Page images
[merged small][ocr errors]

whenever it becomes a motive to action...... The vanity of great men, when it stimulates them to exertions useful to mankind, is that species of vanity, which seems to approach the nearest to virtue, and which we most readily pardon for its effects; and, indeed, so much are we inclined to view actions by their splendour, or their importance, rather than by their motives, that we can hardly agree to call by the name of vain, a man who has exercised consummate, and successful ability upon great objects; whereas, there is a vanity of great, and a vanity of little minds, and the same passion regulates a ceremony, which saves, or ruins a kingdom. It is better, to be sure, that good, (if it cannot be done for the best) should be done from any motive, rather than not be done at all; but the dignity of the fact can never communicate purity to the intention. True religion consists not only in action, but in the mind with which we act; and the highest beneficence which flows from vanity, though it may exalt us in the eyes of men, abases us in the view of God.' V. II. p. 114.

A multitude of specimens might be extracted, of just and forcible thinking; we will transcribe only two or three, not as being preferable to many others, but as first occurring to our recollection. From a very striking sermon on the bad effect which a life past in great cities produces on the moral and religious character,' we might quote much more than the following passages.

It is not favourable to religious feeling to hear only of the actions and interference of men, and to behold nothing but what ingenuity has completed...... Out of great cities, there is every where around us a vast system going on, utterly independent of human wisdom, and human interference; and man learns there the great lesson of his imbecility and dependence... But here every thing is man, and man alone; kings and se nates command us; we talk of their decrees, and look up to their pleasure; they seem to move and govern all, and to be the providence of cities; in this seat of government, placed under the shadow of those who make the laws, we do not render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's, but God is forgotten, and Cæsar is supreme; all is human policy, human foresight, human power; nothing reminds us of invisible dominion, and concealed Omnipotence; we do nothing but what man bids; we see nothing but what man creates ; we mingle with nothing but what man commands; it is all earth and no heaven.'

The lesson which all ought to learn from principle, is often taught by poverty, sickness, and old age, and we are then most willing to rest upon a superior power, when we learn from experience the moral and physical evils by which we are surrounded, and the confined powers of our nature by which those evils are to be repelled. This lesson, however, is more slowly learnt in great cities, than elsewhere, because there the strongest combination is formed against the accidents of life. It is there that every evil which can harass humanity, is guarded against by the most consummate experience, and rectified with the most perfect skill; whatever man has discovered to better his condition, is there to be found; and the whole force of human genius, called to the aid of each individual, gradually diminishes that conviction of human imbecility which is one cause of religious feeling.' V. II. p. 302.

We like the pointed, spirited cast of a paragraph in the sermon on Repentance, and a similar one in the sermon on Temptation; which we will place together.

[ocr errors]

The great mean of making repentance efficacious, is by holding no parley with temptation; to hesitate is to consent; to listen is to be convinced; to pause is to yield. The soul of a penitent man should be as firm against future relapse, as it is sorrowful for past iniquity: the only chance for doing well, is to be stubborn in new righteousness; to hear nothing but on one side, and to be indebted for safety to prudence, rather than to impartiality; above all things, to tremble for youthful virtue; not to trust ourselves, till we have walked long with God, till the full measure of his till long abstinence has taught us to forbear, till we have gained such wide, and such true, knowledge of pleasure, that we comprehend salvation and eternity in the circle of our joys.' V. I. p. 32.



upon us,

Then there must be no treaty entered into with the tempter; no parley, no doubt, no lingering explanation; but clear denial, indicating calm and invincible resistance; for in this way the souls of men are lost to salvation; it seems innocent to listen, it is no crime to hear what the thing is; I can always deny, I can always retreat; I am still master of my own actions. But this is an error, for you cannot deny, or retreat, but at the first pause you were lost, and sin and death marked you for their own; it is madness to combat with the eloquence of sin, or to gaze at the pictures of passion; if you dispute with pleasure, she will first charm you to silence, then reason you to conviction, then lead you utterly from God; she wants you only to hear and see; she requires only one moment's pause, she knows if you can balance for a point of time between her present rapture and the distant felicity of heaven, that you are quite gone; you must meet temptation with blind eyes, and deaf ears, and with a heart which no more balances whether it shall be virtuous, than it does whether it shall send the blood of life through all the extremities and channels of the bodily frame.' V. II. p. 11,

We may cite the following passage, on the pleasure with which scandal is heard and circulated, as a proof of that talent of detecting human nature, which is often displayed in these volumes.

There are many, I believe, who are so far from listening to the means by which this satisfaction at the miconduct of others, may be checked, that they are rather inclined to doubt of the disorder, than to adopt the remedy. It wounds our pride as much to confess the fault, as it gratifies our pride to practise it. No man chuses to avow that he wants the faults of others, as a foil to his own character; no man has the desperate candour to confess, that the comparison which he draws between himself and his brother, upon hearing of any act of misconduct, is a source of pleasure; and that, in such cases, the feelings of self overcome the rules of the gospel; if you ask any man such a question, he will say, that he depends upon his own efforts, and not on the failure of others; he will contend, that the errors of his fellow creatures are to him a source of serious concern; he says so, and he believes that

he says the truth; for no man knows the secrets of his own heart; but if it is true, why are the wings of evil fame so swift and so unwearied? Why is it not as difficult to lose, as to gain, the commenda. tions of mankind? Why does it require a whole life to gain a character which can be lost, and unjustly lost, in a single moment of time? It is this, because we are reluctant to exalt and ever willing to pull down ; because we love the fault better which gives us an inferior, than the virtue which elevates an human being above us.' V. I. p. 198.

While we are sincerely glad, as a kind of set-off against the theological condemnation, to bear testimony to the large portion of spirited and vigorous thought, and just morality, in these volumes, we are yet compelled to tax them, as literary performances, with capital faults. The first that will strike every reader is, excessive affectation. It appears eveņ in the typographical structure of the page. The writer seems to fancy it a merit, or an exploit, to divide and point his sentences in a different manner from that of any other writer in Europe, and a manner which no other writer in Europe will imitate. He has had a quarrel with the period; and seems resolved to drive it out of the republic of letters, after all its faithful and welcome services in putting an end to tedious sentences, sermons, and books. The colon, or any other of the marks, is to occupy its vacated place. There often appears a particular care, that the stops shall bear no relation to the pauses of the sense.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

We know not what else to impute it to but affectation, that we meet with such grammatical faults, as a scholar and critic could not have fallen into inadvertently. For example; ❝ many a precept lays hid in the soul,' &c. enthusiasm bas sprang up among the rich; when the sword has drank its full; it often happens that the repentance, began at a moment of sickness, vanishes,' &c. ; we are thoroughly aware of having began &c.';' after I had strove by these means to teach'; he sets down to the feast of Mammon'; ' the spirit of the gospel is evinced by rising up the humble'; as if the time was at last arrived';' we can rarely or ever return'; ' there is not a feeling of wretchedness you can strike into his heart, but what it is eternally recorded against you; the man who can please for the passing hour, is better and greater than him who can,' &c.; 'dissimilar from the fruits of the spirit; 6. this discontent of present things.' We have transcribed these examples literally; and surely such things are among the very poorest expedients, by which an author can lose his trouble in trying to persuade his readers that he is too powerfully borne along by his subject to regard grammatical proprieties, or can seek the repute of gratuitous singularity. It is perhaps hardly worth while to notice his fancy for al

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ways using the article an before a word beginning with the aspirate, as, an human being,' an happy foresight,' can nabit,' an higher order,' an half-deception,' 'an heaven," &c. &c.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But the affectation is not confined to these small particu lars; it prevails in a most unconscionable degree through the general tenor of our preacher's language. He never goes on so much as two minutes in that manly simplicity of expression, which is natural to a man strenuously and solely intent on illustrating and enforcing his subject. The cast of his language compels an unwilling suspicion, that the purpose is not so much to enforce the subject, as to parade it; and, in doing so, to play off the greatest possible number of quaint pranks of rhetorical manœuvre. We doubt whether we ever before saw, within an equal space, so many fantastic quiddi ties of diction, such a perverse study to twitch our strong, honest, manful old language into uncouth postures and vain antics. We know not how so to manage our own phrases, as to give a characteristic description of those which spoil these sermons; but we shall do right to quote a very small sample of them; and we are not aware that, as thus detached, they will sustain the injustice of being made to look more strange than they do in their own pages. To is worth the pains to cultivate mankind'-'the righteous man cultivates and studies all whom he approaches the submission paid to any human being, by the sacrifice of truth, is not meekness, nor humility, but an abject unresisting mind, that barters God and Heaven for a moment of present ease'-' life brings with it many weary, weighing hours'' a man is not saved by knowledge, and if he is puffed up with it, it is laughter and lightness before God' as deep as the roots of the earth-we have an irresistible tendency to paint ourselves as conscious of honour or shame after the outward and visible man has perished away'-' education.... gives some deep life-marks, by which a human being may recover himself if he does wander '- ' and when we have meditated on these things, and filled our minds full of fear, and fair love, and holy hope, &c '— 'repentance... fills the soul full of sweet, holy, everlasting godliness' proud integrity' 'human beings who bear to us the seeds of good-will-'the eye tastes the light'' the genuine soul of compassion is swift to figure and to conceive; it glides into the body of the suffering wretch; it writhes with his agony: it faints with his hunger; it weeps with his tears; it bleeds with his blood; till, blind with the wise, and heavenly delusion, it ministers to its own fancied sorrows, and labours for another self'-' the eternal frailty of sin at length degrades a man in his own

eyes-bring it home to the chambers of your heartsthis spirit will bear of no backsliding, no wavering it has ever been the memorable privilege of this island, to stand forward as the early, and eager champion of all the miseries of man''all feel the vanity of human wishes, and human designs, when they behold the arts, the arms, the industry of nations, overwhelmed by an Omnipotent destroyer, and their heritage tost to the children of blood-repentance fertilized into Christian righteousness"-parent, and husband, and child, and friend, may all perish away, and leave us a wreck of time in the feeble solitude of age he whom the dread of universal infamy, the horror of being degraded from his rank in society, the thought of an hereafter will not inspire with the love of truth, who prefers any temporary convenience of a lie to a broad, safe, and refulgent veracity, that man is too far sunk in the depths of depravity for any religious instruction he can receive in this place; the canker of disease is gone down to the fountains of his blood, and the days of his life are told '- thus live the souls of the just in the dungeons of the flesha mind beautifully inlaid with the thoughts of angels'--engrave upon his (an infant's) printless heart, the feelings of pain-the words... are irreligious, blasphemous, and bad... his stoney rock'-' you are either sacramented for life to the first crude system you have adopted, or, &c.' it shall be better even for the fool that says in his heart, there is no God, than for him who looks up to a heaven that disgraces him, and pins his soul upon a faith which he smothers as a crime the most beautiful feelings of the heart that breath still hangs in his nostrils '— ' our Saviour,...while he endeavours to throw open every compassionate heart as an asylum for the afflicted, and to make the good an altar for the miserable, &c.'-'repays them (parents) all that fine care which has averted the perils of infant life it is fine to observe, that reason, &c.'' the sounds which are sung out before the throne of God.'

[ocr errors]

The spirit of man, before it can do homage to its Creator, must be purified in the furnace of truth. There is no more noble trial for him who seeks the kingdom of heaven, than to speak the truth;-often the truth brings upon him much sorrow; often it threatens him with poverty. with hatred, with loss of friends, with miserable old age; but, as one friend loveth another friend the more if they have suffered together in a long sorrow, so the soul of a just man, for all he endures, clings nearer to the truth; he mocks the fury of the people, and laughs at the oppressor's rod; and if needs be, he sitteth down like Job, in the ashes, and God makes his morsel of bread sweeter than the feasts of the liar, and all the banquets of sin.' Vol I. p. 49.

If this is really come to be the proper diction, our Taylors nd Barrows, our Drydens and Addisons, have had their day;

« PreviousContinue »