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mightier than that which even these glorious creations mdicate, shall he be censured because he has deviated from the ordinary course of the age in its development; and, instead of committing his imaginative wisdom to the press, has delivered it from his living lips? He has gone about in the true spirit of an old Greek bard, with a noble carelessness of self, giving fit utterance to the divine Spirit within him. Who that has ever heard him can forget him 1 His mild benignity, the unbounded variety of his knowledge, ihe fast succeeding products of his imagination, the child-like simplicity with which he rises from the dryest and commonest theme, into the wildest magnificence of thought, pouring into the soul a stream of beauty and wisdom, to mellow and enrich it for ever. The seeds of poetry, the materials for thinking, which he has thus scattered, will not perish. The records of his fame are not in books only, but on the fleshly tablets of young hearts, who will not suffer it to die, even in the general ear, however base and unfeeling criticism may deride their gratitude.
Dr. Dibdin, alluding to a display,on a memorable occasion, of Coleridge's mighty conversational powers, says,—"I shall never forget the impression his conversation made upon me at the first meeting, at a dinner party. It struck me as something quite out of the ordinary oourse of things, but an intellectual exhibition altogether matchless. The viands were unusually costly, and the banquet was at once rich and varied; but there seemed to be no dish like Coleridge's conversation to feed upon—and no information so instructive as his own. The orator rolled himself up as it were in his chair, and gave the most unrestrained indulgence to his speech ; and how fraught with acuteness and originality was that speech, and in what copious and eloquent periods did it flow. The auditors seemed to be wrapt in wonder and delight, as one conversation, more profound or clothed in more forcible language than another fell from his tongue. He spoke nearly for two hours with unhesitating and uninterrupted fluency. As I returned homewards, to Kensington, I thought a second Johnson had visited the earth, to make wise the sons of men, and regretted that I could not exercise the powers of a second Boswell, to record the wisdom and eloquence that fell from the orator's lips."
The manner of Coleridge was emphatic, rather than dogmatic, and thus he was generally and satisfactorily listened to. It might be said of Coleridge, as Cowper has so happily said of Sir Philip Sydney, that he was "the warbler of poetic prose." There was always this characteristic feature in his multifarious conversation,—it was always delicate, reverend, and courteous. The chastest ear could drink in no startling sound, the most serious believer never had his bosom ruffled by one sceptical or reckless assertion. Coleridge was eminently simple in his manner. Thinking and speaking were his delight; and he would sometimes seem, during the more fervid movements of his course, to be abstracted from all, and everything around him, and to be basking in the warmth of his own radiant imagination.
Justice Coleridge, speaking on the same subject, says,—"It is impossible to carry off, or commit to paper, his long trains of argument; indeed, it is not possible to understand them, he lays the foundation so deep and views every question in so original a manner. Nothing can be finer than the principles which he lays down in morals and religion. His deep study of scripture is very astonishing; and we were but as children in his hands, not merely in general views of theology, but in minute criticism. Afterwards in the drawing room, he sat down by Professor Rigand, with whom he entered into a discussion of Kant's System of Metaphysics. The little knots of the company were speedily silent. Mr. Coleridge's voice grew louder and louder; and, abstruse as the subject was, yet his language was so ready, so energetic, and eloquent, and his illustrations so very apt
and apposite, that the ladies even paid him the most solicitous and respectful attention. This is nearly all I recollect of our meeting with this most interesting and most wonderful man. Some of his topics and arguments I have enumerated, but the connection and the words are lost. And nothing I can say, can give any notion of his eloquence and manner."
Perhaps our readers, says another writer, may have heard repeated, a saying of Mr. Wordsworth's, "That many men of his age had done wonderful things, as Davy, Scott, Cuvier, &c.; but that Coleridge was the onlywonderful man he ever knew." Something, of course, must be allowed in this, as in all other such cases, for the antithesis; but we believe the fact really to be, that the greater part of those who have occasionally visited Mr. Coleridge, have left him with a feeling akin to the judgment indicated in the above remark. They admire the man more than his works, or they forget the works in the absorbing impression made by the living author; and no wonder. Those who remember him in his more vigorous days, can bear witness to the peculiarity and transcendant power of his conversational eloquence. It was unlike anything that could be heard elsewhere; the kind was different, the degree was different, the manner was different. The boundless range of scientific knowledge, the brilliancy and exquisite nicety of illustration, the deep and ready reasoning, the strangeness and immensity of bookish lore, were not all; the dramatic story, the joke, the pun, the festivity, must be added; and with these, the clerical looking dress, the thick waving silver hair, the youthful coloured eheek, the indefinable mouth and lips, the quick yet steady and penetrating greenish grey eye, the slow and continuous enunciation, and the everlasting music of his tones, all went to make up the image, and to constitute the living presence of the man. Even now his conversation is characterized by all the essentials of its former excellence; there is the same individuality, the same unexpectedness, the same universal grasp; nothing is too high, nothing too low for it—it glances from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, with a speed and a splendour, an ease and a power which almost seems inspired.
THE ENGLISH REFORMATION.
Christianity was introduced into the world as the great panacea for evil ; the universal remedy for the "ills to which flesh is heir ;" a light to " lighten the Gentiles," and to give light to every man that cometh into the world. It came from the hand of God all beauteous and pure, resplendent with the glories of heaven, and mirrored forth the perfections of the Deity. It had a potency which the perverseness of the human heart could not withstand, and before which the gates of hell must fall. Evidences of its power are seen in its early triumphs, and in the astonishing rapidity with which it spread: and there was an attractional influence about the cross of the despised " Nazarene," which promised soon to draw all men unto it. Its bitterest enemies and the vilest characters were converted by the preaching of the "crucified," the poorest and most unlettered men were its chosen advocates, and God sent forth the weak (in the eyes of this world) to confound the mighty by the preaching of the truth.
In process of time the first teachers of religion passed from the scene of action, leaving this tree of righteousness, planted by Christ, and watered and nursed by them, in a healthy and flourishing condition; and for three hundred years it continued to flourish and to grow, to shoot forth its branches and overspread the nations; when unfortunately it was taken under the protection of the State—and a worm was placed at its roots. Christianity then became fashionable, the clergy were divided into different ranks and grades, wealth and honours poured upon them, they grew rich, and their riches choked the simple and ardent aspirations of their souls after Christ and things divine: the simple forms were exchanged for gorgeous ceremonials, and the " house of prayer" for the splendid temple: and to make religion palatable to the popular mind, sundry heathen practices were introduced, worship was made imposing, and whatever was considered alluring to the senses of worldly men was adopted. Then the fine gold grew dim, the lovely flower lost its fragrance, drooped and withered: the union of Christ and Belial was attempted, the glory of the Lord departed, and Ichabod was written on the doors ;—the stream, pure as it flowed from the fountain of living waters, became corrupted by the impurities of the spirit and idolatry of ungodly men; the light, kindled at the Source of all f.ight, became dim, aurl glimmered, ready to expire :— the power of the Gospel disappeared, and in its place was found the form alone, and the bold and manly spirit of Apostolic piety was exchanged for the merest ceremonies.
From the middle of the fourth century, the celibacy of the clergy, the use of relics and images in churches, the invocation of saints, and prayers for the dead, gradually gained ground, and by many were defended. Then followed the erection of monasteries, and the severities of monastic life: superstition abounded, and the dark ages set in ; and at the close of the sixth century, it was confessed that the good days oT the Church were past.
The seventh century opened with the grant of supremacy to the bishop of Home, who laid claim to universal authority and unlimited power. Then commenced that reign of superstition and ignorance, which continued almost unbroken to the time of the Reformation: for, though the bounds of the visible church were widened and extended, true religion rapidly declined. In addition to former errors, there were afterwards introduced the sacrifice of the mass, private masses, masses for the dead, and other absurdities. The Scriptures were made to give place to human productions, the supremacy of the Pope, though far from being universally received, even in the ninth century, was asserted; ceremonies were multiplied, true piety discouraged, and the faithful oppressed and persecuted. The tide of corruption having set in with such force, it was found difficult to confine it. So deplorable was the corruption of the Romish Church, that according to the testimony of one of her own bishops, she was worthy only of the detestation of posterity: her clergy were known as profligate, licentious, and extremely wicked: even her Popes were charged with the grossest conduct. In such a state of things, it was not to be expected that any regard should be had to the spiritual interests of the flocks. Neither the souls nor the salvation of the people gave the clergy any real concern; their chief end was the establishment of their own ghostly authority, to increase the revenues of the Church, and then to feed and fatten on her wealth. For this end they laid claim to powers and prerogatives equal to those possessed by the Apostles of our Lord, clothed themselves with all the attributes of the priesthood, to whose office they attached an awful and mysterious virtue, and to whom was committed the salvation of their flocks—so that to despise them was to despise Christ. An appeal was thus made to the fears of the people; hence arose the doctrine of purgatory, with the belief that even to that region of pain and suffering, the power of the priest extended ; and, finding that doctrine so readily received, they were encouraged to introduce other doctrines and opinions equally absurd and ridiculous. From the tenth to the end of the thirteenth centuries, there were introduced into the Church —transubstantiation, or the doctrine of the conversion of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper into the real body and blood of Christ; the elevation or worshipping of the host, or consecrated bread; the addition of five other sacraments besides baptism and the Lord's Supper—viz., confirm*
ation, penance, extreme unction, ordination, and marriage: then too wefe introduced, the communion in one kind; the baptism of bella; the prohibition of flesh meats on Fridays and Saturdays; the sale of indulgences; auricular confession; and the refusal to the laity both of the Old and New Testaments.
The fourteenth century set in amidst the deepest gloom. The few lights which did exist—and in the good providence of God there were a, few, for when all the world besides were gone astray, the Albigenses and Waldenses, who flourished in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, that noble band of Jesu's followers, who feared not those who could kill the body, but after that had nothing more that they could do—nobly refused to bow down before the images of superstition and ignorance, steadily bore their testimony to the truth as it is in Jesus, and from the heights of their mountain fastnesses, let their light shine before men, that they, seeing their good works, might glorify their Father which is in heaven ; but the glimmer of Biblical truths from those Alpine summits was insufficient to produce any considerable effect upon the intellectual and spiritual night which reigned over the world. The whole race seemed entirely to have forgotten that they were able to think at all, and particularly upon matters relating to eternity: no one appears to have had any notion of individual responsibility, except the Pope, and he only for the maintenance of his ill-gotten power, and that only to himself. The clergy or the devil, we can scarcely say which, had rocked the world to sleep, that they might with the more impunity practice their evil deeds, and truly it might then be said, that "the whole world lieth in wickedness," or as Dr. Clarke translated it, '' lieth in the wickedness"—is embraced in the arms of the devil, where it lieth fast asleep and carnally secure, deriving its heat and power from its infernal fosterer. Ignorance and superstition jointly swayed their sceptre over the minds and wills of men, whilst the clergy, taking advantage of the darkness, gave full play to all the corrupt desires of their depraved hearts, and from the highest to the lowest all went astray. They were addicted to the grossest vices, and the most flagrant abuses prevailed. Cunningly-devised fables, invented to serve their sinful ends, were circulated as the gravest truth-, and wherever the least spark of enlightenment appeared, the most strenuous efforts were assiduously put forth to extinguish it. The impiety of ihc monastic orders was fearful, and monasteries and nunneries became dens of iniquity and siuks of wickedness. But happily for succeeding generations, there were a few within the pale of this corrupt church, smcere souls, whose aim was to get to heaven themselves, and to lend a helping hand to their fellows, men who would not willingly see the heavenly road blocked up by crime, or rendered impassable by the quagmires of sin (into which the ignis fatui of the devil were continually decoying the passers-by), and by these the machinations of priestcraft were detected, and not only detected, but exposed. Amongst these stands first and pre eminent the magnanimous and immortal John Wycliffe, an English doctor and professor of divinity at Oxford. Whilst there, and studying for his lectures, he confined not his readings to the writings of the Fathers, and the decrees of the church, but took down from the shelf the neglected and almost forgotten volume of inspiration; he perused it, he thought upon it, he studied it, and made it his own, got his mind thoroughly imbued with its sentiments and doctrines, and took it as the standard of his faith, and the regulator of his practice. His intellect enlightened by its heavenly precepts, and his soul purified by the * breath divine," he was shocked by the enormities and vices which were practised by these monks, and ardently longed for a reformation of the church, in its doctrines, its worship, and discipline. Hia righteous soul was vexed, and he indignantly attacked the impious practices of sundry officials in the church; animated with love to God and man, his spirit mellowed by the influence of true religion, he expected something like consistency of conduct in its professed teachers, but fmding it so very far otherwise, and the truths of religion turned into a lie, he denounced these vile doings with unsparing severity. This procedure greatly annoyed the monks, and especially the bogging friars,*—who, like certain interested worshippers or workmen of Diana of old, caring for little besides the loaves and fishes, perceived to their consternation that their craft was in danger, and, like the shrine makers of old, called a meeting of their craft, to consider what was best to be done—by whom he was threatened, and perhaps in some degree punished. These harsh measures however had only the effect of opening his eyes to the rottenness of the system requiring such support, and he, nothing daunted, proceeded still further.
In the course of his readings in the Scriptures, he discovered that there was one God and one Mediator, even Jesus Christ the righteous, and that He was Lord over all, and the only Lord over the consciences of men, that every man will have to answer for his deeds before his tribunal, and that none can forgive sins, but God alone. He found no mention of the Pope at all, and certainly no intimation that he possessed any keys fitting any lock in the unseen world; and therefore, on the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as his chief authority, he made a bold stand, and stoutly denied the supremacy of the Pope. Having thus detected so important an innovation, he looked a little further into the doctrines taught by these grasping and ambitious clergymen: he paused at the doctrine of transub^tantiation— "What," we may suppose him saying to himself,'' a whole Christ's body, soul, and divinity, in every separate part of the consecrated bread, and in every separate drop of the sacramental wine, and if there were a whole Christ in each separate part or drop, how many millions of Christs must there have been made by the priests, and how great the number which must have existed at one time! There must have been an almost endless number of Christs, and there may be as many as the priests may choose to make!" But having found scales which would weigh opinions as well as conduct, he put this doctrine into the "balance of the sanctuary," and for a weight this passage of holy writ, " There is one God and one Mediator," and the end, with the Popish dogma, flew up—it was short weight; he then measured it by the standard of reason ; and finding it at once, unscriptural and absurd, denounced it as a fallacy, and cast it aside. Having by the light of revelation, perceived these errors in doctrine and practice, he was not long in arriving at the cause of the Scriptures being a sealed book ; in the Bible was the only light which could expose these works of darkness, and by his own experience he found that acquaintance with the Word of Life was death to all heresy. Those who read this book were exhorted to try and "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good," and a certain people of old were commended for such examination of certain doctrines offered for their acceptance. This was explanation enough for him, and perceiving that the circulation of the Scriptures was the only way for the dissemination of truth, and that it was nothing more than the legitimate right of the people, and that it was a grievous wrong to withhold the Word of Life from the multitude, for whom it was designed by God as the Lamp of Life, he denounced such conduct as a device of Satan to keep the people in the dark, and accordingly entered his famous protest against the supremacy of the Pope, the doctrine of transubstantion, and the right of the clergy to keep the Scriptures from the people. For these
* Wycliffe, in a tract, charged the Friars with holding Fifty heresies, which in that work he enumerated.—Editor.