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Wherever the practice has been adopted, it were to be wished that it were as generally performed with reverence and decorum; but really, in a party of eight or ten persons, a clergyman often finds it difficult to procure silence and attention even for a few seconds, while he asks the Almighty's blessing on the provision of his bounty. . In larger parties the difficulty is still greater. I have sometimes, on these occasions, been induced to think favourably of the practice of the Quakers, whose custom it is, after taking their seats, to allow a few moments for private ejaculation. This would at least be more gratifying to a serious mind than the most devout words uttered, (as too often happens,) amidst a confusion of tongues, tumultuous arrangement of seats, &c.
I am not a friend, Mr. Editor, to long graces. Some good men are very prolix in this service, who perform it at the same time with much decency and reverence. I cannot help thinking that the best general practice, as having the best general effect, would be to offer up a few words solemnly and devoutly in the way of a direct address to the Deity, and presented expressly in the name of Jesus Christ. The use of the third person, which so much prevails, is certainly far from being sufficiently impressive; but the omission of the name of Jesus Christ is, I think, scarcely wars rantable...See Col. üi. 17.
FROM THE SAME.
INFIDELITY BROUGHT TO THE TEST OF EXPERIMENT.
Fas est et ab hoste doceri. MR. GODWIN, in writing the life of Mary Woolstencraft, meant, without doubt, to recommend infidelity to mankind; but, happily for them, he has in these memoirs exhibited what may be termed a series of experiments, from which they may learn its tendency, both as to morals and happiness.
In the beginning of the work he informs us, that Mrs. Woolstencraft “ had received few lessons of religion in her youth, and that her religion was almost entirely of her own creating”-that " she expected a future state, but would not allow her ideas of that future state to be modified by the notions of judgment and retri. bution.”
Now let us hear the progress of this self-created religion. It led her, first, to remissness in attending publick worship, and, at length, to discontinue it entirely. Mr. Godwin indeed thinks, it may be admitted as a maxim, that no person, of a well-furnished mind, that has shaken off the implicit subjection of youth, and is not the zenious partisan of a sect, can bring himself to conform tQ the publick and regular routine of sermons and prayers.”
Her religion was as chaste as it was devout It allowed her to live as a wife with Mr. Imlay, without being married to him, and afterwards on the same terms with Mr. Godwin, to whom she was at length married, only to prevent her complete exclusion from decent society.
Her attachment to Imlay seems to have been violent. His neglect of her gave her the most poignant distress. The religion of her own creating, totally unlike that which God teaches, affording no resource for her wretched mind, she twice, in the course of five months, resolved on suicide. One attempt to destroy herself is thus related by Godwin: “ She took a boat, and rowed to Putney. It was night when she arrived at Putney, and by that time it had begun to rain with great violence. The rain suggested to her the idea of walking up and down the bridge, till her cloaths were thoroughly drenched and heavy with the wet, which she did for half an hour, without meeting a human being. She then leaped from the top of the bridge, but still seemed to find a difficulty in sinking, which she endeavoured to counteract by pressing her clothes closely round her.” She, however, was discovered, and taken out of the water. “After having been for a considerable time insensible," continues her biographer, “ she was recovered by the exertions of those by whom the body was found.”
But let us hasten to the conclusion. She died in child-bed. In the detail of this awful scene, we have the following affecting passage: “ Her religion, as I have already shown, was not calculated to be the torment of a sick bed; and, in fact, during her whole illness, not one word of a religious cast fell from her lips." In other words, she died like an atheist.
The paradoxical cast of her mind was visible in other things, as well as in the affairs of religion.” She ridiculed the fashion of the English women in keeping their chamber for a month; and for herself, proposed « coming down to dinner on the day immediately following her being brought to bed;" but she was too ill to execute her design. The hour was at hand, the awful hour that was to put a period to all her visionary ideas, and all her opportuni. ties of preparing for another world, yet she would still utter her philosophical reveries. Describing what she had suffered, she told Godwin, “ that she should have died the preceding night, but that she was determined not to leave him."
Such is the good sense, such the piety and comforts of the new philosophy! These are the enlighteners of mankind. These are the people who undertake to cure us of our prejudices.!
FROM THE SAME.
THOUGHTS ON SLOTH.
SLOTH and self-indulgence are extremely natural to mar. Whoever has informed himself respecting the character of our fellow-creatures in their most savage, which is, unquestionably, their most natural state, will be prepared to admit the truth of this observation. The native Indian, as Dr. Robertson remarks, will lie on the ground for many days, and even weeks together; and will only shake off his sloth when excited by appetite, or raised by some violent gust of passion. The case of persons in civilized society is not altogether different. Their artificial wants, indeed, are multiplied, and in consequence of these a system of more permanent industry is produced; but when appetite, as well as ambition and vanity, are satisfied, even civilized man, except so far as religion has new created him, relapses into his native sloth.
Let us proceed to point out the manner in which the spirit of idleness and self-indulgence shows itself in this country among the higher and middling ranks of life.
How many hours are needlessly spent by some on their beds; by others in the most idle and frivolous conversation; by others in reading, with a view to the mere gratification of the fancy; by others in unprofitable amusements; in amusements, we mean, which tend to kill time rather than to afford that recreation which qualifies for future employment. What temptations also break in during these idle hours! what corrupt images play before the fancy! what a general habit of self-indulgence gains strength! Thus a breach is made through which other sins enter, and much of the important business of life is left undone. Sloth is one of those sins into which men fall by imperceptible degrees, and many are altogether given up to it, who are not at all aware that they are incurring any guilt. Among worldly persons, to indulge the humour of the present moment, to do whatsoever thing they like, and to do it simply because they like it, is the professed system. Their conscience is under no alarm on this account.
Sloth, moreover, is a sin into which religious people are more liable to fall than into almost any other. In Popish countries many have retired from the world under the plea of wishing to be un. contaminated by it, and have then passed their days in the indolence of a cloister, professing, indeed, an extraordinary piety, but becoming the drones of the community, and a reproach to religion itself. It is possible also, that a Protestant may choose that sort of domestick ease and self-indulgence, which is little better than the sloth of the monastery, and is nearly allied to it. In escaping one evil we often fall into another. We have, perhaps, been manfully resisting the world; we have become insensible both to its smile and to its frown; we now betake ourselves to our own little religious circle, among whom we are respected and indulged, and are little contradicted; or we retreat into an almost total solitude, thinking that we shall now commune only with God. Are ve aware of the dangers to the soul which may arise from the indul. gence of sloth in these new circumstances? The body pampered by what are deemed its lawful gratifications, the mind enervated by mental indolence, the little humours habitually indulged, many i precious hour wasted, and a life employed in discussing the controversial niceties of religion, rather than attending to its practical duties; these are some of the consequences of even a religious system, when that system allows the indulgence of sloth. Infidels have often brought against the body of Christians the charge which we are applying only to a few.
« The world,” say they, " is the school of virtue, because it is the scene of activity and exertion; there the humours are contradicted, there sloth is prevented, and the energies are called forth; there the excess of selfishness is repressed; there both the boy and the man are formed for action and extensive services; but the same being in retirement becomes soft, luxurious, and self-indul. gent, and in proportion as 'he is so, he is also uncharitable and censorious; he is first useless to others and then a burthen to himself."
These accusers of religion forget that the worlu is, itself, teacher of corruption; and they know not that there is a holy art of so using the world as not to abuse it, and of so living in it as to share in its duties without following its pleasuręs, or becoming a partaker of its iniquities.
We admit the danger lest too much solitude should lead to sloth: we even affirm that, perhaps, we are never in more peril than when we think that we have removed ourselves out of the way of temptation, and when we lay down our arms, conceiving no further conflict to be necessary.
The life of a Christian upon earth, is ever a scene of warfare. Let us reflect on the spirit of St. Paul in this respect. “I keep under my body,” said he," and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.” Can any thing more strongly show the necessity of resisting our natural disposition to sloth and bodily indulgence than this passage? Did the apostle, possessing all his privileges, endowed with such holy affections, favoured also by the abundance of revelations, deem it necessary to maintain a conflict with bis body, and shall not we? Did he contend as for his salvation, fearing lest after all he should be cast away, and do we incur no danger if we yield to our natural sloth?
The truly enlightened Christian is aware of his constant temptations from this quarter, and he is ever on his guard against them. He limits himself to the degree of refreshment which nature demands, and he charges himself with guilt when he exceeds. · " What avails it,” he will say to himself, « that I profess to believe all the articles of the Christian faith, that I presume to talk of God, and Christ, and his Holy Spirit, if after all I am brought under the power of my own body? I feel that this body is my tempter, and I must not allow even its lawful desires to bear sove. reign sway. My meat and drink must be moderate. I must beware of sumptuous and indulgent fare. I must avoid that sloth, both of body and mind, which are apt to grow upon me unperceived. I must abstain from those needless recreations which an idle world has invented and multiplied. I must reject those plausible excuses which the false reasonings of irreligious men may suggest, for a life of relaxation. I must be fearful also lest I take credit for diligence, because I surpass those idle persons who live around me. I must beware of vacant thoughts, vacant time, vacant conversation, vacant crowds of company. I must beware of trifling employments, which take the appearance of industry, while they are mere contrivances by which I disguise from myself the indul. gence of my sloth. I must fear lest I should neglect the proper business of the hour, deeming the present duty to be severe, and perpetually postponing it for the sake of doing some other thing which demands less diligence, and is more to my present taste. I must beware of slothful habits, and must not admit the vain excuse that they are too fixed to be broken. If I read, I must not do it with listlessness and inattention, nor must I prefer books of mere amusement to those which will add to my stock of useful knowledge, or improve my heart. I must beware even of unprofitable labour. I must suspect that earnestness and diligence, which is a mere following of my own fancy, which is directed to trifling and unworthy objects, which proceeds from a corrupt motive, and issues in no good or material end. I must be diligent, it is true, but my diligence must be for God. I must be active, but my activity must not be in the way of mere indulgence, it must be for the good of men. I must not presume that I have a right to intermit my work, because I am not obliged to it by human laws, or by positive claims which any persons can make on me. I must be active for the poor, the destitute, the ignorant, and the world at large, not excepting the wicked, in the same manner as the parent is active for the inte. rest of his child, the covetous person for the increase of his wealth, or the aspiring man for the enlargement of his power or influence."
These are some of the feelings of the true Christian, and in order to maintain this spirit he exercises much self-denial. When sloth intrudes, and prompts him to spare himself, he rejects its suggestions. " I must deny myself," he will say, “ or I cannot be Christ's disciple. Christ went about doing good, and I profess to be a follower of this master; I desire therefore to go and do likewise. Tell me not that I am to spare myself, Did Christ spare himself when he came to die for me? The spirit of self-indulgence is the spirit of antichrist; it is the spirit of the children of this world; it is that spirit which in my baptism I abjured, and which my profession requires that I should renounce day by day.”
One case in which an indolent slothful spirit is to be denied, has not yet been noticed; we mean the case of our religious duties. How idle is the manner in which many persons read the Scriptures! The want of self-denying attention is greater in perusing this book