Obrázky stránek

a young man of twenty-five or thirty, a question relative to these extraordinary personages, and he will be puzzled to answer.”

Who now knows the steps of that dance, or has heard the name of its author, of which in our fathers' days it was said in verse, that

* Isaac's rigadoon shall live as long

As Raffael's paintings, or as Virgil's song.” Nay, who reads the poem wherein those lines are found, though the author predicted for them, in self-applauding pleasantry, that

"Whilst birds in air or fish in streams we find,
Or damsels fresh with aged partners joined,
As long as nymphs shall with attentive ear
A fiddle rather than a sermon hear,
So long the brightest eye shall oft peruse

These useful lines of my instructive muse."
Even of the most useful of those lines the “.

uses are gone by." Ladies before they leave the ball-room are now no longer fortified against the sudden change of temperature by a cup of generous white wine, mulled with ginger; nor is it necessary now to caution them at such times against a draught of cold small beer, because, as the poet in his own experience assured them,

" Destruction lurks within the poisonous dose,
A fatal fever or a pimpled nose.

[ocr errors]

295.-Good Works.

Thomas ERSKINE. [The succeeding extract is from a work bearing the following title: "The Unconditional Freeness of tne Gospel; in Three Essays.” By Thomas Erskine, Esq., Advocate: Author of "Remarks on the Internal Evidence for the Truth of Revealed Religion.” Our edition is the second, Edinburgh, 1828. There are passages of singular force in this little volume; and the whole argument is conducted with that union of logical precision and fervid piety, which convinces the understanding and warms the heart.)

What is the Gospel? It is nothing and can be nothing else than a manifestation of God in relation to sinners. If our hearts

• Soame Jenyns.

were attracted to anything else than God, even though it were a pardon, we should still be out of our place in the spiritual system. For God is the centre of that system, and nothing but God. The pardon of the Gospel, then, is just a manifestation of the character of God in relation to sinners. And that character is holy compassion. In relation to his sinless and happy creatures, his character is holy complacency; but, in relation to those who are sinful, and weak, and miserable, it is holy compassion. This is at least the prominent feature in the manifestation, but it contains all. It is God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. This pardon, then, is an unchangeable thing, like God himself. Man neither makes it, nor merits it. God reveals it, or rather reveals himself in it. God, manifest in the flesh, becomes the representative of sinners. He takes upon

himself their nature and the consequences of their rebellion; that he might show himself just, even when justifying the ungodly; and that he might show himself gracious, even when punishing sin. His sufferings and death give the solemn and appalling measure of the divine condemnation of sin, and of the divine compassion for the sinner.

When the Spirit of God reveals this to the heart, all self-pleasing thoughts of personal merit are extinguished. What have we done to him, or for him who hath done this for us? We have paid him by preferring the least of his gifts before himself—by turning a deaf ear to his condescending invitations of fatherly kindness, and by offering him the base and reluctant service of our hands, and ceremonial of our tongues, as an adequate return for his heart's love. If we know this love, we shall feel annihi. lated by it—we have nothing to give in return, which is not despicable when considered as a payment. But he asks no payment. He asks but the love of the spirit which he hath made, as that in which he delights,—and as that in which the good and the happiness of the creature consist. He hath dearly earned our gratitude and our confidence,--and these feelings, when wrought into the heart, put us in our proper place towards God,-affectionate dependence. Affectionate dependence on the Creator is the spiritual health of the creature-as averseness and independence are the spiritual disease of the creature.

Men are very apt to consider sin as consisting merely in this or that particular action. The old philosophers taught that virtue is the mean between two extremes,—thus, the virtue of generosity is the mean between prodigality and a varice,-courage is the mean between rashness and timidity, and so of the rest. On this system, the difference between virtue and vice lies merely in the degree, not in the kind. But the Word of God teaches another sort of morals. According to it, sin consists in the absence of the love of God from the heart, as the dominant principle. So sin is not so much an action as a manner of existence. It is not necessary to go to the expense of an action in order to sin,-the habitual state of most minds—of all minds indeed naturally—even in their most quiet form,-is sin,-that is to say, the love of God is not dominant in them. The centripetal force constitutes an element in every line which the planet moves in its orbit. Were the influence of this force to be suspended, we should not think of reckoning the number of aberrations which the planet might make in its ungoverned career, we should say that its whole manner of being, severed from the solar influence, was a continued and radical aberration. In like manner, the soul ought to feel the love of God as a growing element along the whole course of its existence,-every movement of thought, and feeling, and desire, ought to contain it, as an essential part of its nature. And when this principle is awanting, we need not count the moral aberrations which the spirit makes; its whole existence is an aberration, it is an outlaw from the spiritual system of the universe, it has lost its gravitation.

In such a state of things it is evident that a pardon which did not bring back the wanderer, and restore his lost gravitation, would be of no use to him,-until his gravitation is recovered, he is a blot on the creation. Love to God is the gravitation of the soul, and it is restored by the operation of the Spirit, who takes of the things of Christ and shows them to the soul. Faith is the receiving of the Spirit's instruction. A faith which does not restore spiritual gravitation is useless; and that only is true gravitation which keeps the soul in its orbit.

The movement of the soul along the path of duty, under the influence of holy love to God, constitutes what are called good works. Good works are works which proceed from good principles. The external form of an action cannot alone determine whether it be a good work or not. Its usefulness to others may be determined by its external form, but its moral worth depends on the moral spring from which it flows. Good works, then, are properly healthy works, or works of a healthy mind. Healthy bodily actions can only proceed from healthy bodily principles; and healthy spiritual actions can proceed only from healthy spiritual principles. A man who has lost his health, does not recover it again by the performance of healthy bodily actions, for of these his bad health renders him incapable, and in that incapacity, indeed, his bad health consists ; but by the use of some remedial system, and as health returns, its proper and natural actions return along with it. His health is not produced by these actions, but it is followed by them, and strengthened by them. The enjoyment of the body consists in these healthful actions, they are the spontaneous language of health. They constitute the music, as it were, which results from the organs being well tuned. It is the same thing with the actions of the soul. Spiritual health is not acquired by good actions, it is followed by them, and strengthened by them. They are also music, sweet music. And oh, were these spirits of ours, with their thousand strings, but rightly tuned, what a swell of high and lovely song would issue from them,—a song of holy joy and praise, commencing even here, and still rising upwards, until it mixed with the full harmony of that choir which surrounds the throne of God.

Good works, then, are not undervalued by those who hold the doctrine of unconditional pardon in its highest sense. On the contrary, they have a more elevated place in their system than in the system of those who regard them as the price paid for pardon. For, according to the unconditional system, good works are the perfection and expression of holy principles, the very end and object of all religion, the very substance of happiness, the very element of heaven. Whereas, on the conditional system, they are only the way to happiness, or rather the price paid for įt. There is surely more honor paid to them, in making them the end than the means, the building than the scaffolding, -and in attributing to them an intrinsic than a conventional value.

Good works are holiness in action—and this is a chief element of heaven. Some moralists have thought that the hope of heaven

taints the purity of virtue, by destroying its disinterestedness, But they do not know what heaven is. It is the sense of his spiritual corruption, rather than the sense of sorrow, which makes the Christian long after heaven. The holiness of heaven is still more attractive to him than its happiness. In heaven also the affections meet, and are forever united to their proper object. They are filled and satisfied with the presence of God. It is this that they thirst after. They desire his favorable presence as their chief good. It is an interest undoubtedly-the highest interest. But is it a selfish interest ? Shall the desire of a son to behold once more the face of his father, after a few years of absence, be esteemed a pure and generous desire; and shall the desire of a spirit, long exiled from its native sphere, to return to its Father and its God, the centre of its being, the fountain of light, and life, and love, be called a selfish or interested desire ? No, it is a pure desire, which is sent down into the spirit from the heart of God, and which remains unsatisfied until it has again mingled with its source. No, it is a noble desire, and speaks a noble origin. And the fear connected with the idea of missing this object, is not a base fear—it is the horror which a pure spirit feels at the thought of mixing with pollution, and of being tainted by it. The desire of doing that which is right for its own sake, is in truth a part of the Christian's desire after heaven.


LEOPOLD SCHEFER. (A LITTLE volume has recently been published, entitled “The Artist's Married Life." It professes to be the Autobiography of Albert Durer; but is manifestly a fictitious narrative, the author being Leopold Schefer. The translation from the German is by Mrs. Stodart. The book is a singularly interesting fragment, and its views of art, and of the artist's vocation, are noble and elevating. Durer marries a beautiful girl who does not understand him:—it is the unhappy union, not at all uncommon, of genius with worldliness.)

The importance of the honeymoon, which had been so much

« PředchozíPokračovat »