« PreviousContinue »
applied to the perishing body in which for awhile the immortal soul of man is clothed !
Again Shakspere, as well as the Bible, enjoins us “ To do what we do, unfeignedly.”—King Richard III., i. 4. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.”—Ecclesiastes, ix. 10.
Again, how consonant with Holy Scripture are the following:
No more can you distinguish of a man,
And here we may remark, by the way, that the Petition in our Litany, “Good Lord deliver us from sudden death,” a petition to which some persons have raised an objection, on the ground that a good man should always be ready for his dismissal, stands somewhat differently worded in the ancient sources from which the Litany is derived. It there stands thus : “Good Lord deliver us from unprepared and sudden death.” And yet, if this were not the case, it is very questionable whether any solid objection would lie against the petition in its present form : for surely it is but a reasonable prudence as regards the settlement of our worldly affairs, and becoming humility as regards our preparedness for another world, that suggest to us the propriety of beseeching God not to call us out of the land of the living suddenly and without warning.
The passage in Shakspere to which I shall next direct attention, is one which brings very vividly to our minds
i 1 Samuel, xvi. 7; John, vii. 24.
the case of the Patriarch Job, on whose affliction we have already dwelt at some length.
Why should calamity be full of words?
King Richard III., iv. 4.
Shakspere tells us, and so does Solomon, that the sun and the moon are called respectively “the greater and the lesser light.” “ The crack of doom ;" “the ending doom ;" “ the general all-ending day ;" “the blast of the archangel's trump;" the “ dreadful trumpet that shall “sound the general doom ;" “the last account 'twixt heaven and earth ;” and the final dissolution of all things ; are mentioned and described by our Poet in a manner which proves, beyond all doubt or question, his very accurate and intimate acquaintance with the contents of those Sacred Books, which the true poet, and the real Christian must alike reverence and adore.
Let us compare the description given us in Holy Writ, and that furnished by Shakspere, of the final breaking up of the present order and disposition of the material universe. We hear in the Bible the prophetic voice of S. Peter as he tells us, that “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up;” 1 and then, when we turn to Shakspere, we hear the same prophecy of the dismemberment of earth's fabric uttered in language which no uninspired writer could surpass.
1 2 Peter, iii. 10.
Like the baseless fabric of a vision
Leave not a rack bebind. Tempest, iv. 1. But we will now leave these sublime and awful subjects, and descend for awhile into the regions of ordinary life and ordinary habits.
It will be remembered that John the Baptist is said to have lived on locusts. Now some persons have maintained that the locusts, which formed the food of the pious eremite, were very different from what is generally understood by that name. But there is, I believe, little or no foundation for the various opinions which these objectors have taken up. Locusts of a certain kind the Mosaic Law did not prohibit as an article of food, as any one may see for himself, who will take the trouble to refer to the Book of Leviticus," wherein the subject of lawful and unlawful meats is fully considered. Locusts were used as food, not only by the Jews, but also by other nations.—See “ Sparman’s Voyage," vol. i, p. 367, &c.; Diodorus Siculus, xxiv. 3; Porphyrius De Abstinentia carnis, and other authorities referred to by Dr. Kitto (Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature under the word Locusts).
So in Shakspere we find Locusts (in the ordinary acceptation of the word) alluded to as an article of human food.
The food that to him now is as luscious as locusts, shall be to him shortly as bitter as coloquintida.–Othello, i. 3.
The miraculous story, recorded in Holy Scripture, of Elijah's being supported by flesh brought to him by ravens, is evidently referred to by our Poet in the “ Winter's Tale,” ii. 3.
1 Leviticus, xi. 22.
? 1 Kings, xvii. 6.
Some powerful spirit instruct the kites and ravens
To be thy nurses.
Lions make leopards tame, Yea, but not change their spots ;-King Richard II., i. 1. with a manifest allusion to the celebrated Passage in Holy Writ,' where the extreme difficulty of throwing aside old habits of sin is, in this way, forcibly illustrated.
With wondrous potency.-Hamlet, iii. 4. I shall now revert to a subject which has been already touched upon.
To a diligent reader of Holy Scripture it is well known that there is no character in which the Almighty God has thought fit to reveal Himself so often as the God of the widow and of the fatherless children. So we find Him addressed in Shakspere (as we have before observed) as the " widow's champion and defence.”—King Richard II., i. 2.
When every earthly stay has been removed, and when heavenly aid and support are most needed, then it is that the Mighty God—the “ Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort,”? cheers and consoles the heartbroken widow with the assurance, “ Thy Maker is thine husband ; the Lord of Hosts is His name.”—Isaiah, liv. 5.
In the dark season of bereavement, when the desire of our eyes is taken away with a stroke, 3 Holy Scripture nowhere forbids us to shed the tear of sorrow, nor encourages the human heart to be altogether callous and insen
1 Jeremiah, xiii. 23.
2 2 Corinthians, i. 3.
3 Ezekiah, xxiv. 16.
sible to its sufferings. No; the Bible-indited by that Blessed Spirit, who knows what is in man—deals with him as he is, as a being who is endued with certain passions and affections, which he is not called upon to crush and smother, but to regulate and control; as subject to sympathies and feelings, which he is not commanded to root out, but to restrain within due and proper limits. Sorrow man may, nay must; but his grief for the departed may be alleviated and sanctified by the consideration that it is the Lord who has taken away from him what the Lord Himself gave in the first instance. Sorrow he will, but not as those who are without a well-grounded hope of again meeting and enjoying communion with those dear ones who are “not lost but gone before” him to a brighter and better world. In a word (to use the language of the Poet, Macbeth, iv. 3) :
I must also feel it as a man
That were most precious to me. But in our bitter sorrow we may, and should derive great and unspeakable consolation from the assurances of Holy Scripture which have power to “transport us beyond the ignorant present, and make us feel the future in the instant.”—Macbeth, i. 5; Cf. 2 Corinthians, iv. 17, 18.
And be it remembered that, in our grief for the departed, Philosophy can render us no aid or comfort. The assurances contained in the Bible are the only ground of solid hope which can support us from utterly sinking in the season of bereavement, at that gloomy hour when every surrounding object serves but to remind us of the departed, be it a husband, a wife, a brother, a sister, or a cherished
1 Job, i. 21.