« PreviousContinue »
action, than the most perfect human reason. Now, had this philosopher, instead of saying that God was the soul of brutes, barely alleged that he ruled and dictated within them, he would not have gone a little wide of the truth.
God, indeed, is himself the beauty and the benefit of all his works. As they cannot exist but in him and by him, so his impression is upon them, and his impregnation is through them.
Though the elements, and all that we know of nature and creation, have a mixture of natural and physical evil, God is, however, throughout, an internal though often a hidden principle of good, and never wholly departs from his right of dominion and operation in his creatures; but is, and is alone, the beauty and beneficence, the whole glory and graciousness, that can possibly be in them.
“As the Apostle says, "The invisible things of God are made manifest by the things that are seen.' He is the secret and central light that kindles up the sun, his dazzling representative ; and he lives, enlightens, and comforts in the diffusion of his beams.
“His spirit inspires and actuates the air, and is in it a breath of life to all his creatures. He blooms in the blossom, and unfolds in the rose. He is fragrance in flowers, and flavour in fruits. He holds infinitude in the hollow of his hand, and opens his world of wonders to the minims of nature. He is the virtue of every heart that is softened by a sense of pity, or touch of benevolence. He coos in the turtle, and bleats in the lamb; and, through the paps of the stern bear, and implacable tigress, he yields forth the milk of loving-kindness to their little ones. Even, my Harry, when we hear the delicious enchantment of music, it is but an external sketch, a distant and faint echo of those sentimental and rapturous tunings that rise up, throughout the immensity of our God, from eternity to eternity.
“ Thus all things are secretly pregnant with their God. And the Lover of sinners, the universal Redeemer, is a principle of good within them, that contends with the malignity of their lapsed state. And thus, as the Apostle speaks, * All Nature is in travail, and groaning to be delivered from the evil ;' till the breath of the love of God shall kindle upon the final fire, out of which the new heavens and new earth shall come forth, like gold seven times refined, to shine for ever and ever!”
CLARENDON. It was a very proper answer to him who asked, Why any man should be delighted with beauty ? that it was a question that none but a blind man could ask; since any beautiful object doth so much attract the sight of all men, that it is in no man's power not to be pleased with it. Nor can any aversion or malignity towards the object irreconcile the eyes from looking upon it; as a man who hath an envenomed and mortal hatred towards another who hath a graceful and beautiful person, cannot hinder his eye from being delighted to behold that person, though that delight is far from going to the heart; as no man's malice towards an excellent musician can keep his ear from being pleased with his music. No man can ask how or why men came to be delighted with peace, but he who is without natural bowels; who is deprived of all those affections, which can only make life pleasant to him. Peace is that harmony in the state, that health is in the body. No honour, no profit, no plenty, can make him happy who is sick with a fever in his blood, and with defluxions and aches in his joints and bones ; but health restored gives a relish to the other blessings, and is very merry without them. No kingdom can flourish or be at ease in which there is no peace; which only makes men dwell at home, and enjoy the labour of their own hands, and improve all the advantages which the air, the climate, and the soil administers to them; and all which yield no comfort where there is no peace. God himself reckons health the greatest blessing he can bestow upon mankind, and peace the greatest comfort and ornament he can confer upon states; which are a multitude of men gathered together. They who delight most in war are so ashamed of it, that they pretend to desire nothing but peace—that their heart is set upon nothing else. When Cæsar was engaging all the world in war, he wrote to Tully, “ There was nothing worthier of an honest man than to have contention with nobody." It was the highest aggravation that the prophet could find out in the description of the greatest wickedness, that " The way of peace they knew not; " and the greatest punishment of all their crookedness and perverseness was, that “ They should not know peace.” A greater curse cannot befall the most wicked nation than to be deprived of peace. There is nothing of real and substantial comfort in this world but what is the product of peace; and whatsoever we may lawfully and innocently take delight in, is the fruit and effect of peace. The solemn service of God, and performing our duty to him in the service of regular devotion, which is the greatest business of our life, and in which we ought to take most delight, is the issue of peace. War breaks all that order, interrupts all that devotion, and even extinguishes all that zeal, which peace had kindled in us; lays waste the dwelling-place of God as well as of man; and introduces and propagates opinions and practice as much against heaven as against earth, and erects a deity that delights in nothing but cruelty and blood. Are we pleased with the enlarged commerce and society of large and opulent cities, or with the retired pleasures of the country? Do we love stately palaces, and noble houses, or take delight in pleasant groves and woods, or fruitful gardens, which teach and instruct nature to produce and bring forth more fruits, and flowers, and plants, than her own store can supply her with? All this we owe to peace, and the dissolution of this peace disfigures all this beauty, and in a short time covers and buries all this order and delight in ruin and rubbish. Finally, have we any content, satisfaction, and joy, in the conversation of each other, in the knowledge and understanding of those arts and sciences, which more adorn mankind, than all those buildings and plantations do the fields and grounds on which they stand ? Even this is the blessed effect and legacy of peace ; and war lays our natures and manners as waste as our gardens and our habitations ; and we can as easily preserve the beauty of the one, as the integrity of the other, under the cursed jurisdiction of drums and trumpets.
“ If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,” was one of the primitive injunctions of Christianity, Rom. xii. 18; and comprehends not only particular and private men, (though no doubt all gentle and peaceable nations are most capable of Christian precepts, and most affected with them, but kings and princes themselves. St. Paul knew well, that the peaceable inclinations and dispositions of subjects could do little good, if the sovereign princes were disposed to war; but if they desire to live peaceably with their neighbours, their subjects cannot but be happy. And the pleasure that God himself takes in that temper needs no other manifestation, than the
promise our Saviour makes to those who contribute towards it, in his Sermon
the Mount, “ Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God,” Matt. v. 9. Peace must needs be very acceptable to him, when the instruments towards it are crowned with such a full measure of blessing; and it is no hard matter to guess whose children they are, who take all the pains they can to deprive the world of peace, and to subject it to the rage and fury and desolation of war. If we had not the woful experience of so many hundred
years, we should hardly think it possible that men, who pretend to embrace the gospel of peace, should be so unconcerned in the obligation and effects of it; and when God looks upon it as the greatest blessing he
upon the heads of those who please him best and observe his commands, “ I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid,” Lev. xxvi. 6, that men study nothing more than how to throw off and deprive themselves and others of this his precious bounty; as if we were void of natural reason, as well as without the elements of religion; for nature itself disposes us to a love of society, which cannot be preserved without peace. A whole city on fire is a spectacle full of horror, but a whole kingdom on fire must be a prospect much more terrible; and such is every kingdom in war, where nothing flourishes but rapine, blood, and murder, and the faces of all men are pale and ghastly, out of the sense of what they have done, or of what they have suffered, or are to endure. The reverse of all this is peace, which in a moment extinguishes all that fire, binds up all the wounds, and restores to all faces their natural vivacity and beauty. We cannot make a more lively representation and emblem to ourselves of hell, than by the view of a kingdom in war; where there is nothing to be seen but destruction and fire, and the discord itself is a great part of the torment; nor a more sensible reflection upon the joys of heaven, than as it is all quiet and peace, and where nothing is to be discerned but consent and harmony, and what is amiable in all the circumstances of it. And, as far as we may warrantably judge of the inhabitants of either climate, they who love and cherish discord among men, and take delight in war, have large mansions provided for them in that region of faction and disagree. ment; so we may presume, that they who set their hearts upon peace in this world, and labour to promote it in their several stations amongst all men, and who are instruments to prevent the breach of it amongst princes and states, or to renew it when it is broken, have infallible title to a place and mansion in heaven; where there is only peace in that perfection that all other blessings are comprehended in it, and a part of it.
SPENSER, the great master of personification, thus paints the genius of the season :
Then came the Autumn all in yellow clad,
And in his hand a sickle he did hold,
One who had a rare talent for imitation has caught the quaint phraseology of the elder poets with something like accuracy; but the modern antique is palpable :
When Autumn bleak and sun-burnt do appear,
When all the hills with woody seed is white,
When the fair apple, rudde as even sky,
Then, be the even foul, or even fair,