« ForrigeFortsett »
Art. VIII. An Essay on the Character and Practical Writings of St.
Paul. By Hannah More.' 2 vols. 12mo. pp. xii. 290. Price 12s.
(Continued from page 446.) St. Paul's Tenderness of heart,' his 'Heavenly-minded
ness,' and 'a general view of the qualities' of his character,-in particular, his knowledge of human nature, bis delicacy in giving reproof, and his integrity, form the subjects of the first three chapters of the second volume. With regard to each of these characteristic excellences, Mrs. More's ohject is to exhibit the Apostle as an example for an every day prac* tice. In illustrating his Heavenly-Mindedness, our Author has this admirable remark.
• He was not only supremely excellent in unfolding the doctrines, and inculcating the duties of Christianity; he was not only equal in correctness of sentiment and purity of practice, with those who are dryly orthodox, and superior to those who are coldly practical; but he “perfects holiness in the fear of God.” He abounds in that heavenly-mindedness which is the uniting link between doctrinal and practical piety, which by the unction it infuses, proves that both are the result of Divine grace; and which consists in an entire consecration of the affections, a voluntary surrender of the whole man to God.' p. 37.
Although we profess not to be partial to the antithetical style of our Author, we often meet with sentences which are full of meaning and force.
• True religion consists in the subjugation of the body to the soul, and of the soul to God.'
• His idea of self-denial was to sacrifice his own will ; his notion of pleasing God was to do and suffer the Divine will.'
• Gentleness of manner in our Apostle was the fruit of his piety; the good-breeding of some men is a substitute for theirs.
A chapter is devoted to the illustration of St. Paul's charge to Timothy, with respect to the love of money,' which deserves to be read with particular attention on account of the importance of the subject : with regard to no subject, however, are the lessons of the Christian moralist so unavailing.
• Even many professing Christians,' Mrs. More remarks, who speak with horror of public diversions, or even of human literature, as containing the essence of all sin, yet seem to see no turpitude, to feel no danger, to dread no responsibility, in any thing that respects this private, domestic, bosom sin; this circumspect vice, this usereet and orderly corruption. Yet the sins which make no noise are
often the most dangerous, and the vices of which the effect is to pro. duce respect, instead of contempt, constitute the most deadly snare.'
" There are few vices,' she subsequently remarks, which separate a man less from the friendship of the world,'-she might have added, even of the religious world, but there are
few that separate him more widely from the duty which he owes 'to his neighbour,“ or stand more fearfully between his soul “ and his God;"' “ it drowns men in destruction and perdi“tion.” • Iniquity,' says Archbishop Leighton, “is so involved ' in the notion of riches, that it can very hardly be separated < from them.
St. Hierom says, verum mihi videtur illud, 'dives aut iniquus est, aut iniqui hæres.'
In a commercial country like our own, in which wealth not only is the means of comfort and independence, and the
elemental principle of pleasure, but constitutes the standard of estimation, and outweighs both rank and character in the scale of opinion, it is obvious that the factitious value of money must be indefinitely encreased. And when a high degree of taxation, the stagnation of commerce, and the depreciation of the currency itself, have wrought up the world of business to so upnatural a state, that it is necessary to bring constantly the utmost tension of effort to the discharge of our daily occupation, with a view even to an unambitious competency, it must be admitted, that the danger of our acquiring an overweening and inordinate love of that which costs so much in the attainment, becomes proportionately an object of alarm and self-distrust. Money in fact may be taken as a symbol of all that is seductive in the present world, of all that induced the reiterated cautions and pathetic warnings of our Lord and of his Apostles against the love of the world. Under no form are we, perhaps, less apt to suspect the inroads of this fatal enemy to all spirituality and usefulness. When accused, it
can always make out a good case. The love of gain is urged as duty; it is felt as necessity; it is even deplored at those intervals in which we for a moment awake to a sense of its injurious operation upon our hearts. Covetousness, however, is a vice the existence of which we are the last to perceive and the most backward to acknowledge in ourselves. We think we are 'provident for our family, while we are only covetous ' for ourselves.' The atınosphere of the world is infectious : we find ourselves insensibly catching the tone of its estimates, and falling into its corrupt maxims. The unsuccessful as• pirer after forbidden wealth is indeed not only avoided, but
stigmatized; his crime lies not so much in the attempt as in the failure ; while prosperous corruption easily works it, Vol. III. N, S.
' self into favour.' Interest is perpetually requiring this. compromise of principle, this most dangerous species of conformity to the world, --opinion. But, after all, perhaps the true source of the love of money, so disgraceful to the professors of a religion of self-denial, of diffusive charity, of believing expectancy, and of implicit reliance, may be traced to a secret desire of a more unlimited independence than that which regards our fellow-creatures. We are discontented with our allotment ; we are impatient of the uncertainties and wants, which are calculated to mortify our self-sufficiency, and to exercise our faith; we distrust the future, and would entrench ourselves in riches against the calamities inflicted by a chastising Providence. We would willingly trust in Him for heaven, if we might but be permitted to secure to ourselves the possession of earth. Such is the heart of man. But in no instance does it more awfully exhibit the hardening influence of riches, than in that of men who profess to be religious, and who may be considered as radically sincere and devout Christians; who build upon the only true foundation, but whose work is “wood, “ hay, stubble,” destined for burning, though they themselves be saved. Is there a more melancholy spectacle than that which often presents itself under forms of the greatest respectability,--a man in whom all the youthful affections, the bloom of character, the generous warmth of feeling, have been nipped and blighted by the spirit of the world; and in whom a cold calculating policy has poisoned the sources of virtue? The liberality, by means of which such persons pacify their conscience, is often little better than a tax paid to public opinion; a part of the ex; penses of their character : and they “ have their reward." How would such individuals, could they when young have surveyed as in a prophetic mirror, their future selves dwarfed by prosperity, wrecked in the calm of life, have shrunk from the prospect, and devoutly implored the Almighty not to “give “ them the desire of their hearts," and " send leanness into
their souls !" The fifteenth chapter is . On the Genius of Christianity as seen in St. Paul its applicableness, as a system, to the wants of man, as fully developed in his writings, and its practical effects, as exemplified in his character. The chapter consists of a series of general observations sufficiently connected, and happily illustrative of the subject. It opens with the following striking passage.
· Had a sinful human being, ignorant of Christianity, labouring under the convictions of a troubled conscience, and dreading the retribution which that conscience told him his offences merited, had such a being, so circumstanced, been called upon to devise the means of pardon and acceptance from an offended Creator, how eagerly, in
the hope of relieving his tormented spirit, would he have put his imagination to the stretch! How busily would he have sharpened his invention, to suggest something difficult, something terrible, something impossible ; something that should have exhausted all human means, that should put nature to the rack, „penances, tortures, sacrifices-all Lebanon for a burnt offering, thousands of rams for an atonement, rivers of oil for an oblation;mstill concluding that he must perforın the act with his own hands, still expecting that himself must be the agent of his own deliverance.'
* But when a full offer of peace, of pardon, of reconciliation, comes from the offended party, comes voluntarily, comes gratuitously, comes, not with the thunder of the burning mount. but in the still small voice of benignity and love,-free love. benignity as unsought as unmerited ; --who would doubt that, overwhelmed with joy and gratitude at the report of a world redeemed, he would eagerly fly to lay hold on an offer, not only beyond his hope or expectation, but beyond his possibility of conception ?'
• But while God, by a way of his own devising, by a process of his own conducting, had made foolish the wisdom of this wocid, and baffled the vain and impracticable scheines of impotent man, for effecting his deliverance by any conception or act of his own,--does not man's unwillingness to partake of the offered mercy, look as if his proud heart did not choose to be freely forgiven, as if his haughty independence revolted at a plan, in which, though he has all th“ benefit, he has none of the merit ? Does it not seem
as if he would improve the terms of the treaty ? as if he would mend the plan of salvation, and work it up into a kind of partnership scheme, in which his own contribution should have the predominance ? pp. 124-127.
Mrs. More does not omit to remark, and it is surely one of the most essential characteristics of the system of Christianity as taught by the Apostle, that St. Paul demonstrates, that God ' is the fountain, not only of our mercies, but of our virtues.'
• If we turn, it is He who turns us ; if we pray, it is He who invites us; if we apply to Him, it is He who first draws us ; if we repent, it is the Grace of God which leads us to repentance.'
The truth thus explicitly stated, is what we have so often wished to see more fully insisted upon by practical writers of acknowledged excellence. It is as really essential to a system of morals, as to a system of theology Its vast importance arises not merely from the Divine authority on which it rests, but from its practical efficiency in that respect in which the superficial moralist has entertained a secret distrust of its tendency. Its power as a motive, no less than its animating influence, has been uniformly testified by experience, to exceed all the inducements which the wisdom of philosophy has devised.
We must pass over, very summarily, the five succeeding chapters. They are entitled, “St. Paul's respect for constituted
authorities ;'His attention to inferior concerns ; ' St. Paul on the Resurrection ; ' St. Paul on Prayer, Thanksgiving, and Religious Joy ;' St. Paul an example to familiar life.'
Although in the first four of these especially, the thoughts are sometimes too much attenuated, and the observations too widely irrelative to the subject proposed, we could with pleasure extract many striking passages Upon the subject of prayer, we meet with the following sensible remarks.
• The success of prayer, though promised to all who offer it in perfect sincerity, is not so frequently promised to the cry of distress, to the impulse of fear, or the emergency of the moment, as to humble continuance in devotion ; it is to patient waiting, to assiduous solici. tation, to unwearied importunity, that God has declared that he will lend his ear, that he will give the communication of his Spirit, that he will grant the return of our requests. Nothing but this holy perseverance can keep up in our minds an humble sense of our dependence. It is not by a mere casual petition, however passionate, but by habitual application, that devout affections are excited and maintained, that our converse with Heaven is carried on. pp. 230, 231.
• Under circumstances of distress, indeed, prayer is adopted with comparatively little reluctance ; the mind, which knows not where to fly, flies to God. In agony, nature is no Atheist. The soul is drawn to God by a sort of natural impulse; not always, perhaps, by an emotion of piety, but from a feeling conviction, that every other refuge is' “ a refuge of lies.” Oh, thou afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted, happy if thou art either drawn or driven, with holy David, to say to thy God, “ Thou art a place to hide me “ in."
· But if it is easy for the sorrowing heart to give up a world, by whom itself seems to be given up, there are other demands for prayer equally imperative.' p. 232.
Mrs. More devotes a chapter to the consideration of the superior advantages which the present age enjoys 'for the at• tainment of Knowledge, Religion, and Happiness. Among these, she particularly insists upon the vast accessions wbich have been made to the body of external evidence. She opposes the example of St. Paul to the character of wrangling polemics ; and intimates her opinion, that
• There has seldom been less genuine piety in the Church than when intricate and theoretical points in Theology have been most pertinaciously discussed.'
The justness of this remark depends entirely on what are considered as intricate and theological points in Theology. The terms Theology and Metaphysics, have been injuriously applied to the empty conceits and disputations of mere schoolmen upon points unconnected either with real science or with practical religion. Theology, though pre-eminently entitled to