Page images
PDF
EPUB

But swift as dreams, myself I found
Within the pilot's boat.
Upon the whirl, where sank the ship,
The boat spun round and round;
And all was still, save that the hill
Was telling of the sound.
I moved my lips—the pilot shrieked
And fell down in a fit;
The holy hermit raised his eyes,
And prayed where he did sit.
I took the oars: the pilot's boy,
Who now doth crazy go,
Laughed loud and long, and all the while
His eyes went to and fro.
“Ha! ha!" quoth he, “ full plain I see,
The Devil knows how to row.”
And now, all in my own countree,
I stood on the firm land !
The hermit stepped forth from the boat,
And scarcely he could stand.
“O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!”
The hermit crossed his brow.
“Say quick,” quoth he, “ I bid thee say
What manner of man art thou?"
Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched
With a woful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale ;
And then it left me free.
Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns :
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.
I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.

The ancient mariner earnestly entreateth the hermit to shrieve him; and the penance of life falls on him;

And ever and anon throughout his future life an agony constraineth him to travel from land to land;

What loud uproar bursts from that door!
The wedding-guests are there:
But in the garden-bower the bride
And bride-maids singing are:
And hark the little vesper-bell,
Which biddeth me to prayer !
O wedding-guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea :
So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be.
O sweeter than the marriage-feast,
'Tis sweeter far to me,
To walk together to the kirk
With a goodly company!-
To walk together to the kirk,
And all together pray,
While each to his great Father bends,
Old men, and babes, and loving friends,
And youths and maidens gay!
Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou wedding-guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man, and bird, and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
The mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone; and now the wedding-guest
Turned from the bridegroom's door.
He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.

And to teach, by his own example, love and reve. rence to all things that God made and loveth.

197.—The Christian Revelation the sure Standard of Morality.

Locke. [JOHN LOCKE, whose writings half a century ago were regarded as the text-book of sound philosophy, has now passed into comparative neg lect. This is not the place to examine into the causes of this revolution of opinion, which may be equally traced in the poetry and the theology of our own day. His · Essay on the Human Understanding' will, however, always command attention for the clearness of its style, and the perspicuity of its reasoning. As a political writer, Locke is to be admired for his consistent advocacy of freedom and toleration, in an age when such opinions were more than unfashionable-were absolutely dangerous. He was born in 1632; was employed in various public offices under the famous Lord Shaftesbury, and shared the disgrace of that statesman ; returned from exile at the Revolution of 1688, and was employed by the government of William III. The following extract is from his · Reasonableness of Christianity '-an attempt to show what points of belief were common to all Christians. The latter years of Locke's life were passed in retirement, and his studies were confined to the Holy Scriptures. He died in 1704.]

Next to the knowledge of one God, Maker of all things, a clear knowledge of their duty was wanting to mankind. This part of knowledge, though cultivated with some care by some of the heathen philosophers, yet got little footing among the people. All men indeed, under pain of displeasing the gods, were to frequent the temples : every one went to their sacrifices and services; but the priests made it not their business to teach them virtue. If they were diligent in their observations and ceremonies, punctual in their feasts and solemnities, and the tricks of religion, the holy tribe assured them the gods were pleased; and they looked no further. Few went to the schools of the philosophers to be instructed in their duties, and to know what was good and evil in their actions. The priests sold the better penny. worths, and therefore had all their custom. Lustrations and processions were much easier than a clean conscience and a steady course of virtue; and an expiatory sacrifice, that atoned for the want of it, was much more convenient than a strict and holy life. No wonder then that religion was everywhere distinguished from, and preferred to, virtue, and that it was dangerous beresy and profanation to think the contrary. So much virtue as was necessary to hold societies together, and to contribute to the quiet of governments, the civil laws of commonwealths taught and forced upon men that lived under magistrates. But these laws, being for the most part made by such who had no other arms but their own power, reached no further than those things that would serve to tie men together in subjection; or, at most, were directed to conduce to the prosperity and temporal happiness of any people. But natural religion, in its full extent, was nowhere, that I know, taken care of by the force of natural reason. It should seem, by the little that has hitherto been done in it, that it is too hard a task for unassisted reason to establish morality, in all its parts, upon its true foundations, with a clear and convincing light. And it is at least a surer and shorter way to the apprehensions of the vulgar, and mass of mankind, that one manifestly sent from God, and coming with visible authority from him, should, as a king and lawmaker, tell them their duties, and require their obedience, than leave it to the long and sometimes intricate deductions of reason to be made out to them. Such strains of reasonings the greatest part of mankind have neither leisure to weigh, nor, for want of education and use, skill to judge of. We see how unsuccessful in this the attempts of philosophers were before our Saviour's time. How short their several systems came of the perfection of a true and complete morality is very visible. And if, since that, the Christian philosophers have much outdone them, yet we may observe, that the first knowledge of the truths they have added are owing to revelation; though, as soon as they are heard and considered, they are found to be agreeable to reason, and such as can by no means be contradicted. Every one may observe a great many truths, which he receives at first from others, and readily consents to as consonant to reason, which he would have found it hard, and perhaps beyond his strength, to have discovered himself. Native and original truth is not so easily wrought out of the mine, as we who have it delivered ready dug and fashioned into our hands, are apt to imagine. And how often at fifty or threescore years old are thinking men told what they wonder how they could miss thinking of! which yet their own contemplations did not and possibly never would have helped them to. Experience shows that the knowledge of morality, by mere natural light, (how agreeable

soever it be to it,) makes but a slow progress and little advance in the world. And the reason of it is not hard to be found in men's necessities, passions, vices, and mistaken interests, which turn their thoughts another way. And the designing leaders, as well as the following herd, find it not to their purpose to employ much of their meditations this way. Or, whatsoever else was the cause, it is plain in fact, human reason, unassisted, failed men in its great and proper business of morality. It never, from unquestionable principles, by clear deductions, made out an entire body of the law of nature. And he that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers, and compare them with those contained in the New Testament, will find them to come short of the morality delivered by our Saviour and taught by his apostles : a college made up for the most part of ignorant but inspired fishermen.

Though yet, if any one should think, that, out of the sayings of the wise heathens before our Saviour's time, there might be a collection made of all those rules of morality which are to be found in the Christian religion ; yet this would not at all hinder, but that the world nevertheless stood as much in need of our Saviour, and the morality delivered by him. Let it be granted (though not true) that all the moral precepts of the Gospel were known by somebody or other, amongst mankind, before. But where, or how, or of what use, is not considered. Suppose they may be picked up here and there; some from Solon and Bias in Greece ; others from Tully in Italy; and, to complete the work, let Confucius, as far as China, be consulted; and Anacharsis the Scythian contribute his share. What will all this do to give the world a complete morality, that may be to mankind the unquestionable rule of life and manners? I will not here urge the impossibility of collecting from men so far distant from one another in time, and place, and languages. I will suppose there was a Stobæus in those times, who had gathered the moral sayings from all the sages of the world. What would this amount to towards being a steady rule, a certain transcript of a law that we are under ? Did the saying of Aristippus or Confucius give it an authority ? Was Zeno a lawgiver to mankind ? If not, what he or any other philosopher delivered, was but a saying of his. Mankind might hearken to it, or reject it, as they pleased, or as it suited their interest, passions, principles, or humours; they were under no obligation; the opinion

« PreviousContinue »