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opposite ; and above all, his excessive dread of party, making lim jealous of his own friends, and blind to perceive how often it pleases God Almighty to make what men call party
the minister of his own Providence, were fatal to him as a statesman. It was religion that gave him power. And it is grateful to reflect, what power that alone did confer. It was the secret of his eloquence. Though the term was applied to him in derision, he was in an eminent sense the “religious member ;" * and whatever might be thought of his speculations, however at times, and to answer a purpose, he might have been ridiculed as a Methodist, the House of Commons, and the whole nation with it, paid homage to the incontestable purity, piety, and blameless life of the man. Nor was he himself ignorant of his reputation in this regard. With his usual tenderness of conscience it prompted him to inquire what great duties it called him to perform, and these were not inconsiderable. On one occasion he resolved to seek an interview, on religious subjects, with the Prince Regent; and on another, he resolved, after reluctantly accepting her invitation to dinner, to avail himself of the opportunity to “speak a word in season to Madame de Staël.” His good sense, however, and just reverence of the subject never failed to instruct him, that there was a time to keep silence as well as to speak, and he preferred, what it must be confessed he often encountered, the utter failure of his purpose, to an unseemly or ungracious forcing of an opportunity. He also thought that he was bound to talk as well and as agreeably as he could on other topics, that so he might give acceptance and weight to his religious conversation. How successfully he followed this excellent rule, and guarded his religious zeal from indiscretion, is evident from the delight with which his company was invariably welcomed. Even that selfish and profligate monarch, George the Fourth, repeatedly sent for him, and added to the message an assurance, that the topics of conversation should be of his own choosing. Madame de Staël, as we have seen, was proud of numbering him with her guests. On his part he justly deemed her spiritual condition susceptible of improvement. But that he knew well how to unite the “ beauty of holiness” with his social graces, and honored his religion too much to render it disagreeable, is evident enough from the judgment pronounced on him by that brilliant lady ; “ I expected,” said she, “ to have found Mr. Wilberforce among the most religious; but I find also that he is among the wittiest of men.”
* When this epithet was once sneeringly used by an honorable member, Mr. Wilberforce was tempted to apply in return the opposite, and to answer the “irreligious member ;” but with his customary gentleness he forbore.
We cannot close a notice of Mr. Wilberforce without referring to the work, by which he is known as a writer. His “ Practical View of the Prevailing Religious Systems, &c., contrasted with real Christianity,” appeared in 1797, at a period when a treatise on such a subject by a layman and a statesman was of much rarer occurrence than at present, and when also, through the influence of the French Revolution and other causes, the tone of religion in the higher classes of society was extremely low. The first, and a large edition was with his customary munificence wholly appropriated by its author as gifts for his friends, and a copy was presented to every member of Parliament. It was followed within the same year by three other editions, and was widely circulated through the kingdom. Curiosity was awakened to see how a politician would treat of Christianity; and we believe, it was this book, which first obtained for him the designation of the “religious member.” It had an undeniable influence in exciting attention to religion. Particularly within the Church of England it led to the formation of that party, since designated as the “ Evangelical,” of which, as distinguished from the “ High Church,” Bishop Porteus, John Newton, Cecil, Scott, Romaine, Simeon of Cambridge, Dean Milner, Hannah More, and Wilberforce himself were the conspicuous heads. It was for the promotion of the same views,
, and aided by their effective patronage and pens, that the wellknown periodical,“ The Christian Observer," was commenced in January, 1803, and has ever since continued the organ of that numerous and influential body.
In this book, as in the Life of the writer, there are signal beauties united with signal defects. Mr. Wilberforce was not characterized by vigorous intellect; and his work, as were his speeches, is marked rather by earnestness of feeling, and an eloquence warm from the heart, than by any accuracy of method or closeness of argument. With what is peculiar in its theological views we need not here concern ourselves. We are not studious, in truth, to dwell on the faults either of the book or of
Of the latter, which biographical truth requires us to admit, this at least may be said, that they were not of a nature, which the world in general are in danger of imitating. On the other hand, there are many, who will be ready enough to accept them for a warning; and to congratulate themselves that theirs is not a philanthropy or a charity so prodigal as to issue in ruin. Yet to our poor thoughts, the hoarding up of treasures, only to be wasted by speculating or profligate children, is scarcely to be preferred to the wasting of them in charity, which, though it may err in its excess, still does not lose the blessing.
And if there be those, and we believe there are some among our own countrymen, who having once partaken are ready to censure his boundless hospitality, it is for them to consider, that it was only through the very indiscriminateness of this hospitality they enjoyed the opportunity, which they were eager to embrace, and are still proud to remember, of seeing and conversing with Mr. Wilberforce. For our own part, we should seriously quarrel with ourselves for any willingness to scan severely the infirmities of one, whose heart was like his, a perennial fountain of kindness to man and thankfulness to God; of one, whose delight in the works, and gratitude for the gifts of his heavenly Father, were such as these : “ He loved flowers with all the simple delight of childhood. And when he came in from his garden, carefully depositing a few that he had gathered, in his own room, he would say, as he enjoyed their fragrance, How good is God to us! What should we think of a friend, who had furnished us with a magnificent house, and all we needed, and then coming in to see that all had been provided according to his wishes, should be hurt to find that no perfumes had been placed in the room. Yet so has God dealt with us, - lovely flowers are the smiles of his goodness."
- 30 S. VOL. VIII. NO. 11.
ART. V. - Moral Rule of Political Action; a Discourse
delivered in Hollis Street Church, Sunday, January 27, 1839. By John PIERPONT. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1839. 12mo. pp. 24.
The doctrine and aim of this discourse we heartily like. It is an application of religion to politics, or, a bringing of politics and all the forms of political action to the test of high moral and Christian principle. This surely is right, and we feel indebted to Mr. Pierpont for printing his sermon. The action of men in relation to government, and all questions which grow out of its various complex affairs, — it is a mere truism to say it, - comes just as much within the rules of religion and morals, and so under the cognizance of the teacher of religion and morals, as does their action in any other relation whatever. If there may be a right and a wrong in the political conduct of men, then, whether they fancy it or not, they are amenable to the moral law of God, as in all other cases of right and wrong; and the preacher consequently does not perform his duty till he proclaims the law, and ranges by its side the acts and the principles of those to whom he preaches, or of those who constitute the community in which he lives. Yet plain as this seems, it is virtually denied by many; and Mr. Pierpont suggests that such preaching as his may come under their censure, and be possibly branded as “ political preaching." How he would be affected by such a charge, may be seen in the following paragraph :
“ To do this,” says Mr. Pierpont, that is, propose and illustrate a moral rule of political action, “ may, possibly, be called political preaching. To which I can only reply, If it be so, let it be
Moral principles are given us by our moral governor and judge, to be applied to every subject and in every relation in life. If we will assume social relations, and act as members of society ; if we do not choose to satisfy ourselves with the hermit's life, but will constitute civil communities and political relations and act in them, then necessity is laid upon us - if we wish those relations to be enduring, and those communities prosperous, stable, and happy — to regulate, that is to rule, our action in them by some principle. And if the showing that this must be a moral principle be preaching politics, the more of such preaching there is, and the more it is regarded, in any community, the better - in all respects the better — for that community will it
- p. 4.
be. And when I see so frequent and so gross departures, as in this country there are constantly witnessed, from moral principle in political action, I ask myself whether, in this respect, the pulpit in this country has been faithful to its trust.”
We say with the preacher, that if showing that there must be a moral principle in politics, — that is, that dishonesty, prevarication, falsehood, and a host of associated vices, are as much vices when found in connexion with politics as in any other department of conduct and life, as justly offensive to God and as open to his condemnation, - be political preaching, then the more of it the better. But it is not political preaching, as that phrase is commonly used. On the contrary, it is eminently gospel or evangelical preaching. It is simply applying the rules of the religion of the New Testament to men's conduct and opinions in relation to the great affair of government, just as they are applied to men's conduct in relation to their professions and trades, to their domestic and social life. Is the conduct of men to be above the law of God the moment it is concerned about politics? Is the unjust man, the violent, the false, the fraudulent man to be no object of our disapprobation and rebuke, as soon as once intrenched within the sacred enclosure of politics ? Not so. Religion knows no distinctions like these. Want of fidelity to conscience and to a professed faith, in political action, is surely the same offence in the eye of religion as want of fidelity to these divine guides in any other affairs in which we engage. A newspaper falsehood for political ends is - a falsehood. A political lie is – a lie, reeking with all the meanness, infamy, and guilt of one. And the editor, the writer, the voter, the party man, who resorts to subterfuges, to false statements, or deceptivé ones, to unfair or dishonest measures, who takes or gives a bribe, to carry a question at an election or in a legislative hall, is the same offender with him who should be guilty of the like baseness on the exchange, in the counting-room, or the shop. To expose such conduct, to demonstrate its immorality, to hold it up to the indignation and abhorence of all honest men, is of the very highest order of Christian preaching. He who preaches so is emphatically a Christian preacher, and a Christian patriot. And the congregation or the community that would, with a sneer, denounce such preaching as political preaching, would with the same reason denounce that which should be specially addressed to men of business as mercantile preaching,