Page images
PDF
EPUB

Him who 'came into the world that he should bear witness to the Truth.' This straightforward course may not, indeed, obtain 'the praise of men.' Courage, liberality, activity, and other good qualities, are often highly prized by those who do not possess them in any great degree; but the zealous, thoroughgoing love of truth is not very much admired or liked, or indeed understood, except by those who possess it. But Truth, as Bacon says, 'only doth judge itself/ and, 'howsoever these things are in men's depraved judgments and affections, it teacheth that the inquiry of Truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it—the knowledge of Truth, which is the presence of it—and the belief of Truth, which is the enjoying of it—is the sovereign good of human nature.'

'There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious.'

This holds good when falsehood is practised solely for a man's private advantage: but, in a zealous and able partisan, falsehood in the cause of the party will often be pardoned, and even justified. We have lived to see the system called 'phenakism,' 'double-doctrine,' or 'economy,'—that is, saying something quite different from what is inwardly believed,1 not only practised, but openly avowed and vindicated, and those who practise it held up as models of pre-eminent holiness, not only by those of their own party, but by others also.

When men who have repeatedly brought forward, publicly, heavy charges against a certain Church, afterwards openly declare that those charges were what they knew, at the time, to be quite undeserved, they are manifestly proclaiming their own insincerity. Perhaps they did believe—and perhaps they believe still—that those charges are just; and if so, their present disavowal is a falsehood. But if, as they now profess, the charges are what they believed to be calumnious falsehoods, uttered because the same things had been said by some eminent divines, and because they were 'necessary for our position' then, they confess themselves 'false and perfidious;' and yet they are not 'covered with shame.'

1 See an excellent discourse on 'Reserve,' by Archdeacon West. Seo also Cantionsfor the Times, No. xiii. Sec also the Essay on ' Simulation.'

ESSAY II. OF DEATH.

MEN fear death as children fear to go into the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin, and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak. Yet in religious meditations there is sometimes mixture of vanity and of superstition. You shall read in some of the friars' books of mortification, that a man should think with himself what the pain is, if he have but his finger's end pressed, or tortured, and thereby imagine what the pains of death are when the whole body is corrupted and dissolved; when many times death passeth with less pain than the torture of a limb—for the most vital parts are not the quickest of sense: and by him that spake only as a philosopher and natural man, it was well said, 'Pompa mortis magis terret quam mors ipsa." Groans, and convulsions, and a discoloured face, and friends weeping, and blacks, and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible.

It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in the mind of man so weak, but it mates2 and masters the fear of death; and therefore death is no such terrible enemy when a man hath so many attendants about him that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs over death: love slights it; honour aspireth to it; grief flieth to it; fear pre-occupateth' it; nay, we read, after Otho the emperor had slain himself, pity (which is the tenderest of affections) pro1 * The pomp of death is more terrible than death itself.' Probably suggested by a letter of Seneca to Lucilius, 24.

2 Mate. To subdue; vanquish; overpower.

'The Frenchmen he hath so mated
And their courage abated,
That they are but half men.'—Skelton.

'My sense she has mated.'—Shakespere. So to give check -mate.

'Preoccupate. To anticipate.

'To provide so tenderly by preoccupation,
As no spider may suck poison out of a rose.'—Qarnet.

vokcd1 many to die out of mere compassion to their sovereign, and as the truest sort of followers. Nay, Seneca adds, niceness and satiety:'Cogita quamdiu eadem feceris; mori velle, non tantum fortis, aut miser, sed etiam fastidiosus potest.'a 'A man would die, though he were neither valiant nor miserable, only upon a weariness to do the same thing so oft over and over.' It is no less worthy to observe, how little alteration in good spirits the approaches of death make; for they appear to be the same men till the last instant. Augustus Caesar died in a compliment: 'Livia, conjugii nostri memor vive, et vale.'3 Tiberius in dissimulation, as Tacitus saith of him, 'Jam Tiberium vires et corpus, non dissimulatio, deserebant :'* Vespasian in a jest, sitting upon the stool, 'Ut puto Deus no:' Galba with a sentence, 'Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani/6 holding forth his neck: Septimus Severus in dispatch, 'Adeste, si quid mihi restat agendum/' and the like. Certainly the Stoics bestowed too much cost upon death, and by their great preparations made it appear more fearful. Better, saith he, 'qui finem vitae extremum inter munera ponat naturae.'7 It is as natural to die as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other. He that dies in an earnest pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood; who, for the time, scarce feels the hurt; and therefore a mind fixed and bent upon somewhat that is good, doth avert the dolours8 of death: but, above all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is, 'Nunc dimittis," when a man hath obtained worthy ends and expectations. Death hath this also, that it openeth the gate to good fame, and extinguisheth envy: 'Extinctus amabitur idem."0

1 Provoke. To excite; to move (to exertion or feeling of any kind, not, as now, merely to anger). 'Your zeal hath provoked very many.'—2 Cor. ix. 2. 2 Ad Lucil. 77.

8 'Livia, mindful of our wedlock, live, and farewell.'—Suet. Aug. Vict. c. 100.

4 ' His powers and bodily strength had abandoned Tiberius, but not his dissimulation.'—Annai. vi. 50.

* 'Strike, if it be for the benefit of the Roman people.'—Tacit. Hist. i. 41.

* 'Hasten, if anything remains for me to do.'—Dio. Cos. 76, ad fin.

7 'He who accounts the close of life among the boons of nature.'—Juv. Sat. 357. s Dolours. Pains.

'He drew the dolours from the wounded part.'—Pope's Homer.

9 • Now lettest thou thy servant depart.'—Luke ii. 29.

10 'The same man shall be beloved when dead.'

ANTITHETA ON DEATH.

Pbo. Contba.

'noti invenias inter hnmanos affectum 'Prscstat ad omnia, etiam ad virtu

tam pusillum, qui si intendatur paulo tem, curriculum long-um, quam breve, vehementius, non mortis metum superet. 'In all things, even in virtue, a long

'There is no human passion so weak race is more conducive to success than a and contemptible, that it may not easily short one.' be so heightened as to overcome the fear

of death.' 'Absque spatiis vita) majoribus, nee

pcrficere datur, nee perdiscere, nee poenitere.

'It is only in a long life that time is afforded vs to complete anything, to learn anything thoroughly, or to reform oneself.'

ANNOTATIONS.

'There is no passion in the mind of man so weak but it mates and masters the fear of death'

Of all the instances that can be given of recklessness of life, there is none that comes near that of the workman employed in what is called rfry-pointing; the grinding of needles and of table-forks. The fine steel-dust which they breathe brings on a painful disease of which they are almost sure to die before forty. And yet not only are men tempted by high wages to engage in this employment, but they resist to the utmost all the contrivances devised for diminishing the danger; through fear that this would cause more workmen to offer themselves, and thus lower wages!

The case of sailors, soldiers, miners, and others who engage in hazardous employments, is nothing in comparison of this; because people of a sanguine temper hope to escape the dangers. But the dry-pointers have to encounter, not the risk, but the certainty, of an early and painful death. The thing would seem incredible, if it were not so fully attested. All this proves that avarice overcomes the fear of death. And so may vanity: witness the many women who wear tight dresses, and will even employ washes for the complexion which they know to be highly dangerous and even destructive to their health.

'Certainly the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin and the passage to another world, is holy and religious.'

It is when considered as the passage to another world that the contemplation of death becomes holy and religious;—that is, calculated to promote a state of preparedness for our setting out on this great voyage,—our departure from this world to enter the other. It is manifest that those who are engrossed with the things that pertain to this life alone; who are devoted to worldly pleasure, to worldly gain, honour, or power, are certainly not preparing themselves for the passage into another: while it is equally manifest that the change of heart, of desires, wishes, tastes, thoughts, dispositions, which constitutes a meetness for entrance into a happy, holy, heavenly state,—the hope of which can indeed 'mate and master the fear of death,'— must take place here on earth; not after death.

There is a remarkable phenomenon connected with insect life which has often occurred to my mind while meditating on the subject of preparedness for a future state, as presenting a curious analogy.

Most persons know that every butterfly (the Greek name for which, it is remarkable, is the same that signifies also the Soul,Psyche) comes from a grub or caterpillar; in the language of naturalists called a larva. The last name (which signifies literally a mask) was introduced by Linnaeus, because the caterpillar is a kind of outward covering, or disguise, of the future butterfly within. For, it has been ascertained by curious microscopic examination, that a distinct butterfly, only undeveloped and not full-grown, is contained within the body of the caterpillar; that this latter has its own organs of digestion, respiration, &c., suitable to its larva-life, quite distinct from, and independent of, the future butterfly which it encloses. When the proper period arrives, and the life of the insect, in this its first stage, is to close, it becomes what is called a pupa, enclosed in a chrysalis or cocoon (often composed of silk; as is that of the silkworm which supplies us that important article), and lies torpid for a time within this natural coffin, from which it issues, at the proper period, as a perfect butterfly.

But sometimes this process is marred. There is a numerous tribe of insects well known to naturalists, called Ichneumon

c

« PreviousContinue »