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the hands of devout and well-meaning, but otherwise undis. cerning christians. To demonstrate that these complaints are just and fairly grounded, I have transcribed a few paš. sages from the editions of KEBLE's Week's Preparation; the one printed in 1738, the other in the year 1742; and desire the impartial reader, after he has considered the tendency of those rapturous and wanton expressions, to judge whether that book deserves to be blamed and set aside, or not.
[The pages before the lines refer to the small edition printed in 1742, and the pages after the lines to the edition printed in 1738.]
129 Art thou afraid of being too much enamoured with this 142 137 Jesus. O my Love, my Joy, my Jesus, my Lord, be 152 thou present with me in the Sacrament, present more than by inspiration, and make me present with thee, and that 67 more than by Meditation-in a spiritual, real, and eternal Communion. O my Love, be thou nigh in my Mind, 117 nigh in my Heart, and nigh to aid me, for I languish thro' Love. O what shall I do, to have my Soul wholly 142 possessed with and inebriated by thee, so as to enjoy the 129 perpetual embraces of thee; when shall I enjoy thee? 95 O my Life take my Soul; my Joy draw my Heart unto 157 142 thee. When shall I fully please thee; I will not let 105 thee go till thou hast blessed me, my Life, my Love, my 157 67 Desire, my Delight, O that I may faint in myself, and 67,114 depend on thee. Satisfy me with thy Blood. He bowed 74
down his Head to kiss me. He stretched forth his Arm 74,126 80 to embrace me. From his interior Love bursts forth 81 such exterior Signs and Demonstrations as were suffi- 89 cient to mollify a Heart more frozen than Ice itself, and 166 more hard than any Marble. Such are thy Gifts, O 184 96 sweet Saviour, such are the Works and Delights of thy 106 143 Love. O that I was so fastened unto thee, that I might 159 142 never depart. Thou wert within me. Thou only pleasest 158 me, and thee only I desire, &c. &c. &c.
These, without dispute, are the wanton exercises of a warm imagination, and of a luscious fancy; where warmth of constitution, not reason, much less religion, has the chief and sovereign influence.
Undoubtedly writers of this cast, have shamefully suffered the softer Passions to mix too strongly with their Zeal for Religion. +
The following is the APOLOGY of no less an Author than Dr. Isaac Watts himself.
"Let it be observed, that it was much the Fashion, even among some "Divines of Eminence in former Years, to express the Fervours of "devout Love to our Saviour in the Style of the Song of Solomon:
By what Means true Devotion is destroyed.
Here the true spirit of devotion, which is in its own nature a liberal and reasonable service, is made wholly to evaporate in unnatural heats, and extatic fervours, such as are a disgrace and reproach to the dignity of a rational nature. And instead of speaking the language of a serious, rational, unaffected piety, they abound wholly with rapturous flights of unhallowed love, and strains of mystical dissoluteness; or as an ingenious author terms it spiritualized concupiscence, invented by the carnal and wanton appetites and wishes of the unmarried nuns and friars; and thence either by design or by the delusion of the devil, or both, fosted into the devotions of the reformed church, under a pretence of purer flames of divine love and spiritual rapture; whereas they pollute the soul with luscious images, warm it into irregular ferments, and fire it with a false passion; dissi pating all due composure and recollection of mind, and lay. ing open the heart to all the wild extravagancies of frantic enthusiasm: a manner of address much fitter for a dissolute lover, than for an acceptable worshipper of the all-pure and all-knowing God.
It was against this kind of devotion, that great light of the church of England, the learned and pious bishop STILLINGFLEET thus exclaimed. "Is it possible (said he) that any man can imagine, it is no dishonour to the christian religion to make the perfection of the devotion of it to consist in such strange unaccountable unions and raptures, which take away the use of all (modesty) reason, and common sense!"
and I must confess, that several of my Composures in Verse, written "in younger Life, were led by those Examples unwarily into this "Track. But, if I may be permitted to speak the Sense of maturer
Age, I can hardly think this the happiest Language in which Chris"tians should discover their warm Sentiments of Religion, since the "clearer and more spiritual Revelations of the New Testament.' To this Apology we may add, that in these our Meditations and Prayers are no visionary scenes of wild Extravagance; no Affections of that Style, which spreads a glaring Confusion over the Understanding. Here are none of those incomprehensible Phrases which may amuse the Ear with sounding Vanity, and hold Reason in sovereign Contempt. In short, here are no secret Paintings after a mortal Love, in the Language of Devotion and Piety.
Some Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety.
It is to such effusions as these we may ascribe, in a great measure, the decay of christian piety: Because, they tend to mislead men's minds from the true subject both of their duty and happiness, and bring them to acquiesce in their false and mistaken substitutes: they give great and signal discouragement to the general practice of piety in the world, by expos ing it to ridicule, and the charge of affected singularity. On the one hand, they throw many honest and well-meaning, but weak minds into a despair of ever succeeding in the business of religion; because, upon examination, they discover in themselves, little or no acquaintance with those tumultuous heats and ungoverned sallies of passion, upon which so great a stress is laid by these pretenders to such glorious frenzies and heavenly follies: and on the other, they harden the dissolute and unthinking part of mankind into an obstinate reluctance towards the very first efforts of reformation, by confirming them in a prejudice they are of themselves too willing to entertain against religion: that it is a rigorous impracticable service; a state of unnatural confinement altogether incompatible with the common measures of human life. And
This is no more than what the above-mentioned bishop had before asserted against the Romish devotions. "This mysti"cal divinity, says he, is not only unintelligible, but it leads "persons into strange illusions of fancy; and this I take to "be a very great injury, not only to those melancholy souls, "that are led through this valley of shades and darkness; "but even to the christian religion itself, as though the way "of perfection taught by it were a low, mean, contemptible "thing, in comparison of these mystical flights."
In what the Love of God consists.
"It is true, we are commanded often to love God with all our heart, but withal we are told, we must not fancy this "love to be a mere languishing passion; no, the love of Chris"tians towards God is no fond, amorous, affection, but a due "apprehension and esteem of the divine excellencies, a hearty 66 sense of all his kindness to us, and a constant readiness of
"mind to do his will. And thus the beloved son of God hath "declared what He means by the love he expects from his dis"ciples: If ye love me (says Christ) keep my commandments; "and ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. "And if (says St. John) any man say I love God, and hateth "his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, "whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath "not seen? No man hath seen God at any time. If we love "one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected "in us. Thus the beloved disciple, who understood the great "mysteries of divine love, hath expressed them to us. And,
"Here (you see) are no blind elevations of the will; no "extatic nor luscious expressions; no, it is very plain that "all such mystical notions, and luscious metaphors and ex"pressions had another spring, and a more impure fountain, "than the christian doctrine. For, as the said devout judi"cious prelate adds, supposing that mystical way of perfec❝tion were possible, I could see no necessity at all of Christ's 66 coming into the world, nor of any influence his death, or 'suffering, or doctrine could have upon the bringing men to "a state of happiness."
For these reasons I thought it my duty, as a christian, to explode that fulsome and luscious method of the Old Week's Preparation, which has most scandalously put into the mouth of the devout reader such carnal expressions as are mentioned above: * and in their stead I have endeavoured to substitute such prayers and meditations, as may be warranted from the word of God: being thoroughly sensible how well grounded that complaint of the pious bishop FLEETWOOD is, "that the "devotions of the ignorant are generally superstitious and "gross, fixing themselves commonly on sensible objects; "whereas in true religion all is intelligible and divine,—and "God, who should be the only object of their devotion, hath "hardly any share therein.”
"The two great errors into which a mistaken devotion may betray us, are enthusiasm and superstition. There is not a more melancholy object than a man who has had his head turned with religious enthusiasm. A person that is crazed, tho' with pride and malice, is a sight very mortifying to human nature; but when the distemper arises from any indiscreet fervours of devotion, or too intense an application of the mind to its mistaken duties, it deserves our compassion in a more
Some Account of this Work.
As it has been my endeavour on the one hand not to flatter sinners; so on the other, I have been careful not to fill the minds of any with unnecessary fears and scruples, with respect to a duty, which ought to be the practice of their whole lives; as if nobody ought to go to this sacrament, but such as are as perfect as ever they can hope to be.
On the contrary; it is the judgment of the most orthodox divines, that (abstracting from particular circumstances) the receiving of the blessed sacrament, is the most divine and solemn act of our religion; and it ought to be the zealous endeavour of every true christian, by God's assistance, to prepare his soul with the most serious, and most devout dispositions he possibly can, to approach the holy altar: a man cannot too often commemorate our Lord and his passion, nor to often return devout thanks and praises for the same, nor too often repeat his resolutions of amendment, nor too often renew his solemn engagements, nor too often receive pardon of sins, and fresh succours of divine grace: and if coming to the Lord's table (prepared or unprepared) were a sure and infallible way to answer those good and great ends, there could then be no question, but that it would be both our wisdom and our duty to communicate as often as opportunities would invite, and health permit. But it is certain, on the other hand, that bare communicating, is not the thing required, but communicating worthily. Here lies the main stress of all, not to urge fre
particular manner. We may however learn this lesson from it, that since devotion itself (which one would be apt to think could not be 100 warm) may disorder the mind, unless its heats are tempered with caution and prudence, we should be particularly careful to keep our reasons as cool as possible, and to guard ourselves in all parts of life against the influence of passion, imagination, and constitution."
Devotion, when it does not lie under the check of reason, is very apt to degenerate into enthusiasm: when the mind finds herself very much inflamed with her devotions, she is too much inclined to think they are not of her own kindling, but blown up with something divine within her. If she indulges this thought too far, and humours the growing passion, she at last flings herself into imaginary raptures and extacies, and when once she fancies herself under the influence of a divine impulse, it is no wonder if she slights human ordinances, and refuses to comply with any established form of religion, as thinking herself directed by a much superior guide." See Mr. ADDISON's works.