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more antient than the Roman Miffal, properly fpeaking. And whoever has attended to the superlative simplicity, fervour, and energy of the prayers, will have no hesitation in concluding, that they must, the collects particularly, have been composed in a time of true evangelical light and godliness. It is impossible indeed to say, how early some parts of the Liturgy were written; but doubtless they are of very high antiquity. Many persons, in dark times, and under the disadvantage of flothful ignorant pastors, have been enlightened and nourished through their medium, and not a few I trust of my readers can juftly confess with me, how much their devotion has been afsifted by the public use of them. Let any unprejudiced person coinpare with the Liturgy several forms of prayer composed in modern times, and he will find an unction to attend the former, of which the latter is destitute. The present age is certainly much tinctured, in generál, with a sceptical, philosophic spirit, which in its nature is not favourable to the production of devotional compositions.
The historical evidence hence resulting of the religious spirit of the times is
great. The western Church was far from being wholly corrupt in the close of the sixth century*. The doctrines of grace revived by Auguftine were still predominant: divine life was much clogged indeed with the asthma of superstition; but its pulse was yet vigorous. I close this digression, if it may be called one, with remarking, that the continued use of these liturgies in the churches of the West, demonstrates the concurrent testimony of antiquity, in favour of evangelical doctrine.
Of * That beautiful and sublime ode, called Te Deum, ascribed, though not with certainty, to Ambrose, was incontestably used in the Church, before the middle of the fixth century. VOL. III.
Of Gregory's epistles nothing more is needful to be added to the numerous extracts from them, which have supplied me with materials for his history.
His exposition of the book of Job is very voluminous. In a letter to Leander prefixed to it, he speaks of the tripartite sense, according to the ideas of Augustine, with sufficient justness and accuracy; yet through fondness for system he carries his point too far, so as to destroy sometimes the literal sense, after the vicious mode of Origen. We may believe him, when he describes the correspondence of the subject to his own bodily afflictions; and he frankly owns his neglect of language and stile. Few readers will be tempted to search the work throughout, on account of the heaviness of his manner, and the total want of elegance. Yet piety and humility are every where predominant; and though it can by no means be called a just commentary on the book of Job, he in general avoids deviations from the analogy of faith, by the evangelical purity of his frame and temper, and he had, I doubt not, real communion with God in the work. Let us hear his humble confession at the close: it deserves the serious notice of authors, and in that most salutary science of self-knowledge demonstrates a proficiency worthy of a follower of Augustine.
Having finished my work, I see I must return to myself. The human mind is frequently bewildered, even when it attempts to speak correctly. For while we study propriety of language, we are drawn out of ourselves, and are apt to lose simplicity. From speaking in publick let me return to the court of the heart; let me call my thoughts to a serious consultation with a view to discern myself, that I may observe whether I have spoken evil inadvertently, or good in a wrong spirit. For then only is real good spoken in a right spirit, when
we mean by it to please Him alone, from whom we receive it. I am not conscious of having said evil; yet I will not maintain that I am absolutely innocent in this respect. The good which I have spoken I have received from above, and it is less good, through my sinfulness. For, averting my contemplation from words and sentences, the leaves and branches, and narrowly inspecting the root of my intention, I know that I meant earnestly to please God: but the desire of human praise insensibly mixes with this intention. I discover this flowly and afterwards, and find that the execution corresponds not with the first intention. While we really mean to please God at first, the love of human praise fteals into the mind, and overtakes and accompanies the pure design; as in eating, what was begun through necessity and in innocence, terminates too often in excess. If we are strictly examined by the divine Judge, how can we escape? our evils are our own without mixture, and our good things are defiled with impurity. What I feel within, I lay open to my reader. In expounding I have not concealed what I think; in confeffing I hide not what I suffer.-I beg every reader to pray
If the value of his prayers and of my exposition be compared, he will have the advantage. He receives from me only words; but repays me with tears of fupplication."
His pastoral care is a monument of the author's intense seriousness, I have already observed in many Christian pastors, and in Gregory as eminently as in most, à very strong sense of the importance of the clerical office, which rebukes the presumption of moderns more keenly than any words of mine can do. With the ancients scarce any perfon, however qualified, seemed adequate to the cure of fouls; with us every stripling undertakes it with
out fear or hesitation. The treatise itself deferves to be read throughout by every candidate for the pastoral office. I know not how to select any parts of it particularly, and its brevity forbids and discourages all attempts at abridgement*.
The exposition on the Canticles is worthy of the godly spirit of Gregory. I shall hazard a quotation or two, which I doubt not will meet the sensations of minds acquainted spiritually with Jesus Christ, however the profane may ridicule, and the phlegmatic may censure. It is worth while to shew, that a spirit of union with Christ has ever been felt in his Church.
On the first verse of the Canticles he says, « Let him whom I love above all, nay alone, let him come to me, that he may touch me with the sweetness of his inspiration. For when I feel his influence, I leave myself by a sudden change, and being melted ain transformed into his likeness. The holy mind is disgusted with all things which it feels from the body, and desires to become altogether spiritual ; and while sensual objects murmur around, it flies into spiritual things, and desires to hide itself in them. Therefore it desires the loving kindness of the Lord, because without it, it feels no power to approach him.”
On the words, “ draw me; we will run after thee,” he observes, “ Divine grace prevents us. He, who is drawn, runs, because being strengthened by divine love, he passes over all obstacles.”
• Should the young candidate for the ministry object, as he justly may, the difficulty of meeting with this work of Gregory, let him substitute in its place bishop Burnet's treatise on the same subject. It is to be lamented, that so valuable a book is so little read and known, and that while the public talte has called for repeated editions of inflammatory politics, this treasure of paftoral information is dwindled into an oblivion little short of contempt,
The defective taste and learning of his age forbid us to expect any very accurate and solid exposition of so difficult a prophet as Ezekiel. It is, in fact, in occasional passages, independent of system, that Gregory shines. I single out a passage as an instance of this. “ Generally those who most excel in divine contemplation, are most oppressed with temptation. By the first the soul is lifted up to God, by the second it is pressed down into itself. Were it not for this, the mind would fall into pride. There is, by the divine disposition, a wonderful temperature in this subject, that the saint may neither rise too high, nor sink too low.”
Observe how divinely he speaks concerning the teaching of the Holy Spirit, in one of his homilies on the Gospels*. On the words in St. John's Gospel, he (the Spirit) shall teach you all things, he says, “ Unless the Spirit be with the heart of the hearer, the word of the teacher is barren. Let no man attribute to the teacher what he understands from his mouth;for, unless therebeaninternal teacher, the tongue of the external one labours in vain. Why is there such a difference in the sensations of hearers, all hearing the same words? It is to be ascribed to this special teaching. John himself in his epistle teaches the same, 'the anointing teaches you of all things.” It is plain that the Spirit of the Lord was not departed, as yet, from the Roman church, while his internal instructions, despised so fearlessly by the profane, and scrutinized so malignantly by inany orthodox professors in our days, were regarded with so much simplicity and reverence.
His dialogues, if indeed they be his, or be not much interpolated, dishonour his memory by the excess of superstition.
Thus . Tom. II. Homil. on Ezek. xiv. + Tom. II. p. 451.