« AnteriorContinuar »
Say, does no wakeful angel friend
Encamp, her part to take-
And smite for justice'-sake?
To wrap that heart around,
Her gentle soul who wound?
Her hope and soothing dream,
Caught from free Mercy's beam?
Or lot unvexed be thine,
Creep o'er thy bright sunshine,
What meek heart, sorrow-rent,
That, when men smiled and said, “Thy words are strong,
That thou art right, and all beside thee wrong?"
I shrunk abashed, nor dared the theme prolong.
Led to revere the Church's solemn tone,
Christ's mystic Bride, ordained with Him to reign,
Taught that my faith, in hers, is based secure
2.-IDOLATRY AND DISSENT. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be ; and that which is done is that which shall be done ; and there is no new thing under the sun.”
“The thing that hath been, it shall be."
Through every clime and age
The same mad warfare wage ;
Loathing a power that based not still
Its throne upon his own wild will,
The self-same pride this hour
The church's sheltering bower.
Will name his priest, will chuse his shrine ;
3.-JEREMIAH. Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging-place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people and go from them.”
“ Woe's me !" the peaceful prophet cried,
Spare me this troubled life;
To head the sacred strife !
Where groves and flowers abound;
Vex the truth-haunted ground !”.
That God denied repose,
Is pledged, to heal earth's woes?
Two sinners have been grace-endued,
Unwearied to sustain
On mount and desert plain.
And gloom or pride is shewn,
Or walk the world alone.
His God a help-meet found ;
Paul wrought with friends around.
On Syria's sands, ye claim,
In peace ye force our blame.
The Editor begs to remind his readers that he is not responsible for the opinions
of his Correspondents.
LETTERS ON THE CHURCH OF THE FATHERS.
I SHALL end my account of the religious temper and opinions of St. Antony by setting before the reader some unconnected passages, as they occur in the narrative of his life.
It is remarkable that his attempts at curing diseases were not always successful; his prayers being, as ours may be, experimental not, as in the case of the apostles, immediately suggested by the same power which was about openly to manifest itself. I am not denying that there were then in the church extraordinary and heavenly gifts ; but, whatever they were, they were distinct from those peculiar powers which we technically call miraculous.
“He united in sympathy and prayer with those who were in suffering; and often, and in many things, the Lord heard him. When heard, he did not boast; when unsuccessful, he did not murmur; but, under all circumstances, he gave thanks to the Lord himself, and exhorted the sufferers to be patient, and be assured that their cure was out of the power of himself, and, indeed, of any man, and lay with God only, who wrought when he would, and towards whom he chose. They, in consequence, felt a kind of cure even in the words of the old man, catching his cheerfulness and patience, while those who were healed were instructed not to give thanks to Antony, but to
This passage deserves notice also, as shewing the unvarnished character of the narrative. Monkish legends are not, in general, candid enough to admit such failures as are implied in it. The following is to the same purpose. He was asked to suffer a paralytic female and her parents to visit him with the hope of a cure, and he refused, on the ground that, if her life was to be preserved, her prayers might be efficacious without him.
• Go,' he answered, and, unless she be dead already, you will find her cured. This happy event is not my doing, that she should come to me, a miserable man, to secure it; but it is the Saviour's work, whose mercy is, in every place, on those who call upon him. To her prayers, then, the Lord has been gracious; to me is but revealed, by his loving kindness, that he means to cure her where she is.”
Antony held that faith had power with God for any work ; and he took delight in contrasting the privilege of believing with that poor and barren measure of knowledge which sight and reason open on us at the utmost. He considered, contrariwise to present notions, that the consciousness of being rational was no necessary condition of being rational. I it is the present opinion, that no one can be acting according to reason, unless he reflects on himself and recognizes his own rationality. A peasant, who cannot tell why he believes, is supposed to have no reason for believing. This is worth noticing, for it is parallel to many other dogmas into which a civilized age will be sure to fall. Antony, on the other hand, considered there was some
thing great and noble in believing and acting on the gospel, without asking for proof; making experiment of it, and being rewarded by the success of it. He put the arguments for belief, to speak paradoxically, after, not before believing—that is, he seems to have felt there was a divine spirit and power in Christianity such as irresistibly to commend it to religious and honest minds, coming home to the heart with the same conviction which any high moral precept carries with it, and leaving argumentation behind as comparatively useless, except by way of curiously investigating motives and reasons for the satisfaction of the philosophical analyst. Probably he would not have been at all disconcerted, even could it have been proved to him that his cures were the natural effect of imagination in the patient; accounting them as rewards to faith, any how, not as evidence to the reason. Perhaps this consideration will tend to solve Paley's difficulty, better than he does himself, why the early fathers appeal so faintly and scantily to the argument from miracles. That argument is not ordinarily the actual mode by which the mind is subdued to the obedience of Christ.
Some philosophers came to discourse with him; he says to them
“Since you rest everything upon proof, and, being skilled in the science of proof, would have us also refrain from worshipping God without a proof drawn out into words, answer me first, how is the knowledge of the universe and of religion after all brought home to us? Is it by a proof upon paper, or through faith manifested in action ? And which of the two will you put first ?' They said, faith, owning that it implied a realization of the subject matter of it. Then Antony rejoined, “Well said, for faith results from a disposition of the heart ; but dialectics are external, depending on the ingenuity of the artist. They, then, who possess the active principle of faith, can supersede, nay, are but cumbered with such proof as is conceived in words; for what we comprehend by believing, you are merely endeavouring to exhibit in pro positions, and sometimes cannot throw into words at all. Faith, then, which acts, is better and surer than your subtle syllogisms.””
“ • We argue, not in the persuasive words of Gentile wisdom, as our teacher says, but we simply persuade by enjoining faith, which supersedes words.'”
After curing some demoniacs with the sign of the cross, he adds, “• Why wonder ye at this? It is not we who do it, but Christ, by means of those who believe on him. Do ye, too, believe, and ye shall see that the influence of our religion lies not in some art of words, but in faith, which worketh by love towards Christ; which if ye attained, ye would no longer seek for proofs drawn out into language, but would account faith in Christ sufficient.'
As Antony would not be startled at his cures being set down to the power of imagination, so I conceive, in like manner, he would have admitted his gift of prescience to be, not miraculous, but the result of deep and continued meditation, acute reflection, and that calmness and dispassionateness of mind which self-denying habits naturally create, aided, of course, by the special evangelical influences of the Spirit, which, in his age, were manifested far more fully than in our
He is far from boasting of his spiritual attainments : “ It is not right to glory in the power of casting out devils, nor of curing diseases, nor to make much of him only who casts out devils, and to undervalue him who does
On the contrary, study and master the austere life of each, and either imitate or improve upon them. För to do miracles is not ours, but the Saviour's; where
fore he said to his disciples, • Rejoice not that the devils are subject unto you,' &c. ...... To those who take confidence, not in their holiness, but in their miraculous power, and say, “Lord, did we not cast out devils in thy name.'...He makes answer, ' Verily I say unto you, I know you not ;' for, he does not acknowledge the ways of the irreligious. On the whole, then, we must pray for the gift of discerning spirits, that, as it is written, we may not believe every spirit.”
In like manner he dissuades his hearers from seeking the gift of prophecy; in which he remarkably differs from heathen ascetics, such as the Neo-platonists, who considered a knowledge of the secret principles of nature the great reward of their austerities.
“What is the use of hearing beforehand what is to happen? Or, why be desirous of such knowledge, even though it be true? It does not make us better men; nor, again, ascertain our religious excellence at all. None of us is judged for what he does not know, nor accounted happy for his learning and acquirements; but, under whatever circumstances, the question is, whether or not he has kept the faith, and honestly obeyed the commandments ? Wherefore we must not account these great matters, nor live ascetically for the sake of them-viz., in order to know the future; but to please God by a good conversation......Even if we are anxious to foresee what is to be, it is necessary to be pure in mind. Certainly, I believe that the soul, which is clean on every side, and established according to its highest nature, becomes keen-sighted, and is able to see things more and further than the devils, inasmuch as having the Lord to reveal them to it. Such was Elisha's witnessing Gehazi's conduct, and discerning the heavenly hosts standing round about."
These extracts have incidentally furnished some evidence of the calmness, and, I may say, good sense, of Antony-i. e., granting that his view of things is correct. I am aware that an objector would urge that this is the very peculiarity of madness, to reason correctly upon false premises; and that Antony in no way differs from many men, now-a-days, whom we consider unable to take care of themselves. Yet, surely, in considering the evidence of the divine mission of the apostles, we do think it allowable to point out their judiciousness and composure of mind, though the same objection applies. And, considering how extravagant and capricious is the conduct of enthusiasts commonly, how rude their manners, how inconstant their resolutions, how variable their principles, it is certainly a recommendation to our solitary to find him so grave, manly, considerate, and refined-in a word, to speak familiarly, so gentlemanlike. We see something of this in the account given in my last paper of his sonal appearance after his twenty years' seclusion, which had nothing of the emaciated character, or the uncouth expression, of one who had thrown himself out of the society of his fellow-men. Call his life a romance, if you will; still, I say, at least, we have in the narrative the ideal of a hermit according to the views of the fourth century. Antony was no savage saint, no ostentatious dervise ; he had no pomposity or affectation, nothing of cunning and hypocrisy. According to the description of his biographer, in another place
“ His countenance had a great and extraordinary beauty of expression in it. It might be quite called a gift from the Saviour; for, if he was in company with a number of brethren, and any stranger wished to have a sight of him, directly he came among them, he would pass by the rest, and hasten straight to Antony, as being attracted by his appearance. Not that he was taller or larger than others; but there was a peculiar composure of manner and sweetness in him. For, being calm and collected, all his outward expressions of feeling were free from perturbation also ; so that the joy of his soul made his very face cheerful, and from the