« AnteriorContinuar »
attainment of the best temporal blessings. “ Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” “casting all your care on him, for he careth for you.” “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing, by supplication and prayer, let your requests be made known unto God.” “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers.” Those, on the other hand, who, though they may have a general belief in the promises of God, have not attained to that practical confidence which would enable them, with singleness of heart, to resign all things to his disposal, are apt to “go about to establish their” good, much as the Jews did to establish their righteousness. They have too great confidence in their own wisdom; and so do not, as heartily and entirely as they ought, “submit themselves” to the wisdom of God. And what must be the issue # Their schemes, when most successful, want their best blessing; and, if they fail, are without consolation. The error is, indeed, sar less fatal than that of the unbelieving Jews, but it is scarcely less instructive. This paper has insensibly grown to a considerable length; and the patience of my readers may perhaps be exhausted, though the subject is not. It would, however, be unpardonable to conclude without saying something of the spiritual blessings which God has ordained to accounpany true submission, and of the heavenly delight which attends it. Trials and afflictions inight well have been appointed, by our great Creator, merely as a test of our allegiance; more especially to fallen man, the fit subject of chastisement. But God, who is rich in mercy, whose peculiar attribute it is to educe good out of evil, has not so ordained it. Our earthly parents may chasten us after their pleasure; but He “for our
rightly apprehend, or even duly consider, what it is to be “partakers of the holiness” of God, methinks it would be impossible for ns to be sad, even in the midst of the bitterest afflictions. The privileges of a true Christian are, indeed, many. To know God, to trust in him, to love him; to have communion with the Father of spirits; to come to him as pardoned and beloved children in Christ Jesus: these, indeed, are high and heavenly blessings, in comparison of which, all that the world calls glory, vanishes away and is lost. Yet there is still a higher privilege, a better blessing, the fluit and the reward of suffering; “to be made partaker of his holiness.” This is the utmost point of exaltation: imagination can ascend no higher. If we may be partakers of the holiness." of God, we shall undoubtedly be partakers also of his happiness; for holiness and happiness are one. Sih has separated the sister seraphs in this world; and while they roan around our vale of darkness, though," by a secret sympathy, continually: tending to each other, some cloud still interposes to prevent their perfect union. But in heaven they shall be for ever united, one in nature and one in beauty. Let us, then, act as beings worthy. of our high destiny. Having these promises, “let us cast aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God.” “ For we have need of patience, that after we have done the will of God, we may receive the promise.” Now, “tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is' shed abroad in our hearts.” “Wherefore, lift up the hands that hang' down, and the feeble-knees.” “Foryet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people; and God himself shall be with them, and be their God,” “And the redeemed of the Lord shall come to Sion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Lastly, consider the delight which accompanies a true resignation. God is not angry because he chastens us; or if angry (alas, how many are our provocations !), his frowns are but the frowns of a parent; “the graver countenance of love.” “For a little moment I hid my face from thee, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.” The true Christian can look up to God in the midst of aflictions, as to a tender Father. Strengthened by his Spirit, convinced of his wisdom, deeply touched with a sense of his abundant and unmerited mercies, he can rejoice that he is permitted in any manner to contribute to advance the glory of his God; and can pray with his whole heart, that his “will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When faint with pain or sorrow, he remembers that the “Captain of his salvation was made perfect through suffering.” To be made like him in affliction, is a sufficient honour in this world; he shall be made like to
him in glory and happiness in a better. For his Saviour's sake, he is fully persuaded that, unworthy though he must be, the Father of light and life will vouchsafe to behold him with complacency; and in this blessed assurance, he is enabled, amid all the strange accidents and changes of this life, to lift an eye of joy and confidence upwards, and follow gladly whithersoever the hand of Heaven shall lead him. Like the patriarch of old, he rejoices to go out, not knowing whither he is going. It is enough for him that God is every where :
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power, Or in the natal or the mortal hour.
Nor is this all. If the highest earthly gratification is to be found in pleasing those we love; if the humblest effort is delightful which can express an ardent and generous affection; can it be a mean satisfaction to testify, by filial docility and sub mission, that entire confidence, that heartfelt gratitude, and adoring love to our Almighty Father, which are the very elements that compose the temper and character of the true Christian Holy and heavenly elements which shall survive the lapse of ages, and triumph over the decays of nature. “ The world passeth away, and the lusts thereof; but he that doeth the will of Go endureth for ever.” o CRITQ.
"he beauties which adorn, nd ven ‘he sublimities which ennoble, the human countenance. Wny, he verv properly asks, are cheerfulness, innocence, benignity, the acuteness of intellect, or the energy of courage, to be considered as true physiognomical excellencies: and why is another quality, superior in its origin to all the rest, and which stamps upon the soul the immediate features of a celestial resemblance, to be viewed with indifference, and even with insult, when beaming in “the human face divine " To this question, I presume, indeed, the temperate Mr. Hodgson would answer, that it is not to a real, but to a fictitious, character of holiness stamped upon the visage, that he affixes the seal of condemnation. And he would appeal to a book, in which he is well versed, for authority to say, that even “when we fast, we are not to be of a sad countenance, as the hypocrites are, who disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast.” In short, he would say, that it is hypocrisy he means to stigmatise, and not sanctity; that he alludes to the dejected “’haviour of the visage,” the star, hed air and straight loeks, by which the ambitious often seek respect from the vulgar, and knaves from their dupes; not to that pure and involuntary effluence from an inspired heart, which once shaded the face of Moses with inaccessible brightness, and clothed the features of Stephen with the aspeet of an angel. Now, upon this answer, which seems to go the whole length of any fair or rational defence, the following remarks will take their ground; which are intended to condemn, not Mr. Hodgson in particular (for whom "every friend of Christianity must entertain sentiments of unfeigned respect), but those persons in general, whose habit it is to use any word or expression which bears a favourable construction, and espeocially if so applied in Scripture, either to denote a vice, however "nearly allied to it in appearance, or
to convey a censure, however justlymerited. Instances out of number will occur to every reader's mind of the fault, if a fault it shall be proved, which is here alluded to ; and which embraces, first, the direct application of scriptural titles, such as righteous, holy, sanctified, the elect, the saints, the godly, &c. &c. to such persons as, in our estimation, deserve them only in an ironical and reproachful sense: secondly, the same application of words, which, though not ‘ totidem literis" to be found in Scripture, yet are clearly deducible both in sound and sense from the sacred writings, such as evangelical, puritan, zealot, pietist, besides the lower race of psalm singers, &c. scarcely to be named in good company at all: thirdly, the misapplication of scriptural quotations or sentiments for purposes of invective, satire, and sarcasm.
Now, in shewing the mischievous tendency of these several practices, it is by no means intended to enter into an v general discussion of the lawsulness or unlawfulness of ridicule, as applied to sacred subjects. The old maxim of “ridicule the test of truth,” we may fairly consider as at an end, till the question so well asked, shall have been as well answered; “ If ridicule be the test of truth, what is the test of ridicule 2" But, allowing this to stand amongst the rhetorical figures not indeed as argument, but as subsidiary to the ends of argument; still we must expect it to be allowed, in return, that there is some limitation in its charter; and that it is not a sufficient apology for the present, or any similar practice, to say that it is ridicule, that it is irony, that nothing serious is intended; and therefore that no action can possibly lie for infraction of decorum, or violation of the laws of truth. Ridicule, at least, may be mischievous, or indecorous; and the cause of truth may be seriously committed by an appeal to tests which do not even profess to afford any standard of its value. Just as Mr. Law has well observed in the
case of amusements, though they maw be lawful, or even necessary, as a relaxation of the mind; still it is not enough, in order to justify any particular species of them which may be proposed, to say of it, that it is amusement, and therefore innocent. That the misapplication of the scriptural terms, above mentioned, is wholly indefensible on the grounds there stated, or indeed on any solid or rational ground whatsoever, 1 think quite clear from the following considerations. 1. The practice may be considered as fraudulent.— she use and application of good names, in a false sense, is frequently inade for want of bad names at hand, to be applied in a true sense. A nan sits down, with a determination before-hand, to censure and expose the character of some individual or set of men. He searches his vocabular v for words suited to his dark purpose: he turas over the black list one by one, and carefully weighs the several appellative nouns of knave, tool, hypocrite, liar, lunatic, &c. &c.; but he finds not one of them exactly suitable to his purpose. Some would expose no one but himself; others he finds, after diligent inquiry, he cannot fix upon the fore-ordained delinquent. He has no wish to stand in the pillory for defamation, nor be posted himself for the liar which he would wish his culprit to appear. Partly therefore in despair, and partly through idleness, he turns to the fair side of his nomenclature.
ground which had before rendered him impregnable. . It is very true, nothing is farther from the mind of the accuser, than to charge the ve
virtues he names upon the o On the contrary, under the title of a “ righteous one,” he means to convey the charge of arrogance or hypocrisy. His “ sanctified” friend stands proxy for a sly, underhand, self-interested varlet. His “pietist,” is a compound of enthusiasm and superstition. His “ saint,” lamblike, and full of the milk of human kindness, is nothing more than a mean, pitisul, low-spirited coward. In short, by a very small felicity of collocation or of termination, I had almost said of tail, every virtue becomes an ape; and by being infal: libly rendered into its kindred vice, is made the object of derision and aversion. Now all this is the very thing complained of as the essence of imposture. The accuser, without changing his intentions, floats them under false colours. He puts a mask on his language, that it may not appear in its true and proper deformity; and under a disguise, thin it must be owned, fixes his argument, or his calumny, as it may happen, with more certain effect in the heart of his audience. In short, he accomplishes that object by oblique methods, which he could not attain by more direct ones; and by a species of dishonest legerdemain, he gains the laugh, or carries the sentence as he wished, before the merits of the case had ever been distinctly brought into view. . It is in vain, as it has been already remarked, to rank this among the artifices of oratory. The question still returns; Is it an honest artifice The ancient heathens, often better moralists than modern Christians, and who willed the orator to be a good man, knew the proper name for this figure, “Esthuic finitinum dissimulationi, cum honesto verbo vitiosa res appellatur:” Cicero de Orat. 2: where, indeed, he treats the whole subject of ridicule in a way deserving the attention of our religious
satirists, and concludes, in regard to the whole topic, “est, meå sententiá, vel tenuissimus ingenii fructus.” The dissimulation or fraud here complained of is doubtless the same, if it be only the name of some pagan virtue, such as honest patriotism, disinterested generosity, and the like, under which the sarcasm is conveyed: only religion, being a still weightier concern, and demanding, perse, a more strict attention to truth, the fraud is here more sensibly felt, and becomes more guilty: not to mention also a certain aptitude in men to apprehend and relish more the deceit practised on the foot of some Christian virtue, than on that of a mere human excellency. Men naturally respect patriotism; but they do not naturally love piety. After these remarks on the fraudulency of the practice, it will not want many words to prove it in the highest degree uncharitable, whether considered as enlarging the resources of invective attack, or as exposing a greater number of persons to its malignant influence.—The defects of language have always been a subject of complaint amongst philosophers. A want of words to clothe our ideas, has often been felt as “a preventive check” to the multiplication of ideas themselves; much as a want of habitations acts against the increase of population. Hence arose the use of figurative language, and the metaphorical application of the same words to different ideas; and to this source may, in some degree, be traced the peculiar kind of figurative expressions now under discussion. But if ever this truly philosophical resource was to be deprecated, if ever the just limitations and even barrenness of language were to be hailed as a blessing to mankind, surely it ought to be so in the article of words of vituperation. The real crimes of men are sufficiently intelligible, and stamped in characters sufficiently dark to have been early known, and noted down in the durable register of language. The word expressing a lie, perhaps never
was wanting in any language but that of the Houynhymns. And, thanks to the conscience or the passions of mankind, the expressions of abhorrence and contempt, applicable to crimes, are amongst the least defective parts of any human dialect : “Verbaque provisam remnon invita sequuntur.” Where was the need then, or rather where is not the evil, of introducing another set of words, and a new train of ideas, into this already full-charged department of language What philanthropist, not to say Christian, must not lament to see a frail race agreeing to plague and fret each other by a strange and equivocal generation of names and crimes, meaning in their original use the very opposite of what they are now to express, and depending for their injurious application upon the perverted fancy or corrupt humours of mankind By this abuse of words, not only terms, but even subjects, of reproach are multiplied without limit. In our perverse vocabulary, the crimes of saintship and of roguery, though generally alike, are not perfectly synonimous. The former stands out as a somewhat new crime, distinguishable in imagination from the latter, and often the more galling inputation of the two. And thus the feelings of men are exposed to injury at new points: their passions, which every friend of man would desire to allay, are made doubly liable to irritation; and that “unruly member, which mone can tame,” is armed with fresh weapons, from which there is no escape, no, not even behind the shield of virtue itself. For not only are the means of annoyance thus multiplied without limit or profit against exceptionable, but even against the most unexceptionable, characters. Persons, who have not only a claim on our charity, but our very justice; persons, on whom it would be unsafe or impossible to fasten any direct term of reproach whatever, may yet “fall down wounded ” under the imputation of their virtues. The nick-name