« AnteriorContinuar »
rest is all that is required ; for the various stirring incidents of a life so employed, afford the requisite change of occupation; thus the teachers of the new faith, travelling from place to place, continually occupied with the converts already made, or those they hoped to make, felt no weary sameness in their lives. They held in their hands the destiny of the world :-and how many bright anticipations of unknown good to come must have warmed their hearts and filled their thoughts to the exclusion of all other things! How vain must all the common amusements of life have seemed to these men ! How disgusting the coarse or frivolous pastimes of the multitude !
The same observation may be made to a certain extent with regard to all founders of religious orders, or leaders of sects: they want no other amusements than those which the active carrying out of a great project affords them: their enthusiasm fills them with dreams of results scarcely less important than those which filled the hopes of the apostles, and they scorn all lesser pleasures. But these active minded men forget that their disciples cannot have their feelings, that the mind of him who learns and of him who originates thought are, if not funda
mentally different, at least in such a different stage of development, that they require a different treatment. They forget that when all the arrangements are ready made, the doctrine laid down, and the machinery complete, their followers will have none of the occupations which have filled their own time and thoughts, and left no room for other recreation. A series of dry observances takes the place of a life of active exertion and spirit-stirring incident; and if the founder have, like most founders of sects, endeavoured to enforce a total renunciation of the lighter enjoyments of life, many of his followers, finding the yoke too heavy to be borne, throw it off, and rush into immoral dissipation; others carry it unwillingly while the heart is far away ; the sect gradually loses its vitality, and two or three generations later, it becomes the mere lifeless corpse
of its former self. It was the peculiar excellence of Christ's teaching and example, that he called for no such renunciation : he mixed in society; shrunk not from the feasts of his countrymen when invited; and forbade his disciples to wear a mortified appearance, or to practice extraordinary austerities: but the later converts to Christianity were unable to appreciate the divine wisdom of this way, and an utter renunciation of earthly things was more and more enforced. This had all the usual consequences : many relapsed into heathen observances for the sake of the diversion, and we find the writings of the third century already complaining of the improprieties consequent on frequenting marriage feasts, theatrical exhibitions, &c.—an evil which might have been avoided had they endeavoured rather to supply innocent amusements, than to proscribe what the human frame so imperiously demands. On the other hand, persons of more tender conscience and stronger will, finding the temptation too great as long as they mixed in the haunts of men, in order to guard against what they considered their own frailty, withdrew from secular life altogether, and thus began the religious orders, and the troops of hermits, inhabitants of the tops of pillars, &c. who forgetting the rational precepts of their Master, seemed determined to turn again to the weak and beggarly elements from which he came to rescue them: and instead of seeking to imitate Christ, who “went about doing good," seemed to have taken for a model some Indian Gymnosophist, and to have thought to serve God by disabling themselves from doing any good at all. Derangement of intellect very generally followed the total seclusion of a life in the desert, and many of the hermits of the Thebais grew wild and savage as the beasts who were their sole companions. The religious orders, on the contrary, living in communities, but without the complicated interests of domestic life to keep the mind awake, soon sank into indolence and sensuality: repeated prayers as a daily tax upon their patience, and narrowed their minds to the small interests of their convent.
Later, we find among the reformed churches the same mistake made: ose who wished to attain superior holiness, proscribed the gaieties of life as though they had been sins; and whilst the enthusiasm of a new movement lasted, they succeeded in impressing their own views on numbers, who, when this first fire burnt out, found the system wearisome; and though shame prevented them from abandoning it altogether, kept to the letter without the spirit. The society of Friends, Wesleyans, &c. &c. who have all in turn proscribed amusements, have all found in the lessening numbers or diminished zeal of their members, that something is wanting in the system : and, if they would be honest, would confess that, as in the case of a mechanist
who has omitted to allow for the force of friction, their machine must work itself to a standstill. They have wished to be more holy than their Lord commanded, and they have ended by becoming less so, because, unlike Him, they have not known “ whereof we are made," and without that knowledge it is not easy to promote the well-being of our fellow creatures.
He who would lead man to right doing and its consequent happiness, must look long and deeply into his own bosom ere he begins his attempt--and not only must he seek a knowledge of human nature there, where he can study it most at his leisure; but he must endeavour to know and enter into the feelings of the class no less than of the individual which he has to deal with. Ignorance on these points has been the fruitful source of many evils which in the minds of a large number have brought the whole system of Christianity into disrepute. Had those who resorted to persecution by way of enforcing a belief which they considered necessary to salvation, looked into their own minds had they asked themselves if any amount of torture would alter their own habits of thought so as to make them in the innermost recesses of the heart embrace an opinion which they be