Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

RELIGIOUS EXCLUSIVISM.

65

taries of those pleasures from which they debar themselves, have little or no chance of inheriting that crown of glory which they are labouring to obtain ? If so, they may be assured that pride and selfishness mingle with, and sully their piety. But, on the other hand, if they feel glowing in their hearts that truly catholic spirit of love and charity which embraces the entire human race, and would not that one, the least of them, should perish, then may they rest in the confident hope that their religion is indeed the religion of Christ, and acceptable in the sight of heaven.

That a rigid abstinence from the pleasures and pursuits of social life, not ostensibly at least connected with religion, may proceed from pride and a desire for religious notoriety, is, I think undeniable. If there was as much vain-gloriousness in Diogenes seated in his tub, or walking the streets of Athens in his coarse, tattered cloak, as in Alexander attired in gold and purple; so also may there be as much of the same human infirmity cherished in the retirement of the closet, or beneath the austere simplicity of sectarian costume, as is to be met within the ball room, decked in plumes and diamonds. It is the spirit in which a thing is done, and the motive of it, that renders it meritorious, or otherwise.

I conceive those moralists to have been mistaken, however well-intentioned, who have laid down precise rules with regard to things indifferent, actions in reality deriving their character solely from the disposition in which they are performed. May not our very renunciation of the gaieties of life—if in withdrawing ourselves from them we identify ourselves with the sect or party that has prescribed them-afford gratification to that propensity which must be considered as the primary source of human depravity? When we see instances of young persons who, at an age when the want of knowledge and experience ought to render them diffident, on becoming converts to the doctrines of a party, exalt themselves to the rank of censors, and look with pity and contempt on the very parents whom God commands them to honour, and so betray the sense they entertain of their own superior holiness; can we doubt whether the indulgence of such feelings be not more at variance with the spirit of the Gospel, than any which could be produced by a temperate use of any of those means of recreation calculated to enliven the monotony of life? Would it not be a safer course to govern our conduct by those fixed and general principles universally recognized, and from which we know that we cannot deviate without lapsing into error?

Before bringing this work to a conclusion, I shall endeavour to point out a few of those more intellectual amusements and pursuits which, if a love of them could be strongly induced in young persons, would, I conceive, do more towards diverting them from frivolity, and preserving them from dissipation, than the severest denunciations proceeding either from the pulpit or the legislature.

CHAPTER IV.

Ostentation—Luxury_Disparities between Rich and Poor

Christianity the Religion for the People-Ostentation cruelly exacting-Folly of Ostentation—Advantages of SimplicityPretension.

Having in my last chapter ventured to assert that the amusements of the world were not of necessity inimical to the cause of virtue and religion, but are, in fact, hurtful, or the reverse, according to the disposition in which they are pursued, and the excess or moderation exercised in regard to them; I think it incumbent on me to acknowledge that there are circumstances attending worldly recreations, as pursued at the present day in England, which almost justify the severest censure directed against them. They are, for the most part, no longer viewed and entered into as a salutary relaxation of mind and body, or as the medium of social intercourse and hospitality; but as occasions for ostentatious display; in short, as opportunities for indulging the most pernicious and corrupt propensity of our nature.

This subject, it may be remembered, was touched upon in the Introduction to this volume. It was there stated, not only on the author's own authority, but on that of a more competent judge, that ostentation, “the pride of life and the pride of the eye,” was the poisoned chalice that dashed with bitter the sweets of English society; converting, what might otherwise be a paradise, into purgatory.

OSTENTAION is in truth a crying and growing evil. Originating with the great and wealthy, it now pervades all ranks and classes, according to the degree their means admit of. It governs all our entertainments, actuating us in everything we propose or engage in. To repeat a passage before quoted, “Every man now-a-days lives for public observation. He builds his house, and organizes his establishment, so as to strike public opinion as much as possible. Shew is substituted for real happiness; and no man is valued for his moral or intellectual qualities, so much as for the grandeur of his house, the style of his equipage, the richness of his dinner-service, and the heavy extravagance of his dinners.”

The Scriptures, as has been pointed out, so far from condemning social hilarity, authorize it, provided it be in moderation. There are even rules given respecting our proper conduct when invited to a feast; such as not taking the highest place, &c. St. Paul to the Hebrews says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers." St. Peter, in his first general epistle, exhorts to the usage of hospitality one to another, without grudging.

[blocks in formation]

But the pompous style of entertainment now in vogue is not hospitality; it proceeds not from that cordial liberality which, if occasionally carried to extremes, used in former days to warm the bosom of an English host, almost palliating excess by the kindliness of its spirit.

Itterly indifferent as to what may be the feelings of his guests, except that it is necessary to his own pride and vanity that they should be contented, the entertainer of modern times thinks only how he may best outshine some wealthy neighbour, and raise the demon of envy in his breast. This hateful ambition is indulged at whatever cost; and the consequence is ruin to many, and a total loss of comfort to society at large. The same spirit of emulation, the same struggle for precedence, the same love of parade and expense, is carried into the ball-room. It also regulates, in a great degree, our theatrical amusements, where foreign novelties must be introduced at any price, to the exclusion often of native talent, and all to pamper the vitiated taste of the public, which craves the far-fetched and the dear-bought, however monstrous.

While such a system prevails, our amusements, whether public or private, cannot be accounted wholly innocent and free from offence. It would, however, be unjust to denounce amusements altogether, because the prevailing foible of the age has perverted them, and counteracted their intention. I do not perceive but that the same spirit of

« FöregåendeFortsätt »