once, I suppose.” Then, remembering how curiously respectability, position, and riches, are mixed and distributed, and with how little wisdom the many succeed in life, yet that, through all, the world does progress, and a brighter dawn succeeds each night of darkness, he determines to proceed with his self-imposed task, and to look upon men as they are --not as they seem-without any regard to the common badge with which they disguise themselves.



HERE is a story so good that we wish it were

thoroughly authenticated, which runs thus :When Milton, old, poor, and blind, was retired

to obscurity and Bunhill Fields, and the Stuarts, whom he had so thoroughly opposed, had returned to power, inaugurating therewith a reign of licentiousness never exceeded, the scapegrace King visited the old man, and found him sitting at his door basking in the sun. The face of his Majesty lighted up with a sardonic smile as he said to Cromwell's Latin Secretary, “Do you not perceive, Mr. Milton, that your blindness is a judgment of God for taking part against my late father, King Charles ?” “Nay,” said Milton, calmly, “if I have lost my sight through God's judgment, what can you say to your father, who lost his head ?The rejoinder is complete : the unexpected tit for tat silenced the King, and Milton was spared, whilst others of his party were banished or slain. We can recall this story when we find people nowadays so ready “to deal damnation round the land" for every little action which they think a crime. A Mormon writes to the papers, and threatens us with God's “judgment” because Joe Smith is termed a cunning rogue. The Americans, he says, are now suffering a judgment because they expelled the Mormons from Utah, and murdered the prophet. But then there is a black man, and a newspaper editor, who says that the Union is split up as a judgment against slavery ; and many old legitimists here will certainly rejoice and say,

“ Now to what end has your fine republic come to? You rebelled against a good king, a small taxation, a generous government, which had spent millions for you, and now, after eighty years, comes the judgment !” So the Plague of London was a judgment, on one side for readmitting the Stuarts, on the other for executing the King; and then the Fire was an awful judgment against everything and everybody. The sinful nation was to be destroyed : the wretches were to be swallowed up. Never were the churches so full. The Court repented, but it was Falstaff's repentance, “Marry, not in sackcloth and ashes, but with new cloth and old sack,” and the career of sin was persevered in just as strongly as ever. Presuming this to be the case, there are two thoughts which must strike most of us :-Firstly, that all judgments of the Most High are very merciful—as indeed they are—because by the great fire London was at once and for ever purified of her annual visitation of the plague ; her streets were widened and improved, and new health and energy given to the people, and this in the cheapest and least cruel way. Had the Lord Mayor and citizens and the Government been wise enough to see this, and to adopt Wren's plan for rebuilding the city,

half our dirt, dishonesty, darkness, turmoil, and city crime, might have been saved us even now; for physical and mental disorganization go together, as surely as the wicked lurk in the privy corners of the street.

The second thought is, that if the fire were a judgment, it was utterly futile, since it did not touch the corrupt part. What should we say if a surgeon, who, wishing to stop a mortification, cut off the sound leg and let the rotten one remain ? This is a just analogy, between the worker of an inefficient judgment and an inefficient surgeon, since both operations are intended for the healing of the man of the people. What Divine judgment is we really do know : it smites Herod on his throne; it says to David, “Thou art the man;" it sends swarms of lice and frogs even into kings' palaces ; it turns all the water in the land to blood; it strikes at every man's door, and slays his first-born. It is awful, sudden, efficient. It slays the receivers of gold and the liars even as the finger points, and they die dreadfully; it dogs a whole family, cuts them off by blood, and removes them from the throne; but it does not strike the innocent, and let the guilty free.

By a by no means singular perversion most people professedly religious are great believers in and dealers out of judgments. They have their texts to prove that they are right, and they are often very angry with their opponents, and call them hard names, if they do not believe in them. The very best of men who have opposed these narrow-minded people have been called Atheists and irreligious because of their opposition. How many hard names have been thrown at Bayle, at Newton, at Coleridge, at Erasmus, at Luther himself, just because they were more wide-minded than the people around them. The very best and wisest of the ancient philosophers, Socrates, was called a despiser and a reviler of the gods because he doubted the popular idea of them ; and the very

for any one of our readers to get into hot water in a village is to refuse to concur in the common theology of the leading dissenting minister or the parson.

Now it is undoubtedly a comfortable and a very good thing to trust thoroughly in God. Cowper never wrote truer lines than when he penned these :

shortest way

Happy the man who sees a God employed
In all the good and ill that chequer life.”

And a finer poet than he, William Wordsworth, has told us, after a life spent in revolving the weighty question, that there is only one adequate support for all the calamities of mortal life—one only

an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power.”

But, whilst urging this to the utmost extent, we must deny the right of persons, ignorant or learned, to point out with their finger and say, “This is God's judgment, and that is His punishment.” The O'Donoghue some time ago in Parliament assured us that the “finger of God” was visible in the removal of Cavour. Undoubtedly in one sense, but not in


« VorigeDoorgaan »