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and in the training of his faculties for the gladiatorial contests of professional life. He was ordained by one of the deprived bishops, in 1658; and soon won the good-will of the Presbyterians by a sermon directed against the Independents. In 1660, he was made University Orator, and in July of the same year he preached his celebrated discourse, The Scribe Instructed, before the king's commissioners, who met at Oxford soon after the restoration, for the visitation of the University. South at this time was twenty-seven years old; and the sermon, in respect to style, arrangement, and strength of intellect and character, is one of his greatest and most characteristic productions, and indicates both the bias and energy of bis mind. It especially displays that masterly arrangement of his matter, that thorough comprehension of his subject, and that vitality and vividness of expression, which have given his sermons with some a place in literature even higher than in divinity.
The object of the discourse is to set forth the qualifica. tions of the Christian preacher, and to show by ridicule and argument the absurdity and wickedness involved in assuming to be a minister of the word without competent ability, knowledge, and preparation. He especially insists on intellectual qualifications, and their improvement by habitual exercise. Defining divinity as “a doctrine treating of the nature, attributes, and works of the great God, as he stands related to rational creatures, and the
how rational creatures may serve, worship, and enjoy him,” he asks if a doctrine of that “ depth, that height, that vast compass, grasping within it all the perfections and dimensions of human science, does not worthily claim all the preparations whereby the wit and industry of man can fit him for it?" He opposes levity and stupidity as the two faults of most sermonmongers, those who put their prayers in such a dress as if they did not supplicate, but compliment Almighty God, and those who lie “grovelling on the ground with a dead and contemptible flatness,” passing off dulness as a mark of regeneration. The most splendid part of the sermon is the passage relating to the eloquence of the Bible, in which South enforces the duty of the minister to employ rich and significant expression in conveying the truths of the gospel. As he fears that this may bring down the opposition of such as call speaking a coherently upon any sacred
subject an offering of strange fire, and account the being pertinent even the next door to the being profane,” he adduces Scripture authority for magnificence of language, and boldly pronounces the Bible a system of the best rhetoric, as well as a body of religion.
“As the highest things require the highest expressions, so we shall find nothing in Scripture so high in itself, but it is reached and sometimes overtopped by the sublimity of the expression.”
The passions he deems to have been more powerfully described by the Hebrew than the heathen poets.
“ Where do we read," he asks,“ such strange risings and fallings, now the faintings and languishings, now the terrors of astonishment, venting themselves in such high amazing strains, as in Psalm lxxvij.? Or where did we ever find sorrow flowing forth in such a natural prevailing pathos, as in the lamentations of Jeremy? One would think that every letter was written with a tear, every word was the noise of a breaking heart; that the author was a man compacted of sorrows, disciplined to grief from his infancy, one who never breathed but in sighs, nor spoke but in a groan."
He pounces upon Politian, for saying that he abstained from reading the Scriptures for fear they would spoil his style, and calls him a blockhead as well as an atheist, – one who had “as small a gust for the elegancies of expression as the sacredness of the matter." There are few clergymen who would not find the reading of this sermon profitable, and few parishioners who would not be grateful if its advice were more generally followed.
No one could have heard or read this discourse without perceiving that a powerful and daring character was rising in the church, - one who could enforce and defend his doctrines and discipline with all the energy of a fanatic and all the acuteness of a philosopher. South was soon after made domestic chaplain to Clarendon. In January, 1662-3, he preached before King Charles the Second, at Whitehall, on occasion of the anniversary of the "execrable murder of King Charles the First, of glorious memory,” his celebrated sermon, Pretence of Conscience no Excuse for Rebellion. This is a perfect shriek of loyalty ; and although South's discourses are all more or less sprinkled with bitter allusions to the political and religious conduct of the
Parliamentarians, it is in this sermon that his zeal and rage rise to their most portentous excesses. He loses here that quiet command of his hatred, which makes the gibes and jests directed against the Puritans in The Scribe Instructed so galling and effective. He dedicates the sermon to the “never-dying memory” of Charles the First, and adds, as
. a precious piece of history, that he was “causelessly rebelled against, inhumanly imprisoned, and at length barbarously murdered before the gates of his own palace, by the worst of men and the most obliged of subjects.”
The sermon itself is well worthy of the dedication. The fiery spirit of the preacher throws off at times splendid specimens of vehement rhetoric,
“ that bound and blaze along Their devious course, magnificently wrong"; but the whole sermon seems at this day rather a caricature than a panegyric of the monarch ; - a man sedulous of propriety rather than virtue, whose misfortune it was to embody all the characteristics of political crime but its energies, and who, in his dealings with his adversaries, trusted to sys. tematic falsehood as the means by which in the end he could “feed fat the hungry grudges of his smiling rancor and his cringing pride." Charles is often represented, or rather misrepresented, as the perfection of kings and men. But South tells us, that he was a David, a saint, a king. He had so many excellences, that he would have deserved a kingdom, had he not inherited one. His genius was so controlling, that in every science he attempted he did not so much study as reign. His writings have such a commanding
a and majestic pathos, that they seem to have been written with a sceptre instead of a pen. He was pious beyond expression; as eminent for frequenting the temple as Solomon was for building one ; could defend his religion as a king, dispute for it as a divine, and die for it as a martyr. If ever the lion and the lamb dwelt together, it was in his royal breast. He was, indeed, a prince whose virtues were as prodigious as his sufferings, and “a father of his country, if but for this only, that he was the father of such a son.” It is but justice to say, that Charles the Second had not at this time fully developed his large capacities for knavery and licentiousness, nor attempted to barter away the rights
and interests of his people to pay the expenses of his debaucheries.
The persons who arrayed themselves against Charles the Firsi were the most unnatural and godless of traitors. In the first stage of their rebellion, they invented the “covenant,” like those who are said to have made a nant with hell and an agreement with death.”
This was the most solemn piece of perjury, the most fatal engine against the church, the bane of monarchy, the greatest snare of souls, and mystery of iniquity, that ever was hammered out by the wit and wickedness of man. The king was murdered by the refuse of his people, the scum of the nation, that is, by what at that time was the uppermost and basest part of it. Like Actæon, he was torn by a pack of bloodhounds. The difference between being conquered and slain by another king, and being killed by infamous rebels, was the difference between being torn by a lion and being eat up with vermin. His sufferings it is no blasphemy to compare with Christ's, though his murderers were worse than the Jews. With devilish ingenuity, they proposed various ways of putting him to death, all methods which either their malice could suggest, or their own guilt deserve. After his death, they tried to assassinate bis fame and butcher his reputation, — to such a height of tyranny did the remorseless malice of these embittered rebels rise. They searched his dead body to see if it was not infected with some disgraceful disease. But such maladies were confined to his murderers, to such men as Clement and Peters. The body of Charles had none of the ruins and genteel rottenness of modern debauchery. It was firm and clear like his conscience; he fell like the cedar, no less fragrant than tall and stately. All who opposed Charles are treated by South with remorseless severity. Sir Harry Vane is that worthy knight who was executed on Tower-hill ; Milton is " the Latin advocate, who, like a blind adder, has spit so much venom on the king's person and cause.”
It is curious, in reading this sermon, and some of Milton's prose, to note the extraordinary virulence and remorselessness with which the paper wars of the time were conducted. Controversialists represented each other more as fiends than men ; and mutual denunciation foamed into madness. South writes with the rage and impatience of a man who would sweep, if he could, the enemies of church and king to perdition, with one wave of his pen. He says, “I do well to be angry.” Milton's rage is deeper and more condensed, and prompts more awful denunciations. Thus, at the end of the sublime prose hymn which concludes his early work, Of Reformation in England, he prays that those " who, by impairing and diminution of the true faith, the distresses and servitude of their country, aspire to high dignity, rule, and promotion here, after a shameful end in this life (which God grant them), shall be thrown down eternally into the darkest and deepest gulf of hell, where, under the despiteful control, the trample and spurn of all the other damned, that in the anguish of their torture shall have no other ease than to exercise a raving and bestial tyranny over them as their slaves and negroes, they shall remain in that plight for ever, the basest, the lowermost, the most dejected, most underfoot and downtrodden vassals of perdition.” The whole royalist body, in the modest excesses of their rhetorical execrations, could not have gone beyond this determined and terrible invective. There is nothing in South's writings which approaches it in stern and superhuman, if not inhuman, severity.
In November, 1662, South preached at St. Paul's his sermon on Man created in the Image of God. This we deem, on the whole, his greatest production ; it stands, with
; that of Chillingworth on the Form and Spirit of Godliness, in the very front rank of sermons. It is, perhaps, the best and fairest expression of South's mind, considered apart from his inveterate prejudices, and indicates the capacity of his intellect and imagination in the region of pure thought. In this discourse, he draws a portrait of the ideal man, as he supposes him to have existed in paradise, and states what constitutes perfection in the understanding, will, passions, and affections. The vigor and clearness of thought and expression in this noble treatise on human nature would alone be sufficient to place South high in the sliding scale of English prose-writers. There runs through the discourse an air of
majestic pathos and regret, arising from the contrast between the real and the ideal man. Several sentences remind us of Pascal. South, too, exalts the dignity of human nature, while mourning over its fall. We may, he says, “collect the excellency of the understanding then, by the glorious remainders of it now, and guess at the stateliness of the build