The English Church in the Eighteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 807 pages of information about The English Church in the Eighteenth Century.

But while Dean Graves was writing in careful and moderate language his not unseasonable warnings, thoughts representative of a new and deeper strain of theological feeling were passing through the mind of Samuel Coleridge.  His was a genius singularly receptive of the ideas which emanated from the leading intellect of his age in England or abroad.  He was probably better acquainted than any other of his countrymen with the highest literature of Germany, which found in him not only an interpreter, but a most able and reflective exponent.  Few could be better fitted than he was—­no one certainly in his own country and generation—­to deal with those subtle and intricate elements of human nature upon which enthusiasts and mystics have based their speculations, and hopelessly blended together much that is sublime and true with not a little that is groundless and visionary, and often dangerous in its practical or speculative results.  In the first place, he could scarcely fail in sympathy.  He was endowed with a rich vein of that imaginative power which is the very life of all enthusiasm.  It is the most prominent characteristic of his poetry; it is no less conspicuous in the intense glow of excited expectation with which he, like so many other young men of rising talent, cherished those millennial visions of peace and brotherhood, and simple faith and love, which the French Revolution in its progress so rudely crushed.  Mysticism also must have had great charms for one who could write verses so imbued with its spirit as are the following:—­

    He first by fear uncharmed the drowsed soul,
    Till of its nobler nature it ’gan feel
    Dim recollections; and thence soared to hope,
    Strong to believe whate’er of mystic good
    The Eternal dooms for His immortal sons;
    From hope and firmer faith to perfect love
    Attracted and absorbed; and centred there,
    God only to behold, and know, and feel,
    Till by exclusive consciousness of God,
    All self annihilated, it shall make
    God its identity—­God all in all! 
    We and our Father one! 
                            And blest are they
    Who in this fleshy world, the elect of heaven,
    Their strong eye darting through the deeds of men,
    Adore with steadfast, unpresuming gaze
    Him, nature’s essence, mind, and energy;
    And gazing, trembling, patiently ascend,
    Treading beneath their feet all visible things
    As steps, that upward to their Father’s throne
    Lead gradual.[647]

If we would further understand how far removed must have been Coleridge’s tone of thought from that which for so long a time had regarded enthusiasm in all its forms as the greatest enemy of sober reason and sound religion, we should only have to consider what a new world of thought and sentiment was that in which Coleridge was living from any of which the generation before him had experience.  The band

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The English Church in the Eighteenth Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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