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him the noblest of possessions, and so, at the very beginning of his course, he desired “that there might be a turning after righteousness, no less than a running after knowledge. Therefore he set himself, with great care, to demonstrate the principles of natural and revealed religion, and to recommend the practice of morality and virtue, or, rather, the Christian or divine Life.” “ He had,” says Mr. Ward, “a wonderful sense of God,” and soon came to see all his perfections reflected in the visible world. He lived in an age of great men.
Descartes, and Leibnitz, and Newton, and Hobbes, and Locke, and Cudworth, and Milton, were among his contemporaries. Several of them were his correspondents and personal friends. He kept pace with the discoveries of those illustrious men, and the advances of the times. He was not only learned in the lore of the schools, in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, in the Scriptures, the Jewish cabala, and the mystical doctrines of all ages, but he had gone through the circle of sciences, and could dispute with Descartes on his favorite themes.
The life of a retired scholar is rarely checquered with other outward incidents than those which come and go in the battle he fights with poverty. But even these incidents are wanting in the life of Dr. More, for he inherited a comfortable estate. Little is known of the details of his life, which would interest the reader. He did common things like common men; and lived a quiet fellow of Christ's College to the end of his days. He was never married. He was often pressed to accept high offices in the church, but uniformly declined, and twice refused a bishopric. Once, indeed, he accepted a place, but with the intention of resigning in favor of a friend, which he soon did. He was once offered the mastership of his college, but declined that honor; not because he was unwilling to bear the burthen of its duties, but from fear he should not do so much for mankind as by pursuing his peculiar vocation of a quiet scholar. His life was a long contemplation, of which, both his works and the recollections of his friends are beautiful records.
Dr. More looked upon himself as one raised by God for a peculiar purpose, namely, to oppose and conquer the atheism, deism, and skepticism of his day. He even calls himself “a fiery arrow shot into the world ;” and he expresses a hope " that he has hit his mark.” His biographer calls him an Elias; but such an one as mixed the zeal of Elias and the law with the sweetness and temperance of the gospel ; such an one, in short, as he himself describes. The spirit of Elias will neither abrogate what is authentic, nor introduce what is new; but will be a restorer only of what useful truths or practices may seem to be lost in the long delapse of ages. He will be no abettor of any useless subtleties, but of such things, only, as respect the interest of the kingdom of Christ.' " He lays great stress on the “divine body,” in which, alone, he thought it possible “to live the divine life.” He supposes the degree of mental perfection, and moral and religious life, to depend on the purity of the body. In this he agrees with the words of an apocryphal writer.“I was a witty child, and had a good spirit; yea, rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled,” — for he believed the preëxistence of souls, and thought beautiful souls were united to beautiful bodies. Therefore,
“ The Doctor had always a great care to preserve his body, as a well strung instrument to his soul, that so they might be both in tune, and make music and harmony together. His body, he said, seemed built for an hundred years, if he did not over debilitate it by his studies. But, with respect to those, I have also heard him say that it was almost a wonder to him, at times, that he had not, long before then, fired this little world about him; and that he thought there were not many who could have borne that high warmth and activity of thoughtfulness, and intense writing, that he himself had done. And there was one thing farther observable, that, after all his study and depth of thought in the day time, when he came to sleep he had a strange sort of narcotic power, that drew him to it; and he was no sooner, in a manner, laid in his bed, but the falling of a house would scarce wake him. When, yet, early in the morning he was wont to awake, usually, into an immediate unexpressible life and vigor, with all his thoughts and notions raying about him, as beams surrounding the centre whence they all proceed.
“ He was once, for ten days together, no where, as he termed it, or in one continued fit of contemplation; during which, though he ate, drank, slept, went into the hall and conversed, in a measure, as at other times, yet the thread of it, for all that space, was never once broken or interrupted, nor did he animadvert on the things that he did. And he hath been heard, likewise, unaffectedly to profess that his thoughts would oftentimes be as clear as he could almost desire ; and that he could take them off or fix them upon a subject, in a manner, as he pleased. Which things," slily adds the biographer, "are, notwithstanding, (I conceive,) to be understood with their reasonable qualifications." — pp. 41, 42.
Our biographer often indulges in such flights, instead of giving us sober facts, which are now lost forever, but which must have been familiar to him.
Dr. More had a natural inclination to enthusiasm, but he fancied he had completely subdued it, with all other passions of " the elder Adam; but some of his readers will differ from him upon this article. However, his natural temperament, and his almost perfect self-command, gave him a great advantage in writing against enthusiasm and fanaticism, for he could speak experimentally upon the subject. Often, he says, in contemplating the beauty of the moral laws of God, and of the religious world, he was so moved with delight that he burst into tears, and was sometimes obliged, perforce, to turn his mind to other thoughts. This may remind the reader of Socrates, and the sages and seers of old time, who remained long entranced in rapturous thought. “Walking abroad, after his studies, his sallies towards nature would be unexpressibly ravishing. But he never gloried in his “visions,” nor suffered his powers to be consumed in speculation. He said that" a notional apprehension of these high matters was worthless, without a sincere life and virtuous deportment.
“Men would grow torpid," he says, in his quaint way, “by a mere talking of God's goodness, and the richness of his providence, without a solid improvement of it in mind.” Yet most readers will think the following rhapsody is little better than a “notional apprehension.”
“ How loving, how magnificent a state is the mind of man in, when the life of God is actuating him, shoots him along with himself, through heaven and earth. This is to become deiform, to be thus suspended, (not by imagination, but by union of life, joining centres with God,) and by a sensible touch to be held up from the clotted, dark personality of this compacted body. Here is love; here is freedom; here is justice and equity, in the superessential causes of them. He that is here looks upon all things as one'; and upon himself, (if he can then mind himself,) as a part of the whole.”'!
Again, he says, – “God doth not ride me as a horse, and guide me, I know not whither myself, but converseth with me as a friend, and speaks
to me in such a dialect as I understand fully.
For God hath permitted to me all these things, and I have them under the broad seal of Heaven. He hath made me full lord of the four elements, and hath constituted me emperor of the world. I am in the fire of choler, and am not burned; in the water of phlegm, and am not drowned ; in the airy sanguine, and yet not blown away with every blast of transient pleasure. I descend, also, into the sad melancholy, yet am not buried from the sight of my God. I am an inhabitant of paradise and heaven upon earth. I sport with the beasts of the earth; the lion licks my hand like a spaniel, and the serpent sleeps upon my lap, and stings me not. I play with the fowls of heaven; and the birds of the air sit singing on my fist. — The dispensation I live in is more happiness, above all measure, than if thou couldst call down the Morn so near thee, by thy magic charms, that thou mayst kiss her, as she is said to have kissed Endymion. He that is come hither, God hath taken him to be his own familiar friend; and though He speaks to others a long way off, in outward religions and parables, yet He leads this man by the hand, teaching him intelligible documents upon all the objects of his providence ; speaks to him plainly, in his own language ; secretly insinuates Himself, and possesseth all his faculties, understanding, reason, and memory. This is the darling of God, and a prince among men, far above the dispensation of either miracle or prophecy.'
Dr. More's life was mainly free from outward cares, and so he had leisure to give a generous culture to himself; to his mind, and heart, and soul. He educated himself that he might instruct others; for he said that, unless his duty to his fellows was done, he could never discharge his duty to himself. In the midst of what most readers will call his enthusiasm, or his madness, perhaps, for so is it wont to be named, he lived a model of generous virtue, and of an holy life. The words of Goethe will apply to him :
His eye scarce turned on the narrow earth,
It may be said of him, eminently, that his conversation was in heaven. Yet, doubtless, there are those whose philosophy consists in knowing there is a selfish principle in man, — such as have lived long enough to see the folly of the world's wise men, the baseness of its high men, the meanness of its proud, and the littleness of its great men, who will say, with a sneer, that More's holiness could not have been so very holy, nor his heavenlymindedness so very celestial. We can only regret they find so little in themselves to correspond to such emotions in him. Let it never be supposed that he suffered his religion to exhaust itself in rhapsodies. It was not so. He was filled with true love to God; and he displayed it not less in the kindest love to man, than in his lyric prayers, and sublime meditations. He was free from the petty ambition which disturbs the character of so many literary men. He
like an old sage to the sublimest speculations, and the most generous affections; and,
"being innocent, Did for that cause bestir him to good deeds." With him religion (the one idea of the man, in which he lived and had a being) was a sentiment which looked inwards to God, through prayer and silent meditation, and an holy intuition of things divine. It was also a principle which looked outwards upon man, and manifested itself in justice, truth, and charity. He sought wisdom, rather than knowledge; and cared less for a broad observation, than for an intimate acquaintance with truth. The high aim of his life was to understand the Divine Ideal,the archetype after which man was created, but which no man perfectly represents; to conform his life to this First-Man, and to teach others to do the same. He was happy in his aspirations, for none can take a nobler aim than to be a man who lives by the “law of the spirit of life." Like Acestes of old, he aimed at heaven, and his arrow kindled as it rose. fortunate in his position, for his lot fell in the most stirring period of English history, the era of vigorous growth,“when there were giants ; a scholar in that stirring age,
of Taylor, and Baxter, and those others already named, with many more, whose names come up thickly, at mention of these; how could he fail to burn with thought? But of all the dangers of that stormy time he only shared the excitement. Was he faulty in this? If he had thrust his arm into the wheel, 30 s. VOL. VIII. NO. 1.