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power in the blank verse of Paradise Lost. Nothing in the way of metre can be grander than some of the transitions from the gentle music of the quiet passages to the passionate parts, and their deep reverberating lines that seem to go echoing on, spiritually sounding, long after they are heard no more.
The universal peace at the time of the Nativity is told with the very music of peace :
“No war or battle's sound
The idle spear and shield were high up hung:
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
His reign of peace upon the earth began :
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave." The stanzas that tell of hopes of a golden age again are followed by that solemn one:
< But wisest Fate says no,
The Babe yet lies in smiling infancy,
So both himself and us to glorify;
The wakeful trump of doom must thunder through the deep.” The grandest portion of this poem is that which tells
of the flight of the false deities of heathendom, the panic of the priests, the silencing of the oracles, and the cessation of the services of superstition, when the star was seen over the infant Saviour. The profusion of mysterious epithets and the dim imagery seem to blend the magic of the dark incantations of Shakspeare's witchcraft with the splendours of Greek mythology. Paganism and superstition—Europe's, Asia's, Africa's—all, with all the host of their ministry, are vanishing like witches at the touch of music—a babe's cry heard from the manger at Bethlehem throughout the spiritual uni
« The oracles are dumb;
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving.
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving.
The lonely mountains o'er,
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament
The parting Genius is with sighing sent :
And sullen Moloch, fled,
His burning idol all of blackest hue :
In dismal dance about the furnace blue :
The brutish gods of Nile as fast
Nor is Osiris seen,
Trampling the unshower'd grass with lowings loud;
Nought but profoundest hill can be his shroud :
He feels from India's land
Of Milton's various prose-writings, and of his epic poems, it would hardly be possible to say much in a general lecture on the literature of the century. What I have to say respecting the Paradise Lost, I propose to put in this course in another connection.
I have ventured to include, in the subject of this evening's lecture, some suggestions on Sunday reading; and, in turning aside to this topic, let me first explain why I have connected it with this portion of my course.
The literature of the seventeenth century includes that which is most generally regarded as the great sacred poem of our language-I mean, of course, the Paradise Lost; and, again, it is the most illustrious age of English pulpitoratory and of theological literature. Let me, in the next place, say, that I trust it will not be thought presumptuous or impertinent in me to introduce, even somewhat casually, into a course like this, the subject of Sunday reading. I am truly solicitous, on the one side, not to put my hand unduly upon sacred subjects, which are appropriate to another profession of public teachers; and, on the other, not to treat those sacred subjects, so far as I may have occasion to touch them, as ordinary topics of literature and taste. The literature which is associated with holy things must be approached with the reverential feeling with which the picture of a sacred subject should be looked on, remembering that there is due to it something deeper than unloving, technical criticism of art.
I have been attracted to this subject by the conviction that every Sunday has its unappropriated portions of time, and also that there is an abundant literature, in English words, to be used appropriately to the day, and beneficially. The week-day opportunities for reading vary very much with the business and duties of our lives; but our Sundays, with the rest they bring, put us all more on an equality. The most punctual attendance on public worship does not absorb the day; and, the day's duties discharged, the evening can have no better employment than that which is in-door and domestic. There are the contingencies, too, that compel the spending of the whole day at home; and I believe that is a sore trial to those who have no resources for the employment of it. This is a great pity, considering how large those resources
I do not propose to speak of the study of the Bible, because I am not willing to treat that as a literary occupation. It stands on higher ground, and ground of its
With regard to modes of Christian faith and systems of church-government, it surely is becoming for every one, both man and woman, to have an intelligent knowledge of their belief and membership. It is right to hold, with confidence and charity combined, to well-formed and precise principles, in all that we profess to give our spiritual allegiance to; to understand our own position and to feel the strength of it, instead of that careless ignorance, that latitudinarian indifference, which is seen and heard so much of-a mock liberalism, which I speak of as unreal, becausė, often when it is put to the test, it is found to cover either a hollow scepticism or a bitter intolerance, instead of genuine Christian charity.
In the discipline of habits of reading, it is on many accounts important to draw a line of distinction between week-day reading and Sunday reading. Independently of the propriety of making the reading subservient to the uses of the day, such appropriation is desirable as a means of securing acquaintance with a large and very valuable portion of English literature—the department of its sacred literature being very extensive both in prose and poetry; so extensive, indeed, that when this habit is well formed and cultivated, it will be found that the Sunday reading is more apt to encroach on the week-day reading than the
The choice of books must be not only reverently suited to the day, but also large in their influences. It should be no narrow choice, for such would be unworthy of the manifold power of the day. It may associate with books which are formally and directly connected with sacred subjects, and others no less sacred in their influences, because the sanctity is held more in reserve, acting, it may be, more deeply, because less avowedly.
The sacred literature of our language may be described as containing books on the evidences of religion, sermons, devotional books, church history, biographies of saintly