Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

it with delight; and the influence between the imagination and the atfections being reciprocal, a great advantage is obtained, if the affections are once interested in the cause of truth; or, (as the Scripture speaks) “receive the love” of it. 2 Thess. ii. 10. He is 'one of the best friends to mankind, who presents images to the head, with design to amend the heart. Emblems, of a moral signification, furnish a most excellent mode of instruction ; especially to minds young and inexperienced : for while new ideas are acquired, and the fancy is amused, the heart gets understanding, and becomes prepared for action. Great pains have therefore been taken in this way by antient moralists : but the method itself is of such sovereign use, that our blessed Saviour observed it in all his discourses; he never spake without a parable ; that is, without some natural illustration of truth; and the like method is followed in all the teaching of the Bible; where divine and moral truth is conveyed to the mind under some sign or figure of it; the exain. ples of which are without end.

This mode of instruction is not only necessary, as being accommodated to the faculties of man; but it is of all others the most agreeable; because the mind is delighted with every kind of imitation; and accordingly, they that undertake to delight the mind, whatever their intention may be, always have recourse to imitation in some shape or other.

There are occasions, when it is not possible to get access to the judgment, and to set the truth before it, but under some image of the truth. Of this we have an example in the address of the prophet Nathan to King David, which may stand for all the rest The prophet set before his imagination a parable, wherein wickedness and cruelty were so discernible, that the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

judgment of the king immediately pronounced upon the case, without being aware that he was passing sentence upon himself: and when he saw it was iinpossible to retract, he was brought to shame and penitence; to which, it is probable, he never could have been brought by any other way of reasoning : and all this was effected by applying properly to his imagination. There are few minds, however ill disposed, which may not be wrought upon in this oblique manner; and the ignorant are sooner instructed by it than by any other; which makes it so proper for the teaching of children. More may thus be learned in an hour from a plain simple teacher, than in a year, under the dry and abstraeted language of the wisest philosoplier. In the Parable of the Sower, a volumne of Christian instruction is communicated under a short forin. It sets before the eyes a case in the course of nature, parallel to the preaching of the Gospel : and when once the similitude is pointed out, a train is kindled, which runs to a great length, and without which it is not easy for the mind to get forward. For there are subjects, which the best and the wisest of mankind cannot understand, till they are taught after the manner of children. There are things of a sublime and spiritual nature, which our reason would understand as they are in themselves; but it cannot be : for bere the judgment can get nothing without the belp of the imagination. For the conceiving of many things which the Gospel reveals, the glass of the natural creation must be used; and they must be viewed as they are thence reflected to the understanding. From the light of the day, we learn to value the light of divine truth; from the sun, too bright for the eyes to look upon, we learn, that God is too great for the nind to omprehend : from the element of air and

its operations, we know there may be. ministering spirits; in whom great power is united to a substance invisible: and even the divine Spirit, as the Lord and Giver of life, is understood from the natural air, or breath, upon which we live. By such teaching as this, we are raised above ourselves : 'we ascend up to God by the scale of his creation; and while we are in this world can foretaste the wisdom of a better. This is the best and highest use of the imagination; and if I have been so happy as to make myself understood, we may now go on to the abuse of the imagination.

For, the thoughts of man's heart, which puts things truly together, for good, can put them falsely together, for evil; and be prepared for hell by those powers and actions of the mind, which should lift us up to heaven. The first evil that came into the world, entered by this way of the imagination. On that faculty the tempter practised, when he promised a sort of wisdom independent of God; and a sort of happiness consistent with disobedience. It was suggested to our first parents, that a new light would break in upon their minds; and that, in consequeuce of it, they would rise to an equality with God. Here is first a vision for the head; and with it a lesson of pride for the heart: and thus the first sin is a pattern for every other. In every teinptation, some alluring object is held up; the image of it works upon the heart; the heart re-acts upon the head; false and irrational compositions are formed, and vain expectations are raised : the act is şin; the result is error; and the end is death. Yet, in this manner doth the mind of wan, in his present

fallen state, and left to itself, never fail to work, if the text be true; every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. The first motion to sin begins in the imagination; and it may be questioned. whether any one instance can be produced to the cortrary. The passions, so productive of evil works, do all act as the imagination directs, to fulfil some vision it has entertained. Love, hatred, hope, fear, envy, revenge, and despair, which contribute in their turns to agitate and torment the heart of man, do all operate according to the measures of the imagination ; that is, according to the images the mind hath formed of persons and things; of itself within, and of the world without. The slightest affront will give unpardonable offence to the man who has formed a great idea of himself: when disappointed he is ex. ceedingly hurt; because the magnitude of the disappointment will be according to the rate or value he has set upon his own person: so that one man shall even be killed outright with indignation and despair, by an accident, which another circumspect man, of an humble mind, would not feel for half an hour. A grand idea of this world in a man's head, with the love of its wealth or its fame in his heart, will work together, till they produce strange effects, and turn a man of sense into a fool: of which we can find no greater example, than in the case of an avaricious person; who'admires gold for its use in procuring every thing; and with it procures nothing. The thoughts of his heart unite together wealth and happiness : the wealth, with much toil and anxiety, and perhaps no small degree of fraud and injustice, is realized: but the happiness is still a vision as at first : it began in the imagination, and it never gets any farther.

Our danger will be better understood, when we consider how the imagination is furnished with matter by the two senses of the sight and the hearing. The Psalmist apprehending this, did wisely pray, o turn away mine eyes lest they behold vanity! When the


passions are enslaved, and ruin is inevitable, how often do the deluded sufferers wish, they had never beheld such and such objects !: So much sin enters by the sight, that the son of Sirach (chap. xxxi. 13.) pronounced, there is nothing more wicked than the eye ; that therefore it weepeth, and is made the fountain of sorrow in every countenance. On this consideration, public spectacles and stage entertainments, so alluring to the eye, and so curiously provided, are always dangerous, and not seldom fatal: for by indulging this luxurious and insatiable appetite of the eye, distempers are introduced into the mind, of which it is never eured. The objects there presented to the sight, are either corrupting in themselves, or made so by art and circumstance. Piety, goodness and virtue, are quiet and obscure : they pass through life without noise or figure: but the spirit of intrigue is active and busy; productive of plot and incident; vice is enthusiastic, impetuous, and picturesque ; and furnishes matter of grand effect, fit for stages and theatres. When good and evil are both misrepresented, which often happens, the mind of an unguarded spectator catches the misrepresentation, and makes it a rule of action. Let the self-murderer appear with dignity, and the robber be merry and successful, upon the stage ; suicides and thieves will be increased and multiplied. This is not speculation ; it is undoubted fact. What a common artifice it is, to couple something that is sacred with something which is mean and contemptible; to make it ridiculous, and provoke insult! While that which is base, worthless, and pernicious, .shall be raised and recommended, by joining it to something that is good; or, which the times agree to call good. These arts of deception are so necessary to the cause of wickedness, that prints, pictures,

great and

« AnteriorContinuar »