Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

action. He lighted on the period in which, of all others, he was born to produce the most powerful sensation. The public temper was agitated; he helped on the crisis. Revolt was ripening; he matured it. Circumstances suggested his theories; his theories influenced circumstances. He was inebriated with flattery, and mad with success; but his delirious vanity defeated its own ends; in his greediness for instant adoration he neglected to take future fame into his bold but brief account;

[ocr errors]

"Vaulting ambition overleap'd itself,
And fell on t'other side."

CHAP. XVII.

SAINT PAUL'S ATTENTION ΤΟ INFERIOR
CONCERNS.

IT
T is one great advantage of epistolary
writing, that it is not subject to the
general laws of composition, but admits
of every diversity of miscellaneous mat-
ter. Topics which might be thought
beneath the dignity of a Treatise, or in-
consistent with the solemnity of a Ser-
mon, or the gravity of a Dissertation,
find their proper place in a letter. De-
tails which are not of the first importance,
may yet be of such a nature as to re-
quire notice or animadversion.

The epistolary form has also other advantages; it not only admits of a va

riety

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

riety of subjects, but of the most abrupt transition from one subject to another, however dissimilar. It requires not the connecting links of argumentative composition, nor the regularity of historical, nor the uniformity of ethical; nor the method and arrangement of each and of all these. The free mind, unfettered by critical rules, expatiates at will, soars or sinks, skims or dives, as the objects of its attention may be elevated or depressed, profound or superficial.

Of the character of this species of writing, the authors of the Epistles of the New Testament have most judiciously availed themselves. Saint Paul, especially, has taken all due advantage of the latitude it allows. His epistles, though they contain the most profound reasoning, and on the most important subjects on which the mind of man can be engaged, are not, exclusively, regular discussions of any set topics; though they

they breathe strains of devotion almost angelic, yet do they also frequently stoop to the concerns of ordinary life; partaking, as occasion requires, of all that familiarity, versatility, and ease, which this species of writing authorizes. Yet though occasional topics and incidental circumstances are introduced, each epistle has some particular drift, tends to some determined point, and, amidst frequent digressions, still maintains a consistency with itself, as well as with the general tendency of Scripture; the me thod being sometimes concealed, and the chain of argument not obvious, the closest attention is required, and the reader, while he may be gathering much solid instruction, reproof or consolation from scattered sentences, and independent axioms, will not, without much application of mind, embrace the general argument.

Amidst, however, all the higher parts

of

of spiritual instruction; amidst all the solidity of deep practical admonition, there is not, perhaps, a single instance. in which this author has omitted to inculcate any one of the little morals, any one even of what may be called those minor circumstances, which constitute the decorums and decencies of life. Nor does his zeal for promoting the greatest actions, ever make him unmindful of the grace, the propriety, the manner with which they are to be performed.

[ocr errors]

It is one of the characteristic properties of a great mind, that it can "con"tract, as well as dilate itself;" and we have it from one of the highest human authorities, that the mind which cannot do both, is not great in its full extent The minuter shades of character do not of themselves make up a valuable person; they may be possessed in perfec

*Lord Bacon.

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »