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TO A YOUNG ASS.
Inquiry.--Everything that is really excellent will bear examination, it will even invite it, and the more narrowly it is surveyed to the more advantage it will appear.- Robert Hall.
The Scriptures.—To understand the Scriptures it is necessary to have a sense in which all the contrary passages agree. It is not sufficient to have one which suits many according passages; but there must be one which reconciles even contrary passages.- Pascal.
Words.—Honour, justice, truth, temperance, public spirit, fortitude, chastity, friendship, benevolence, and fidelity. The names of all' which virtues are still retained among us in most languages, and are to be met with in some modern as well as ancient authors; which I am able to assert from my own small reading.- Dean Swift.
STRICTLY speaking, I believe, only Deans are "very reverend;" your common clergy are barely “reverend”, Bishops are "right reverend :" Is there anything wrong then about the others? We shall see.
Archdeacon Walker was barely reverend. He was a little plump man, with a warm and open countenance outwardly evidencing the inward and spiritual grace and affording ample proof of a devoted attachment to good living. It was said that he was especially chosen to be a parson by the Holy Ghost: why I could never understand-since he was neither very learned, very devout, nor very benevolent--but I will not dispute the fact. I believe it was a friend at court who gave him the living of Kilgormac, an Irish parish containing five protestants (who were dissenters), and seven or eight hundred Catholics, who paid him about £1000 a year for insulting their religious feelings. The reverend Archdeacon held two other livings in England; and as he could not reside altogether on them all, he wisely resolved to give none cause to complain of excessive attention, and therefore never resided on any.
The life of the “honourable” Mr. Walker, previous to his call by the Holy Ghost, was not, as I before hinted, remarkable for any particular sanctity. Neither was it censurable for any extraordinary crime. He dressed, sported, gamed, drank, swore, lied, whored, and broke all the commandments, as other young men do who are brought up for the church-but nothing worse. His collegiate indiscretions were very gentlemanly, and never offended the strict moral proprieties of good society. His worst vices put on a decent hypocrisy, out of compliment to virtue; and were excused by the addition: as our Legislature continually declares that “a pickpocket should be forgiven and allowed to practise with impunity, when he dresses like a gentleman or assumes the livery of a senator." At length Mr. Walker was ordained, was married, was reverend, and respected. He entered upon the duties of his ministry which consisted of occasionally preaching* on some doctrinal point of no earthly consequence, some general and unspecified sin, or some trifling “enormity": and it was remarked that “if the hearts of his hearers were no better for his discourses, their intellects were seldom much worse.” I certainly cannot say much for the reverend gentleman's lecturing; but he was a capital shot, and a good practical expounder of scripture: for example, he did fine sermons on the text, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings and not one of them is forgotten before God.” Seldom was there a day, in the season, that he did not bag birds enough to merit the peculiar notice of his divine master. In addition to these clerical duties he supported the burthen of the magisterial function, thereby possessing excellent opportunities of preaching mercy on Sundays and practising what his clerk called justice on certain other days similarly set aside to as good purpose. In this latter capacity, so favourable for the exercise of his reverence's charity, (I forget how many of the Apostles were magistrates) he was as much respected and beloved aš in his religious office; especially in his Irish parish, which he but seldom visited, and whence he never departed without exciting the grief of his flock, as their
* Having but one living at this time, he paid a curate nearly one tenth of his income to preach sometines, and always to read prayers, visit the sick, christen, marry, bury, &c.
groans and lamentations abundantly testified. Unfortunately, the preaching and practice of Archdeacon Walker fell upon unprofitable ground, unprofitable to all but himself-goodness is ever its own reward—; yet was his method eminently adapted to win souls from the error of their ways, to eradicate heresy, to fill heaven with the redeemed. I must more particularly describe the archdeacon's manner of conversion : it was so singularly beautiful. I cannot do this better than by citing one instance very successful in its results.
A poor widow was in arrear with her tithes; and when it was demanded by the archdeacon's curate (I mean his tithe-proctor), she was impious enough to say that she could not pay, and most sinfully added (I quote from Mr. Walker's description) that she did not like his religion and therefore saw no reason why she should pay for it. This was very bad, for “the labourer is worthy of his hire”—and Mr. Walker had laboured very hard, through his deputy, the aforesaid proctor. Well, the old woman said she could not pay and would not pay; and as her friends promised to stand by her, the reverend shepherd called in the military to assist him in the shearing; and, finding his flock resolute to resist what they dared to call robbery, he ordered his gang of butchers to murder a score of them. This was done: the rebels filed; and the widow promised on the spot to pay the money. I fear I cannot do justice to this most Christian act in any words but those of the reverend executioner himself. “You will observe," said he, “ that my, promptitude secured three great blessings very essential to our holy Church and typical of the faith, charity, and self-sacrificing spirit of her clergy, the humble imitators of the meek and loving Jesus. Seventeen persons were put out of this state of trial and fairly shot into heaven, among them actually being the son of this irreligious widow; the widow was converted, to be a living evidence of the church's zeal, and in future will pay her tithe regularly; and last, not least, my pockets are much heavier. And by God”, added the holy man, “if the widow dares to complain, I will prosecute her for a libel.”
Archdeacon Walker is still “the reverend”, still received into the best society," and actually has prosecuted one libeller who, animadverting on his conduct, ventured to call it unchristian. The world looks on complacently, and still calls him “the reverend."
There was a man named Howard, who spent his life in relieving the sufferings of those wretches who were sentenced to loathsome dungeons by their paternal governments because they were no better than those wise governments allowed them to be; there was another man, one Captain Coram, who founded a hospital for the protection of all children ordered by the legislature to be exposed and deserted by their parents, and who, in his declining years, the glorious old man! blushed not to receive his own subsistence from the grudging hands of strangers; there was another man, and is, (therefore we do not name him: all who honour goodness know him,) who has been imprisoned and reviled and persecuted for endeavouring to teach his countrymen their true political interests, who has devoted a long life to the consistent advocacy of truth, to the teaching and practice of Love, yet even now must he labour for a scanty livelihood, and still is he at his post, active and unmurmuring, “ the gentlest of the wise". Two of these men are thought fools , and sometimes called philanthropists. The last has been branded, even as Christ was, as seditious and an enemy to the peace of society. None of these men has been saluted as reverend by the great world; nor need they the outward title: no one thinks of the reverend Jesus Christ :-but, O‘very much mistaking world! if titles must be worn, though it be only to distinguish the follies of your quarrelsome children, let them be ever applied and applicable! Do not call evil good, and good evil. Do not call a swindler “right honourable”, a heartless beast “most noble”, an infamous murderer“ patriotic prime minister", or an Archdeacon Walker “ reverend”.
There should be some truth in the commonest title.
REVELATIONS OF TRUTH.
Behold! the wild animals know no disease : but those only which have submitted to the influence of man are subject to disease and premature decay.
But man knoweth not perfect health.
He is feeble, and distorted, and ever tormented by disease: the inevitable consequences of his unnatural habits.
The instinct of the wild animal telleth it what food to take, and what to reject as hurtful.
Man's instincts were as unerring : but the untutored reason led him astray to the enfeebling of instinct; and the enlightened reason must restore the long-lost power.
Now man instinctively knoweth not what food is wholesome, or what injurious : he eateth and drinketh carelessly and gluttonously; he becometh diseased; and medicine, on the authority of a fallacious precedent, prescribeth for the evil- an uncertain palliative.
He destroyeth life and greedily devoureth blood, and half-putrid and diseased flesh: he mocketh at compassion and encourageth selfishness; he blunteth the purity of his instincts; he corrupteth his body, and the clogged mind acteth through foul and disordered organs.
He inflameth and poisoneth his system; he rendereth his desires gross and insatiable, his temperament furious and malignant, his intellect dull and obstinate: he is the prey of horrible agonies, of insanity, and untimely death.
Perchance he essayeth a simpler mode of life; he is temperate and dieteth himself; and yet disease attacketh him.
And he is greatly surprized that, having walked many years in one direction upon a wrong path, he cannot retrace his steps in a few hours: 80 he saith, There is no other road, I must continue in the old and evil way.
What hath taken but a day to pull down may require years to rebuild : shall there therefore be no restoration?
Death must be one of two things—continuance of existence under new circumstances, or positive and complete annihilation of substance.
If the life beyond death be an improved existence, surely death is most desirable, as the passage to that better life; but if the future hold increase of evil, who would not rather desire the calm sleep of annihilation, wherein can be no pain, nor sorrow, nor need of anything. The preservation of identity is a separate question : our perceptions of pain and pleasure exist in dependently thereof, though continued identity may be a means of modifying their action.
Death, then, can not be feared as a mere cessation of being; and looking to it as a change, is it not far wiser to rejoice in the hope of possible good than to rack our hearts with dread of the equally uncertain evil?
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Following the world's example.-Cato hath given a lesson for those, who sincerely love true honour, to resist the vices of their age, and to detest that horrid maxim which prevails in the world, inculcating the necessity of following the example of others. At Rome we must do as Rome does ; a maxim that would lead those who adopt it great lengths, if they had the misfortune to fall into the company of a gang of highway-men.-Rousseau.
THE LIFE OF FLOWERS.
To that strange lore--The fair flowers dream and feel,
And mutely conscious how the unresting wheel
Of Time revolveth, and doth hourly steal
Of their nectarious kindred, that reveal
To crush its being, and for ever end
Ah! no; presence and absence never blend
A consciousness about them; or to rend
When even the rainbow their dew'd eyes transcend;
That they are sensible to hearted feeling;
Those griefs which even now I am revealing
In tears and sighs, from lips and eyelids stealing-
By which, if they do feel, with wounds unhealing
Attend ! as to a Delphic oracle:
Peer, in awaken'd beauty, from Night's cell;
On the warm heart of Noontide when they dwell;
They have their thoughts and dreams; and thou dost quell
From its green birth-place !-Art of those that sleep
In all the Universe sublime and deep-.
Invisible and visible ! There weep
And unveil all things o'er which darkly sweep
March 23, 1839.