Imatges de pÓgina

Sin will pluck on sin.-King Richard III., iv. 2.
One sin doth provoke another.

"The multiplying villanies of Nature do swarm upon him" who indulges in any one of them.—Macbeth, i. 1. There is another truth, which is equally clear from the Bible, and from our Author, and also from what we daily see taking place around us. It is this; that mischief is sure to return upon the head of the man who conceives it, and that into the pit which he has dug for another he falls himself. The ten brethren, the sons of Jacob, crouch for a morsel of bread before the lord of Egypt, whom they had themselves sold into slavery; and they acknowledge, in the day of their calamity, that their distress and tribulation had come upon them in consequence of their cruelty to Joseph;2-because that when they saw the anguish of his soul, they would not listen to his voice. Then it was that Reuben might have remonstrated with his brethren in the very words of Shakspere:

I told ye all,

When we first put this dangerous stone a rolling,
"Twould fall upon ourselves.3-King Henry VIII., v. 2.

And the Poet puts the following words into the mouth of King Henry VI. (Part II., ii. 1) :

O God what mischiefs work the wicked ones,

Heaping confusion on their own heads thereby ;

which forcibly remind us of the words of the Royal Psalmist; "As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him; as he delighted not in blessing so let it be far from him; as he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment,

1 Psalm vii. 15; Ecclus., xxvii. 25-28; Genesis, xlii. 6.

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so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones; let him be covered with his own confusion as with a mantle."1

Hear Shakspere again :

We but teach

Bloody instructions, which being taught, return
To plague the inventor: thus even-handed Justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips.-Macbeth, i. 7.


These dread curses


And turn the force of them upon thyself.

King Henry VI., Part II., iii. 2.

If these men have defeated the law, and outrun native punishment, though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to fly from God.?— King Henry V., iv. 1.

Such is the teaching both of the Bible and of Shakspere, on the subject of sin, and its certain punishment.

Let us now consider the value which attaches to the possession of a spotless and unsullied reputation. We shall first inquire what the Bible says upon this subject; and then compare its teaching with that of our Poet. The one tells us, that “ a good name is better than riches.”3 The other declares, that " good name in man or woman is the immediate jewel of their souls :'

Who steals my purse, steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;

But he, that filches from me my good name,

Robs me of that, which not enriches him,

And makes me poor indeed.-Othello, iii. 3.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation! O I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.—

ii., 3.

The purest treasure mortal times afford,

Is-spotless reputation; that away,

Men are but gilded loam, or painted clay.-King Richard III., i. 1.

'Psalm cix. 17, &c. 2 Psalm cxxxix. 9.

3 Ecclesiastes, vii. 1.

On the subject of the relationship that exists between the soul and the body, there is a passage in Shakspere's Poems, which is so entirely Scriptural in its tone and expression, that I cannot forbear quoting it:

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
Fool'd by those rebel powers that thee array,
Why dost thou pine within, and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?1
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess

Eat up thy charge? 2 Is this thy body's end?
Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men;
And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.
Sonnets, cxlvi.

There is another truth which Holy Scripture clearly teaches; that the Prince of Darkness, who is said to go about seeking whom he may devour,3 exerts a mighty influence for evil over the souls of men. The better to disguise his malignant attacks, he is said to transform himself into an angel of light. This supernatural agency and transformation of the spiritual powers against which we are commanded to wrestle, is distinctly noticed by Shakspere:

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Sometimes we are devils to ourselves,
When we will tempt the frailty of our powers,
Presuming on their changeful potency.

Troilus and Cressida, iv. 4.

In other passages he speaks of the Devil as "the enemy of mankind"; and of "illusions" by which men are deceived. He tells us also that "when devils will their blackest sins put on, they do suggest at first with heavenly show," for that "they have power to assume a pleasing shape.

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Now is not all this in strictest accordance with the spirit, and with the letter of the Holy Scriptures? But it is not of the agency of evil spirits alone that the Bible makes such frequent mention; it calls our attention also to another, and a very different kind of agency, which is at work in this our lower world,—an agency for good; and one no less active in its operation for the welfare of our kind, than is the Satanic agency, for our confusion and final ruin. Good angels, as well as bad, are there mentioned; blessed spirits, as well as spirits accursed; ministering, and guardian angels; who not only alway do God service in heaven, but also succour and defend His people on earth; ever speeding on their errands of love and mercy, in obedience to the ordinance of their Creator.

Let us see what traces of such a benign and wonderful agency are discoverable in the writings of our Poet.


Now we find him in one place speaking of "that excellence that angels love good men with ;"1 and in another, the "angels and ministers of grace" are apostrophized, and summoned for aid and defence.—Hamlet, i. 4.

1 King Henry VIII., ii. 1.


Oh, you blessed ministers above,

Keep me in patience.-Measure for Measure, v. i.

At another time he describes them as "weeping at the fantastic tricks played before high heaven by man clothed in a little petty brief authority."-Measure for Measure, ii. 2. He furthermore recognises, in another place, the comforting truth of good angels being "about" a man ;' and the same belief in the doctrine of the constant attendance of guardian angels is noticed in the celebrated speech of Antony over the corpse of the murdered Cæsar.-Julius Cæsar, iii. 2.


you have tears, prepare to shed them now;
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time Cæsar ever put it on;
"Twas on a summer's evening, in his tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii.

Look! in this place, ran Cassius' dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:

Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb'd;

And, as he pluck'd his cursed steel away,
Mark how the blood of Cæsar followed it,
As rushing out of doors, to be resolv'd
If Brutus so unkindly knock'd or no;

For Brutus (as you know) was Cæsar's angel.

Did he live now,

This sight would make him do a desperate turn,
Yea, curse his better angel from his side,
And fall to reprobation.-Othello, v. 2.

These passages would appear to countenance the belief that every man has his own particular angel, to whose especial charge his safety and well-being are entrusted; and in corroboration of this I would refer to that remarkable saying of our Blessed Lord, recorded in Matthew xviii. 10, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven, their angels do always

1 Psalm xxxiii. 7.

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