Page images
PDF
EPUB

body, the vain-glorious man, and others, wittily, wisely, and well. His delineations of character are full of short, pithy sentences; as, when he says of the busybody, “His tongue, like the tail of Samson's foxes, carries firebrands, and is enough to set the whole field of the world in a flame ;” and “so, then, he labours without thanks, talks without credit, lives without love, dies without tears, without pity-save, that some say, “ it was pity he died no sooner.” Again, the hypocrite is “an angel abroad, a devil at home; and worse when an angel than when a devil.This kind of writing, which will always, in some form or other, be popular, is now absorbed in the introductory portions of novels and romances; and many of the best authors of the present day have shown that the acute spirit of observation which distinguished their predecessors is not wanting in them. But it is doubtful whether the Elizabethan character-writers, divines and statesmen as they were—Hall, Bishop of Norwich, John Earle, Bishop of Worcester, Sir Thomas Overbury, and others have been surpassed. The name of the last is well known in English history from his mysterious murder, which was probably instigated by Robert Carr, the favourite of James I., and the infamous Countess of Essex. The name of Peter Heylin (1600-1662), must not be omitted, a geographer, a divine, a poet, and a miscellaneous writer, whose “Micrososmus, or a Little Description of the Great World,” was published in 1621. also penned descriptions of the French, the English, the Hollanders, and other nations, which, for the most part are as true now as they were when first written.

The learned Usher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, is not distinguished

[ocr errors]

He has

FULLER.-CHILLINGWORTH.

187 so much by his theological writings, as by his great chronological work, Annales, or Annals of the World's History, from the Creation of the World to the Dispersion of the Jews.” The other writings of this learned man are controversial, and he endeavoured, very frequently with success, to convert Roman Catholics to his way of thinking by learned oral disputation. He regarded the Romanist faith as “heretical and apostatical,” and went even so far as to declare that “to give them toleration, or to consent that they may freely exercise their religion and profess their faith and doctrine is a grievous sin."

Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) was one of the most remarkable men of his time. As a preacher he acquired immense popularity; and his printed works contain a vast amount of learning and sound sense—not always couched in the most regular and logical style; but mingled with a strain of lively humour which irresistibly attracts the reader. His principal works are, Church History of Britain," " The History of the Holy War," and “The Worthies of England." Archbishop Trench has properly pointed out that the modern edition of Fuller's “ Church History,” by Mr. Nichols, is quite useless to the student of our language, the editor having imagined that it came within his province to exchange the author's quaint old words for modern equivalents.

We must not be surprised if, in that age, many of our best and most learned men gave themselves up to controversy. Among those most worthy to be studied by such as take an interest in religious discussions, is William Chillingworth, born at Oxford, in 1602, who, from his love of disputation, was perverted to the

66 The

a

Romish faith by Fisher, the Jesuit. But in the further course of his studies, he returned to his old faithafter careful and acute study at the Jesuits' college at Douay—and in 1638 published his famous work, “The Religion of Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation.” His opponents have attempted to decry this excellent production; but they have never been able to refute it. He always appeals to reason, is opposed to force in religious disputes, and is so wide, open, and free in his discussions, that he has been called an Arian and a Socinian. The work was itself an answer to a treatise by a Jesuit of the name of Knott, who wrote a book to prove that Protestants, not repenting of their faith, could not be saved. Chillingworth answers every paragraph, and almost every sentence. His chief excellence in replying to Knott (who, says Hallam, is by no means a despicable writer), is, that he combats Romish assertions with “a close reasoning, which avoids every dangerous admission, and yields to no ambiguousness of language.” He has also a strength of intellect and sincerity of feeling which cannot fail to impress the reader. Very learned, thoroughly versed in the Fathers—as learned and as subtle a schoolman as Laud-he yet declares the Bible, and that alone, to be the exclusive source of religion, and cares little for “the learned fathers who are set against fathers, and councils which are set against councils. “This deifying our own interpretations and tyrannously forcing them on others," he says, “this presumptuous imposing of the special senses of men on the general words of God, is the common incendiary of Christendom, and tears in pieces, not the coat, but the bowels and members of Christ. Take away this persecuting, burning, cursing, and damning

HALES.-HOWE-BUNYAN.

189

of men for not subscribing to the words of men as the words of God; require of Christians only to believe Christ, and to call no man master but Him only; let those leave claiming infallibility that have no title to it, and let them that in their words disclaim it, disclaim it in their actions. In a word, take away Tyranny."

Thus Chillingworth, John Hales (1584-1656), and others with us, and abroad the learned Grotius and Calixtus, tried to bring about a more universal communion, to widen the borders of Christianity, not to narrow its field. In Scotland the same width of opinion did not prevail, but there was more burning zeal against and hatred of the Romish faith ; and the preachings of John Knox (1505-1572), originally bred a friar, but a most ardent opposer of the old faith, and one of whom the Earl of Morton said, “ he feared God, but never feared the face of man,” gave rise to earnest religious inquiry and á zeal towards the faith that has probably never been surpassed in any country. That these controversial preachers often overstepped Christian charity, gentleness, and calmness, there is no doubt, but that they promoted an earnest study of the Bible, and raised God's word from a dead letter to a living spirit, is undeniable.

But, after all, controversy is dry reading, and to be learned in disputation is not required of all men. In religious writings, in those of Barrow, South, Baxter, Howe, Bunyan, and many others, in the Puritan divines as well as in the pages of those of the Anglican Church, there is much sweet comfort, wise counsel, and enduring consolation with which the student may

from time to time refresh himself.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

OTHING," said Horace Walpole, "gives

so just an idea of an age as genuine letters; nay, history waits for its last seal for them.” Strictly speaking, all history be

gan in letters, and for their sake the art of writing was itself invented; for letters are but the representatives and proxies of a man, which can be sent through the post, and talk with distant friends, applaud generous actions, be censorious on the wicked and foolish; and truly they give to man a sort of ubiquity. He, then, who does not know how to write a letter well has studied literature to little

purpose,

for with him the power of expression is but half-developed. It will be well, before we go into the vast field of epistolatory literature, to give a few hints to those who wish to study the subject.

Those who wish to write a good letter should dismiss from their minds the absurd but witty French epigram, that words were given to men to conceal their thoughts. God gave us language to express our thoughts, and all should do so plainly, directly, and

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »