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the interminable lagoons, with here and there an
In going to Cambridge, a scholar who meant
street, to be watched with bated breath and whispered names; some scholar, with worn spiritual aspect, stealing from his rooms, some nobleman with his flourishing following ; or, best of all, the quiet services in the dark chapel, the droning bell ceasing high in the roof, the growing thunder of the organ, the flickering lights, and the master moving to his stall, accompanied by some scholar or writer of mighty name; and then the liturgy, the reviving in prayer and meditation of the old ideals, the thankful consciousness that God could so easily be sought and found.
Into this quiet society More was lovingly received, and it gave him deep content. He plunged into his studies with a kind of fury, like a man transported, digging for treasure; and one day it happened that his father came upon him unexpectedly as he sat with all his books about him, and, being rapturously delighted with the serious intentness of the young man, used a curious phrase about him, suggested no doubt by a certain glory, hardly human, transfiguring the boy's face,“ That he spent his time in an angelical way," and then this old Puritan, to mark his sense of satisfaction by some practical testimony, went home and wrote the lad down for a handsome legacy in his will, in token of complete reconciliation: and this legacy was never revoked; but it moved Henry's heart when he
discovered it, as the surest sign that he had been forgiven, knowing his father's concrete mode of thought as he did.
He tells us that his tutor, when he first arrived, received him kindly, and asked him, after some talk, observing the boy's melancholy and thoughtful disposition, whether he had a discernment of things good and evil, to which he replied in a low voice, "I hope I have." He says that as he uttered this he was all the time conscious of being the possessor of a singularly sensitive discrimination in these matters, and besides of an insatiable and burning curiosity after all kinds of knowledge. This, however, his diffidence did not allow him to confess. The tutor seems to have watched him carefully, for not long after, seeing his intense and unflagging zeal in study, he asked him rather brusquely why he was so intent on his work, hinting that mere ambition, if that were the motive, was too low an end. On this he confessed that his only aim was knowledge, an aim in itself.
The mere consciousness of knowledge was exquisitely pleasurable to him.
Until he took his B.A. in 1635 he occupied himself chiefly in the works of the natural philosophers-Aristotle, Cardan, and Julius Scaliger ; but they were a bitter disappointment to him, Their acute and solid observations pleased him, but they seemed to make hasty and obscure
assertions on very trivial grounds; and he became a complete sceptic. Not, says Tulloch, as he carefully tells us, regarding the existence of God, or the duties of morality—"for of these he never had the least doubt ”—but regarding the origin and end of life. This step he recorded, as his habit was, in a double quatrain of elegiacs, a metre to which he more than once resorted to summarise the turning-points of his career.
Being now able to please himself, he attacked the Platonists--not only Plato himself, but Plotinus and his followers and gradually he was led to doubt the serious value of mere knowledge. Down into the valley of humiliation he stept; in the bitterness of the fruit of the intellect he could presume to believe, for he had tasted of it and strenuously bruised the savour from it, and he came to see that it is not the origin and method of life, but life itself that it behoves the true man to know.
That was the point at which so many of his contemporaries were stopping all round him; they, too, had penetrated the secrets of the mind. A few of them, more enthusiastic, continued to pursue it: the others, mistaking the sensuous region for the higher way, fell back on life in its grosser forms; they ate and drank, they buried themselves in local politics and temporary interests. Such things had no charm for More; he pushed through and out into a purer air.
The mysterious and fascinating doctrine of the divine illumination opened before him-uncleanness of spirit, not distance of place, he said, divide men from God: to purge the mind from vice and impurity and the subtle temptations of sense, so as to leave the spiritual eye clear and undimmed-this holy art of life became his dream.
There fell into his hands Tauler's “Theologia Germanica," that precious treatise that, through similitudes, spoke so clearly of God; the work that had been so beloved of Luther.
It spoke of the surrender of the will to God--the loosing it from selfish impulses to sail like a ship upon the free sea-the nameless but unerring instinct that falls upon the soul if such a course is faithfully pursued.
He awoke like a man out of sleep, and the conflict began. The old man, which, like Proteus, assumes so many and so bewildering shapes, stood revealed: but the struggle was a matter of time, though sharp at first, so clearly was the truth grasped; and this growing purity and simplicity of mind which he discovered, together with a superhuman assurance, which began to stir and rise within him, constitute what may be called his conversion. Another quatrain records this:
I come from Heaven, am an immortal ray
Of God; O joy! and back to God shall go.
I live, I'm sure; and joy this life to know.