Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors]

religion by personifying her amiable graces in the character of her ministers. I allude not to the attack of the open infidel, nor the sly insinuation of the concealed sceptic, nor do I advert to the broad assault of the enemy of good government, who, falling foul of every established institution, would naturally be expected to show little favour to the ministers of the church. But I advert to those less prejudiced and less hostile writers, who having as I would hope, no political nor moral motive for undermining the oleo. would rather desire to be considered: ás-áñong its#iends and

[ocr errors]

advocates.” :: ::::: :"...:

“I understaåå; yösi... eplied Mr. Stanley, “I beliče othäähis is often done not from any disrespect to the sacred function, nor from any wish to depreciate an order which even common sense and common prudence, without the intervention of religion, tell us cannot be set in too respectable

a light, I believe it commonly arises from

from a different cause. The writer himself having but a low idea of the requirements of Christianity, is consequently neither able nor willing to affix a very elevated standard for the character of its ministers. Some of these writers, however, describe a clergyman, in general terms, as a paragon of piety, but they seldom make him act up to the description with which he sets out. He is represented, in the gross, as adorned with all the attributes of perfection, but when he comes to be drawn out in detail he is found to exhibit little of that superiority which had been ascribed to him in the lump. You are told how religious he is, but when you come to hear him converse, you are not always quite certain whether he professes the religion of the Shaster or the Bible. You hear of his moral excellence, but you find him adopting the maxims of the world, and living in the pursuits of ordinary men, In short, you will find, that he has little of the clergyman, except the name.”

* B 2 A seu

“A sensible little work of fiction,” replied I, “lately fell in my way. Among its characters was that of a grave divine. From the strain of panegyric bestowed on him, I expected to have met with a rival to the fathers of the primitive church. He is presented as a model, and, indeed, he counsek, he exhorts, he reproves, he \instructs, but he goes to a masque

rade. “This assimilation of general piety,' . . said Mr. Stanley, “with occasional conformity to the practice of the gay world, I should fear would produce two ill effects. It will lower the professional standard to the young reader while he is perusing the ideal character, and the comparison will dispose him to accuse of forbidding strictness the pious clergyman of real life. After having been entertained with the mixture of religion and laxity in the ima* ginary divine whom he has been following from the serious lecture to the scene of revelry, will he not be naturally disposed to - accuse

[ocr errors]

accuse of moroseness the existing divine

who blends no such contradictions? “But the evil of which I more particularly complain,” continued he, “because it exists in works universally read, and written, indeed, with a life and spirit which make them both admired and remembered, is found in the ingenious and popular novels of the witty class. In some of these, even where the author intends to

give a favourable representation of a cler

gyman, he more frequently exhibits him for the purpose of merriment than for that of instruction.” “I confess with shame,” said Sir John, “that the spirit, fire, and knowledge of mankind, of the writers to whom you allude, have made me too generally indulgent to their gross pictures of life, and to the loose morals of their good men.” “Good men 1” said Mr. Stanley. “After reading some of those works in the early part of my life, I amused myself with the idea that I should like to inter

IS 3 WeaWe

weave the character of a Christian among the heroes of Fielding and Smollet, as the shortest way of proving their good men to be worthless fellows; and to shew how little their admired characters rise, in point of morals, above the heroes of the Beggar's Opera. “Knowledge of the world,” continued he, should always be used to mend the world. A writer employs this knowledge honestly when he points out the snares and pitfalls of vice. But when he covers those shares and pitfalls with flowers, when he fascinates in order that he may corrupt, when he engages the affections by polluting them, I know not how a man can do a deeper injury to society, or more fatally inflame his own future reckoning.” “But to return to our more immediate subject,” said I, “I cannot relish their singling out the person of a pious clergyman as a peculiarly proper vehicle for the display of humour. Why qualities

which excite ridicule should be necessarily - blended

« AnteriorContinuar »