« PreviousContinue »
myself, Why do not my passions burn? why does not zeal arise in mighty wrath, to dash my icy habits to pieces, and to trample all mean sentiments in the dust? At intervals I feel devotion and benevolence and a surpassing ardor; but when they are turned towards substantial, laborious occupations, they fly, and leave me spiritless amid the iron labor. Still, however, I confide in the efficacy of persistive prayer; and I do hope that the spirit of the Lord will yet come mightily upon me, and carry me through toils, and sufferings, and death, to stand in mount Zion among the followers of the Lamb.
REMARKS ON COWPER.
THE UNION OF DEVOTION AND TASTE.
COWPER was a Christian, and I doubt not that the devout spirit has often risen from the perusal of his strains, and, rapt in the holy elevation caught from this mingled flame of genius and piety, poured out the ecstasies of his soul for such a gift to religion. It has been the reproach or misfortune of its friends, that they have cramped its energies by scholastic definitions; that instead of letting its native attractions shine through the medium of
rich and elevated diction, they have, both from the pulpit and the press, disguised it by a quaint and pedantic phraseology. They have chilled its generous and lofty spirit, by narrow and spiritless and commonplace sentiment. This reproach can be, and ought to be, wiped off. The separation between taste and devotion is a most unnatural divorce. Cowper had a soul keenly alive to every beauty of nature and art; and religion, as invested with the charms of his poetry, never wore an earthly robe that shone so like its hue of original and celestial loveliness. Never dwelt there in a human being, a temper that mingled so kindly with the bland spirit of Christianity. It touched with its hallowed fire all the springs of his elegant taste; it breathed its inspiring vigor into all his innocent loves, till every element of his beautiful genius, like the scenes it described, wafted nothing but incense to heaven. What! shall man be attracted to every other of his interests, by the forms of a seductive rhetoric, and the power of a brilliant and fascinating imagery? shall genius pour forth its praises of nature, till the stars above us twinkle down with new lustre, and the whole earth wake to new beauty, as when it burst fresh from the bosom of almighty love? shall vice itself glitter in the magic of unwonted melody, and the heart be drunken with its sorceries? shall the God of heaven be blasphemed in colors dipped in his
own glory, and shall religion, the joy of angels, the dearest friend to humanity, the bright hope and vision of immortality, meet the naked selfishness of the heart without a grace to soften and conciliate? Must it contend, not only with the polished shafts of wit, the subtilties of depraved reason, and the host of mighty passions, but must it also wage unnatural war with those very refinements and sensibilities of our nature, which owe to it their purest nourishment and noblest elevation? It has done that for man which ought to fill every heart with enthusiasm. The prospects of its achievements are enough to open all the fountains of the soul; to make it break from its tame and proscribed impurity of diction; to pour around Christianity the light of every taste, and the charm of irresistible persuasion. Then, melting down every obstacle, it shall go forth conquering and to conquer, till every eye is ravished with its beauty, and every heart yields it the homage of veneration!
INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY
ON THE FEMALE SEX.
We come now to the period when the light of the gospel began to break upon the world, and woman was first raised to share with man the same destiny and duties, by being interested in the same redemption and the same hopes. The christian communities, in the first century, collected by a new and supernatural impulse, from the corruption and degradation of humanity in the pagan world, were early filled with women, who at once preached and practised, ennobled and recommended the new religion. In the course of a few years, the christian martyrologies are full of the names of female sufferers, who, for Jesus' sake, went to the stake, with all the courage and inflexibility of apostles.
But the effect of Christianity did not terminate in raising the armies of martyrs, with which the annals of the church are crowded. The truly important and permanent influence of Christianity, arose from the check which it gave to the licentiousness of divorce, and from the abolition of the practice of polygamy. By these sacred laws of the new dispensation, man and woman were raised from the abyss of depravity, in which they were
sunk together. By the prevalence of the gospel, it was soon understood, that the souls of your sex were of an origin as high, a value as precious, a destination as lofty, a duration as lasting, as our own. Woman then began to be the companion and the partner of man; the condition of domestic life was changed; and the household gods of the pagans were supplanted. It was understood to be one of the principles of Christianity, that, while man was the head of the woman, woman was the glory of the man; the unbelieving husband was sanctified by the wife, and the holy spirit had been poured, without distinction of sex, on the male and female converts. Not only was the bond of marriage fastened indissolubly by the force of religion, as well as by its laws, and woman delivered from the caprices of divorce, and the miseries of polygamy; but, by the introduction of the gospel, a new impulse was given to the ideas, and a new direction to the pursuits of the sex. They were not only pure maidens and faithful wives, but they became also, thinkers and students; apologists as well as martyrs for Christianity. Where the new faith was received, they often introduced it. They established it on the thrones of the northern nations, who were preparing to burst in upon the tottering empire of the West; and what our religion owes to them of its rapid extension, it abundantly repaid by its in