Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

bridges were ordered to be built in the place of the former ; one for the army to pass over, and the other for the baggage and the beasts of burden. The workmen, now warned by the fate of their predecessors, undertook to give their labours greater stability. They placed three hundred and sixty vessels across the strait, some of them having three banks of oars, and others fifty oars apiece. They then cast large anchors into the water on both sides, in order to fix these vessels against the violence of the winds, and the current. After this they drove large piles into the earth, with huge rings fastened to them, to which were tied six vast cables that went over each of the two bridges. Over all these they laid trunks of trees, cut purposely for that use, and flat boats again over them, fastened and joined together, so as to serve for a floor or solid bottom. When the whole work was thus completed, a day was appointed for their passing over; and as soon as the first rays of the sun began to appear, sweet odours of all kinds were abundantly scattered over the new work, and the way was strewed with myrtle. At the same time Xerxes poured out libations into the sea; and turning his face towards the East, worshipped that bright luminary, which is the god of the Persians. Then, throwing the vessel which had held his libation into the sea, together with the golden cup and Persian scimetar, he went forward, and gave orders for the army to follow. This immense train was seven days and seven nights in passing over ; while those who were appointed to conduct the march, quickened the troops by lashing them along ; for the soldiers of the East, at that time, and to this very day, are treated like slaves.

This great army having landed in Europe, and being joined there by the several nations that acknowledged the Persian power, Xerxes prepared for marching directly forward into Greece. After a variety of disastrous and adverse events, suffered in the prosecution of his vain-glorious design, this haughty monarch was compelled to relinquish it. Leaving his generals to take care of the army, he hastened back, with a small retinue, to the sea-side. When he arrived at the place, he found the bridge broken down by the violence of the waves, in a tempest that had lately happened there. He was, therefore, obliged to pass the strait in a small boat ; which manner of returning, being compared with the ostentatious method in which he had set out, rendered his disgrace still more poignant and afflicting. The army which

he had ordered to follow him, having been unprovided with necessaries, suffered great hardships by the way. After having consumed all the corn they could find, they were obliged to live upon herbs, and even upon the bark and leaves of trees. "Thus harassed and fatigued, a pestilence _began to complete their misery; and, after a fatiguing journey of forty-five days, in which they were pursued rather by vultures and beasts of prey, than by men, they came to the Hellespont, where they had crossed over ;

and marched from thence to Sardis. Such was the end of Xerxes' expedition into Greece : a measure begun in pride and terminated in infamy.

GOLDSMITH.

SECTION IV.

Character of Martin Luther.

As Luther was raised up by Providence to be the author of one of the greatest and most interesting revolutions recorded in history, there is not perhaps any person, whose character has been drawn with such opposite colours. In his own age, one party, struck with horror and inflamed with rage, when they saw with what a daring hand he overturned every thing which they held to be sacred, or valued as beneficial, imputed to him not only all the defects and vices of a man, but the qualities of a demon. The other, warmed with admiration and gratitude, which they thought he merited, as the restorer of light and liberty to the Christian church, ascribed to him perfections above the condition of humanity; and viewed all his actions with a veneration bordering on that which should be paid to those only who are guided by the immediate inspiration of Heaven. It is his own conduct, not the undistinguishing censure, nor the exaggerated praise of his contemporaries, which ought to regulate the opinions of the present age concerning him. Zeal for what he regarded as truth, undaunted intrepidity to maintain it, abilities both natural and acquired to defend it, and unwearied industry to propagate it, are virtues which shine so conspicuously in every part of his behaviour, that even his enemies must allow him to have possessed them in an eminentdegree. To these may be added, with equal justice, such purity, and even austerity of manners, as became one who assumed the character of a reform auch sanctity of life as suited the

doctrine which he delivered ; and disinterestedness so perfect, as affords no slight presumption of his sincerity. Superior to all selfish considerations, a stranger to the ele. gancies of life, and despising its pleasures, he left the honours and emoluments of the church to his disciples; remaining satisfied himself in his original state of professor in the unie versity, and pastor to the town of Wittemburg, with the mo. derate appointments annexed to these offices.

His extraordinary qualities were alloyed with no inconsiderable mixture of human frailty, and human passions. These, however, were of such a nature, that they cannot be imputed to malevolence or corruption of heart, but seem to have taken their rise from the same source with many of his virtues. His mind, forcible and vehement in all its operations, roused by great objects, or agitated by violent passions, broke out, on many occasions, with an impetuosity which astonishes men of feebler spirits, or such as are placed in a more tranquil situation. By carrying some praiseworthy dispositions to excess, he bordered sometimes on what was culpable, and was often betrayed into actions which exposed him to censure. His confidence that his own opinions were well founded, approached to arrogance ; bis courage in asserting them, to rashness; his firmnees in adhering to them, to obstinacy; and his zeal in confuting his adversaries, to rage and scurrility. Accustomed himself to consider every thing as subordinate to truth, he expected the same deference for it from other men ; and, without making any allowances for their timidity or prejudices, he poured forth against those who disappointed him in this particular, a torrent of invective mingled with contempt. "Regardless of any distinction of rank or character, when his doctrines were attacked, he chastised all his adversaries indiscriminately, with the same rough hand : neither the royal dignity of Henry VIII. nor the eminent learning and ability of Erasmus, screened them from the abuse with which he treated Tetzel or Eccius. But these indecencies of which Luther was guilty, must not be imputed wholly to the violence of his temper. They ought to be charged in part on the manners of the age. Among a rude people, unacquainted with those maxims, which, by putting continual restraint on the passions of individuals, have polished society, and rendered it agreeable, disputes of every kind were managed with heat; and strong emotions were uttered in their natural language, without reserve or delicacy. At the same time, the works of learned men were

7

1

all composed in Latin ; and they were not only authorized, by the example of eminent writers in that language, to use their antagonists with the most illiberal scurrility ; but, in a dead tongue, indecencies of every kind appear less shocking than in a living language, whose idioms and phrases seem ĝross, because they are familiar.

In passing judgment upon the characters of men, we ought to try them by the principles and maxims of their own age, not by those of another. For although virtue and vice are at all times the same, manners and customs vary continually. Some parts of Luther's behaviour, which to us appear most culpable, gave no disgust to his contemporaries. It was ever by some of those qualities which we are now apt to blame, that he was fitted for accomplishing the great work which he undertook. To rouse mankind, when sunk in ignorance or superstition, and to encounter the rage of bigotry armed with power, required the utmost vehemence of zeal, and a temper daring to excess. A gentle call would neither have reached, nor have excited those to whom it was addressed. A spirit more amiable, but less vigorous than Luther's, would have shrunk from the dangers which he braved and surmounted. Towards the close of Luther's life, though without a perceptible declension of his zeal or abilities, the infirmities of his temper increased upon him, so that he daily grew more pcevish, more irascible, and more impatient of contradiction. Having lived to be witness of his own amazing success ; to see a great part of Europe embrace his doctrines, and to shake the foundation of the Papal throne, before which the mightiest monarchs had trembled; he discovered, on some occasions, symptoms of vanity and self-applause. He must have been indeed more than man, if, upon contemplating all that he actually accomplished, he had never felt any sentiment of this kind rising in bis breast.

Some time before his death he felt his strength declining, his constitution being worn out by a prodigious multiplicity of business, added to the labour of discharging his ministerial function with unremitting diligence, to the fatigue of constant study, besides the composition of works as voluminous as if he had enjoyed uninterrupted leisure and retirement. His natural intrepidity did not forsake him at the apa proach of death. His last conversation with his friends, was concerning the happiness reserved for good men in a future world ; of which he spoke with the fervour and delight natural to one, who expected and wished to enter soon upon the enjoyment of it.

F 2

ROBERTSON.

[ocr errors]

SECTION V.

The good and the bad man compared, in the season of adversity.

Religion prepares the mind for encountering, with forti.' tude, the most severe shocks of adversity ; whereas vice, by its natural influence on the temper, tends to produce dejection under the slightest trials. While worldly men enlarge their possessions, and extend their connexions, they imagine that they are strengthening themselves against all the possible vicissitudes of life. They say in their hearts, “ My mountain stands strong, and I shall never be moved.” But so fatal is their delusion, that, instead of strengthening, they are weakening that which only can support them when those vicissitudes come. It is their mind which must then support them; and their mind, by their sensual attachments, is corrupted and enfeebled. Addicted with intemperate fondness to the pleasures of the world, they incur two great and certain evils: they both exclude themselves from every resource except the world; and they increase their sensibility to every blow which comes upon them from that quarter.

They have neither principles nor temper which can stand the assault of trouble. They have no principles which lead them to look beyond the ordinary rotation of events ;

and therefore, when misfortunes involve them, the prospect must be comfortless on every side. Their crimes have disqualified them from looking up to the assistance of any higher power than their own ability, or for relying on any better guide than their own wisdom. And as from principle they can derive no support, so in a temper corrupted by prosperity they find no relief. They have lost that moderation of mind which enables a wise man to accommodate himself to his situation. Long fed with false hopes, they are exasperated and stung by every disappointment. Luxurious and effeminate, they can bear no uneasiness. Proud and presumptuous, they can brook no opposition. By nourishing dispositions which so little suit this uncertain state, they have infused a double portion of bitterness into the cup of wo; they have sharpened the edge of that sword which is lifted up to smite them. Strangers to all the températe satisfactions of a good and a pure mind; strangers to every pleasure, except what was seasoned by vice or vanity, their ad

« ПредишнаНапред »