« PreviousContinue »
MATTHEW HENRY (1662–1714) was the son of Philip Henry, a pious and learned Nonconformist minister in Flintshire. He entered as a student of law in Gray's Inn; but, yielding to a strong desire for the office of the ministry, he soon abandoned the pursuit of the law, and turned his attention to theology, which he studied with great diligence and zeal. In 1685 he was chosen pastor of a Nonconformist congregation at Chester, where he officiated for twenty-five years. In 1711 he changed the scene of his labours to Hackney, where he continued till his death in 1714. Of a variety of theological works published by this excellent divine, the largest and best known is his Commentary on the Bible, which he did not live to complete. It was originally printed in five volumes folio. The Commentary on the Epistles was added by various divines. Considered as a learned explanation of the sacred volume, this popular production is not of great value; but its practical remarks are peculiarly interesting, and have secured for it a place in the very first class of expository works. Robert Hall, for the last two years of his life, read daily two chapters of Matthew Henry's Commentary, a work which he had not before read consecutively, though he had long known and valued it. As he proceeded, he felt increasing interest and pleasure, greatly admiring the copiousness, variety, and pious ingenuity of the thoughts; the simplicity, strength, and pregnancy of the expressions. Dr. Chalmers was also a warm admirer of Henry, whose Commentary is still frequently republished, The following extract from the exposition of Matthew vi. 24, may be taken as a specimen of the nervous and pointed remarks with which the work abounds :
Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon. Mammon is a Syriac word that signifies gain, so that whatever is, or is accounted by us to be gain, is mammon. • Whatever is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life'-is mammon. To some their belly is their mammon, and they serve that; to others, their ease, their sports and pastimes, are their mammon; to others, worldly riches; to others, honours and preferments: the praise and applause of men was the Pharisees' mammon; in a word, self-the unity in which the world's trinity centres-sensual secular self, is the mammon which cannot be served in conjunction with God; for if it be served, it is in competition with him, and in contradiction to him. He does not say we must not, or we should not, but we cannot serve God and mammon; we cannot love both, or hold to both, or hold by both, in observance, obedience, attendance, trust, and dependence, for they are contrary the one to the other. God says, “My son, give me thine heart;' Mammon says: “No-give it me.' God says : Be content with such things as ye have;' Mammon says: “Grasp at all that ever thou canst—“Rem, rem, quocunque modo, rem”-money, money, by fair means or by foul, money. God says: 'Defraud not; never lie; be honest and just in thy dealings;' Mammon says: 'Cheat thy own father if thou canst gain by it.' God says: Be charitable; ' Mammon says: • Hold thy own; this giving undoes us.' God says : 'Be careful for nothing ; Mammon says : 'Be careful for everything.' God says: Keep holy the Sabbathday;' Mammon says: “Make use of that day, as well as any other, for the world.' Thus inconsistent are the commands of God and Mammon, so that we cannot serve both. Let us not, then, halt between God and Baal, but choose ye this day whom ye will serve,' and abide by your choice,
SAMUEL RUTHERFORD-THOMAS HALYBURTON-THOMAS BOSTON.
There were several Scottish doctrinal writers and divines at this period whose works still enjoy considerable popularity, especially in the rural parishes, and constitute the favourite reading of old and serious persons. Among these we may mention SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600–1661), author of 'The Trial and Triumph of Faith,' Christ dying and drawing Sinners,' &c. Rutherford was a stanch defender of Presbyterianism, and one of his controversial works, ‘Lex Rex' (1644), written in reply to the Bishop of Ross, was, after the Restoration, burned by order of the Committee of Estates. A volume of * Familiar Letters' by this divine, published after his death, evinces literary taste and power. He was one of the most learned of the Scottish clergy, and was successively Professor of Divinity in St. Andrews (1639), Commissioner to the Assembly of Divines at Westminster (1643-1647), and Principal of New College, St. Andrews (1649). — THOMAS HALYBURTON (1674-1712) was Professor of Divinity in the University of St. Andrews. He wrote ‘Natural Religion Insufficient,' an able reply to Lord Herbert's ‘De Veritate,' and The Great Concern of Salvation,' and 'Ten Sermons preached before and after the Celebration of the Lord's Supper.'—THOMAS BOSTON (1676–1732) was minister of Ettrick, and a leading member of the church courts in opposition to patronage and tests. His ‘Fourfold State,' first printed in 1720, is still the most popular of religious books among rigid Presbyterians, and a course of Sermons' by this divine is also highly prized. Boston was warmly engaged in what has been termed the great Marrow controversy,' which divided the Scottish church. A book named “The Marrow of Modern Divinity' (1645), written by an English Puritan, Edward Fisher, was revived in Scotland by the more devout portion of the clergy, and being denounced by the ruling party in the Assembly, was adopted as a standard round which the popular ministers rallied. The peace of the church was long disturbed by this Marrow controversy. The works of the above divines, though tinged with what we may call a gloomy and unamiable theology, are marked by a racy vigour of thought and unction. As illustrations of at least one phase of national character and history, they deserve to be studied.
METAPHYSICAL AND SCIENTIFIC WRITERS.
JOHN LOCKE. England, during the latter half of the seventeenth century, was adorned by some illustrious philosophers, who, besides making important contributions to science, were distinguished by simplicity and moral excellence of character, and by an ardent devotion to the interests of religion, virtue and truth.
JOHN LOCKE was born at Wrington, Somersetshire, August 29, 1632, son of a small proprietor who served in the Parliamentary army. He received his elementary education at Westminister School, and completed his studies at Christ-church College, Oxford. In the latter city he resided from 1651 till 1664, during which period he became disgusted with the verbal subtleties of the Aristotelian philosophy. Having chosen the profession of medicine, he made considerable progress in the necessary studies, but found the delicacy of his constitution an obstacle to successful practice. In 1664, he accompanied, in the capacity of secretary, Sir William Swan, who was sentby Charles II. as envoy to the Elector of Brandenburg during the Dutch war: some lively and interesting letters written by him from Germany on this occasion were published by the late Lord King. Those who are acquainted with Locke only in the character of a grave philosopher, will be surprised to find the following humorous description, which he given to one of his friends, of some Christmas ceremonies witnessed by him in a church at Cleves.
Christmas Ceremonies at Cleves. About one in the morning I went a-gossiping to our Lady. Think me not profane, for the name is a great deal modester than the service I was at. I shall not describe all the particulars I observed in that church, being the principal of the Catholics in Cleves; but only those that were particular to the occasion. Near the high-altar was a little altar for this day's solemnity; the scene was a stable, wherein was an ox, an ass, a cradle, the Virgin, the babe, Joseph, shepherds, and angels, dramatis persona. Had they but given them motion, it had been a perfect puppetplay, and might have deserved pence apiece ; for they were of the same size and make that our English puppets are; and I am confident these shepherds and this Joseph are kin to that Judith and Holophernes which I have seen at Bartholomew Fair. A little without the stable was a flock of sheep, cut out of cards; and these, as they then stood without their shepherds, appeared to me the best emblem I had seen a long time, and methought represented these poor innocent people, who, whilst their shepherds pretend so much to follow Christ, and pay their devotion to him, are left unregarded in the barren wilderness. This was the show: the music to it was all vocal in the quire adjoining, but such as I never heard. They had strong voices, but so ill-tuned, so ill-managed, that it was their misfortune, as well as ours, that they could be heard. He that could not, though he had a cold, make better music with a chevy chase over a pot of smooth ale, deserved well to pay the reckoning, and go away athirst. However, I think they were the honestest singing-men I have ever seen, for they endeavoured to deserve their money, and earned it certainly with pains enough; for what they wanted in skill, they made up in loudness and variety. Everyone had his own tune, and the result of all was like the noise of choosing parliament-men, where every one endeavours to cry loudest. Besides the men, there were a company of little choristers. I thought, when I saw them at first, they had danced to the others' music, and that it had been your Gray's Inn revels; for they were jumping up and down about a good charcoal-fire that was in the middle of the quire—this their devotion and their singing was enough, I think, to keep them warm, though it were a very cold night-but it was not dancing, but singing they served for; for when it came to their turns, away they ran to their places, and there they made as good harmony as a concert of little pigs would, and they were much about as cleanly. Their part being done, out they sallied again to the fire, - where they played till their cue called them, and then back to their places they
huddled. So negligent and slight are they in their service in a place where the nearness of adversaries might teach them to be more careful.
In less than a year, Locke returned to Oxford, where he soon afterwards received an offer of considerable preferment in the Irish Church, if he should think fit to take orders. This, after due consideration, he declined. A man's affairs and whole course of his life,' says he, in a letter to the friend who made the proposal to him, 'are not to be changed in a moment, and one is not made fit for a calling, and that in a day. I believe you think me too proud to undertake anything wherein I should acquit myself but unworthily. I am sure I cannot content myself with being undermost, possibly the middlemost, of my profession ; and you will allow, on consideration, care is to be taken not to engage in a calling wb ein, if one chance to be a bungler, there is no retreat.'
In 1666, Locke became acquainted with Lord Ashley, afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury; and so valuable did his lordship find the medical advice and general conversation of the philosopher, that a close and permanent friendship sprang up between them, and Locke became an inmate of his lordship’s house. This brought him into the society of Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Halifax, and other celebrated wits of the time. An anecdote is told of him which shews the easy terms on which he stood with these noblemen. On an occasion when several of them were met at Lord Ashley's house, the party, soon after assembling, sat down to cards, so that scarcely any conversation took place. Locke, after looking on for some time, took out his note-book, and began to write in it, with much appearance of gravity and deliberation, One of the party observing this, inquired what he was writing. “My lord,' he replied, 'I am endeavouring to profit as far as I am able in your company; for having waited with impatience for the honour of being in an assembly of the greatest geniuses of the age, and having at length obtained this goodfortune, I thought that I could not do better than write down your conversation; and indeed I have set down the substance of what has been said for this hour or two.'
A very brief specimen of what he had written was sufficient to make the objects of his irony abandon the card-table, and engage in rational discourse. While residing with Lord Ashley, Locke superintended the education, first of his lordship’s son, and subsequently of his grandson, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, celebrated as an able philosophical and moral writer in the reign of Queen Anne. In 1672, when Lord Ashley received an earldom and the office of chancellor, he gave Locke the appointment of secretary of presentations, which the philosopher enjoyed only till the following year, when his patron lost favour with the court, and was deprived of the seals. The delicate state of Locke's health induced him in 1675 to visit France, where he resided several years, first at Montpellier, and afterwards at Paris, where he had opportunities of cultivating the acquaintance of the most eminent French literary men of the day. When Shaftesbury regained power for a brief season in 1679, he recalled Locke to England ; and, on taking refuge in Holland, three years afterwards, was followed thither by his friend, whose safety likewise was in jeopardy, from the connection which subsisted between them. After the death of his patron in 1683, Locke found it necessary to prolong his stay in Holland, and even there was obliged, by the machinations of his political enemies home, to live for upwards
of a year in concealment. In 1684, by a special order from Charles II. he was deprived of his studentship at Christ Church, Oxford. In 1687, he instituted, at Amsterdam, a literary society, the members of which-among whom were Le Clerc, Limborch, and other learned men-met weekly for the purpose of enjoying each other's conversation.
The Revolution of 1688 finally restored Locke to his native country, to which he was conveyed by the fleet that brought over the Princess of Orange. He was made a Commissioner of Appeals, with a salary of £200 a year. He now became a prominent defender of civil and religious liberty, in a succession of works which have exerted a highly beneficial influence on subsequent generations, not only in Britain, but throughout the civilised world. While in Holland, he had written in Latin, 'A Letter concerning Toleration :' this appeared at Gouda in 1689, and translations of it were immediately published in Dutch, French, and English. The liberal opinions which it maintained were controverted by an Oxford writer, in reply to whom Locke successively wrote three additional ‘Letters.' In 1690 was published his most celebrated work, ‘An Essay concerning Human Understanding. In the composition of this treatise, which his retirement in Holland afforded him leisure to finish, he had been engaged for eighteen years. His object in writing it is thus explained in the Prefatory Epistle to the Reader: 'Were it fit to trouble thee with the history of this Essay, I should tell thee that five or six friends meeting at my chamber, and discoursing on a subject very remote from this, found themselves quickly at a stand by the difficulties that rose on every side. After we had a while puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer a resolution of those doubts which perplexed us, it came into my thoughts, that we took a wrong course, and that, before we set ourselves upon inquiries of that nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with. This I proposed to the company, who all readily assented.'
In proceeding to treat of the subject originally proposed, he found this matter increase upon his hands, and was gradually led into other fields of investigation. It hence happens, that of the four books of which the Essay consists, only the last is devoted to an inquiry into the objects within the sphere of the human understanding. In the first book of his Essay, Locke treats of innate ideas. He denies altogether the doctrine of innate ideas or innate principles in the mind : God having endued man with those faculties of knowing which he hath, was no more obliged by His goodness to implant those innate notions in his mind, than that having given him reason, hands, and materials, he should build him bridges or houses.' And