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GREAT MEN., Issue 7982, 10 August 1889, Supplement
TO THE EDITOE. Slit, —These lectures on great men by Frederic Myers are highly instructive. I read them twenty-nine years ago, and they repay the labors of repeated perusals. His heroes have "done such works as none other mrn had done before them—exalted the standard of excellence which they found existing, heightened our idea of the capabilities of our common nature.” They discerned, loved, and proclaimed the truth and the right. They had faith iu God, and consequently they moved tho world. The lectures, for example, of Luther on the Psalms were full of force, life, and knowledge. " You see iu Luther the fluctuations which arc the characteristics of the most earnest men; they are always oscillating between the highest and lowest states of feeling; believing themselves reprobate at one time, inspired at another.” Faith, energy, and courage were the personal characteristics of Luther. His courage rose with difficulty; he was cool in a crisis. He had great determination of will. Ho oared little for praise, or sympathy, or honor. Occasionally he was violent and intemperate in language. Luther, Columbus, Xavier, PetertheGreat,etc., were pre-eminently disinterested men. "Self-seek-ing is meanness, self-sacrifice is greatness.” The characteristic of a really great man is self-sacrifice in a noble cause. Sir Thomas More choso rather to die than tell a lie. Wycliffe, Cromwell, and Savonarola would make Christianity a reality—a theocracy ; the Kingdom of God visible before men’s eyes, and no mere Utopia, Ximenes was a man of prodigious force of character, and a great reformer. " The tendency now is to merge the individual iu society and to diminish originality and self-subsistence of personal character. We are strong through association, but weak individually ; working miracles by companies, but singularly feeble singly.” I consider the study of great men necessary for this reason : because we are taught " not to seek any great reformation, or even amelioration of the individual or of society in anything external or material; tho great source of all spiritual improvement must he always from v,stein. Not in the things that are done for us, but in tho things that are done by us, does our tine strength lie. For the individual the great renovation comes from the birth of a new idea—a new affection. The Gospel trusts in no degree to mechanical forces for these—all with it is inward and spiritual—gifts and graces. No mechanical readjustment of circumstances will ever regenerate a soul, neither will any kind of social systems or arrangements regenerate society. All social reformations hitherto have originated in individual souls—in the perception by some conscience of some great truth or duty, so long neglected or denied as to be practically new. They have proceeded from theceutic of the individual heart to the circumference ot the social state, by vivid impulses and ever-widening circles of sympathy.” Statesmen and professional politicians are singularly oblivious or ignorant of these groj.t truths—consequently they are powerless to reform and regenerate society. Under their crude sway things go from bad to worse, for they invert the order of Nature —religion and philosophy. Salvation comes from a pure heart, and happiness from a well-regulated mind; and material prosperity from wise, just, and inexorable laws. Socialism proceeds upon false principles. Tho man of an ill-regulated mind would speedily convert Paradise into Pandemonium, and a community of selfish knaves would mutually destroy themselves and trample all their material privileges under their feet, and wallow in their passions the slaves of their own lusts. Great men are almost always misunderstood. Milton was really a great genius, and this is a contemporary picture of him: “ The blasphemous and bloody author of the ‘ Defensio Populi Auglicani ’ —the advocate of the infernal High Court of fiends—the creature and parasite of that grand monster, that loathsome hypocrite, that prodigy of the universe, that disgrace of mankind, that landscape of iniquity, that sink of sin, and that compendium of baseness, Oliver Cromwell.” Shakespeare was a great man, and yet how grossly Puritans misunderstood him (he following lines will show : —“Verily, I say, since the Devil fell from Heaven he never lacked agents on earth; yet nowhere has be met with a wizard having such infinite power over men’s souls as this purblind fellow Shakespeare. Seeks a wife a foul example for adultery, here she shall find if. Would a man know how to train his fellow to be a murderer, here he shall find tutoring. Would a lady marry a heathen negro, she shall have chronicled example for it. Would anyone scorn at his Maker, he shall be furnished with a jest in this book. Would he defy his brother in the flesh, he shall be accommodated with a challenge. Would you be drunk, Shakespeare will cheer you with a cup. Would you plunge in sensual pleasures, he will soothe you with indulgence, as with the lascivious sounds of a lute. His book is the well-head and source of all those evils which have overrun the land, like a torrent, making men scoffers, doubters, deniers, murderers, makebates, and lovers of the winepot, haunting unclean places, and sitting long at the evening wine. Away with him, away with him, men of England ! To Tophet with his wicked book, and to the Vale of Hianom with his accursed bones.”
Verily, as Emerson says : “ To be great is to be misunderstood.” Why should any despond when they reflect upon the estimation in which Milton, Shakespeare, and Cromwell were held by really good, but prtjiuliced and misguided leaders of the people. All great reformations have proceeded from the heroic souls, fertile brains, and prolific pens of inspired men of genius. Their biography is—as Carlyle says—the history of the world. —I am, etc., J. G. S. Gkakt. Dunedin, August 1.
GREAT MEN., Issue 7982, 10 August 1889, Supplement
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