« AnteriorContinuar »
his past sins!-Speaking of Mr. Adams, Mr. Fielding says, “ His virtues and his other qualifications, as they rendered him equal to his office, so they made him an agreeable and valuable companion, and had so much endeared and so well recommended him to a Bishop, that at the age of fifty he was provided with a handsome income of twenty three pounds a year; which, however, he could not make any great figure with, because he lived in a dear country, and was a little encumbered with a wife and six children.” Unquestionably, every feeling mind would rejoice to see a man possessed of so much classical knowledge and taste, and of so many amiable accomplishments, provided with a much better income ; but, surely, no blame could attach to any Bishop for not promoting a curate of Socinian principles, whose doctrinal system is at open war with the Articles, Liturgy, and Homilies, of the Church of England. The Bishop who would ordain such a man, would indeed be a traitor to the Church.
There is another Clergyman who enters the stage, in the same work, and though he does and says little, that little is not much to his honour. The only thing in which he excelled was, the making of punch, except that, perhaps, his abilities in drinking, were not inferior to his skill in preparing it.-Such, according to Mr. Fielding, are the Clergymen of the Church. The most enraged sectary with all the virulence that party spirit can supply, could hardly furnish invective so serere, or so unjust.
Mr. Fielding, in his History of a Foundling, exhibits drawn at full length, the picture of what he considered as an accomplished Christian, under the character and name of Mr. Allworthy, and several lineaments of that noble portrait he has seized with great success and executed with the boldness, and at the same time with the delicate touches of the pencil, of a master. But he was able only to fill up those lines of character which a Chris. tian possesses in common with a virtuous Mohammedan, or with an amiable Pagan. The great principles of discrimination, that exalt a Christian to virtue purer and more sublime, than any other religion is able to inspire, he has almost entirely left out. Mr. Allworthy is introduced enforcing the sanctions of Christianity, inculcating its morals, and embellishing them by his own virtues. He is the friend of the friendless, he binds up the wounds of the widow and orphan, after he has poured into them wine and oil. His heart is taught to feel for the distresses of human life. His bounty, though the hand that dispenses it is unseen, yet, like showers that fall behind the veil of night, diffuses freshness and verdure wherever it falls. His house is open to the virtuous, but unfortunate, against whom every other door is shut. All these are lineaments of the Christian character, and will, when a Christian moves in a sphere that allows scope to their exercise, shine with a soft and steady lustre. But, in Mr. Allworthy, these amiable dispositions had derived nothing from the love of God in the Redemption of a guilty world ; nothing from the love of the Son of God in laying down his life for us, when we were his enemies; 00thing from the grace of God's Spirit, by whose influence the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. Had all these doctrines been fables, Mr. Allworthy could not have treated them with greater neglect than he has done. He is represented to us, in the glow of health, and we see him laid on the bed of affliction, expecting the approach of the last foe; but from his lips, not a single expression escapes by which he appears to feel that he is a singer, and stands in need of the Divine mercy. He expresses no belief in the doctrine of the Atonement; no Faith in the Redeemer, through whose blood alone we have boldness and confidence to enter into the most holy place. He feels no need of an Intercessor with the Father, but wrapped up in his own merits, he lies prepared, as he supposes, to
appear before the throne of God, and to claim eternal life as the prize of his own virtue.-Of characters of this kind the virtues are either merely fictitious, and therefore easily supplied by an ingenious writer; or hollow, and such as rest upon no principles that Christianity teaches; while the defects are essential, and the exhibition of them is attended with effects of the most mischievous kind. From the death-bed of a real Christian, distinguished as muck by the fervour of his piety, and the depth of his Biblical researches, as by the extent of his genius, the profundity of his general learning, the solidity of his judgment, and the possession of every virtue both active and passive, let us learn how it becomes a sinner, and a saint to die. - I have lived to see this world is made up of perturbations, and I have been long preparing to leave it, and gathering comfort for the dreadful hour of making my account with God, which I now apprehend to be near: And though I have, by his Grace, loved him in my youth, and feared him in mine age, and laboured to have a conscience void of offence to him, and to all men; yet if thou, O Lord, be extreme to mark what I have done amiss, who can abide it? And therefore where I have failed, Lord show mercy to me; for I plead not my righteousness, but the forgiveness of my unrighteousness, for his merits who died to purchase a pardon for penitent
sinners." The life of John Thornton, Esq. and of bis son, Henry Thornton, Esq. (for this venerable man now sleeps with his Father,) far exceeded in real, the fictitious virtues ascribed to Mr. Allworthy; and yet, like Hooker, they were dead to their own virtue, and took up their rest wholly in the cross of Christ.
Dr. Goldsmith has appropriated a small volume to the consecration of distinguished piety and virtue, in Dr. Primrose, the Vicar of Wakefield. To give us a full view of that divine, he is represented in circumstances the most diversified ; he is represented in ease and plenty, in poverty and meanness, in wretchedness and want, in sickness and in prison; as overwhelmed with a series of disasters bursting at once upon his family, and threatening to overwhelm them in irretrievable ruin; and, finally as emerging from this sea of troubles, to adorn a state of prosperity more elevated than that from which he had fallen. We are introduced into his most private retirements; we hear him reason, and with much feeling and force, on the various changes in which he had acted or suffered. We hear him administer to his own family, and to others, the consolations of religion, so far as he knew and felt them. We listen to his reproofs, which are keen, yet tempered with philanthropy; to his instructions, which display no ordinary talent for ratiocination; to his exhortations, that embrace every topic a Moral Philosophy can supply. In his address to the prisoners, men who had been long disciplined to crimes, we have a strong and pathetic expostulation, connecting their present misery with their wickedness; and setting before them
• Life of Mr. Richard Hooker, perfixed to his Works.
the more awful consequences of transgression in the world to come. But in all this exuberance of argument, in all the varieties of motive to persuade and influence, not a single particle is brought from the doctrines that distinguish Christianity from natural religion, or even from Mohammedanism. Those mighty weapons which in the hands of the Apostles, penetrated, by the Grace of God, into the inmost recesses of the mind, and shook the strong-holds of sin, by the awful spectacle exhibited on the cross-the Son of God dying for sins not his own, the pardon purchased and sealed by blood divine,--that message of love which conquers and constrains,—which at once melts the soul, and invigorates it to new obedience,-Dr. Primrose's arms had never learned to wield. He and Mr. Adams had learned their divinity in the same school; but neither of them had imbibed the doctrines which are the power of God and the wisdom of God to salvation.-Dr. Primrose had a staff, which had been given by bishop Jewel to Mr. Hooker, and on which he set great value.
It seems never to have occurred to the Doctor, that the Scriptural system of divinity, that stands prominent in the writings of that great and good man, would have been infinitely more valuable.
It were easy to show, from many other works of the same kind, by writers of distinguished abilities and talents, how utterly incompetent they have almost universally been found, to give to the world the likeness, either of a Christian or of a Minister of Christianity. But what a Fielding, a Goldsmith, and a Smollett, and many other such writers were not able to furnish, Mrs. More has correctly and elegantly finished, in the character of Dr. Barlow, in “ Cælebs in Search of a Wife.” How shall we account for the fact, that men who have succeeded in