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time that the schoolmaster and missionary “ should be abroad,"
themselves, seemed to promise great good to the community. But it is to be feared that this system, like every thing else human, is destined to degenerate, and that infidelity and quackery will soon find more champions in the lecture-room, than religion and science.
The evils of novel-reading are confined principally to the young and thoughtless. The old hack, whose sensibilities are dead,
can scarcely be made worse by false rhetoric, bad taste, or corrupt morals. But when a passion for romance seizes a young mind, it is ruinous. It destroys all relish for the serious duties of life, and renders its victim unstable and giddy. His reason is subjected to feeling. He lives in an unreal world. He dreams of Elysian fields amid the very deserts of life. He speaks and writes in the borrowed sentiments of the novelist. Affectation takes the place of ingenuousness. His manners are artificial, his plans a mere dream of romance. He imagines himself a hero, and the object of his young affections a heroine. Nothing but sad disappointment can enlighten such an enthusiast. Als, to be sure, are not equally injured by promiscuous novelreading, but very few escape unscathed. It requires the strongest minds, the very highest order of intellect, to resist its enervating influence ; for there is no mental discipline in it, no mental nutriment is derived from it. It is only the profound critic, who studies a novel as a work of art, analyzes its plot, and duly estimates its characters, that derives intellectual improvement from it.
The common reader is excited (perhaps wrongly) and pleased for the hour, then left in a state of languor and mental imbecility. The understanding, thereby, loses its healthy tone, and the young romancer becoines a sickly sentimentalist. No man could appreciate the influence of novels better than Sir W. Scott. It may be supposed that he would certainly view them in the most favorable light. I conclude in his words: “Excluding from consideration those infamous works which address themselves directly to the grosser passions of our nature, we are inclined to think, the worst evil to be apprehended from the perusal of novels is, that the habit is apt to generate an indisposition to real history and useful literature; and that the best which can be hoped is, that they may sometimes instruct the youthful mind by real pictures of life, and sometimes awaken their better feelings and sympathies by strains of generous sentiment and tales of fictitious wo. Beyond this point, they are
a mere elegance, a luxury contrived for the amusement of polished life, and the gratification of that half love of literature which pervades all ranks of an advanced stage of society, and are read much more for amusement than with the least hope of deriving instruction from them.”
Life, CHARACTER, AND WORKS OF JOHN WESLEY.
Ey Samuel G. Brown, Professor in Dartmouth College, N. H.
More than twenty years ago, the Poet Laureate of Great Britain, somewhat to the surprise of all parties, wrote“ The Life of Wesley, and the Rise and Progress of Methodism.” The work was variously criticised. By some it was condemned, as much too favorable to Wesley; by others, as being quite unjust. Some were surprised at its liberality; others at its narrowness. From the censures of parties so widely sundered, we might with some safety conclude, that its virtues are very great. It would however be quite out of place to criticise, at this late day, the merits of the very comprehensive and interesting work of Dr. Southey, but we hope it may not be amiss to review again the life of so singular and distinguished a man as Wesley with such aids as subsequent publications may offer.
The latter part of the seventeenth and the first part of the eighteenth centuries were distinguished in England, for a general declension of spiritual religion. It is not necessary here minutely to inquire the reasons of a fact which no one denies. It was owing in part, perhaps, to the loose morals of the court, subsequent to the restoration, which, after infecting the higher classes, sent down the streams of its poisonous influence to the very dregs of the populace. In part it was owing to the violent convulsions of the civil wars, which unsettled the minds of the people; in part, to a natural opposition to all priestly influence, induced by years of ecclesiastical tyranny; and in part, to the
inefficiency of the clergy and the inadequate provision for the religious instruction of the people. Some of the wisest and best of men lived during these times, but they are single stars in the overcast firmament. The irreligious spirit had pervaded the universities; and the cloisters of Oxford and Cambridge, which the church had founded for the diffusion of religion and learning, were filled with men, destitute of faith themselves, and intolerant of it in others. The Chancellor of Oxford was obliged in a program to exhort the tutors to discharge their duty by double diligence, and had forbidden the undergraduates to read such books as might tend to the weakening of their faith ; but fashion and wit drove the tide against argument and authority. So late as 1736, Bishop Butler wrote in the advertisement to the “ Analogy," “ It is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted by many persons, that Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry, but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious. And accordingly they treat it as if, in the present age, this were an agreed point among all people of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of reprisals for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world.”
Meanwhile Providence was preparing an agency destined to exert a marvellous and permanent influence upon those great bodies of the people which were not refined enough to be carried away by the gay and licentious skepticism of the day, nor learned enough to be much affected by the logical treatises of learned prelates ; an agency destined ultimately to startle from their spiritual lethargy all classes in the kingdom.
Had a stranger visited Oxford about the year 1732, he would probably have been called to notice a small company of young men, singular in their manners and their dress, studious and exact in their habits, strict in obeying the injunctions of the Rubrick, economical and devout. They went to receive the sacrament at St. Mary's, through a crowd of ridiculing fellowstudents, but the laughter only united them more closely to each other, and drove them to a more cautious and earnest study of the Bible and books of practical piety. They were called Bible-bigots, Sacramentarians, the Holy Club. Every day increased the bitter scorn with which they were assailed ; every day cemented more strongly their mutual attachment, and made wider the chasm between them and their fellows. They became
more methodical in their lives: they watched, and fasted, and prayed ; they waited more carefully on the sick and the prisoners, and gave money to the poor. “One of them had thirty pounds a year; he lived on twenty-eight and gave away forty shillings. The next year he received sixty pounds; he still lived on twenty-eight and gave away thirty-two. The third year he received ninety pounds and gave away sixty-two. The fourth year he received one hundred and twenty pounds ; still he lived as before and gave to the poor ninety-two." This one was Jobn Wesley, the great statesman of Methodism. In this company too was his brother Charles, the “sweet singer” of the sect that was to be, and Whitefield, its eloquent preacher, who had come up from washing mops and cleaning rooms at the Bell Inn in Gloucester, to enter as a Servitor at Pembroke College.
It could not be presumed that such a band would restrict themselves within the limits of the utmost prudence. They were compelled to learn by experience what no one was able or willing to teach them, and that experience was sometimes bitter, as their course was sometimes erratic and visionary. They determined to live for another world and to mortify themselves in this. They multiplied their good works, and bound themselves by rules which Loyola or Št. Francis would have been pleased with. They journeyed on foot in order to save money to give to the poor. Wesley would not have his hair dressed, for the same reason. They framed minute questions for self-examination, such as, whether they prayed with fervor on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at noon; whether they used a collect at nine, twelve and three o'clock; whether they meditated on Sunday from three to four on Thomas à Kempis, or mused on Wednesday and Friday from twelve to one on the Passion. They regularly visited the sick and the prisoners; they fasted two days in the week and sometimes three; they received the sacrament every Sabbath ; during the six weeks of Lent they ate no flesh except on Saturdays and Sundays. Whitefield chose the worst sort of food in order to humble himself the more; he went out in stormy nights, into the walk of Christ-Church and prayed for two hours; soinetimes kneeling, sometimes lying on his face, because Christ was tempted in the desert. He thought it unbecoming a penitent to have his hair powdered, or to wear a clean dress, and his gown was patched, bis shoes were dirty, his whole apparel