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are not without considerable faults, some of which have just been hinted. The eloquence of Taylor is great; but it is not eloquence of the highest class, it is far too Asiatic, too much in the style of Chrysostom and other declaimers of the fourth century, by the study of whom he had probably vitiated his taste. His learning is ill-placed, and his arguments often as much so; not to mention that he has the common defect of alleging nugatory proofs. His vehemence loses its effect by the circuity of his pleonastic language : his sentences are of endless length, and hence not only altogether unmusical, but not always reducible to grammar. But he is still the greatest ornament of the English pulpit up to the middle of the seventeenth century; and we have no reason to believe, or rather much reason to disbelieve, that he had any petitor in other languages."
8. Many distinguished theologians, whose writings were entirely controversial, or not eminent as literary compositions, must be allowed to pass unnoticed. But we are not deviating from the order of time, in here naming two learned controversialists whose fame has survived their own age. The one, commonly known as the “ever
memorable John Hales of Eton,” busied himself chiefly in attacking the ecclesiastical system of which Andrewes had been the most skilful defender, and Laud the most active promoter. The other, William Chillingworth, has been declared by Locke and Reid to have been one of the best of all reasoners. The work which preserves his memory, “The Religion of Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation,” is directed against Romanism, especially impugning the authority of tradition and maintaining the sufficiency of Scripture.
These names introduce us to the theological writings of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, which, however, do by no means possess a literary importance comparable with that of the preceding times. The Puritan divines, with few exceptions, found occupation more than enough, in the share they now took in public affairs, and in the contests which sprang out of their own diversities of opinion. Some of the ablest among them wrote no works that possess general interest : some, like Calamy, the leader, for a time at least, of the Presbyterians, hardly wrote any thing at all. Others, likewise, whose time of action came chiefly after the Restoration, will then present themselves under another
But to the age of our illustrious ancients belonged distinctively, in spirit as well as in manner, in thought as well as in style,
* Hallam : Introduction to the Literature of Europe.
B 1615 d. 1691.
the celebrated man who, Hall and Taylor and other churchmen having in the meantime been put to silence, was beyond all doubt the intellectual chief of the theologians belonging to the close of our great period.
The name of Richard Baxter would claim a place in
the literary history of his time, although the topics on which his great talents were employed had been the most trifling of all, instead of being, as they were, the most momentous. Filling many volumes, written with ceaseless haste, produced in continual pain of body and not infrequent persecution and trouble, expressed with the clumsiness of a writer who understood little about laws of style and cared still less, and flowing from a mind whose knowledge was very various but nowhere very exact, they are the monuments of an indomitable
purpose that has never been surpassed: and not less extraordinary are they in the combination of faculties and capacities which they evince, powers indeed so diverse, and used with so unsparing a readiness, that the work is often all the worse in general effect for the very fulness of the intellect by which it was dictated. If Andrewes, with modern discipline, would probably have been one of the greatest of English orators, Baxter might certainly, had he so willed it, have bequeathed to us either consummate masterpieces of impressive eloquence, or records of philosophic thought unsurpassed in analytic subtlety. But the pastor of Kidderminster lived, not for worldly fame or the pleasure of intellectual exertion, but for the teaching of what he held to be truth, and for the service of the Maker, in whose presence he every hour expected to stand. His thoughts were hurried forward too quickly for clear exposition, by the eager impetuosity of his temperament: and they were confined, by his overwhelming sense of religious responsibility, to a track which admitted too few accessory and illustrative ideas. All his writings, as he himself has told us, were set down with the haste of a man who, remembering that he laboured under mortal disease, never counted on finishing the page he had begun.
When regarded merely in a literary view, his works are surprising fruits of circumstances so unfavourable. But they have in themselves very great value, both for their originality and acuteness of thought, and for their vigorous and passionate though very unpolished eloquence. Nor can any thing be finer than the tone of piety which sheds its halo over them, or the courageous integrity with which the writer now probes every alleged truth to its roots, and now turns back to acknowledge and retrieve his own errors.
His vast mass of polemical tracts, and the few treatises in which, as in his Latin " Method of Theology” and his English “ Catholic Theology,” he expounds systematically his peculiar views of Christian doctrine, are declared by those who have studied them, to give decisive evidence of his intellectual power. Perhaps the most interesting of all his writings is the posthumous memoir of “ Memorable Passages of his Life and Times.” It is especially admirable as a narrative of the progress and changes of religious opinion and sentiment, in a mind robust both in intellect and in passion. His Sermons, always irregular in style and often positively vulgar, abound in passages of great oratorical strength: in truth, it is one of the most remarkable points about this remarkable man, that, in starting so many original thoughts, and in tracing out their consequences with such fulness of inference and such refinement of analysis, he should yet have been able to rivet the attention and arouse the feelings of a congregation as we know him to have done. But, when we read his pulpit orations, we cannot be surprised by the great effect they produced.
No religious books better deserve their popularity than some of his Practical Treatises, especially those that are best known, “ The Saints' Everlasting Rest” and “ The Call to the Unconverted.” They exhibit the essence, both of his eloquence and of his thinking, as clearly as the Sermons; and in point of language they are much better. But they must not be judged from modern abridgments, the very best of which are to them what the skeleton is to the statue. None of our old divines will bear being abridged: and the plan of Baxter's works, embracing a multiplicity of particulars, each of which is essential to the symmetry of the whole, is such as to make them less susceptible of the process than most others of their class.
From “ The Saints' Everlasting Rest,” published in 1650. Why dost thou look so sadly on those withered limbs, and on that pining body? Do not so far mistake thyself, as to think its joys and thine are all one; or that its prosperity and thine are all one; or that they must needs stand or fall together. When it is rotting and consuming in the grave, then shalt thou be a companion of the perfected spirits of the just; and when those bones are scattered about the churchyard, then shalt thou be praising God in rest. And, in the meantime, hast not thou food of consolation which the flesh knoweth not of, and a joy which this stranger meddleth not with? And do not think that, when thou art turned out of this body, thou shalt have no habitation. Art thou afraid thou shalt wander destitute of a resting-place? Is it better resting in flesh than in God?
Dost thou think that those souls, which are now with Christ, do so much pity their rotten or dusty corpse, or lament that their ancient habitation is ruined and their once comely bodies turned into earth? Oh, what a thing is strangeness and disacquaintance! It maketh us afraid of our dearest friends, and to draw 'back from the place of our only happiness. So was it with thee towards thy chiefest friends on earth while thou wast unacquainted with them, thou didst withdraw from their society; but when thou didst once know them thoroughly, thou wouldst have been loath again to be deprived of their fellowship. And even so, though thy strangeness to God and to another world do make thee loath to leave this flesh; yet, when thou hast been but one day or hour there, (if we may so speak of that Eternity, where is neither day nor hour,) thou would be full loath to return to this flesh again. Doubtless, when God, for the glory of his Son, did send back the soul of Lazarus into its body, He caused it quite to forget the glory which it had enjoyed, and to leave behind it the remembrance of that happiness together with the happiness itself: or else it might have made his life a burden to him, to think of the blessedness that he was fetched from; and have made him ready to break down the prison-doors of his flesh, that he might return to that happy state again.
THE AGE OF SPENSER, SHAKSPEARE, BACON, AND MILTON
A. D. 1558-A. D. 1660.
SECTION THIRD: THE MISCELLANEOUS PROSE LITERATURE.
SEMI-THEOLOGICAL WRITERS. 1. Fuller's Works-Cudworth-Henry More.-Philo
SOPHICAL WRITERS. 2. Lord Bacon—The Design of his Philosophy-His Two Problems-His Chief Works.-3. Hobbes--His Political and Social Theories-Hie Ethics-His Psychology–His Style.- HISTORICAL WRITERS. 4. Social and Political Theories-Antiquaries— Historians—Raleigh-Milton's History of England–His Historical and Polemical Tracts—His Style.--MISCELLANEOUS WRITERS. 5. Writers of Voyages and Travels-Literary Critics--Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of PoesyRomances and Novels-Sidney's Arcadia-Short Novels-Greene-Lyly--Pamphlets-Controversy on the Stage-Martin Mar-Prelate-Smectymnuus.--6. Essays describing Characters-Didatic Essays---Bacon's Essays--Selden--Burton--Sir Thomas Browne-Cowley's Essays.
1. In passing from theology to other quarters, we may allow ourselves to be introduced by one of the most eloquent preachers of Charles's time, a man who was accustomed to have two audiences, the one seated in the church, the other listening eagerly through the open windows. .
Thomas Fuller is most widely known through his
“Worthies of England.” But he was a voluminous and various author, both of ecclesiastical and other works. He is the very strangest writer in our language. Perhaps no man ever excelled him in fulness and readiness of wit: certainly no man ever printed so many of his own jests. His joyousness overflows without ceasing, pouring forth good-natured sarcasms, humorous allusions, and facetious stories, and punning and ringing changes on words with inexhaustible oddity of invention. His eccentricity found its way to his title-pages: “Good Thoughts in Bad Times,” at an early stage of the war, were followed by “Good Thoughts in Worse Times :" and this series closed, at the Restoration, with “ Mixed Contemplations in Better Times.” If this were all, Fuller might be worthless. But the light-hearted jester was one of the most industrious of inquirers : we owe to him an immense number of curious facts, collected from recondite books, from an extensive correspondence kept up on purpose, and from researches