« السابقةمتابعة »
THE physical state of the globe of our earth is not more diversified by climate, soil, and cultivation, than the aspect and temperature of religion is affected by the circumstances, habits, and prejudices of mankind. Truth is immutable, determinate, and single; error is fluctuating, variable, and multifold. Some truths are abstract, and stand in separation from man's infirmity; but others sustain the gross admixture of human passions, ignorances, and perversities; and of this latter class is religion, which, even in its Christian form, and founded on the oracles of God, has its perfect and unerring essence obscured in various degrees, and falsified in a thousand ways by its connexion with corrupt natures, and its passage through a medium of contagious defilement. To draw from this precious gift its real virtue and profit, the nearer
we get to its source the better. It is a most beneficial exercise to the faculties of man to pierce through the subtleties which his own presumptuous understanding and vain curiosity have interposed to the pure emanation of the word of Jehovah reposited in the sacred Scriptures. To escape out of the intricacies of human invention to the clear element in which truth resides, is the privilege of humble inquiry; and to promote and assist this inquiry, our religious literature abounds in valuable directories and expositions. With respect, also, to Christian practice generally, we are in no want of guides and counsellors. But how in these days of intellectual activity, when so much is busily wrong, partially right, and essentially good, and so many incongruous characters are crowded on the same stage, amidst so much stirring and strife of opinion, boldness of speculation, and contest for distinction, a pious individual is to comport himself in all his relations and transac@tions, so as to reconcile and unite in one vocation and system of behaviour the duties and habits proper to the Christian Gentleman, it is the object of this little manual to explain. It is not Christianity in ordinary life, but Christianity in a special relation and connexion, that will be the subject of its inquiry. Neglecting the plains
and valleys, it will confine its views to the garden border, where the lily on its graceful stalk exposes its petals to the sun, and to the hills, where the cedar throws around its lofty shade.
That the Christian loses nothing by being a gentleman, and that the gentleman gains greatly by being a Christian, may be gathered from the history of our own country. In various proportions, and in various degrees, the union has probably subsisted in the lives of many eminent persons who have flourished in remote periods; but time has cast into the shade the delicate traces of character in which this coalescence of the Christian with the gentleman is principally manifested. We catch eagerly at every anecdote which can bring us into familiarity with those distant characters, of whom every domestic record affects us with a sort of picturesque interest, and are delighted with any partial or petty occurrence in their biography which can help the fancy in its efforts to complete the model. But it is often the fate of researches into the characters of our ancient ancestry, to find that the nearer we approach the reality, the less we perceive of that ́union in which our fancies have indulged, of Christian graces with chivalrous breeding. As the light of the Reformation increased, the characters of
English story acquired greater distinctness, by exhibiting more of their domestic lineaments, and presenting themselves in scenes of greater moral interest and importance. The province of history at this period became graver and more careful to record the share of each personage in the changes produced in society. From the commencement of Elizabeth's reign, many considerable men came forward to view in vivacious relief; and it may do no harm to hold them out as objects of general praise and partial imitation: but with the Gospel before us, understood as it happily is by our church and all orthodox Christians, it would be impossible, apart from enthusiasm, to admit that the age of Elizabeth, or of her immediate successor, presents us with a model of a Christian gentleman, composed of the constituents which really belong to that character. Two men indeed there were of Elizabeth's court, Sir Philip Sidney and the Earl of Sussex, in whom Englishmen delight to trace the lineaments of this graceful conformity and happy combination. But in Sir Philip Sidney the ingredients were disproportionately mixed. The flavour of the gentleman predominated: he was a gentleman rather after the prescription of the world than after the Christian exemplar. Yet such was the beauty of his life,
and the heroism of his death, that, if the gentlemanly half of him was not sufficiently under the control of his other and better half, yet the grand total and sum of his perfections were such that the heart fondly declines to dwell upon the corrections and distinctions which the judgment suggests.
The Earl of Sussex was still nearer the fulfilment of the true requisites of the Christian gentleman. History records nothing of him that is not in agreement with that character: and such we might probably have pronounced him to have been had he stood nearer to our own times, so as to exhibit himself under a greater variety of aspects, and especially in one more natural and ordinary; but we see him only through the vaporous atmosphere of a court, and know him only in his great concerns. all that we do see of him, the gentleman and Christian appear to have been combined; and upon the whole it may be said with some assurance, upon the strength both of what he did and what he did not in the midst of intrigue, detraction, adulation, and ambition, that English history has hardly proposed to imitation a better
-Our frame of polity, which has been moulded with a singular suitableness to the nature, wants,