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mission of it; and history informs us, that by a shew
world was greater than himself: so he wounded himself with his own sword for envy and disappointment; and when his wound was dressed by those who wished to save his life, he tore it open, and died wallowing in his blood. All this foul rage of republican enthusiasm is turned into a fine scene of patriotic virtue; the man dies with honour, and the guilt of his blood is laid upon the world; that is, in effect, upon the providence of God, which raised Caesar to be Emperor of Rome. This artifice has been attended with fatal effects: the story thus disguised has been adopted as a noble precedent, and pleaded as a sufficient treason by persons who have destroyed themselves; of which I might .give you several examples, and some of them very striking. When the imaginations of men are thus wrought upon by false pictures, and fine verses, there is very little difference between poetry and poison: only the sin is greater in poisoning the mind than in poisoning the body.
Another artist of the same profession commemorates the death of a certain lady, who murdered herself because she had entertained a criminal passion, in which she was disappointed, and could not bear it. Here is a precious picture for a poet to work upon. In the first place, her crime is misfortune: instead of guilty and desperate, she is called unfortunate: then, the self-murderer is made an honourable character, because it is Roman, and as such must be great and brave: her desires were the more noble for being unlawful, for so were the desires of Lucifer; and therefore her mind had in it the greatness of an angel *; that is, of a fallen angel, a devil: in the ground where *he is buried, she is pronounced to rest in peace: and
• See Note 1, at the end.
angels make it holy by spreading their wings over it. These are called flowers of poetry, but they are in reality the poisonous weeds of a wild and ungodly imagination. What grandeur and sublimity is here given to those unrestraiaed passions which ruin the .world, and make a hell upon earth! Take these sentiments out of their poetical dress, and they are no better than madness and blasphemy; but in (it, they dazzle the eyes of the vain and unthinking, and do irreparable mischief. When we see poets thus misapplying their talents, and combining with the great adversary of mankind, that they may be admired for their wit, while they are doing all they can to destroy the world, one could wish they were all banished out of a Christian country: but as if this were not enough, sentimental novelists add themselves to the party, and teach us, what is horrible to hear, that self-murder may be an act of piety! farther than which, madness itself can never go *.
From the whole of this subject, you must see what is the dangerous situation of miserable man: deceived by his imagination, how he is agitated by the winds of his own passion, and drawn out of his course by the false lights held out to him by the deceivers and corrupters of mankind? Beware therefore of men, and fly to God, who alone can support and deliver us under the trials of this mortal life. Danger destroys many; but danger awaits all: even those that are saved must first be tried. There never was a saint who found his way to heaven, but after some great tribulation, of which the world perhaps knew little or nothing. Many things pass between God's providence and the heart of a poor sinner, which can neither be
* See Note 2.
described, nor forgotten: the soul is brought inta some strait, out of which it seems impossible to escape, that it may feel its own insufficiency, and depend only and wholly upon the sufficiency of God: in other words, that it may he convinced of the truth of the principle, on which it is to be be saved; of which principle the world knows nothing, and it is lost for want of it We have a great pattern of this in the history of the children of Israel, when they were brought out of Egypt: the Church of God was led forth in a direction toward the Red Sea. The waters were before them; the Egyptians were behind them: if they went forward, they were drowned; if they went backward, they were slain: they could do nothing but stand still; they did so; and they saw the salvation of God *. It is not a time to learn these lessons when the evil is upon us: they must have been learned before, or we shall not be able to stand in the evil day.
That God brings good men into -difficulties out of which he alone can save them, is a doctrine which none but good men can understand or believe. And let them never be discouraged; such trouble is no sign that God has forsaken them; it is a sign that God hath adopted them for his children, and will save them at last. One of the greatest favourites of heaven, the patriarch Jacob, was exercised with these trials; but under them all God was present to his faith; redeeming him from all evil; and whenever we are in extremity, let his words be a lesson to us.—Z have waited for thy Salvation, O Lord.
* See Note 3.
THE Poet in his Elegy on an unfortunate Lady who killed herself for love (I believe incestuous) thus blends his praises with his lamentations.
First, it is made questionable whether it can be any crime in heaven to act the part of a Roman, and the lady is celebrated for think. ing greatly and dying bravely : that as she soared above vulgar passion in the practice of incest, her ambition was sanctified by the example of aspiring to angels and gods, that is devils; for he can allude to nothing but the fall of Lucifer, whose fall is called a glorious one. The poet, seeming to think himself in possession of St. Peter's keys, makes no doubt but that the pure spirit of this self-murdress (who made Lucifer her pattern) is gone to heaven, its congenial place. Yet such is the consistency of a poet's logic, that he pray8 heaven that the lasting lustre, the great sentiments, and the heroic death of this woman, may be sent as a curse, and a sudden vengeance on the posterity of those who crossed her desires. So are they all to perish ; that is, they are to indulge the passion of angels and gods, and die an honourable Roman death, receive the protection of angels' wings over their graves, and consecrate the unconsecrated ground in which self-murderers are buried ? -
Our studies of late have encouraged a sort of religion which has no devotion in it; while it affects superior rationality, it leaves us there, and so we are destitute of that divine comfort without which the soul of a Christian cannot weather the storms of life.