網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

The last part is, at page 61, subdivided thus :

“ Now let us come to the channel ; Nineveh, that great city, &c.” in which words there are three things considerable,

1. The name of a place, Nineveh,
2. The nature of the place, that great city,
3. The description of it, wherein are more, &c.

The two last divisions are again subdivided, the second into three and the third into six more divisions. Indeed this part of his text affords him great scope, and he dilates upon it with infinite satisfaction and amazing perseverance through nearly three hundred pages more, dwelling with all possible

Londom pressed hard length is only to spin oce; with alter full

way connected with the subject. Happy man he is ! full of his subject, and his subject full of matter, and his matter full of importance; but how he could contrive, with all these “appliances and means to boot,” to spin out his sermon to such an enormous length is truly surprising. Dr. Isaac Barrow pressed hard against the patience of the citizens of London, when he once preached a sermon of three hours long ; but Thomas Reeve must have preached for three weeks together, before he could have bestowed the full benefit of his text on his auditors; and the most assiduous, patient, and practised saint or sinner must have been parched up in his Lecture solstice. A sermon is in general but a very dry affair, but we entreat our readers not to alarm themselves at the threatening aspect of worthy Thomas Reeve's title page; the lambent flame of dulness plays not around his head, and flatness and insipidity are strangers to his pages. God's Plea for Nineveh is any thing but dull; it is full of spirit, though of an extravagant kind, and is occasionally, if not eloquent, something very much like it, and would have really been so, if it had been chastened by a better taste. There was a sort of eloquence amongst our nonconforming preachers (and it still prevails in certain classes of them) which may be called physical, arising more from a passionate and vehement temperament than from intellectual power, and which, although despised by the educated and refined, yet produced considerable effect on the persons to whom it was more especially addressed. It is fervid, earnest, and above all, has the appearance of sincerity, of being the result of heart-felt conviction. It abounds generally with imagery; is garnished with flowers of rhetoric, hastily collected and rudely thrown together; its passionate tone is made more solemn, and its denunciations more awful, by frequent quotations from holy writ. This species of eloquence, to the uninformed and moody votary, is deeply impressive, overwhelming by its paroxysms and convincing by its vehemence; it vanquishes the feelings, but has little to do with the reasoning faculty. To the vehement declamation of this class, Reeve bears a nearer resemblance, than to that bold, rich, and manly eloquence, at once addressed to the heart and the understanding, which distinguishes some of our ancient theologians, and one or two that we could name of our modern preachers. Reeve possessed an ardent disposition, a volubility of language, and a vehemence of expression, which, in conjunction with great information and a tinge of the gloomy spirit of religion, has produced a singular combination both of matter and style. His mode of teaching is more common than eligible; he would lash us into repentance and crush us into goodness. He seems to think the work but half done if he only annihilate sin; there must be some “spiritual contusion.” “ The peni. tent," says he, “must be as it were for a while in hell, and feel, though not specifically, yet analogically, some of the torments of the damned, before he can have a sense of inward satisfaction !” Thus he would rather anoint and irritate the wound with caustic, than pour into it balm or soothing oil. Fear, and not reason, is his instrument of conversion, and he uses it like a scalping knife, to revenge and disfigure, rather than to reclaim and amend. He is not the man to entice children from play and old men from the chimney corner, with the sweet food of sweetly uttered knowledge, with words of hope and promises of love; he would drive them into the sanctuary, terrify them with his theological trumpet, blast them with his pulpit lightning. “If people would be saved,” says he, “ they must sit out a threatning sermon, and hear a rebuking priest with patience, saying, with Boniface, to Saint Augustine, I receive thy words full of truth with trembling, though every sentence doth seem to scourge me:'” and, indeed, he speaks loud enough and long enough to exercise the patience of the best disposed auditory. « The lion hath roared, who can but fear ?" He scatters his denunciations with a prodigal hand, without order or selection, at one time terrible, at another extravagant or puerile ; he sometimes startles us with a rapid succession of interrogations, and at others with his quick transition from allusion to allusion--from story to story; his similitudes and illustrations are drawn from homely, and, not unfrequently, striking objects, but then they are ordinarily without justness or propriety in the situations in which they are placed. Reeve's diction is florid and wordy, coarse and indelicate, but occasionally strong and manly; and we sometimes meet with new expressions (for he has a mint in which he can coin words at his own sovereign pleasure) and new combinations of old ones. But he never appears to be satisfied until he has exhausted his epithets, being chiefly solicitous to

give good, heaped-up measure, and caring less for the sentiment than the sound. We must, however, do him the justice to say, that he never forgets that he has to declaim on the subject of repentance; and although, when he commences a paragraph, he is like a man running down a hill, unable to stop himself until he gets to the bottom, yet he invariably returns to the course with unabated vigour, again to run the same race. · Some of our readers may, perhaps, think there is a want of application in comparing the state of London to that of Nineveh, unless worthy Thomas were himself the prophet sent to the former. He treats them, however, throughout his diatribe, as parallel cases, and particularly laments that London did not make her beasts to fast and wear sackcloth, a regulation which he more especially commends in the Ninevites. His subject gives him the opportunity of inveighing against all vices, customs, and fashions; against excessive eating, drinking, and dressing; in short, against almost every thing that can be seen or acted in a city, not excepting even his own vocation. This has produced some curious accounts of the manners and fashions of his day as well as of its vices, our extracts from which, we think, will be found entertaining.

The following passage, in which the author describes the insignificance of man compared with the Deity, is rather fine. .: “Indeed man doth bear a name for a very prudent creature; yea some are so famed up for judgement, that they are called sages; but what are these seeing persons to the all-seeing God? no, this shutter of the flesh doth hinder man's light from shining, the form is straightened by the matter; but God being wholly immaterial, a pure spirit, he cannot but transcend man in wisdom. Man doth know all things eternally, for acquisite knowledge is gotten from abroad, and infused knowledge is communicated, but God hath no derivative knowledge; to know any thing, he doth but reflect upon his own essence; those ideas which are conceived to be in God, do contain all intellectual species; therefore, who hath been his counsellor, or taught him at any time ? Man's knowledge doth come with much tediousness; for how long is he learning of his lesson? But God's knowledge is instantaneous; He doth understand all things in one, for the intellect being in act, there is an end of further inquiry. God's present intuition is fixed upon every thing that is to be known, Man doth but know things in time, and which do really exist; but God calleth things that are not, as if they were: for whereas his knowledge is measured only with his eternity, what is there from everlasting to everlasting, that is out of the verge of his knowledge ? no; entia, things that have any being with all the limits of time, he doth understand by the knowledge of vision; and non entia, which are not, nor ever shall be, he doth understand by the mirror, that is, by the knowledge of his own unlimited wisdom. Man doth understand but few things, for we do boast of wisdom; but how short principled are we ? there is an unknown land which we have not yet coasted, there is a labyrinth that we want yet a clew to pass through. If wisdom should unlock her great library door, we would think, that we had many authors yet to peruse, yea, Decades and Pandects yet to turn over."

And again, in a bolder and finer tone.

“Oh how is the world potentate-struck ? Grandee-inchanted ? we are only waiting at man's heels, listening to the thunderclaps of his lips, fearing his cold irons, and strangling gibbets. But hath not man his equal ? yes, though man do swell upon the thought of his high deserts, (and great is the haughtiness of this Achillean race,) yet man doth but stand upon the lower ground, he is but an inferior; for wipe thine eyes, chafe thy temples, expostulate with reason, awaken conscience, and see if man be the object to whom all thy regard and reverence ought to be limited. No, if thou canst lift up thine eyelids, pry into the heavens, and behold afar off that great tribunal, where thy last account must pass, thou wilt say thou hast mistaken thy awe, misplaced thy dread. Fur let there be never such tremebundoes below, yet this earth hath not the face of authority which thou oughtest to stoop unto; no, there is One higher than the highest. It is a dangerous thing to fall under man's displeasure, but it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the everliving God. What are man's fetters to God's chains of darkness ? man's executioners to infernal fiends? man's vengeance-corners to God's tormenting tophet? Fear not them then that can kill the body and can go no further, but fear him that can cast both body and soul into hell fire. Let summoning and sentencing man go, and tremble thou at the judging and cursing God. Here fix thine eye, and fasten in thy conscience the doomsday-nail.”

“ But, alas ! what is all this but loss of breath? but charming in the ears of deaf adders, deaf pulpit-haunters? We may preach ourselves speechless, and our auditors breathless, before we shall sermonup God's pre-eminence. Where is that effectual teacher, spirit-lipped lecturer, that hath gotten God the precedency, and preferment above man? And yet is not this generally known? is it not the cry in every congregation ? the reverberation of the very walls of the sanctuary, the noise in every ear? the principle in every conscience? Do not wise men hear it, and fools understand it? Do not old men learn it, and children confess it, as their known lesson? Doth not common reason instruct us, that if God be great, the greater, the greatest, he should be made superior, supreme? If man must have his due, must not God have his right? Hadst thou ? * and should not I? Yes, else never think of God, or speak of God, or avouch a God, if man must be the such, the non-such. How can we walk with God, if we do not consider his power, or acquaint ourselves with our God, if we be strangers

* Referring to the verse in Jonah, preceding the text, " Then the to his perfections ? or stir up ourselves to take hold of our God, if we have no feeling of his greatness ? What a creature is man amongst his fellow-creatures ? For, oh, that dumb nature doth magnify God, and that we are silent in his praises, that the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy-work; that one day telleth another, and one night certifieth another, that there is neither speech nor language where their voice is not heard, that their line is gone forth throughout all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world; yea, that tigers and unicorns, stones and rocks, fields and wildernesses, fire and hail, snow and vapours, storms and tempests, mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, creeping things, and feathered fowls, do in their kind set out God in his excellencies; and yet that the fool hath said in his heart there is no God, and he that is a little wiser than he (even the reasoning formalist) hath not God in all his thoughts, that he is not made a superior, nor used like a God, for he hath not an eye to look upon him, nor an heart to reach up high enough to him-no, he is far above out of his sight. That people in general do not think of God out of devotion, but conviction; not out of pure honour, but amazing horror. Oh, to such a contemning people, who would ever be a superior? to such an undevout people, who would ever be a God? Here is a strange creed and a worse catechism. Is not every temple a scandal, and every pulpit an infamy to such livers ? Deserve they scriptures, or sacraments, the knowledge of God, or so much as to hear his name? Take away God's praises, and what is profession? silence his honour, and what is religion? deprive him of his glory, and what is his Deity ?”

Although the preceding extracts are in better taste than the greater part of the volume, they show, in some measure, the peculiar style of the author. A still stronger tincture of it will be found in the succeeding passage, which combines great richness of phraseology with excessively bad taste : it forms part of the section from which the last quotation is taken, and enjoins us to leave all the fairest and most attractive things of the earth, and dwell only upon the glories of God.

“ The earth should seem barren, and God fruitful; the sea dry, and God moist; the cedars low, and God high ; the mines poor, and God rich; the stars dark, and God bright. Or, if Nature hath any thing in it singular, God should be more fragrant; if the nightingale doth sing pleasantly, God should seem to be more melodious; if the lions do roar, God should be more terrible; if the pearls have lustre, God should have the more splendour; if the air be spacious, God should be infinite; if the marbles be durable, God should be everlasting; if the giants be strong, God should be omnipotent; if princes be majestical, God should have the true crown and sceptre. We should take off our sight, and delight from these things, and our eye-strings and heart-strings should be only towards our God; if we look upon these, we should gaze upon God; if we be affected with these, we

« 上一頁繼續 »