« PreviousContinue »
it, it were a much safer and quieter course to be ignorant. Study and painful inquiries after knowledge do oftentimes exhaust and break our spirits, and prejudice our health, and bring upon us those diseases to which the careless and unthinking seldom are obnoxious. Eccles. i. 13, 14, 15. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, and vexation of spirit; that which is crooked cannot be made straight, and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.”— TIMOTHY ROGERS : A Discourse concerning Trouble of Mind, p. 327.
Deep and profound research, it would seem, disturbs the faith, and staggers the belief of the purest men in the sacred truths of Revealed religion.
WATTS, on Everlasting Punishment, in his preface to the second volume of his discourses on the world to come, says:
“Were I to pursue my inquiries into this doctrine only by the lights of nature and reason, I fear my natural tenderness might warp me aside from the rules and demands of strict justice, and wise and holy government of the great God.
“I must confess here, if it were possible for the great and blessed God any other way to vindicate his own eternal and unchangeable hatred of sin, the inflexible justice of his government, the wisdom of his severe threatenings, and the veracity of his predictions; if it were also possible for him, without this terrible execution, to vindicate the veracity, sincerity, and wisdom of the prophets and apostles, and Jesus Christ his son, the greatest and chiefest of his divine messengers; and then if the blessed God should at any time, in a consistence with his glorious and incomprehensible perfections, release those wretched creatures from their acute pains and long imprisonment in hell, either with a design of the utter destruction of their beings by annihilation, or to put them into some unknown world, upon a new foot of trial; I think I ought cheerfully and joyfully to accept this appointment of God, for the good of millions of my fellow-creatures, and add my joys and praises to all the songs and triumphs of the heavenly world, in the day of such a divine and glorious release of these prisoners.
“But I feel myself under a necessity of confessing that I am utterly unable to solve these difficulties according to the discoveries of the New Testament."
This is the absurd labyrinth into which we must be led by too
much self-sufficient speculation upon the unrevealed mysteries of Divine wisdom.
St. Paul properly rebuked this profane scrutiny with the Corinthians, to whom he wrote, “Thou fool! that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” (1 Cor. chap. xv. ver. 6.) That is to say, that we are not in this state allowed to comprehend the mysteries of Divine wisdom; and that this capacity will not be quickened in the soul until after death.
Nor will reflection, time, or solitude overcome these painful perplexities.
“Such as live in prison, or some desert place, and cannot have company, as many of our country gentlemen do in solitary houses, they must either be alone without companions, or live beyond their means, and entertain all comers as so many hosts, or else converse with their servants and hinds, such as are unequal, inferior to them, and of a contrary disposition; or else, as some do, avoid solitariness, spend their time with lewd fellows in taverns and ale-houses, and thence addict themselves to some unlawful disports, or dissolute courses.”-BURTON'S Anatomy of Melancholy, p. 88.
Another marvelous feature in our eccentric nature is that the emanations of genius seem to be original, and irrespective of parentage, blood, or moral destiny.
Columbus was the son of a weaver, and a weaver himself. Rabelais son of an apothecary. Claude Lorraine was bred a pastry-cook. Molière son of a tapestry-maker. Cervantes served as a common soldier. Homer was a beggar. Hesiod was the son of a small farmer. Demosthenes of a cutler. Terence was a slave. Richardson was a printer. Oliver Cromwell the son of a brewer. Howard an apprentice to a grocer. Benjamin Franklin a journeyman printer. Dr. Thomas, Bishop of Worcester, son of a linen draper. Daniel Defoe was a hosier, and the son of a butcher. Whitfield son of an inn-keeper at Gloucester. Sir Cloudesly Shovel, rear-admiral of England, was an apprentice to a shoemaker, and afterwards a cabin boy. Bishop Prideaux worked in the kitchen at Exeter College, Oxford. Cardinal Wolsey son of a butcher. Ferguson was a shepherd. Niebuhr was a peasant. Thomas Paine son of a stay-maker at Thetford. Dean Tucker was the son of a small farmer in Cardiganshire, and performed his journey to Oxford on foot. Edmund Halley was the son of a soap-boiler at Shoreditch. Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich, son of a farmer at Ashby de la Zouch. William Hogarth was put apprentice to an engraver of pewter pots. Dr. Mountain, Bishop of Durham, was the son of a beggar. Lucian was the son of a statuary. Virgil a potter. Horace of a shopkeeper. Plautus a baker. Shakspeare the son of a woolstapler. Milton of a money-scrivener. Cowley son of a hatter. Mallet rose from poverty. Pope son of a merchant. Gay was apprentice to a silk mercer. Dr. Samuel Johnson was son of a bookseller at Litchfield. Akenside son of a butcher at Newcastle. Collins son of a hatter. Samuel Butler son of a farmer. Ben Jonson worked some time as a bricklayer. Robert Burns was a ploughman in Ayrshire. Thomas Chatterton son of a sexton at Radcliff church, Bristol. Thomas Gray was the son of a money-scrivener. Matthew Prior son of a joiner in London. Henry Kirke White son of a butcher at Nottingham. Bloom'field and Gifford were shoemakers. Addison, Goldsmith, Otway, and Canning were sons of clergymen. Porson son of a parish clerk. The mechanic arts especially have reason to be proud of the contributions which their pursuits, leading to a directness and practical exercise of the intellectual faculties, have added to the glorious constellation of talent which has illuminated the world." —New York Star.
And although genius is of celestial origin, and gives us all our best attributes, yet its fate is a mournful commentary upon the transient light which beams from human glory.
“Homer was a beggar, Plautus turned a mill, Terence was a slave, Boethius died in jail; Paul Borghese had fourteen different trades, and yet starved with them all; Tasso was often distressed for 5s.; Bentevoglio was refused admittance into a hospital he had himself erected; Cervantes died of hunger; Camoens, the celebrated writer of The Lusiad, ended his days in an almshouse; and Vaugelas left his body to the surgeons to pay his debts as far as it would go. In our own country, Bacon lived a life of meanness and distress; Sir Walter Raleigh died on the scaffold; Spenser, the charming Spenser, died forsaken and in want; the death of Collins came through neglect, first causing mental derangement:
“ 'Each lonely scene shall thee restore,
For thee the tear be duly shed;
And mourn'd tho’ Pity's self be dead.' “Milton sold his copyright of Paradise Lost for £15, at three
payments, and finished his life in obscurity; Dryden lived in poverty and died in distress; Otway died prematurely and through hunger; Lee died in the streets; Steele lived a life of perfect warfare with bailiffs; Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield was sold for a trifle, to save him from the gripe of the law; Fielding lies in the burying-ground of the English factory at Lisbon, without a stone to mark the spot; Savage died in prison at Bristol, where he was confined for a debt of £8; Butler lived in penury, and died poor; Chatterton, the child of genius and misfortune, destroyed himself!"
All men bow to the acknowledged truth and beauty of wisdom, but follow the lurking impulses of passion. Even these plain and beautiful precepts, however loved and admired, are practically unheeded and neglected. The laws of God, and the dictates of common prudence, are alike forgotten, and man listlessly floats down upon the stream of time, heedless, thoughtless, and self-willed.
EXTRACTS FROM BULWER. “Never chase a lie, for, if you keep quiet, truth will eventually overtake and destroy it.
“Never trust a person who solicits your confidence, for, in all probability, he will betray you.
“If you want to make a fool of a man, first see if you can easily flatter him, and if you can succeed, your purpose is half gained.
"Secure the approbation of the aged, and you will enjoy the confidence, if not the love, of the young.
“Our affections and our pleasures resemble those fabulous trees described by St. Oderie; the fruits which they bring forth are no sooner ripened into maturity than they are transformed into birds and fly away.
“By examining the tongue of the patient, physicians find out the disease of the body, and philosophers the disease of the mind.
“There is nothing that a vicious man will not do to appear virtuous! He loves nothing so well as his mask. I have known persons who in four weeks have not changed shirts; but who have nevertheless put on a clean collar daily, that they may appear clean.
“A man of an open character naturally discovers his faults more than virtues—the former are not easily forgiven, because the latter are not seen.
“Cato the elder was wont to say that the Romans were like sheep-a man were better to drive a flock of them, than one of them.'
“Those who are easily flattered, are always easily cheated.”
The quotations from WATTS and others, thrown into this work, contain the pith and strength of refined and vigorous intellects upon the points noticed; and are invoked as well for this as for the purpose of showing that the object here is to point out the wayside signals of human imperfection.
The depravities, eccentricities, and follies of man are not held up for scorn, but for pity; not for ridicule, but for profitable reflection; not in a spirit of criticism and fault-finding, but as it were to thrust the mirror of man's inmost soul before his reluctant gaze, and force him to pause and ponder on his dark deformities; to expose the hidden elements of self-destruction that swell his vile and wicked heart; to warn him how his judgment and conscience are beguiled and misled by his beastly passions and brutal propensities; how he vainly imagines that what he sees and thinks was never known before; how he encourages vanity, self-will, jealousy, suspicion, hatred, revenge, and infidelity; how he would doom himself and others down in ignorance, lust, and superstition; how he wilfully and blindly refuses to admire and adore the glorious transports and the rapturous inspirations poured in upon him from every star in the heavens, and every fragrant grove and sparkling rill in this golden Paradise of God.
And thus the wayward contrarieties of man fill up his cup with ills and sorrow of his own creation; night and rest are profaned by debauchery; diseased and heated appetite is glutted; health, honor, and self-respect defied; hard-earned means are squandered; debts unnecessarily and fraudulently incurred; brutal impulses wantonly indulged; and voluntary infamy and ruin are madly rushed on.
Blind man, mysterious and ungovernable! conscious of ill, and still led blindly on to do it; thy better self, the child of love and truth; thy wicked heart, on mischief firmly bent; no harmony of thought and action ; fierce and discordant attributes, baffling and frustrating analogy, reason, duty, and selfprotection, and knowing nothing beyond invincible, blind, degenerate choice; looming and weaving for thy inevitable and fatal destiny for life and death,
The warp and woof of human woe!