« AnteriorContinuar »
prejudice; but, unluckily, every man thinks that he does so; he mistakes his own conclusions for truths, which ought not to be disputed, and which cannot be illustrated; and every argument tending to subvert them is rejected without examination. This perversion of the understanding is a great reproach to men of education and learning; we may lament it, and excuse it, in the bulk of mankind, who, letting their reason lie without exercise, go, on most occasions, in matters of opinion, not in the way in which they ought to go, but in that in which they have gone before. But in men habituated to the cultivation of their faculties, and to impartial investigation in other branches of knowledge, this prepossession in religion, the most important of all branches, is wholly reprehensible. Bp. Watson.
PARABLE AGAINST RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION, IN IMITATION OF SCRIPTURE LANGUAGE.
1. AND it came to pass after these things that Abraham sat at the door of his tent about the going down of the sun. 2. And behold a man bent with age, coming from the way of the wilderness leaning on a staff. 3. And Abraham arose, and met him, and said unto him, Turn in, I pray thee, and wash thy feet, and tarry all night; and thou shalt arise early in the morning and go on thy way. 4. And the man said, Nay: for I will abide under this tree.' 5. But Abraham pressed him greatly: so he turned, and they went into the tent: and Abraham baked unleaven bread, and they did eat. 6. And when Abraham saw that the
man blessed not God, he said unto him, 'Wherefore dost thou not worship the most high God, creator of heaven and earth? 7. And the man answered and said, 'I do not worship thy God, neither do I call upon his name, for I have made to myself a god, which abideth always in my house, and provideth me with all things. 8. And Abraham's zeal was kindled against the man, and he arose, and fell upon him, and drove him forth with blows into the wilderness. 9. And God called unto Abraham, saying, ' Abraham, where is the stranger?' 10. And Abraham answered and said, 'Lord, he would not worship thee, neither would he call upon thy name, therefore have I driven him out before my face into the wilderness. 11. And God said, 'Have I borne with him these hundred and ninety and eight years, and nourished him, and clothed him, notwithstanding his rebellion against me, and couldst not thou, who art thyself a sinner, bear with him one night?" 12. And Abraham said, 'Let not the anger of my Lord wax hot against his servant: lo, I have sinned, forgive me, I pray thee.' 13. And Abraham arose, and went forth into the wilderness, and diligently sought for the man, and found him, and returned with him to the tent, and when he had entreated him kindly, he sent him away on the morrow with gifts. 14. And God spake unto Abraham, saying, ' For this thy sin shall thy seed be afflicted four hundred years in a strange land. 15. But for thy repentance will I deliver them, and they shall come forth with power and with gladness of heart, and with much substance.'
A HOLY MAN.
A HOLY man is only happy. For infelicity and sin were born twins; or rather, like some prodigy with two bodies, both draw and expire the same breath. Catholic faith is the foundation on which he erects religion; knowing it a ruinous madness to build in the air of a private spirit, or on the sands of any new schism. His impiety is not so bold to bring divinity down to the mistake of reason, or to deny those mysteries his apprehension reacheth not. His obedience moves still by direction of the magistrate: and should conscience inform him that the command is unjust, he judgeth it nevertheless high treason by rebellion to make good his tenets; as it were the basest cowardice, by dissimulation of religion, to preserve temporal respects. He knows human policy but a crooked rule of action: and therefore by a distrust of his own knowledge attains it: confounding with supernatural illumination, the opinionated judgment of the wise. In prosperity he gratefully admires the bounty of the Almighty giver, and useth, not abuseth, plenty but in adversity he remains unshaken, and, like some eminent mountain, hath his head above the clouds. For his happiness is not, meteor-like, exhaled from the vapours of this world; but shines a fixed star, which, when by misfortune it appears to fall, only casts away the slimy matter. Poverty he neither fears nor covets, but cheerfully entertains; imagining it the fire which tries virtue: nor how tyrannically soever it usurp on him, doth he pay to it a sigh or wrinkle : for he who suffers want without reluctance, may be
poor, not miserable. He sees the covetous prosper by usury, yet waxeth not lean with envy: and when the posterity of the impious flourish, he questions not the divine justice; for temporal rewards distinguish not ever the merits of men: and who hath been of council with the eternal? Fame he weighs not, but esteems a smoke, yet such as carries with it the sweetest odour, and riseth usually from the sacrifice of our best actions. Pride he disdains, when he finds it swelling in himself; but easily forgiveth it in another: nor can any man's errour in life, make him sin in censure, since seldom the folly we condemn is so culpable as the severity of our judgment. He doth not malice the overspreading growth of his equals; but pities, not despiseth, the fall of any man: esteeming yet no storm of fortune dangerous, but what is raised through our own demerit. When he looks on others' vices, he values not himself virtuous by comparison, but examines his own defects, and finds matter enough at home for reprehension. In conversation, his carriage is neither plausible to flattery, nor reserved to rigour: but so demeans himself as created for society. In solitude, he remembers his better part is angelical; and therefore his mind practiseth the best discourse without assistance of inferior organs. Lust is the basilisk he flies, a serpent of the most destroying venom: for it blasts all plants with the breath, and carries the most murdering artillery in the eye. He is ever merry but still modest : not dissolved into indecent laughter, or tickled with wit scurrilous or injurious. He cunningly searcheth into the virtues of others, and liberally
commends them: but buries the vices of the imperfect in a charitable silence, whose manners he reforms, not by invectives, but example: in prayer he is frequent, not apparent: yet as he labours not the opinion, so he fears not the scandal of being thought good. He every day travels his meditations up to heaven, and never finds himself wearied with the journey: but when the necessities of nature return him down to earth, he esteems it a place he is condemned to. Devotion is his mistress, on which he is passionately enamoured: for that he hath found the most sovereign antidote against sin, and the only balsam powerful to cure those wounds he hath received through frailty. To live he knows a benefit, and the contenipt of it ingratitude, and therefore loves, but not doats on life. Death, how deformed soever an aspect it wears, he is not frightened with: since it not annihilates, but unclouds the soul. He therefore stands every moment prepared to die; and though he freely yields up himself, when age or sickness summon him, yet he with more alacrity puts off his earth, when the profession of faith crowns him a martyr. Habington*.
THE DYING MAN.
Ir is a very terrible and amazing thing to see a man die, and solemnly take his last leave of the world. The very circumstances of dying men are apt to strike us with horrour. To hear such a man,
- * William Habington, the historian and poet, who died in the year 1645.-Editor.