« PreviousContinue »
THERE is nothing of which some readers of religious books complain more grievously, than that they should be exposed to a constant and wearisome reiteration of the same truths; than that the appetite of the mind for variety should be left to the pain of its own unsated cravings, through the never-failing presentation of some one idea, wherewith, perhaps, it has long ago been palled and nauseated; than that, what they already know should yet again and again be told them so as to subject their attention to topics that have become tasteless and threadbare, and their minds to a monotony of ideas, that may, at length, be felt to be quite insupportable. This objection has sometimes been urged against Mr. Ro. MAINE's excellent Treatises on Faith; and that, precious and important as they acknowledge the truths to be on which he unceasingly delights to expatiate, yet, they consider the frequency of their recurrence has a tendency to produce in the mind a feeling, if not of weariness, at least of unnecessary repetition.
Now, Paul himself admitted, that to write the same things was not grievous to himself, however
grievous it may have been felt by those whom he was in the habit of addressing. And, lest they should have felt his repetitions to be matter of offence or of annoyance, he tries to reconcile them to these repetitions, by affirming, that whether they were agreeable or not, at least they were safe. “ To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.”
A process of reasoning gives a most agreeable play and exercise to the faculties. Yet how soon would such a process, if often repeated, feel stale to the intellectual taste. Even the pleasure we had at the first, from the important, and, perhaps, unexpected result to which it had conducted us, would speedily wear off. It would, of course, instantly cease to be unexpected: and as to its importance, we know that this is a property of such truths as are most familiar and most generally recognised: and these, of all others, are least fitted to stimulate the mere understanding. Like the element of water, they may be the most valuable, yet least prized truths by us: and certain it is, that by the unvarying announcement of them, they would, at length, fall in downright bluntness and insipidity on the ear of the inner man. It is thus that a train of argument, the mere object of which is to gain the conviction of the understanding, does not admit of being repeated indefinitely. After having once carried the conviction, it ceases to be any longer needful—and as to the recreation which is thereby afforded to the intellectual powers, nothing is more certain, than that the enjoyment would speedily decay, should the very same reasoning, and the very same truths, be often presented to the notice of the mind, so as, at length, to flatten into a thing of such utter listlessness, that no one pleasure could be given, and no one power could be awakened by it. - And what is true of a train of argument addressed to the reason, is also true of those images and illustrations which are addressed to the fancy. Whatever delight may have been felt at the original presentation of them, would rapidly subside were they ever and anon to be obtruded on the view. We know of nothing more exquisite than the sensation that is felt when the light of some unexpected analogy, or of some apt and beautiful similitude makes its first entry into the mind. And yet there is a limit to the enjoyment-nor would the attempt to ply the imagination at frequent intervals with one and the same picture be long endured. The welcome which it found from its own intrinsic loveliness, was enhanced by the charm of novelty; but when that charm is dissipated, then is it possible, that, by the mere force of repetition, the taste may decline into languor, or even into loathing. Both the reason and the fancy of man must have variety to feed upon; and, wanting this, the constant reiteration of the same principles, and the constant recital of the same poetry, would indeed be grievous.
Yet are there certain appetites of the minoris have no such demand for variety. It is ni' wh the affections, or the moral feelings, as it is ith other principles of our nature. The desire of companionship, for example, may find its abundant and full gratification in the society of a very few friends. And often may it happen of an individual, that his presence never tires that his smile is the sunshine
of a perpetual gladness to the heart--that in his looks and accents of kindness, there is a charm that is perennial and unfading-that the utterance of his name is at all times pleasing to the ear; and the thought of his worth or friendship is felt as a cordial, by the hourly and habitual ministration of which the soul is upheld. The man who expatiates on his virtues, or who demonstrates to you the sincerity of his regards, or who refreshes your memory with such instances of his fidelity, as indeed you had not forgotten, but which still you love to be retold—it is but one theme or one topic in which he indulges; and often will he retail in your hearing what substantially are the same things,—yet are they not grievous.
And the tale of another's friendly and favourable inclination to you will not merely bear to be often repeated, because in the conscious possession of friendship there is a perpetual enjoyment, but also because there is in it a constant preservative, and a charm against the discomfort to which a mind, when left to other influences, or to itself, might else be liable. When the heart is desolated by affliction, or harassed with care, or aggrieved by injustice and calumny, or even burdened under the weight of a solitude which it feels to be a weariness, who would ever think of apprehending lest the daily visit of your best friend should be grievous, because it was the daily application of the same thing? Would not you, in these circumstances, fondly cling to his person, or, if at a distance, would not your heart as fondly cling to the remembrance of him? Would not you be glad to bear up the downward and the desponding tendencies of the heart, by the thought