Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

tation, chiefly by his writings in controversial theology, which were deemed somewhat inconsistent with the doctrines of the established church. In particular, he was charged with tritheism, for having, in a Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy and Ever-Blessed Trinity, which he published in 1691, proposed the hypothesis, that there were three eternal minds, two of them issuing from the Father, but that they were one by a mutual consciousness in the three to every of their thoughts.' This publication led to a celebrated controversy with Dr South, of which we shall speak in noticing the works of that divine. Sherlock was extremely loyal, and maintained the principle of non-resistance to the fullest extent. His Practical Discourse Concerning Death, which appeared in 1690, is one of the most popular theological works in the language. He also wrote a treatise On the Immortality of the Soul, in which, while inferring the high probability of a future life from arguments drawn from the light of nature, he maintains that only in revelation can evidence perfectly conclusive be found. From this work is taken the first of the following extracts :

[Longing after Immortality.]

Let us now consider the force of this argument; how far these natural desires of immortality prove that we are by nature immortal. For [say the objectors] is there anything in the world more extravagant than some men's desires are; and is this an argument, that we shall have whatever we desire, beCause we fondly and passionately, and, it may be, very unreasonably desire it? And therefore, to explain the force of this argument, I shall observe two things; 1st, That all natural passions and appetites are immediately implanted in our nature by God; and, 2dly, That all natural passions have their natural objects. As for the first, it is certain, as I have already shown at large, that our passions and appetites are the life and sense of the soul, without which it would be dead and stupid, without any principle of vital sensation. For what is life without fear, and love, and hope, and desire, and such like passions, whereby we feel all things else, and feel ourselves? Now, whatever fancies men may have about our notions and ideas, that they may come into our minds from without, and be formed by external impressions, yet no man will be so absurd as to say, that external objects can put a principle of life into us; and then they can create no new passions in us, which are essential, to our natures, and must be the work of that God who made us.

And therefore, secondly, every natural desire must have its natural object to answer that desire, or else the desire was made in vain ; which is a reproach to our wise Maker, if he have laid a necessity on us of desiring that which is not in nature, and therefore cannot be had. We may as well suppose that God has made eyes without light, or ears without sounds, as that he has implanted any desires in us which he hath made nothing to answer. There is no one example can be given of this in any kind whatsoever; for should any man be so extravagant as to desire to fly in the air, to walk upon the sea, and the like, you would not call these the desires of nature, because our natures are not fitted for them; but all the desires which are founded in nature have their natural objects. And can we then think, that the most natural and most necessary desire of all has nothing to answer it that nature should teach us above all things to desire immortality, which is not to be had? especially when it is the most noble and generous desire of human nature, that which most of all becomes a reasonable creature to desire; nay, that which is the governing principle of all our actions, and must give laws to all

our other passions, desires, and appetites. What a strange creature has God made man, if he deceive him in the most fundamental and most universal principle of action; which makes his whole life nothing else but one continued cheat and imposture !

[Life not too Short.]

Such a long life [as that of the antediluvians] is not reconcilable with the present state of the world. What the state of the world was before the flood, in what manner they lived, and how they employed their time, we cannot tell, for Moses has given no account of it; but taking the world as it is, and as we find it, I dare undertake to convince those men, who are most apt to complain of the shortness of life, that it would not be for the general happiness of mankind to have it much longer: for, 1st, The world is at present very unequally divided; some have a large share and portion of it, others have nothing but what they can earn by very hard labour, or extort from other men's charity by their restless importunities, or gain by more ungodly arts. Now, though the rich and prosperous, who have the world at command, and live in ease and pleasure, would be very well contented to spend some hundred years in this world, yet I should think fifty or threescore years abundantly enough for slaves and beggars; enough to spend in hunger and want, in a jail and a prison. And those who are so foolish as not to think this enough, owe a great deal to the wisdom and goodness of God that he does. So that the greatest part of mankind have great reason to be contented with the shortness of life, because they have no temptation to wish it longer.

2dly, The present state of this world requires a more quick succession. The world is pretty well peopled, and is divided amongst its present inhabitants; and but very few, in comparison, as I observed before, have any considerable share in the division. Now, let us but suppose that all our ancestors, who lived a hundred or two hundred years ago, were alive still, and possessed their old estates and honours, what had become of this present generation of men, who have now taken their places, and make as great a show and bustle in the world as they did? And if you look back three, or four, or five hundred years, the case is still so much the worse; the world would be over-peopled; and where there is one poor miserable man now, there must have been five hundred; or the world must have been common, and all men reduced to the same level; which, I believe, the rich and happy people, who are so fond of long life, would not like very well. This would utterly undo our young prodigal heirs, were their hopes of succession three or four hundred years off, who, as short as life is now, think their fathers make very little haste to their graves. This would spoil their trade of spending their estates before they have them, and make them live a dull sober life, whether they would or no; and such a life, I know, they don't think worth having. And therefore, I hope at least they will not make the shortness of their fathers' lives an argument against providence; and yet such kind of sparks as these are commonly the wits that set up for atheism, and, when it is put into their heads, quarrel with everything which they fondly conceive will weaken the belief of a God and a providence, and, among other things, with the shortness of life; which they have little reason to do, when they so often outlive their estates.

3dly. The world is very bad as it is; so bad, that good men scarce know how to spend fifty or threescore years in it; but consider how bad it would probably be, were the life of man extended to six, seven, or eight hundred years. If so near a prospect of the other world, as forty or fifty years, cannot restrain men from the greatest villanies, what would they do if they

could as reasonably suppose death to be three or four hundred years off? If men make such improvements in wickedness in twenty or thirty years, what would they do in hundreds? And what a blessed place then would this world be to live in! We see in the old world, when the life of men was drawn out to so great a length, the wickedness of mankind grew so insufferable, that it repented God he had made man; and he resolved to destroy that whole generation, excepting Noah and his family. And the most probable account that can be given how they came to grow so universally wicked, is the long and prosperous lives of such wicked men, who by degrees corrupted others, and they others, till there was but one righteous family left, and no other remedy left but to destroy them all; leaving only that righteous family as the seed and future hopes of the new world.

|

And when God had determined in himself, and promised to Noah never to destroy the world again by such an universal destruction, till the last and final judgment, it was necessary by degrees to shorten the lives of men, which was the most effectual means to make them more governable, and to remove bad examples out of the world, which would hinder the spreading of the infection, and people and reform the world again by new examples of piety and virtue. For when there are such quick successions of men, there are few ages but have some great and brave examples, which give a new and better spirit to the world.

[Advantages of our Ignorance of the Time of Death.]

For a conclusion of this argument, I shall briefly vindicate the wisdom and goodness of God, in concealing from us the time of our death. This we are very apt to complain of, that our lives are so very uncertain, that we know not to-day but that we may die to-morrow; and we would be mighty glad to meet with any one who would certainly inform us in this matter, how long we are to live. But if we think a little better of it, we shall be of another mind.

For, 1st. Though I presume many of you would be glad to know that you shall certainly live twenty, or thirty, or forty years longer, yet would it be any comfort to know that you must die to-morrow, or some few months, or a year or two hence? which may be your case for ought you know; and this, I believe, you are not very desirous to know; for how would this chill your blood and spirits! How would it overcast all the pleasures and comforts of life! You would spend your days like men under the sentence of death, while the execution is suspended.

Did all men, who must die young, certainly know it, it would destroy the industry and improvements of half mankind, which would half destroy the world, or be an insupportable mischief to human societies; for what man, who knows that he must die at twenty, or five-and twenty, a little sooner or later, would trouble himself with ingenious or gainful arts, or concern himself any more with this world, than just to live so long in it? And yet, how necessary is the service of such men in the world! What great things do they many times do! and what great improvements do they make! How pleasant and diverting is their conversation, while it is innocent! How do they enjoy themselves, and give life and spirit to the graver age! How thin would our schools, our shops, our universities, and all places of education be, did they know how little time many of them were to live in the world! For would such men concern themselves to learn the arts of living, who must die as soon as they have learnt them? Would any father be at a great expense in educating his child, only that he might die with a little Latin and Greek, logic and philosophy? No; half the world must be divided

into cloisters and nunneries, and nurseries for the grave.

Well, you'll say, suppose that; and is not this an advantage above all the inconveniences you can think of, to secure the salvation of so many thousands who are now eternally ruined by youthful lusts and vanities, but would spend their days in piety and devotion, and make the next world their only care, if they knew how little while they were to live here?

Right: I grant this might be a good way to correct the heat and extravagances of youth, and so it would be to show them heaven and hell; but God does not think fit to do either, because it offers too much force and violence to men's minds; it is no trial of their virtue, of their reverence for God, of their conquests and victory over this world by the power of faith, but makes religion a matter of necessity, not of choice: now, God will force and drive no man to heaven; the gospel dispensation is the trial and discipline of ingenuous spirits; and if the certain hopes and fears of another world, and the uncertainty of our living here, will not conquer these flattering temptations, and make men seriously religious, as those who must certainly die, and go into another world, and they know not how soon, God will not try whether the certain knowledge of the time of their death will make them religious. That they may die young, and that thousands do so, is reason enough to engage young men to expect death, and prepare for it; if they will venture, they must take their chance, and not say they had no warning of dying young, if they eternally miscarry by their wilful delays.

And besides this, God expects our youthful service and obedience, though we were to live on till old age; that we may die young, is not the proper, much less the only reason, why we should remember our Creator in the days of our youth,' but because God has a right to our youthful strength and vigour; and if this will not oblige us to an early piety, we must not expect that God will set death in our view, to fright and terrify us as if the only design God had in requiring our obedience was, not that we might live like reasonable creatures, to the glory of their Maker and Redeemer, but that we might repent of our sins time enough to escape hell. God is so merciful as to accept of returning prodigals, but does not think fit to encourage us in sin, by giving us notice when we shall die, and when it is time to think of repentance.

2dly. Though I doubt not but that it would be a great pleasure to you to know that you should live till old age, yet consider a little with yourselves, and then tell me, whether you yourselves can judge it wise and fitting for God to let you know this?

I observed to you before, what danger there is in flattering ourselves with the hopes of long life; that it is apt to make us too fond of this world, when we expect to live so long in it; that it weakens the hopes and fears of the next world, by removing it at too great a distance from us; that it encourages men to live in sin, because they have time enough before them to indulge their lusts, and to repent of their sins, and make their peace with God before they die; and if the uncertain hopes of this undoes so many men, what would the certain knowledge of it do? Those who are too wise and considerate to be imposed on by such uncertain hopes, might be conquered by the certain knowledge of a long life.

DR ROBERT SOUTH.

DR ROBERT SOUTH, reputed as the wittiest of English divines, and a man of powerful though somewhat irregular talents, was born at Hackney in 1633, being the son of a London merchant. Having passed through a brilliant career of scholarship at Oxford, until he was elected public orator of the university,

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

view of effecting an accommodation. His disposition was that of a persecutor, and made him utterly hostile to the toleration act, a measure of which he declares one consequence to be certain, obvious, and undeniable; and that is, the vast increase of sects and heresies among us, which, where all restraint is taken off, must of necessity grow to the highest pitch that the devil himself can raise such a Babel to; so that there shall not be one bold ring-leading knave or fool who shall have the confidence to set up a new sect, but shall find proselytes enough to wear his name, and list themselves under his banner; of which the Quakers are a demonstration past dispute. And then, what a vast party of this poor deluded people must of necessity be drawn after these impostors!' He mercilessly satirises the Puritans, a sect of whom he says, 'They ascribed those villanies which were done by the instigation of the devil to the impulse and suggestion of the Holy Spirit.' He speaks in terms equally bitter and unqualified of their long prayers:—

I do not in the least question, but the chief design of such as use the extempore way is to amuse the unthinking rabble with an admiration of their gifts; their whole devotion proceeding from no other principle, but only a love to hear themselves talk. And, I believe, it would put Lucifer himself hard to it, to outvie the pride of one of those fellows pouring out his extempore stuff among his ignorant, whining, factious followers, listening to and applauding his copious flow and cant, with the ridiculous accents of their impertinent groans. And the truth is, extempore prayer, even when best and most dexterously performed, is nothing else but a business of invention and wit (such as it is), and requires no more to it, but a teeming imagination, a bold front, and a ready expression; and deserves much the same commendation (were it not in a matter too serious to be sudden upon) which is due to extempore verses, only with this difference, that there is necessary to those latter a competent measure of wit and learning; whereas the former may be done with very little wit, and no learning at all.

In 1693 Dr South began a most acrimonious and indecent controversy with Dr Sherlock, by publishing Animadversions upon that writer's Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity.' The violence and personality displayed by both parties on this occasion gave just offence to the friends of religion and the church; and at length, after the controversy had raged with unabating violence for some time, the king was induced by the bishops to put an end to it, by ordaining that all preachers should carefully avoid all new terms, and confine themselves to such ways of explication as have been commonly used in

the church.'

Notwithstanding his intolerant and fiery temper, Dr South was fully conscious of the nature of that Christian spirit in which a clergyman, above all others, ought to act. The third of the following passages in his sermons is but another proof of the trite observation, that men are too frequently unable to reduce to practice the virtuous principles which they really and honestly hold.

[The Will for the Deed.]

The third instance in which men used to plead the will instead of the deed, shall be in duties of cost and

miser find any hands wherewith to give. It is wonderful to consider how a command or call to be liberal, either upon a civil or religious account, all of a sudden impoverishes the rich, breaks the merchant, shuts up every private man's exchequer, and makes those men in a minute have nothing who, at the very same instant, want nothing to spend. So that, instead of relieving the poor, such a command strangely increases their number, and transforms rich men into beggars presently. For, let the danger of their prince and country knock at their purses, and call upon them to contribute against a public enemy or calamity, then immediately they have nothing, and their riches upon such occasions (as Solomon expresses it) never fail to make themselves wings, and fly away.

to descend to matters of daily and common occurrence; what is more usual in conversation, than for men to express their unwillingness to do a thing by saying they cannot do it; and for a covetous man, being asked a little money in private charity, to answer that he has none? Which, as it is, if true, a sufficient answer to God and man; so, if false, it is intolerable hypocrisy towards both.

But do men in good earnest think that God will be put off so? or can they imagine that the law of God will be baffled with a lie clothed in a scoff?

For such pretences are no better, as appears from that notable account given us by the apostle of this windy, insignificant charity of the will, and of the worthlessness of it, not enlivened by deeds: (James ii. 15, 16), If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit.' Profit, does he say? Why, it profits just as much as fair words command the market, as good wishes buy food and raiment, and pass for current payment in the shops. Come to an old rich professing vulpony, and tell him that there is a church to be built, beautified, or endowed in such a place, and that he cannot lay out his money more to God's honour, the public good, and the comfort of his own conscience, than to bestow it liberally upon such an occasion; and, in answer to God is for the inward, spiritual worship of the heart; this, it is ten to one but you shall be told, how much and that the Almighty neither dwells nor delights in temples made with hands, but hears and accepts the prayers of his people in dens and caves, barns and stables; and in the homeliest and meanest cottages, as well as in the stateliest and most magnificent churches.' Thus, I say, you are like to be answered. In reply to which, I would have all such sly sanctified cheats (who are so often harping on this string) to know, once for all, that God, who accepts the prayers of his people in dens and caves, barns and stables, when, by his afflicting providence, he has driven them from the appointed places of his solemn worship, so that they cannot have the use of them, will not for all this endure to be served or prayed to by them in such places, nor accept of their barn-worship, nor their hogstye worship; no, nor yet their parlour or their chamber-worship, where he has given them both wealth and power to build churches. For he that commands us to worship him in the spirit, commands us also to honour him with our substance. And never pretend that thou hast a heart to pray while thou hast no heart to give, since he that serves Mammon with his estate cannot possibly serve God with his heart. For as in the heathen worship of God, a sacrifice without a heart was accounted ominous, so in the Christian worship of him, a heart without a sacrifice is worthless and impertinent.

expense.

Let a business of expensive charity be proposed; and then, as I showed before, that, in matters of labour, the lazy person could find no hands wherewith to work; so neither, in this case, can the religious

And thus much for men's pretences of the will when they are called upon to give upon a religious account; according to which, a man may be well enough said

(as the common word is) to be all heart, and yet the arrantest miser in the world.

|

But come we now to this rich old pretender to godliness in another case, and tell him that there is such a one, a man of good family, good education, and who has lost all his estate for the king, now ready to rot in prison for debt; come, what will you give towards his release? Why, then answers the will instead of the deed, as much the readier speaker of the two, 'The truth is, I always had a respect for such men; I love them with all my heart; and it is a thousand pities that any that had served the king so faithfully should be in such want.' So say I too, and the more shame is it for the whole nation that they should be $0. But still, what will you give? Why, then, answers the man of mouth-charity again, and tells you that you could not come in a worse time; that nowa-days money is very scarce with him, and that therefore he can give nothing; but he will be sure to pray for the poor gentleman.'

Ah, thou hypocrite! when thy brother has lost all that ever he had, and lies languishing, and even gasping under the utmost extremities of poverty and distress, dost thou think thus to lick him up again only with thy tongue? Just like that old formal hocus, who denied a beggar a farthing, and put him off with his blessing.

[Ill-natured and Good-natured Men.]

A staunch resolved temper of mind, not suffering a man to sneak, fawn, cringe, and accommodate himself to all humours, though never so absurd and unreasonable, is commonly branded with, and exposed under the character of, pride, morosity, and ill-nature: an ugly word, which you may from time to time observe many honest, worthy, inoffensive persons, and that of all sorts, ranks, and professions, strangely and unaccountably worried and run down by. And therefore I think I cannot do truth, justice, and common honesty better service, than by ripping up so malicious a cheat, to vindicate such as have suffered by it. Certain it is that, amongst all the contrivances of malice, there is not a surer engine to pull men down in the good opinion of the world, and that in spite of the greatest worth and innocence, than this imputation of ill-nature; an engine which serves the ends and does the work of pique and envy both effectually and safely. Forasmuch as it is a loose and general *For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.'-2 Cor. viii. 12.-Ed.

charge upon a man, without alleging any particular reason for it from his life or actions; and consequently does the more mischief, because, as a word of course, it passes currently, and is seldom looked into or examined. And, therefore, as there is no way to prove a paradox or false proposition but to take it for granted, so, such as would stab any man's good name with the accusation of ill-nature, do very rarely descend to proofs or particulars. It is sufficient for their purpose that the word sounds odiously, and is believed easily; and that is enough to do any one's business with the generality of men, who seldom have so much judgment or charity as to hear the cause before they pronounce sentence.

But that we may proceed with greater truth, equity, and candour in this case, we will endeavour to find out the right sense and meaning of this terrible confounding word, ill-nature, by coming to particulars.

And here, first, is the person charged with it false or cruel, ungrateful or revengeful? is he shrewd and unjust in his dealings with others? does he regard no promises, and pay no debts? does he profess love, kindness, and respect to those whom, underhand, he does all the mischief to that possibly he can is he unkind, rude, or niggardly to his friends? Has he shut up his heart and his hand towards the poor, and has no bowels of compassion for such as are in want and misery? is he unsensible of kindnesses done him, and withal careless and backward to acknowledge or requite them? or, lastly, is he bitter and implacable in the prosecution of such as have wronged or abused him?

Why, what are the prayers of a covetous wretch worth? what will thy blessing go for? what will it buy is this the charity that the apostle here, in the text, presses upon the Corinthians?* This the case in which God accepts the willingness of the mind instead of the liberality of the purse? No, assuredly; but the measures that God marks out to thy charity are these thy superfluities must give place to thy neighbour's great convenience; thy convenience must veil thy neighbour's necessity; and, lastly, thy very necessities must yield to thy neighbour's extremity.

This is the gradual process that must be thy rule; and he that pretends a disability to give short of this, prevaricates with his duty, and evacuates the precept. Why, the best account that I, or any one else, can God sometimes calls upon thee to relieve the needs of give of it, is this: that there are many men in the thy poor brother, sometimes the necessities of thy world who, without the least arrogance or self-conceit, country, and sometimes the urgent wants of thy have yet so just a value both for themselves and prince: now, before thou fliest to the old, stale, usual others, as to scorn to flatter, and gloze, to fall down pretence, that thou canst do none of those things, con- and worship, to lick the spittle and kiss the feet of sider with thyself that there is a God who is not any proud, swelling, overgrown, domineering huff to be flammed off with lies, who knows exactly what whatsoever. And such persons generally think it thou canst do, and what thou canst not; and con- enough for them to show their superiors respect withsider in the next place, that it is not the best hus-out adoration, and civility without servitude. bandry in the world to be damned to save charges.

Again, there are some who have a certain ill-natured stiffness (forsooth) in their tongue, so as not to be able to applaud and keep pace with this or that selfadmiring, vain-glorious Thraso, while he is pluming and praising himself, and telling fulsome stories in his own commendation for three or four hours by the clock, and at the same time reviling and throwing dirt upon all mankind besides.

There is also a sort of odd ill-natured men, whom neither hopes nor fears, frowns nor favours, can prevail upon to have any of the cast, beggarly, forlorn nieces or kinswomen of any lord or grandee, spiritual or temporal, trumped upon them.

No; generally none of these ill things (which one would wonder at) are ever meant, or so much as thought of, in the charge of ill-nature; but, for the most part, the clean contrary qualities are readily acknowledged. Ay, but where and what kind of thing, then, is this strange occult quality, called ill-nature, which makes such a thundering noise against such as have the ill luck to be taxed with it?

To which we may add another sort of obstinate illnatured persons, who are not to be brought by any one's guilt or greatness to speak or write, or to swear or lie, as they are bidden, or to give up their own consciences in a compliment to those who have none

themselves.

And lastly, there are some so extremely ill-natured, as to think it very lawful and allowable for them to when they are slandered in their own good names, and be sensible, when they are injured and oppressed, wronged in their just interests; and, withal, to dare to own what they find and feel, without being such beasts of burden as to bear tamely whatsoever is cast

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »