ページの画像
PDF
ePub

which they deem utterly inconsistent with the businesses or the pleasures of life. To such an universal Empire of Religion, they seem ready to object, pretty much in the language of the Epicurean in Cicero, Itaque imposuistis in cervicibus nostris sempiternum dominum! Quis enim non timeat omnia providertem, et animadvertentem, et omnia ad se pertinere putantem, curiosam et plenam negotii religionem ? * And on their own principles, they would be right: for if religion were that uncongenial, coercive yoke, which they appear to consider it, their wish, not to be continually under its pressure, would be the voice of reason and nature.

But, says Mrs. M,“ When the mind is not only conscientiously but affectionately religious; when it not only fears God as the Almighty Sovereign, but loves and confides in him as the all gracious Father : not only inferred to be such, from the beauty and benignity apparent in the works of nature; but rationally understood to be such, from the discoveries of divine grace in the word of God; and let us add, no less rationally felt to be such, from the transforming influence of that word on the heart; then, acts of devotion are no longer a penance, but a resource, and a refreshment; insomuch that the Voluptuary would as soon relinquish those gratifications for which he lives, as the devout Christian would give up his daily intercourse with his Maker. But it is not in stated acts merely, that such devotion lives; it is an habitual sentiment which diffuses itself through the whole of life, purifying, exalting, and tranquillizing every part of it; smoothing the most rugged paths, making the yoke of duty easy, and the burden of care light : it is as a perennial spring in the very centre of the heart, to which the wearied spirit betakes itself for refreshment and repose.” Vol. ii. p. 399.

Such is the religion which Mrs. M. recommends. Can any rational being account this, rigid? or will any sincere Christian pronounce it enthusiastic ? What, but this, is the piety of the New Testament: What, short of this, would realize the delightful image presented to us by Him, who best understood the blessing which he himself came on earth to bestow? “ He," saith our Saviour, “ who drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst ; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” If genuine Christains “receive the Spirit of Adoption, whereby they cry Abba Father"-if the Peace of God whick passeth all understanding, keeps their hearts and minds” – if « whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world-and if he that is in Christ, is a new Creature; old things being passed away

. *“So, you impose on us a perpetual governor! For who would not be afraid of an inquisitive and officious religion, that regulates and judges every thing, and regards every thing as its own concern ?"

away and all things become new"-if these be the scriptural statements of our divine religion, shall the writer who does no more than assert them, be pointed at as a dangerous instructor? Or, shall it be seriously lamented, that such principles are widely disseminated, or powerfully supported ?

But let not the candid inquirer after truth, be either puzzled, or surprised, at such estimates of vital Christianity being made, by those whose very language proves that they are ignorant of its influences. Let him rather attend to what has been said respecting the utter incompetence of such witnesses, by men whose soundness of judgement has never yet been questioned; and whose perfect agreement with Mrs. M. in those very points which some are pleased to call her“ peculiar notions," if it does not produce conviction, ought at least to teach modesty.

: « The gospel" says Dr. Cudworth, (the well known author of the Intellectual System)" is not merely a letter without us, but a quickening spirit within us. Cold theorems and maxims, dry and jejune disputes, Jean syllogistical reasonings, could never yet of themselves beget the least glimpse of saving knowledge in any heart. All this, is but the groping of the poor dark spirit of man after truth, to find it out by his own endeavours, and feel it with his own cold and benunbed hands. Words and syllables, which are but dead things, cannot possibly convey the living notions of heavenly truths to us. The secret mysteries of a divine life, of a new pature, of Christ formed in our hearts-they cannot be written or spoken; language and expressions cannot reach them; neither can they be ever truly understood, except the soul itself be kindled from within, and awakened into the life of them. A painter that would draw a rose, though he may flourish some likeness of its figure and colour, yet he can never paint the scent and fragrancy, -All the skill of cunning artizans and mechanicks, cannot put a principle of life into a statue of their own making. Neither are we able to enclose in words and letters, the life, soul, and essence of any spiritual truths, and as it were to incorporate it in them.” Serm. on i John ü. 3. 4.

" It hath" says the admirable author of the Select Discourses, * “ been long since well observed, that every art and science hath some certain principles, upon which the whole frame and body of it must depend ; and he that will fully acquaint himself with the mysteries thereof, must come furnished with some præcognita or Ilpointers (that I may speak in the language of the Stoics.) Were I, indeed, to define divinity, I should rather call it a Divine Life than a Divine Science; being something rather to be understood by a spiritual sensation, than by any verbal description; as all things of sense and life, are best known by sentient and vital faculties. To seek our divinity merely in books and writings, is to seek the living among the dead. We do but in vain

* Mr. John Smith, Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge, who died 1652.

seek

seek God many times in these, where his truth is too often not so much enshrined, as entombed. No; intra te quere Deum, seek for God within thine own soul; he is best discerned yospă ET Oñas Plotinus phraseth it, by an intellectual touch of him; we must see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and our hands must handle the word of Life, that I may express myself in St. John's words. Eso de Yugens aig Anois Tis; the soul itself hath its sense, as well as the body; and therefore David, when he would teach us how to know what the divine goodness is, calls not for speculation but sensation, Taste and see how good the Lord is.”—The priests of Mercury, as Plutarch tells us, in the eating of their holy things, were wont to cry out, yhunu 'n aandele, sweet is truth; but how sweet and delicious is that truth, which holy and heaven-born souls feed upon, in their mysterious converse with the Deity, who can tell but they that taste it ? Select Discourses.- Prefatory Discourse.

We shall add one more, from the nuinberless authorities that might be adduced on the present subject. The name of Bishop TAYLOR cannot be unknown to any reader, we will not merely say of the Theology, but of the Classics of our language. As a scholar, a philosopher, and a man of genius, he has been placed, universally, in the very highest rank; and we conceive that no divine, of his day, has been less suspected of any leaning toward enthusiasm ; yet he tells us (in his Sermon on the Spirit of Grace) that even had we been outwardly taught all the mysteries of the Gospel,

" We could not, by any human power, have understood them ; unless the Spirit of God had given us a new light, and created in us a new capacity, and made us to be a new creature of another definition. Animalis homo Yuginos, (that as St. Jude expounds the word Tivela un EXwv), the animal or the natural man (the man that hath not the spirit) cannot discern the things of God, for they are spiritually discerned, that is, not to be understood, but by the light proceeding from the Sun of Righteousness.”

* He,” adds the Bishop, “ that shall discourse Euclid's Elements to swine, or preach to rocks, will as much prevail upon his assembly, as St. Peter and St. Paul could do upon uncircumcised hearts and ears, upon the indisposed Greeks and prejudicate Jews. An ox will relish the tender flesh of kids, with as much gust and appetite, as an unspiritual and unsanctified man will do the discourses of angels, or of an Apostle, if he should come to preach the secrets of the gospel. And we find it true by a sad experience, as Anacharsis said of the Greeks, that they used money for nothing but to cast accounts withal, so our hearers make use of sermons, and discourses evangelical, but to fill up void spaces of our time, with, or without, tediousness. The reason of this, is a sad condemnation to such persons; they have not yet entertained the Spirit of God; they are in darkness; they were washed in water, but never baptized with the Spirit; for these things are spiritually discerned. They would think the preacher rude, if he should say, they VOL.II.

are

are not christians, not within the covenant of the Gospel ; but it is certain that the spirit of manifestation is not yet upon them; and that is the first effect of the Spirit, whereby we can be called the sons of God, or relatives of Christ. If we do not apprehend, and greedily suck in the precepts of this holy discipline, as aptly as merchants discouse of gain, or farmers of fair harvests, we have nothing but the name of christians, and are no more such really, than mandrakes are men, or spunges are living creatures.”

We trust that we shall be excused for being thus copious in quotation, where, in our deepest judgement and most solemn conviction, not the theological theory of any person or party is at stake, but Christianity itself; he power of godliness, as contradistinguished from its mere form. For, be it well observed that the point at issue between Mrs. M. and her opponents, is, not whether one system of doctrines be preferable to another; but it is simply (what has been already referred to, as the leading question of the day) whether Christianity only holds out to us an authenticated rule of living, or whether it also communicates to us an actual principle of life; whether it merely reveals a set of important truths for us to act upon, or implies, in addition to these, certain powerful attractions, which act upon us, and which, when we are fully brought within their influence, give an ease, and a certainty to the moral movements of our minds, analogous to what takes place in works of manual labour, through the application of the mechanic powers. It is this efficacious Christianity, and this only, for which Mrs. M. is an advocate. Let her candid censurers pronounce in what respect she carries it farther than Cudworth, Smith, and Taylor have done; and whether, indeed, any of them has used such strong expressions as we find, on this very subject, in the last six verses of the third chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. We recommend to those who condemn Mrs. M. impartially to weigh this passage; and then to ask their own reason, whether their charge of enthusiasm can attach to Mrs. M. without involving the Apostle?

An apprehension is expressed, respecting the consequences which might ensue, were the royal pupil actually possessed of Mrs. M.'s religious principles. To the zealous maintainers of these principles, already adduced, we beg leave to add Sir Matthew Hale, and the Hon. Roberi Boyle. We might challenge any or all of Mrs. Mi's opponents, to point out a single shade of difference between her sentiments and those of the two illustrious men just nained; yet, will it be said, that the one was a less able judge, or the other a less enlightened philosopher, becausé, while they lived on earth, they had “their conversation in hea

ven,"

ven.*" But we may mention an instance still more in point. Was the second Mary a less efficient, or a less revered Sovereign, because she was able, on her death bed, to thank God, “ that she had always carried this in her mind, that nothing was to be left to the last hour; and that, then, she had nothing to do, but to look up to God, and submit to his will."-Nay, adds Burnet, “she rather appeared to desire death, than to fear it :" which living temper, and dying frame, we dare assert to be the sum and substance of both the rigidness and the enthusiasm of Mrs. M. and beyond such attainments, her warmest wishes respecting the royal pupil, we are confident, have not aspired.

With respect to defects in Mrs. M's. work, we would observe, that, in several instances, passages have met our eye, which gave the idea of that kind of incorrectness, which haste might occasion even in the most accomplished writer. We need not be more particular:-Mrs. M's. own judgment will sufficiently point out to her, where correction will be beneficial.

We have also, in a few cases, thought, that positions are hazarded, which, on mature consideration, might probably have been spared. How, for instance, is it certain, that the self-discipline practised by Charles V. in his retreat, was useless ; or why is it to be assumed, that he was surrounded only with ignorant and bigotted monks? No one knows better than Mrs. M. that even in the Church of Rome, God has never left himself without witnesses : and what should have hindered the Royal Ascetic from reaping that very kind of profit, which Mrs. M. seems to think in his case unattainable, from the study of such writers as Bernard and Kempis ? Besides, if his dying sentiments were favourable to the reformed faith, would it not seem to follow, that the occupations of his retirement were more sub

* It is astonishing to observe, how much higher views of a virtuous state of mind, we meet with in heathen philosophers, than in the sene timents of some modern Christians. When Seneca is describing a good man (that is, when he is drawing the character for which all enlightened Heathens were, at least theoretically, on the stretch, but which the spiritual Christian alone realizes) after telling us, that a mind thus excellent, moderate, rising above all lesser matters, smiling at all those things which men in general hope for or fear, cannot be raised to “ this pitch by any other than a celestial potency," he adds these remarkable words, " and therefore, as to the greater part of him he is there, from whence he has descended. As the sunbeams, indeed, are in contact with the earth, but yet are still there from whence they are diffused, so the great and holy soul, which is sent down to us that we might have some nearer view of what is divine, converses indeed with us, but still clings to its origin. On that it hangs; thither it looks and aims; but, as some higher nature, interests itself for our happiness.", Sen. Epist. XLI.

« 前へ次へ »