« PreviousContinue »
and, I earnestly hope, rejoin you in a far better world, must be left to a decision that cannot at the most be very remote; for yesterday completed my sixty-third year. I deplore before God my not having lived more devotedly to the grand purpose; and do fervently desire the aid of the good Spirit, to make whatever of
remain much more effectually true to that purpose than all the preceding.
But you, my friend, have accomplished your businessyour Lord's business on earth. Go, then, willing and delighted, at his call.
Here I conclude, with an affecting and solemn consciousness that I am speaking to you for the last time in this world. Adieu! then, my ever dear and faithful friend. Adieu—for a while! may I meet you ere long where we shall never more say farewell!
CLXXIV. TO THE REV. DR. CARPENTER.*
Stapleton, Oct. 14, 1833. DEAR SIB,-My memory is so very defective that I have no doubt your own, and that of each of the gentlemen of the party at Stapleton Grove, will have more faithfully retained
many particulars of the conversation with that most interesting person, the Rajah Rammohunroy. I cannot recollect whether in replying, with promptitude and the utmost apparent frankness, to the respectful inquiries concerning his religious opinions, he expressed in so many exact words his " belief in the divine authority of Christ. But it was virtually such a declaration, when he avowed, as he did unequivocally, his belief in the resurrection of Christ, and in the Christian miracles generally. At the same time he said that the internal evidence of Christianity had been the most decisive of his conviction. And he gave his
* This letter is taken from the Appendix to Dr. Carpenter's Discourse on the death of the rajah, where it is introduced in the following terms. * After I had decided to print the foregoing Discourse, I wrote the following note to the Rev. John Foster, whose religious sentiments I was well aware would, in the estimation of many, give a superior sanction to his testimony; and whose uprightness of mind, in connection with his well known acuteness of discernment and the profoundly reflective character of his understanding, would, I well knew, secure that testimony a ready reception in the judgment of all who know how to appreciate him and his writings. TO THE REV. JOHN FOSTER, STAPLETON.
opinion with some reasons for it, that the miracles are not the part of the Christian evidence the best adapted to the conviction of sceptics.
This led one of the gentlemen to observe, that surely the sceptics must admit, that if the miracles recorded were real facts, they must be irrefragable of the truth of what they were wrought to attest; and that in so serious an affair the sceptics are under a solemn obligation to examine faithfully the evidence that they were actually wrought, which if they did, they would find that evidence decisive.
The rajah instantly assented to this; but I thought I perceived by his manner that he had a slight surmise that the observation might possibly be meant to bear on himself, with some implication of a doubt, in consequence of what he had said of the inferior efficacy of the proof from miracles, whether he had an entire conviction of the reality of those recorded miracles : for he said very pointedly, that any argument on that subject was quite superfluous as to him, for that he did believe in their reality.
Great George Street, Oct. 12, 1833. DEAR SIR,—You cannot have forgotten the remarkable conversation at Stapleton Grove on the 11th ult., principally between Dr. Jerrard and the rajah on the subject of the extent and reasons of the Christian belief of the latter. May I solicit your opinion as to the correctness of the following position—that the rajah's declarations at that time authorize the convictiori that he believed in the divine authority of Christ, though he rested this belief on internal evidence, and that he believed in the resurrection of Christ?
May I further ask, if any thing that passed elsewhere in your hearing threw any doubt into your mind whether he believed in the divine authority of Christ?
If you deem the position correct, and answer the inquiry in the negative, may 1, to that extent, speak of you as among others at the conversation tó which I refer. I am, &c.
LANT CARPENTER, To this I received the following reply, which must set the question at rest. For the fulness of its statement, and for the permission to employ it, I feel greatly obliged to Mr. Foster, as will also many other friends of the rajah." -Dr. Carpenter's Discourse (Appendix F.), pp. 82, 83.
It was of sceptics generally that he spoke; but I thought at probable (from recollection of something in one of his writings), that he had especially in his mind the Hindoo sceptics, whose imaginations have been so familiarized with the enormous prodigies of the Brahminical mythology, that, in spite of their rejecting them as monstrous fables, they retain an exaggeration of ideas, an incapacity of apprehending the true proportions of things, which will not allow them to see any thing great and impressive in the far less prodigious wonders of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; besides this, their revolt from the belief of the fabulous miracles creates in them a tendency, unchecked by any due strength and discrimination of reason, to reject all others.
In the conversation with the rajah in a party who had the gratification of meeting him a few days later, there was not any distinct reference to his religious opinions. It turned on the moral and political state and prospects of India; and on an elucidation, at great length, of certain dogmas of the Indian philosophers.
If these few sentences can be of the smallest use to you, in any statement you may have to make or maintain respecting the rajah’s professions on the subject of religion, they are quite at your service for that purpose.
CLXXV. TO MISS SHEPPARD.
Jan, 17, 1834. MADAM, While I must, and without the least affectation, attribute to the warmth of a youthful spirit, a certain friendly excess in your estimate of what I have endeavoured in the way of writing, I cannot but be gratified that it has been the means of imparting some pleasure and some improvement to such a mind. Nor can I be willing to entertain the ungracious anticipation (according to my own experience, in regard to some books and some kinds of writing), that at some future time, when the youthful feelings shall be somewhat cooled, when your judgment shall have become more rigorous, and your taste more fastidious, you will altogether revolt from the style of sentiment which has had your approbation in the juvenile season. At least, as far as relates to religion, I trust you will always be substantially in agreement with the principles and intention of those pages, whatever colour of sentiment and cast of composition you may hereafter come to prefer.
Do you ever, now in your prime, look forward, through an extended course of years (which I hope is reserved for you on earth), to imagine what changes time may work in your feelings and tastes ?
Perhaps it is well that an animated young person cannot do this successfully. But in the advance of life, and the progress of intellectual and moral discipline, you will come to feel that you are on a somewhat different tract of existence; that you are more apt to descry faults and make exceptions; that you are more slow to make a favourable judgment; that your approbation (I mean not of books merely, but of sentiments, language, characters, human beings, conduct, almost every thing) is more limited, more cautious, less complacent; that many pleasing things have lost much of the brightness and attraction they had in the morning of life. This, in a measure, at least, is the inevitable experience of advancing life. It is unpleasing, it is grievous, that it should be so. But never mind, if the grand chief business of life go on well. If there be a maturation of judgment, a constant progress to a confirmed state of wisdom, excellenee, and piety, we can afford to lose the vernal luxury of life, obtaining more, beyond comparison, than a compensation for the loss. And besides, religion has an invaluable power of preserving the animation of the soul, after the other sources of it become less copious, and some of them are dried up. An humble assurance of the divine favour, the consciousness of faithfully endeavouring to serve God, and the prospect into immortal life, for which that service is the preparation and introduction, will be a spring of vital, and sometimes vivid senti. ment, when life has passed away from its youthful animation, or is declining into decay towards its conclusion,
Nevertheless I will congratulate my unknown friend on her youth, when the mind and the heart are in full activity, with all the fresh vigour of feeling; since I can assure myself she is resolved to secure the highest advantage of her life, by the best exercise and improvement of her faculties, and their consecration to the noblest purpose of existence.
I hardly know how I have been led into this kind of observations, but let me assure you, they are not meant as one of the grave, cold lectures of age to youth. I wish you may, as long as possible, retain the delightful interest of that stage of life, and may have the least possible cause to regret it when it shall be past. Your kind and too flattering reference to the pleasure and advantage you have derived from my printed writings, claims from me all the cordial good wishes for your happiness in every respect, With which I am, madam, Very truly yours,
CLXXVI. TO JOIN SHEPPARD, ESQ..
Jan. 23, 1834. There seems to be, in the lingo of criticism, a certain factitious law or standard of poetry, by authority of which the critic (or would-be critic) shall take
him to pronounce—“This is ”—or “this is not, poetry”—often, most likely, not knowing exactly what it means. I wonder whether Lord Byron did, when he pronounced, as I have seen him quoted somewhere, that Cowper's writings were not poetry.
But whatever poetry may really be (and whether it be yet settled among them what it is, is more than I know), I can see no manner of reason why just and interesting thoughts on any subject, but especially a serious and elevated one, should not be given out in verse, if the writer be adequately master of that mode of constructing language. And if the structure be smooth and easy to read, and the diction be perspicuous, natural, and uncontorted, the majority of readers would prefer to have an imaginative subject in a poetic form. Simplicity, naturalness of diction, is a grand merit, utterly forfeited by many of our aspirants, both in verse and prose, while aiming at