תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

melted-we see it daily-but an ungrateful heart can not; no, not by the strongest and the noblest flame. After all your attempts, all your experiments, for any thing that man can do, he that is ungrateful will be ungrateful still. And the reason is manifest; for you may remember that I told you that ingratitude sprang from a principle of ill nature: which being a thing founded in such a certain constitution of blood and spirit, as, being born with a man into the world, and upon that account called nature, shall prevent all remedies that can be applied by education, and leaves such a bias upon the mind, as is beforehand with all instruction.

So that you shall seldom or never meet with an ungrateful person, but, if you look backwards and trace him up to his original, you will find that he was born so; and if you could look forward enough, it is a thousand to one but you will find that he also dies so; for you shall never light upon an ill-natured man who was not also an ill-natured child, and gave several testimonies of his being so to discerning persons long before the use of his reason.

The thread that nature spins is seldom broken off by any thing but death. I do not by this limit the operation of God's grace, for that may do wonders : but humanly speaking, and according to the method of the world, and the little correctives supplied by art and discipline, it seldom fails but an ill principle has its course, and nature makes good its blow. And, therefore, where ingratitude begins remarkably to show itself, he surely judges most wisely who takes alarm betimes, and auguring the fountain from the stream, concludes that there is ill-nature at the bottom; and so reducing his judgment into practice, timely withdraws his frustraneous baffled kindnesses, and sees the folly of endeavouring to stroke a tiger into a lamb, or to court an Ethiopian out of his colour.

EDWARD STILLING FLEET, so distinguished in early life by his writings in defence of the doctrines of the church, was descended from an ancient family at Stillingfleet, near York; and was born at Cranbourn, in Dorsetshire, on the seventeenth of April, 1635. After pursuing his preparatory studies at a private grammar-school, he was sent, in 1648, to St. John's College, Cambridge, of which he was chosen fellow, in 1653, having previously taken his bachelor's degree. Stillingfleet passed the first two or three years of his life, after he left the university, as tutor to a young gentleman of the family of Pierrepoint; and having, meantime, taken orders, he was appointed, in 1657, to the rectory of Sutton. In 1662, while residing at Sutton, he published Origines Sacree; a Rational Account of the Grounds of Natural and Revealed Religion ; a work, which, for extensive and profound learning, solidity of judgment, strength of argument, and perspicuity of language, would have done the highest honor to a man of any age; and, therefore, was really marvellous from one who had just completed his twenty-seventh year. The fame of this extraordinary work contributed to advance the author rapidly, until 1689, when he was promoted to the see of Worcester, the duties of which he continued to discharge with great fidelity, till the twenty-seventh of March, 1699, when death closed his earthly labors.

Towards the end of his life, bishop Stillingfleet published A Defence of the Doctrine of the Trinity, in which some passages in Locke’s ‘Essay on Human Understanding,' were attacked as subversive of fundamental doctrines of Christianity; but in the controversy which ensued, the philosopher was generally considered to have come off victorious. So great was the

bishop's chagrin at this result, that it was thought to have hastened his death. The prominent matters of discussion in this controversy were the resurrection of the body, and the immateriality of the soul. On these points Locke argued, that although the resurrection of the dead is revealed in Scripture, the re-animation of the identical bodies which inhabited this world is not revealed; and that even if the soul were proved to be material, this would not imply its mortality, since an Omnipotent Creator may, if ho pleases, impart the faculty of thinking to matter as well as to spirit.

After Stillingfleet's death, a collection of fifty of his sermons was published, all of which deservedly bear a high character for good sense, sound morality, energy of style, and knowledge of human nature. From one of these sermons we take the following extract :

TRUE WISDOM. That is the truest wisdom of a man which doth most conduce to the happiness of life. For wisdom as it refers to action, lies in the proposal of a right end, and the choice of the most proper means to attain it: which end doth not refer to any one part of a man's life, but to the whole as taken together. He therefore only deserves the name of a wise man, not that considers how to be rich and great when he is poor and mean, nor how to be well when he is sick, nor how to escape a present danger, nor how to compass a particular design; but he that considers the whole course of his life together, and what is fit for him to make the end of it, and by what means he may best enjoy the happiness of it. I confess it is one great part of a wise man never to propose to himself too much happiness here; for whosoever doth so is sure to find himself deceived, and consequently is so much more miserable as he fails in his greatest expectations. But since God did not make man on purpose to be miserable, since there is a great difference as to men's conditions, since that difference depends very much on their own choice, there is a great deal of reason to place true wisdom in the choice of those things which tend most to the comfort and happiness of life.

That which gives a man the greatest satisfaction in what he doeth, and either prevents, or lessens, or makes him more easily bear the troubles of life, doth the most conduce to the happiness of it. It was a bold saying of Epicurus, ' That it is more desirable to be miserable by acting according to reason, than to be happy in going against it; and I can not tell how it can well agree with his notion of felicity: but it is a certain truth, that in the consideration of happiness, the satisfaction of a man's own mind doth weigh down all the external accidents of life. For, suppose a man to have riches and honours as great as Ahasuerus bestowed on his highest favourite, Haman, yet by his sad instance we find that a small discontent, when the mind suffers it to increase and to spread its venom, doth so weaken the power of reason, disorder the passions, make a man's life so uneasy to him, as to precipitate him from the height of his fortune into the depth of ruin. But, on the other side, if we suppose a man to be always pleased with his condition, to enjoy an even and quiet mind in every state, being neither lifted up with prosperity nor cast down with adversity, he is really happy in comparison with the other. It is a mere speculation to discourse of any complete happiness in this world; but that which doth either lessen the number, or abate the weight, or take off the malignity of the troubles of life, doth contribute very much to that degree of happiness which may be expected here.

The integrity and simplicity of a man's mind doth all this. In the first place, it gives the greatest satisfaction to a man's own mind. For although it be impossible for a man not to be liable to error and mistake, yet, if he doth mistake with innocent mind, he hath the comfort of his innocency when he thinks himself bound to correct

his error. But if a man prevaricates with himself, and acts against the sense of his own mind, though his conscience did not judge aright at that time, yet the goodness of the bare act, with respect to the rule, will not prevent the sting that follows the want of inward integrity in doing it. The backslider in heart,' saith Solomon, 'shall be filled with his own ways, but a good man shall be satisfied from himself.' The doing just, and worthy, and generous things, without any sinister ends and designs, leaves a most agreeable pleasure to the mind, like that of a constant health, which is better felt than expressed. When a man applies his mind to the knowledge of his duty, and when he doth understand it (as it is not hard for an honest mind to do, for, as the oracle answered the servant who desired to know how he might please his master, ' If you will seek it, you will be sure to find it'), sets himself with a firm resolution to pursue it; though the rain falls, and the floods arise, and the winds blow on every side of him, yet he enjoys peace and quiet within, notwithstanding all the noise and blustering abroad; and is sure to hold out after all, because he is founded upon a rock. But take one that endeavours to blind, or corrupt, or master his conscience, to make it serve some mean end or design; what uneasy reflections hath he upon himself, what perplexing thoughts, what tormenting fears, what suspicions and jealousies do disturb his imagination and rack his mind! What art and pains doth such a one take to be believed honest and sincere! and so much the more, because he doth not believe himself: he fears still he hath not given satisfaction enough, and by overdoing it, is the more suspected. * * Secondly, because integrity doth more become a man, and doth really promote his interest in the world. It is the saying of Dio Chrysostom, a heathen orator, that 'simplicity and truth is a great and wise thing, but cunning and deceit is foolish and mean; for, saith he, observe the beasts: the more courage and spirit they have, the less art and subtilty they use; but the more timorous and ignoble they are, the more false and deceitful.' True wisdom and greatness of mind raises a man above the need of using little tricks and devices. Sincerity and honesty carries one through many difficulties, which all the arts he can invent could never help him through. For nothing doth a man more real mischief in the world than to be suspected of too much craft; because every one stands upon his guard against him, and suspects plots and designs where there are none intended ; insomuch that, though he speaks with all the sincerity that is possible, yet nothing he saith can be believed. * * But he that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart,' as the Psalmist describeth the practice of integrity, may possibly meet with such as will be ready to condemn him for hypocrisy at first; but when they find he keeps to a certain rule, and pursues honest designs, without any great regard to the opinion which others entertain concerning him, then all that know him can not but esteem and value him; his friends love him, and his enemies stand in awe of him. "The paths of the just,' saith the wise man,' is as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.' As the day begins with obscurity and a great mixture of darkness, till by quick and silent motions the light overcomes the mists and vapours of the night, and not only spreads its beams upon the tops of the mountains, but darts them into the deepest and most shady valleys; thus simplicity and integrity may at first appearing look dark and suspicious, till by degrees it breaks through the clouds of envy and detraction, and then shines with a greater glory.

WILLIAM SHERLOCK, whom we are still briefly to notice, was born in Southwark, in 1641, and educated at Eton school, where he early distinguished himself, by the vigor of his genius and application to his studies. Thence he removed to Peter-House College, Cambridge, where he took his second degree, in 1665, five years after which he became rector of St. George's, London. In 1680, he took the degree of doctor of divinity, and in 1691, was

made dean of St. Paul's, a situation which he continued to fill until his death, which occurred at Hampstead, in Middlesex, on the nineteenth of June, 1707.

In 1691, Dr. Sherlock published a Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy and Ever-Blessed Trinity, in which he proposed the hypothesis, that there were three eternal minds, two of them issuing from the Father, but that they were one by a mutual consciousness in the three to every of their thoughts.' This publication led to the famous controversy with Dr. South, to which we have already alluded. Sherlock's Practical Discourse Concerning Death, published in 1690, is one of the most popular theological works in the English language. He also wrote a treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, in which, while inferring the high probability of a future life from arguments drawn from the light of nature, he maintains that only in revelation can evidence perfectly conclusive be found. From this work we take the following extract :

LONGING AFTER IMMORTALITY. Let us now consider the force of this argument; how far theso natural desires of immortality prove that we are by nature immortal. For (say the objectors) is there any thing in the world more extravagant than some men's desires are; and is this an argument, that we shall have whatever we desire, because we fondly and passionately, and, it may be, very unreasonably desire it? And, therefore, to explain the force of this argument, I shall observe two things; 1st, That all natural passions and appetites are immediately implanted in our nature by God; and 2dly, That all natural passions have their natural objects.

As for the first, it is certain, as I have already shown at large, that our passions and appetites are the life and sense of the soul, without which it would be dead and stupid, without any principle of vital sensation. For what is life without fear, and love, and hope, and desire, and such like passions, whereby we feel all things else, and feel ourselves ? Now, whatever fancies men may have about our notions and ideas, that they may come into our minds from without, and be formed by external impressions, yet no man will be so absurd as to say, that external objects can put a principle of life into us; and then they can create no new passions in us, which are essential to our natures, and must be the work of that God who made us.

And, therefore, secondly, every natural desire must have its natural object to answer that desire, or else the desire was made in vain; which is a reproach to our wise Maker, if he have laid a necessity on us of desiring that which is not nature, and therefore can not be had. We may as well suppose that God has made eyes without light, or ears without sounds, as that he has implanted any desires in us which he hath made nothing to answer. There is no one example can be given of this in any kind whatsoever; for should any man be so extravagant as to desire to fly into the air, to walk upon the sea, and the like, you would not call these the desires of our nature, because our natures are not fitted for them; but all the desires which are founded in nature have their natural objects. And can we then think, that the most natural and most necessary desire of all has nothing to answer it ? that nature should teach us above all things to desire immortality, which is not to be had ? especially when it is the most noble and generous desire of human 1ture, that which most of all becomes a reasonable creature to desire; nay, that which is the governing principle of all our actions, and must give laws to all our other passions, desires, and appetites. What a strange creature has God made man, if he deceives him in the most fundamental and most universal principle of action; which makes his whole life nothing else but one continued cheat and imposture!

Lecture the Chirty-Third.

THOMAS BURNET-THOMAS SPRAT GILBERT BURNET-ROBERT BOYLE-JOHR

LOCKE-SIR ISAAC NEWTON-MATTHEW HENRY-WILLIAM WOTTON.

FROM
FROM the eminent divines of the established church, who occupied so

much of our attention during our last remarks, we pass to notice Thomas Burnet, Thomas Sprat, and Gilbert Burnet—three authors who shone with equal splendor in the different departments of literature to which they respectively devoted themselves.

Thomas BURNET was born at Croft, Yorkshire, in 1635. When in the sixteenth year of his age he entered Clare Hall College, Cambridge, but afterwards removed to Christ's College, of which he was chosen fellow, in 1657. In the following year he took his master's degree, and three years afterwards was chosen senior proctor of the university. From this period he passed many years in the capacity of private tutor to different young noblemen, the last of whom was the Earl of Ossery, grandson to the Duke of Ormond. Through the influence of the duke, Burnet was chosen, in 1685, master of Charter House College, though he was not then in clerical orders. The election was irregular, and was, therefore, strenuously opposed by those bishops who were of the number of the electors; but the influence of Ormond prevailed, and Burnet being soon ordained, all opposition to him was at once silenced. In this station he took a noble stand against an attempt of James the Second to impose a papist, by the name of Popham, as a pensioner upon the foundation of that house. After the Revolution he was appointed chaplain in ordinary to King William, and also clerk of the closet; and would have succeeded, on the death of Tillotson, to the see of Canterbury, had not some parts of his writings been regarded as skeptical. His death occurred on the twenty-seventh of September, 1715, and he was buried in Charter House chapel.

Dr. Burnet acquired great celebrity by the publication, in 1680, of a work entitled The Sacred Theory of the Earth ; containing an Account of the Original of the Earth, and of all the General Changes which it hath already undergone, or is to undergo, till the Consummation of all Things. In a

« הקודםהמשך »