Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

be traced even among the Heathen nations-among those espea cially which were more polished ; and perhaps among all, if we were more intimately acquainted with them: and as this fhews either a great harmony between reason and revelation, or, that these preparatory notices originated immediately from the Deity, it always appeared to him an argument (he says) which carried great conviction. If these notices are supposed to have been wholly of Jewish origin, still the unforced adoption of them (he thinks) Thews their agreement with reason ; and therefore strongly opposes the endeavours of those who labour to set reason and revelation at variance.

In pressing moral rules, Mr. Gilpin sometimes prefers a quo. tation from Horace to a text from scripture, observing, and, in our opinion, very justly, that Horaçe is, in one sense, better authority than an apostle.— If his unenlightened mind, says he, had such just and noble sentiments, what may be expected from a Christian?

He introduces his first lecture with a short history of the Catechism, which may not be unacceptable to the generality of our Readers :

• It was among the earliest cares, says he, of the first promoters of the Reformation, to provide a Catechism for the instruction of youth. But the same caution, with regard to the prejudices of men, was necessarily to be used in this matter, as had been used in all the @ther religious transactions of those times. At first, it was thought sufficient to begin with such common things, as were acknowledged boch by Papifts and Protestants. The first Catechism therefore confited fimply of the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer: and it was no easy matter to bring even these into general use. They were received by the people, in the midst of that profound igno. sance, which then reigned, as a species of incantation, and it was long before the grossness of vulgar concepiion was even enlightened enough to apprehend, that the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer, meant simply to direct their faith, their practice, and their devotion.

6. This was all the progress that was made in catechetical inftruc. tion from the beginning of the Reformation, till ro late a period as the year 1549. About that time a farther attempt was made by Archbishop Cranmer, as it is commonly supposed. He ventured to add a few cautious explanatory passages; which was all the prejudices of men would yet bear. The great prudence, indeed, of that wise and good man, appeared in nothing more than in the easy movemenis, with which he introduced every change.

• In the year 1553, a farther attempe was hazarded. A Catechism was published by authority, in which not only the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer were more fully expounded ; but a brief explanation also of the Sacraments was added. This bold work, however, was not ventured in the English tongue; but was published in Latin, for the use of schools. Archbishop Wake, whose authority I chiefly follow, supposes chis Catechism to be the first model of that, which is now in use. Rev, Sept, 2779.

» Thus

* Thus the matter rested, till the reign of Elizabeth. In the mean time, the violent measures of her predecessor had tended greatly to open an inquisitive remper in the age ; and to abolith its prejudices. Men began to have some notion of thinking for themselves; and it was no longer necessary to observe that extreme caution, which bad hitherto been observed, in addressing them on religious subjects. The Catechison therefore was now improved on a more liberal plan ; and having undergone several reviews, was at length published by authority, nearly in its prefent form, in the year 1563. It ought to be mentioned, that the person principally concerned in this work, was Nowel, dean of St. Paul's.

• From this short history of the Catechism, the various forms it underwent, and the care and caution employed in composing it, we need not wonder at finding it, what it really appears to be, a very accurate, judicious, and comprehensive summary of the principles and do&trines of the Christian religion.'

Our Readers will not expect many extracts from a work of this nature; it is sufficient to acquaint them that the doctrinal and practical parts of religion are elucidated in a plain, easy, and judicious manner; that there is a neatness and perspicuity in the Author's style; and that he appears, through the whole of his performance, to be more desirous of being useful to those for whom he writes, than of displaying his learning and abiy lities.

Part of his twenty-first lecture, wherein he shews the great danger of keeping bad company, may serve as a specimen of his manner of writing :

• Before we contider the danger of keeping bad company, let us, says he, first see the meaning of the phrase. - In the phrase of the world, good company means fashionabie people. Their stations in lise, not their morals are considered : and he, who associates with fuch, though they set him the example of breaking every command. ment of the decalogue, is still said to keep good company.I kould with you to fix another meaning to the exprellion; and to confider vice in the same detestable light, in whatever company it is found; nay, to consider all company in which it is found, be their ftationi what it will, as bad company.

• The three following classes will perhaps include the greatest part of those who deserve this appellation.

• In the first, I should rank all who endeavour to destroy the prins ciples of Christianity-who jeft upon scripture-talk blasphemy and treat revelation with contempt.

? A second class of bad company are those who have a tendency to destroy in us the principles of common honesty and integrity. Under this head, we may rank gameters of every denominacion ; and the low, and infamous characters of every profeflion.

• A third class of bad company, and such as are commonly molt dangerous to you:h, includes the long catalogue of men of pleasure, In whatever way they follow the call of appetite, they have equally a tendency to corrupt the purity of the mind.

Besides

Besides these three classes, whom we may call bad company, there are others who come under the denomination of ill-chosen company : trilling, infipid characters of every kind; who follow no business--are led by no ideas of improvement-but spend their time in diffipation and folly - whose highest praise it is, that they are only not vicious.-Wich none of thele, a serious man would with his son to keep company.

• It may be asked what is meant by keeping bad company? The world abounds with characters of this kind : they meet us in every place ; and if we keep company at all, it is impoflible to avoid keeping company with such persons.

It is true, if we were determined never to have any commerce with bad men, we must, as the apolile remarks; " altogether go out of the world.” By keeping bad company, therefore, is not meant a casual intercourse with them, on occasion of business; or as they accidentally fall in our way; but having an inclination to confort with them-complying with that inclination-seeking their company, when we might avoid it-entering into their parties and making them the companions of our choice. Mixing with them occafion. ally, cannot be avoided.

• The danger of keeping bad company, arises principally from our aptnefs to imitate and catch the manners and sentiments of others from the power of custom--from our own bad inclinations-and from the paias taken by the bad to corrupt us.

'In our earliest youth, the contagion of manners is observable, In the boy, yet incapable of having any thing inftilled into him, we easily discover from his first actions, and rude attempts at language, the kind of persons, with whom he has been brought up : we see the early spring of a civilized education; or the first wild shoots of rufticity.

• As he enters farther into life, his behaviour, manners, and conversation, all take their cast from the company he keeps. Observe the peasant, and the man of education; the difference is Itriking. And yet God hath bestowed equal talents on each. The only dif. ference is, they have been thrown into different scenes of life, and have bad commerce with persons of different stations. - Nor are manners, and behaviour more easily caught, than opi. nions, and principles. In childhood and youth, we naturally adopt the sentiments of those about us. And as we advance in life, how few of us think for ourselves : How many of us are satisfied with taking our opinions at second hand?

"The great power, and force of custom forms another argument against keeping bad company. However seriously disposed we may be; and however shocked at the first approaches of vice ; this shock. ing appearance goes off, upon an intimacy with it. Custom will foon render the most disguftful thing familiar. And this is indeed a kind provision of narure; to render labour, and toil, and danger, which are the lot of man, more easy to him. The raw soldier, who trembles at the first encounter, becomes a hardy veteran in a few campaigns, Habit renders danger familiar, and of course indifferent to him. P 2

: But • But habir, which is intended for our good, may, like other kind appointments of nature, be converted into a mischief. The welldifpored youth, entering firit into bad company, is shocked at what he hears, and whac he sees. The good principles, which he had imbibed, ring in his ears an alarming lesson against the wickedness of his companions. But, alas ! this fensibility is but of a day's continvance. The next jovial meeting makes the horrid picture of yef. terday more easily endured. Virtue is soon thought a severe rule ; the gospel, an inconvenient restraint: a few pangs of conscience now and then interrupt his pleafures; and whisper to him, that he once had better thoughts : but even these by degrees die away; and he who at first was shocked even at the appearance of vice, is formed by custom, into a pro Aigate leader of vicious pleasures —perhaps into an abandoned tempter to vice.-So carefully mould we oppose the first approaches of lin! so vigilant should we be against so insidious an enemy!

· Our own bad inclinations form another argument against bad company. We have so many passions and appetites to govern ; so many bad propenfities of different kinds to watch, that, amidst such a variety of enemies within, we ought at least to be on our guard again it those without. The breast even of a good man is represented in fcripture, and experienced in fact, to be in a state of warfare. His vicious inclinations are continually drawing him one way; while his virtue is making efforts another. And if the scriptures represent this as the case even of a good man, whose pasions, it may be ima. gined, are become in some degree cool, and temperate, and who has made some progress in a virtuous course ; what may we suppose to be the danger of a raw unexperienced youth, whose passions and.ap. petites are violent and seducing, and whose mind is in a ftill less confirmed ftate? It is his part surely to keep out of the way of tempra:ion; and to give his bad inclinations as little room as poli. bie, to acquire new strength.'

The same subject is continued in the twenty-second lecture, which Mr. Gilpin introduces with observing, that bad men take more pains to corrupt their own species, than virtuous men do to reform them.

• Hence those specious arts, says he, that show of friendship, that appearance of disintercitedness, with which the profligare feducer endeavours to lure she unwary youth ; and at the same time, yielding to his inclinations, seems to follow rather than to lead him. Many are the arts of these corrupiers ; but their principal art is ridi. cule. By this they endeavour to laugh out of countenance all the becter principles of their wavering proselyte; and make him think contem pribly of those, whom he formerly respected: by this they fifle the ingenuous blush; and finally destroy all sense of hame. Their cause is below argument. They aim not therefore at reasoning. Raillery is the weapon they employ; and who is there, that hach the leadiness to hear persons and things, whatever reverence he may have had for them, the subject of continual ridicale, without loling that reverence by degrees i

• Having

• Having thus considered what principally makes bad company dangerous, I shall just add, that even were your own morals in no danger from such intercourse, your characters would infallibly suffer. The world will always judge of you by your companions : and nobody will suppose, that a youth of virtuous principles himself, can poffibly form a connection with a profligate.

In reply to the danger supposed to arise from bad company, pere haps the youth may fay, he is so firm in his own opinions, so steady in his principles, that he thinks himself fecure ; and need not refrain himself from the moft unreserved conversation.

• Alas! this security is the very brink of the precipice : nor hath vice in her whole train a more dangerous enemy to you, than presumption. Caution, ever awake to danger, is a guard againit it. But security lays every guard asleep. “Let him who thinketh he ftandeth,” saith the apostle, “ take heed Jef he fall.” Even an apostle himself did fall, by thinking that he food secure.“ Though I should die with thee,” said St. Peter to his master, " yet will I not deny thee.” That very night, notwithstanding this boasted security, he repeated the crime three several times. And can we suppose, that presumption, which occasioned an apostle's fall, shall not ruin. an unexperienced youth? The story is recorded for our instruction ; and should be a itanding lesson against presuming upon our own strength.

• In conclusion, such as the dangers are, which arise from bad company, such are the advantages, which accrue from good. We imitate, and catch the manners, and sentiments of good men, as we do of bad. Custom, which renders vice less a deformity, renders virtue more lovely. Good examples have a force beyond instruction, and warm us into emulation beyond precept: while the countenance and conversation of virtuous men encourage, and draw out into action every kindred disposition of our hearts.

• Besides, as a senfe of shame often prevents our doing a right thing in bad company; it operates in the same way in preventing our doing a wrong one in good. Our character becomes a pledge; and we cannot, without a kind of dishonour, draw back.

• It is not possible, indeed, for a youth, yet unfurnished with knowledge (which fits him for good company), to chuse his compa. nions as he pleases. A youth must have something peculiarly at. tractive, to qualify him for the acquaintance of men of established reputation. What he has to do, is, at all events, to avoid bad company; and to endeavour, by improving his mind and morals, to qualify himself for the best.

• Happy is that youth, who, upon his entrance into the world, can chule his company with discretion. There is of:en in vice, a gaiety, an unreserve, a freedom of manners, which are apt at light to engage the unwary: while virtue, on the other hand, is often modellt, reserved, diffident, backward, and easily disconcerted. That freedom of manners, however engaging, may cover a very corrupt heart; and this aukwardness, however unpleasing, may veil a thou. fand virtues. Suffer not your mind, therefore, to be easily either engaged, or disgusted at firft light. Form your intimacies with re. reserve : and if drawn unawares into an acquaintance you disapprove,

P 3

immcdiately

« VorigeDoorgaan »