« ZurückWeiter »
wish to know what Solomon himself, in mature age, thought of such parental instruction, he will find it in such words as these, -" Keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: when thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light, and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”
After the numerous proofs already adduced, does it not now appear evident, that the Almighty has condescended for ages to discover his marked regard for the domestic constitution, and its strong natural attachments, as affording to him the most efficient means, either of perpetuating his fear in our world, or reviving it ? Not that Scripture does not furnish us with instances, where no such analogy holds. For the sovereignty of God there is ample scope in this rebellious world ; but, so far from disregarding a constitution of his own creation and upholding, he has, in the great majority of recorded cases, taken the opportunity of pointing out to his people the moral power and numerous advantages inherent in its very frame. I am far from having forgotten Elijah, or Daniel, or Paul : but neither these nor any other can weaken the force of what has been advanced. The two former, had Scripture not been silent, might have confirmed these statements; and, as for the last, his case was altogether out of the usual course of nature; and, with his own characteristic humility, he scruples not so to tell us.
Let it not, however, be supposed, that in the Sa
cred Scriptures alone are to be found apt and forcible illustrations of the remark with which this division begins. No. These are characters, it is true, that will continue to abide a comparison with the illustrious of any age; like the lofty mountains of nature, whether existing in Europe, in Asia, or America, which are admired for their altitude and sublimity by every spectator and in every period of time. But, with a view to interest the young and rising generation, the parents of a future age, as well as to illustrate to parents themselves, the power of forming to future greatness of character, which is lodged in their hands by the appointment of God, I may be permitted to introduce a few of the greatest men who have lived since the volume of Revelation was closed. With their names, it is true, all men are already familiar : but, to the parental eye especially, there is scarcely a more interesting point in which their characters can be studied, than the moment when these were yet only in the bud. It will then be seen that what Cowper said of his oak might be applied to most of them :
Time was, when, settling on thy leaf, a fly
When tempests could not. ALFRED THE GREAT.—When the early period in which he lived, and the disadvantages under which he laboured, are considered, perhaps Alfred the Great stands at the head of British biography. A man who was not only skilled in the art of government, but who acquired such a knowledge of the Scriptures, and the truths they unfold ; who cultivated, at such an age, philosophy and history, geography, and astronomy, and botany; who was himself an author as
well as a translator and corrector of previous historians; a man whose genius, not confined to literature, extended to the arts of architecture and ship-building, gold and silver workmanship, and even other branches. All these acquirements have justly entitled him to the epithet of “ great;" though another simple and impressive addition to his name, by an author of the eleventh century, crowns the whole. He is there styled, “ Alfred the truth-teller.”
Of the greatness of Alfred's mind, some idea may be formed from the manner in which he speaks of the Divine Being. In reply to the question, “ Why is God called the Highest Eternity ?” he says
“ Because we know very little of that which was before us, except by memory and by asking; and yet we know less of that which will be after us. That alone exists rationally to us which is present; but to Him all is present, as well that which was before as that which now is, and that which after us will be. All of it is present to HIM. His riches increase not, nor do they ever diminish. He never remembers any thing, because he never forgets aught: He seeks no. thing, nor inquires, because he knows it all: He searches for nothing, because he loses nothing : He pursues no creature, because none can fly from him : He dreads nothing, because he knows no one more powerful than himself, nor even like him : He is always giving, and never wants : He is always Almighty, because he always wishes good and never evil. To him there is no need of any thing. He is always seeing : He never sleeps : He is always alike mild and kind. He will always be Eternal: hence there never was a time that he was not, nor ever will be. He is always free: He is not compelled to any work. From his divine power, he is everywhere present. His greatness no man can measure. He is not to be conceived bodily, but spiritually, so as now wisdom is and reason. But he is wisdom : He is reason itself.”
Of David, the king of Israel, we judge by his Psalms; and certainly the exercise of devotion, if left on record, often illustrates, in the most satisfactory manner, not only the views of the individual as to religion itself, but the loftiness and elevation of his soul. For a few moments, then, listen to this AngloSaxon king, of the ninth century, when pouring out his heart before God:
“Come now to help me, 0 Thou who art the only Eternal ; the true God of Glory: Father and Son, and so art now; and Holy Spirit, without any separation or mutability, and without any necessity or diminution of power, and who never diest. Thou art always dwelling in the highest brightness, and in highest happiness : in perfect unanimity, and in the fullest abundance. With thee there is no deficiency of good, but Thou art ever abiding, replete with every felicity, through endless time.
To thee, O God, I call and speak. Hear, O hear me, Lord ! for thou art my God and my Lord ; my Father and my Creator ; my ruler and my hope ; my wealth and my honour; my house; my country ; my salvation and my life! Hear, hear me, O Lord ! Few of thy servants comprehend Thee. But Thee alone I love, indeed, above all other things : Thee I seek ; Thee I will follow; Thee I am ready to serve. Under thy power I desire to abide, for Thou alone art the Sovereign of all. I pray Thee to command me as thou wilt."
After this, the reader will certainly not object to another proof of the eminence of his devotion :
“ Now I have sought Thee : unlock thy door, and teach me how I may come to Thee. I have nothing to bring to Thee, but my good-will; but I myself have nothing else. I know nothing that is better than to love Thee, the heavenly and the spiritual One, above all earthly things. But I know not how I can come to Thee, unless Thou permittest me. Teach it to me, and help me. If those, through Thee, find the truth, who find Thee, give me that truth. If they, through Thee, obtain any virtue who obtain Thee, impart to me that virtue: if wisdom, grant me that wisdom. Add to me the hope of the life everlasting, and pour thy love upon me.
Oh! how thy goodness is to be admired, for it is unlike all other goods. My desire is to Thee; and this most chiefly, because without Thee I cannot come to Thee. If thou abandonest me, then I shall be removed from Thee; but I know that Thou wilt not forsake me, unless I forsake Thee. But I will not forsake Thee, because Thou art the highest good. There is none of those who seek Thee rightly, that may not find Thee. But they only will seek Thee rightly, whom Thou instructest to seek Thee, and teachest how to find Thee.”
Many other specimens might be given ; for “ the subject never occurs to his pen, but he dilates upon it with such visible affection, as to shew that this was the habitual and predominant feeling of his lofty and cultivated mind.”
Inquire now, as to the earliest existing cause, of all these prodigious acquirements, at such an early period, in a man who passed through the severest civil commotions, and who, establishing himself and his posterity on the throne of England, brought order and subordination out of the greatest confusion; and who, during the greater part of his life, was also the subject of very frequent bodily anguish. Go back to the days of his childhood, and, though greatly above his years in the knowledge of men and things, yet see him passing into youth still unable to read! But when Alfred was twelve years old, Judith, his stepmother, the grand-daughter of Charlemagne, “ was sitting one day, surrounded by her family, with a manuscript of Saxon poetry in her hands. With a happy judgment, she proposed it as a gift to him who would the soonest learn to read it. The elder princes, one then a king, the others in mature youth or man. hood, thought the reward inadequate to the task, and were silent; but the mind of Alfred, captivated by the prospect of information, and pleased with the beautiful decoration of the first letter of the writing, inquired if she actually intended to give it to such of