« 前へ次へ »
Frome, Somersce, Nov. 21, 1821. “MY LORD–More than two years since, a lovely and beloved wife was taken from me, by lingering disease, after a very short union. She possessed unvarying gentleness and fortitude, and a piety so retiring, as rarely to disclose itself in words, but so influential, as to produce uniform benevolence of conduct. In the last hour of life, after a farewell look on a lately born, and only infant, for whom she had evinced inexpressible affection, her last whispers were, 'God's happiness !–God's happiness! Since the second anniversary of her decease, I have read some papers which no one had seen during her life, and which contain her most - secret thoughts. I am induced to communicate to your lordship, a passage from these papers, which, there is no doubt, refers to yourself; as I have more than once heard the writer mention your agility on the rocks at Hastings.
“Oh, my God! I take encouragement from the assurance of thy word, to pray to Thee in behalf of one for whom I have lately been much interested. May the person to whom I allude, (and who is now, we fear, as much distinguished for his neglect of Tbee, as for the transcendent talents Thou hast bestowed on him,) be awakened to a sense of his own danger, and led to seek that peace of mind in a proper sense of religion, which he has found this world's enjoy. ments unable to procure! Do Thou grant that his future example may be productive of far more extensive benefit than his past conduct and writings have been of evil; and may the Sun of Righteousness, which, we trust, will, at some future period, arise on him, be bright in proportion to the darkness of those clouds which guilt bas raised around him, and the balm, which it bestows, healing and soothing in proportion to the keenness of that agony whick the punishment of his vices has inflicted on him!' &c,
" Hastings, July 31, 1814,"
“There is nothing, my lord, in this extract, which, in a literary sense, can at all interest you; but it may, perhaps, appear to you worthy of reflection, how deep and expansive a concern for the happiness of others, the Christian faith can awaken in the midst of youth and prosperity. Here is nothing poetical and splendid, as is the expostulatory homage of M. Delamartine; but here is the sublime, my lord; for this intercession was offered on your account, to the supreme Source of happiness. It sprang from a faith more confirmed than that of the French poet; and from a charity, which in combination with faith, showed its power unimpaired amidst the languors and pains of approaching dissolution. I will hope that a prayer, which, I am sure, was deeply sincere, may not be always unavailing
“ It would add nothing, my lord, to the fame with which your genius has surrounded you, for an unknown and obscure individual to express his admiration of it. I had rather be numbered with those who wish and pray, that'wisdom from above,' and 'peace," and 'joy,' may, enter such a mind."
LORD BYRON'S ANSWER.
Pisa, Dec. 8, 1821. «•SIR-I have received your letter. I need not say, that the extract which it contains has affected me, because it would imply a want of all feeling to have read it with indifference. Though I am not quite sure that it was intended by the writer for me, yet the date, the place where it was written, with some other circumstances which you mention, render the allusion probable. But, for whomsoever it was meant, I have read it with all the pleasure that can arise from so melancholy a topic. 1 say pleasure, because your brief and simple picture of the life and demeanor of the excellent person whom I trust you will again meet, cannot be contemplated without the admiration due to her virtues, and her pure and unpretending piety. Her last moments were particularly striking; and I do not know, that in the course of reading the story of mankind, and still less in my observations of the existing portion, I ever met with any thing so unostentatiously beautiful. Indisputably, the firm believers in the gospel have a great advantage over all others; for this simple reason, that, if true, they will have their reward hereafter; and if there be no hereafter, they can but be with the infidel in his eternal sleep, having had the assistance of an exalted hope through life, without subsequent disappointment, since, (at the worst for them) 'out of nothing, nothing can arise,' not even
But a man's creed does not depend upon himself; who can say, I will believe-this, that, or the other; and least of all, that which he least can comprehend? I hare, however, observed, that those who have begun life with an extreme faith, have, in the end, greatly narrowed it, as Chillingworth, Clarke, (who ended as an Arian) Bayle, and Gibbon, (once a Catholic) and some others; while, on the other hand, nothing is more common than for the early sceptic to end in a firm belief, like Maupertius and Henry Kirke White.
But my business is to acknowledge your letter, and not to make a dissertation. I am obliged to you for your good wishes, and more than obliged by the extract from the papers of the beloved object whose qualities you have so well described in a few words. I can assure you, that all the same which ever chrated humanity into higher notions of its own importance, woull never weigh in my mind against the pure and pious interest which a virtuous being may be pleased to take in my welfare. In this point of view, I would not exchange the prayer of the deceased in my behalf, for the united glory of Homer, Cæsar, and Napoleon, could such be accuinulated upon a living head. Do me at least the justice to supthat
"Video meliora probo-que,' however the Deteriora sequor' may have been applied to my
conduct. I have the honour to be your obliged and obedient servant,
BYRON. “P.S. I do not know that I am addressing a clergyman; but I presume that you will not be affronted by the mistake (if it is one) on the address of this letter. One who has so well explained, and deeply felt, the doctrines of religion, will excuse the error which led me to believe him its minister."
In this letter, Lord Byron shows the inconsistency which sceptics always show, when they suffer themselves to speak out the honest convictions of their minds. He excuses his irreligion, by asserting that a “man's creed does not depend upon himself; who can say, I will believe,” &c. and yet he expresses his belief in the life and immortality, which the gospel brings to light, and in the efficaey of that faith which prompts the Christian's prayer: he speaks of his
19 correspondent's meeting his beloved partner in another world; and declares that he would not exchange his interest in her pious sup? plications, for the united glory of Homer, Cæsar, and Napoleon. No, it is not true, as he would have it, that a man's creed does not
ERR depend upon himself; and to have spoken consistently with what he felt, his question should have been, Who can say, I will not believe in a religion which so adorns the lives of its professors, and 1. so commends itself to the conscience even of its enemies?
ALL THINGS SUBSERVIENT TO THE CHURCH.
Throughout all the changes that have ever happened among men-the exaltation of kingdoms or the depression of nations-God's object has been his church. This sounds singular in the ears of those who do not know why the worlds were made. But it is not the less true. Did the prosperity of his church require that the Israelites should be slaves? There was a nation ready to hold them in bondage; and thither they were conducted.-Did their deliverance demand the overthrow of that nation's
strength? Angels and elements stood ready to perform the work. Did the promised land, all this time require inhabitants to subdue wild beasts, plant vineyards, and dig for water? The Canaanites performed that labour just at the time the country was needed, the cup of their iniquity began to run over, and the work of extermination, at once sent them to their long ako count, and gave the land in a tillable condition into the hands of its
the health of the church again require she should be scourged in captivity? Nebuchadnezzar and his Chaldeans were made powerful enough to do it, but paid dearly for being the wicked instruments. - Were their release and another temple necessary? Cyrus the Persian leader, is made strong enough to overturn the many-gated city, and release the Jews wealthy enough to rebuild Jerusalem-and suddenly willing enough to do both-although he knew not the only true God.
In this way we might begin with the commencement of history; and end with the present moment; shewing that all the actions of
mortals have their prime bearing on the church of Christ, whether they know and wish it, or not.
Irreligious men in office, those who administer governmentKings, Statesmen, Legislators-have rarely been God's children;have rarely been his friends.--And if so-He looks upon them as the least of mankind. They often fancy that free institutions or other great national blessings, are designed for the dignity, the comfort or the glory of such as they are, or for the happiness of the people at large. But they are not so important in the veiw of higher beings, as in their own eyes. Little do they dream that they would scarrely be noticed (except for punishment) were it not for the churchthat the principal use Omnipotence has for their greatness is this: The Superior Hand has his hook in their nose, and his bridle in their jaws, and is leading them about when and where he pleases, to do the business of these unknown few-the meek and contrite. Little do they dream, that notwithstanding their great exploits-shining talents, and incessant parade about patriotism and virtue—there is more safety to the nation's prosperity, in the circumstance of the
little flock being interspersed through the land,” than in all the cannon mounted upon ramparts on the beach.-For, "His throne is prepared in the heavens," and it is his kingdom that "ruleth over
ERRORS IN PRINCIPLE ARE MORE PERNICIOUS THAN ERRORS
IN PRACTICE. 1. They are more difficult of detection. Errors in practice, when not the result of errors in principle, are committed against the united testimonies of reason and conscience; but errors in principle are never sincerely adopted until reason and conscience are engaged to support them. Thus Paul verily thought, that he ought to shut up the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, he gave his voice against them. Had Paul's been a practical error only, his own conscience would have testified against him; but being an error in principle, it was exceedingly difficult of detection. He really thought it his duty to shed their blood, and to compel them to blaspheme. We are aware of the great difficulty in persuading the heathen that theirs is an idolatrous religion: before this can be accomplished, an entire change must be effected in their views of truth. “This difficulty, proceeds from their errors being errors in principle. The drunkard promises a speedy reformation; but the errorist in principle, although led to the commission of the blackest of crímes, presses forward in the full persuasion that he is doing his duty.
2. Errors in principle have a more pernicious influence on society, than errors in practice. Although the errorist in practice is a pernicious example, as he blunts the edge of sensibility and renders crimes familiar, yet his influence will not compare with that of the errorist in principle. He may render crimes familiar, but he dares not justily them." He is conscious that he is wrong, he therefore appears before the world with a self-accusing conscience. He may endeavour to palliate, but he cannot justify, his errors. But the errorist in principle is persuaded that he is right; he comes in the disguise of religion, and like Paul, thinks that he ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. These things he will do. He offers you poison, and with every appearance of sincerity tells it is an excellent medicine; he blinds your eyes, yet really believes he has enabled you to see more clearly. Although he ruins the soul, be verily thinks he has done God service. Conscious of
the rectitude of his cause, and fired with a persevering zeal, like the ancient Pharisees, he is willing to compass sea and land to gain one. proselyte, although he makes him two fold more the child of hell than before.
S. That errors in principle are more pernicious than errors in practice, is evident from the fact that they are the prolific source of the worst kinds of practical errors. They are the root of which practical errors are the branches. This is exemplified in the bisiory of Paul. He went from city to city, to compel their inhabitants to blaspheme. He shut up the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, he gave his voice against them. He raged for their blood and persecuted them into strange cities. Here let us trace these cruel feelings to their cause. Was Paul more bloody than other men? Had he greater delight in blasphemy? This cannot be pretended. In other situations, he was tender, affectionate and merciful. The cause of these cruelties may be found in the influence of errors in principle. Paul was a sincere believer in a false system of religion, and verily believed he was doing his duty. The page of history is polluted with a long catalogue of crimes
, which owed their existence to the same cause. Infidels have reiterated the charge that more blood has been shed on account of religion, than from any other cause. Whether we admit or repel the charge, it must be granted that errors in principle, whether in law, politics, or in religion, have been the most prolific source of errors in practice.
THE FINAL JUDGMENT.
BY THIE REV. H. H. MILMAN.
The glory! the glory! by myriads are poured,