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Practical Discourses of Thomas a Kempis, translated by
ON SILENCE. 1.
Prophet Jeremiah, in the book of Lamentations ; He sitteth alone and keepeth silence. Nor indeed can it be $0 well kept any where else, as in solitude, which is its impregnable fortress. There it findeth a security from temptations, and reapeth all the fruits of a victory, without the danger of a battle.' To keep silence was the desire of his heart, who said, I will take heed unto my ways, that I offend not with my tougue : and who therefore prayed,
Put a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and keep the door i of my lips. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in like manner, gave us
Kis commandment, Let your conversation be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than this, cometh of evil: here. by teaching us to speak only such things as are necessary and profitable, and to pass by what is otherwise in silence. For the servant of God is not supposed or 're. quired to refrain from words, but, like a good steward, to deal them out in dne place and season. Let every one, therefore, consider well what may be most advantageous and salutary for himself to do; since some ought to speak, while for others it is better that they hold their peace.
2. Whosoever is desirous to bécome a votary of holy silence, should set before his eyes the example of the meek and patient Jesus, when being accused of many things by unjust and unreasonable' men, to the great astonishment of Pilate, he answered
nothing. And it is observed of the blessed Virgin, by St. Bernard, that we read in the Gospel of her having spoken four times only. These things, after her example, we should keep und ponder in our hearts. Let the servant of God then be 'swift to hear, slow to speak, fervent to advance in the way of godliness: and he will find silence the best means of securing and increasing in his heari the inestimable treasures of heavenly wisdom.
3. Blessed is he who loveth and keepeth silence, for thereby shall he make a wonderful proficiency in holy devotion, if he be also careful to keep silence within as well as without, and to maintain good works. They who are occupied in silence and mourning, both experience
the benefits in themselves, and manifest them to others by their lives and conversations. They are no longer brought under the power of trifles, and tossed hither and thither by the blasts of vanity. Their soul is like a wellordered city, in the streets of which there are no tumultuous assemblies, riots, or clamours; but all the inhabitants are employed, each about his own proper affairs. Thus is the spirit of the silent Christian unmolested by the noise and concourse of secular and unprofitable imaginations; his thoughts are fixed on heaven, and worldly desires intrude not to disturb his peace: Blessed are the people that are in such a case ; yea, blessed are the people who have the Lord for their God.
4. O could the servant of God but once taste the spiritual delights of silence and solitude, how would the exceeding sweetness thereof cause him to break out into these words: behold how good and joyful a thing it is to sit alone and to keep silence; to ascend above the world, and to wait for the consolations of heaven in a purged and peaceful conscience. This is the part which Mary chose, and let them who can receive this saying, receive it. They shall have few idle words to answer for, because they are solicitous and careful about their conversation. And this is a point of so much consequence, that St. James scrupleth not to call him a perfect man, who offendeth not in word; since the tongue is an unruly member, which no man can tame. But with God all things are possible, and we can do, through him, what we cannot effect by our own strength. The misfortune is, that we deceive ourselves, and either do not search for, or do not apply the proper remedies to our disorders.
5. Every one hath experienced how heavy and irksome the yoke of silence seeineth to bim, when he hath been engaged in long and unprofitable conversations. But then is the time for him to reflect
upon his folly; and to frame resolutions of amendment. Bitter will one day be the remeinbrance of the hours past in hearing and uttering, vanity and scandal; but sweet will be the recollection of the conflicts and victories gained over corrupt nature in this particular, which end in peace, and quietness, and assurance for ever. In the mean while it behoveth the Christian to watch, lest througb negligence and levity he lose that treasure which he hath found, and which he should lay up in the secret chambers of his heart. He should weigh and examine his words, as a covetous man doth his money, that nothing base and worthless escape him. The
devout soul will retire, and meditate, and pray: she wIH acquaint herself with God, and be at peace. The place whereon she standech is holy ground; and for what purpose is she put in possession of that good land, but that by tilling it she inay cause it to bring forth its fruits in their season? A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things. Let us speak of God, if opportunity offer; or refrain from speaking of the world more than is necessary, for God's sake.
6. But there is indeed one kind of silence, which neither men nor angels are to keep, a silence from praise and thanksgiving. Concerning this, the prophet Isaiah saith, ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest. And accordingly, we read of the angels, that they rest not day or night, saying, holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is
, and is to come. Let us lift up our voices to heaven, and he will have mercy upon us; and let us praise him like the angels, till we can praise him with them.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN's
GENTLEMEN, If the following letter' is deserving a place in your Miscellany, you will oblige me by inserting it.
I am, Gentlemen,
To the Rev. E. PEARSON.
'way into Craven, and I have read them with all the satisfaction arising from a general coincidence of sentiment, and a conviction of the author's just regard for the real interests and fruits of Christianity. But a painful rea flection occurs, not'un usual, when I take up other sensible publications of a similar design and tendency, viz. How
* Three Plain Reasons against separating from the established Church and. Three Plain Reasons
for the Practice of Injunt Baptism, published iu separate tracts.
few of those, who stand most in need of the proffered advice, are likely to receive the benefit of it! You will do me the justice to think that my view in making this remark is very far from disparaging your labours. All I wish is, to see the way paved for their more complete and deserved success. is It would be a matter much to be lamented," as you observe, “ if the Church of England did not make a proper provision for teaching.” That the provision, which she does make, is as ample as might reasonably be expected of her, in her corporate capacity, there seems to be little cause to dispute. But I am inclined to think that much might still be done (and, if so, the urgency of the measure was never greater than at present) by her potent ally, the state. In the mean while, an argument, which I shall take the liberty to retail, against attending to the plain reusoning of any regularly educated minister of the establishment, whether addressed from the pulpit, or from the press, will have a much more extensive application than what is pleasant to think of. “Why do you go to the meeting-house, instead of coming to church to hear your vicar?" was a question lately put by a young friend of ours to a journeyman mason, and thus answered: “ Hwaiye, an anny un uz cominon mak o' fouk gang t'ear those scholars a coom vra college, we's lik to mak nowcht on't.” The Gamaliel, therefore, at whose feet he sometimes sits for instruction, is a brother mason. Few would be disposed to condemn such of the Welch peasantry, as know no other language than their native Cambrian, for seeking instruction any where, rather than within the walls of a church, if provision was not made for the performance of divine service in that language. Yet may not something of a similar plea, for absenting from church, be urged with too much plausibility in various districts of England; I had almost said, by a certain portion of the inhabitants of every English parish? Exclusively of language, though a very material circumstance, that, in other respecis, the well educated minister should bring down the general style, manner, and matter of his discourses to a level with understandings, which little or no pains bave been taken, in early life, to enlighten or elevate, would be found no easy task; and however proper and commendable the attempt may be, when made with discretion, yet that it will often be made with success, is more than we can well expect. Offence to persons, whose ridicule and censure might greatly diminish his influence with his whole flock, would be one shoal to be carefully avoided. And, after all, in order to fix the attention of those whom he is most anxious to gain, he might find it necessary to descend to means highly revolting to liberal sentiment and rational piety. , Otherwise, he must yield the palm to the self-authorised teacher, whose pride is too much elated by the tears, and groans, and ecstasies of his audience, whether real, or counterfeit, for him to feel any inclination, or lament his disability to explain and detail those heathenish things called moral duties, or to estimate the fondness of his doctrine by any better criterion than the instantaneous effects produced by it. The evil of all this can be but feebly counteracted by the ex.ertions of individuals. A remedy is evidently wanted, which may apply more immediately to the root; and such a remedy is only to be looked for from the higher powers. If my thoughts were turning upon nothing but some crude scheme of my own, I should have little hope; but when I wish to see nothing attempted but what has already had a sufficient trial in the northern part of this island, nothing but what really stands recommended upon high authority, an authority which seems here to carry more than its usual weight, I am at a loss to know, what solid objections can be urged to the adoption of a similar measure in this, and other parts of bis majesty's dominions. You will plainly see that I am alluding to some institution of the same kind with that of parochial schools, by act of parliament. And, unless it can be shewn that it has completely failed, where the experiment has been made, of producing the good to be expected from it, it is difficult to imagine any such essential difference between the two countries, that the course of the Tweed should be the bound to its extension. We have the advantage of a model to work upon, and, where necessary, to improve. Let it however be adopted, wiib whatever modifications, and to whatever extent, the circumstances of the country may appear to admit of it; for what human institution claims universalily? I am not aware that the expence would be burthensome, if as generally divided as it seems equitable to make it; for there could be no hardship were even those of the lower classes (many of whom are now not only able, but willing to be at some expence about the education of their children) called upon to defray a reasonable quota of the charge.