Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

his own words ; but his difficulty lay in the account given of the manner in which Jesus becomes the Saviour of men. One morning he told me that he had been “ praying to God to deliver him from his sufferings, and to permit him to die. I spoke of the solemnity of death, and the awfulness of meeting God, and that I felt we ought first to seek of God to be prepared by him to meet him. He was silent a little, and thoughtful, and then answered, 'I thought we might have such perfect confidence in God, that we might even venture to make known to him all our sufferings and all our wants, and that he would not be offended ; it was in this belief I asked him to put an end to my sufferings ; with submission, however, I desire to ask it.' On another occasion I told him a friend had prayed for him : he seemed pleased, and said, “ The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.' On Saturday a great change took place; he became very silent, and had the appearance of one listening ; the intelligence of his countenance did not diminish, it only changed its character ; a look of peace and dignity was mingled with it, such as I had never witnessed in that dear face before. Whenever a word from the Scriptures was repeated to him, he always manifested that he heard it ; and I especially observed that, at every mention of the name of Jesus Christ, if his eyes were closed, he always opened them, and looked at the person who had spoken. I said to him at one time,' Jesus Christ loves you 'he answered slowly, and pausing between each word, ' Jesus Christ-love-the same thing.' He uttered these last words with a most sweet smile. After a long silence, he said, I believe-'.We said, in a voice of inquiry, 'In God?' He answered, • In Jesus.' He spoke but once more after this. Upon our inquiring how he felt, he said he was 'happy.

* Life, vol. ii. pp. 489, 490.

Such, my Lord, is the narrative of the musings and utterances of this great philosopher. You observe how entirely his philosophy failed him in the hour of death, and how absolutely he depended upon Jesus Christ. He just learned the first principles of true religion, and, like a little child, gently died in the faith of the Son of God! Here we behold a inan of mighty intellect, burdened with erudition of the highest order, most profoundly conversant with the sciences of mind and of morals ; and yet, at the close of a long life, devoted to the pursuits of knowledge, he remained wholly ignorant of those things which belonged io his peace! That was last attended to which ought to have been first! He knew every thing but the one thing needful! This eminent man, with all his attainments in Philology, in Ethics, in Metaphysics, in Jurisprudence, in History, and in the knowledge of mankind, understood much less of that which constitutes the highest branch of knowledge, than hundreds of thousands of English Sunday scholars!

Surely, my Lord, Sir James Mackintosh has left an example from which it behoves men of letters to profit. His last solemn utterance before leaving our sphere, was a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world. Such words from such lips, in such circumstances, are not to be lightly treated. The speaker, one of the greatest and purest of men, was, even amid bodily decay, as far from imbecility as he had all his life been superior to hypocrisy ; and yet, in immediate prospect of the judgment-seat of God, he felt the utter insufficiency of a merely moral and useful life to recommend him to the Divine approbation, and to satisfy the demands of the Divine law, and fled for refuge to the hope set before him in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. What he spoke he felt. The declaration, too, was voluntary. It was also made after a preparation of “long silence.” He made it as he lay

between two worlds. Time, with all its vanities and visions, behind him,- Eternity, with its truths and realities, before him,—the understanding exerting its powers of defence to the uttermost, and conscience honestly performing its duty ;-thus situated, with one foot in this world, and the other in the world to come,- the last words of Sir James Mackintosh to the philosophers and statesmen of Europe and the world were, “I BELIEVE IN JESUS!"

It is obvious, my Lord, that there were designed precision and emphasis in the method of statement, in the mode of utterance. He first enunciated his faith, apart from its object : I BELIEVE_" This naturally led to the inquiry, “ In God?” And the reply as naturally brought forth, fully and emphatically, the great fact, “ the good confession"_“IN JESUS." Thus terminated the course of one of England's greatest men ; and thus doth God, from age to age, take away “the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent ora. tor.” What is man ? Ah! my Lord, how different were the port and spirit of Sir James Mackintosh when, as Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, in his inaugural oration, he addressed us, the students, in, I think, 1822! His speech, on that exciting day, was full of philosophy, of classical allusion, and the pride of science, but not a breath of the Lord Jesus Christ ! No, my Lord, in his discourse, as in yours, on the immediately subsequent occasion, there was nothing which an idolatrous Greek or Roman might not, and could not have written, spoken, and published. Literature and science were every thing. But, my Lord, MARK THE END!

*

* Isa. iii. 2, 3.

Sir James Mackintosh, by this memorable confession, has done essential service to the cause of Christian truth, and to the best interests of mankind; but he amply enjoyed the means of conferring upon the world incalculably more important benefits. If he had directed his exalted powers to the study of Revelation, he might have achieved a work that would have carried down his illustrious name to the latest posterity. Had he taken up the subject, for instance, of Prophecy, or of Christian Doctrine, or of Morals, or of Miracles, what a treasure he might have bequeathed to after ages! He was equal to any thing: he actually accomplished very little ; and, amid meditations of mighty projects, his life was allowed to run to waste. The VINDICIÆ GalLICÆ, on which his fame was founded, was but a loose and crude composition, which, had his industry and energy been equal to his talents, he inight have produced in a week. His Ethical Dissertation only serves, by its depth, its power, its elegance, and its splendour, to convict him, on a vast scale, of unfaithful stewardship. By this alone, however, small as it is, will posterity know him, and for this alone will it rank him with the great writers of a former age. His attempts in historical composition have added nothing to his reputation. O my Lord, had Sir James been awakened to the importance of eternity, and to the claims and glory of Christ, what motives he might have thence derived for the cheerful, continuous, and intense exertion of his faculties and powers! These faculties and powers, had they been consecrated to God, would have peculiarly fitted him for religious composition, while the Christian system would have supplied him with innumerable themes worthy of their highest efforts. But his means and opportunities of thus benefiting mankind and glorifying God were neglected ; and now, my Lord, they are past and gone for ever! It behoves his surviving friends to profit from his errors.

My Lord, where Sir James Mackintosh is, we shall shortly be—in the world of spirits ! Not a moment, therefore, is to be lost. If, in our little hour, we would do any thing to purpose, we must betake ourselves to it with a resolution, an industry, a perseverance, and a vigour, which, however strange and unaccountable they may seem to a generation of idle and thoughtless men, are an unalterable condition of success. Your lordship has accomplished much in connection with time ; but it is to be hoped that far nobler achievements are still to be performed. You have already done something in the way of Natural Theology, and you have done it well ; but surely you will not rest satisfied with that dark and doubtful department of inquiry after God. You have entered the porch : will you not pass the threshold, and penetrate the temple ? If importance attaches to natural, how much more to revealed religion! You have much to do, my Lord, in various walks, that you may not be far outdone even by some of your great, though now almost forgotten, legal predecessors. Lord Chief Baron Hale wrote at least six or eight times more than your lordship has yet written on the subjects of science, of morals, and of law; to which must be added, his “ Judgment of the Nature of True Religion;" “ Discourse of Religion, under Three Heads;" “ A Discourse of the Knowledge of God and of Ourselves; first, by the Light of Nature ; and, secondly, by the Scriptures.” Then, my Lord, there is the Lord President Forbes, whose patriotic career was, in some leading points, analogous to your own. He, too, did much to purify law and cheapen justice. According to Bannatyne, his biographer, "a number of causes that had been depending for twelve, twenty, or thirty years, were discussed in the very first session after he sat ;” and yet this great and active judge found time to think on the things of Eternity! His “ Thoughts on Religion” is a work of great erudition, and of high

« НазадПродовжити »