« PreviousContinue »
The image of a “ troubled fountain” is employed both by Solomon and by Shakspere, to denote a state of foulness and pollution, where we should naturally expect to discover purity and transparency. The wise man tells us, that “a righteous man falling down before the wicked, is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring;”and in Shakspere we read, that
A woman mov'd is like a fountain troubled ;
Taming of the Shrew, v. 2. There are no such ruthless spoilers of personal beauty as anger and moroseness. Habitual bad temper will in time disfigure and mar the fairest features. Passion will obliterate every trace of good looks as surely, if not so quickly, as does small--pox; while habitual good temper will gradually impart charms to the plainest face, so that she, who cannot boast of a single good feature, will be a more agreeable companion than her beautiful neighbour with her perfectly classical features and woefully imperfect temper.
It is owing to the pride which young ladies, who are good looking, take in their personal attractions, that they frequently care but little about the cultivation of mental and intellectual adornments ; such studies they are too much disposed to leave to the less beautiful of their sex, whom they suppose to stand in greater need of such recommendations.
We are told in Holy Scripture, that “every creature of God is good ;"2 and in the Apocrypha, that “ The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will not abhor them.”3 Hear now Shakspere :
1 Proverbs, xxv. 26. 2 1 Timothy, iv. 4. 3 Ecclesiasticus, xxxviii. 4.
O mickle is the pow'rful grace, that lies
Romeo and Juliet, ii. 3. Thus confirming the limitation which S. Paul sets to the proposition, that every creature of God is good, viz. “ if it be received with thanksgiving.”
The warnings which we find in Holy Scripture against delay, and the oft-repeated exhortations to embrace present opportunities, find an echo in the words,
Omission to do what is necessary
"Troilus and Cressida, iii 3.
Julius Cæsar, iv. 3.
Our doubts are traitors,
There are times when it would be an evident mark of folly in a man to follow the cautious advice given in the old adage “ Slow and Sure.” Who does not know that there are certain crises in the life of almost every man, when he is called upon to act with vigour and decision, to act on the spur of the moment; when there is no time allowed him for calm and quiet deliberation ; when a sudden danger must
be averted, if it be averted at all, by a display of energy no less sudden than the peril which calls it into action?
Holy Scripture teaches us that “it is not good for man to be alone;" we read there woe unto him that is alone when he falleth for he hath not another to help him up;" 1 but we also learn from the same divine source of knowledge that there are times when it is our duty to seek retirement and solitude in order that we may enjoy closer communion with our Maker, and prepare ourselves anew for encountering the temptations of the outer world. 2
If from society we learn to live,
The same lesson is taught us in “ As You Like It.” The scene is laid in the Forest of Arden : the speaker is the banished Duke :
Now, my co-mates, and brothers in exile,
In the exercise of Benevolence and Almsgiving, there are two injunctions given in Holy Scripture, which would, at first sight, appear to be inconsistent with each other. The one tells us, not to let our left hand know what our
right hand doeth, or in other words we are directed to do our alms with the utmost secrecy : the other commands us, to “ let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven."2 In the former command, says a celebrated Moralist, 3 our Saviour's sole design was to forbid ostentation, and all publishing of good works which proceeds from that motive, “ Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them.” He then goes on to say, there are motives for the doing our alms in public, beside those of ostentation, with which, therefore, our Saviour's rule has no concern : such as, to testify our approbation of some particular species of charity, and to recommend it to others; to take off the prejudice which the want, or, which is the same thing, the suppression, of our name in the list of contributors, might excite against the charity, or against ourselves. And so long as these motives are free from any mixture of vanity, they are in no danger of invading our Saviour's prohibition ; they seem rather to comply with the other direction that we should do our alms in public.
Shakspere has the same idea in the “ Merchant of Venice":
How far that little candle throws his beams!
Let us take another example of the correspondence of our Poet's teaching with that of the Bible. Holy Scripture teaches us, that the tears of a repentant sinner call forth
1 Matthew, vi. 3.
? Matthew, v. 16. 3 Paley, Mor. Ph., v. 4 Matthew, v. 15, 16.
rejoicing among the angels in heaven. we read :
So in Shakspere
Then is there mirth in heaven
We learn from Holy Scripture, that a true and genuine penitent will make a restitution of whatever he has obtained by fraud or violence. Listen now to Shakspere :
O, what form of prayer
Hamlet, iii. 3.
In the same way does our Scriptural Church exhort those who intend to receive the Holy Communion, to “make restitution and satisfaction to the uttermost of their power, for all injuries and wrongs done by them to any other,” for if they are not prepared to do this—they are not truly penitent, and therefore ought not “to come to the Lord's Supper.”
The sanctity of vows and oaths is invariably inculcated, both in Holy Scripture, and in Shakspere: but there are certain cases in which we subsequently discover that performance is unlawful. Such was King Herod's oath to his daughter-in-law, that he would give her whatever she should ask, even to the half of his kingdom.4 Her choice of John Baptist's head, of course put it out of the king's power lawfully to perform his promise. The same may perhaps apply to the case of Jeptha's vow respecting his daughter.5
i Luke, xv. 7. 2 Luke, xix. 8.
4 Mark, vi, 23, 24.
3 Ecclesiastes, v. 4,5. 5 Judges, xi. 30.