Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

tice, goodness, wisdom, and veracity, are all concerned in this great point.

But among these and other excellent arguments for the immortality of the soul, there is one drawn from the perpetual progress of the soul to its perfection, without a possibility of ever arriving at it; which is a hint that I do not remember to have seen opened and improved by others who have written on this subject, though it seems to me to carry a great weight with it. How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the soul, which is capable of such immense perfections, and of receiving new im provements to all eternity, shall fall away into nothing almost as soon as it is created ? Are such abilities made for no purpose ? A brute arrives at a point of perfection that he can never pass : in a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of ; and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the same thing he is at present. Were a human soul thus at a stand in her accomplishments, were her faculties to be full blown, and incapable of further enlargements, I could imagine it might fall away insensibly, and drop at once into a state of annihilation. But can we believe a thinking being that is in a perpetual progress of im provements, and travelling on from perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad into the works of its Creator, and made a few discoveries of his infinite goodness, wisdom and power, must perish at her first setting out, and in the very beginning of her inquiries ?

A man, considered in his present state, seems only sent into the world to propagate his kind. He provides himself with a successor, and immediately quits his post to make room for him.

• See this subject finely pursued by Mr. Wollaston.-Still, there are those, who will acknowledge no force in this argument. It may be so. But let them keep their own secret. Assuredly, I should never esteem the man, who told me he was not capable of being affected by it.-H.

No. 112. MONDAY, JULY 9.

Αθανάτους μεν πρώτα θεούς, νόμω ως διάκειται,
Τιμά -

PYTE.
First, in obedience to thy country's rites,
Worship th' immortal gods.

I am always very well pleased with a country Sunday; and think, if keeping holy the seventh day were only a human institution, it would be the best method that could have been thought of for the polishing and civilizing of mankind. It is certain the country-people would soon degenerate into a kind of savages and barbarians, were there not such frequent returns of a stated time, in which the whole village meet together with their best faces, and in their cleanliest habits, to converse with one another upon

indifferent subjects, hear their duties explained to them, and join together in adoration of the supreme being. Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week, not only as it refreshes in their minds the notions of religion, but as it puts both the sexes upon appearing in their most agreeable forms, and exerting all such qualities as are apt to give them a figure in the eye of the village. A country-fellow distinguishes himself as much in the Church-yard, as a citizen does upon the Change, the whole parish-politics being generally discussed in that place either after sermon or before the bell rings.

My friend Sir Roger being a good church-man, has beautified the inside of his church with several texts of his own chusing: he has likewise given a handsome pulpit-cloth, and railed in the communion-table at his own expense. He has often told me, that at his coming to his estate he found his parishioners very irregular; and that in order to make them kneel and join in the responses,

he gave every one of them a hassoc and a common.

prayer-book; and at the same time employed an itinerant sig ing-master who goes about the country for that purpose, to instruct them rightly in the tunes of the psalms; upon which they now very much value themselves, and indeed out-do most of the country churches that I have ever heard.

As Sir Roger is landlord to the whole congregation, he keeps them in very good order, and will suffer nobody to sleep in it besides himself; for if by chance he has been surprised into a short nap at sermon, upon recovering out of it he stands up and looks about him, and if he sees any body else nodding, either wakes them himself, or sends his servant to them. Several other of the old knight's particularities break out upon these occasions : sometimes he will be lengthening out a verse in singing-psalms, half a minute after the rest of the congregation have done with it; sometimes, when he is pleased with the matter of his devotion, he pronounces Amen three or four times to the same prayer ;

and sometimes stands up when every body else is upon their knees, to count the congregation, or see if any of his tenants are missing.

I was yesterday very much surprised to hear my old friend in the midst of the service, calling out to one John Matthews to mind what he was about, and not disturb the congregation. This John Matthews, it seems, is remarkable for being an idle fellow, and at that time was kicking his heels for his diversion. This authority of the knight, though exerted in that odd manner which accompanies him in all circumstances of life, has a very good ef. fect upon the parish, who are not polite enough to see any thing ridiculous in his behaviour ; besides that the general good sense and worthiness of his character, make his friends cbserve these little singularities as foils that rather set off than blemish his good qualities.

As soon as the sermon is finished, nobody presumes to stir

All Sir Roger is gone out of the church.* The knight walks down from his seat in the chancel between a double row of his venants, that stand bowing to him on each side; and every one dow and then inquires how such an one's wife, or mother, or son, or father do, whom he does not see at church; which is understood as a secret reprimand to the person that is absent.

The chaplain has often told me, that upon a catechising-day when Sir Roger has been pleased with a boy that answers well, ne has ordered a bible to be given him next day for his encour. agement; and sometimes accompanies it with a flitch of bacon to his mother. Sir Roger has likewise added five pounds a year to the clerk's place; and that he may encourage

the
young

fel lows to make themselves perfect in the church-service, has pro

* The church close to which Addison was born and where his father ministered, may have supplied some of the traits to the exquisite picture of a rural Sabbath which this chapter presents.

The parish church of Milston is a modest edifice, situated in a combe or hollow of the Wiltshire downs, about two miles north-west of Amesbury. In the parsonage house—now an honoured ruin-on the 1st of May, 1672, Joseph Addison was born. It is only separated from the grave-yard by a hawthorn fence, and must have been, when inhabited, the besu ideal of a country parsonage. It has a spacious garden, rich glebe, and commands a pretty view, bounded by the hill on which stands the church of Durringtoli.

Milston Church remains nearly in the same state as during the first twelve years of his life which Addison passed under its shadow. As no benevolent parishioner took the hint conveyed in Sir Roger's will, it is still without tower or steeple; the belfry being nothing more than a small louvered shed. Within, the church is partitioned off by tall worm-eaten pews, and is scarcely capable of holding a hundred persons. At the east end stands the communion table, “railed in.” It was once lighted by a stained glass window; but of this it was deprived by the cupidity of a deceased incumbent. The same person was guilty of a worse act :-To oblige a friend"a collector”-he actually tore out the leaf of the parish register which contained the entry of Joseph Addison's birth.

Milston Church does not display the texts of Scripture attributed to whe Coverley edifice. If any existed when Addison wrote, they must ave been since effaced by whitewash.—*

mised, upon the death of the present incumbent, who is very old, to bestow it according to merit.

The fair understanding between Sir Roger and his chaplain, and their mutual concurrence in doing good, is the more remarkable, because the very next village is famous for the differences and contentions that rise between the parson and the 'squire, who live in a perpetual state of war. The

parson is always at the 'squire, and the 'squire to be revenged on the parson, never comes to church. The 'squire has made all his tenants atheists and tithe-stealers; while the parson instructs them every

Sunday in the dignity of his order, and insinuates to them almost in every sermon, that he is a better man than his patron. In short, matters are come to such an extremity, that the 'squire has not said his prayers either in public or private this half year; and that the parson threatens him, if he does not mend his manners, to pray for him in the face of the whole congregation.

Feuds of this nature, though too frequent in the country, are very fatal to the ordinary people; who are so used to be dazzled with riches, that they pay as much deference to the understanding of a man of an estate, as of a man of learning; and are very hardly brought to regard any truth, how important soever it may be, that is preached to them, when they know there are several men of five hundred a year who do not believe it

« PředchozíPokračovat »