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their prayer, but sent leanness withal into their souls. So true is it that God's anger is often shown in granting us the request of our lips, and his love displayed, in withholding from us, what, if granted, would prove a curse rather than a blessing.
To the censorious and unforgiving among men the Bible and Shakspere speak in the same strain. Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all.?
Henry VI., Part II., iii. 3.
Henry VI., Part II., iv. 7. Another lesson which the Bible teaches us both by precept, and by example, is to be content with such things as we have. 4
“ Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not."5 The necessaries, rather than the superfluities of life, are to form the legitimate subjects of our prayers.. The golden mediocrity, “neither poverty nor riches, but food convenient for us,"6 is proposed to us, as that which, as Christians, we may venture to pray for, and may strive, by all honest means, to attain. Holy Scripture sets before us the dangers which beset the lovers of this present world, and warns us to beware of putting our trust in the uncertainty of wealth, So, in Shakspere, we are told, that
'tis better to be lowly born,
1 Psalm cái. 15. ? Matthew, vii. 1. 3 Matthew, xviii. 23, &c. 4 Hebrews, xiii. 5.
5 Jeremiah, xiv. 5. • Proverbs, xxx. 8; Ecclus., xxix, 21, 23. 71 Timothy, vi. 17.
Than to be perk'd up in a glistering grief,
And wear a golden sorrow.King Henry VIII., ii. 3.
My crown is in my heart; not on my head :
King Henry VI., Part III., iii. 1.
King Richard III., i. 3. Poor and content, is rich and rich enough.-Othello, iii. 3.
One quotation more (from the Merchant of Venice, i. 2) in praise of the golden mediocrity ;
For aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing : it is no mean happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean: superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.
So speaks Nerissa ; and Portia pronounces them to be “good words”. And so they are, for they are founded upon the general experience of the wisest of men, and are endorsed by the words of Holy Scripture.
The teaching of Shakspere respecting Conscience is in strict unison with that of Holy Scripture. He calls
A still and quiet conscience, a peace above all earthly dignities.
Winter's Tale, iii. 2.
King Henry VI., iii. 1.
“If our heart condemn us not,” says S. John, “then have we confidence";' a confidence which those, and those only, can possess, who have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man.'
1 John, iii. 21.
The worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul!
King Richard III., i. 3. Cf. Isaiah, lxvi. 24; Mark, ix. 44, 46, 48.
The instability of human life is proved by the hourly experience of frail mortality ; and, wherever that subject is touched upon in the Holy Scriptures, the Inspired Writers compare the life of man to whatever is fleeting and transient among the objects of nature, or fragile and perishable among the works of art.
It is likened to a shepherd's tent, which is no sooner pitched than it is again removed from its place. It is a handbreath, and vanity itself.3 Man that is born of a woman is declared to come forth as a flower, and to be cut down,4 and to flee as doth a shadow.5 All flesh is as grass, which to day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven and burned. And what says our Poet?
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
Or, as we find it in “the Prayer of Moses, the man of God ;”, “All our days are passed away in thy wrath ; we spend our years as a tale that is told. Thou carriest man away with a flood; they are as a sleep."
Revelation and daily experience alike teach us that our life is made up of alternations of sorrow and of joy. That
Acts, xxiv. 16.
Job, xiv. 1, 2.
Isaiah, xxxvii. 12. 3 Psalm xxxix. 5.
from the hand of the Lord we receive both good and evil;' or, as Shakspere tells us, “ The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.”? 6. God hath set prosperity and adversity the one over against the other.”
The mutability of human prosperity is shown by a metaphor which is of frequent occurrence in the Sacred Scriptures; the growth and flourishing of a tree whose leaf suddenly withereth, and whose fruit falleth. +
This is the state of man; to-day he puts forth
Then was I as a tree,
And left me bare to weather.-Cymbeline, iii. 3. Hence appears the necessity of the Apostle's warning to the rich, that they should not trust in uncertain riches, the natural tendency of prosperity being this, to engender in the minds of its possessors an overweening confidence, and to foster and encourage a false and groundless “security,” which, as our Poet tells us, “ is mortal's chiefest enemy.' Macbeth, iii. 5.–And again : “Best safety lies in fear.” Hamlet, i. 3.-So the Bible warns us: “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor. x. 12.
Poverty too, as well as riches, has its peculiar dangers and inconveniences: “the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,” “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” and the perils and fluctuations of a “sea of troubles.” Hamlet, iii. 1.
| Job, ii. 10.
? All's Well, iv. 3. 3 Ecclesiastes, vii. 14.
4 Psalm xxxvii. 35.
Yet, be it ever remembered, there is no necessary and inevitable connexion between Poverty and unhappiness. Distresses and misfortunes are sent from heaven. Affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring forth out of the ground.2
Heaven has an end in all.—King Henry VIII., ii. 1.
As You Like It, ii. 1.
cordial comfort. — Winter's Tale, v. 3.
By Adversity men are tested, as gold in the furnace ; and refined as silver which has passed through the fire, and been purged from its dross and impurity by the searching trial.-Psalm lxvi. 10; Zechariah, xiii. 9; Ecclus., ii. 5.
The sea being smooth, How many
shallow bauble boats dare sail Upon her patient breast, making their way With those of nobler bulk ? But let the ruffian Boreas once enrage The gentle Thetis, and anon, behold The strong ribb’d bark through liquid mountains cut, Bounding between the two moist elements Like Perseus' horse: Where's then the saucy boat, Whose weak, untimber'd sides but even now Co-rivall’d greatness ? Either to harbour fled, Or made a toast for Neptune. Even so Doth valour's show, and valour's worth divide In storms of fortune: For in her ray and brightness, The herd hath more annoyance by the brize Than by the tiger : but when the splitting wind Makes flexible the knees of knotted oaks, And flies fled under shade, why, then, the thing of courage, As rous’d with rage, with rage doth sympathize, And, with an accent tun’d in selfsame key, Returns to chiding fortune.—Troilus and Cressida, i. 3.
| Micah, vi. 9, &c.
2 Job, v. 6, 7.
3 Hebrews, xii. 11.