Page images
PDF
EPUB

fulness to mankind at large. The grace of God dwells in the rt of man, as does the vital principle in the oak and the cedar, ich sustains and gives growth to the trunk, the flower, and the

It is not that the current of life is different, but that the sonels differ in which it flows, that the one of these excels anter in pleasantness to the eye, and its adaptedness to answer a He useful end to man. Such too are the habits of mind, so dely different in their claims to our estimation, both for their own be, and for their fitness to diffuse happiness and virtue abroad; ile the principles which animate them are alike acceptable bete God. We do not wish, that “self-education” should be procuted in a spirit of vanity, which dotes on the purity and deliey of its sentiments, and the grace and perfection of its intellecal accomplishments. We desire that it may be pursued in the bt of truth, so that it may lead to humility, self-distrust, and ish in the Redeemer. It is interesting to notice in all the records sich we have of Socrates, how lightly he esteemed curious quiries into things without, when compared with the study of ur own moral character; and with how much fervor he turns from erplexing and unsatisfying discussions into the grounds of knowedge, to the grade osavrov written in gold over the door of the tenle at Delphi. “I concern not myself with such inquiries as these," he says in reference to certain curious questions, as to the true explanation of particular stories of the Greek mythology; ** but rather inquire, whether I am not myself a wild beast more savage and raging than Typhon, or the other monsters in regard to which you ask me?" It is a somewhat quaint prayer of John Worris : "May God grant us light, and when we have found that, humility." The words of Mr. Burke are quite as much to our furpose. “True humility, the basis of the christian system, is tie low but deep and firm foundation of every real virtue.”

Aside, however, from the spirit which breathes throughout these writings, and the general impression which they will be likely to leave on the mind of him who studies them, they possess another vabe, which is perhaps more obvious, and can be more readily appreciated

. They are a rich treasure-house of principles in moral and political science. Even if we lay entirely out of view all considerations of their merit, in reference to the particular subjects which were their immediate occasion, their full value, as here claimed, still remains. The subject discussed may excite little interest in the mind of the general student; he may even pass it by, as one into which he cannot enter; and yet he cannot but be startled, as he meets on every page with such astonishing exhibitions of reasoning and philosophic thought. Whenever an opportunity presented itself

, it was, as it were, a part of Mr. Burke's nature, to give a correct and philosophic statement of the principle in man's consti

tution which it involved, and of the fundamental question it sented. These he often staes at length, with the reasons w have led to and confirmed his own opinions. He who will se out these views as they lie scattered throughout his writings, be able to settle his own mind on many important questions ; it will always be done, if he follows Mr. Burke, on principle correct thought and manly sentiment. These digressions, inci tal perhaps, and esteemed at the time superfluous, have embal his writings in the minds of thinking men, and will continue te so for many generations to come. Some of his works are dire and avowedly discussions of principles; such as lie at the fe dation of our personal and social relations and duties. It is no be expected that in this country, with our republican feelings habits, we shall duly appreciate, or be prepared in every insta to assent to, all the views which he advances as fundamental tru It will be found, however, that whatever may be the form which they are stated, they are substantially the same which wise and good have always felt to be true. Even if those whom they have been held have not always been able to defe them as distinct propositions, against the scoffing and specious fidelity of their adversaries, they have still been “sure of the tru when they were not sure of the argument."

From men of all ages and professions, the writings of Mr. But are deserving of attention, as a valuable auxiliary to such as wou form for themselves correct opinions on the most important su jects; and especially to those who are called upon to express the opinions to others, or to control the judgment and conduct their fellow-men. We say this, deeply feeling that the necessit of the times demands an increased attention to inquiries of th sort, and with the firm conviction, that with all the advance of th age in light and knowledge, there is a deplorable inattention every thing which comes before us in the shape of principles We do not make that which we look upon with all the ardor o religious feeling, sufficiently a matter of distinct contemplation a truth; and until we do so, we shall want steadiness in the govern. ment of ourselves, and cannot expect to attain a permanent influence over our fellow-men. The great question of slavery, for instance, involving as it does, the fundamental truths of moral and political science, is treated by most as though it were a matter of feeling merely; and the sacred principles to which the partisans of each side lay claim, are appealed to, not with that reverence and judicial state with which every thing should be transacted " in foro conscientiæ;" but are drawn out to give point to denunciation, and to grace with their terrific earnestness a mock sentence, which no one believes the judge utters from his heart. These matters, unless treated of with seriousness as principles, must not be treated of

[ocr errors]

1. These sacred “foundation truths,” which are the birthof man, these instincts which give fervor to our faith, and

and energy to our actions, cannot live within us, if we treat a with lightness or a want of seriousness; even though our outi zeal may equal that of Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat. We

thinking men; not merely men who can assist us to seule correctness our principles in metaphysics and theology ; but

who will act only so far themselves, and will suffer others to fealy so far as they can state with distinctness their grounds for doing, and can bring these to the test of another's judgment in 2001 and honest hour. Said the severe and serious Richard

“The religious world has a great momentum. Money and ser in almost any quantity are brought forth into action, when fair object is set before it. It is a pendulum, that swings with odigious force. But it wants a regulator. If there is no reguing force on it of sufficient power, its motion will be so violent

eccentric, that it will tear the machine to pieces. And therere, when I have any influence in its designs and schemes, I can

help watching them with extreme jealousy, to throw in every recting and regulating power, which can be obtained from any warter.” The man who makes himself familiar with one writer ke Mr. Burke, and who accustoms himself to look upon him fith interest and respect, will prepare himself in the most efficient manner to act his part well with reference to the deficiency we save mentioned. If then, in addition to his philosophic and serious habits of mind, the opinions and principles of an author are, too, of direct and positive value, we have a double advantage to hold out, in reference to Mr. Burke's writings, to those who will examine the opinions there expressed, and yield themselves to the genial influence of his spirit who uttered them.

But it is to the clergy of our country, that these writings may become the richest treasure. Thes, by the nature of their office, are set by Providence to give the forming hand to the principles of a nation, on the most momentous subjects,—their duties to therselves, to society and to God. They are in their daily employments, and as it were in their bousehold duties, to be conversant with eternal realities. The truths which they proclaim, they draw primarily from the revealed word of God, and from the writings of those who have served him faithfully in his church. But to confine themselves to these, and to study moral truth no where else, is to cut themselves off from what would otherwise give strength to their faith, and to debar themselves from access to the minds of a large portion of their fellow-men. Moral truth, wherever it can be found, whether maintained by its real friends, Of testified to by its enemies, and even against their will, they should lay hold of, and turn to their own purposes.

The mind

that is ever awake, will draw forth truth from all these sources will rejoice to see that no man can speak the language of without recognizing its reality and its obligations. Especially such a man rejoice, not so much to sustain himself by the thority of a name like that of Mr. Burke, as to see for bir the firm and strong hold with which such a mind as his gra it, and the servor with which he asserted it to others. Let it be remembered, that it is the thing, not its name, or its theolo form, which we are seeking. From such a range of study, re liberality of thought and feeling; for though this term has 1 much abused of late, there is a true liberality which springs 1 an acquaintance with the truth in all forms, and wherever knowledged, as well as a false and more common species, w] comes from indifference to it in any form. This true liber consists in an ability to enter into, and fully appreciate, the feel of another, at the same time that you deem yourself called u to correct and change them. This gives the messenger of his power ; for it leads him to see distinctly what he would move. It clothes him with meekness and gentleness; for it le him to sympathize with his erring brother, at the same time t he knows the error may be for his life, and that therefore must have no participation in it.

The contest in which Mr. Burke was called to engage duri the latter part of his life, was a struggle with infidelity, organiz in the most systematic form in which it has ever arrayed its fora This also is the form in which the enemies of God are now a sailing his servants, and which they are assuming more distinct and avowedly from day to day. On this ground they must be me not so much with the evidences of christianity from without, with its appeals to the heart of man. We have never in th course of our reading, found a writer who has traced the origine infidelity with greater distinctness to the pride of man, or analyze its elements with a more thorough dissection. He met the mon ster as he appeared in the chimist, the logician, and the accom plished philosopher of Paris, and developed the heart which may b united to the most highly cultivated intellect. He seized Rous seau in the very witching time of his incantations; and while the nations were rapt by his syren song, he wrung out from the magi cian the very inmost secrets of his mystery. He showed them, too what a pitiful passion had inspired all that they so much wondered at. Alas, from that time, for the great professor and founder of the philosophy of vanity!" The friends of infidelity know Mr. Burke, and fear him, and rail at him, as their sorest enemy. Frances Wright speaks of him in her energetic English, as “that statesman” who had sold himself for place and pension, to the throne he had once so boldly defied.” And again she says, “ The fallen, sold, the misguiding and misguided Burke, was thus confounding naines and dates, blaspheminy glorious names, and more glorious eras, perverting words, and perplexing principles.” The pations of infidelity understand who is their enemy; and shall not we greet him as our ally?

Of the style and execution of all his works, much has been said. Each new reader will, however, form his own judgment. His power of language was wonderful; on this instrument of thought and feeling, he could sound every note, from the lowest “to the very top of its compass.” Such an ease and freedom of expression, such an uunoticeable and graceful strength as he exhibits, but few men attain ; and none can attain it who do not make language and expression subjects of close and patient study. There is in the structure of his sentences, an amplitude and fullness which is truly Platonic. We love the rich and varied music of such full and harmonious periods, as they come in upon us like the surgings of the ocean, and fall on the car with a lengthened cadence. They betoken a mind which is conscious of its own power, and takes pleasure in displaying it to others, by methods which fully and adequately set it forth. Let it not be supposed, however, that Mr. Burke always aimed at effect, or summoned up himself at all times to striking expressions and powerful appeals.' If he said any thing that was not unusual, he said it in a plain way, without feeling himself called on by any necessity to show to others bis greatness. His manner on such occasions was thoroughly natural, and characterized by ease and a becoming grace. We like this trait, both in personal manners, and also as a characteristic of style. lo both cases, we feel, that we are in the presence of one who does not deem it necessary to let us know, on every occasion, that in all points he is an uncommon man.

In this respect, and in all respects, Mr. Burke was thoroughly and truly a great man.

His mind originally possessed great symmetry and native excellence, which by a discipline constant and never-ceasing, was fully developed and placed within his own command. This discipline, in bis case, was never given over; for it is one of its effects, that when carried to a certain extent, it awakens in the mind a self-activity which renders intellectual effort, and that of the severest and intensest kind, but the refreshing and natural exercise of the mental powers. Besides this, it makes the mind an efficient and finely wrought instrument, which may be wielded at its owner's will for the good of mankind. To a a mind thus prepared, information of all kinds attached itself naturally, and as though drawn by a hidden and attracting influence. He reasoned as though his mind had never needed training; and as though there had been within a new law of association, according to which every fact, as it came in, took its place under some principle VOL. VÍ.

32

« PreviousContinue »