« PreviousContinue »
the remedies, he advised regular hours, exercise, simple food, and temperance. His alert understanding, born no doubt of thoughtful years of observation of the mental origin of illness, outruns even the earlier penetration of Francis Bacon on this subject, for he writes in his Physic book: "All violent and sudden passions dispose to or actually throw people into acute diseases, the slow and lasting passions, such as grief and hopeless love, bring on chronical diseases. Till the passion which caused the disease is calmed, medicine is applied in vain. The love of God, as it is the sovereign remedy of all miseries, so, in particular, it effectually prevents all the bodily disorders the passions introduce. By keeping the passions themselves within due bounds, and by the unspeakable joy and perfect calm, serenity and tranquility it gives the mind, it becomes the most powerful of all the means of health and long life.”
Furthermore, in his directions to the sick, he advises them to “add to the rest (for it is not labour lost), that old unfashionable medicine, prayer; and to have faith in God, who killeth and maketh alive, who bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up.'
Thus Wesley wrote in the full fruitage of a hale and hallowed old age. Upon completing his eighty-second year, he said, “Is anything too hard for God? It is now eleven years since I have felt any such thing as weariness. Many times I speak till my voice fails and I can speak no longer. Frequently I walk till my strength fails, and I can walk no further; yet even then, I feel no sensation of weariness, but am perfectly easy from head to foot. I dare not impute this to natural causes. It is the will of God."
Let us put the clock back nearly sixty years in this grand old patriarch's life, and take one glance at him as the grave, almost gauntly eager young Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, already marked out (in the same university which cradled Wycliffe and William Penn) by his long hair, and by his singular indifference to the pleasures and absorptions of society. Let us pause for a moment in the old grey college quadrangle, and read a little paper written for himself and his little of band of first disciples, for it will be of very great interest to note the early trend of a mind which was destined to arouse the dormant soul of a nation and quicken its spiritual faculties into a new activity and life.
The quaint little article is called "Scheme of Self-examination.” It has two sub-divisions: "Love of God and Simplicity”; the means of which are “Prayer and Meditation," and "Love of Man." It is fervent, almost fanatical in its zeal, and in its minute introspection, such as, “Have I every hour prayed for humility, faith, hope, love, and the particular virtue of the day? Considered with whom I was the last hour, what I did, and how?”
In the section on "Love of Man” this question appears: “Have I, in speaking to a stranger, explained what religion is not (not negative, not external), and what it is (a recovery of the image of God); searched at what step in it he stops and what makes him stop there? exhorted and directed him?"
For the moment we, too, feel ourselves in the position of the “stranger,” speaking with Master John Wesley within sound of cathedral bells, the slow chimes of the Old Tom Tower Clock, and saying to him: "Brother, religion is the recovery of the image of God.”
ART AND PHILANTHROPY
Sir Joshua Reynolds. Hannah More.
F in these early times the educated and upper ranks of society, caring chiefly for cards, balls, and luxurious
living, were singularly dead to spiritual things, truth was not to be lulled to sleep by such narcotics. By the blessing of God and the faithfulness of former followers, it had been firmly established in this little island, and though denied the legitimate avenues of the pulpit and the press, it blazed out in a new and radiant mode of its own. Real religion cannot be stifled, for its heart and soul is spiritual living. Whatever the times, whatever the manners, the true worship of God will find its own selfexpression. The open vision has never been withdrawn from amid "the children of Israel," and surely the AngloSaxon race was given the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night,” when faith and knowledge had been lost, in order that the moral sense, and spiritual vision of this nation should not utterly perish.
Not many rich, not many of noble birth, were among the great crowds which gathered to listen to the preaching of John Wesley; but twenty-nine thousand fashionable, affluent people were attracted during April, 1769, to the first Exhibition of the Royal Academy. England's prophets were speaking at that time through the medium of paint brush and canvas. Art had become a vehicle for religion.
It is quite a fallacy to suppose that Puritanism quenched the love of beauty and colour. Human egotism, and contentious strife, the tyrannical element in the carnal mind which in the name of God tries to crush out some of His most glorious attributes, may have held sway in certain sects for certain periods, but this was not the true spirit of Puritanism, the living, vital, consecrated Puritanism which had given freedom of thought and the open Bible to the race.
Milton brought organ music into England, having been greatly impressed with the powers and scope of that wonderful instrument in his travels on the Continent. The sons of Charles Wesley became accomplished professional musicians, while Thomas Gainsborough, the artist, was baptised in an Independent Meeting House at Sudbury, in the valley of the Stour, and his sister Mary married a dissenting minister at Bath. This early atmosphere of piety and truth conserved in him a love of realism in its noblest sense, not realism of the hideous and grotesque, but the realism of beauty, form, and colour in every tree, and hillside, emerald valley and silver stream, meadow of golden corn and shady hedgerow,--all the many exquisite touches of Truth in a bountiful nature, which have made his landscapes immortal. We gain a very clear and interesting picture of the man himself from a concise tribute given by one of his biographers, Mr. Brock-Arnold, who writes:
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to Gainsborough, and as Englishmen we should be proud of him. His genius was essentially of native production. He never went abroad to study, and there never was an artist who was freer from foreign influences in his art. From first to last his highest ambition was to be a faithful painter of English scenery. His life resembled, in its calm serenity, one of the peaceful landscapes he so loved to paint, and if a cloud occasionally darkened the scene, as for instance when the Hanging Committee of the Royal Academy seemed to slight him, the shadow would speedily pass away, leaving the simple, soft-hearted, painter-musician happy and content in large-minded devotion to his art.
“Giant hills, winged winds, mighty billows, verdant vales, festive flowers, and glorious heavens, -all point to Mind, the spiritual intelligence they reflect. The floral apostles are hieroglyphs of Deity. Suns and planets teach grand lessons. The stars make night beautiful, and the leaflet turns naturally towards the
light.” Thus Mrs. Eddy has written in Science and Health (page 240), and thus Gainsborough painted; but in 1780 people were far more interested in their own portraits than in looking through Nature up to Nature's God.”
While Gainsborough won both fame and money by his portrait painting, the walls of the passage from his hall to his painting room were covered with landscapes. His visitors scarcely deigned to look at, much less purchase these, however, though immediately after his death his "Woodman in the Storm” was sold for five hundred guineas. But, whether instantly recognised or not, a school of landscapists was forming that breathed truth, purity, and love throughout their works which were slowly but surely to raise the standard of beauty for the generations to come.
Gainsborough was not the only artist to whom his native land was lovely and holy, and who earnestly desired to fix her fleeting seasons on canvas for an everlasting memorial. John Constable was equally absorbed in art and nature, and in the religious meaning of both. He writes to his