« AnteriorContinuar »
would he have been more a man? To us it seems he would have done his duty more effectually. The scholar should be a man. There would have been a hardihood in his character, which now seems to be wanting. The life which his retired habits rendered effeminate, would then have been manly, or, at least, feminine.
“In a word,” says Mr. Ward, “ for what concerns himself, being freed, as he tells us, from all the servitude of those petty designs of ambition, covetousness, and those pleasing entanglements of the body, he had nothing to do but to exercise the most generous speculations and passions, and was to be moved by none but great objects. And, truly, what was his whole life spent in, but a course of retirement, contemplations on the vision of the works of God and nature, and a rejoicing at the happiness of the creatures that have been made by Him; in doing honor unto God, and good to man; in the clearing up of truth, and dissipating of error; in a word, in the universal promoting the true interests of peace and righteousness in the earth, and giving an example of prudence and piety, of charity and integrity, among men? He sometimes said he should not have known what to have done, if he could not have preached at his fingers' ends, for his voice was somewhat inward, and so unfit for a public orator."",
He declined the labors of an office in the church, where, to a selfish man, the emoluments were vastly above the duties, that he might more eminently discharge the office of a tranquil looker into the mysteries of things. Yet he accounted man's life an action, and not barely a thought. Unlike most men of speculation, who are often one-sided, he never insisted on his peculiar opinions, knowing that what is peculiar to any man, is not only his smallest but his least worthy portion ; for that which made him man, he felt to be greater and better than that which made him Henry More, and D. D. He cared little whether any man believed the preëxistence of souls, the infinity of worlds, and such like.
“ It was life, and not notions, that he chiefly valued ; and a single-heartedness of temper, beyond any theories whatever. All truths were to be realized as life, as well as remotely apprehended as doctrine. “For my part, I am not fond of the notion of spirituality, nor any notion else, but so far forth as they are subservient unto life and godliness.' And he exhorts students that they never disjoin knowledge from righteousness, but that they ever prize such treatises as point a man to obedience,
pp. 57, 58.
- pp. 63, 65.
and purge a man's soul from wickedness, far above those that do but vex his mind and consume his body with unfruitful subtleties.
At one time his visions were so bright, and the countenance of truth so cheering, that he fancied he should “have carried all before him” with his eloquence; but he soon perceived he was not destined to be popular. A learned friend wrote that young men professed themselves at a loss to know what the works of More mean; and that old men, like so many Aristarchuses, fall foul upon your name, with their defamations, and censure and slight you utterly, as a person that is hypochondriacal.” But he advised the Doctor to bear such things, for these men would rather suffer their limbs to be torn from them, than to lose their opinions. More comforted himself with the old adage, Philosophy is contented with a few judges. He was aware that if a man brings new things into the world, he is thought to design to turn it “ upside down ;” and if he speaks of things men cannot see and taste with the bodily organs, he may expect to be called “Samaritan," if by no harder name. Art thou greater than our father Jacob ? it was once asked with no very singular emotions. Dr. More cheered himself with the thought that one day his visions should all be realized, and his unpopular opinions become the ruling ideas of men. He spoke his words into the frozen air, but looked for a more genial day, when they should be heard. Like the ostrich, he said, he had laid many eggs in the sand, which would be prolific in time. But his works will never be popular. No one of them will ever be reprinted; and only the painstaking scholar will have patience to cull universal truths out of the mass of perishable opinions, now obsolete. His truths, however, are still vocal, and it was always his prayer that his errors might “perish with him."* In these days no man believes his stories of witches and devils, of their intercourse with men in Wiltshire and Conway; his cabalistic notions and scholastic whims, which Bacon and Descartes shared in common with him. But every one who stoops at his fountain will rise a taller and a stronger man, with nobler aspirations, and a purer heart.
Yet he was not utterly misunderstood in his own day; nor could he be, when there was such a number “of latitude-men
Might not an interesting and popular volume be made from his writings?
about Cambridge.” Dr. Outram, a great man in his day, like many others who are now forgotten, declared him the holiest man living ;” and added, that whenever extraordinary prudence was needed, he never knew More to fail. Another looked upon him as
“ the most perfect man he knew;" and even Hobbes, Leviathan Hobbes, declared that if his own philosophy was not true, he knew of none he should so readily embrace as that of More, of Cambridge.
It may gratify the lover of small particulars to know something of the every-day life of Dr. More, how he did what every body does. For their instruction it has been recorded, by his biographer, that he usually dined in the hall of his college, except on Fridays, which, “ being a fish-day, he kept at home." His drink was, for the most part, the “small-beer of colleges,” called “twopenny.” He named it " seraphic,” and the best liquor in the world." “But he was not, at times, without his farther refreshment of a better sort.'
There were two things, he said, he had repented of. The one, that he had not lived a fellow-commoner, at college; the other, that he had drank wine. To this latter expression his intelligent biographer gives an ingenious and shrewd turn, by adding, “ He would have supplied it, I suppose, by the use of some other liquors.” He was of a thin and spare constitution, but otherwise “exceedingly lively, and spirituous with it.'
Dr. More always insisted on obedience to conscience, even in opposition to the opinions and commands of all men. If that said “go,” he went. He pronounced its suggestions to be transcripts of the Divine will, as much as the very written law of Moses or Jesus. “If thou wilt be faithful to thine inward guide, thou wilt want no monitor; thy way shall be made so plain before thee, that thou shalt not err nor stumble, but arrive, at last, to the desired scope of all thy travails and endeavors; to a firm peace, and unfailing righteousness; and shalt be filled with all the fulness of God.” Those impulsive suggestions he reckons as the innate seeds of all virtue, and the deep-working cause of all progress towards perfection," which is as certainly forecast in man's nature, as shining in the sun.” Old pagans could say as much as this. Hierocles taught that men see not the things of God, because they will not use this sense which is common to all men, congenital in all rational souls. without diligently fanning this native, virgin flame," says he, “it will go out; the man will waver between good purposes
and temptations to evil, till he falls from stage to stage, and ends, at last, in the ditch.” Constant obedience to this principle will lead the man not only to virtue, which is a struggle between duty and desire, in which the former is triumphant, but to goodness, where nothing interrupts the constant flow of rectitude and holiness. Then the will, which is the soul of virtue, has done its work, and retires from the field, and the pure spontaneous impulse pursues the easy way of goodness. Life is, indeed, a struggle between the lofty and the low in man, — between the fiery-winged steed, and the drowsy and rebellious brute,* which the Creator has yoked to the car of time; and when the former has proved his superior strength, and taken “the forward of the yoke," then the reins may be thrown upon his neck, and “wherever the spirit turns, thither the wheels turn also." Dr. More goes still farther; he calls man a centaur, a compound of devil and good-demon. Sometimes he seems to think that human impulses are all
wrong, and can only be righted by taking a new nature from without, and wearing it till it becomes abone of our bone, and flesh of
Is it not strange that men of his keenness of insight should think the masterpiece of creation was a failure, imperfect in its very plan, so that the whole scheme of the work must be changed before it can be made perfect?” Has there been a “Fall,” which has deranged the work of the Almighty ? The dark view, however, which More took on this subject, was finely modified by his manner of receiving it.
“ Behold, therefore, oh man, what thou art, and whereunto thou art called, even to be a mighty prince among the creatures of God, and to bear rule in that province he hath assigned thee, to discern the motions of thine own heart, and to be lord over the suggestions of thine own natural spirit ! Not to listen to the counsels of the flesh, and to conspire with the serpent against thy Creator; but to keep thy heart free, and faithful to thy God. So mayst thou, with innocency and unblamableness, see all the motions of thy life, and bear rule with God over the whole creation committed to thee. This shall be thy paradise and harmless sport on earth, till God shall transplant thee to an higher condition of life in heaven.” — Defence of the Moral Cabala, Ch. I.
Dr. More fancied he had supernatural drems and visions, like those of olden time; that a peculiar genius, like that of Socrates, was appointed to guide him. “ However, he was a little shy” in speaking of his good-demon. Indeed, he placed little reliance on communication with angels, admitting it were possible; and when some one boasted of “the felicity of such communications," he simply asked if it would make the man better, humbler, and more religious; and being answered in the negative, he drily inquired “wherein consisted the great advantage of such a peculiarity.”
* Plato, in the Phædrus.
Unlike most men, we fear, he preferred thinking to reading. He was, at first, unwilling to relinquish his cool, tranquil contemplation, for the arduous labor of writing; and when one book was ended he resolved never to commence another. “But Divine Providence,” says his biographer, “still cut out new work for him, as the old was done." In the midst of his course, when, to use his own words, “ he was drudging like a mill-horse,” he looked back longingly to the time when he read few books, rarely any, but enjoyed the quiet luxury of thought, with his mind turned in upon itself, seeking the “divine sense, which he preferred to the dryness of mere reason, and the wantonness of the most luxuriant imagination. He considered extensive reading an endless thing, to be endured for necessary purposes, but not to be compared with the divine life. He was a learned scholar, but still more a great contemplator. To use his own phrase, “he shut the windows, that the house might shine." He looked to the love of God to teach him the wonders of the law and the mysteries of Providence. Piety was his key to knowledge. Keenness of insight, he maintained, proceeded from purity of life. He sought rather to know the best than the most things.
“In the carrying on of his studies he had a great sense of the moderating himself aright in them, so as not to impair his body, or consume overmuch his spirits by them.
And, for this purpose, he would give himself, at times, pretty large respirations and relaxations from them. Particularly, he said to one, after the finishing of some of his writings, humorously and pleasantly, (as he was happy in putting things into a lucky and sententious posture,) now, for these three months, I will neither think a wise thought, nor speak a wise word, nor do an ill thing. Yet would he complain, after all this care of his, that he found it one of the hardest matters in the world not to over-study himself. When he was engaged in his exposition of the Apocalypse, he said his nag was but over free, and went even faster than he