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ment, drawn from the universe and its parts, to evince that there is a God; which is a proposition of that vast weight and importance, that it ought to endear every thing to us that is able to confirm it, and afford us new motives to acknowledge and adore the divine Author of things.
To be told that an eye is the organ of sight, and that this is performed by that faculty of the mind which, from its function, is called visive, will give a man but a sorry account of the instruments and manner of vision itself, or of the knowledge of that Opificer who, as the Scripture speaks, “ formed the eye." And he that can take up with this easy theory of vision, will not think it necessary to take the pains to dissect the eyes of animals, nor study the books of mathematicians, to understand vision; and, accordingly, will have but mean thoughts of the contrivance of the organ, and the skill of the artificer, in comparison of the ideas that will be suggested of both of them to him that, being profoundly skilled in anatomy and optics, by their help takes asunder the several coats, humors, and muscles, of which that exquisite dioptrical instrument consists; and having separately considered the figure, size, consistence, texture, diaphaneity or opacity, situation, and connection of each of them, and their coaptation in the whole eye, shall discover, by the help of the laws of optics, how admirably this little organ is fitted to receive the incident beams of light, and dispose them in the best manner possible for completing the lively representation of the almost infinitely various objects of sight.
It is not by a slight survey, but by a diligent and skilful scrutiny of the works of God, that a man must be, by a rational and atfective conviction, engaged to acknowledge with the prophet, that the Author of nature is “ wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."
DISCRIMINATION NECESSARY IN READING THE SCRIPTURES. We should carefully distinguish betwixt what the Scripture itself says, and what is only said in the Scripture. For we must not look upon the Bible as an oration of God to men, or as a body of laws, like our English statute-book, wherein it is the legislator "that all the way speaks to the people ; but as a collection of composures of very differing sorts, and written at very distant times; and of such composures, that though the holy men of God (as St. Peter calls them) were acted by the Holy Spirit, who both excited and assisted them in penning the Scripture, yet there are many others, besides the Author and the penmen, introduced speaking there. For besides the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, the four Evangelists, the Acts of the Apostles, and
other parts of Scripture that are evidently historical, and wont to be so called, there are, in the other books, many passages that deserve the same name, and many others wherein, though they be not mere narratives of things done, many sayings and expressions are recorded that either belong not to the Author of the Scripture, or must be looked upon as such wherein his secretaries personate others. So that, in a considerable part of the Scripture, not only prophets, and kings, and priests being introduced speaking, but soldiers, shepherds, and women, and such other sorts of persons, from whom witty or eloquent things are not (especially when they speak ex tempore) to be expected, it would be very injurious to impute to the Scripture any want of eloquence, that may be noted in the expressions of others than its Author. For though, not only in romances, but in many of those that pass for true histories, the supposed speakers may be observed to talk as well as the historian, yet that is but either because the men so introduced were ambassadors, orators, generals, or other eminent men for parts as well as employments; or because the historian does, as it often happens, give himself the liberty to make speeches for them, and does not set down indeed what they said, but what he thought fit that such persons on such occasions should have said. Whereas the penmen of the Scripture, as one of them truly professes, haying not followed cunningly devised fables in what they have written, have faithfully set down the sayings, as well as actions, they record, without making them rather congruous to the conditions of the speakers than to the laws of truth.
RICHARD BAXTER. 1615—1091. Few writers in the English language have obtained a wider fame than the celebrated non-conformistdivine, Richard Baxter. He was born at Rowdou, a small village in Slıropshire, on the 12th of November, 1615. Being seri. ously impressed at an early age, it was his great desire to enter one of the universities, and study for the ministry. But want of means prevented the former, though he was enabled to reach the ultimate object of his wishes, by stutlying with a clergyman, Mr. Francis Garbett, who conducted him through a course of theology, and gave him much valuable assistance in his general reading. In 1638 he received ordination in the Church of England, having st that time no scruples on the score of subscription. In 1640 he was invited io preach to a congregation at Kidderminster, which invitation he accepted, and there labored many years with signal success. When the civil war broke out, he sidled with the parliament, and of course after the Restoration he had his share of the sufferings that attended all the non-conformist divines. On the accession of James II., 1685, he was arrested by a warrant from that most infamous of men, lord chief justice Jeffries, for some passages in his “ Commentary on the New Testament," supposed hostile to Episcopacy, and was tried for sedition. The brutal insolence and tyranny of Jeffries on this trial have signalized it as one of the most disgraceful proceedings on legal record. He acted the part of prosecutor as well as judge, insulting liis counsel in the coarsest manner, refusing to hear his witnesses, and saying he was “ sorry that the Act of Indemnity disabled him from hanging him." He was fined five hundred marks, and sentenced to prison till it was paid. He was confined in prison nearly eighteen months, when he was pardoned and the fine remitted. The solitude of his prison was enlivened on this, as on former occasions, by the affectionate attentions of his wife; for it was his good fortune to marry one who cheerfully submitted to, and shared all his sufferings on the score of conscience. He lived to see that favorable change in reference to religious toleration which commenced at the Revolution of 1688, and died on the 8th of December, 169
1 In the year 1662, two years after the Restoration of Charles II., a law was passed, called the Act of Uniformity, which enjoined upon every beneficed person, not only to use the Prayer-book, but to aeclare his assent and consent to every part of it, with many other very severe restrictions. It had the effect of banishing at once two thousand divines from the pale of the English church, who are called "Non-conformists;" or this number was Baxter.
Baxter was a most voluminous writer, above one hundred and forty-five treatises of his being enumerated. Two of them, the “ Saint's Everlasting Rest," and the “Call to the Unconverted,” have been extremely popular, and met with a circulation which few other books have attained. The learned and unlearned have alike united to extol them, for they are admirably adapted to persons of every class and rank in life. The reason is, they are addressed to the heart and to the conscience, which are common to all; that they appertain to that purity of heart and life which are indispensable to the happiness of all; and that they treat of those eternal things in which the king and the peasant, the rich and the poor, have an equal interest.
Baxter left behind him a “Narrative of the most Memorable Passages of bis Life and Times," which was published in a folio volume after his death. It is here we find that review of his religious opinions, written in the latter part of his life, which Coleridge2 speaks of as one of the most remarkable pieces of writing that have come down to us. It was one of Dr. Johnson's favorite books. The following are some extracts from it :
EXPERIENCE OF HUMAN CHARACTER. I now see more good and more evil in all men than heretofore I did. I see that good men are not so good as I once thought they were, but have inore imperfections; and that nearer approach and fuller trial doth make the best appear more weak and faulty than their admirers at a distance think. And I find that few are so bad as either malicious enemies or censorious separating professors do imagine. In some, indeed, I find that human nature is corrupted into a greater likeness to devils than I once thought any on earth had been. But even in the wicked, usually there is more for grace to make advantage of, and more to testify for God and holiness, than I once believed there had been.
I less admire gifts of uiterance, and bare profession of religion, than I once did ; and have much more charity for many who, by the want of gifts, do make an obscurer profession than they. I once thought that almost all that could pray movingly and fluently, and talk well of religion, had been saints. But experience hath opened to me what odious crimes may consist with high profession ; and I have met with divers obscure persons, not noted for any extraordinary profession, or forwardness in religion, but only to live a quiet blameless life, whom I have after found to have long lived, as far as I could discern, a truly godly and sanctified life; only, their prayers and duties were by accident kept secret from other men's observation. Yet he that upon this pretence would confound the godly and the ungodly, may as well go about to lay heaven and hell together.
1 Dr. Isaac Barrow has said, that "his practical writings were never mended, and his controversial ones seldom confuted."
2 Biographia Literaria.
DESIRE OF APPROBATION. I am much less regardsul of the approbation of man, and set much lighter by contempt or applause, than I did long ago. I am oft suspicious that this is not only from the increase of selfdenial and humility, but partly from my being glutted and surfeited with human applause: and all worldly things appear most vain and unsatisfactory, when we have tried them most. But though I feel that this hath some hand in the effect, yet, as far as I can perceive, the knowledge of man's nothingness, and God's transcendent greatness, with whom it is that I have most to do, and the sense of the brevity of human things, and the nearness of eternity, are the principal causes of this effect; which some have imputed to self-conceitedness and morosity.
CHARACTER OF SIR MATTHEW HALE. He was a man of no quick utterance, but spake with great reason. He was most precisely just; insomuch that, I believe, he would have lost all he had in the world rather than do an unjust act: patient in hearing the most tedious speech which any man had to make for himself: the pillar of justice, the refuge of the subject who feared oppression, and one of the greatest honors of his majesty's government; for, with some other upright judges, he upheld the honor of the English nation, that it fell not into the reproach of arbitrariness, cruelty, and utter confusion. Every man that had a just cause, was almost past fear if he could but bring it to the court or assize where he was judge; for the other judges seldom contradicted him.
He was the great instrument for rebuilding London ; for when au act was made for deciding all controversies that hindered it, ho was the constant judge, who for nothing followed the work, and, by his prudence and justice, removed a multitude of great impediments.
His great advantage for innocency was, that he was no lover of riches or of grandeur. His garb was too plain; he studiously avoided all unnecessary familiarity with great persons, and all that manner of living which signifieth wealth and greatness. He kept no greater a family than myself. I lived in a small house, which, for a pleasant back opening, he had a mind to; but caused a stranger, that he might not be suspected to be the man, to know of me whether I were willing to part with it, before he would meddle with it. In that house he lived contentedly, without any pomp, and without costly or troublesome retinue or visitors; but not without charity to the poor. He continued the study of physics and mathematics still, as his great delight. He hath himself written four volumes in folio, three of which I have read, against atheism, Sadduceeism, and infidelity, to prove first the Deity, and then the immortality of man's soul, and then the truth of Christianity and the Holy Scripture, answering the infidel's objections against Scripture. It is strong and masculine, only too tedious for impatient readers. He said he wrote it only at vacant hours in his circuits, to regulate his meditations, finding, that while he wrote down what he thought on, his thoughts were the easier kept close to work, and kept in a method. But I could not persuade him to publish them.
The conference which I had frequently with him, mostly about the immortality of the soul, and other philosophical and foundation points, was so edifying, that his very questions and objections did help me to more light than other men's solutions. Those who take none for religious who frequent not private meetings, &c., took him for an excellently righteous moral man; but I, who heard and read his serious expressions of the concernments of eternity, and saw his love to all good men, and the blamelessness of his life, thought better of his piety than my own. When the people crowded in and out of my house to hear, he openly showed me so great respect before them at the door, and never spake a word against it, as was no small encouragement to the common people to go on ; though the other sort muttered, that a judge should seem so far to countenance that which they took to be against the law. He was a great lamenter of the extremities of ihe times, and of the violence and foolishness of the predominant clergy, and a great desirer of such abatements as might restore us all to serviceableness and unity. He had got but a very small estate, though he had long the greatest practice, because he would take but little money, and undertake no more business than he could well despatch. He often offered to the lord chancellor to resign his place, when he was blamed for doing that which he supposed was justice.