« PreviousContinue »
of opinion. In both instances the success has been worthy of the attempt.
ASCETIC.Dr. Johnson has observed that the shortness of life has afforded as many arguments to the voluptuary as to the moralist, and there can be no doubt that the ascetic, in his cell, is seeking his own happiness with as much selfishness as the professed epicurean: one betakes himself to immediate, the other to remote gratifications; one devotes himself to sensuality, the other to mortification; one to bodily, the other, perhaps, to intellectual pleasures; one to this world, the other to the next; but the principle of action is the same in both parties, and the ascetic is, perhaps the most selfish calculator of the two, inasmuch as the reward he claims is infinitely greater and of longer endurance. He is usurious in his dealings with heaven, and does not put out the smallest mortification except upon the most enormous interest. His very self-denial is selfish, for the odds are incalculably in favour of the man who bets body against soul.
They who impiously imagine that the happiness of the Creator consists in the unhappiness of the creature, are thus offending Him in their very fear of giving offence, since they find sweetness even in their sourness, and a joy in the very want of it. Well for them, too, if they go not astray, in their over anxiety to walk straight. “ As for those that will not take lawful pleasures,” says old Fuller, “ I am afraid they will take unlawful pleasure, and, by lacing themselves too hard, grow awry on one side.”
To the the same purport we may quote the observation of the French writer, Balzac: “Si ceux qui sont ennemis des divertissemens honnêtes avoient la direction du monde, ils voudroient ôter le printemps et la jeunesse, l'un de l'année, et l'autre de la vie."
ATHANASIAN CREED-Character of, by a bishop. “A motley monster of bigotry and superstition, a scarecrow of
shreds and patches, dressed up of old by philosophers and popes, to amuse the speculative and to affright the ignorant; now a butt of scorn, against which every unfledged witling of the age essays his wanton efforts, and before he has learned his catechism, is fixed an infidel for life.”*
In Bishop Watson's proposed bill for revising the Liturgy and Articles, the omission of the Athanasian Creed was one of the principal improvements; and, long before his time,
Bishop Burnet had not scrupled to pronounce it a forgery of the eighth century. We know, from the authority of Dr. Heberden, that the pious George III. refused, in the most pointed manner, to make the responses when this creed was read in Windsor Chapel. Dr. Mant, quoting from Dean Vincent, says, " this creed is supposed to have been framed from the writings of Athanasius. It was not, however, admitted into the offices of the Roman church, at the earliest, till the year 930, in which it has continued ever since, and was received into our liturgy at the time of the Reformation.”—(Mant's Common Prayer, p. 57.)
In spite of the damnatory clauses at the conclusion of this theological puzzle, this Ignotum per ignotius, it appears that Christendom did very well without it for 900 years; and, probably, very few of the rationally devout would complain if it were placed in the same situation for 900 years to come. It was a saying of the Dutch General, Wurtz, “that when men shall have once taken out of Christianity all that they have foisted into it, there will be but one religion in the world, and that equally plain in doctrine, and pure in morals.” The Scriptures warn us against “teaching the doctrines of men as the commandments of God;" or, as Paley has said, “imposing, under the name of revealed religion, doctrines which men cannot believe, or will not examine.” When objections are made to the Mosaic account of the creation, as being in
* Misc. Tracts, by Watson, Bishop of Landaff, v. 2. p. 49.
consistent with the modern state of science, it is indignantly urged that Moses did not undertake to expound astronomy or geology to ignorant shepherds, but that he spoke popularly, and adapted himself to the comprehensions of his auditors. And yet, when any attempt is made to popularize our liturgy, by the omission of any such objectionable portions as the Athanasian Creed, we hear a Pharisaical cry of impiety and profanation, and are solemnly warned that to remove a single stone, however cankered or superfluous, is to endanger the whole edifice of the church. Strange! that we may suppress truth and yet not expunge a forgery. Strange! that we may adapt the liturgy and formularies of religion to the ignorance of the age, and yet not adjust them to its knowledge!
This incredible creed, which it is above all things necessary to hold, may be defined, like Aristotle's Materia Prima, is, nec quid, nec quale, nec quantum, nec aliquid eorum de quibus Ens denominatur.” Nevertheless, there are golden reasons, which may induce a profession of belief in it. Mr. Patten, a curate of Whitstable, was so much averse to it that he always omitted it from the service. Archbishop Secker, being informed of his recusancy, sent the archdeacon to ask him his reason. " I do not believe it,” said the priest.
-“ But your metropolitan does,” replied the archdeacon.“ It may be so," rejoined Mr. Patten ; “and he can well afford it. He believes at the rate of seven thousand a-year, and I, only at that of fifty.
ATHEIST.-Supposing such an anomaly to exist, an atheist must be the most miserable of beings. The idea of a fatherless world, swinging by some blind law of chance, which may every moment expose it to destruction, through an infinite space, filled, perhaps, with nothing but suffering and wretchedness, unalleviated by the prospect of a future and a happier state, must be almost intolerable to a man who has a single spark of benevolence in his bosom. “All the splendour of the highest prosperity,” says Adam Smith, never enlighten the gloom with which so dreadful an idea must necessarily overshadow the imagination; nor in a wise and virtuous man, can all the sorrow of the most afflicting adversity ever dry up the joy which necessarily springs from the habitual and thorough conviction of the truth of the contrary system.”
The word atheist has done yeoman's service as a nick-name wherewith to pelt all those who disapprove of the thirty-nine articles, or who venture to surmise that there are abuses in the church which need reform; but this sort of dirt has been thrown until it will no longer stick, except to the fingers of those who handle it. The real atheist is the Mammonite, who, making “ godliness a great gain,” worships a golden calf, and calls it a God: or the miserable fanatic, who, endowing the phantom of his own folly and fear, with the worst passions of the worst men, dethrones the deity to set up a demon, and curses all those who will not curse themselves by joining in his idolatry.
AVARICE_The mistake of the old, who begin multiplying their attachments to the earth, just as they are going to run away from it, thereby increasing the bitterness without protracting the date of their separation. What the world terms avarice, however, is sometimes no more than a compulsory economy; and even a wilful penuriousness is better than a wasteful extravagance. Simonides being reproached with parsimony, said he had rather enrich his enemies after his death, than borrow of his friends in his lifetime.
There are more excuses for this “old gentlemanly vice," than the world is willing to admit. Its professors have the honour of agreeing with Vespasian, that—" Auri bonus est odor ex re qualibet,” and with Dr. Johnson, who maintained, that a man is seldom more beneficially employed, either for himself or others, than when he is making money. Wealth,
power, of which the secret sense in ourselves, and the open homage it draws from others, are doubly sweet, when we feel that all our other powers, and the estimation they
procured us, are gradually failing. Nor is it any trifling advantage, in extreme old age, still to have a pursuit that gives an interest to existence; still to propose to ourselves an object, of which every passing day advances the accomplishment, and which holds out to us the pleasure of success, with hardly a possibility of failure, for it is much more easy to make the last plum than the first thousand. So far from supposing an old miser to be inevitably miserable, in the Latin sense of the word, it is not improbable that he may be more happy than his less penurious brethren. No one but an old man who has withstood the temptation of avarice, should be allowed to pronounce its unqualified condemnation.
AUDIENCE-A crowd of people in a large theatre, so called because they cannot hear. The actors speak to them with their hands and feet, and the spectators listen to them with
AUTHOR-original-One who copying only from the works of the great Author of the world, never plagiarises, except from the book of nature; whereas the imitator derives his inspiration from the writings of his fellow-men, and has no thought except as to the best mode of purloining the thoughts of others. Authors are lamps, exhausting themselves to give light to others; or rather may they be compared to industrious bees, not because they are armed with a sting, but because they gather honey from every flower, only that their hive may be plundered when their toil is completed. By the iniquitous law of copyright, an author's property in the offspring of his own intellect, is wrested from him in the end of a few years ; previously to which period, the bookseller is generally obliging enough to ease him of the greater portion of the profit.
Against the former injustice, however, most writers secure themselves by the evanescent nature of their works; and as to the latter, we must confess after all, that the bookseller is the best Mæcenas.