網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

man consider, that if any prince shall suffer under him a commission of authority to be exercised, till all the land groan and cry out, as against a whip of scorpions, whether this be not likely to lessen, and keel the affections of the subject. Next, what numbers of faithful and freeborn Englishmen, and good Christians, have been constrained to forsake their dearest home, their friends and kindred, whom nothing but the wide ocean, and the savage deserts of America, could hide and shelter from the fury of the bishops? O sir, if we could but see the shape of our dear mother England, as poets are wont to give a personal form to what they please, how would she appear, think ye, but in a mourning weed, with ashes upon her head, and tears abundantly flowing from her eyes, to behold so many of her children exposed at once, and thrust from things of dearest necessity, because their conscience could not assent to things which the bishops thought indifferent? What more binding than conscience? What more free than indifferency? Cruel then must that indifferency needs be, that shall violate the strict necessity of conscience; merciless and inhuman that free choice and liberty that shall break asunder the bonds of religion! Let the astrologer be dismayed at the portentous blaze of comets, and impressions in the air, as foretelling troubles and changes to states; I shall believe there cannot be a more illboding sign to a nation (God turn the omen from us!) than when the inhabitants, to avoid insufferable grievances at home, are enforced by heaps to forsake their native country.

How admirably does Milton, in what we next quote from the same piece, answer the ominous cries of the opposers of Unitarians and of some irresolutes among themselves, who, as they see one after another of what we deem the theological errors of the day attempted to be removed, are contiually exclaiming—' do not go too far !'—' where will you stop!'—as if in the work of reformation we could go too far, or as if we ought to stop at all, till every strong delusion, every mere device of the human understanding, or of the human passions, is utterly destroyed, and truth and goodness are all in all!

Here,' he says,' I might have ended, but that some objections, which I have heard commonly flying about, press me to the endeavour of an answer. We must not run, they say, into sudden extremes. This is a fallacious rule, unless understood only of the

Vol. m.—No. H. 16

actions of virtue about things indifferent; for if it be found that those two extremes be vice and virtue, falsehood and truth, the greater extremity of virtue and superlative truth we run into, the more virtuous and the more wise we become; and he that, flying from degenerate and traditional corruption, fears to shoot himself too far into the meeting embraces of a divinely warranted reformation, had better not have run at all. And for the suddenness, it cannot be feared. * * * If it were sudden and swift, provided still it be from worse to better, certainly we ought to hie us from evil like a torrent, and rid ourselves of corrupt discipline, as we would shake fire out of our bosoms.

Speedy and vehement were the reformations of all the good kings of Judah, though the people had been nuzzled in idolatry ever so long before; they feared not the bugbear danger, nor the lion in the way, that the sluggish and timorous politician thinks he sees. * * *

Let us not dally with God when he offers us a full blessing, to take as much of it as we think will serve our ends, and turn him back the rest upon his hands, lest in his anger he snatch all from us again.

Our next extract, which is equally worth the attention of these improving times with the last, is taken from Milton's work entitled, 'The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty.'

As for those many sects and divisions rumoured abroad to be amongst us, it is not hard to perceive, that they are partly the mere fictions and false alarms of the prelates, thereby to cast amazements and panic terrours into the hearts of weaker christians, that they should not venture to change the present deformity of the church, for fear of I know not what worse inconveniences. With the same objected fears and suspicions, we know that subtle prelate Gardner sought to divert the reformation. It may suffice us to be taught by St Paul, that there must be sects for the manifesting of those that are soundhearted. These are but winds and flaws to try the floating vessel of our faith, whether it be stanch and sail well, whether our ballast be just, our anchorage and cable strong. By this is seen who lives by faith and certain knowledge, and who by credulity and the prevailing opinion of the age; whose virtue is of an unchangeable grain, and whose of a slight wash. If God come to try our constancy, we ought not to shrink or stand the less firmly for that, but pass on with more steadfast resolution to establish the truth, though it were through a lane of sects and heresies on each side. Other things men do to the glory of God; but sects and errours, it seems, God suffers to be for the glory of good men, that the world may know and reverence their tine fortitude and undaunted constancy in the truth. Let us not therefore make these things an incumbrance, or an excuse for our delay in reforming, which God sends us as an incitement to proceed with more honour and alacrity; for if there were no opposition, where were the trial of an unfeigned goodness and magnanimity? Virtue that wavers is not virtue, but vice revolted from itself, and after a while returning. The actions of just and pious men do not darken in their middle course ; but Solomon tells us, they are as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. But if we shall suffer the trifling doubts and jealousies of future sects to overcloud the fair beginnings of purposed reformation, let us rather fear that another proverb of the same wise man be not upbraided tofus, that the way of the wicked is as darkness, they stumble at they know not what. If sects and schisms be turbulent in the unsettled estate of a church, while it lies under the amending hand, it best beseems our christian courage to think they are but the throes and pangs that go before the birth of reformation, and that the work itself is now in doing. For if we look but on the nature of elemental and mixed things, we know they cannot suffer any change of one kind or quality into another, without the struggle of contrarieties. And in things artificial, seldom any elegance is wrought without a superfluous waste and refuse in the transaction. No marble statue can be politely carved, no fair edifice built without almost as much rubbish and sweeping. Insomuch that even in the spiritual conflict of St Paul's conversion, there fell scales from his eyes, that were not perceived before. No wonder then in the reforming of a church, which is never brought to effect without the fierce encounter of truth and falsehood together, if, as it were the splinters and shards of so violent a jousting, there fall from between the shock many fond errours and fanatic opinions, which, when truth has the upper hand, and the reformation shall be perfected, will easily be rid out of the way, or kept so low, as that they shall be only the exercise of our knowledge, not the disturbance or interruption of our faith.

We copy the sentences below from the third chapter of the second book of the work last referred to, not only for their beauty, but for the lessons of practical wisdom they may teach us.

Truth, I know not how, hath this unhappiness fatal to her, ere she can come to the trial and inspection of the understanding; being to pass through many little wards and limits of the several affections and desires, she cannot shift it but must put on such colours and attire, as those pathetic handmaids of the soul please to lead her in to their queen; and if she find so much favour with them, they let her pass in her own likeness; if not, they bring her into the presence habited and coloured like a notorious falsehood. And contrary, when any falsehood comes that way, if they like the errand she brings, they are so artful to counterfeit the very shape and visage of truth, that the understanding, not being able to discern the fucus which these enchantresses with such cunning have laid upon the features sometimes of truth, sometimes of falsehood interchangeably, sentences for the most part one for the other at the first blush, according to the subtle imposture of these sensual mistresses, that keep the ports and passages between her and the object.

TO THE IVY—By Mbj. Hemans

Oh! how could fancy crown with thee,

In ancient days the God of wine,
And bid thee at the banquet be

Companion of the vine!
Thy home, wild plant, is where each sound

Of revelry hath long been o'er;
Where song's full notes once peal'd around,

But now are heard no more.

The Roman on his battle plains,
Where kings before his eagles bent,

Entwin'd thee with exulting strains,
Around the victor's tent.

Yet there though fresh in glossy green
Triumphantly thy boughs might wave, Better thou lov'st the silent scene,
Around the victor's grave.

Where sleep the sons of ages flown,

The bards and heroes of the past;
Where through the halls of glory gone.

Murmurs the wintry blast;
Where years are hastening to efface,

Each record of the grand and fair;
Thou, in thy solitary grace,

Wreath of the tomb, art there!

Thou, o'er the shrines of fallen Gods,

On classic plains, dost mantling spread, And veil the desolate abodes,

And cities of the dead. Deserted palaces of kings,

Arches of triumph long o'erthrown, And all once glorious earthly things

At length are thine alone.

Oh! many a temple, once sublime,

Beneath the blue Italian sky, Hath nought of beauty left by time,

Save thy wild tapestry. And rear'd midst crags and clouds, 'tis thine

To wave, where banners waved of yore, O'er mouldering tow'rs by lonely Rhine,

Cresting the rocky shore.

High from the fields of air look down,

Those eyries of a vanish'd race;
Homes of the mighty, whose renown

Hath passed and left no trace.
But thou art there, thy foliage bright

Unchang'd the mountain storm can brave ;, Thou that wilt climb the loftiest height,

And deck the humblest grave!

The breathing forms of Parian stone,
That rise round grandeur's marble halls;

The vivid hues by painting thrown
Rich o'er the glowing walls;

« 上一頁繼續 »