Page images
PDF
EPUB

ever much this is to be deplored, we have to do with society as we find it, and if the people are in haste, we must be in haste too. We must address them in such a manner as to arrest their attention and retain it if possible. But that cannot be done in the slow and round-about way which succeeded so well in days of yore. Yet let us not go to the opposite extreme, as I think, did some of the venerated fathers of our denomination, when they insisted that a sermon containing a whole body of divinity should be preached in five minutes. May I hope to be forgiven, if I venture to say that it is to be feared the short and shallow preaching so commended a few years ago, conduced to the short and shallow religion so prevalent still? It caught the masses, it taught them the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, but there it left them, it did not lead them on to perfection; preaching of greater depth, breadth, and length is necessary to that. But whether we endeavour to arouse the sleeping sinner, or to edify the believer in Christ, it must be done in a way which will most speedily accomplish those ends. No useless words must be uttered, and the words we do utter had better be as short as possible, real old English words, understood by everybody, the words in which the Bible is translated, the words by which Shakspere has maintained his sway over the people for three hundred years, the words in which the most eloquent and effective speeches in parliament are delivered, the words by which the most successful barrister wins the day for his client, and the words too by which the most successful preacher wins souls for Christ. There must be no flourish of trumpets before we distribute to the people the bread of life. Our ideas must be clear and appropriate, and expressed in clear and appropriate language. No time must be lost in dressing them up in gorgeous attire, let them go forth in plain and simple apparel, and no more of it than propriety demands; the smaller the quantity of drapery, the easier it is to see the form and beauty of the figure it covers. The same rule must be observed in the composition of the whole sermon. No redundance must be admitted. The exposition must be simple and concise, like our Lord's explanation of the parable of the sower who went forth to sow. The argument must be short, clear, and conclusive, like our Saviour's argument in support of the doctrine of the resurrection. The application must be earnest, pointed, and personal, like the great Teacher's application of the doctrine of the new birth to Nicodemus, and if an illustration be needed, let it be striking, transparent, and soon told, like Nathan's touching parable of the poor man and his ewe lamb; and let it not be forgotten with what point, force, and effect the prophet applied that parable to the conscience of the king.

IV. MAKING HASTE TO BE RICH. Solomon said a long time ago, "Money answereth all things." He gave the world's opinion

R

of money, and that is the world's opinion still. And, indeed, money will supply the world with nearly all it needs except a good conscience. It is no wonder, then, that the love of money should be a prevalent passion. Yet our fathers were in less haste to be rich than the men of this generation. Perhaps the difficulty, if not the impossibility of more than a very few being able to acquire wealth weakened the desire for riches, and conduced to the contentment of the poor. At any rate, large fortunes were slowly made fifty years ago. The rich were rich by inheriting the wealth of their ancestors, and the children of the poor remained poor. But now wealth is offered as a prize to be run for by men of all conditions, and the racecourse is crowded by eager and swift-footed runners, who risk all to reach the goal. It is a wild, furious race. Many are knocked down in the strife and trodden to death, but still the crowd rushes on in the mad pursuit of gold, and many succeed in obtaining the coveted treasure. There is no sin in merely being rich, but there is great peril. Wealth digs pits, lays snares, and traps, and opens doors of temptation unknown to the man of moderate means. "They that will be rich fall into divers temptations and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." Hence our Lord says, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven." More resolution, firmness, self-denial, and divine help is required by the rich man to enable him to break away from the world's sins and follies than the poor man needs, whose humble condition helps to protect him from these evils. It is now a more serious duty than ever to "charge them that be rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy." They must be warned that neither virtue nor happiness can be purchased with gold. God has taken care that these blessings shall be as easily obtained by the poor as the rich. They must be reminded too that they are only stewards of the goods entrusted to their care, and that their responsibility is in proportion to their means, for the greater their wealth the greater the debt they owe to God and man. "For unto whomsoever much is

given, of him shall much be required."

While we as ministers of the Gospel endeavour to become" all things to all men, that we may save some," let us at the same time not forget that no amount of talent, learning, or knowledge of men and things will accomplish any real and lasting good without the unction of the Holy One, and the wisdom that cometh from above, for without that we shall not be able to persuade men in Christ's stead to be reconciled unto God. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." If we think we can bring to life them who are dead in trespasses and sin by argument

and eloquence, we shall be deceived. God alone can raise the dead. Then while we faithfully employ for his glory all the talents he has given us, let us depend on him alone for success, and perform our solemn duty in the name and strength of God Almighty. H. P.

ART. VIII.-JOHN MILTON.

An Entire Edition of John Milton's Works, in seven volumes. London: H. G. Bohn.

Works of Joseph Addison, Vol. III. London: H. G. Bohn. The Life of John Milton; Narrated in connexion with the Political, Ecclesiastical, and Literary History of his Time. By DAVID MASSON, M.A., Professor of English Literature in the University College, London. Vol. I. Cambridge: Macmillan & Co.

HE seven volumes named first in the above list of books contain beyond question the cheapest and most correct edition of Milton's writings. Two of these volumes contain his poetical works, with memoir and strictures by the Sheffield bard, James Montgomery. Todd's valuable verbal index is added, besides which there is a variorum selection of notes, which explain any difficulty in style, allusion, or metaphor. The engravings are very superior, and serve to illustrate the text. There is a fac-simile of Milton's sonnet on his attaining his twenty-third year. The other five volumes contain the whole of his prose writings.

But

The volume of Addison's essays is a collection of his well known Spectator papers on Milton. In these the accomplished essayist enters fully into the merits and manifold beauties of Milton's poetry, while he points out what he deems to be the faults and defects of the great workman's style. But criticism proper was not Addison's forte; in this he was as weak as other men. he ranks as high as the highest of his class in purity and finish of style, true humour, and graphic description. If any of our readers. are venturous enough to propose reading the immortal epic through a second time, (alas, how few read it once!) and are not acquainted with these essays, we advise them to read these delightful papers before perusing Milton again.

If the remaining two volumes of Professor Masson's work come up to the expectations created by the volume before us, we shall have for the first time a biography worthy the subject. Among the many who have written the poet's life and times, Todd and Mitford are only fit to be read, and they come very short in many important

respects. Masson's life is a work that will live, and of how few books that teem from the press can this be said! The vast majority fall directly and finally into a limbo of oblivion, and perish like

"The summer fly,

Herds without number, no more remembered."

We very much dislike the modern system of publishing important works by instalments of separate volumes. This was the system of Macaulay, Carlyle, Kinglake, Spedding, Merivale, and Froude. Knowing all that can be said in favour of the practice, we still would rather wait till the project of the author was completed. In this instance of Masson's, after having got on so far in the history you are brought to a sudden stand, and have to wait for several years for the next volume, and several more for the

next.

It may be trite enough, but still it is eminently true, and is pertinent to remark that the age in which Milton so nobly played his part was critical, exciting, and epochal. To construe Milton's life aright it must be studied in the light of the notable phenomena of that period, its political upheavals, its ecclesiastical disruptions, its social disturbances, its phases of religious life, its speculative thought, and its literature. In much of the stirring and startling phenomena we perceive the figure and influence of our bard. But whenever he is seen he appears as the literary champion and expositor of his party-their thinker and triumphant vindicator. His name is as intimately connected with the great Puritan struggle as that of Sir Harry Vane, Eliot, Hampden, or even Cromwell. Who was this great genius? Whence did he spring? are questions that naturally rise and deserve a reply. Professor Masson, with great ingenuity and some heraldic skill, traces his genealogical tree from himself-the illustrious branch-down to the very roots. He traces the surname "Milton" back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. A William de Milton was a member of the suite of Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III. And through succeeding centuries the name crops out now and again in historic records. The origin of this and the analogous names of Mitton and Middleton is doubtless topographical, importing that the persons bearing them had come from "Mill-town," "Mid-town," or " Middle-town." There are about twenty places bearing the name of Milton in England. It was from one of these Miltons the one in Oxfordshire--that the family of our poet sprang. The Roger Milton in Henry the Sixth's return of the small landed gentry would be a distant ancestor of the family. The next name that comes prominently into view is the paternal grandfather of the poet. His name was Richard, not John, as Aubrey and

Philips affirm. He was, it appears, Richard Milton, of Holton, near what was the royal forest of "Shotover," (Chateau Vert, strange transformation!) whose name appears in the Recusant rolls, which rolls contain the list of fines levied on those persons who refused at the time of the Reformation to conform to the newly established order of things, and attend the parish church. In these rolls for Oxon county, 43 Elizabeth (1601), we find the name of Richard Milton, yeoman, connected with a fine of £60 for three months non-attendance at worship in parish church; £20 per month was the statute fine. This heavy conscience tax failed to convince or move the stern Papist, for we find another £60 embargo laid upon him for a like offence, and mention is made that he "neither made submission, nor promised to be conformable pursuant to the act." There was stern, sterling stuff in this old English yeoman. These are the very elements out of which our martyrs and heroes were made, whose name and dearly bought heritage are the boast and glory of our land. We shall see that the yeoman's son and grandson were as true to their conscience, and suffered more in defence of its sacred prerogatives. Richard Milton had married a lady of an ancient and pretentious ancestry, a widow Jeffery, a member of the ancient house of Haughton.

At what exact period there was born to this stout Papist and substantial yeoman the son whose son again was in after years to cast such glory on all the family, we know not. We approximate the time, if old Aubrey is to be relied on, when we fix it at 1563. The old gossiping chronicler says that he could "read without spectacles at eighty-four years of age," so reckoning backward from the time of his death we reach the time we have named.

He

was thus about coeval with the great bard of Stratford in the neighbouring county of Warwick. When of proper age young John Milton was sent to Christ Church College, Oxford. How long he remained is difficult to say, but we know that his career was suddenly interrupted through his decisive and final abjurement of the pestilential and destructive heresies of Popery, and his embracing the "reformed faith." His bigoted father for this cast him from him as a vile thing and disinherited him. He seemed not to see that he was doing, in another form, the very thing to his son which the ruling authorities had done to himself. This turn in fortune's wheel compelled the youth to leave Oxford and cast about for a place and for means of livelihood. Difficulties faced him, but he nerved himself to wrestle with them and overcome. By his earnestness, industry, and skill he won his way to wealth and high social standing. He commenced in a humble position in the establishment of a friend or relative who was a scrivener in London. He soon mastered the profession, and became able to qualify himself to enter into the business on his own account. As

« PreviousContinue »