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Against divines, indeed, of every school and age, the reproach of citing a text in support of doctrine or practice the reverse of divine, has been freely cast, with more or less of reason. Orthodox and heterodox, each has flung against the other his retort uncourteous.
“ Have not all heretics the same pretence
To plead the Scriptures in their own defence ?
With texts point-blank and plain he faced the foe;
A Dublin synod of the Irish Roman Catholic bishops, a few years since, which distinguished itself by its enthusiasm for Pope Pius IX., against the King of Italy, and by its arrogation of a divine right of practical monopoly in overseeing the schools and colleges of Ireland, was made the theme of comment by unsympathetic British critics; who remarked that when the question of education is stirred in such quarters, the dullest heretic can divine that the national system is to be denounced'; and that it is easy to guess at the text of Scripture to be quoted in support of the pretensions of the Church. “The command to 'go and teach all nations' vested in the successors of the Apostles a rightful monopoly of instruction in Greek, mathematics, and civil engineering.” According to the same elastic authority, the “Puritans,” we are reminded, were justified in shooting and hanging their enemies, because Samuel hewed Agag in pieces, or because Phineas arose and executed judgment. “There never was a proposition which could not be proved by a text; and perhaps the effect is more complete when the citation is taken from the Vulgate.” Gray's malicious lines against Lord Sandwich, a notorious evil-liver, as candidate for the High Stewardship in the University of Cambridge, include this stanza, supposed to be uttered by a representative D.D., of the old port-wine school, and a staunch supporter of his profligate lordship:
“ Did not Israel filch from th’Egyptians of old
Their jewels of silver and jewels of gold ?
He * drinks—so did Noah :-he swears—so do I.” Gray's jeu d'esprit was, throughout, not in the best of taste; but it was vastly relished at the time, as an election squib. The reference to spoiling the Egyptians is a well worked one in the history of quotations. Coleridge has a story of a Mameluke Bey, whose "precious logic” extorted a large contribution from the Egyptian Jews. “These books, the Pentateuch, are authentic ?” “Yes.” “Well, the debt then is acknowledged : and now the receipt, or the money, or your heads! The Jews borrowed a large treasure from the Egyptians; but you are the Jews, and on you, therefore, I call for the repayment.” Such conclusions, from such premises, and backed by such vouchers, are open to logicians of every order, sacred and profane.
“ Hence comment after comment, spun as fine
As bloated spiders draw the flimsy line ;
Burns was never any too backward in having his fing at a “minister"; and there is exceptional (and perhaps exceptionable) gusto in his averment that, “E'en ministers, they have been kenn'd,
In holy rapture,
And nail't wi' Scripture."
There was a time in the life of Diderot when that freest of free-thinkers made a living, such as it was, by writing sermons
* The Candidate, Lord Sandwich.
to order-half a dozen of them, for instance, a missionary bespoke for the Portuguese colonies, and is said to have paid for them very handsomely at fifty crowns each. Mr. Carlyle is caustic in his commemoration of this incident in Denis Diderot's career. “Further, he made sermons, to order ; as the Devil is said to quote Scripture.” In Mr. Carlyle's latest and longest history, we find once and again the like allusion. Frederick William, and his advisers, bent on a certain match for the Princess Wilhelmina, which the queen, her mother, as steadfastly opposed, took to quoting Scripture by way of subduing her majesty's resistance. “There was much discourse, suasive, argumentative. Grumkow quoting Scripture on her majesty, as the devil can on occasion,” says Wilhelmina. “Express scriptures, “Wives, be obedient to your husbands,' and the like texts; but her majesty, on the Scripture side, too, gave him as much as he brought." And at a later stage of the negotiation, the same Grumkow appears again, citing the Vulgate to a confidential correspondent, in reference to their political schemings. “But ‘Si Deus est nobiscum'-'If God be for us, who can be against us?' For the Grumkow can quote Scripture ; nay, solaces himself with it, which is a feat beyond what the devil is competent to.” Shakespeare embodies in Richard of Gloster a type of the political intriguer of this complexion ; as where that usurper thus answers the gulled associates who urge him to be avenged on the opposite faction :
“But then I sigh, and with a piece of Scripture,
Tell them, that God bids us do good for evil.
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.” An unmitigated scoundrel in one of Mr. Dickens's books is represented as overtly grudging his old father the scant remnant of his days, and citing holy writ for sanction of his complaint. “Why, a man of any feeling ought to be ashamed of being eighty
-let alone any more. Where's his religion, I should like to know, when he goes flying in the face of the Bible like that? Threescore and ten's the mark; and no man with a conscience, and a proper sense of what's expected of him, has any business to live longer.” Whereupon the author interposes this parenthetical comment, and highly characteristic it is : “Is any one surprised at Mr. Jonas making such a reference to such a book for such a purpose? Does any one doubt the old saw that the devil ... quotes Scripture for his own ends? If he will take the trouble to look about him, he may find a greater number of confirmations of the fact in the occurrences of a single day than the steam-gun can discharge balls in a minute.” Fiction would supply us with abundant illustrations—fiction in general, and Sir Walter Scott in particular. As where Simon of Hackburn, the inartial borderer, backs his hot appeal to arms, for the avenging a deed of wrong, by an equivocal reference to holy writ. “Let women sit and greet at hame, men must do as they have been done by; it is the Scripture says it.” “Haud your tongue, sir,” exclaims one of the seniors, sternly; “ dinna abuse the Word that gate; ye dinna ken what ye speak about.” Or as where the Templar essays to corrupt the Jewess by citing the examples of David and Solomon :“If thou readest the Scriptures," retorts Rebecca, “and the lives of the saints, only to justify thine own licence and profligacy, thy crime is like that of him who extracteth poison from the most healthful and necessary herbs.” One other example. Undy Scott, that plausible scamp of Mr. Trollope's making, propounds an immoral paradox, to the scope of which one of his dupes is bold enough to object. But how is the objector disposed of? "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged,' said Undy, quoting Scripture, as the devil did before him.” Dupes can quote Scripture, too, and perhaps that is more demoralizing still. For Cowper did not rhyme without reason when he declared, that
“Of all the arts sagacious dupes invent,
To cheat themselves, and gain the world's assent,
ROYALTY REMINDED OF THE POOR.
DANIEL iv. 27. C REAT was Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, even as the
tree that he saw in his dream ; for, by the avowal of the Hebrew prophet who interpreted that dream, the king was indeed become strong, and his greatness was grown, and reached unto the heaven, and his dominion unto the ends of the earth. But sentence had gone forth, as against the tree, so against the king. Nebuchadnezzar was to be degraded ; despoiled of his kingdom, cast down from his throne, and driven from men, to eat grass as oxen. This counsel, however, the prophet urged upon the sovran, that he should break off his sins by righteousness, and his “iniquities by showing mercy to the poor”; if it might be a lengthening of his tranquillity, or a healing of his error.
What error? That of which ex-king Lear accused himself, when he owned, amid words of frenzy, all however with more or less of tragic significance in them, that he had taken too little care of this,—of sympathy with desolate indigence, and of readiness to relieve the sufferings of the destitute and forlorn.
The storm is raging on the heath, and faithful Kent implores his aged master to take shelter, such as it is, within a hovel hard by; some friendship will it lend him against the tempest; the tyranny of the open night's too rough for nature to endure. But Lear would be let alone. “Wilt break my heart?” he exclaims, in answer to Kent's fresh entreaty: Kent had rather break his own. Again the drenched, discrowned old man is urged to enter the hovel on the heath. But he stays outside, to reason on his past and present, till reason gives way. Kent may think it a matter of moment that this contentious storm invades them to the skin ; and so it is to him. But Lear has deeper griefs to shatter him ; and “where the greater malady is fixed, the lesser is scarce felt.” Let Kent go in, by all means : the king enjoins it—at least the ex-king desires it : let Kent seek his own ease—and perhaps Lear will follow him in. Mean