised attack on the policy of M. Jules Ferry's Bill. For the rest, there was a passage in M. Renan's last lecture understood to imply his own belief in a personal God :—" One thing only is certain; it is that the fatherly smile at certain hours shines across Nature, and assures us that there is an eye looking at us, and a heart which follows us." That is a great advance on the general drift of the "Dialogues et Fragmens Philosophiques," in which M. Renan made Philalethe say that, "like a vast heart overflowing with a vague and impotent love, the universe is incessantly in the pain of transformation," and that "the consciousness of the whole appears up to the present time to be very obscure, and -does not seem to exceed much that of the oyster or the polyp." Apparently, M. Renan is groping his way back to a purer theism,—if, indeed, that curious volume of dialogues and frag- ments were not published rather to mystify the world, than to contribute anything to its enlightenment.