Page images

blasphemy has sounded so clamorously in our ears. Yet this message, so introduced and so supported, you have absolutely been setting aside without a hearing! Remember that every human tribunal supposes a knowledge of the law in all that are concerned with the law; and what reason have you to suppose that God will require less of his creatures than man requires of his fellow-men? This, however, is between you and your own conscience. All I need say is, that the Scriptures are, in great measure, their own evidence; the only evidence within reach of the vast majority of Christians; and therefore, whilst you remain ignorant of the Scriptures, you shut your eyes against the light, and cannot complain if you continue in error.

Ale. You speak in a very authoritative tone. What will satisfy -you?

Euseb.-I speak as one who feels the value of an immortal soul, to one who is blindly throwing his away. Nothing less will satisfy me, than that you read the four Gospels with attention; and that you sit down to the study with such a serious and candid state of mind, as you may not need to be ashamed or repent of, if. you should hereafter find reason to believe that they contain what they profess to contain, the message of God to his creatures.

of Alc. You seem so much in earnest, that I cannot decently refuse But how am I to be satisfied that I am not entering upon a vain -unprofitable study? "It is a well-known fact that these books were not written originally in the English language; and the believer who understands no other language but English, rests his faith upon the knowledge and integrity of the translators alone."* Now this is my Icase; for I have long since lost the little Greek I brought away from -school: and how am I to know whether the translators were both scientific and honest, and consequently whether what I read was really ¿contained in the original writings?

Euseb. Is it possible that argument should have weight with you in sthe case of religion, which in any other you would not think worth a moment's regard? Certainly you, and the great majority of English freaders, may know nothing of the Greek language; but you must be caware that there are thousands and tens of thousands who do understand it, and are perfectly able to decide whether the translation be faithful or otherwise; and unless every one of these are in league together to deceive the world, you cannot possibly suppose that fraud has been practised, or even any material error concealed. Remember that what you allege as a difficulty could not have been avoided even by Omnipotence itself, as long as there existed more than one language in the world. There was no alternative between the Evangelists writing the history of Jesus in a hundred different languages, most of which did not exist in their time; or their writing it, as they did, in the language most universally current in that age, and leaving it to be interpreted by the learned of different countries, for the use of their countrymen. But I shall have no hopes of you, if you stumble, with no more cause than this, at the very threshold.

*Principles of Nature, p. 20,

Alc.-I will not pretend that I ever saw much force in this objection; but I like to have my way clear before me. There will be difficulties enough, after I have once entered upon the Bible.

Euseb. We are told in the Acts of the Apostles that the chamberlain of an Ethiopian queen, as he returned homeward from Jerusalem, was employed in reading the Hebrew Scriptures; when the Apostle Philip was directed towards him, and explained to him what before he was unable to understand, the agreement between the prophecies of Isaiah and the actual character of Jesus. I cannot help considering this circumstance in a typical, as well as an historical view. The Holy Spirit proves to every serious inquirer, what the Apostle was to the Ethiopian, and removes the veil of mystery which envelopes the records of Revelation, as soon as ignorance is sincerely felt and acknowledged.

[ocr errors]

Alc. This is too profound for a noviciate like myself. But as soon as I have made myself better acquainted with the Gospels than I can have become by hearsay, shall you be prepared to go on with our dis[cussion?

Euseb. That will be unnecessary. All I aimed at was the removing your preliminary objections, the correcting your errors of prejudice and misconception, and the awakening you to the awful risk to which you exposed yourself in rejecting the Gospel unexamined. If I have happily succeeded in bringing you to this point, there is no reason why I should attempt to do, in an inferior manner, what has already been effected in a way which must prove, I should think, satisfactory to any honest inquirer. There are twenty treatises already, which set the truth of Christianity on a basis so firm and secure, that I do not see how any one can resist conviction who enters upon the subject with that state of mind which I formerly represented as essential. If I only mention the treatises of Porteus, Doddridge, and Paley, it is not because there are not a host of others equally forcible, but because I should consider that these alone would be sufficient to set the faith of any man on an immoveable foundation. To these I refer you, with an earnest prayer that you may rise from the inquiry with a settled conviction, that those have not followed cunningly-devised fables, who profess to make the Gospel the rule of their faith, the guide of their life, and the sole basis of their future hope. J. B. S.


(From Archdeacon Paley.)

DRUNKENNESS is either actual or habitual; just as it is one thing to be drunk, and another to be a drunkard. What we shall deliver upon the subject, must principally be understood of a habit of intemperance; although part of the guilt and danger described may be applicable to casual excesses; and all of it, in a certain degree, forasmuch as every habit is only a repetition of single instances.

The mischief of drunkenness, from which we are to compute the guilt of it, consists in the following bad effects:

betrays most constitutions either to extravagancies of anger or sins of lewdness.

2. It disqualifies men for the duties of their station, both by the temporary disorder of their faculties, and at length by a constant incapacity and stupefaction.

3. It is attended with expenses which can often be ill spared.

4. It is sure to occasion uneasiness to the family of the drunkard. 5. It shortens life.

To these consequences of drunkenness must be added the peculiar danger and mischief of the example. Drunkenness is a social festive vice; apt, beyond any vice that can be mentioned, to draw in others by the example. The drinker collects his circle; the circle naturally spreads; of those who are drawn within it, many become the corrupters and centres of sets and circles of their own; every one countenancing, and perhaps emulating, the rest, till a whole neighbourhood be infected from the contagion of a single example. This account is confirmed by what we often observe of drunkenness, that it is a local vice; found to prevail in certain countries, in certain districts of a country, or in particular towns, without any reason to be given for the fashion, but that it had been introduced by some popular examples. With this observation upon the spreading quality of drunkenness, let us connect a remark which belongs to the several evil effects above recited. The consequences of a vice, like the symptoms of a disease, though they be all enumerated in the description, seldom all meet in the same subject. In the instance under consideration, the age and temperature of one drunkard may have little to fear from inflammations of lust or anger; the fortune of a second may not be injured by the expense; a third may have no family to be disquieted by his irregularities; and a fourth may possess a constitution fortified against the poison of strong liquors. But if, as we always ought to do, we comprehend within the consequences of our conduct the mischief and tendency of the example, the above circumstances, however fortunate for the individual, will be found to vary the guilt of his intemperance, less, probably, than he supposes. The moralist may expostulate with him thus: Although the waste of time and money be of small importance to you, it may be of the utmost to some one or other whom your society corrupts. Repeated, or long-continued excesses, which hurt not your health, may be fatal to your companion. Although you have neither wife, nor child, nor parent, to lament your absence from home, or expect your return to it with terror; other families, in which husbands and fathers have been invited to share in your ebriety, or encouraged to imitate it, may justly lay their misery or ruin at your door. This will hold good, whether the person seduced be seduced immediately by you, or the vice be propagated from you to him through several intermediate examples. All these considera, tions it is necessary to assemble, to judge truly of a vice, which usually meets with milder names, and more indulgence than it deserves.

I omit those outrages upon one another, and upon the peace and safety of the neighbourhood, in which drunken revels often end; and also those deleterious and maniacal effects which strong liquors pro

duce upon particular constitutions; because, in general propositions concerning drunkenness, no consequences should be included but what are constant enough to be generally expected.

Drunkenness is repeatedly forbidden by St. Paul: "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess." "Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness." "Be not deceived: neither fornicators-nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." * The same Apostle likewise condemns drunkenness, as peculiarly inconsistent with the Christian profession: "They that be drunken, are drunken in the night; but let us, who are of the day, be sober." We are not concerned with the argument; the words amount to a prohibition of drunkenness; and the authority is conclusive.

The appetite for intoxicating liquors appears to me to be almost always acquired. One proof of which is, that it is apt to return only at particular times and places; as after dinner, in the evening, on the market day, at the market town, in such a company, at such a tavern. And this may be the reason that, if a habit of drunkenness be ever overcome, it is upon some change of place, situation, company, or profession. A man sunk deep in a habit of drunkenness, will upon such occasions as these, when he finds himself loosened from the associations which held him fást, sometimes make a plunge and get out. In a matter of so great importance, it is well worth while, where it is tolerably convenient, to change our habitation and society for the sake of the experiment.

Habits of drunkenness commonly take their rise either from a fondness for, and connexion with, some company, or some companion, already addicted to this practice; which affords an almost irresistible invitation to take a share in the indulgences which those about us are enjoying with so much apparent relish and delight or from want of regular employment, which is sure to let in many superfluous cravings and customs, and often this among the rest: or, lastly, from grief or fatigue, both which strongly solicit that relief which inebriating liquors administer, and furnish a specious excuse for complying with the in--clination. But the habit, when once set in, is continued by different motives from those to which it owes its origin. Persons addicted to excessive drinking suffer, in the intervals of sobriety, and near the return of their accustomed indulgence, a faintness and oppression circa præcordia, which it exceeds the ordinary patience of human nature to endure. This is usually relieved, for a short time, by a repetition of the same excess: and to this relief, as to the removal of every long-continued pain, they who have once experienced it, are urged almost beyond the power of resistance. This is not all: as the liquor loses its stimulus, the dose must be increased, to reach the same pitch of elevation or ease; which increase proportionably accelerates the progress of all the maladies that drunkenness brings on. Whoever reflects upon the violence of the craving in the advanced stages

Eph. v. 18.-Rom. xiii. 13.-1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. + 1 Thess. v. 7, 8.

of the habit, and the fatal termination to which the gratification of it leads, will, the moment he perceives in himself the first symptoms of a growing inclination to intemperance, collect his resolution to this point; or (what, perhaps, he will find his best security,) arm himself with some peremptory rule, as to the times and quantity of his indulgences. I own myself a friend to the laying down of rules to ourselves of this sort, and rigidly abiding by them. They may be exclaimed against as stiff, but they are often salutary. Indefinite resolutions of abstemiousness are apt to yield to extraordinary occasions; and extraordinary occasions to occur perpetually. Whereas, the stricter the rule is, the more tenacious we grow of it; and many a man will abstain rather than break his rule, who would not easily be brought to exercise the same mortification from higher motives. Not to mention, that when our rule is once known, we are provided with an answer to every importunity.

There is a difference, no doubt, between convivial intemperance, and that solitary sottishness which waits neither for company nor invitation. But the one, I am afraid, commonly ends in the other: and this last is the basest degradation to which the faculties and dignity of human nature can be reduced.


[The Song of David, of which the following is an extract, is a poem of very unequal merit, composed under the most unfavourable circumstances, while the author was in a state of confinement in a madhouse. The lines were indented by the > unhappy anthor with a key on the wall of his cell. Christopher Smart was one of ne of. those unhappy men, who, gifted by nature with considerable parts, dragged on a wretched existence in London, by endeavours to maintain himself by his pen, with so little profit, that he was for the most part supported by the bounty of his friends, and died at length in extreme poverty, in 1770, aged 48.

A large portion of Smart's poems is devoted to religious subjects; and it deserves to be recorded to his honour, that many passages of a peculiarly serious nature are said to have been written on his knees.]

HE sung of God, the mighty source

Of all things, the stupendous force
On which all things depend:

From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes,
All period, power and enterprize,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Commence, and reign, and end.

5. The world, the clustering spheres he made,
The glorious light, the soothing shade,

Dale, champaign, grove and hill;

The multitudinous abyss,

Where secrecy remains in bliss,

And Wisdom hides her skill.
Tell them, I AM, Jehovah said
To Moses, while Earth heard in dread,
And smitten to the heart,
At once above, beneath, around,
All Nature, without voice or sound,
Replied, O Lord, THOU ART!

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »