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men and women, travels in the Holy Land, sacred allegories and other prose stories, and sacred poetry. The unappropriated portions of the Sundays of a long life might find in the English books on such subjects varied and unfailing delight and spiritual health.
Of one of the classes of books named, those on the evidences, it appears to me that injudicious use is not unfrequently made. If
man is an unbeliever, these books may be good for him; or if he has to deal with unbelievers, they may be of service to him: but to a believing Christian, man or woman, many a well-intentioned work of this kind may be not only worthless, but injurious. A great work, such as Bishop Butler's, may indeed be invaluable both as a discipline of thought and as strengthening the intellectual conviction of the truth of revelation; or such works as the Bridgewater Treatises may help to deepen the sense of the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator, as displayed in the universe. But there is a multitude of books which, I fear, are mischievous, for they tell the believing, faithful spirit of doubts which such a spirit never would have dreamed of—doubts engendered in the hard heart of unbelief, the miserable sophistries which skepticism has spun out. Why should the happy heart of belief even look at, much less pore over, such things, studying the refutation of fallacies never else heard of? What need of the antidote, if the poison would not come nigh you? Why should believing Christian people think it worth while to waste their time and thoughts upon such things ? and above all, why the fresh and docile and believing spirit of youth, manly or womanly youth—the believing children of believing parents-be trained in the knowledge of what Hume denied, and how Gibbon scoffed,
and the ribald deism of Paine, for the sake of being taught how these things may be answered ? A little argumentative strength of belief may be gained, (perhaps,) but there is peril in the process that the power of affectionate, instinctive belief—a thousand-fold more precious—has been at the same time wasting and worn away.
Charles Lamb's recollection from childhood of Stackhouse's History of the Bible is full of warning on this subject. “I remember,” he says, “it consisted of Old Testament stories, orderly set down, with the objection appended to each story, and the solution of the objection regularly tacked to that. The objection was a summary of whatever difficulties had been opposed to the credibility of the history by the shrewdness of ancient or modern infidelity, drawn up with an almost complimentary excess of candour. The solution was brief, modest, and satisfactory. The bane and antidote were both before you. To doubts, so put, and so quashed, there seemed to be an end forever. The dragon lay dead for the foot of the veriest babe to trample on.
But-like as was rather feared than realized from that slain monster in Spenserfrom the womb of those crushed errors young dragonets would creep, exceeding the powers of so tender a St. George as myself to vanquish. The habit of expecting objections to a passage set me upon starting more objections, for the glory of finding a solution of my own for them. I became staggered and perplexed, a skeptic in long coats. The pretty Bible stories which I had read, or had heard read in church, lost their purity and sincerity of impression, and were turned into so many historic or chronologic theses to be defended against whatever impugners. I was not to disbelieve them, but—the next thing to that—I was to be quite sure that some one or other would or had disbelieved them. Next to making a child an infidel, is the letting him know that there are infidels at all.”*
Such an influence is not limited to childhood, but affects in like manner the spirit of belief at any age; and therefore it is safer and wiser to seek no knowledge of atheism, or deism, or skepticism, even in the refutation of them.
This also should be borne in mind, that the evidences of religion, as discussed in the last century, when they were most rife, present Christianity in a defensive apologetic attitude, which is unworthy of it. The literary leaders of the times were the infidels Bolingbroke, and Hume, and Gibbon, and the other earlier and later, the British infidelity which was followed by French infidelity. The insolence of unbelief had risen high, and the tone of the faithful was depressed; a style of defence prevailed which is out of place in a better age, where no infidel author has bold prominence in literature. That subdued mode of warfare with skepticism was oddly adverted to at the time by George the Third, (who, whatever his faults
were, had the merit of being the first moral man that had sat on the British throne for more than a century:) when Bishop Watson published his “Apology for the Bible,” George the Third remarked, “ Apology! I did not know that the Bible needed an apology."
* Prose Works, vol. ii. p. 150. Essay on Witches and other Night Fears.
f In Lord Mahon's last volume of “The History of England,” are two letters of George the Third to Bishop Hurd, on the death of one of his children, in 1783, which brightly illustrate the King's private and familiar character. Vol. vii. Appendix, p. 34. W. F. R.
Turning to the sacred literature of the seventeenth century, you find in it not only greater power of argumentation, but also blended with it a fervid devotional spirit, the glow of genuine imagination, kindling narrative, reasoning, persuasion, philosophy,-all with one broad light, so that it is not the logical faculty which alone is appealed to, but the whole spiritual nature, the intellect, and the heart, the soul of man. This would be seen most clearly, perhaps, in the writings of the most imaginative, and eloquent of the great divines of that century-Bishop Jeremy Taylor: his Sermons, or his “Holy Living and Dying,” the volume which may be spoken of as the most admirable manual of devotion in the language, or to that, the greatest probably of all his works, “The Life of our Saviour.” Before those who are acquainted with the writings of Jeremy Taylor, I would not trust .myself to speak of them, without a larger opportunity to do honour to them than time would now give me: to those who have yet in reserve the delight which such acquaintance gives, I could hardly so speak that the soberest truth should not sound like exaggeration. Every thing, almost, that is attractive in a merely literary point of view, is to be found there: a boundless variety of illustration gathered by a marvellous scholarship, the deepest and the gentlest habits of feeling, an opulence of imagination and fancy like Shakspeare's or Spenser's, and a style that is the music worthy of such a spirit. A few years ago, the writings of Jeremy Taylor existed only in the early Folios, but now they are accessible in the more convenient forms of modern editions. The Holy Living and Dying, published
separately, and in many editions, is a volume not to borrow, not to take out of a library, but to own, to hold it as a possession.
Without attempting to speak of Barrow, or the other great English divines of a former age, I can only remark, that the literature is abundant in specimens of pulpit wisdom and oratory; and that in our own day, the strength and beauty of the olden time in this respect have come back again in some of the contemporary sermon literature.
The history of the Christian church is another subject on which English literature gives us reading at once most agreeable and instructive. All the charms of Southey's prose may please you in his “ Book of the Church ;' or turning to the old church historian, Thomas Fuller, you may find in his History of the Church in Great Britain (one of the most remarkable works in the language) the varied powers of learning, sagacity, pathos, an overflowing wit, humour, and imagination, all animating the pages of a church history. The interest on this subject may be expanded and deepened by the studious reading of that poetic commentary on church history, the series of Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Sonnets, in which the poet-historian, with all a poet's truthfulness and feeling, has traced the course of Christian faith, from the trepidation of the Druids at the first tidings of the Gospel, onward through the various fortunes of the church, down to the consecration of the first American Bishop. This series of poems is a beautiful and salutary study in connection with English history, for there is not an important event, or period, or influence, or saintly character in the annals of the church in England, on which there is not shed the