« AnteriorContinua »
choice fossil with which I had fondly hoped to enrich my cabinet.
There is yet another circumstance in which Shakspere is associated in my mind with the treasures of the Geological world. As those fossil treasures are not discovered pure and perfect, but debased by incrustations which are removed only by the greatest skill and by the nicest caution, so it is with Shakspere: The precious rarities which are discoverable in his works are unhappily often mingled with a mass of extraneous and impure matter which somewhat clouds the lustre of his gems, and, to a certain extent, depreciates their value. But, be it remembered, that we are considering the writings of a human author; and he who looks for perfection in any uninspired work must look for it in vain. We present Shakspere as he is, with the same faithful portraiture as he himself uses in every character which he brings forward in his unrivalled delineations.
The brilliancy of inspired truth may have been dimmed and obscured in some of the uninspired quotations which appear in these pages, by the gross medium through which it has passed; the stream that flowed forth from the eternal throne may have contracted impurities in its onward progress; yet no one can call in question the divine source of the light which illumines Shakspere's page, nor doubt the origin of that current of thought "that with gentle murmur glides" amid the flowery meads of Poetry and of Truth. We can recognise in that vocal stream the sweet music of the celestial spring, and detect the graceful flow and sweetness of the songs of Zion, whose singers are silent in the dust, but whose heavenly melodies will retain their freshness, when Time and the memory of Shakspere shall be no more.
We shall commence our Review of Shakspere's teaching
at the fountain-head and source of all wisdom and knowledge, and investigate the soundness of his opinion on the Attributes and Moral Government of the Supreme Ruler of all things in heaven and in earth; and if on this point our author is "found wanting"; if we discover that his teaching does not exactly tally with that of the Inspired Word of Truth, we are willing to allow, that, in spite of the praises which have been lavished on him, there is not, in the true and proper sense of the term, any light in him.
The God" from whom no secrets are hid" is addressed, in the writings of Shakspere, as "the High Allseer." His Justice also is recognised in the words:
"So just is God to right the innocent."-Richard III., i. 3. While the Divine Mercy is brought forward to teach us forgiveness, in the spirit of our blessed Lord's own words, "Be ye merciful, as your Father who is in Heaven, is merciful."2
Why all the souls that are, were forfeit once;
Tho' justice be thy plea, consider this :—
To this just and merciful God Holy Scripture enjoins and encourages us to commit our cause for impartial adju
1 King Richard III., v. 1.
2 Luke, vi. 36.
dication,1 assuring us that He "regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward." It furthermore warns us not to avenge ourselves, but to leave vengeance to Him to whom alone it of right belongs.3 Let us listen now to the teaching of Shakspere:
Heaven is above all: there sits a Judge,
That no king can corrupt.-Henry VIII., iii. 1.
Hath caus'd his death; the which, if wrongfully,
The Providence of God, exercised over the smallest, as well as over the greatest affairs of life, is noticed by our Poet almost in the very words of Holy Scripture. In “As You Like It," at the affecting interview between Adam and Orlando, the former addresses his master's brother in these words:
I have five hundred crowns,
Take that; and He that doth the ravens feed,
Yea, providently caters for the sparrow
And in "Hamlet,"
Hamlet," v. 2, we are told, "that there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." The coincidence of these passages with Holy Scripture is too obvious to need verification.
But neither in Shakspere, nor in the Bible, are we anywhere encouraged, by a blind and easy trust in Providence, to relax our own efforts; or to lay aside that energy of action and prudence of circumspection, without which no
1 Job, v. 8. Deuteronomy, x. 17. 3 Romans, xii. 19. 42 Samuel, i. 14.
man is warranted in expecting success in life, or deliverance from threatening dangers.
Miracles are ceas'd;
And therefore we must needs admit the means
Life is everywhere represented to us as real and earnest ;
If to do, were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's cottages princes' palaces.
Merchant of Venice, i. 2.
The means that heaven yields must be embrac'd
And not neglected; else if heaven would
And we will not, heaven's offer we refuse
The proffer'd means of succour.-King Richard II., iii. 2.
We will not stand to prate;
Talkers are no good doers; be assur'd
We go to use our hands, and not our tongues.
King Richard III., i. 3.
In the same way the Apostle S. Paul warned his fellow-voyagers in the Shipwreck, that, unless they all remained on board, they could not be saved;1 although he had been distinctly assured by a heavenly messenger, that none of the crew would be lost. But then, in order to bring about their deliverance, human agency was required: "the means that heaven yielded were embraced, and not neglected." And thus both the crew and the vessel were preserved. God's blessing followed the use of the appointed means of deliverance.
Let us turn now to the important subject of Prayer.
1 Acts, xxvii. 31.
Does the Bible condemn coldness in Prayer, and reprobate the mock service of the lips while the heart takes no part in the holy employment? Are we there enjoined to pray earnestly, to pray always, and not to faint?
How clearly does our Poet echo the sentiments of the Inspired Volume.
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below,
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.-Hamlet, iii. 3.
The Bible tells us, that " we know not what we should pray for as we ought." And in the beautiful prayer ascribed to S. Chrysostom, convinced of "our ignorance in asking," we pray for those things that are expedient for us, leaving it to the All-wise God to refuse, or to grant us our petitions, "as seemeth best to His godly wisdom;" for in the words of the Poet
We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms; which the wise Powers
By losing of our prayers.-Antony and Cleopatra, ii. 1,
Who does not remember the fervent and passionate Prayer of the barren Rachel, "Give me children or else I die !" 5 and her premature death in bringing forth Benjamin the child of her prayers, Benoni the child also of her sorrow? Who can forget the prayer of the rebellious Israelites, who, loathing the heaven-sent manna, asked of God, that He would give them flesh to eat? God granted
1 Isaiah, xxix. 13. 4 Juv. Sat., x. 348, &c.
2 Luke, xviii. 1.
3 Romans, viii. 26.
• Numbers, xi. 4.