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councils, of schoolmen, casuists, and controversial writers, which have perplexed the world so long. Natural religion will be to such a man no longer intricate; revealed religion will be no longer mysterious, nor the word of God equivocal. Clearness and precision are two great excellences of human laws; how much more should we expect to find them in the law of God? They have been banished from thence by artificial theology; and he who is desirous to find them must banish the professors of it from his counsels, instead of consulting them. He must seek for genuine Christianity with that simplicity of spirit with which it is taught in the Gospel by Christ himself.
I cannot conclude my discourse on this occasion better than by putting you in mind of a passage you quoted to me once, with great applause, from a sermon of Foster, and to this effect: "Where mystery begins, religion ends." The apophthegm pleased me much, and I was glad to hear such a truth from any pulpit, since it shows an inclination, at least, to purify Christianity from the leaven of artificial theology, which consists principally in making things that are very plain mysterious, and in pretending to make things that are impenetrably mysterious very plain. If you continue still of the same mind, I shall have no excuse to make to you for what I have written, and shall write. Our opinions coincide. If you have changed your mind, think again, and examine further. You will find that it is the modest, not the presumptuous, inquirer, who makes a real and safe progress in the discovery of divine truths. One follows nature and nature's God; that is, he follows God in His works and in His word, nor presumes to go further, by metaphysical and theological commentaries of his own invention, than the two texts, if I may use this expression, carry him very evidently. They who have done otherwise, and have affected to discover, by a supposed science derived from tradition, or taught in the schools, more than they who have not such science can discover, concerning the nature, moral and physical, of the Supreme Being, and concerning the secrets of His providence, have been either enthusiasts or knaves, or else of that numerous tribe who reason well very often, but reason always on some arbitrary assumption. Much of this character belonged to the heathen divines; and it is, in all its parts, peculiarly that of the ancient fathers and modern doctors of the Christian Church. . . . All
these men, both heathens and Christians, appeared gigantic forms through the false medium of imagination and habitual prejudice, but were, in truth, as arrant dwarfs in the knowledge to which they pretended, as you and I and all the sons of Adam. The former, however, deserved some excuse; the latter
THE HISTORY OF CLARISSA HARLOWE
THE following history is given in a series of letters, written principally in a double yet separate correspondence, between two young ladies of virtue and honor, bearing an inviolable friendship for each other, and writing not merely for amusement, but upon the most interesting subjects, in which every private family, more or less, may find itself concerned; and between two gentlemen of free lives, one of them glorying in his talents for stratagem and invention, and communicating to the other, in confidence, all the secret purposes of an intriguing head and resolute heart. But here it will be proper to observe, for the sake of such as may apprehend hurt to the morals of youth from the more freely written letters, that the gentlemen, though professed libertines as to the female sex, and making it one of their wicked maxims to keep no faith with any of the individuals of it who are thrown into their power, are not, however, either infidels or scoffers, nor yet such as think themselves freed from the observance of those other moral duties which bind man to man. On the contrary, it will be found in the progress of the work that they very often make such reflections upon each other, and each upon himself and his own actions, as reasonable beings must make, who disbelieve not a future state of rewards and punishments, and who one day propose to reform, one of them actually reforming, and by that means giving an opportunity to censure the freedoms which fall from the gayer pen and lighter heart of the other. And yet that other, although, in unbosoming himself to a select friend, he discover wickedness enough to entitle him to general detestation, preserves a decency, as well in his images as in his language, which is not always to be found in the works of some of the most celebrated modern writers, whose subjects and characters have less warranted the liberties they have taken.
In the letters of the two young ladies, it is presumed will be found not only the highest exercise of a reasonable and practicable friendship, between minds endowed with the noblest principles of virtue and religion, but occasionally interspersed such delicacy of sentiments, particularly with regard to the other sex, such instances of impartiality, each freely, as a fundamental principle of their friendship, blaming, praising, and setting right the other, as are strongly to be recommended to the observation of the younger part (more specially) of female readers.
The principal of these two young ladies is proposed as an exemplar to her sex. Nor is it any objection to her being so, that she is not in all respects a perfect character. It was not only natural, but it was necessary, that she should have some faults, were it only to show the reader how laudably she could mistrust and blame herself, and carry to her own heart, divested of self-partiality, the censure which arose from her own convictions, and that even to the acquittal of those, because revered characters, whom no one else would acquit, and to whose much greater faults her errors were owing, and not to a weak or reproachable heart. As far as is consistent with human frailty, and as far as she could be perfect, considering the people she had to deal with, and those with whom she was inseparably connected, she is perfect. To have been impeccable must have left nothing for the Divine Grace and a purified state to do, and carried our idea of her from woman to angel. As such is she often esteemed by the man whose heart was so corrupt that he could hardly believe human nature capable of the purity which, on every trial or temptation, shone out in hers.
Besides the four principal persons, several others are introduced, whose letters are characteristic; and it is presumed that there will be found in some of them -- but more especially in those of the chief character among the men, and the second character among the women - such strokes of gayety, fancy, and humor, as will entertain and divert, and at the same time both warn and instruct.
All the letters are written while the hearts of the writers must be supposed to be wholly engaged in their subjects (the events at the time generally dubious); so that they abound not only with critical situations, but with what may be called instan
taneous descriptions and reflections, proper to be brought home to the breast of the youthful reader; as also with affecting conversations, many of them written in the dialogue or dramatic way. "Much more lively and affecting," says one of the principal characters, “must be the style of those who write in the height of a present distress, the mind tortured by the pangs of uncertainty, the events then hidden in the womb of fate,than the dry, narrative, unanimated style of a person relating difficulties and dangers surmounted, can be, - the relater perfectly at ease, and, if himself unmoved by his own story, not likely greatly to affect the reader."
What will be found to be more particularly aimed at in the following work is, to warn the inconsiderate and thoughtless of the one sex, against the base arts and designs of specious contrivers of the other, to caution parents against the undue exercise of their natural authority over their children in the great article of marriage, to warn children against preferring a man of pleasure to a man of probity upon that dangerous but too commonly received notion that a reformed rake makes the best husband," - but, above all, to investigate the highest and most important doctrines not only of morality but of Christianity, by showing them thrown into action in the conduct of the worthy characters, while the unworthy, who set those doctrines at defiance, are condignly, and, as may be said, consequentially punished.
From what has been said, considerate readers will not enter upon the perusal of the piece before them as if it were designed only to divert and amuse. It will probably be thought tedious to all such as dip into it, expecting a light novel, or transitory romance, and look upon story in it (interesting as that is generally allowed to be) as its sole end, rather than as a vehicle to the instruction....
[THE DEATH OF CLARISSA]
Mr. Belford to Robert Lovelace, Esq.
I may as well try to write; since, were I to go to bed, I shall not sleep. I never had such a weight of grief upon my mind in my life, as upon the demise of this admirable woman, whose soul is now rejoicing in the regions of light. You may be glad to know the particulars of her happy exit. I will try to proceed,