Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

THE

CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.

No. LXXVII.

THIRD SERIES - No. VIII.

NOVEMBER, 1836.

Art. I. The Works of the Rev, John GAMBOLD, A. M.,

late One of the Bishops of the United Brethren. With an Introductory Essay, by Thomas ERSKINE, Esq., Advocate, Author of "Remarks on the Internal Evidence of the Truth of Revealed Religion.” Second Edition. Glasgow. 1823. 12mo. pp. 300. .

In the very lively and pleasing novel entitled “Destiny," (whose author enjoys the high praise of being designated by Sir Walter Scott *“ a brother, or perhaps a sister shadow,") a short poem, called the “Mystery of Life," is quoted as “those verses of Gambold.” Our attention was thus called to an author of whom, in our ignorance, we had not before heard ; and, judging according to the old rule Ex pede Herculem, we inferred that a specimen in itself so beautiful, was not, probably, an insulated production of the author. It seemed to us irrational to suppose that a mind so obviously rich and fertile in poetical sentiment as bis, should bloom and produce such exquisite fruit once, and remain thenceforth Aowerless and barren. It was in this manner we were led to the examination of the book before us; and we now propose to record here, very briefly, the result of our inquiries.

The volume contains an “Introductory Essay, by Thomas Erskine, Esq., Advocate," an anonymous “ Life of Gambold, " and a collection of his principal works.

The “ Introductory Essay " is, essentially, a homily on what

* Concluding paragraph of “ Tales of My Landlord.” VOL. XXI. - 30 s. VOL. III. NO. II.

18

— p. xxiii.

is technically called “the free grace of the Gospel.” It is not far removed, in any direction, out of the ample field of common-place discussion on this subject; and is by no means free from that very miserable species of affectation ordinarily called cant. As a specimen of the enlargement and tendencies of the author's mind, we quote the following ;

“We remember at present only one passage in Shakspeare which is directly and unequivocally Christian, (?) and that occurs in. Measure for Measure,' in the scene between Isabella and Angelo. — She is persuading him to pardon her brother, and she says,

• All the souls that were, were forfeit once; And He that might the 'vantage best have took,

Found out the remedy,' &c." Now if the writer meant, as he doubtless did, by the term “ Christian," Calvinistic, it is of little importance to us whether his remembrance is correct or not.

We should hope, however, that he was entirely authorized in his assertion, since we should estimate the omission he thus alludes to as a new proof of the perspicuity and justness of the Bard's mind, which seem to us as not among the least glorious of bis transcendent gifts. But to cite this as the only “Christian” passage in Shakspeare, is an instance of extreme arrogance and injustice. We shall not go into an elaborate defence of the great poet on this point. He requires it not at our hands with any who read his pages in the spirit in which they ought to be read. Passing by all but countless examples, we need not go beyond the very scene here quoted to find, in our apprehension at least, several Christian sentiments. Does not Isabella talk very much like a Christian, when she says,

Well, believe this,
No ceremony that to great ones ’longs,
Not the king's crown, nor the deputed sword,
The marshal's truncheon, nor the judge's robe,
Become them with one half so good a grace,

As mercy does.”
And again : this sounds to us Christian-like;

60, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous

To use it like a giant.” And again: we must refer to that glorious passage, which we cannot stop to quote at length, beginning

" Merciful heaven!

Thou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt,
Split'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle ;” &c.

And then, once more, the passage where she appeals to Angelo's conscience, beginning with

“Go to your bosom;

Knock there, and ask your heart,” &c., seems to us to be conceived precisely in the spirit of the Autior and Examplar of our faith, when he said, “He who is without sin among you, let bim cast the first stone.”

All this occurs in that single scene, which according to “ Thomas Erskine, Esquire, Advocate," contains the only passage "in Shakspeare which is directly and unequivocally Christian! But we dismiss this topic. It is not worthy the attention we have already bestowed upon it. Thus to select a single sentiment from all the works of Shakspeare, and call it the only one that is “ Christian," simply because it seems to recognise one of the technics of the writer's own arbitrary definition of Christianity, proves to us nothing so clearly as the narrowing and belittling influences of an exclusive creed upon a narrow and exclusive mind.

Passing then this “ Introductory Essay," without further remark, we next come to the “Life of Gambold.” This is an interesting memoir, comprising the principal facts of the “ earthly residence” of Gambold, written in a simple and unaffected style, though evidently proceeding from a spirit, which, like his own, was pervaded with the peculiarly mystical views of the Moravians, to whom he belonged. He was born, April 10th, 1711, at Puncheston, in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. His father was an estimable clergyman of the Church of England, and gave the benefit of his personal instruction and pure example to his son until he was fifteen years old, when he was entered as Servitor in Christ Church, in the University of Oxford. He soon became eminent for his diligent application to study. “He was naturally of a lively and active spirit," and, until the

age of seventeen, occupied all the leisure be could command froin bis severer studies, in reading poems and plays. At this period his father died, when this event, together “ with the edifying exbortations be received from him in his latest moments, so affected him, that a real seriousness of mind, and a solid concern for his salvation, took place in him.” He then “renounced, from a principle of self-denial, all the pleasure he had received from books calculated to gratify the taste of the polite world," and fell into a melancholy state of mind. In March, 1730, he formed .gn acquaintance with some students in the University, who, aiming at higher spiritual attainments than those which prevailed around them, formed themselves into a society for mutual religious edification. Though it is not so stated in the Life before us, yet the circle of young men here referred to, was doubtless that, out of which the wide-spread sect of Christians called Methodists proceeded.* It consisted, at first, of a few persons, about fifteen in number, and comprised some names, which afterwards attained great notoriety. It comprised Morgan, who died an early victim to bis self-sacrificing philanthropy, severe habits of life, and gloomy and mistaken views of religion ; the two Wesleys, Charles and John ; George Whitefield; and, to name no more, it included James Hervey, the author of that popular book of shallow thought, and "tinsel style," and affected sentiment, entitled “Meditations.” They were all distinguished for their ascetic manner of living, frequent fastings, and an almost exclusive observance of the internal and external means of religion. It might be supposed, that, in a society like this, Gambold might have found that sympathy and support which bis peculiar sickness of soul required. But in this he utterly failed. “ Not being able," says his biographer, " by the use of such means only to gain that which could make him happy, he gave way to those desponding thoughts from which he had formerly suffered so much, totally neglected his person and apparel, confined himself as much as possible to his room, and applied, in search of information and comfort, to the works of such authors as he supposed could satisfy his inquiries, namely, the Fathers of the first ages of the Christian Church. Of these the most abstruse were his greatest favorites, and particularly those which are called Mystics." He was, at length, so infatuated with those early Fathers, and “became so much like one of them, that his cast of mind bore a nearer resemblance to that which was peculiar to them, than to any that appeared among the moderns." His melancholy, however, still continued, since he found it vain, after all his efforts, to realize, in bis own person, that sinless and impeccable state of character, at which, by his favorite authors, he was taught to aim.

In September, 1733, he was adınitted to holy orders, and was instituted to the living of Stanton-Harcourt, in the diocese

See Southey’s “Life of Wesley,” Vol. I. p. 70. Amer. edit.

of Oxford. His parish was small, his residence sequestered, and his leisure for his favorite studies ample ; so that there was little to interfere with that " philosophical and Platonic kind of religion, wherein the imagination could amuse and entertain itself in bigh fights, deep speculations, intense reflections, and metaphysical reasonings, to which bis natural disposition inclined him.” Such were his course of life and habits of mind for nearly four years.

In the year 1737, he had the “happiness," says the account before us, “ of becoming acquainted with the late Peter Boehler.” This celebrated minister of the Moravians, or Unitas Fratrum, or United Brethren, as they are indifferently called, was then waiting for a ship, in which he was to embark for this country. Through his instrumentality Gambold became a convert to the peculiar doctrines of the Moravians. It was at this period, also, that Wesley, the founder of the Methodists, first became acquainted with this teacher; and it is no small proof of the ascendency of Boehler's influence, that he bent such minds, as Gambold's and Wesley's, to the superior guidance of his own. It was now that Gambold first found rest and peace for his spirit. “It then appeared to him, that the chief point of Christianity, which every one who wishes to enjoy the benefit thereof, should be concerned to obtain, was a lively faith in the Redeemer of the world, and, in consequence thereof, the forgiveness of sins, a conquest over the corruption that naturally dwelleth in us, and a conformity to that state of mind which was in him. These privileges, he found by his own experience, were not to be obtained by a legal strife and the helps that Philosophy could administer.” After

Alter many and severe spiritual conflicts, the “ gloom, which like a thick cloud, had long enveloped and depressed his mind, was dissipated ; and to prevent a recurrence of bis mournful misgivings and mental darkness, he determined to take leave of his parish, and give himself entirely to a communion with the “Brethren." This he accomplished in the beginning of October, 1742. From this period he ardently devoted himself to the interests of his new associates. In addition to his public labors as a minister, he was einployed in preparing many pieces for the press; and was very useful also in repeating extempore in English, the sermons which Count Zinzendorf, the great patron and apostle of the Moravians, preached in German. The fact is not mentioned in the Life before us, but we

« AnteriorContinuar »