Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

acquaintance with them, entertain with patience the least suspicion, that they were capable of a part so detestable as theirs must have been, if they knew Jesus to have been an impostor, and the Gospel a fable ; with which they must be chargeable, if Christianity were not indeed as authentic and divine.

The series of sufferings which they endured; the gentle, humble patience with which they bore them; the steady perseverance and invincible fortitude with which they pursued their scheme, in the midst of them all, and with no earthly prospect but that of continued hardship and persecution, till it should end in death, furnish out an important branch of this argument; which the Book of Acts, especially taken in connection with the Epistles, does almost continually illustrate, in the most artless, and therefore the most forcible, manner.

To conclude this head, the history before us represents, in the most clear and convincing light, the genius of that doctrine which Christ taught, and of the religion which he came to settle in the world. When we view it as exhibited in human writings, we may mistake : for it is too often tinctured with the channel through which it has passed. Men of bad dispositions have warped it, to make it comply with the corruptions of their own hearts, and to subserve, in many instances, the schemes of their ambitious and worldly interests. Good men, insensibly influenced by a variety of prejudices, which, under fair and plausible forms, have insinuated themselves into their breasts, have frequently mistaken, not the essentials of Christianity (for no good man can mistake them), but the circumstantials of it; and have propagated the various, and frequently contradictory mistakes, with a zeal, which nothing but an apprehension that they were its fundamentals could have inspired; and thus its original purity and beauty have been debased and obscured. But here we drink this water of life at its fountain-head, untainted and unmixed, and with that peculiar spirit, which, at a distance from it, is so apt to evaporate. Here we plainly perceive there is nothing in the scheme but what is most worthy of God to reveal, and of his Son to publish-to publish to the world. Here we see, not, as in the heathen writers, some detached sentiment, finely heightened with the beauty of expression and pomp of words, like a scattered fragment, with the partial traces of impaired elegance and magnificence; but the elevation of a complete temple, worthy of the Deity to whom it is consecrated : so harmonious a system of un. mingled truth, so complete a plan of universal duty, so amiable a representation of true morality in all its parts, without redundancy, and without defect, that the more capable we are of judging of real excellence, the more we shall be prepossessed in its favour. And if we have a capacity and opportunity of examining together with it the books which the followers of other religions have esteemed sacred, and the system of doctrines and manners which their respective founders have published to the world, we shall find how much the Gospel is credited by the comparison-shall indeed find the difference much like that of a coarse picture of sunshine, from the original beams of that celestial luminary. This I have so deeply felt in mine own heart, while reading these books, and especially while commenting upon them, that it has been matter of astonishment, as well as grief, to me, that there should be any mind capable of resisting evidence so various, so powerful, and so sweet.

But this leads me to the other branch of the argument, in which I shall remind my reader,

Secondly, That these books are admirably adapted to make those good impressions on the heart which may prepare it for eternal life, through the name of the Redeemer, of whose divine mission they contain such incontestable proofs.

Now, the most effectual demonstration of this would be an attentive perusal of these books, not so much with a view to criticise upon

them, as to give up the soul to their genuine influence, and to leave the heart be (if I may so express myself) carried away with the torrent whither it will: and the impulse cannot fail of being in some happy direction, and, amidst all its varieties, will undoubtedly bear us forward towards that perfection of goodness and of happiness which is the great end of all our pursuits.

For surely the breast of every well-disposed reader, under the influences of that Blessed Spirit which guided the sacred penmen in these lively and well-chosen narrations, must, by every page of them, be inflamed with some devout passion : and his progress must often be interrupted with tears of holy delight, and with warm, and perhaps rapturous, aspirations of soul. Surely this adorable Saviour cannot be heard, cannot be seen, without admiration and love. Surely the heart must often, as it were, go out to meet him, with its cheerful hosannas to him that cometh in the name of the Lord. Often must it rise in affectionate praises to the God and Father of all, who blessed this earth of ours with such a visitant, who enriched it with such an unspeakable, such an inestimable gift. A thousand times must it congratulate, and almost envy, the happy lot of those, who, dwelling on earth, though in the meanest cottages, when it was blessed with the presence of such a Teacher, such a Friend, had daily opportunities of conversing with him. And as often may it exult to think, that he is still near by his spiritual presence, carrying on the kind purposes of his appearance in mortal flesh; and waiting, by the dictates of his divine philosophy, to train up the immortal spirits of men for their proper and complete happiness. Under the impression of that thought, how strongly must the soul be disposed to inquire after Christ, to form an acquaintance with him, to commit itself to his discipline and guardianship, to trace his steps, and, as far as possible, to imbibe his spirit! What will appear so desirable as to secure his friendship, to be honoured with his high approbation, and enriched with the blessings of his patronage and care ? Receiving the divine oracles from his lips, what incomparable advantages have we for learning every thing great and lovely? What powerful inducements diligently to labour, ardently to pray, liberally to dispense good, calmly to endure injuries, patiently to support the heaviest afflictions, and resolutely to meet the most dreadful death, if called out to encounter it in the way of our duty ?

Among many other good affections which the perusal of this history may naturally inspire, and which I have endeavoured often to suggest in the improvements which conclude each section, I cannot forbear mentioning one more; I mean a generous and cordial love to our fel. low Christians of every rank and denomination. I never reflect upon the New Testament in this view, but I find it difficult to conceive how so much of a contrary temper should ever have prevailed amongst such multitudes, who have professed religiously to receive it-yea, whose office hath been to interpret and enforce it. To have enlisted under the banner of Jesus, to have felt his love, to have espoused his interest, to labour to serve him, to aspire after the enjoyment of him, should, methinks, appear to every one, even on the slightest reflection, a bond of union too strong to be broken by the different apprehensions that one or another of us may entertain (perhaps, too, after diligent inquiry) concerning the exact sense of some of the doctrines he taught,

or the circumstantial forms of some of his institutions. A humble sense of our own weakness, and of the many imperfections of our character, which will never be more deeply felt than when we consider ourselves as standing before our Divine Master, will dispose us to mutual candour, will guard us against the indecency of contending in his presence, and will, as St. Paul, with admirable spirit, expresses it, dispose us to receive one another, as Christ hath received us. Yea, our hearts will be so eagerly desirous of employing our life in serving him to the best purpose we can, that we shall dread the thought of mis-spending, in our mutual animosities, accusations, and complaints, the time that was given us for ends so much nobler, and which is capable of being employed to the honour of our common Lord, and for the benefit of the Church and the World.

6

72.-SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY-III. Addison, after a long interval in the production of his papers on the worthy knight whom he had adopted for his own, brings him to London. His character will now be brought out under new aspects. The following passages are from the Spectator,' No. 269.

I was this morning surprised with a great knocking at the door, when my landlady's daughter came up to me, and told me that there was a man below desired to speak with me. Upon my asking her who it was, she told me it was a very grave elderly person, but that she did not know his name. I immediately went down to him, and found him to be the coachman of my worthy friend Sir Roger de Coverley. He told me that his master came to town last night, and would be glad to take a turn with me in Gray's Inn walks. As I was wondering with myself what had brought Sir Roger to town, not having lately received any letter from him, he told me that his master was come up to get a sight of Prince Eugene, and that he desired I would immediately meet him.

'I was not a little pleased with the curiosity of the old knight, though I did not much wonder at it, having heard him say more than once in private discourse, that he looked upon Prince Eugenio (for so the knight calls him) to be a greater man than Scanderbeg.

" I was no sooner come into Gray's Inn walks, but I heard my friend hemming twice or thrice to himself with great vigour, for he

66

[ocr errors]

his

loves to clear his pipes in good air (to make use of his own phrase), and is not a little pleased with any one who takes notice of the strength which he still exerts in his morning hems.

“I was touched with a secret joy at the sight of the good old man, who, before he saw me, was engaged in conversation with a beggarman that had asked an alms of him. I could hear my friend chide him for not finding out some work; but at the same time saw him put his hand in his pocket and give him sixpence.

“Our salutations were very hearty on both sides, consisting of many kind shakes of the hand, and several affectionate looks which we cast upon one another. After which the knight told me my good friend his chaplain was very well, and much at my service, and that the Sunday before he had made a most incomparable sermon out of Dr. Barrow. • I have left,' says he, “all my affairs in his hands, and being willing to lay an obligation upon him, have deposited with him thirty marks, to be distributed among

poor parishioners.' “ He then proceeded to acquaint me with the welfare of Will Wimble. Upon which he put his hand into his fob, and presented me, in his name, with a tobacco-stopper, telling me that will had been busy all the beginning of the winter in turning great quantities of them; and that he made a present of one to every gentleman in the country who has good principles and smokes. He added, that poor Will was at present under great tribulation, for that Tom Touchy had taken the law of him for cutting some hazel-sticks out of one of his hedges.

“Among other pieces of news which the knight brought from his country-seat, he informed me that Moll White was dead, and that about a month after her death the wind was so very high that it blew down the end of one of his barns. • But for my own part,' says Sir Roger, 'I do not think that the old woman had any

hand it.' “ He afterwards fell into an account of the diversions which had passed in his house during the holidays; for Sir Roger, after the laudable custom of his ancestors, always keeps open house at Christmas.

I learned from him that he had killed eight fat hogs for this season; that he had dealt about his chines very liberally amongst his neighbours, and that in particular he had sent a string of hogs-puddings, with a pack of cards, to every poor family in the parish. 'I have often thought,' says Sir Roger, 'it happens very well that Christ

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »