« ElőzőTovább »
frequently offered, and most easily admitted. The restrictions of religion, though proper enough for maturer age, are too severe, it is said, for this frolicsome and gladsome period. Its consolations, too, they do not want. Leave them to prop the feeble limbs of old age, or too cheer the sinking spirits of adversity. False and pernicious maxim ! As if, at the end of a stated number of years, a man could become religious in a moment ! As if the husbandman, at the end of summer, could call up a harvest from the soil which he had never tilled! As if manhood, too, would have no excuses! And what are they? That he has grown too old to amend. That his pārents took no pains with his religious education, and therefore his ignorance is not his own fault. That he must be making provision for old age; and the pressure of cares will allow him no time to attend to the evidences, or learn the rules of religion. Thus life is spent in framing apologies, in making and breaking resolutions, and protracting amendment, till death places his cold hand on the mouth open to make its last excuse, and one more is added to the crowded congregation of the dead.
The excuses, which we have already considered, are trifling, however, compared with the following.
It is said, “it is by no means certain, that there is a future state of retribution beyond the limits of the world. Who has ever seen it? It is not certain, that the religion, which you urge us to embrace, comes from God. Many objections may be made to its evidences." Most of the irreligion, which prevails among the more informed classes of society, results from a lurking skepticism, which infests their thoughts, and, in relation to religion, leads them to act in direct opposition to all the maxims, which usually govern the conduct of men.
It is indeed true, that the existence of a future world is not to us as certain as the existence of the present; neither can we ever have that intuitive assurance of the being of a God, that we necessarily possess of our own existence; neither can the facts of the gospel history, which happened two thousand years ago, be impressed on our belief with that undoubting conviction, which we have of the reality of scenes, which are passing immediately before our eyes.
But the question is not, whether the gospel history can be demon'strated. Few subjects which occupy human contemplation admit strict and mathematical proof. The whole life of man is but a perpetual comparison of evidence, and balancing of probabilities. And upon the supposition that religious truths are only probable, the excuse we have mentioned will not relieve irreligion from the charge of presumptuous and consummate folly.
But it is said, many objections have been made to the evidences of revelation ; and many of its difficulties remain yet unexplained. It is true, that objections have been often made and often answered, and not only answered, but refuted. But some difficulties, it is said, yet remain. It is true, they do remain ; and the excuse shall be admitted, when
any other subject of equal importance shall be produced, in which difficulties do not remain. The most plausible objections, which have been made to any truth within the circle of human knowlege, are those which have been offered against the existence of a material world ; but did this ever check an operation in mechanics, or excuse from his daily task a single laborer ?
A man of ingenuity might offer a thousand objections against the probability of your living till the morrow; but would this rob you of a moment's rest
, or frustrate a single plan, which you had meditated for the approaching day? If we subtract from the difficulties, which attend revelation, those which have been erected by the injudicious zeal of some of its friends in attempting to prove too much, we shall find, that, in the vast storehouse of facts which history presents, for none can there be produced a greater mass of evidence than for the birth, the death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and upon the supposition of their truth, irreligion is nothing better than distraction.
Another excuse, however, is offered, which perhaps has greater secret influence in quieting the conscience than any other. We are desired to look at the list of great names, who have been adversaries of christianity. Can that evidence, it is asked, be satisfactory, which failed to convince such minds as these ?-If the probable truth of revelation is to be ascertained in this manner, the dispute will soon be at an end; for it would be no difficult task to produce, from among the friends of revelation, a greater number of greater names within the last hundred years, than all the hosts of infidelity can furnish in eighteen centuries since the birth of Christ.
But I believe these instances are not alleged to disprove the truth, but only to weaken the importance of Christianity. They are alleged only to excuse an inattention to religion, and show that it is not very dāngerous to err with such great names on our side. Truths, it is said, which such understandings disbelieved, surely cannot be of infinite importance. Nothing would tend more to remove such apologies, than a fair, impartial, and full account of the education, the characters, the intellectual processes, and the dying moments of such men. Then it would be seen, that their virtues were the result of the very principles they had assailed, but from whose influence they were unable wholly to escape. Then it would be seen, that they had gained by their skepticism no new pleasures, no tranquillity of mind, no peace of conscience during life, and no consolation in the hour of death.
Such are the excuses which irreligion offers. Could you have believed, that they were so empty, so unworthy, so hollow, so absurd ? And shall such excuses be offered to the God of heaven and earth? By such apologies shall man insult his Creator ? Shall he hope to flatter the ear of Omnipotence, and beguile the observation of an omniscient spirit? Think you, that such excuses will gain new importance in their assent to the throne of the Majesty on high ? Will you trust the interests of eternity in the hands of these superficial advocates ?
You have pleaded your incessant occupation. Exhibit then the result of your employment. Have you nothing to produce but these bags of gold, these palaces, and farms, these bundles of cares, and heaps of vexations? Is the eye of Heaven to be dazzled by an exhibition of property, an ostentatious show of treasures? You surely produce not all these wasted hours, to prove that you had no time for religion. It is an insult to the Majesty of Heaven. Again, you have pleaded your youth, and you have pleaded your age. Which of these do you choose to maintain at the bar of Heaven ? Such trifling would not be admitted in the intercourse of men, and do you think it will avail more with Almighty God?
It must however be acknowledged, that the case of the irreligious is not desperate, while excuses are thought proper
and necessary. There is some glimmering of hope, that the man who apologizes is willing to amend. God preserve us from that ob'duracy of wickedness, which disdains to palliate a crime; from that hardihood of unbelief, which will not give even a weak reason, and which derides the offer of
But the season of apologies is passing away. All our eloquent defences of ourselves must soon cease. Death stiffens the smooth tongue of flattery, and blots out, with one stroke, all the ingenious excuses, which we have spent our lives in framing.
At the marriage-supper, the places of those who refused to come, were soon filled by a multitude of delighted guests. The God of Heaven needs not our presence to adorn his table, for whether we accept, or whether we reject his gracious invitation, whether those who were bidden taste or not of his supper, his house shall be filled. Though many are called and few chosen, yet Christ has not died in vain, religion is not without its witnesses, or heaven without its inhabitants. Let us then remember, that one thing is needful, and that there is a better part than all the pleasures and selfish pursuits of this world, a part which we are encouraged to secure, and which can never be taken away.
Apostrophe to Mount Parnassus.*-BYRON.
O. THOU Parnassus ! whom I now survey,
Not in the phrensy of a dreamer's eye,
But soaring, snow-clad, through thy native sky,
The humblest of thy pilgrims, passing by,
Would gladly woo thine Echoes with his string, Though from thy heights no more one Muse shall wave her
Oft have I dreamed of thee! whose glorious name
Who knows not, knows not man's divinest lore;
*Written in Castri, the ancient Delphi; at the foot of Parnassus, now called Liakura.
And now I view thee, 'tis, alas !'with shame
That I, in feeblest accents, must adore.
When I recount thy worshippers of yore,
Nor raise my voice, nor vainly dare to soar,
Happier in this than mightiest bards have been,
Whose fate to distant homes confined their lot,
Which others rave of, though they know it not?
Though here no more Apollo haunts his grot,
Some gentle spirit still pervades the spot,
Sighs in the gale, keeps silence in the cave,
Mont Blanc :- The hour before Sunrise.-COLERIDGE.
Hast thou a charm' to stay the morning star In his steep course ? so long he seems to pause On thy bald awful head, Oh sovereign Blanc ! The Arvé and Arveiron at thy base Rave ceaselessly, while thou, dread mountain form, Risest from forth thy silent sea of pines How silently! Around thee and above Deep is the sky and black : transpicuous deep, An éb'on mass ! methinks thou piercest it As with a wedge! But when I look again It seems thine own calm home, thy crystal shrine, Thy habitation from eternity. Oh dread and silent form! I gazed on thee Till thou, still present to my bodily eye, Didst vanish from my thought.—Entranc'd in prayer, I worshipped the Invisible alone, Yet thou, methinks, wast working on my soul, E'en like some deep enchanting melody, So sweet we know not we are listening to it. But I awake, and with a busier mind And active will, self-conscious, offer now,