« السابقةمتابعة »
produces in his own vindication, is the strongest argument against him. If he knew' that his lord was such a rigorous exacter, that was the very reasor why he should not have given in such a negative account. I knew thou wast a hard master.' Could a weightier argument have been advanced for a directly different conduct? Common prudence might have taught him that, with such a master, his only security was assiduous industry. The want of love of God was at the root of this, as it is of all sin.
science, all unite their several forces to fasten on the mind the belief that we shall be called to a definite account. Our intelligent nature, our rational powers, our voluntary agency, make us suitable subjects of God's moral government. His wisdom, power, omniscience, rectitude and justice render him supremely fit to be our final judge, and the dispenser of our eternal awards. But God, in his infinite goodness, has not, in this most important point, left us to the bare light of unassisted nature; he has not left us to be tossed about without rudder, or compass, on the boundless ocean of harrassing con
How many listen to the sentence of this unworthy servant! How many allow the equity of this exclusion, and yet how few, comparative-jecture. He has not abandoned us to the alterly, ask, with the agitated Apostles; Lord, is it I?' This simple question, honestly put, and practically followed up, would render all comment vain, all exhortation superfluous. This self-application is the great end of the parable, the great end of Scripture, the great end of preaching, and the only end of hearing.
nation of vain fears and unfounded hopes; to the sickly suggestions of a troubled fancy, the cruel uncertainties of doubt, and the cheerless darkness of ignorance. The expectation of a day of retribution is not the gloomy reverie of the superstitious, nor the wild vision of the enthusiastic. He who cannot lie has solemnly assured us, that he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world by that Man whom he has sent, Christ Jesus.
The coming of this great day, which nature suspected, and reason allowed, Scripture confirms. It will at length arrive. The scrutiny so graphically exhibited by our Lord, will be realized in all its pomp of terrors. The sea shall
But do not too many of us, like him we are so ready to condemn, conceal our self-love under the assumption of modesty, and indulge our sloth under the humble pretence that we have no talent to exercise? But let us be assured it is the deadness of our spiritual affections, and not our mean opinion of ourselves, that is the real cause. The service of God is irksome, because his commands interfere with our self-in-give up its dead, and death and hell shall delidulgence. Let the lowly Christian possessed of ver up the dead which are in them, and every but his single talent, cheer his fainting heart by man shall be judged according to his works. that beautifully condescending plea, with which And the dead, small and great shall stand before the compassionate Saviour vindicated the mo- God, the judgment shall be set, and the books dest penitent, who had no other way of demon-opened, and the dead shall be judged out of those strating her affection, but by pouring perfumes on his feet-SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD. Aing to their works. tenderness of encouragement, which, if we consider by whom it was uttered, and to whom addressed, must convey consolation to the heart of the most poorly endowed and self-abasing Christian.
In giving in the final account of the use we have made of our talents, we shall not only have to reckon, for the Christian knowledge we really acquired, for the progress we actually made in piety, for the good impressions we received or communicated, but for the higher degrees of all which we might have received or imparted, had we, instead of squandering our talents on inferior objects, carried them to the height of which they were susceptible. Had we acted up to our convictions, had we pushed our advantages to their possibilities, had we regularly pursued what we eagerly engaged in, had our progress kept pace with our resolution, our attainments, with our opportunities, how much more profitable servants we might have been! But satisfied to stop short of great offences, we neglect to impress upon our consciences how large a portion of our reckoning will be of a negative character.
things which are written in the books, accord
This universal examination into the human character, this critical dissection of the heart of man, from the first created being to him who shall be caught up alive in the air at Christ's second coming, shall infallibly take place.
Blessed be Almighty forbearance, it is still in the power of every existing child of Adam to lighten to himself his apprehensions of that day. He may do more; he may convert terror into transport, by acting now as if he really believed it would one day come; by acting as he shall then wish he had acted. If the terrors of the Lord persuade men,' what effect should his mercy produce; that mercy which has given the universal warning to the whole human race in three consentaneous parables, exhibited with a spirit of truth more resembling historic narrative, than prophetic anticipation! There is not one living being who now reads this page from whom that day is distant; to some it must be very near; to none perhaps nearer, than to her who now tremblingly presumes to raise the warning voice; to her, to all, it is tremendously awful. Let none of us, then, content ourselves with a barren admiration of its solemnities, as From natural feeling, from inward conscious- if it were an affecting scene of a tragedy, inness, from the notices of reason, the traces of vented to move the passions without rectifying hereditary opinion, and the analogy of things, them; to inspire terror, without quickening reindependently of Revelation, we cannot avoid pentance. Let us not be struck by it as with a the belief that we are accountable beings. Our wonderful fact in history, which involves the innotions of right and wrong, of equity and judg-terest of some one country with which we have ment, our insuppressible forebodings, our fearful no particular concern; or of some remote cenanticipations, the suggestions of natural con- tury disconnected with that in which our lot is
cast. It is the personal, the individual, the everlasting concern of every rational being through all the rolls of time, till time shall be no more. It is the final, unalterable decision on the fate of every intelligent, and, therefore, every accountable creature, to whom God has revealed his will; to whom he has sent his Son, to whom he has offered the aid of his Spirit.
No wonder that the universal administration of final justice shall be manifested in the most awful pomp and splendor-no wonder that it will be equally a scene of anguish and of transport; when it will, on the one hand, as much exceed the terrors of guilt, as it will, on the other, transcend the hopes of faith-when the eternal Son of the eternal Father, in the full brightness of his glory, shall be the judge; when the whole assembled universe shall be the subjects of judgment-when not only the deeds of every life, but the thoughts of every heart, shall be brought to light, when, if we produce our works, the recording book will produce our motives-when every saint who acted as seeing Him who is invisible, shall not only see but share the glory in which he trusted; when the hypocrite shall behold him whom he believed without trusting, and mocked without deceiving; when the profligate shall witness the reality of what he feared, and the infidel shall feel the certainty of what he denied.
On influence, considered as a Talent.
It is at best a selfish sort of satisfaction, though the poet calls it a delightful one, to see others tossed about in a storm, while we are sitting in security, rejoicing, not because they are in danger, but because we are safe. Christianity instructs us to improve on the sentiment. It teaches us to extract not only comfort and gratification from the comparison of our happier lot with that of the less favoured; but in making the comparison, it reminds us to make it with reference to God, by emphatically asking, Who is it that maketh us to differ?"
who can look with indifference on either the temporal or spiritual distresses of others. And if no one ever truly mourned for his own sins who can be insensible to the sins of those around him, so no one can be earnest to promote his own salvation, who neglects any fair opening of contributing to the salvation of others.
What an appalling reflection it is, that at the tremendous bar, a being already overwhelmed with the weight of his own offences, may have to sustain the addition of the amazing and unexpected load of all those, of which he has been the cause in others! What an awful contrast will be presented to the assembled universe, when certain commanding characters shall stand forth, burdened not only with their personal guilt, nor even with the sins of their immediate connexions, but in a certain measure with the sins of their age and country; while others, who devoted similar talents and influence to opposite purposes, shall appear gloriously surrounded with happy spirits, of whose felicity they have been the instruments: their shining crowns made brighter by imparted brightness, by goodness which flourished under their auspices, by virtues which were the effect of their patronage, by piety which was the fruit of their example.
Influence is a talent not only of undefinable but of universal extent. Who is there so insignificant as not to have his own circle, greater or smaller, made better or worse, by his society, his conduct, his counsels? That presumptuous but common consolation of a dying bed, I have done no harm to any one, is always the fallacious refuge of such as have done little or no good. Man is no such neutral being.
It is not the design of the present considerations to insist so much on the more striking and conspicuous instances of misemployed influence, (for the ordinary state of life does not incessantly call them into action,) as on those overlooked, though not unimportant demands for its exertion, which occur in the every-day transactions of mankind, more especially among the opulent and the powerful.
Rank and fortune confer an influence the most commanding. All objects attract the more notice from being placed on an eminence, and do not excite the less attention, because they may deserve less admiration. In anticipating the scrutiny that will hereafter be made into the manner in which the rich and great have employed their influence, that powerful engine put into their hands for the noblest purposes, may we not venture to wish they had some disinterested friend, less anxious to please than to serve them, who would honestly as occasion might offer, interrogate them in a manner something like the following:
But if we look around, not only on the external but on the moral and mental distinctions among mankind, and consider the ignorance, the miseries, and the vices of others as a ground for our more abundant gratitude; what sort of feeling will be excited in certain persons by a sight and sense of those miseries, those vices, and that ignorance, of which their own influence, or example, or neglect has been the cause? If we see any unhappy whom we might have relieved, any ignorant whom we ought to have inAllow me, as a friend to your immortal instructed, any corrupt whose corruptions we never terests, to ask you a few plain questions. Has endeavoured to reform, but whom, perhaps, we your power been uniformly employed in discouhave contributed to make what they are; in raging injustice; in promoting particular as either of these cases, it is difficult to conceive well as general good; in countenancing reliany state of mind less susceptible of comfort, gious as well as charitable institutions; in proany circumstance more calculated to excite tecting the pious, as well as in assisting the incompunction. These instances may help men digent? Has your influence been conscientiousto a pretty just criterion by which to judge of ly exerted in vindicating injured merit; has it their own character, since it is certain they never! been employed in defending insulted worth felt any true gratitude for their own mercies, I against the indolence of the unfeeling, the scorn
of the unworthy, the neglect of the unthinking? | claims, is among the drawbacks of comfort neHas it been exercised in patronizing modest ge- cessarily appended to your station? To examine nius, which would, without your fostering hand, into interfering pretensions, while it is a duty have sunk in obscurity? you owe to the applicant, is a salutary exercise of patience to yourself; it is also the only certain means you possess of distinguishing the meritorious from the importunate.'
Have you, in the recommendations which have been required of you, had an eye to the suitableness of the candidate for the place, rather than to a provision for an unworthy applicant, to the injury of the office? And have you honestly preferred the imperative claims of the institution to the solicitations, or even to the wants, of the individual? Have you never loaded a public, or injured a private establishment, by appointing an unfit agent, because he was a burden on your own hands, or a charge on your own purse? Have you never promoted a servant who had "wasted your goods," and with whom you parted for that very reason, to the superintendance of a charity, or to the management of an office, where you knew he would have a wider sphere, and a more uncontrolled power, of purloining public property, or wasting private bounty, than in that from which your prudence had discharged him?*
We dwell on this part of the subject the more earnestly, because it is to be feared that even the tender-hearted and the benevolent, from the facility of a yielding temper, from weariness of importunity, from a wish to spare their own feelings, as well as from a too natural desire to get rid of trouble, are frequently induced to confer and to refuse favours, not only against their principles and their judgment, but against their will. Yet as no virtue is ever possessed in perfection by him who is destitute of its opposite.Have you been equally careful, never, for the sake of popularity or the love of ease, to awaken false hopes, and keep alive false expectations in vour retainers, though you knew you had no prospect of ever making them good?-thus committing your own honour for the sake of swelling the catalogue of your dependents; and, by insincerity and indecision, feeding them with delusive promises, when a firm negative, by extinguishing hope, might have put them on a more successful pursuit.
Some striking instances of delicate liberality, recorded of a late lamented statesman, have shown, that it is not too much to expect from human nature, that a man should exert his influence for the benefit of another, even though it were to his own disadvantage, and that he should be not only willing, but desirous, not to procure for himself the gratitude of the obliged person, nor to obtain his admiration; but would be contented, that, while he himself afforded all the benefit, an intervening agent should have all the credit. This disinterestedness is among the nicer criteria of a Christian spirit.
To rise a step higher: Have you never, if intrusted with a patronage over that peculiarly sacred office," which any one may well tremble to give or to receive," been governed by a spirit of nepotism in the disposal of it, which you perhaps severely censure under a certain other establishment most obviously corrupt? Have you never been engaged in promoting men, who, from their destitution of principle, are a dishonour to the profession in which you have been raising them, or, by the want of abilities are disqualified for it? Have you never connived at the preferment of the weak or wicked, to the exclusion of others whose virtues and talents eminently fitted them for the situation? Or, have you, rather, strenuously laboured to fix the meritorious in the place they were so qualified to fill, while you supplied the wants of the undeserving or incompetent relative out of your own purse? And have you habitually made a conscience of recommending adequate persons in preference to the unworthy and the unfit, though the latter belonged to your own little senate, or swelled your own large train? 'Have you habitually borne in mind that im-nishes their influence, because it is the quality portant, but disregarded, maxim, that what you do by another is done by yourself; and not only carefully avoided oppression in your own person, but, rising superior to that selfish indolence, the bane, the grave of every nobler quality, have you been careful that your agents do not exercise a tyranny which you yourself abhor, but which may be carried on under your name? Your ignorance of such injustice will be of little avail, if, through supineness, you have sanctioned abuses which vigilance might have prevented, or exertion punished.
'Have you unkindly denied access to your presence to the diffident solicitor, who has no other channel to preferment but your favour; and if not able to serve him, have you softened your refusal by feelingly participating in his disappointment, instead of aggravating it by refusing to see and soothe him, when you could do no more? Have you considered that, to listen to wearisome applications, and pertinacious
While we can with truth assign the most liberal praise to that spirit of charity which preeminently distinguishes the present period, we are compelled to lament that justice is not held in equal estimation by some of those who give the law to manners. This considerably dimi
which, of all others, they most severely require in their dependents, as being that which is most immediately connected with their own interest. And how far from equitable is it, to blame and punish the statuable offence in petty men, whose breach of integrity is unhappily facilitated by continual opportunity, or induced by the pressure of want, while the rigorous exacter of jus tice is as defective in the practice, as he is strict in the requisition?
The species of injustice alluded to, cons, ts much in that laxity of principle which admits of a scale of expense disproportionate to the fortune: this creates the inevitable necessity of remaining in heavy arrears to those who can ill afford to give long credit: in return, it induces in the creditor the habit, and almost the necessity, of enhancing the price of his commodity. The evil would be little, if the encroachment were only felt by those whose tardy pay. ment renders exorbitance almost pardonable:
but others, who practise the most exact justice, I they said it,but because it was worth saying. This are involved in the penalty, without partaking remark applies to superiority of talents, to be in the offence: and the correct are taxed for the considered in our next head, still more than of improbity of the dilatory. This dilapidating rank. habit leads to an indolence in inspecting ac- As the great and noble are sufficiently discounts; and the increasing unwillingness to ex-posed to look with reverted eye back to their amine into debts, increases the inability to dis- ancestral honours, it were to be wished that charge them; for debts, like sins, become more they were all as ready, as we are happy to say burdensome in proportion as people neglect to some of them are, to cast the same careful reinquire into them.-Perhaps there is no instance trospect to the ancient usages of their illustrious of misconduct which tends more directly to di- houses. There was a time when family devominish influence than the imprudence of con- tion was considered as a kind of natural appentracting debts, and the irregularity and conse- dage to high rank, when domestic worship was quent injustice of which it is sometimes unin- almost as inseparably connected with the aristentionally the cause. tocracy as the church with the state. The chapel was as much a part of the splendid establishment as the state-room. When the form of piety was thus kept up, the reality was more likely to exist. Even the appearance was a homage to religion, the very custom was an honourable recognition of Christianity. But, in the way of influence, it must have been of high importance; the domestics would have their sense of duty kept alive, and would with more alacrity serve those who they saw served God. It was a bond of political, as well as of moral union; it was the only occasion on which the rich and poor meet together.' There is something of a coalescing property in social worship. In acknowledging their common dependance on their common master, this equality of half an hour would be likely to promote subordination through the rest of the day. Take it in an inferior point of view, it was a useful discipline, it was a family muster-roll, a sort of domestic parade, which regularly brought the privates before their commanding officers, and maintained order as well as detected absence. It was also calculated to promote the interests of the supe riors, by periodically reminding their dependants of their duty to God, which necessarily involves every human obligation.
And here, if we might be allowed a remark somewhat foreign to our immediate subject, it may be observed, that the low conception of justice of which we complain has infected not only morals, but religion; or rather, what began in our principle towards God, extends to our practice towards man. It is the attribute of which we make the least scruple to rob the Almighty; for it is a fashionable, though covert, mode of arraigning his justice, when we affect to exalt his character by representing him as too merci. ful to punish. Justice is not only eminently conspicuous in her own central station, but gives life and light to other attributes. By cutting off superfluous expenses, temperance and sobriety grows out of justice; and, what is subtracted from luxury, is carried over without additional expense, to the account of beneficence.
The Holy Scriptures lay down some precise and indispensable rules for the practice of justice, while they leave great latitude, at least as to the selection of its individual acts, to charity. Justice can be maintained only by this distinct demand and rigid acquiescence, while charity would lose the nature and quality of benevolence, if it were under any such express and definite rules. Charity may choose her object, but those of justice are chosen for her. It was, doubtless, in mercy, that no absolute rule or limitation is made respecting charity, that we might have the gratification of a voluntary delight in its exercise, for our nature is, in this respect, so kindly constituted, that, in minds not peculiarly ill-formed, the call to beneficence is the call to enjoyment.
But to return.-The influence of the great, 'the observed of all observers,' descends into the social walks of life. The pinnacle on which they stand, makes their most trivial actions, and even words, objects of attention and imitation to those beneath them. The consciousness of this should be an additional motive for avoiding, in their ordinary conversation, not only what is corrupt, but whatever savours of levity and imprudence; the vanity of the little world is ready, not from mischief, but self-importance, to convert the thoughtless slips of the great into consequence; their most frivolous remarks are quoted, merely that the quoter may seize the only occasion he could ever find of showing that he has been admitted to their company. This harmless little stratagem holds out a strong motive for those whose condition in life makes them subjects of observation, occasionally to let fall something that may be remembered, not merely because
We come now to speak, though cursorily, of another deposit of talent, not less extensive in its immediate effects and far more important in its consequences; the influence of Genius and Learning. As the influence of well-directed talents is too obvious to require animadversion, we shall confine our brief remarks to their contrary direction. If we could suppose the man whose talents had, by pernicious principles, been diverted from their right channel, to have, at the close of life, that clear view of his own character, and the misapplication of his mental powers, which will be presented to him when he opens his eyes on eternity, we should witness as complete a contrast with his present feelings as any two opposite descriptions of character could exhibit.
Of all the various sentences to be awarded at the dread tribunal, can imagination figure one more severe than will be pronounced against the polluted and polluting wit; the noblest faculties turned into arms against him who gave them, the eloquence which would scarcely have disparaged the tongue of angels, converted to the rhetoric of hell? The mischief of a corrupt book is indefinite, both in extent and duration.-When the personal example of the writer has done its worst, and has only ruined his
friends and neighbours, the operation of an un-, their own vast but abused allotment? That principled work may be just beginning. It is awakening parable of the Divine Teacher which a sin, the commission of which carries in it presents so terrible a view of the great gulf' more of the character of its infernal inspirer which irrevocably separated to other neighbours, than any other. It is a crime not prompted whose respective lots in worldly circumstances by appetite, kindled by passion, or provoked by resembled the distinctions of intellect in the temptation: but a gratuitous, voluntary, cold preceding instance that 'gulf' which eternally blooded enormity, the offspring of intellectual divided the holy beggar from the opulent senwickedness, the child of spiritual depravity; sualist-is equally applicable to the present the deepest sin without the slightest excuse. case. If any thing could deepen or widen a Sins of surprise have infirmity to plead, but, in barrier already hopelessly impassable, might it this frigid villany, the badness of the motive not be the substitution of ill-applied abilities for keeps pace with the turpitude of the act. The misemployed riches?* intention is to offend God, the project is to ruin man; the aim is to poison the temporal peace, the design is to murder the everlasting hope of all who come in contact with it.
with the eternity on which he has entered, is become less than the shadow to the substance, less than the halo to the sun.
An affecting thought involuntarily forces itself upon us, on the departure of distinguished genius. All those shining talents which had hitherto too exclusively filled our minds, sink at But the exclusive application of talents to once in our estimation, because we know they subjects perfectly unexceptionable, and right are now nothing to their possessor but as they and valuable, as far as they go, is sometimes were used, worse than nothing if they were not an occasion in which we might mingle regret used wisely.-In the court where he now stands with admiration. We view with reverence the for trial, neither the cogent argument nor the profound scholar, a man, so far from having lost pointed wit can secure his acquittal; happy if any time in trifling, whose very amusements they appear not strong evidences against it. The are labours, and whose relaxation is intensity qualities of his heart, which, perhaps, dazzled of thought, and sedulity of study. By unre- by those of his head, we had not taken into the mitting diligence, he has been daily adding account-his errors having been lost in his fresh stores to his ponderous mass of erudi- brightness-now come forward as the others tion, or periodically presenting new tomes to recede. Our feelings are solely occupied with the literary world, in return for those he has what may be now available to him to whom we rifled. But, put the case, that such a man has have owed pleasure or information. That fame never so much as conceived the thought of which we lately thought so solid a good, seems lending to religion his weight of character, or now a painted cloud melting into air-that the influence of his reputation, by devoting some proud FOR EVER for which he wrote, seems little interval to a moral or religious speculation; dwindled to a point-that visionary immortality has never once entertained the idea of occasion-which he had assigned as his meed, compared ally directing his treasures of learning, into any channel which leads to the country where he and his volumes together, the durable register of his life, are soon about to land,-who can This idea strikes the mind with peculiar forbear, in the contemplation of such a possible force upon the recent decease of two writers of character, regretting that his too moderate am- uncommon reach of thought, profound research, bition should be satisfied with the applause of and unbounded philological learning. an age or an island, without once exercising his these two eminent men been possessed of intalents on some topic which might have includ- ferior minds, or a more dubious fame, their ed the concerns of his whole species, which death would have sounded the signal of silence, might have embraced the interests of both no less to the moralist than to the satirist, as to worlds? Who can forbear lamenting, that he the gross sensuality and corrupt principles of has risen so high without reflecting that, in a the one, the avowed atheism and profligate polimoral sense, 'one step higher would set him tical doctrines of the other. As it is, we canhighest; that he should have been contented not but refer to them, though with feelings of with the idolatrous worship of some pagan sage pungent regret, and only under a strong sense of as editor or annotator; and, for that humble the atonement which such examples owe to the meed, to relinquish the duty of glorifying his world for the mischief they do it, as a melancholy Maker, by instructing his fellow-creatures; as illustration of some of the preceding remarks. if that were a less splendid object, an inferior It is to be feared that the unmixed commendaconcern to be turned over to inferior abilities, tion of their talents and erudition, without the and to which inferior abilities, were adequate? gentlest censure of their principles and pracIf the awful apprehension of a future account tices, with which some of our journals aboundcould, at the close of life, lead even the illus-ed on the loss of these able but unhappy men, trious Grotius, who had with equal ability cultivated both secular and sacred studies, to wish that he could change characters with a poor pious peasant, who used to spend most of his time in reading the Bible at his gate, what may finally be the wish of those who, having quitted a far less useful life without any such contrite confession, are brought to witness at once the retribution assigned to the conscientious use of one solitary talent, and to feel that awarded to
might tend to impress the ardent youthful student with an over-valuation of genius, unsanctified by Christian principles, of erudition undignified by virtuous conduct.
Far, very far, from my heart be the ungenerous thought of treating departed eminence with disrespect, but in analyzing striking characters, is it not a duty to separate the * Let no one apply this to the great statesman of Holland.