Thursday, November 15, 2007


Motivated by the reading of Rory Stewart, I have been making my way through Thomas Carlyle's essays on heroes. They are very good. Some of his heroes may bother you but keep plowing through. He has some good things to say and in saying them, it becomes clear to one that our times have changed, that our ideas of heroes, or even the concept of real heroes, has dramatically changed.

Carlyle's preeminent virtue among all of his heroes is sincerity. He gives Mahomet, Rousseau and even Nitzsche high marks for being sincere. Part of this is certainly true. A man is nothing less than a rogue if he is not sincere. If he is manipulating people for anything less than his own sincere belief, then he ought not to be considered anybody's hero. I grant that much.

But what of the man who is sincerely wrong? And not wrong is some superficial triviality but wrong in the big things? Wrong in the pursuit of God? Wrong in the application of government? Wrong in the necessity of reformation or even of revolution?

Carlyle forgives much as long as the man possesses this great virtue of sincerity. Of course, we are those who stand on the truth of Scripture in the ultimate things. But Carlyle is driving at something other than that in these lectures. He is driving at what makes a great man great, whether famous or infamous. And to that end, his lectures are well worth reading.

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