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Title: Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit and Some Miscellaneous Pieces
Author: Coleridge, Samuel Taylor
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1892 Cassell & Company edition by David Price, email

                       CASSELL’S NATIONAL LIBRARY.

                                * * * * *

                                  OF AN
                            INQUIRING SPIRIT.

                            TO WHICH ARE ADDED
                           MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS
                          _FROM_ “_THE FRIEND_.”

                         SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                       CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED:
                      _LONDON_, _PARIS & MELBOURNE_.


SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE was born on the 21st of October, 1772, youngest
of many children of the Rev. John Coleridge, Vicar of the Parish and Head
Master of the Grammar School of Ottery St. Mary, in Devonshire.  One of
the poet’s elder brothers was the grandfather of Lord Chief Justice
Coleridge.  Coleridge’s mother was a notable housewife, as was needful in
the mother of ten children, who had three more transmitted to her from
her husband’s former wife.  Coleridge’s father was a kindly and learned
man, little sophisticated, and distinguishing himself now and then by
comical acts of what is called absence of mind.  Charles Buller,
afterwards a judge, was one of his boys, and, when her husband’s life
seemed to be failing, had promised what help he could give to the anxious
wife.  When his father died, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was but eight years
old, and Charles Buller obtained for him his presentation to Christ’s
Hospital.  Coleridge’s mind delighted in far wandering over the fields of
thought; from a boy he took intense delight in dreamy speculation on the
mysteries that lie around the life of man.  From a boy also he proved his
subtleties of thought through what Charles Lamb called the “deep and
sweet intonations” of such speech as could come only from a poet.

From the Charterhouse, Coleridge went to Jesus College, Cambridge, where
he soon won a gold medal for a Greek ode on the Slave Trade, but through
indolence he slipped into a hundred pounds of debt.  The stir of the
French Revolution was then quickening young minds into bold freedom of
speculation, resentment against tyranny of custom, and yearning for a
higher life in this world.  Old opinions that familiarity had made to the
multitude conventional were for that reason distrusted and discarded.
Coleridge no longer held his religious faith in the form taught by his
father.  He could not sign the Thirty-nine Articles, and felt his career
closed at the University.  His debt also pressed upon him heavily.  After
a long vacation with a burdened mind, in which one pleasant day of picnic
gave occasion to his “Songs of the Pixies,” Coleridge went back to
Cambridge.  But soon afterwards he threw all up in despair.  He resolved
to become lost to his friends, and find some place where he could earn in
obscurity bare daily bread.  He came to London, and then enlisted as a
private in the 15th Light Dragoons.  After four months he was discovered,
his discharge was obtained, and he went back to Cambridge.

But he had no career before him there, for his religious opinions then
excluded belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Universities were
not then open to Dissenters.  A visit to Oxford brought him into relation
with Robert Southey and fellow-students of Southey’s who were also
touched with revolutionary ardour.  Coleridge joined with them in the
resolve to leave the Old World and create a better in the New, as
founders of a Pantisocracy—an all-equal government—on the banks of the
Susquehannah.  They would need wives, and Southey knew of three good
liberal-minded sisters at Bristol, one of them designed for himself; her
two sisters he recommended for as far as they would go.  The chief
promoters of the Pantisocracy removed to Bristol, and one of the three
sisters, Sarah Fricker, was married by Coleridge; Southey marrying
another, Edith; while another young Oxford enthusiast married the
remaining Miss Fricker; and so they made three pairs of future patriarchs
and matriarchs.

Nothing came of the Pantisocracy, for want of money to pay fares to the
New World.  Coleridge supported himself by giving lectures, and in 1797
published Poems.  They included his “Religious Musings,” which contain
expression of his fervent revolutionary hopes.  Then he planned a weekly
paper, the _Watchman_, that was to carry the lantern of philosophic
truth, and call the hour for those who cared about the duties of the day.
When only three or four hundred subscribers had been got together in
Bristol, Coleridge resolved to travel from town to town in search of
subscriptions.  Wherever he went his eloquence prevailed; and he came
back with a very large subscription list.  But the power of close daily
work, by which alone Coleridge could carry out such a design, was not in
him, and the _Watchman_ only reached to its tenth number.

Then Coleridge settled at Nether Stowey, by the Bristol Channel, partly
for convenience of neighbourhood to Thomas Poole, from whom he could
borrow at need.  He had there also a yearly allowance from the Wedgwoods
of Etruria, who had a strong faith in his future.  From Nether Stowey,
Coleridge walked over to make friends with Wordsworth at Racedown, and
the friendship there established caused Wordsworth and his sister to
remove to the neighbourhood of Nether Stowey.  Out of the relations with
Wordsworth thus established came Coleridge’s best achievements as a poet,
the “Ancient Mariner” and “Christabel.”  The “Ancient Mariner” was
finished, and was the chief part of Coleridge’s contribution to the
“Lyrical Ballads,” which the two friends published in 1798.
“Christabel,” being unfinished, was left unpublished until 1816.

With help from the Wedgwoods, Coleridge went abroad with Wordsworth and
his sister, left them at Hamburg, and during fourteen months increased
his familiarity with German.  He came back in the late summer of 1799,
full of enthusiasm for Schiller’s last great work, his _Wallenstein_,
which Coleridge had seen acted.  The _Camp_ had been first acted at
Weimar on the 18th of October, 1798; the _Piccolomini_ on the 30th of
January, 1799; and _Wallenstein’s Death_ on the 10th of the next
following April.  Coleridge, under the influence of fresh enthusiasm,
rapidly completed for Messrs. Longman his translation of _Wallenstein’s
Death_ into an English poem of the highest mark.

Then followed a weakening of health.  Coleridge earned fitfully as
journalist; settled at Keswick; found his tendency to rheumatism
increased by the damp of the Lake Country; took a remedy containing
opium, and began to acquire that taste for the excitement of opium which
ruined the next years of his life.  He was invited to Malta, for the
benefit of the climate, by his friend, John Stoddart, who was there.  At
Malta he made the acquaintance of the governor, Sir Alexander Ball, whose
worth he celebrates in essays of the _Friend_, which are included under
the title of “A Sailor’s Fortune” in this little volume.  For a short
time he acted as secretary to Sir Alexander, then returned to the Lakes
and planned his journal, the _Friend_, published at Penrith, of which the
first number appeared on the 1st of August, 1809, the twenty-eighth and
last towards the end of March, 1810.

Next followed six years of struggle to live as journalist and lecturer in
London and elsewhere, while the habit of taking opium grew year by year,
and at last advanced from two quarts of laudanum a week to a pint a day.
Coleridge put himself under voluntary restraint for a time with a Mr.
Morgan at Calne.  Finally he placed himself, in April, 1816—the year of
the publication of “Christabel”—with a surgeon at Highgate, Mr. Gillman,
under whose friendly care he was restored to himself, and in whose house
he died on the 25th of July, 1834.  It was during this calm autumn of his
life that Coleridge, turning wholly to the higher speculations on
philosophy and religion upon which his mind was chiefly fixed, a revert
to the Church, and often actively antagonist to the opinions he had held
for a few years, wrote, his “Lay Sermons,” and his “Biographia
Literaria,” and arranged also a volume of Essays of the _Friend_.  He
lectured on Shakespeare, wrote “Aids to Reflection,” and showed how his
doubts were set at rest in these “Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit,”
which were first published in 1840, after their writer’s death.

                                                                     H. M.





I EMPLOYED the compelled and most unwelcome leisure of severe
indisposition in reading _The Confessions of a Fair Saint_ in Mr.
Carlyle’s recent translation of the _Wilhelm Meister_, which might, I
think, have been better rendered literally _The Confessions of a
Beautiful Soul_.  This, acting in conjunction with the concluding
sentences of your letter, threw my thoughts inward on my own religious
experience, and gave immediate occasion to the following Confessions of
one who is neither fair nor saintly, but who, groaning under a deep sense
of infirmity and manifold imperfection, feels the want, the necessity, of
religious support; who cannot afford to lose any the smallest buttress,
but who not only loves Truth even for itself, and when it reveals itself
aloof from all interest, but who loves it with an indescribable awe,
which too often withdraws the genial sap of his activity from the
columnar trunk, the sheltering leaves, the bright and fragrant flower,
and the foodful or medicinal fruitage, to the deep root, ramifying in
obscurity and labyrinthine way-winning—

    In darkness there to house unknown,
    Far underground,
    Pierced by no sound
    Save such as live in Fancy’s ear alone,
    That listens for the uptorn mandrake’s parting groan!

I should, perhaps, be a happier—at all events a more useful—man if my
mind were otherwise constituted.  But so it is, and even with regard to
Christianity itself, like certain plants, I creep towards the light, even
though it draw me away from the more nourishing warmth.  Yea, I should do
so, even if the light had made its way through a rent in the wall of the
Temple.  Glad, indeed, and grateful am I, that not in the Temple itself,
but only in one or two of the side chapels, not essential to the edifice,
and probably not coëval with it, have I found the light absent, and that
the rent in the wall has but admitted the free light of the Temple

I shall best communicate the state of my faith by taking the creed, or
system of _credenda_, common to all the Fathers of the
Reformation—overlooking, as non-essential, the differences between the
several Reformed Churches, according to the five main classes or sections
into which the aggregate distributes itself to my apprehension.  I have
then only to state the effect produced on my mind by each of these, or
the _quantum_ of recipiency and coincidence in myself relatively thereto,
in order to complete my Confession of Faith.

I.  The Absolute; the innominable Αὑτοπάτωρ et _Causa Sui_, in whose
transcendent I AM, as the Ground, _is_ whatever _verily_ is:—the Triune
God, by whose Word and Spirit, as the transcendent Cause, _exists_
whatever _substantially_ exists:—God Almighty—Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, undivided, unconfounded, co-eternal.  This class I designate by
the word Στάσις.

II.  The Eternal Possibilities; the actuality of which hath not its
origin in God: _Chaos spirituale_:—’Απόστασις.

III.  The Creation and Formation of the heaven and earth by the
Redemptive Word:—the Apostasy of Man:—the Redemption of Man:—the
Incarnation of the Word in the Son of Man:—the Crucifixion and
Resurrection of the Son of Man:—the Descent of the Comforter:—Repentance
(μετάνοια):—Regeneration:—Faith:—Prayer:—Grace—Communion with the
Spirit:—Conflict:—Self-abasement:—Assurance through the righteousness of
Christ:—Spiritual Growth:—Love:—Discipline:—Perseverance:—Hope in

IV.  But these offers, gifts, and graces are not for one, or for a few.
They are offered to all.  Even when the Gospel is preached to a single
individual it is offered to him as to one of a great household.  Not only
man, but, says St. Paul, the whole creation is included in the
consequences of the Fall—τῆς ἀποστάσεως—so also in those of the change at
the Redemption—τῆς μεταστάσεως, καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως.  We too shall be
raised _in the Body_.  Christianity is fact no less than truth.  It is
spiritual, yet so as to be historical; and between these two poles there
must likewise be a midpoint, in which the historical and spiritual meet.
Christianity must have its history—a history of itself and likewise the
history of its introduction, its spread, and its outward-becoming; and,
as the midpoint abovementioned, a portion of these facts must be
miraculous, that is, phenomena in nature that are beyond nature.
Furthermore, the history of all historical nations must in some sense be
its history—in other words, all history must be providential, and this a
providence, a preparation, and a looking forward to Christ.

Here, then, we have four out of the five classes.  And in all these the
sky of my belief is serene, unclouded by a doubt.  Would to God that my
faith, that faith which works on the whole man, confirming and
conforming, were but in just proportion to my belief, to the full
acquiescence of my intellect, and the deep consent of my conscience!  The
very difficulties argue the truth of the whole scheme and system for my
understanding, since I see plainly that so must the truth appear, if it
be the truth.

V.  But there is a Book of two parts, each part consisting of several
books.  The first part (I speak in the character of an uninterested
critic or philologist) contains the relics of the literature of the
Hebrew people, while the Hebrew was still the living language.  The
second part comprises the writings, and, with one or two inconsiderable
and doubtful exceptions, all the writings of the followers of Christ
within the space of ninety years from the date of the Resurrection.  I do
not myself think that any of these writings were composed as late as A.D.
120; but I wish to preclude all dispute.  This Book I resume as read, and
yet unread—read and familiar to my mind in all parts, but which is yet to
be perused as a whole, or rather a work, _cujus particulas et
sententiolas omnes et singulas recogniturus sum_, but the component
integers of which, and their conspiration, I have yet to study.  I take
up this work with the purpose to read it for the first time as I should
read any other work, as far at least as I can or dare.  For I neither
can, nor dare, throw off a strong and awful prepossession in its
favour—certain as I am that a large part of the light and life, in and by
which I see, love, and embrace the truths and the strengths co-organised
into a living body of faith and knowledge in the four preceding classes,
has been directly or indirectly derived to me from this sacred volume—and
unable to determine what I do not owe to its influences.  But even on
this account, and because it has these inalienable claims on my reverence
and gratitude, I will not leave it in the power of unbelievers to say
that the Bible is for me only what the Koran is for the deaf Turk, and
the Vedas for the feeble and acquiescent Hindoo.  No; I will retire _up
into the mountain_, and hold secret commune with my Bible above the
contagious blastments of prejudice, and the fog-blight of selfish
superstition.  _For fear hath torment_.  And what though _my_ reason be
to the power and splendour of the Scriptures but as the reflected and
secondary shine of the moon compared with the solar radiance; yet the sun
endures the occasional co-presence of the unsteady orb, and leaving it
visible seems to sanction the comparison.  There is a Light higher than
all, even _the Word that was in the beginning_; the Light, of which light
itself is but the _shechinah_ and cloudy tabernacle; the Word that is
Light for every man, and life for as many as give heed to it.  If between
this Word and the written letter I shall anywhere seem to myself to find
a discrepance, I will not conclude that such there actually is, nor on
the other hand will I fall under the condemnation of them that would _lie
for God_, but seek as I may, be thankful for what I have—and wait.

With such purposes, with such feelings, have I perused the books of the
Old and New Testaments, each book as a whole, and also as an integral
part.  And need I say that I have met everywhere more or less copious
sources of truth, and power, and purifying impulses, that I have found
words for my inmost thoughts, songs for my joy, utterances for my hidden
griefs, and pleadings for my shame and my feebleness?  In short, whatever
_finds_ me, bears witness for itself that it has proceeded from a Holy
Spirit, even from the same Spirit, _which remaining in itself_, _yet
regenerateth all other powers_, _and in all ages entering into holy
souls_, _maketh them friends of God_, _and prophets_.  (Wisd. vii.)  And
here, perhaps, I might have been content to rest, if I had not learned
that, as a Christian, I cannot, must not, stand alone; or if I had not
known that more than this was holden and required by the Fathers of the
Reformation, and by the Churches collectively, since the Council of Nice
at latest, the only exceptions being that doubtful one of the corrupt
Romish Church implied, though not avowed, in its equalisation of the
Apocryphal Books with those of the Hebrew Canon, and the irrelevant one
of the few and obscure sects who acknowledge no historical Christianity.
This somewhat more, in which Jerome, Augustine, Luther, and Hooker were
of one and the same judgment, and less than which not one of them would
have tolerated—would it fall within the scope of my present doubts and
objections?  I hope it would not.  Let only their general expressions be
interpreted by their treatment of the Scriptures in detail, and I dare
confidently trust that it would not.  For I can no more reconcile the
doctrine which startles my belief with the practice and particular
declarations of these great men, than with the convictions of my own
understanding and conscience.  At all events—and I cannot too early or
too earnestly guard against any misapprehension of my meaning and
purpose—let it be distinctly understood that my arguments and objections
apply exclusively to the following doctrine or dogma.  To the opinions
which individual divines have advanced in lieu of this doctrine, my only
objection, as far as I object, is—that I do not understand them.  The
precise enunciation of this doctrine I defer to the commencement of the
next Letter.




IN my last Letter I said that in the Bible there is more that _finds_ me
than I have experienced in all other books put together; that the words
of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and that whatever
finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded
from the Holy Spirit.  But the doctrine in question requires me to
believe that not only what finds me, but that all that exists in the
sacred volume, and which I am bound to find therein, was—not alone
inspired by, that is composed by, men under the actuating influence of
the Holy Spirit, but likewise—dictated by an Infallible Intelligence;
that the writers, each and all, were divinely informed as well as
inspired.  Now here all evasion, all excuse, is cut off.  An infallible
intelligence extends to all things, physical no less than spiritual.  It
may convey the truth in any one of the three possible languages—that of
sense, as objects appear to the beholder on this earth; or that of
science, which supposes the beholder placed in the centre; or that of
philosophy, which resolves both into a supersensual reality.  But
whichever be chosen—and it is obvious that the incompatibility exists
only between the first and second, both of them being indifferent and of
equal value to the third—it must be employed consistently; for an
infallible intelligence must intend to be intelligible, and not to
deceive.  And, moreover, whichever of these three languages be chosen, it
must be translatable into truth.  For this is the very essence of the
doctrine, that one and the same intelligence is speaking in the unity of
a person; which unity is no more broken by the diversity of the pipes
through which it makes itself audible, than is a tune by the different
instruments on which it is played by a consummate musician, equally
perfect in all.  One instrument may be more capacious than another, but
as far as its compass extends, and in what it sounds forth, it will be
true to the conception of the master.  I can conceive no softening here
which would not nullify the doctrine, and convert it to a cloud for each
man’s fancy to shift and shape at will.  And this doctrine, I confess,
plants the vineyard of the Word with thorns for me, and places snares in
its pathways.  These may be delusions of an evil spirit; but ere I so
harshly question the seeming angel of light—my reason, I mean, and moral
sense in conjunction with my clearest knowledge—I must inquire on what
authority this doctrine rests.  And what other authority dares a truly
catholic Christian admit as coercive in the final decision, but the
declarations of the Book itself—though I should not, without struggles,
and a trembling reluctance, gainsay even a universal tradition?

I return to the Book.  With a full persuasion of soul respecting all the
articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the first four classes,
I receive willingly also the truth of the history, namely, that the Word
of the Lord did come to Samuel, to Isaiah, to others; and that the words
which gave utterance to the same are faithfully recorded.  But though the
origin of the words, even as of the miraculous acts, be supernatural, yet
the former once uttered, the latter once having taken their place among
the phenomena of the senses, the faithful recording of the same does not
of itself imply, or seem to require, any supernatural working, other than
as all truth and goodness are such.  In the books of Moses, and once or
twice in the prophecy of Jeremiah, I find it indeed asserted that not
only the words were given, but the recording of the same enjoined by the
special command of God, and doubtless executed under the special guidance
of the Divine Spirit.  As to all such passages, therefore, there can be
no dispute; and all others in which the words are by the sacred historian
declared to have been the Word of the Lord supernaturally communicated, I
receive as such with a degree of confidence proportioned to the
confidence required of me by the writer himself, and to the claims he
himself makes on my belief.

Let us, therefore, remove all such passages, and take each book by
itself; and I repeat that I believe the writer in whatever he himself
relates of his own authority, and of its origin.  But I cannot find any
such claim, as the doctrine in question supposes, made by these writers,
explicitly or by implication.  On the contrary, they refer to other
documents, and in all points express themselves as sober-minded and
veracious writers under ordinary circumstances are known to do.  But
perhaps they bear testimony, the successor to his predecessor?  Or some
one of the number has left it on record, that by special inspiration _he_
was commanded to declare the plenary inspiration of all the rest?  The
passages which can without violence be appealed to as substantiating the
latter position are so few, and these so incidental—the conclusion drawn
from them involving likewise so obviously a _petitio principii_, namely,
the supernatural dictation, word by word, of the book in which the
question is found (for, until this is established, the utmost that such a
text can prove is the current belief of the writer’s age and country
concerning the character of the books then called the Scriptures)—that it
cannot but seem strange, and assuredly is against all analogy of Gospel
revelation, that such a doctrine—which, if true, must be an article of
faith, and a most important, yea, essential article of faith—should be
left thus faintly, thus obscurely, and, if I may so say, _obitaneously_,
declared and enjoined.  The time of the formation and closing of the
Canon unknown;—the selectors and compilers unknown, or recorded by known
fabulists;—and (more perplexing still) the belief of the Jewish
Church—the belief, I mean, common to the Jews of Palestine and their more
cultivated brethren in Alexandria (no reprehension of which is to be
found in the New Testament)—concerning the nature and import of the
θεοπνευστία attributed to the precious remains of their Temple
Library;—these circumstances are such, especially the last, as in effect
to evacuate the tenet, of which I am speaking, of the only meaning in
which it practically means anything at all tangible, steadfast, or
obligatory.  In infallibility there are no degrees.  The power of the
High and Holy One is one and the same, whether the sphere which it fills
be larger or smaller;—the area traversed by a comet, or the oracle of the
house, the holy place beneath the wings of the cherubim;—the Pentateuch
of the Legislator, who drew near to the thick darkness where God was, and
who spake in the cloud whence the thunderings and lightnings came, and
whom God answered by a voice; or but a letter of thirteen verses from the
affectionate _Elder to the elect lady and her children_, _whom he loved
in the truth_.  But at no period was this the judgment of the Jewish
Church respecting all the canonical books.  To Moses alone—to Moses in
the recording no less than in the receiving of the Law—and to all and
every part of the five books called the Books of Moses, the Jewish
doctors of the generation before, and coëval with, the apostles, assigned
that unmodified and absolute _theopneusty_ which our divines, in words at
least, attribute to the Canon collectively.  In fact it was from the
Jewish Rabbis—who, in opposition to the Christian scheme, contended for a
perfection in the revelation by Moses, which neither required nor endured
any addition, and who strained their fancies in expressing the
transcendency of the books of Moses, in aid of their opinion—that the
founders of the doctrine borrowed their notions and phrases respecting
the Bible throughout.  Remove the metaphorical drapery from the doctrine
of the Cabbalists, and it will be found to contain the only intelligible
and consistent idea of that plenary inspiration, which later divines
extend to all the canonical books; as thus:—“The Pentateuch is but _one
Word_, even the Word of God; and the letters and articulate sounds, by
which this Word is communicated to our human apprehensions, are likewise
divinely communicated.”

Now, for ‘Pentateuch’ substitute ‘Old and New Testament,’ and then I say
that this is the doctrine which I reject as superstitious and
unscriptural.  And yet as long as the conceptions of the revealing Word
and the inspiring Spirit are identified and confounded, I assert that
whatever says less than this, says little more than nothing.  For how can
absolute infallibility be blended with fallibility?  Where is the
infallible criterion?  How can infallible truth be infallibly conveyed in
defective and fallible expressions?  The Jewish teachers confined this
miraculous character to the Pentateuch.  Between the Mosaic and the
Prophetic inspiration they asserted such a difference as amounts to a
diversity; and between both the one and the other, and the remaining
books comprised under the tithe of _Hagiographa_, the interval was still
wider, and the inferiority in kind, and not only in degree, was
unequivocally expressed.  If we take into account the habit, universal
with the Hebrew doctors, of referring all excellent or extraordinary
things to the great First Cause, without mention of the proximate and
instrumental causes—a striking illustration of which may be obtained by
comparing the narratives of the same event in the Psalms and in the
historical books; and if we further reflect that the distinction of the
providential and the miraculous did not enter into their forms of
thinking—at all events not into their mode of conveying their
thoughts—the language of the Jews respecting the _Hagiographa_ will be
found to differ little, if at all, from that of religious persons among
ourselves, when speaking of an author abounding in gifts, stirred up by
the Holy Spirit, writing under the influence of special grace, and the

But it forms no part of my present purpose to discuss the point
historically, or to speculate on the formation of either Canon.  Rather,
such inquiries are altogether alien from the great object of my pursuits
and studies, which is to convince myself and others that the Bible and
Christianity are their own sufficient evidence.  But it concerns both my
character and my peace of mind to satisfy unprejudiced judges that if my
present convictions should in all other respects be found consistent with
the faith and feelings of a Christian—and if in many and those important
points they tend to secure that faith and to deepen those feelings—the
words of the Apostle, rightly interpreted, do not require their
condemnation.  Enough, if what has been stated above respecting the
general doctrine of the Hebrew masters, under whom the Apostle was bred,
shall remove any misconceptions that might prevent the right
interpretation of his words.




HAVING in the former two Letters defined the doctrine which I reject, I
am now to communicate the views that I would propose to substitute in its

Before, however, I attempt to lay down on the theological chart the
road-place to which my bark has drifted, and to mark the spot and
circumscribe the space within which I swing at anchor, let me first thank
you for, and then attempt to answer, the objections—or at least the
questions—which you have urged upon me.

“The present Bible is the Canon to which Christ and the Apostles


“And in terms which a Christian must tremble to tamper with?”

Yea.  The expressions are as direct as strong; and a true believer will
neither attempt to divert nor dilute their strength.

“The doctrine which is considered as the orthodox view seems the obvious
and most natural interpretation of the text in question?”

Yea, and nay.  To those whose minds are prepossessed by the doctrine
itself—who from earliest childhood have always meant this doctrine by the
very word Bible—the doctrine being but its exposition and paraphrase—Yea.
In such minds the words of our Lord and the declarations of St. Paul can
awaken no other sense.  To those on the other hand who find the doctrine
senseless and self-confuting, and who take up the Bible as they do other
books, and apply to it the same rules of interpretation—Nay.

And, lastly, he who, like myself, recognises in neither of the two the
state of his own mind—who cannot rest in the former, and feels, or fears,
a presumptuous spirit in the negative dogmatism of the latter—he has his
answer to seek.  But so far I dare hazard a reply to the question—In what
other sense can the words be interpreted?—beseeching you, however, to
take what I am about to offer but as an attempt to delineate an arc of
oscillation—that the eulogy of St. Paul is in nowise contravened by the
opinion to which I incline, who fully believe the Old Testament
collectively, both in the composition and in its preservation, a great
and precious gift of Providence;—who find in it all that the Apostle
describes, and who more than believe that all which the Apostle spoke of
was of Divine inspiration, and a blessing intended for as many as are in
communion with the Spirit through all ages.  And I freely confess that my
whole heart would turn away with an angry impatience from the cold and
captious mortal who, the moment I had been pouring out the love and
gladness of my soul—while book after book, law, and truth, and example,
oracle, and lovely hymn, and choral song of ten thousand thousands, and
accepted prayers of saints and prophets, sent back, as it were, from
heaven, like doves, to be let loose again with a new freight of spiritual
joys and griefs and necessities, were passing across my memory—at the
first pause of my voice, and whilst my countenance was still
speaking—should ask me whether I was thinking of the Book of Esther, or
meant particularly to include the first six chapters of Daniel, or verses
6–20 of the 109th Psalm, or the last verse of the 137th Psalm?  Would any
conclusion of this sort be drawn in any other analogous case?  In the
course of my lectures on Dramatic Poetry, I, in half a score instances,
referred my auditors to the precious volume before me—Shakespeare—and
spoke enthusiastically, both in general and with detail of particular
beauties, of the plays of Shakespeare, as in all their kinds, and in
relation to the purposes of the writer, excellent.  Would it have been
fair, or according to the common usage and understanding of men, to have
inferred an intention on my part to decide the question respecting _Titus
Andronicus_, or the larger portion of the three parts of _Henry VI._?
Would not every genial mind understand by Shakespeare that unity or total
impression comprising and resulting from the thousandfold several and
particular emotions of delight, admiration, gratitude excited by his
works?  But if it be answered, “Aye! but we must not interpret St. Paul
as we may and should interpret any other honest and intelligent writer or
speaker,”—then, I say, this is the very _petitio principii_ of which I

Still less do the words of our Lord apply against my view.  Have I not
declared—do I not begin by declaring—that whatever is referred by the
sacred penman to a direct communication from God, and wherever it is
recorded that the subject of the history had asserted himself to have
received this or that command, this or that information or assurance,
from a superhuman Intelligence, or where the writer in his own person,
and in the character of an historian, relates that the _word of the Lord
came_ unto priest, prophet, chieftain, or other individual—have I not
declared that I receive the same with full belief, and admit its
inappellable authority?  Who more convinced than I am—who more anxious to
impress that conviction on the minds of others—that the Law and the
Prophets speak throughout of Christ?  That all the intermediate
applications and realisations of the words are but types and
repetitions—translations, as it were, from the language of letters and
articulate sounds into the language of events and symbolical persons?

And here again let me recur to the aid of analogy.  Suppose a life of Sir
Thomas More by his son-in-law, or a life of Lord Bacon by his chaplain;
that a part of the records of the Court of Chancery belonging to these
periods were lost; that in Roper’s or in Rawley’s biographical work there
were preserved a series of _dicta_ and judgments attributed to these
illustrious Chancellors, many and important specimens of their table
discourses, with large extracts from works written by them, and from some
that are no longer extant.  Let it be supposed, too, that there are no
grounds, internal or external, to doubt either the moral, intellectual,
or circumstantial competence of the biographers.  Suppose, moreover, that
wherever the opportunity existed of collating their documents and
quotations with the records and works still preserved, the former were
found substantially correct and faithful, the few differences in nowise
altering or disturbing the spirit and purpose of the paragraphs in which
they were found; and that of what was not collatable, and to which no
test _ab extra_ could be applied, the far larger part bore witness in
itself of the same spirit and origin; and that not only by its
characteristic features, but by its surpassing excellence, it rendered
the chances of its having had any other author than the giant-mind, to
whom the biographer ascribes it, small indeed!  Now, from the nature and
objects of my pursuits, I have, we will suppose, frequent occasion to
refer to one or other of these works; for example, to Rawley’s _Dicta et
Facta Francisci de Verulam_.  At one time I might refer to the work in
some such words as—“Remember what Francis of Verulam said or judged;” or,
“If you believe not me, yet believe Lord Bacon.”  At another time I might
take the running title of the volume, and at another the name of the
biographer;—“Turn to your Rawley!  _He_ will set you right;” or, “_There_
you will find a depth which no research will ever exhaust;” or whatever
other strong expression my sense of Bacon’s greatness and of the
intrinsic worth and the value of the proofs and specimens of that
greatness, contained and preserved in that volume, would excite and
justify.  But let my expressions be as vivid and unqualified as the most
sanguine temperament ever inspired, would any man of sense conclude from
them that I meant—and meant to make others believe—that not only each and
all of these anecdotes, adages, decisions, extracts, incidents, had been
dictated, word by word, by Lord Bacon; and that all Rawley’s own
observations and inferences, all the connectives and disjunctives, all
the recollections of time, place, and circumstance, together with the
order and succession of the narrative, were in like manner dictated and
revised by the spirit of the deceased Chancellor?  The answer will
be—must be—No man in his senses!  “No man in his senses—in _this_
instance; but in that of the Bible it is quite otherwise; for (I take it
as an admitted point that) it _is_ quite otherwise!”

And here I renounce any advantage I might obtain for my argument by
restricting the application of our Lord’s and the Apostle’s words to the
Hebrew Canon.  I admit the justice—I have long felt the full force—of the
remark—“We have all that the occasion allowed.”  And if the same awful
authority does not apply so directly to the Evangelical and Apostolical
writings as to the Hebrew Canon, yet the analogy of faith justifies the
transfer.  If the doctrine be less decisively Scriptural in its
application to the New Testament or the Christian Canon, the temptation
to doubt it is likewise less.  So at least we are led to infer; since in
point of fact it is the apparent or imagined contrast, the diversity of
spirit which sundry individuals have believed themselves to find in the
Old Testament and in the Gospel, that has given occasion to the
doubt;—and, in the heart of thousands who yield a faith of acquiescence
to the contrary, and find rest in their humility—supplies fuel to a
fearful wish that it were permitted to make a distinction.

But, lastly, you object that—even granting that no coercive, positive
reasons for the belief—no direct and not inferred assertions—of the
plenary inspiration of the Old and New Testament, in the generally
received import of the term, could be adduced, yet—in behalf of a
doctrine so catholic, and during so long a succession of ages affirmed
and acted on by Jew and Christian, Greek, Romish, and Protestant, you
need no other answer than:—“Tell me, first, why it should not be
received!  Why should I not believe the Scriptures throughout dictated,
in word and thought, by an infallible Intelligence?”  I admit the
fairness of the retort; and eagerly and earnestly do I answer: For every
reason that makes me prize and revere these Scriptures;—prize them, love
them, revere them, beyond all other books!  _Why_ should I not?  Because
the doctrine in question petrifies at once the whole body of Holy Writ
with all its harmonies and symmetrical gradations—the flexile and the
rigid—the supporting hard and the clothing soft—the blood _which is the
life_—the intelligencing nerves, and the rudely woven, but soft and
springy, cellular substance, in which all are imbedded and lightly bound
together.  This breathing organism, this glorious _panharmonicon_ which I
had seen stand on its feet as a man, and with a man’s voice given to it,
the doctrine in question turns at once into a colossal Memnon’s head, a
hollow passage for a voice, a voice that mocks the voices of many men,
and speaks in their names, and yet is but one voice, and the same; and no
man uttered it, and never in a human heart was it conceived.  _Why_
should I not?—Because the doctrine evacuates of all sense and efficacy
the sure and constant tradition, that all the several books bound up
together in our precious family Bible were composed in different and
widely-distant ages, under the greatest diversity of circumstances, and
degrees of light and information, and yet that the composers, whether as
uttering or as recording what was uttered and what was done, were all
actuated by a pure and holy Spirit, one and the same—(for is there any
spirit pure and holy, and yet not proceeding from God—and yet not
proceeding in and with the Holy Spirit?)—one Spirit, working diversely,
now awakening strength, and now glorifying itself in weakness, now giving
power and direction to knowledge, and now taking away the sting from
error!  Ere the summer and the months of ripening had arrived for the
heart of the race; while the whole sap of the tree was crude, and each
and every fruit lived in the harsh and bitter principle; even then this
Spirit withdrew its chosen ministers from the false and guilt-making
centre of Self.  It converted the wrath into a form and an organ of love,
and on the passing storm-cloud impressed the fair rainbow of promise to
all generations.  Put the lust of Self in the forked lightning, and would
it not be a Spirit of Moloch?  But God maketh the lightnings His
ministers, fire and hail, vapours and stormy winds fulfilling His word.

_Curse ye Meroz_, _said the angel of the Lord_; _curse ye bitterly the
inhabitants thereof_—sang Deborah.  Was it that she called to mind any
personal wrongs—rapine or insult—that she or the house of Lapidoth had
received from Jabin or Sisera?  No; she had dwelt under her palm tree in
the depth of the mountain.  But she was a _mother in Israel_; and with a
mother’s heart, and with the vehemency of a mother’s and a patriot’s
love, she had shot the light of love from her eyes, and poured the
blessings of love from her lips, on the people that had _jeoparded their
lives unto the death_ against the oppressors; and the bitterness,
awakened and borne aloft by the same love, she precipitated in curses on
the selfish and coward recreants who _came not to the help of the Lord_,
_to the help of the Lord_, _against the mighty_.  As long as I have the
image of Deborah before my eyes, and while I throw myself back into the
age, country, circumstances, of this Hebrew Bonduca in the not yet tamed
chaos of the spiritual creation;—as long as I contemplate the
impassioned, high-souled, heroic woman in all the prominence and
individuality of will and character,—I feel as if I were among the first
ferments of the great affections—the proplastic waves of the microcosmic
chaos, swelling up against—and yet towards—the outspread wings of the
dove that lies brooding on the troubled waters.  So long all is well,—all
replete with instruction and example.  In the fierce and inordinate I am
made to know and be grateful for the clearer and purer radiance which
shines on a Christian’s paths, neither blunted by the preparatory veil,
nor crimsoned in its struggle through the all-enwrapping mist of the
world’s ignorance: whilst in the self-oblivion of these heroes of the Old
Testament, their elevation above all low and individual interests,—above
all, in the entire and vehement devotion of their total being to the
service of their divine Master, I find a lesson of humility, a ground of
humiliation, and a shaming, yet rousing, example of faith and fealty.
But let me once be persuaded that all these heart-awakening utterances of
human hearts—of men of like faculties and passions with myself, mourning,
rejoicing, suffering, triumphing—are but as a _Divina Commedia_ of a
superhuman—O bear with me, if I say—Ventriloquist;—that the royal harper,
to whom I have so often submitted myself as a _many-stringed instrument_
for his fire-tipt fingers to traverse, while every several nerve of
emotion, passion, thought, that thrids the flesh-and-blood of our common
humanity, responded to the touch,—that this _sweet Psalmist of Israel_
was himself as mere an instrument as his harp, an _automaton_ poet,
mourner, and supplicant;—all is gone,—all sympathy, at least, and all
example.  I listen in awe and fear, but likewise in perplexity and
confusion of spirit.

Yet one other instance, and let this be the crucial test of the doctrine.
Say that the Book of Job throughout was dictated by an infallible
intelligence.  Then re-peruse the book, and still, as you proceed, try to
apply the tenet; try if you can even attach any sense or semblance of
meaning to the speeches which you are reading.  What! were the hollow
truisms, the unsufficing half-truths, the false assumptions and malignant
insinuations of the supercilious bigots, who corruptly defended the
truth:—were the impressive facts, the piercing outcries, the pathetic
appeals, and the close and powerful reasoning with which the poor
sufferer—smarting at once from his wounds, and from the oil of vitriol
which the orthodox _liars for God_ were dropping into them—impatiently,
but uprightly and holily, controverted this truth, while in will and in
spirit he clung to it;—were both dictated by an infallible
intelligence?—Alas! if I may judge from the manner in which both
indiscriminately are recited, quoted, appealed to, preached upon by the
_routiniers_ of desk and pulpit, I cannot doubt that they think so—or
rather, without thinking, take for granted that so they are to think;—the
more readily, perhaps, because the so thinking supersedes the necessity
of all afterthought.




YOU reply to the conclusion of my Letter: “What have we to do with
_routiniers_?  _Quid mihi cum homunculis putata putide reputantibus_?
Let nothings count for nothing, and the dead bury the dead!  Who but such
ever understood the tenet in this sense?”

In what sense then, I rejoin, do others understand it?  If, with
exception of the passages already excepted, namely, the recorded words of
God—concerning which no Christian can have doubt or scruple,—the tenet in
this sense be inapplicable to the Scripture, destructive of its noblest
purposes, and contradictory to its own express declarations,—again and
again I ask:—What am I to substitute?  What other sense is conceivable
that does not destroy the doctrine which it professes to interpret—that
does not convert it into its own negative?  As if a geometrician should
name a sugar-loaf an ellipse, adding—“By which term I here mean a
cone;”—and then justify the misnomer on the pretext that the ellipse is
among the conic sections!  And yet—notwithstanding the repugnancy of the
doctrine, in its unqualified sense, to Scripture, Reason, and Common
Sense theoretically, while to all practical uses it is intractable,
unmalleable, and altogether unprofitable—notwithstanding its
irrationality, and in the face of your expostulation, grounded on the
palpableness of its irrationality,—I must still avow my belief that,
however fittingly and unsteadily, as through a mist, it _is_ the doctrine
which the generality of our popular divines receive as orthodox, and this
the sense which they attach to the words.

For on what other ground can I account for the whimsical
_subintelligiturs_ of our numerous harmonists—for the curiously inferred
facts, the inventive circumstantial detail, the complemental and
supplemental history which, in the utter silence of all historians and
absence of all historical documents, they bring to light by mere force of
logic?  And all to do away some half score apparent discrepancies in the
chronicles and memoirs of the Old and New Testaments—discrepancies so
analogous to what is found in all other narratives of the same story by
several narrators—so analogous to what is found in all other known and
trusted histories by contemporary historians, when they are collated with
each other (nay, not seldom when either historian is compared with
himself), as to form in the eyes of all competent judges a characteristic
mark of the genuineness, independency, and (if I may apply the word to a
book), the veraciousness of each several document; a mark, the absence of
which would warrant a suspicion of collusion, invention, or at best of
servile transcription; discrepancies so trifling in circumstance and
import, that, although in some instances it is highly probable, and in
all instances, perhaps, possible that they are only apparent and
reconcilable, no wise man would care a staw whether they were real or
apparent, reconciled or left in harmless and friendly variance.  What, I
ask, could have induced learned and intelligent divines to adopt or
sanction subterfuges, which neutralising the ordinary _criteria_ of full
or defective evidence in historical documents, would, taken as a general
rule, render all collation and cross-examination of written records
ineffective, and obliterate the main character by which authentic
histories are distinguished from those traditional tales, which each
successive reporter enlarges and fashions to his own fancy and purpose,
and every different edition of which more or less contradicts the other?
Allow me to create chasms _ad libitum_, and _ad libitum_ to fill them up
with imagined facts and incidents, and I would almost undertake to
harmonise Falstaff’s account of the rogues in buckram into a coherent and
consistent narrative.  What, I say, could have tempted grave and pious
men thus to disturb the foundation of the Temple, in order to repair a
petty breach or rat-hole in the wall, or fasten a loose stone or two in
the outer court, if not an assumed necessity arising out of the peculiar
character of Bible history?

The substance of the syllogism, by which their procedure was justified to
their own minds, can be no other than this.  That, without which two
assertions—both of which _must_ be alike true and correct—would
contradict each other, and consequently be, one or both, false or
incorrect, must itself be true.  But every word and syllable existing in
the original text of the Canonical Books, from the _Cherethi_ and
_Phelethi_ of David to the name in the copy of a family register, the
site of a town, or the course of a river, were dictated to the sacred
_amanuensis_ by an infallible intelligence.  Here there can be neither
more nor less.  Important or unimportant gives no ground of difference;
and the number of the writers as little.  The secretaries may have been
many—the historian was one and the same, and he infallible.  This is the
_minor_ of the syllogism, and if it could be proved, the conclusion would
be at least plausible; and there would be but one objection to the
procedure, namely, its uselessness.  For if it had been proved already,
what need of proving it over again, and by means—the removal, namely, of
apparent contradictions—which the infallible Author did not think good to
employ?  But if it have not been proved, what becomes of the argument
which derives its whole force and legitimacy from the assumption?

In fact, it is clear that the harmonists and their admirers held and
understood the doctrine literally.  And must not that divine likewise
have so understood it, who, in answer to a question concerning the
transcendant blessedness of Jael, and the righteousness of the act, in
which she inhospitably, treacherously, perfidiously murdered sleep, the
confiding sleep, closed the controversy by observing that he wanted no
better morality than that of the Bible, and no other proof of an action’s
being praiseworthy than that the Bible had declared it worthy to be
praised?—an observation, as applied in this instance, so slanderous to
the morality and moral spirit of the Bible as to be inexplicable, except
as a consequence of the doctrine in dispute.  But let a man be once fully
persuaded that there is no difference between the two positions: “The
Bible contains the religion revealed by God,” and “Whatever is contained
in the Bible is religion, and was revealed by God,” and that whatever can
be said of the Bible, collectively taken, may and must be said of each
and every sentence of the Bible, taken for and by itself, and I no longer
wonder at these paradoxes.  I only object to the inconsistency of those
who profess the same belief, and yet affect to look down with a
contemptuous or compassionate smile on John Wesley for rejecting the
Copernican system as incompatible therewith; or who exclaim “Wonderful!”
when they hear that Sir Matthew Hale sent a crazy old woman to the
gallows in honour of the Witch of Endor.  In the latter instance it
might, I admit, have been an erroneous (though even at this day the all
but universally received) interpretation of the word, which we have
rendered by _witch_; but I challenge these divines and their adherents to
establish the compatibility of a belief in the modern astronomy and
natural philosophy with their and Wesley’s doctrine respecting the
inspired Scriptures, without reducing the doctrine itself to a plaything
of wax; or rather to a half-inflated bladder, which, when the contents
are rarefied in the heat of rhetorical generalities, swells out round,
and without a crease or wrinkle; but bring it into the cool temperature
of particulars, and you may press, and as it were except, what part you
like—so it be but one part at a time—between your thumb and finger.

Now, I pray you, which is the more honest, nay, which the more
reverential proceeding—to play at fast and loose in this way, or to say
at once, “See here, in these several writings one and the same Holy
Spirit, now sanctifying a chosen vessel, and fitting it for the reception
of heavenly truths proceeding immediately from the mouth of God, and
elsewhere working in frail and fallible men like ourselves, and like
ourselves instructed by God’s word and laws?”  The first Christian martyr
had the form and features of an ordinary man, nor are we taught to
believe that these features were miraculously transfigured into
superhuman symmetry; but _he being filled with the Holy Ghost_, _they
that looked steadfastly_ on _him_, _saw his face as it had been the face
of an angel_.  Even so has it ever been, and so it ever will be with all
who with humble hearts and a rightly disposed spirit scan the sacred
volume.  And they who read it with _an evil heart of unbelief_ and an
alien spirit, what boots for them the assertion that every sentence was
miraculously communicated to the nominal author by God himself?  Will it
not rather present additional temptations to the unhappy scoffers, and
furnish them with a pretext of self-justification?

When, in my third letter, I first echoed the question “Why should I not?”
the answers came crowding on my mind.  I am well content, however, to
have merely suggested the main points, in proof of the positive harm
which, both historically and spiritually, our religion sustains from this
doctrine.  Of minor importance, yet not to be overlooked, are the forced
and fantastic interpretations, the arbitrary allegories and mystic
expansions of proper names, to which this indiscriminate Bibliolatry
furnished fuel, spark, and wind.  A still greater evil, and less
attributable to the visionary humour and weak judgment of the individual
expositors, is the literal rendering of Scripture in passages, which the
number and variety of images employed in different places to express one
and the same verity, plainly mark out for figurative.  And lastly, add to
all these the strange—in all other writings unexampled—practice of
bringing together into logical dependency detached sentences from books
composed at the distance of centuries, nay, sometimes a _millennium_ from
each other, under different dispensations, and for different objects.
Accommodations of elder Scriptural phrases—that favourite ornament and
garnish of Jewish eloquence; incidental allusions to popular notions,
traditions, apologues (for example, the dispute between the Devil and the
archangel Michael about the body of Moses, Jude 9); fancies and
anachronisms imported from the synagogue of Alexandria into Palestine, by
or together with the Septuagint version, and applied as mere _argumenta
ad homines_ (for example, the delivery of the Law by the disposition of
angels, Acts vii. 53, Gal. iii. 19, Heb. ii. 2),—these, detached from
their context, and, contrary to the intention of the sacred writer, first
raised into independent _theses_, and then brought together to produce or
sanction some new _credendum_ for which neither separately could have
furnished a pretence!  By this strange mosaic, Scripture texts have been
worked up into passable likenesses of purgatory, Popery, the Inquisition,
and other monstrous abuses.  But would you have a Protestant instance of
the superstitious use of Scripture arising out of this dogma?  Passing by
the Cabbala of the Hutchinsonian School as the dotage of a few
weak-minded individuals, I refer you to Bishop Hacket’s sermons on the
Incarnation.  And if you have read the same author’s life of Archbishop
Williams, and have seen and felt (as every reader of this latter work
must see and feel) his talent, learning, acuteness, and robust good
sense, you will have no difficulty in determining the quality and
character of a dogma which could engraft such fruits on such a tree.

It will perhaps appear a paradox if, after all these reasons, I should
avow that they weigh less in my mind against the doctrine, than the
motives usually assigned for maintaining and enjoining it.  Such, for
instance, are the arguments drawn from the anticipated loss and damage
that would result from its abandonment; as that it would deprive the
Christian world of its only infallible arbiter in questions of faith and
duty, suppress the only common and inappellable tribunal; that the Bible
is the only religious bond of union and ground of unity among Protestants
and the like.  For the confutation of this whole reasoning, it might be
sufficient to ask: Has it produced these effects?  Would not the contrary
statement be nearer to the fact?  What did the Churches of the first four
centuries hold on this point?  To what did they attribute the rise and
multiplication of heresies?  Can any learned and candid Protestant affirm
that there existed and exists no ground for the charges of Bossuet and
other eminent Romish divines?  It is no easy matter to know how to handle
a party maxim, so framed, that with the exception of a single word, it
expresses an important truth, but which by means of that word is made to
convey a most dangerous error.

The Bible is the appointed conservatory, an indispensable criterion, and
a continual source and support of true belief.  But that the Bible is the
sole source; that it not only contains, but constitutes, the Christian
Religion; that it is, in short, a Creed, consisting wholly of articles of
Faith; that consequently we need no rule, help, or guide, spiritual or
historical, to teach us what parts are and what are not articles of
Faith—all being such—and the difference between the Bible and the Creed
being this, that the clauses of the latter are all unconditionally
necessary to salvation, but those of the former conditionally so, that
is, as soon as the words are known to exist in any one of the canonical
books; and that, under this limitation, the belief is of the same
necessity in both, and not at all affected by the greater or lesser
importance of the matter to be believed;—this scheme differs widely from
the preceding, though its adherents often make use of the same words in
expressing their belief.  And this latter scheme, I assert, was brought
into currency by and in favour of those by whom the operation of grace,
the aids of the Spirit, the necessity of regeneration, the corruption of
our nature, in short, all the peculiar and spiritual mysteries of the
Gospel were explained and diluted away.

And how have these men treated this very Bible?  I, who indeed prize and
reverence this sacred library, as of all outward means and conservatives
of Christian faith and practice the surest and the most reflective of the
inward Word; I, who hold that the Bible contains the religion of
Christians, but who dare not say that whatever is contained in the Bible
is the Christian religion, and who shrink from all question respecting
the comparative worth and efficacy of the written Word as weighed against
the preaching of the Gospel, the discipline of the Churches, the
continued succession of the Ministry, and the communion of Saints, lest
by comparing them I should seem to detach them; I tremble at the
processes which the Grotian divines without scruple carry on in their
treatment of the sacred writers, as soon as any texts declaring the
peculiar tenets of our Faith are cited against them—even tenets and
mysteries which the believer at his baptism receives as the title-writ
and bosom-roll of his adoption; and which, according to my scheme, every
Christian born in Church-membership ought to bring with him to the study
of the sacred Scriptures as the master-key of interpretation.  Whatever
the doctrine of infallible dictation may be in itself, in _their_ hands
it is to the last degree nugatory, and to be paralleled only by the
Romish tenet of Infallibility—in the existence of which all agree, but
where, and in whom, it exists _stat adhuc sub lite_.  Every sentence
found in a canonical Book, rightly interpreted, contains the _dictum_ of
an infallible Mind; but what the right interpretation is—or whether the
very words now extant are corrupt or genuine—must be determined by the
industry and understanding of fallible, and alas! more or less prejudiced

And yet I am told that this doctrine must not be resisted or called in
question, because of its fitness to preserve unity of faith, and for the
prevention of schism and sectarian byways!  Let the man who holds this
language trace the history of Protestantism, and the growth of sectarian
divisions, ending with Dr. Hawker’s _ultra_-Calvinistic Tracts, and Mr.
Belsham’s New Version of the Testament.  And then let him tell me that
for the prevention of an evil which already exists, and which the boasted
preventive itself might rather seem to have occasioned, I must submit to
be silenced by the first learned infidel, who throws in my face the
blessing of Deborah, or the cursings of David, or the Grecisms and
heavier difficulties in the biographical chapters of the Book of Daniel,
or the hydrography and natural philosophy of the Patriarchal ages.  I
must forego the means of silencing, and the prospect of convincing, an
alienated brother, because I must not thus answer “My Brother!  What has
all this to do with the truth and the worth of Christianity?  If you
reject _à priori_ all communion with the Holy Spirit, there is indeed a
chasm between us, over which we cannot even make our voices intelligible
to each other.  But if—though but with the faith of a Seneca or an
Antonine—you admit the co-operation of a Divine Spirit in souls desirous
of good, even as the breath of heaven works variously in each several
plant according to its kind, character, period of growth, and
circumstance of soil, clime, and aspect; on what ground can you assume
that its presence is incompatible with all imperfection in the
subject—even with such imperfection as is the natural accompaniment of
the unripe season?  If you call your gardener or husbandman to account
for the plants or crops he is raising, would you not regard the special
purpose in each, and judge of each by that which it was tending to?
Thorns are not flowers, nor is the husk serviceable.  But it was not for
its thorns, but for its sweet and medicinal flowers that the rose was
cultivated; and he who cannot separate the husk from the grain, wants the
power because sloth or malice has prevented the will.  I demand for the
Bible only the justice which you grant to other books of grave authority,
and to other proved and acknowledged benefactors of mankind.  Will you
deny a spirit of wisdom in Lord Bacon, because in particular facts he did
not possess perfect science, or an entire immunity from the positive
errors which result from imperfect insight?  A Davy will not so judge his
great predecessor; for he recognises the spirit that is now working in
himself, and which under similar defects of light and obstacles of error
had been his guide and guardian in the morning twilight of his own
genius.  Must not the kindly warmth awaken and vivify the seed, in order
that the stem may spring up and rejoice in the light?  As the genial
warmth to the informing light, even so is the predisposing Spirit to the
revealing Word.”

If I should reason thus—but why do I say _if_?  I have reasoned thus with
more than one serious and well-disposed sceptic; and what was the
answer?—“_You_ speak rationally, but seem to forget the subject.  I have
frequently attended meetings of the British and Foreign Bible Society,
where I have heard speakers of every denomination, Calvinist and
Arminian, Quaker and Methodist, Dissenting Ministers and Clergymen, nay,
dignitaries of the Established Church, and still have I heard the same
doctrine—that the Bible was not to be regarded or reasoned about in the
way that other good books are or may be—that the Bible was different in
kind, and stood by itself.  By some indeed this doctrine was rather
implied than expressed, but yet evidently implied.  But by far the
greater number of the speakers it was asserted in the strongest and most
unqualified words that language could supply.  What is more, their
principal arguments were grounded on the position, that the Bible
throughout was dictated by Omniscience, and therefore in all its parts
infallibly true and obligatory, and that the men whose names are prefixed
to the several books or chapters were in fact but as different pens in
the hand of one and the same Writer, and the words the words of God
Himself: and that on this account all notes and comments were
superfluous, nay, presumptuous—a profane mixing of human with divine, the
notions of fallible creatures with the oracles of Infallibility—as if
God’s meaning could be so clearly or fitly expressed in man’s as in God’s
own words!  But how often you yourself must have heard the same language
from the pulpit!”

What could I reply to this?  I could neither deny the fact, nor evade the
conclusion—namely, that such is at present the popular belief.  Yes—I at
length rejoined—I have heard this language from the pulpit, and more than
once from men who in any other place would explain it away into something
so very different from the literal sense of their words as closely to
resemble the contrary.  And this, indeed, is the peculiar character of
the doctrine, that you cannot diminish or qualify but you reverse it.  I
have heard this language from men who knew as well as myself that the
best and most orthodox divines have in effect disclaimed the doctrine,
inasmuch as they confess it cannot be extended to the words of the sacred
writers, or the particular import—that therefore the doctrine does not
mean all that the usual wording of it expresses, though what it does
mean, and why they continue to sanction this hyperbolical wording, I have
sought to learn from them in vain.  But let a thousand orators blazon it
at public meetings, and let as many pulpits echo it, surely it behoves
you to inquire whether you cannot be a Christian on your own faith; and
it cannot but be beneath a wise man to be an Infidel on the score of what
other men think fit to include in their Christianity!

Now suppose—and, believe me, the supposition will vary little from the
fact—that in consequence of these views the sceptic’s mind had gradually
opened to the reception of all the truths enumerated in my first Letter.
Suppose that the Scriptures themselves from this time had continued to
rise in his esteem and affection—the better understood, the more dear; as
in the countenance of one, whom through a cloud of prejudices we have at
least learned to love and value above all others, new beauties dawn on us
from day to day, till at length we wonder how we could at any time have
thought it other than most beautiful.  Studying the sacred volume in the
light and in the freedom of a faith already secured, at every fresh
meeting my sceptic friend has to tell me of some new passage, formerly
viewed by him as a dry stick on a rotten branch, which has _budded_ and,
like the rod of Aaron, _brought forth buds and bloomed blossoms_, _and
yielded almonds_.  Let these results, I say, be supposed—and shall I
still be told that my friend is nevertheless an alien in the household of
Faith?  Scrupulously orthodox as I know you to be, will you tell me that
I ought to have left this sceptic as I found him, rather than attempt his
conversion by such means; or that I was deceiving him, when I said to

“Friend!  The truth revealed through Christ has its evidence in itself,
and the proof of its divine authority in its fitness to our nature and
needs; the clearness and cogency of this proof being proportionate to the
degree of self-knowledge in each individual hearer.  Christianity has
likewise its historical evidences, and these as strong as is compatible
with the nature of history, and with the aims and objects of a religious
dispensation.  And to all these Christianity itself, as an existing power
in the world, and Christendom as an existing fact, with the no less
evident fact of a progressive expansion, give a force of moral
demonstration that almost supersedes particular testimony.  These proofs
and evidences would remain unshaken, even though the sum of our religion
were to be drawn from the theologians of each successive century, on the
principle of receiving that only as divine which should be found in
all—_quod semper_, _quod ubique_, _quod ab omnibus_.  Be only, my friend!
as orthodox a believer as you would have abundant reason to be, though
from some accident of birth, country, or education, the precious boon of
the Bible, with its additional evidence, had up to this moment been
concealed from you;—and then read its contents with only the same piety
which you freely accord on other occasions to the writings of men,
considered the best and wisest of their several ages!  What you find
therein coincident with your pre-established convictions, you will of
course recognise as the Revealed Word, while, as you read the recorded
workings of the Word and the Spirit in the minds, lives, and hearts of
spiritual men, the influence of the same Spirit on your own being, and
the conflicts of grace and infirmity in your own soul, will enable you to
discern and to know in and by what spirit they spake and acted—as far at
least as shall be needful for you, and in the times of your need.

“Thenceforward, therefore, your doubts will be confined to such parts or
passages of the received Canon as seem to you irreconcilable with known
truths, and at variance with the tests given in the Scriptures
themselves, and as shall continue so to appear after you have examined
each in reference to the circumstances of the writer or speaker, the
dispensation under which he lived, the purpose of the particular passage,
and the intent and object of the Scriptures at large.  Respecting these,
decide for yourself: and fear not for the result.  I venture to tell it
you beforehand.  The result will be, a confidence in the judgment and
fidelity of the compilers of the Canon increased by the apparent
exceptions.  For they will be found neither more nor greater than may
well be supposed requisite, on the one hand, to prevent us from sinking
into a habit of slothful, undiscriminating acquiescence, and on the other
to provide a check against those presumptuous fanatics who would rend the
_Urim and Thummim from the breastplate of judgment_, and frame oracles by
private divination from each letter of each disjointed gem, uninterpreted
by the Priest, and deserted by the Spirit, which shines in the parts only
as it pervades and irradiates the whole.”

Such is the language in which I have addressed a halting friend—halting,
yet with his face toward the right path.  If I have erred, enable me to
see my error.  Correct me, or confirm me.



YES, my dear friend, it is my conviction that in all ordinary cases the
knowledge and belief of the Christian Religion should precede the study
of the Hebrew Canon.  Indeed, with regard to both Testaments, I consider
oral and catechismal instruction as the preparative provided by Christ
himself in the establishment of a visible Church.  And to make the Bible,
apart from the truths, doctrines, and spiritual experiences contained
therein, the subject of a special article of faith, I hold an unnecessary
and useless abstraction, which in too many instances has the effect of
substituting a barren acquiescence in the letter for the lively _faith
that cometh by hearing_; even as the hearing is productive of this faith,
because it is the Word of God that is heard and preached.  (Rom. x. 8,
17.)  And here I mean the written Word preserved in the armoury of the
Church to be the sword of faith _out of the mouth_ of the preacher, as
Christ’s ambassador and representative (Rev. i. 16), and out of the heart
of the believer from generation to generation.  Who shall dare dissolve
or loosen this holy bond, this divine reciprocality, of Faith and
Scripture?  Who shall dare enjoin aught else as an object of saving
faith, beside the truths that appertain to salvation?  The imposers take
on themselves a heavy responsibility, however defensible the opinion
itself, as an opinion, may be.  For by imposing it, they counteract their
own purposes.  They antedate questions, and thus, in all cases, aggravate
the difficulty of answering them satisfactorily.  And not seldom they
create difficulties that might never have occurred.  But, worst of all,
they convert things trifling or indifferent into mischievous pretexts for
the wanton, fearful difficulties for the weak, and formidable objections
for the inquiring.  For what man _fearing_ God dares think any the least
point indifferent, which he is required to receive as God’s own immediate
Word miraculously infused, miraculously recorded, and by a succession of
miracles preserved unblended and without change?—Through all the pages of
a large and multifold volume, at each successive period, at every
sentence, must the question recur:—“Dare I believe—do I in my heart
believe—these words to have been dictated by an infallible reason, and
the immediate utterance of Almighty God?”—No!  It is due to Christian
charity that a question so awful should not be put unnecessarily, and
should not be put out of time.  The necessity I deny.  And out of time
the question must be put, if after enumerating the several articles of
the Catholic Faith I am bound to add:—“and further you are to believe
with equal faith, as having the same immediate and miraculous derivation
from God, whatever else you shall hereafter read in any of the sixty-six
books collected in the Old and New Testaments.”

I would never say this.  Yet let me not be misjudged as if I treated the
Scriptures as a matter of indifference.  I would not say this, but where
I saw a desire to believe, and a beginning love of Christ, I would there
say:—“There are likewise sacred writings, which, taken in connection with
the institution and perpetuity of a visible Church, all believers revere
as the most precious boon of God, next to Christianity itself, and
attribute both their communication and preservation to an especial
Providence.  In them you will find all the revealed truths, which have
been set forth and offered to you, clearly and circumstantially recorded;
and, in addition to these, examples of obedience and disobedience both in
states and individuals, the lives and actions of men eminent under each
dispensation, their sentiments, maxims, hymns, and prayers—their
affections, emotions, and conflicts;—in all which you will recognise the
influence of the Holy Spirit, with a conviction increasing with the
growth of your own faith and spiritual experience.”




IN my last two Letters I have given the state of the argument as it would
stand between a Christian, thinking as I do, and a serious well-disposed
Deist.  I will now endeavour to state the argument, as between the former
and the advocates for the popular belief,—such of them, I mean, as are
competent to deliver a dispassionate judgment in the cause.  And again,
more particularly, I mean the learned and reflecting part of them, who
are influenced to the retention of the prevailing dogma by the supposed
consequences of a different view, and, especially, by their dread of
conceding to all alike, simple and learned, the privilege of picking and
choosing the Scriptures that are to be received as binding on their
consciences.  Between these persons and myself the controversy may be
reduced to a single question:—

Is it safer for the individual, and more conducive to the interests of
the Church of Christ, in its twofold character of pastoral and militant,
to conclude thus:—The Bible is the Word of God, and therefore, true,
holy, and in all parts unquestionable?  Or thus:—The Bible, considered in
reference to its declared ends and purposes, is true and holy, and for
all who seek truth with humble spirits an unquestionable guide, and
therefore it is the Word of God?

In every generation, and wherever the light of Revelation has shone, men
of all ranks, conditions, and states of mind have found in this volume a
correspondent for every movement toward the better, felt in their own
hearts, the needy soul has found supply, the feeble a help, the sorrowful
a comfort; yea, be the recipiency the least that can consist with moral
life, there is an answering grace ready to enter.  The Bible has been
found a Spiritual World, spiritual and yet at the same time outward and
common to all.  You in one place, I in another, all men somewhere or at
some time, meet with an assurance that the hopes and fears, the thoughts
and yearnings that proceed from, or tend to, a right spirit in us, are
not dreams or fleeting singularities, no voices heard in sleep, or
spectres which the eye suffers but not perceives.  As if on some dark
night a pilgrim, suddenly beholding a bright star moving before him,
should stop in fear and perplexity.  But lo! traveller after traveller
passes by him, and each, being questioned whither he is going, makes
answer, “I am following yon guiding star!”  The pilgrim quickens his own
steps, and presses onward in confidence.  More confident still will he
be, if, by the wayside, he should find, here and there, ancient
monuments, each with its votive lamp, and on each the name of some former
pilgrim, and a record that there he had first seen or begun to follow the
benignant Star!

No otherwise is it with the varied contents of the Sacred Volume.  The
hungry have found food, the thirsty a living spring, the feeble a staff,
and the victorious warfarer songs of welcome and strains of music; and as
long as each man asks on account of his wants, and asks what he wants, no
man will discover aught amiss or deficient in the vast and many-chambered
storehouse.  But if, instead of this, an idler or scoffer should wander
through the rooms, peering and peeping, and either detects, or fancies he
has detected, here a rusted sword or pointless shaft, there a tool of
rude construction, and superseded by later improvements (and preserved,
perhaps, to make us more grateful for them);—which of two things will a
sober-minded man,—who, from his childhood upward had been fed, clothed,
armed, and furnished with the means of instruction from this very
magazine,—think the fitter plan?  Will he insist that the rust is not
rust, or that it is a rust _sui generis_, intentionally formed on the
steel for some mysterious virtue in it, and that the staff and astrolabe
of a shepherd-astronomer are identical with, or equivalent to, the
quadrant and telescope of Newton or Herschel?  Or will he not rather give
the curious inquisitor joy of his mighty discoveries, and the credit of
them for his reward?

Or lastly, put the matter thus: For more than a thousand years the Bible,
collectively taken, has gone hand in hand with civilisation, science,
law—in short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation of the species,
always supporting, and often leading, the way.  Its very presence, as a
believed Book, has rendered the nations emphatically a chosen race, and
this too in exact proportion as it is more or less generally known and
studied.  Of those nations which in the highest degree enjoy its
influences it is not too much to affirm, that the differences, public and
private, physical, moral and intellectual, are only less than what might
be expected from a diversity in species.  Good and holy men, and the best
and wisest of mankind, the kingly spirits of history, enthroned in the
hearts of mighty nations, have borne witness to its influences, have
declared it to be beyond compare the most perfect instrument, the only
adequate organ, of Humanity; the organ and instrument of all the gifts,
powers, and tendencies, by which the individual is privileged to rise
above himself—to leave behind, and lose his individual phantom self, in
order to find his true self in that Distinctness where no division can
be—in the Eternal I AM, the Ever-living WORD, of whom all the elect from
the archangel before time throne to the poor wrestler with the Spirit
_until the breaking of day_ are but the fainter and still fainter echoes.
And are all these testimonies and lights of experience to lose their
value and efficiency because I feel no warrant of history, or Holy Writ,
or of my own heart for denying, that in the framework and outward case of
this instrument a few parts may be discovered of less costly materials
and of meaner workmanship?  Is it not a fact that the Books of the New
Testament were tried by their consonance with the rule, and according to
the analogy, of faith?  Does not the universally admitted canon—that each
part of Scripture must be interpreted by the spirit of the whole—lead to
the same practical conclusion as that for which I am now
contending—namely, that it is the spirit of the Bible, and not the
detached words and sentences, that is infallible and absolute?
Practical, I say, and spiritual too; and what knowledge not practical or
spiritual are we entitled to seek in our Bibles?  Is the grace of God so
confined—are the evidences of the present and actuating Spirit so dim and
doubtful—that to be assured of the same we must first take for granted
that all the life and co-agency of our humanity is miraculously

Whatever is spiritual, is _eo nomine_ supernatural; but must it be always
and of necessity miraculous?  Miracles could open the eyes of the body;
and he that was born blind beheld his Redeemer.  But miracles, even those
of the Redeemer himself, could not open the eyes of the self-blinded, of
the Sadducean sensualist, or the self-righteous Pharisee—while to have
said, _I saw thee under the fig-tree_, sufficed to make a Nathanael

To assert and to demand miracles without necessity was the vice of the
unbelieving Jews of old; and from the Rabbis and Talmudists the infection
has spread.  And would I could say that the symptoms of the disease are
confined to the Churches of the Apostasy!  But all the miracles, which
the legends of Monk or Rabbi contain, can scarcely be put in competition,
on the score of complication, inexplicableness, the absence of all
intelligible use or purpose, and of circuitous self-frustration, with
those that must be assumed by the maintainers of this doctrine, in order
to give effect to the series of miracles, by which all the nominal
composers of the Hebrew nation before the time of Ezra, of whom there are
any remains, were successively transformed into _automaton_
compositors—so that the original text should be in sentiment, image,
word, syntax, and composition an exact impression of the divine copy!  In
common consistency the theologians, who impose this belief on their
fellow Christians, ought to insist equally on the superhuman origin and
authority of the Masora, and to use more respectful terms, than has been
their wont of late, in speaking of the false Aristeas’s legend concerning
the Septuagint.  And why the miracle should stop at the Greek Version,
and not include the Vulgate, I can discover no ground in reason.  Or if
it be an objection to the latter, that this belief is actually enjoined
by the Papal Church, yet the number of Christians who road the Lutheran,
the Genevan, or our own authorised, Bible, and are ignorant of the dead
languages, greatly exceeds the number of those who have access to the
Septuagint.  Why refuse the writ of consecration to these, or to the one
at least appointed by the assertors’ own Church?  I find much more
consistency in the opposition made under pretext of this doctrine to the
proposals and publications of Kennicot, Mill, Bentley, and Archbishop

But I am weary of discussing a tenet which the generality of divines and
the leaders of the religious public have ceased to defend, and yet
continue to assert or imply.  The tendency manifested in this conduct,
the spirit of this and the preceding century, on which, not indeed the
tenet itself, but the obstinate adherence to it against the clearest
light of reason and experience, is grounded—this it is which, according
to my conviction, gives the venom to the error, and justifies the attempt
to substitute a juster view.  As long as it was the common and effective
belief of all the Reformed Churches (and by none was it more sedulously
or more emphatically enjoined than by the great Reformers of our Church),
that by the good Spirit were the spirits tried, and that the light, which
beams forth from the written Word, was its own evidence for the children
of light; as long as Christians considered their Bible as a plenteous
entertainment, where every guest, duly called and attired, found the food
needful and fitting for him, and where each—instead of troubling himself
about the covers not within his reach—beholding all around him glad and
satisfied, praised the banquet and thankfully glorified the Master of the
feast—so long did the tenet—that the Scriptures were written under the
special impulse of the Holy Ghost remain safe and profitable.  Nay, in
the sense, and with the feelings, in which it was asserted, it was a
truth—a truth to which every spiritual believer now and in all times will
bear witness by virtue of his own experience.  And if in the overflow of
love and gratitude they confounded the power and presence of the Holy
Spirit, working alike in weakness and in strength, in the morning mists
and in the clearness of the full day; if they confounded this communion
and co-agency of divine grace, attributable to the Scripture generally,
with those express, and expressly recorded, communications and messages
of the Most High which form so large and prominent a portion of the same
Scriptures; if, in short, they did not always duly distinguish the
inspiration, the imbreathment, of the predisposing and assisting SPIRIT
from the revelation of the informing WORD, it was at worst a harmless
hyperbole.  It was holden by all, that if the power of the Spirit from
without furnished the text, the grace of the same Spirit from within must
supply the comment.

In the sacred Volume they saw and reverenced the bounden wheat-sheaf that
_stood upright_ and had _obeisance_ from all the other sheaves (the
writings, I mean, of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church), sheaves
depreciated indeed, more or less, with tares,

                “and furrow-weeds,
    Darnel and many an idle flower that grew
    Mid the sustaining corn;”

yet sheaves of the same harvest, the sheaves of brethren!  Nor did it
occur to them, that, in yielding the more full and absolute honour to the
sheaf of the highly favoured of their Father, they should be supposed to
attribute the same worth and quality to the straw-bands which held it
together.  The bread of life was there.  And this in an especial sense
was _bread from Heaven_; for no where had the same been found wild; no
soil or climate dared claim it for its natural growth.  In simplicity of
heart they received the Bible as the precious gift of God, providential
alike in origin, preservation, and distribution, without asking the nice
question whether all and every part were likewise miraculous.  The
distinction between the providential and the miraculous, between the
Divine Will working with the agency of natural causes, and the same Will
supplying their place by a special _fiat_—this distinction has, I doubt
not, many uses in speculative divinity.  But its weightiest practical
application is shown, when it is employed to free the souls of the unwary
and weak in faith from the nets and snares, the insidious queries and
captious objections, of the Infidel by calming the flutter of their
spirits.  They must be quieted, before we can commence the means
necessary for their disentanglement.  And in no way can this be better
effected than when the frightened captives are made to see in how many
points the disentangling itself is a work of expedience rather than of
necessity; so easily and at so little loss might the web be cut or
brushed away.

First, let their attention be fixed on the history of Christianity as
learnt from universal tradition, and the writers of each successive
generation.  Draw their minds to the fact of the progressive and still
continuing fulfilment of the assurance of a few fishermen, that both
their own religion, though of Divine origin, and the religion of their
conquerors, which included or recognised all other religious of the known
world, should be superseded by the faith in a man recently and
ignominiously executed.  Then induce them to meditate on the universals
of Christian Faith—on Christianity taken as the sum of belief common to
Greek and Latin, to Romanist and Protestant.  Show them that this and
only this is the _ordo traditionis_, _quam tradiderunt Apostoli iis
quibus committebant ecclesias_, and which we should have been bound to
follow, says Irenæus, _si neque Apostoli quidem Scripturas reliquissent_.
This is that _regula fidei_, that _sacramentum symboli memoriæ mandatum_,
of which St. Augustine says:—_noveritis hoc esse Fidei Catholicæ
fundamentum super quod edificium surrexit Ecclesiæ_.  This is the _norma
Catholici et Ecclesiastici sensus_, determined and explicated, but not
augmented, by the Nicene Fathers, as Waterland has irrefragably shown; a
norm or model of Faith grounded on the solemn affirmations of the Bishops
collected from all parts of the Roman Empire, that this was the essential
and unalterable Gospel received by them from their predecessors in all
the churches as the παράδοσις ἐκκλησιαστικὴ _cui_, says Irenæus,
_assentiunt multæ gentes eorum qui in Christum credunt sine charta et
atramento_, _scriptam habentes per Spiritum in cordibus suis salutem_,
_et veterum traditionem diligenter custodientes_.  Let the attention of
such as have been shaken by the assaults of infidelity be thus directed,
and then tell me wherein a spiritual physician would be blameworthy, if
he carried on the cure by addressing his patient in this manner:—

“All men of learning, even learned unbelievers, admit that the greater
part of the objections, urged in the popular works of infidelity, to this
or that verse or chapter of the Bible, prove only the ignorance or
dishonesty of the objectors.  But let it be supposed for a moment that a
few remain hitherto unanswered—nay, that to your judgment and feelings
they appear unanswerable.  What follows?  That the Apostles’ and Nicene
Creed is not credible, the Ten Commandments not to be obeyed, the clauses
of the Lord’s Prayer not to be desired, or the Sermon on the Mount not to
be practised?  See how the logic would look.  David cruelly tortured the
inhabitants of Rabbah (2 Sam. xii. 31; 1 Chron. xx. 3), and in several of
the Psalms he invokes the bitterest curses on his enemies: therefore it
is not to be believed that _the love of God toward us was manifested in
sending His only begotten Son into the world_, _that we might live
through Him_ (1 John iv. 9).  Or, Abijah is said to have collected an
army of 400,000 men, and Jeroboam to have met him with an army of 800,000
men, each army consisting of chosen men (2 Chron. xiii. 3), and making
together a host of 1,200,000, and Abijah to have slain 500,000 out of the
800,000: therefore, the words which admonish us that _if God so loved
us_, _we ought also to love one another_ (1 John iv. 11), even our
enemies, yea, _to bless them that curse_ us, and to _do good to them that
hate_ us (Matt. v. 44), cannot proceed from the Holy Spirit.  Or: The
first six chapters of the book of Daniel contain several words and
phrases irreconcilable with the commonly received dates, and those
chapters and the Book of Esther have a traditional and legendary
character unlike that of the other historical books of the Old Testament;
therefore those other books, by contrast with which the former appear
suspicious, and the historical document (1 Cor. xv. 1–8), are not to be

We assuredly believe that the Bible contains all truths necessary to
salvation, and that therein is preserved the undoubted Word of God.  We
assert likewise that, besides these express oracles and immediate
revelations, there are Scriptures which to the soul and conscience of
every Christian man bear irresistible evidence of the Divine Spirit
assisting and actuating the authors; and that both these and the former
are such as to render it morally impossible that any passage of the small
inconsiderable portion, not included in one or other of these, can supply
either ground or occasion of any error in faith, practice, or affection,
except to those who wickedly and wilfully seek a pretext for their
unbelief.  And if in that small portion of the Bible which stands in no
necessary connection with the known and especial ends and purposes of the
Scriptures, there should be a few apparent errors resulting from the
state of knowledge then existing—errors which the best and holiest men
might entertain uninjured, and which without a miracle those men must
have entertained; if I find no such miraculous prevention asserted, and
see no reason for supposing it—may I not, to ease the scruples of a
perplexed inquirer, venture to say to him; “Be it so.  What then?  The
absolute infallibility even of the inspired writers in matters altogether
incidental and foreign to the objects and purposes of their inspiration
is no part of my creed: and even if a professed divine should follow the
doctrine of the Jewish Church so far as not to attribute to the
_Hagiographa_, in every word and sentence, the same height and fulness of
inspiration as to the Law and the Prophets, I feel no warrant to brand
him as a heretic for an opinion, the admission of which disarms the
infidel without endangering a single article of the Catholic Faith.”—If
to an unlearned but earnest and thoughtful neighbour I give the
advice;—“Use the Old Testament to express the affections excited, and to
confirm the faith and morals taught you, in the New, and leave all the
rest to the students and professors of theology and Church history!  You
profess only to be a Christian:”—am I misleading my brother in Christ?

This I believe by my own dear experience—that the more tranquilly an
inquirer takes up the Bible as he would any other body of ancient
writings, the livelier and steadier will be his impressions of its
superiority to all other books, till at length all other books and all
other knowledge will be valuable in his eyes in proportion as they help
him to a better understanding of his Bible.  Difficulty after difficulty
has been overcome from the time that I began to study the Scriptures with
free and unboding spirit, under the conviction that my faith in the
Incarnate Word and His Gospel was secure, whatever the result might
be;—the difficulties that still remain being so few and insignificant in
my own estimation, that I have less personal interest in the question
than many of those who will most dogmatically condemn me for presuming to
make a question of it.

So much for scholars—for men of like education and pursuits as myself.
With respect to Christians generally, I object to the consequence drawn
from the doctrine rather than to the doctrine itself;—a consequence not
only deducible from the premises, but actually and imperiously deduced;
according to which every man that can but read is to sit down to the
consecutive and connected perusal of the Bible under the expectation and
assurance that the whole is within his comprehension, and that, unaided
by note or comment, catechism or liturgical preparation, he is to find
out for himself what he is bound to believe and practise, and that
whatever he conscientiously understands by what he reads is to be _his_
religion.  For he has found it in his Bible, and the Bible is the
Religion of Protestants!

Would I then withhold the Bible from the cottager and the artisan?—Heaven
forfend!  The fairest flower that ever clomb up a cottage window is not
so fair a sight to my eyes as the Bible gleaming through the lower panes.
Let it but be read as by such men it used to be read; when they came to
it as to a ground covered with manna, even the bread which the Lord had
given for his people to eat; where he that gathered much had nothing
over, and he that gathered little had no lack.  They gathered every man
according to his eating.  They came to it as to a treasure-house of
Scriptures; each visitant taking what was precious and leaving as
precious for others;—Yea, more, says our worthy old Church-historian,
Fuller, where “the same man at several times may in his apprehension
prefer several Scriptures as best, formerly most affected with one place,
for the present more delighted with another, and afterwards, conceiving
comfort therein not so clear, choose other places as more pregnant and
pertinent to his purpose.  Thus God orders it, that divers men (and
perhaps the same man at divers times), make use of all His gifts,
gleaning and gathering comfort as it is scattered through the whole field
of the Scripture.”



YOU are now, my dear friend, in possession of my whole mind on this
point—one thing only excepted which has weighed with me more than all the
rest, and which I have therefore reserved for my concluding letter.  This
is the impelling principle or way of thinking, which I have in most
instances noticed in the assertors of what I have ventured to call
Bibliolatry, and which I believe to be the main ground of its prevalence
at this time, and among men whose religious views are anything rather
than enthusiastic.  And I here take occasion to declare, that my
conviction of the danger and injury of this principle was and is my chief
motive for bringing the doctrine itself into question; the main error of
which consists in the confounding of two distinct conceptions—revelation
by the Eternal Word, and actuation of the Holy Spirit.  The former indeed
is not always or necessarily united with the latter—the prophecy of
Balaam is an instance of the contrary,—but yet being ordinarily, and only
not always, so united, the term, “Inspiration,” has acquired a double

First, the term is used in the sense of Information miraculously
communicated by voice or vision; and secondly, where without any sensible
addition or infusion, the writer or speaker uses and applies his existing
gifts of power and knowledge under the predisposing, aiding, and
directing actuation of God’s Holy Spirit.  Now, between the first sense,
that is, inspired revelation, and the highest degree of that grace and
communion with the Spirit which the Church under all circumstances, and
every regenerate member of the Church of Christ, is permitted to hope and
instructed to pray for, there is a positive difference of kind—a chasm,
the pretended overleaping of which constitutes imposture, or betrays
insanity.  Of the first kind are the Law and the Prophets, no jot or
tittle of which can pass unfulfilled, and the substance and last
interpretation of which passes not away; for they wrote of Christ, and
shadowed out the everlasting Gospel.  But with regard to the second,
neither the holy writers—the so-called _Hagiographi_—themselves, nor any
fair interpretations of Scripture, assert any such absolute diversity, or
enjoin the belief of any greater difference of degree, than the
experience of the Christian World, grounded on and growing with the
comparison of these Scriptures with other works holden in honour by the
Churches, has established.  And _this_ difference I admit, and doubt not
that it has in every generation been rendered evident to as many as read
these Scriptures under the gracious influence of the spirit in which they
were written.

But alas! this is not sufficient; this cannot but be vague and
unsufficing to those with whom the Christian religion is wholly
objective, to the exclusion of all its correspondent subjective.  It must
appear vague, I say, to those whose Christianity as matter of belief is
wholly external, and like the objects of sense, common to all alike;
altogether historical, an _opus operatum_—its existing and present
operancy in no respect differing from any other fact of history, and not
at all modified by the supernatural principle in which it had its origin
in time.  Divines of this persuasion are actually, though without their
own knowledge, in a state not dissimilar to that into which the Latin
Church sank deeper amid deeper from the sixth to the fourteenth century;
during which time religion was likewise merely objective and
superstitious—a letter proudly emblazoned and illuminated, but yet a dead
letter that was to be read by its own outward glories without the light
of the Spirit in the mind of the believer.  The consequence was too
glaring not to be anticipated, and, if possible, prevented.  Without that
spirit in each true believer, whereby we know the spirit of truth and the
spirit of error in all things appertaining to salvation, the consequence
must be—so many men, so many minds!  And what was the antidote which the
Priests and Rabbis of this purely objective Faith opposed to this peril?
Why, an objective, outward Infallibility, concerning which, however, the
differences were scarcely less or fewer than those which it was to heal;
an Infallibility which taken literally and unqualified, became the source
of perplexity to the well-disposed, of unbelief to the wavering, and of
scoff and triumph to the common enemy, and which was, therefore, to be
qualified and limited, and then it meant so munch and so little that to
men of plain understandings and single hearts it meant nothing at all.
It resided here.  No! there.  No! but in a third subject.  Nay! neither
here, nor there, nor in the third, but in all three conjointly!

But even this failed to satisfy; and what was the final resource—the
doctrine of those who would not be called a Protestant Church, but in
which doctrine the Fathers of Protestantism in England would have found
little other fault, than that it might be affirmed as truly of the
decisions of any other bishop as of the Bishop of Rome?  The final
resource was to restore what ought never to have been removed—the
correspondent subjective, that is, the assent and confirmation of the
Spirit promised to all true believers, as proved and manifested in the
reception of such decision by the Church Universal in all its rightful

I comprise and conclude the sum of my conviction in this one sentence.
Revealed religion (and I know of no religion not revealed) is in its
highest contemplation the unity, that is, the identity or co-inherence,
of subjective and objective.  It is in itself, and irrelatively at once
inward life and truth, and outward fact and luminary.  But as all power
manifests itself in the harmony of correspondent opposites, each
supposing and supporting the other; so has religion its objective, or
historic and ecclesiastical pole and its subjective, or spiritual and
individual pole.  In the miracles and miraculous parts of religion—both
in the first communication of Divine truths, and in the promulgation of
the truths thus communicated—we have the union of the two, that is, the
subjective and supernatural displayed objectively—outwardly and
phenomenally—_as_ subjective and supernatural.

Lastly, in the Scriptures, as far as they are not included in the above
as miracles, and in the mind of the believing and regenerate reader and
meditater, there is proved to us the reciprocity or reciprocation of the
spirit as subjective and objective, which in conformity with the scheme
proposed by me, in aid of distinct conception and easy recollection, I
have named the Indifference.  What I mean by this, a familiar
acquaintance with the more popular parts of Luther’s works, especially
his “Commentaries,” and the delightful volume of his “Table Talk,” would
interpret for me better than I can do for myself.  But I do my best, when
I say that no Christian probationer, who is earnestly working out his
salvation, and experiences the conflict of the spirit with the evil and
the infirmity within him and around him, can find his own state brought
before him, and, as it were, antedated, in writings reverend even for
their antiquity and enduring permanence, and far more and more abundantly
consecrated by the reverence, love, and grateful testimonies of good men,
through the long succession of ages, in every generation, and under all
states of minds and circumstances of fortune, that no man, I say, can
recognise his own inward experiences in such writings, and not find an
objectiveness, a confirming and assuring outwardness, and all the main
characters of reality reflected therefrom on the spirit, working in
himself and in his own thoughts, emotions, and aspirations, warring
against sin and the motions of sin.  The unsubstantial, insulated self
passes away as a stream; but these are the shadows and reflections of the
Rock of Ages, and of the Tree of Life that starts forth from its side.

On the other hand, as much of reality, as much of objective truth, as the
Scriptures communicate to the subjective experiences of the believer, so
much of present life, of living and effective import, do these
experiences give to the letter of these Scriptures.  In the one _the
Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit_, that we have received the
_spirit of adoption_; in the other our spirit bears witness to the power
of the Word, that it is indeed the Spirit that proceedeth from God.  If
in the holy men thus actuated all imperfection of knowledge, all
participation in the mistakes and limits of their several ages had been
excluded, how could these writings be or become the history and example,
the echo and more lustrous image of the work and warfare of the
sanctifying principle in us?  If after all this, and in spite of all
this, some captious litigator should lay hold of a text here or there—St.
Paul’s _cloak left at Troas with Carpus_, or a verse from the Canticles,
and ask, “Of what spiritual use is this?”—the answer is ready:—It proves
to us that nothing can be so trifling, as not to supply an evil heart
with a pretext for unbelief.

Archbishop Leighton has observed that the Church has its extensive and
intensive states, and that they seldom fall together.  Certain it is,
that since kings have been her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing
mothers, our theologians seem to act in the spirit of fear rather than in
that of faith; and too often, instead of inquiring after the truth in the
confidence that whatever is truth must be fruitful of good to all who
_are in Him that is true_, they seek with vain precautions to _guard
against the possible inferences_ which perverse and distempered minds may
pretend, whose whole Christianity—do what we will—is and will remain
nothing but a pretence.

You have now my entire mind on this momentous question, the grounds on
which it rests, and the motives which induce me to make it known; and I
now conclude by repeating my request: Correct me, or confirm me.



FAITH may be defined as fidelity to our own being, so far as such being
is not and cannot become an object of the senses; and hence, by clear
inference or implication to being generally, as far as the same is not
the object of the senses; and again to whatever is affirmed or understood
as the condition, or concomitant, or consequence of the same.  This will
be best explained by an instance or example.  That I am conscious of
something within me peremptorily commanding me to do unto others as I
would they should do unto me; in other words a categorical (that is,
primary and unconditional) imperative; that the maxim (_regula maxima_,
or supreme rule) of my actions, both inward and outward, should be such
as I could, without any contradiction arising therefrom, will to be the
law of all moral and rational beings.  This, I say, is a fact of which I
am no less conscious (though in a different way), nor less assured, than
I am of any appearance presented by my outward senses.  Nor is this all;
but in the very act of being conscious of this in my own nature, I know
that it is a fact of which all men either are or ought to be conscious; a
fact, the ignorance of which constitutes either the non-personality of
the ignorant, or the guilt; in which latter case the ignorance is
equivalent to knowledge wilfully darkened.  I know that I possess this
knowledge as a man, and not as Samuel Taylor Coleridge; hence, knowing
that consciousness of this fact is the root of all other consciousness,
and the only practical contradistinction of man from the brutes, we name
it the conscience, by the natural absence or presumed presence of which
the law, both Divine and human, determines whether X Y Z be a thing or a
person; the conscience being that which never to have had places the
objects in the same order of things as the brutes, for example, idiots,
and to have lost which implies either insanity or apostasy.  Well, this
we have affirmed is a fact of which every honest man is as fully assured
as of his seeing, hearing, or smelling.  But though the former assurance
does not differ from the latter in the degree, it is altogether diverse
in the kind; the senses being morally passive, while the conscience is
essentially connected with the will, though not always, nor indeed in any
case, except after frequent attempts and aversions of will dependent on
the choice.  Thence we call the presentations of the senses impressions,
those of the conscience commands or dictates.  In the senses we find our
receptivity, and as far as our personal being is concerned, we are
passive, but in the fact of the conscience we are not only agents, but it
is by this alone that we know ourselves to be such—nay, that our very
passiveness in this latter is an act of passiveness, and that we are
patient (_patientes_), not, as in the other case, _simply_ passive.

The result is the consciousness of responsibility, and the proof is
afforded by the inward experience of the diversity between regret and

If I have sound ears, and my companion speaks to me with a due proportion
of voice, I may persuade him that I did not hear, but cannot deceive
myself.  But when my conscience speaks to me, I can by repeated efforts
render myself finally insensible; to which add this other difference,
namely, that to make myself deaf is one and the same thing with making my
conscience dumb, till at length I became unconscious of my conscience.
Frequent are the instances in which it is suspended, and, as it were,
drowned in the inundation of the appetites, passions, and imaginations to
which I have resigned myself, making use of my will in order to abandon
my free-will; and there are not, I fear, examples wanting of the
conscience being utterly destroyed, or of the passage of wickedness into
madness; that species of madness, namely, in which the reason is lost.
For so long as the reason continues, so long must the conscience exist,
either as a good conscience or as a bad conscience.

It appears, then, that even the very first step—that the initiation of
the process, the becoming conscious of a conscience—partakes of the
nature of an act.  It is an act in and by which we take upon ourselves an
allegiance, and consequently the obligation of fealty; and this fealty or
fidelity implying the power of being unfaithful, it is the first and
fundamental sense of faith.  It is likewise the commencement of
experience, and the result of all other experience.  In other words,
conscience in this its simplest form, must be supposed in order to
consciousness, that is, to human consciousness.  Brutes may be and are
scions, but those beings only who have an I, _scire possunt hoc vel illud
una cum seipsis_; that is, _conscire vel scire aliquid mecum_, or to know
a thing in relation to myself, and in the act of knowing myself as acted
upon by that something.

Now the third person could never have been distinguished from the first
but by means of the second.  There can be no He without a previous Thou.
Much less could an I exist for us except as it exists during the
suspension of the will, as in dreams; and the nature of brutes may be
best understood by considering them as somnambulists.  This is a deep
meditation, though the position is capable of the strictest proof,
namely, that there can be no I without a Thou, and that a Thou is only
possible by an equation in which I is taken as equal to Thou, and yet not
the same.  And this, again, is only possible by putting them in
opposition as correspondent opposites, or correlatives.  In order to
this, a something must be affirmed in the one which is rejected in the
other, and this something is the will.  I do not will to consider myself
as equal to myself, for in the very act of constructing myself _I_, I
take it as the same, and therefore as incapable of comparison, that is,
of any application of the will.  If, then, I _minus_ the will be the
_thesis_, Thou, _plus_ will, must be the _antithesis_, but the equation
of Thou with I, by means of a free act, negativing the sameness in order
to establish the equality, is the true definition of conscience.  But as
without a Thou there can be no You, so without a You no They, These, or
Those; and as all these conjointly form the materials and subjects of
consciousness and the conditions of experience, it is evident that
conscience is the root of all consciousness—_à fortiori_, the
precondition of all experience—and that the conscience cannot have been
in its first revelation deduced from experience.

Soon, however, experience comes into play.  We learn that there are other
impulses beside the dictates of conscience, that there are powers within
us and without us ready to usurp the throne of conscience, and busy in
tempting us to transfer our allegiance.  We learn that there are many
things contrary to conscience, and therefore to be rejected and utterly
excluded, and many that can coexist with its supremacy only by being
subjugated as beasts of burthen; and others again, as for instance the
social tendernesses and affections, and the faculties and excitations of
the intellect, which must be at least subordinated.  The preservation of
our loyalty and fealty under these trials, and against these rivals,
constitutes the second sense of faith; and we shall need but one more
point of view to complete its full import.  This is the consideration of
what is presupposed in the human conscience.  The answer is ready.  As in
the equation of the correlative I and Thou, one of the twin constituents
is to be taken as _plus_ will, the other as _minus_ will, so is it here;
and it is obvious that the reason or _super_-individual of each man,
whereby he is a man, is the factor we are to take as _minus_ will, and
that the individual will or personalising principle of free agency
(“arbitrement” is Milton’s word) is the factor marked _plus_ will; and
again, that as the identity or co-inherence of the absolute will and the
reason, is the peculiar character of God, so is the _synthesis_ of the
individual will and the common reason, by the subordination of the former
to the latter, the only possible likeness or image of the _prothesis_ or
identity, and therefore the required proper character of man.
Conscience, then, is a witness respecting the identity of the will and
the reason, effected by the self-subordination of the will or self to the
reason, as equal to or representing the will of God.  But the personal
will is a factor in other moral _synthesis_, for example, appetite _plus_
personal will = sensuality; lust of power, _plus_ personal will =
ambition, and so on, equally as in the _synthesis_ on which the
conscience is grounded.  Not this, therefore, but the other _synthesis_,
must supply the specific character of the conscience, and we must enter
into an analysis of reason.  Such as the nature and objects of the reason
are, such must be the functions and objects of the conscience.  And the
former we shall best learn by recapitulating those constituents of the
total man which are either contrary to or disparate from the reason.

I.  Reason, and the proper objects of reason, are wholly alien from
sensation.  Reason is supersensual, and its antagonist is appetite, and
the objects of appetite the lust of the flesh.

II.  Reason and its objects do not appertain to the world of the senses,
inward or outward; that is, they partake not of sense or fancy.  Reason
is supersensuous, and here its antagonist is the lust of the eye.

III.  Reason and its objects are not things of reflection, association,
discursion, discourse in the old sense of the word as opposed to
intuition; “discursive or intuitive,” as Milton has it.  Reason does not
indeed necessarily exclude the finite, either in time or in space, but it
includes them _eminenter_.  Thus the prime mover of the material universe
is affirmed to contain all motion as its cause, but not to be, or to
suffer, motion in itself.

Reason is not the faculty of the finite.  But here I must premise the
following.  The faculty of the finite is that which reduces the confused
impressions of sense to their essential forms—quantity, quality,
relation, and in these action and reaction, cause and effect, and the
like; thus raises the materials furnished by the senses and sensations
into objects of reflection, and so makes experience possible.  Without
it, man’s representative powers would be a delirium, a chaos, a scudding
cloudage of shapes; and it is therefore most appropriately called the
understanding, or substantiative faculty.  Our elder metaphysicians, down
to Hobbes inclusively, called this likewise discourse, _discuvsus
discursio_, from its mode of action as not staying at any one object, but
running, as it were, to and fro to abstract, generalise, and classify.
Now when this faculty is employed in the service of the pure reason, it
brings out the necessary and universal truths contained in the infinite
into distinct contemplation by the pure act of the sensuous
imagination—that is, in the production of the forms of space and time
abstracted from all corporeity, and likewise of the inherent forms of the
understanding itself abstractedly from the consideration of particulars,
as in the case of geometry, numeral mathematics, universal logic, and
pure metaphysics.  The discursive faculty then becomes what our
Shakespeare, with happy precision, calls “discourse of reason.”

We will now take up our reasoning again from the words “motion in

It is evident, then, that the reason as the irradiative power, and the
representative of the infinite, judges the understanding as the faculty
of the finite, and cannot without error be judged by it.  When this is
attempted, or when the understanding in its _synthesis_ with the personal
will, usurps the supremacy of the reason, or affects to supersede the
reason, it is then what St. Paul calls the mind of the flesh (φρόνημα
σαρκός), or the wisdom of this world.  The result is, that the reason is
superfinite; and in this relation, its antagonist is the insubordinate
understanding, or mind of the flesh.

IV.  Reason, as one with the absolute will (_In the beginning was the
Logos_, _and the Logos was with God_, _and the Logos was God_), and
therefore for man the certain representative of the will of God, is above
the will of man as an individual will.  We have seen in III. that it
stands in antagonism to all mere particulars; but here it stands in
antagonism to all mere individual interests as so many selves, to the
personal will as seeking its objects in the manifestation of itself for
itself—_sit pro ratione voluntas_;—whether this be realised with
adjuncts, as in the lust of the flesh, and in the lust of the eye; or
without adjuncts, as in the thirst and pride of power, despotism,
egoistic ambition.  The fourth antagonist, then, of reason, is the lust
of the will.

Corollary.  Unlike a million of tigers, a million of men is very
different from a million times one man.  Each man in a numerous society
is not only coexistent with, but virtually organised into, the multitude
of which he is an integral part.  His _idem_ is modified by the _alter_.
And there arise impulses and objects from this _synthesis_ of the _alter
et idem_, myself and my neighbour.  This, again, is strictly analogous to
what takes place in the vital organisation of the individual man.  The
cerebral system of the nerves has its correspondent _antithesis_ in the
abdominal system: but hence arises a _synthesis_ of the two in the
pectoral system as the intermediate, and, like a drawbridge, at once
conductor and boundary.  In the latter, as objectised by the former,
arise the emotions, the affections, and, in one word, the passions, as
distinguished from the cognitions and appetites.  Now, the reason has
been shown to be superindividual, generally, and therefore not less so
when the form of an individualisation subsists in the _alter_ than when
it is confined to the _idem_; not less when the emotions have their
conscious or believed object in another, than when their subject is the
individual personal self.  For though these emotions, affections,
attachments, and the like, are the prepared ladder by which the lower
nature is taken up into, and made to partake of, the highest room—as we
are taught to give a feeling of reality to the higher _per medium
commune_ with the lower, and thus gradually to see the reality of the
higher (namely, the objects of reason), and finally to know that the
latter are indeed, and pre-eminently real, as if you love your earthly
parents whom you see, by these means you will learn to love your Heavenly
Father who is invisible;—yet this holds good only so far as the reason is
the president, and its objects the ultimate aim; and cases may arise in
which the Christ as the Logos, or Redemptive Reason, declares, _He that
loves father or another more than Me_, _is not worthy of Me_; nay, he
that can permit his emotions to rise to an equality with the universal
reason, is in enmity with that reason.  Here, then, reason appears as the
love of God; and its antagonist is the attachment to individuals wherever
it exists in diminution of, or in competition with, the love which is

In these five paragraphs I have enumerated and explained the several
powers or forces belonging or incidental to human nature, which in all
matters of reason the man is bound either to subjugate or subordinate to
reason.  The application to faith follows of its own accord.  The first
or most indefinite sense of faith is fidelity: then fidelity under
previous contract or particular moral obligation.  In this sense faith is
fealty to a rightful superior: faith is the duty of a faithful subject to
a rightful governor.  Then it is allegiance in active service; fidelity
to the liege lord under circumstances, and amid the temptations of
usurpation, rebellion, and intestine discord.  Next we seek for that
rightful superior on our duties to whom all our duties to all other
superiors, on our faithfulness to whom all our bounden relations to all
other objects of fidelity, are founded.  We must inquire after that duty
in which all others find their several degrees and dignities, and from
which they derive their obligative force.  We are to find a superior,
whose rights, including our duties, are presented to the mind in the very
idea of that Supreme Being, whose sovereign prerogatives are predicates
implied in the subjects, as the essential properties of a circle are
co-assumed in the first assumption of a circle, consequently underived,
unconditional, and as rationally unsusceptible, so probably prohibitive,
of all further question.  In this sense, then, faith is fidelity, fealty,
allegiance of the moral nature to God, in opposition to all usurpation,
and in resistance to all temptation to the placing any other claim above
or equal with our fidelity to God.

The will of God is the last ground and final aim of all our duties, and
to that the whole man is to be harmonised by subordination, subjugation,
or suppression alike in commission and omission.  But the will of God,
which is one with the supreme intelligence, is revealed to man through
the conscience.  But the conscience, which consists in an inappellable
bearing-witness to the truth and reality of our reason, may legitimately
be construed with the term reason, so far as the conscience is
prescriptive; while as approving or condemning, it is the consciousness
of the subordination or insubordination, the harmony or discord, of the
personal will of man to and with the representative of the will of God.
This brings me to the last and fullest sense of faith, that is, the
obedience of the individual will to the reason, in the lust of the flesh
as opposed to the supersensual; in the lust of the eye as opposed to the
supersensuous; in the pride of the understanding as opposed to the
infinite; in the φρόνημα σαρκός in contrariety to the spiritual truth; in
the lust of the personal will as opposed to the absolute and universal;
and in the love of the creature, as far as it is opposed to the love
which is one with the reason, namely, the love of God.

Thus, then, to conclude.  Faith subsists in the _synthesis_ of the Reason
and the individual Will.  By virtue of the latter therefore, it must be
an energy, and, inasmuch as it relates to the whole moral man, it must be
exerted in each and all of his constituents or incidents, faculties and
tendencies;—it must be a total, not a partial—a continuous, not a
desultory or occasional—energy.  And by virtue of the former, that is
Reason, Faith must be a Light, a form of knowing, a beholding of truth.
In the incomparable words of the Evangelist, therefore, _Faith must be a
Light originating in the Logos_, _or the substantial Reason_, _which is
co-eternal and one with the Holy Will_, _and which Light is at the same
time the Life of men_.  Now, as _Life_ is here the sum or collective of
all moral and spiritual acts, in suffering, doing, and being, so is Faith
the source and the sum, the energy and the principle of the fidelity of
man to God, by the subordination of his human Will, in all provinces of
his nature, to his Reason, as the sum of spiritual Truth, representing
and manifesting the Will Divine.



A MAN may pray night and day, and yet deceive himself; but no man can be
assured of his sincerity who does not pray.  Prayer is faith passing into
act; a union of the will and the intellect realising in an intellectual
act.  It is the whole man that prays.  Less than this is wishing, or
lip-work; a charm or a mummery.  _Pray always_, says the apostle: that
is, have the habit of prayer, turning your thoughts into acts by
connecting them with the idea of the redeeming God, and even so
reconverting your actions into thoughts.


The best preparation for taking this sacrament, better than any or all of
the books or tracts composed for this end, is to read over and over
again, and often on your knees—at all events with a kneeling and praying
heart—the Gospel according to St. John, till your mind is familiarised to
the contemplation of Christ, the Redeemer and Mediator of mankind, yea,
of every creature, as the living and self-subsisting Word, the very truth
of all true being, and the very being of all enduring truth; the reality,
which is the substance and unity of all reality; _the light which
lighteth every man_, so that what we call reason is itself a light from
that light, _lumen a luce_, as the Latin more distinctly expresses this
fact.  But it is not merely light, but therein is life; and it is the
life of Christ, the co-eternal Son of God, that is the only true
life-giving light of men.  We are assured, and we believe, that Christ is
God; God manifested in the flesh.  As God, he must be present entire in
every creature;—(for how can God, or indeed any spirit, exist in
parts?)—but he is said to dwell in the regenerate, to come to them who
receive him by faith in his name, that is, in his power and influence;
for this is the meaning of the word “name” in Scripture when applied to
God or his Christ.  Where true belief exists, Christ is not only present
with or among us;—for so he is in every man, even the most wicked;—but to
us and for us.  _That was the true light_, _which lighteth every man that
cometh into the world_.  _He was in the world_, _and the world was made
by him_, _and the world knew him not_.  _But as many as received him_,
_to them gave he power to become the sons of God_, _even to them that
believe in his name_; _which were born_, _not of blood_, _nor of the will
of the flesh_, _nor of the will of man_, _but of God_.  _And the Word was
made flesh and dwelt among us_.  John i. 9–14.  Again—_We will come unto
him_, _and make our abode with him_.  John xiv. 23.  As truly and as
really as your soul resides constitutively in your living body,
personally and substantially does Christ dwell in every regenerate man.

After this course of study, you may then take up and peruse sentence by
sentence the communion service, the best of all comments on the
Scriptures appertaining to this mystery.  And this is the preparation
which will prove, with God’s grace, the surest preventive of, or antidote
against, the freezing poison, the lethargising hemlock, of the doctrine
of the Sacramentaries, according to whom the Eucharist is a mere
practical metaphor, in which things are employed instead of articulated
sounds for the exclusive purpose of recalling to our minds the historical
fact of our Lord’s crucifixion; in short—(the profaneness is with them,
not with me)—just the same as when Protestants drink a glass of wine to
the glorious memory of William III.!  True it is that the remembrance is
one end of the sacrament; but it is, _Do this in remembrance of me_,—of
all that Christ was and is, hath done and is still doing for fallen
mankind, and, of course, of his crucifixion inclusively, but not of his
crucifixion alone.  14 December, 1827.


First, then, that we may come to this heavenly feast holy, and adorned
with the wedding garment, Matt. xxii. ii, we must search our hearts, and
examine our consciences, not only till we see our sins, but until we hate

But what if a man, seeing his sin, earnestly desire to hate it?  Shall he
not at the altar offer up at once his desire, and the yet lingering sin,
and seek for strength?  Is not this sacrament medicine as well as food?
Is it an end only, and not likewise the means?  Is it merely the
triumphal feast; or is it not even more truly a blessed refreshment for
and during the conflict?

This confession of sins must not be in general terms only, that we are
sinners with the rest of mankind, but it must be a special declaration to
God of all our most heinous sins in thought, word, and deed.

Luther was of a different judgment.  He would have us feel and groan
under our sinfulness and utter incapability of redeeming ourselves from
the bondage, rather than hazard the pollution of our imaginations by a
recapitulation and renewing of sins and their images in detail.  Do not,
he says, stand picking the flaws out one by one, but plunge into the
river and drown them!—I venture to be of Luther’s doctrine.


In the first Exhortation, before the words “meritorious Cross and
Passion,” I should propose to insert “his assumption of humanity, his
incarnation, and.”  Likewise, a little lower down, after the word
“sustenance,” I would insert “as.”  For not in that sacrament
exclusively, but in all the acts of assimilative faith, of which the
Eucharist is a solemn, eminent, and representative instance, an instance
and the symbol, Christ is our spiritual food and sustenance.


Marriage, simply as marriage, is not the means “for the procreation of
children,” but for the humanisation of the offspring procreated.
Therefore, in the Declaration at the beginning, after the words
“procreation of children,” I would insert, “and as the means of securing
to the children procreated enduring care, and that they may be,” &c.


Third rubric at the end.

    But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, &c.

I think this rubric, in what I conceive to be its true meaning, a
precious doctrine, as fully acquitting our Church of all Romish
superstition, respecting the nature of the Eucharist, in relation to the
whole scheme of man’s redemption.  But the latter part of it—“he doth eat
and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his
soul’s health, although he do not receive the sacrament with his
mouth”—seems to me very incautiously expressed, and scarcely to be
reconciled with the Church’s own definition of a sacrament in general.
For in such a case, where is “the outward and visible sign of the inward
and spiritual grace given?”


Epistle.—l Cor. xv. 1.

    _Brethren_, _I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto

Why should the obsolete, though faithful, Saxon translation of εὐαγγέλιον
be retained?  Why not “good tidings?”  Why thus change a most appropriate
and intelligible designation of the matter into a mere conventional name
of a particular book?


    —_how that Christ died for our sins_.

But the meaning of ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν is, that Christ died through
the sins, and for the sinners.  He died through our sins, and we live
through his righteousness.

Gospel—Luke xviii. 14.

    _This man went down to his house justified rather than the other_.

Not simply justified, observe; but justified rather than the other, ἤ
ἐκεῖνος,—that is, less remote from salvation.



    —that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may
    of thee be plenteously rewarded.

Rather—“that with that enlarged capacity, which without thee we cannot
acquire, there may likewise be an increase of the gift, which from thee
alone we can wholly receive.”


    V. 2.  _Out of the mouth of very babes and sucklings hast thou
    ordained strength_, _because of thine enemies_; _that thou mightest
    still the enemy and the avenger_.

To the dispensations of the twilight dawn, to the first messengers of the
redeeming word, the yet lisping utterers of light and life, a strength
and power were given _because of the enemies_, greater and of more
immediate influence, than to the seers and proclaimers of a clearer day:
even as the first reappearing crescent of the eclipsed moon shines for
men with a keener brilliance than the following larger segments,
previously to its total emersion.

Ib. v. 5.

    _Thou madest him lower than the angels_, _to crown him with glory and

Power + idea = angel.

Idea—power = man, or Prometheus.


    V. 34.  _Ascribe ye the power to God over Israel_: _his worship and
    strength is in the clouds_.

The “clouds,” in the symbolical language of the Scriptures, mean the
events and course of things, seemingly effects of human will or chance,
but overruled by Providence.


This psalm admits no other interpretation but of Christ, as the Jehovah
incarnate.  In any other sense it would be a specimen of more than
Persian or Moghul hyperbole, and bombast, of which there is no other
instance in Scripture, and which no Christian would dare to attribute to
an inspired writer.  We know, too, that the elder Jewish Church ranked it
among the Messianic Psalms.—N.B.  The word in St. John and the Name of
the Most High in the Psalms are equivalent terms.

    V. 1.  _Give the king thy judgments_, _O God_; _and thy righteousness
    unto the king’s son_.

God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, the only begotten, the
Son of God and God, King of Kings, and the Son of the King of Kings!


    V. 2.  _O think upon thy congregation_, _whom thou hast purchased and
    redeemed of old_.

The Lamb sacrificed from the beginning of the world, the God-Man, the
Judge, the self-promised Redeemer to Adam in the garden!

    V. 15.  _Thou smotest the heads of the Leviathan in pieces_; _and
    gavest him to be meat for the people in the wilderness_.

Does this allude to any real tradition?  The Psalms appears to have been
composed shortly before the captivity of Judah.

Ps. LXXXII. vv. 6–7.

The reference which our Lord made to these mysterious verses gives them
an especial interest.  The first apostasy, the fall of the angels, is,
perhaps, intimated.


I would fain understand this Psalm; but first I must collate it word by
word with the original Hebrew.  It seems clearly Messianic.


    Vv. 10–12.  _Dost thou show wonders among the dead_, _or shall the
    dead rise up again and praise thee_? _&c._

Compare Ezekiel xxxvii.

Ps. CIV.

I think the Bible version might with advantage be substituted for this,
which in some parts is scarcely intelligible.

    V. 6.—_the waters stand in the hills_.

No; _stood above the mountains_.  The reference is to the Deluge.

Ps. CV.

    V. 3.—_Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord_.

If even to seek the Lord be joy, what will it be to find him?  Seek me, O
Lord, that I may be found by thee!

Ps. CX.

V. 2.—_The Lord shall send the rod of thy power out of Sion_; (saying)
_Rule_, &c.

V. 3.  Understand—“Thy people shall offer themselves willingly in the day
of conflict in holy clothing, in their best array, in their best arms and
accoutrements.  As the dew from the womb of the morning, in number and
brightness like dew-drops, so shall be thy youth, or the youth of thee,
the young volunteer warriors.”

V. 5.  “He shall shake,” concuss, _concutiet reges die iræ suæ_.

V. 6.  For “smite in sunder, or wound the heads;” some word answering to
the Latin _conquassare_.

V. 7.  For “therefore,” translate “then shall he lift up his head again;”
that is, as a man languid and sinking from thirst and fatigue after

N.B.—I see no poetic discrepancy between vv. 1 and 5.


To be interpreted of Christ’s Church.


    V. 5.  As the rivers in the south.

Does this allude to the periodical rains?

As a transparency on some night of public rejoicing, seen by common day,
with the lamps from within removed—even such would the Psalms be to me
uninterpreted by the Gospel.  O honoured Mr. Hurwitz!  Could I but make
you feel what grandeur, what magnificence, what an everlasting
significance and import Christianity gives to every fact of your national
history—to every page of your sacred records!


XX.  It is mournful to think how many recent writers have criminated our
Church in consequence of their ignorance and inadvertence in not knowing,
or not noticing, the contradistinction here meant between power and
authority.  Rites and ceremonies the Church may ordain _jure proprio_: on
matters of faith her judgment is to be received with reverence, and not
gainsayed but after repeated inquiries, and on weighty grounds.

XXXVII.  It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the
magistrate, to wear weapons, and to serve in wars.

This is a very good instance of an unseemly matter neatly wrapped up.
The good men recoiled from the plain words—“It is lawful for Christian
men at the Command of a king to slaughter as many Christians as they

Well!  I could most sincerely subscribe to all these articles.
September, 1831.


ALMIGHTY GOD, by thy eternal Word my Creator Redeemer and Preserver! who
hast in thy free communicative goodness glorified me with the capability
of knowing thee, the one only absolute Good, the eternal I Am, as the
author of my being, and of desiring and seeking thee as its ultimate
end;—who, when I fell from thee into the mystery of the false and evil
will, didst not abandon me, poor self-lost creature, but in thy
condescending mercy didst provide an access and a return to thyself, even
to thee the Holy One, in thine only begotten Son, the way and the truth
from everlasting, and who took on himself humanity, yea, became flesh,
even the man Christ Jesus, that for man he might be the life and the
resurrection!—O Giver of all good gifts, who art thyself the one only
absolute Good, from whom I have received whatever good I have, whatever
capability of good there is in me, and from thee good alone,—from myself
and my own corrupted will all evil and the consequents of evil,—with
inward prostration of will, mind, and affections I adore thy infinite
majesty; I aspire to love thy transcendent goodness!—In a deep sense of
my unworthiness, and my unfitness to present myself before thee, of eyes
too pure to behold iniquity, and whose light, the beautitude of spirits
conformed to thy will, is a consuming fire to all vanity and
corruption;—but in the name of the Lord Jesus, of the dear Son of thy
love, in whose perfect obedience thou deignest to behold as many as have
received the seed of Christ into the body of this death;—I offer this, my
bounden nightly sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, in humble trust
that the fragrance of my Saviour’s righteousness may remove from it the
taint of my mortal corruption.  Thy mercies have followed me through all
the hours and moments of my life; and now I lift up my heart in awe and
thankfulness for the preservation of my life through the past day, for
the alleviation of my bodily sufferings and languors, for the manifold
comforts which thou hast reserved for me, yea, in thy fatherly compassion
hast rescued from the wreck of my own sins or sinful infirmities;—for the
kind and affectionate friends thou hast raised up for me, especially for
those of this household, for the mother and mistress of this family,
whose love to me hath been great and faithful, and for the dear friend,
the supporter and sharer of my studies and researches; but, above all,
for the heavenly Friend, the crucified Saviour, the glorified Mediator,
Christ Jesus, and for the heavenly Comforter, source of all abiding
comforts, thy Holy Spirit!  O grant me the aid of thy Spirit, that I may
with a deeper faith, a more enkindled love, bless thee, who through thy
Son hast privileged me to call thee Abba, Father!  O, thou, who hast
revealed thyself in thy holy word as a God that hearest prayer; before
whose infinitude all differences cease of great and small; who like a
tender parent foreknowest all our wants, yet listenest well-pleased to
the humble petitions of thy children; who hast not alone permitted, but
taught us; to call on thee in all our needs,—earnestly I implore the
continuance of thy free mercy, of thy protecting providence, through the
coming night.  Thou hearest every prayer offered to thee believingly with
a penitent and sincere heart.  For thou in withholding grantest, healest
in inflicting the wound, yea, turnest all to good for as many as truly
seek thee through Christ, the Mediator!  Thy will be done!  But if it be
according to thy wise and righteous ordinances, O shield me this night
from the assaults of disease, grant me refreshment of sleep unvexed by
evil and distempered dreams; and if the purpose and aspiration of my
heart be upright before thee, who alone knowest the heart of man, O in
thy mercy vouchsafe me yet in this my decay of life an interval of ease
and strength; if so (thy grace disposing and assisting) I may make
compensation to thy Church for the unused talents thou hast entrusted to
me, for the neglected opportunities which thy loving-kindness had
provided.  O let me be found a labourer in the vineyard, though of the
late hour, when the Lord and Heir of the vintage, Christ Jesus, calleth
for his servant.

_Our Father_, &c.

To thee, great omnipresent Spirit, whose mercy is over all thy works, who
now beholdest me, who hearest me, who hast framed my heart to seek and to
trust in thee, in the name of my Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus, I humbly
commit and commend my body, soul, and spirit.

Glory be to thee, O God!



    Fortuna plerumque est veluti
    Galaxia quarundam obscurarum
    Virtutum sine nomine.


    (_Translation_.)—Fortune is for the most part but a galaxy or milky
    way, as it were, of certain obscure virtues without a name.

“DOES Fortune favour fools?  Or how do you explain the origin of the
proverb, which, differently worded, is to be found in all the languages
of Europe?”

This proverb admits of various explanations, according to the mood of
mind in which it is used.  It may arise from pity, and the soothing
persuasion that Providence is eminently watchful over the helpless, and
extends an especial care to those who are not capable of caring for
themselves.  So used, it breathes the same feeling as “God tempers the
wind to the shorn lamb”—or the more sportive adage, that “the fairies
take care of children and tipsy folk.”  The persuasion itself, in
addition to the general religious feeling of mankind, and the scarcely
less general love of the marvellous, may be accounted for from our
tendency to exaggerate all effects that seem disproportionate to their
visible cause, and all circumstances that are in any way strongly
contrasted with our notions of the persons under them.  Secondly, it
arises from the safety and success which an ignorance of danger and
difficulty sometimes actually assists in procuring; inasmuch as it
precludes the despondence, which might have kept the more foresighted
from undertaking the enterprise, the depression which would retard its
progress, and those overwhelming influences of terror in cases where the
vivid perception of the danger constitutes the greater part of the danger
itself.  Thus men are said to have swooned and even died at the sight of
a narrow bridge, over which they had ridden, the night before, in perfect
safety; or at tracing the footmarks along the edge of a precipice which
the darkness had concealed from them.  A more obscure cause, yet not
wholly to be omitted, is afforded by the undoubted fact that the exertion
of the reasoning faculties tends to extinguish or bedim those mysterious
instincts of skill, which, though for the most part latent, we
nevertheless possess in common with other animals.

Or the proverb may be used invidiously; and folly in the vocabulary of
envy or baseness may signify courage and magnanimity.  Hardihood and
fool-hardiness are indeed as different as green and yellow, yet will
appear the same to the jaundiced eye.  Courage multiplies the chances of
success by sometimes making opportunities, and always availing itself of
them: and in this sense Fortune may be said to favour fools by those who,
however prudent in their own opinion, are deficient in valour and
enterprise.  Again: an emiently good and wise man, for whom the praises
of the judicious have procured a high reputation even with the world at
large, proposes to himself certain objects, and adapting the right means
to the right end attains them; but his objects not being what the world
calls fortune, neither money nor artificial rank, his admitted inferiors
in moral and intellectual worth, but more prosperous in their worldly
concerns, are said to have been favoured by Fortune and be slighted;
although the fools did the same in their line as the wise man in his;
they adapted the appropriate means to the desired end, and so succeeded.
In this sense the proverb is current by a misuse, or a catachresis at
least, of both the words, fortune and fools.

   How seldom, friend, a good great man inherits
   Honour or wealth with all his worth and pains!
   It sounds like stories from the land of spirits,
   If any man obtain that which he merits,
   Or any merit that which he obtains.


   For shame! dear friend, renounce this canting strain;
   What would’st thou have a good great man obtain?
   Place? titles? salary? a gilded chain?
   Or throne of corses which his sword hath slain?
   Greatness and goodness are not means, but ends!
   Hath he not always treasures, always friends,
   The good great man?  Three treasures, love, and light,
   And calm thoughts regular as infant’s breath:
   And three firm friends, more sure than day and night,
   Himself, his Maker, and the angel Death.

                                                                  S. T. C.

But, lastly, there is, doubtless, a true meaning attached to fortune,
distinct both from prudence and from courage; and distinct too from that
absence of depressing or bewildering passions, which (according to my
favourite proverb, “extremes meet,”) the fool not seldom obtains in as
great perfection by his ignorance as the wise man by the highest energies
of thought and self-discipline.  Luck has a real existence in human
affairs, from the infinite number of powers that are in action at the
same time, and from the co-existence of things contingent and accidental
(such as to _us_ at least are accidental) with the regular appearances
and general laws of nature.  A familiar instance will make these words
intelligible.  The moon waxes and wanes according to a necessary law.
The clouds likewise, and all the manifold appearances connected with
them, are governed by certain laws no less than the phases of the moon.
But the laws which determine the latter are known and calculable, while
those of the former are hidden from us.  At all events, the number and
variety of their effects baffle our powers of calculation; and that the
sky is clear or obscured at any particular time, we speak of, in common
language, as a matter of accident.  Well! at the time of the full moon,
but when the sky is completely covered with black clouds, I am walking on
in the dark, aware of no particular danger: a sudden gust of wind rends
the cloud for a moment, and the moon emerging discloses to me a chasm or
precipice, to the very brink of which I had advanced my foot.  This is
what is meant by luck, and according to the more or less serious mood or
habit of our mind we exclaim, how lucky! or, how providential!  The
co-presence of numberless phænomena, which from the complexity or
subtlety of their determining causes are called contingencies, and the
co-existence of these with any regular or necessary phænomenon (as the
clouds with the moon for instance), occasion coincidences, which, when
they are attended by any advantage or injury, and are at the same time
incapable of being calculated or foreseen by human prudence, form good or
ill luck.  On a hot sunshiny afternoon came on a sudden storm and spoilt
the farmer’s hay; and this is called ill luck.  We will suppose the same
event to take place, when meteorology shall have been perfected into a
science, provided with unerring instruments; but which the farmer had
neglected to examine.  This is no longer ill luck, but imprudence.  Now
apply this to our proverb.  Unforeseen coincidences may have greatly
helped a man, yet if they have done for him only what possibly from his
own abilities he might have effected for himself, his good luck will
excite less attention and the instances be less remembered.  That clever
men should attain their objects seems natural, and we neglect the
circumstances that perhaps produced that success of themselves without
the intervention of skill or foresight; but we dwell on the fact and
remember it, as something strange, when the same happens to a weak or
ignorant man.  So, too, though the latter should fail in his undertakings
from concurrences that might have happened to the wisest man, yet his
failure being no more than might have been expected and accounted for
from his folly, it lays no hold on our attention, but fleets away among
the other undistinguished waves, in which the stream of ordinary life
murmurs by us, and is forgotten.  Had it been as true as it was
notoriously false, that those all-embracing discoveries, which have shed
a dawn of science on the art of chemistry, and give no obscure promise of
some one great constitutive law, in the light of which dwell dominion and
the power of prophecy; if these discoveries, instead of having been as
they really were, preconcerted by meditation, and evolved out of his own
intellect, had occurred by a set of lucky accidents to the illustrious
father and founder of philosophic alchemy; if they presented themselves
to Sir Humphry Davy exclusively in consequence of his luck in possessing
a particular galvanic battery; if this battery, as far as Davy was
concerned, had itself been an accident, and not (as in point of fact it
was) desired and obtained by him for the purpose of insuring the
testimony of experience to his principles, and in order to bind down
material nature under the inquisition of reason, and force from her, as
by torture, unequivocal answers to prepared and preconceived
questions—yet still they would not have been talked of or described, as
instances of _luck_, but as the natural results of his admitted genius
and known skill.  But should an accident have disclosed similar
discoveries to a mechanic at Birmingham or Sheffield, and if the man
should grow rich in consequence, and partly by the envy of his
neighbours, and partly with good reason, be considered by them as a man
below par in the general powers of his understanding; then, “Oh, what a
lucky fellow!  Well, Fortune does favour fools—that’s certain!  It is
always so!”—and forthwith the exclaimer relates half a dozen similar
instances.  Thus accumulating the one sort of facts and never collecting
the other, we do, as poets in their diction, and quacks of all
denominations do in their reasoning, put a part for the whole, and at
once soothe our envy and gratify our love of the marvellous, by the
sweeping proverb, “Fortune favours fools.”


    Quod me non movet æstimatione:
    Verum est μνημόστυνον mei sodalis.

                                                              CATULL. xii.

    (_Translation_.)—It interests not by any conceit of its value; but it
    is a remembrance of my honoured friend.

THE philosophic ruler, who secured the favours of fortune by seeking
wisdom and knowledge in preference to them, has pathetically
observed—“The heart knoweth its own bitterness; and there is a joy in
which the stranger intermeddleth not.”  A simple question founded on a
trite proverb, with a discursive answer to it, would scarcely suggest to
an indifferent person any other notion than that of a mind at ease,
amusing itself with its own activity.  Once before (I believe about this
time last year), I had taken up the old memorandum book, from which I
transcribed the preceding essay, and they had then attracted my notice by
the name of the illustrious chemist mentioned in the last illustration.
Exasperated by the base and cowardly attempt that had been made to
detract from the honours due to his astonishing genius, I had slightly
altered the concluding sentences, substituting the more recent for his
earlier discoveries; and without the most distant intention of publishing
what I then wrote, I had expressed my own convictions for the
gratification of my own feelings, and finished by tranquilly paraphrasing
into a chemical allegory the Homeric adventure of Menelaus with Proteus.
Oh! with what different feelings, with what a sharp and sudden emotion
did I re-peruse the same question yester-morning, having by accident
opened the book at the page upon which it was written.  I was moved; for
it was Admiral Sir Alexander Ball who first proposed the question to me,
and the particular satisfaction which he expressed had occasioned me to
note down the substance of my reply.  I was moved; because to this
conversation I was indebted for the friendship and confidence with which
he afterwards honoured me, and because it recalled the memory of one of
the most delightful mornings I ever passed; when, as we were riding
together, the same person related to me the principal events of his own
life, and introduced them by adverting to this conversation.  It recalled
too the deep impression left on my mind by that narrative—the impression
that I had never known any analogous instance, in which a man so
successful had been so little indebted to fortune, or lucky accidents, or
so exclusively both the architect and builder of his own success.  The
sum of his history may be comprised in this one sentence—_Hæc_, _sab
numine_, _nobismet fecimas_, _sapientia duce_, _fortune permittente_.
(_i.e._ These things under God, we have done for ourselves, through the
guidance of wisdom, and with the permission of fortune.)  Luck gave him
nothing: in her most generous moods, she only worked with him as with a
friend, not for him as for a fondling; but more often she simply stood
neuter, and suffered him to work for himself.  Ah! how could I be
otherwise than affected by whatever reminded me of that daily and
familiar intercourse with him, which made the fifteen months from May,
1804, to October, 1805, in many respects the most memorable and
instructive period of my life?  Ah! how could I be otherwise than most
deeply affected, when there was still lying on my table the paper which
the day before had conveyed to me the unexpected and most awful tidings
of this man’s death? his death in the fulness of all his powers, in the
rich autumn of ripe yet undecaying manhood!  I once knew a lady who,
after the loss of a lovely child, continued for several days in a state
of seeming indifference, the weather at the same time, as if in unison
with her, being calm, though gloomy; till one morning a burst of sunshine
breaking in upon her, and suddenly lighting up the room where she was
sitting, she dissolved at once into tears, and wept passionately.  In no
very dissimilar manner did the sudden gleam of recollection at the sight
of this memorandum act on myself.  I had been stunned by the
intelligence, as by an outward blow, till this trifling incident startled
and disentranced me; the sudden pang shivered through my whole frame; and
if I repressed the outward shows of sorrow, it was by force that I
repressed them, and because it is not by tears that I ought to mourn for
the loss of Sir Alexander Ball.

He was a man above his age; but for that very reason the age has the more
need to have the master-features of his character portrayed and
preserved.  This I feel it my duty to attempt, and this alone; for having
received neither instructions nor permission from the family of the
deceased, I cannot think myself allowed to enter into the particulars of
his private history, strikingly as many of them would illustrate the
elements and composition of his mind.  For he was indeed a living
confutation of the assertion attributed to the Prince of Condé, that no
man appeared great to his _valet de chambre_—a saying which, I suspect,
owes its currency less to its truth than to the envy of mankind, and the
misapplication of the word great, to actions unconnected with reason and
free will.  It will be sufficient for my purpose to observe that the
purity and strict propriety of his conduct, which precluded rather than
silenced calumny, the evenness of his temper, and his attentive and
affectionate manners in private life, greatly aided and increased his
public utility; and, if it should please Providence that a portion of his
spirit should descend with his mantle, the virtues of Sir Alexander Ball,
as a master, a husband, and a parent, will form a no less remarkable
epoch in the moral history of the Maltese than his wisdom, as a governor,
has made in that of their outward circumstances.  That the private and
personal qualities of a first magistrate should have political effects
will appear strange to no reflecting Englishman, who has attended to the
workings of men’s minds during the first ferment of revolutionary
principles, and must therefore have witnessed the influence of our own
sovereign’s domestic character in counteracting them.  But in Malta there
were circumstances which rendered such an example peculiarly requisite
and beneficent.  The very existence for so many generations of an order
of lay celibates in that island, who abandoned even the outward shows of
an adherence to their vow of chastity, must have had pernicious effects
on the morals of the inhabitants.  But when it is considered too that the
Knights of Malta had been for the last fifty years or more a set of
useless idlers, generally illiterate, for they thought literature no part
of a soldier’s excellence; and yet effeminate, for they were soldiers in
name only; when it is considered that they were, moreover, all of them
aliens, who looked upon themselves not merely as of a superior rank to
the native nobles, but as beings of a different race (I had almost said
species) from the Maltese collectively; and finally, that these men
possessed exclusively the government of the island; it may be safely
concluded that they were little better than a perpetual influenza,
relaxing and diseasing the hearts of all the families within their sphere
of influence.  Hence the peasantry, who fortunately were below their
reach, notwithstanding the more than childish ignorance in which they
were kept by their priests, yet compared with the middle and higher
classes, were both in mind and body as ordinary men compared with dwarfs.
Every respectable family had some one knight for their patron, as a
matter of course; and to him the honour of a sister or a daughter was
sacrificed, equally as a matter of course.  But why should I thus
disguise the truth?  Alas! in nine instances out of ten, this patron was
the common paramour of every female in the family.  Were I composing a
state memorial I should abstain from all allusion to moral good or evil,
as not having now first to learn, that with diplomatists and with
practical statesmen of every denomination, it would preclude all
attention to its other contents, and have no result but that of securing
for its author’s name the official private mark of exclusion or
dismission, as a weak or suspicions person.  But among those for whom I
am now writing, there are, I trust, many who will think it not the
feeblest reason for rejoicing in our possession of Malta, and not the
least worthy motive for wishing its retention, that one source of human
misery and corruption has been dried up.  Such persons will hear the name
of Sir Alexander Ball with additional reverence, as of one who has made
the protection of Great Britain a double blessing to the Maltese, and
broken “_the bonds of iniquity_” as well as unlocked the fetters of
political oppression.

When we are praising the departed by our own firesides, we dwell most
fondly on those qualities which had won our personal affection, and which
sharpen our individual regrets.  But when impelled by a loftier and more
meditative sorrow, we would raise a public monument to their memory, we
praise them appropriately when we relate their actions faithfully; and
thus preserving their example for the imitation of the living alleviate
the loss, while we demonstrate its magnitude.  My funeral eulogy of Sir
Alexander Ball must therefore he a narrative of his life; and this friend
of mankind will be defrauded of honour in proportion as that narrative is
deficient and fragmentary.  It shall, however, be as complete as my
information enables, and as prudence and a proper respect for the
feelings of the living permit me to render it.  His fame (I adopt the
words of our elder writers) is so great throughout the world that he
stands in no need of an encomium; and yet his worth is much greater these
his fame.  It is impossible not to speak great things of him, and yet it
will be very difficult to speak what he deserves.  But custom requires
that something should be said; it is a duty and a debt which we owe to
ourselves and to mankind, not less than to his memory; and I hope his
great soul, if it hath any knowledge of what is done here below, will not
be offended at the smallness even of my offering.

Ah, how little, when among the subjects of The Friend I promised
“Characters met with in Real Life,” did I anticipate the sad event, which
compels one to weave on a cypress branch those sprays of laurel which I
had destined for his bust, not his monument!  He lived as we should all
live; and, I doubt not, left the world as we should all wish to leave it.
Such is the power of dispensing blessings, which Providence has attached
to the truly great and good, that they cannot even die without advantage
to their fellow-creatures; for death consecrates their example, and the
wisdom, which might have been slighted at the council-table, becomes
oracular from the shrine.  Those rare excellences, which make our grief
poignant, make it likewise profitable; and the tears which wise men shed
for the departure of the wise, are among those that are preserved in
heaven.  It is the fervent aspiration of my spirit, that I may so perform
the task which private gratitude and public duty impose on me, that “as
God hath cut this tree of paradise down from its seat of earth, the dead
trunk may yet support a part of the declining temple, or at least serve
to kindle the fire on the altar.”


    Si partem tacuisse velim, quodeumque relinquam,
    Majus erit.  Veteres actus, primamque juventam
    Prosequar?  Ad sese mentem præsentia ducunt.
    Narrem justitiam?  Resplendet gloria Martis.
    Armati referam vires?  Plus egit inermis.

                                                   CLAUDIAN DE LAUD. STIL.

    (_Translation_.)—If I desire to pass over a part in silence, whatever
    I omit will seem the most worthy to have been recorded.  Shall I
    pursue his old exploits and early youth?  His recent merits recall
    the mind to themselves.  Shall I dwelt on his justice?  The glory of
    the warrior rises before me resplendent.  Shall I relate his strength
    in arms?  He performed yet greater things unarmed.

“THERE is something,” says Harrington, in the Preliminaries to the
Oceana, “first in the making of a commonwealth, then in the governing of
it, and last of all in the leading of its armies, which though there be
great divines, great lawyers, great men in all ranks of life, seems to be
peculiar only to the genius of a gentleman.  For so it is in the
universal series of history, that if any man has founded a commonwealth,
he was first a gentleman.”  Such also, he adds, as have got any fame as
civil governors, have been gentlemen, or persons of known descents.  Sir
Alexander Ball was a gentleman by birth; a younger brother of an old and
respectable family in Gloucestershire.  He went into the navy at an early
age from his own choice, and, as he himself told me, in consequence of
the deep impression and vivid images left on his mind by the perusal of
“Robinson Crusoe.”  It is not my intention to detail the steps of his
promotion, or the services in which he was engaged as a subaltern.  I
recollect many particulars indeed, but not the dates, with such
distinctness as would enable me to state them (as it would be necessary
to do if I stated them at all) in the order of time.  These dates might
perhaps have been procured from the metropolis; but incidents that are
neither characteristic nor instructive, even such as would be expected
with reason in a regular life, are no part of my plan; while those which
are both interesting and illustrative I have been precluded from
mentioning, some from motives which have been already explained, and
others from still higher considerations.  The most important of these may
be deduced from a reflection with which he himself once concluded a long
and affecting narration: namely, that no body of men can for any length
of time be safely treated otherwise than as rational beings; and that,
therefore, the education of the lower classes was of the utmost
consequence to the permanent security of the empire, even for the sake of
our navy.  The dangers, apprehended from the education of the lower
classes, arose (he said) entirely from its not being universal, and from
the unusualness in the lowest classes of those accomplishments which he,
like Dr. Bell, regarded as one of the means of education, and not as
education itself.  If, he observed, the lower classes in general
possessed but one eye or one arm, the few who were so fortunate as to
possess two would naturally become vain and restless, and consider
themselves as entitled to a higher situation.  He illustrated this by the
faults attributed to learned women, and that the same objections were
formerly made to educating women at all; namely, that their knowledge
made them vain, affected, and neglectful of their proper duties.  Now
that all women of condition are well educated, we hear no more of these
apprehensions, or observe any instances to justify them.  Yet if a lady
understood the Greek one-tenth part as well as the whole circle of her
acquaintances understood the French language, it would not surprise us to
find her less pleasing from the consciousness of her superiority in the
possession of an unusual advantage.  Sir Alexander Ball quoted the speech
of an old admiral, one of whose two great wishes was to have a ship’s
crew composed altogether of serious Scotchmen.  He spoke with great
reprobation of the vulgar notion, the worse man the better sailor.
Courage, he said, was the natural product of familiarity with danger,
which thoughtlessness would oftentimes turn into fool-hardiness; and that
he always found the most usefully brave sailors the gravest and most
rational of his crew.  The best sailor he had ever had, first attracted
his notice by the anxiety which he expressed concerning the means of
remitting some money, which he had received in the West Indies, to his
sister in England; and this man, without any tinge of Methodism, was
never heard to swear an oath, and was remarkable for the firmness with
which he devoted a part of every Sunday to the reading of his Bible.  I
record this with satisfaction as a testimony of great weight, and in all
respects unexceptionable; for Sir Alexander Ball’s opinions throughout
life remained unwarped by zealotry, and were those of a mind seeking
after truth, in calmness and complete self-possession.  He was much
pleased with an unsuspicious testimony furnished by Dampier (vol. ii.
part 2, page 89): “I have particularly observed,” writes this famous old
navigator, “there and in other places, that such as had been well-bred
were generally most careful to improve their time, and would be very
industrious and frugal where there was any probability of considerable
gain; but on the contrary, such as had been bred up in ignorance and hard
labour, when they came to have plenty would extravagantly squander away
their time and money in drinking and making a bluster.”  Indeed it is a
melancholy proof how strangely power warps the minds of ordinary men,
that there can be a doubt on this subject among persons who have been
themselves educated.  It tempts a suspicion that, unknown to themselves,
they find a comfort in the thought, that their inferiors are something
less than men; or that they have an uneasy half-consciousness that, if
this were not the case, they would themselves have no claim to be their
superiors.  For a sober education naturally inspires self-respect.  But
he who respects himself will respect others; and he who respects both
himself and others, must of necessity be a brave man.  The great
importance of this subject, and the increasing interest which good men of
all denominations feel in the bringing about of a national education,
must be my excuse for having entered so minutely into Sir Alexander
Ball’s opinions on this head, in which, however, I am the more excusable,
being now on that part of his life which I am obliged to leave almost a

During his lieutenancy, and after he had perfected himself in the
knowledge and duties of a practical sailor, he was compelled by the state
of his health to remain in England for a considerable length of time.  Of
this he industriously availed himself to the acquirement of substantial
knowledge from books; and during his whole life afterwards, he considered
those as his happiest hours, which, without any neglect of official or
professional duty, he could devote to reading.  He preferred, indeed he
almost confined himself to, history, political economy, voyages and
travels, natural history, and latterly agricultural works; in short, to
such books as contain specific facts or practical principles capable of
specific application.  His active life, and the particular objects of
immediate utility, some one of which he had always in his view, precluded
a taste for works of pure speculation and abstract science, though he
highly honoured those who were eminent in these respects, and considered
them as the benefactors of mankind, no less than those who afterwards
discovered the mode of applying their principles, or who realised them in
practice.  Works of amusement, as novels, plays, etc., did not appear
even to amuse him; and the only poetical composition of which I have ever
heard him speak, was a manuscript poem written by one of my friends,
which I read to his lady in his presence.  To my surprise he afterwards
spoke of this with warm interest; but it was evident to me that it was
not so much the poetic merit of the composition that had interested him,
as the truth and psychological insight with which it represented the
practicability of reforming the most hardened minds, and the various
accidents which may awaken the most brutalised person to a recognition of
his nobler being.  I will add one remark of his own knowledge acquired
from books, which appears to me both just and valuable.  The prejudice
against such knowledge, he said, and the custom of opposing it to that
which is learnt by practice, originated in those times when books were
almost confined to theology, and to logical and metaphysical subtleties;
but that at present there is scarcely any practical knowledge which is
not to be found in books.  The press is the means by which intelligent
men now converse with each other, and persons of all classes and all
pursuits convey each the contribution of his individual experience.  It
was, therefore, he said, as absurd to hold book-knowledge at present in
contempt, as it would be for a man to avail himself only of his own eyes
and ears, and to aim at nothing which could not be performed exclusively
by his own arms.  The use and necessity of personal experience consisted
in the power of choosing and applying what had been read, and of
discriminating by the light of analogy the practicable from the
impracticable, and probability from mere plausibility.  Without a
judgment matured and steadied by actual experience, a man would read to
little or perhaps to bad purpose; but yet that experience, which in
exclusion of all other knowledge has been derived from one man’s life, is
in the present day scarcely worthy of the name—at least for those who are
to act in the higher and wider spheres of duty.  An ignorant general, he
said, inspired him with terror; for if he were too proud to take advice
he would ruin himself by his own blunders, and if he—were not, by
adopting the worst that was offered.  A great genius may indeed form an
exception, but we do not lay down rules in expectation of wonders.  A
similar remark I remember to have heard from a gallant officer, who to
eminence in professional science and the gallantry of a tried soldier,
adds all the accomplishments of a sound scholar and the powers of a man
of genius.

One incident, which happened at this period of Sir Alexander’s life, is
so illustrative of his character, and furnishes so strong a presumption,
that the thoughtful humanity by which he was distinguished was not wholly
the growth of his latter years, that, though it may appear to some
trifling in itself, I will insert it in this place with the occasion on
which it was communicated to me.  In a large party at the Grand Master’s
palace, I had observed a naval officer of distinguished merit listening
to Sir Alexander Ball, whenever he joined in the conversation, with so
marked a pleasure that it seemed as if his very voice, independent of
what he said, had been delightful to him; and once, as he fixed his eyes
on Sir Alexander Ball, I could not but notice the mixed expressions of
awe and affection, which gave a more than common interest to so manly a
countenance.  During his stay in the island, this officer honoured me not
unfrequently with his visits; and at the conclusion of my last
conversation with him, in which I had dwelt on the wisdom of the
Governor’s conduct in a recent and difficult emergency, he told me that
he considered himself as indebted to the same excellent person for that
which was dearer to him than his life.  “Sir Alexander Ball,” said he,
“has, I dare say, forgotten the circumstance; but when he was Lieutenant
Ball, he was the officer whom I accompanied in my first boat expedition,
being then a midshipman and only in my fourteenth year.  As we were
rowing up to the vessel which we were to attack, amid a discharge of
musketry, I was overpowered by fear, my knees trembled under me, and I
seemed on the point of fainting away.  Lieutenant Ball, who saw the
condition I was in, placed himself close beside me, and still keeping his
countenance directed toward the enemy, took hold of my hand, and pressing
it in the most friendly manner, said in a low voice, ‘Courage, my dear
boy! don’t be afraid of yourself! you will recover in a minute or so.  I
was just the same when I first went out in this way.’  Sir,” added the
officer to me, “it was as if an angel had put a new soul into me.  With
the feeling that I was not yet dishonoured, the whole burden of agony was
removed, and from that moment I was as fearless and forward as the oldest
of the boat’s crew, and on our return the lieutenant spoke highly of me
to our captain.  I am scarcely less convinced of my own being than that I
should have been what I tremble to think of, if, instead of his humane
encouragement, he had at that moment scoffed, threatened, or reviled me.
And this was the more kind in him, because, as I afterwards understood,
his own conduct in his first trial had evinced to all appearances the
greatest fearlessness, and that he said this, therefore, only to give me
heart and restore me to my own good opinion.”

This anecdote, I trust, will have some weight with those who may have
lent an ear to any of those vague calumnies from which no naval commander
can secure his good name, who knowing the paramount necessity of
regularity and strict discipline in a ship of war, adopts an appropriate
plan for the attainment of these objects, and remains constant and
immutable in the execution.  To an Athenian, who, in praising a public
functionary, had said, that every one either applauded him or left him
without censure, a philosopher replied, “How seldom then must he have
done his duty!”

Of Sir Alexander Ball’s character, as Captain Ball, of his measures as a
disciplinarian, and of the wise and dignified principle on which he
grounded those measures, I have already spoken in a former part of this
work, and must content myself therefore with entreating the reader to
re-peruse that passage as belonging to this place, and as a part of the
present narration.  Ah! little did I expect at the time I wrote that
account, that the motives of delicacy, which then impelled me to withhold
the name, would so soon be exchanged for the higher duty which now
justifies me in adding it!  At the thought of such events the language of
a tender superstition is the voice of nature itself, and those facts
alone presenting themselves to our memory which had left an impression on
our hearts, we assent to, and adopt the poet’s pathetic complaint:—

             O sir! the good die first,
    And those whose hearts are dry as summer dust
    Burn to the socket.


Thus the humane plan described in the pages now referred to, that a
system in pursuance of which the captain of a man-of-war uniformly
regarded his sentences not as dependent on his own will, or to be
affected by the state of his feelings at the moment, but as the
pre-established determinations of known laws, and himself as the voice of
the law in pronouncing the sentence, and its delegate in enforcing the
execution, could not but furnish occasional food to the spirit of
detraction, must be evident to every reflecting mind.  It is indeed
little less than impossible, that he, who in order to be effectively
humane determines to be inflexibly just, and who is inexorable to his own
feelings when they would interrupt the course of justice; who looks at
each particular act by the light of all its consequences, and as the
representative of ultimate good or evil; should not sometimes be charged
with tyranny by weak minds.  And it is too certain that the calumny will
be willingly believed and eagerly propagated by all those who would shun
the presence of an eye keen in the detection of imposture, incapacity,
and misconduct, and of a resolution as steady in their exposure.  We soon
hate the man whose qualities we dread, and thus have a double interest,
an interest of passion as well as of policy, in decrying and defaming
him.  But good men will rest satisfied with the promise made to them by
the Divine Comforter, that by her children shall Wisdom be justified.


    —the generous spirit, who, when brought
    Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
    Upon the plan that pleased his childish thought:
    Whose high endeavours are an inward light
    That makes the path before him always bright;
    Who, doom’d to go in company with pain,
    And fear and bloodshed, miserable train!
    Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
    By objects, which might force the soul to abate
    Her feeling, rendered more compassionate.


AT the close of the American war, Captain Ball was entrusted with the
protection and convoying of an immense mercantile fleet to America, and
by his great prudence and unexampled attention to the interests of all
and each, endeared his name to the American merchants, and laid the
foundation of that high respect and predilection which both the Americans
and their government ever afterwards entertained for him.  My
recollection does not enable me to attempt any accuracy in the date or
circumstances, or to add the particulars of his services in the West
Indies and on the coast of America, I now therefore merely allude to the
fact with a prospective reference to opinions and circumstances, which I
shall have to mention hereafter.  Shortly after the general peace was
established, Captain Ball, who was now a married man, passed some time
with his lady in France, and, if I mistake not, at Nantes.  At the same
time, and in the same town, among the other English visitors, Lord (then
Captain) Nelson happened to be one.  In consequence of some punctilio, as
to whose business it was to pay the compliment of the first call, they
never met, and this trifling affair occasioned a coldness between the two
naval commanders, or in truth a mutual prejudice against each other.
Some years after, both their ships being together close off Minorca and
near Port Mahon, a violent storm nearly disabled Lord Nelson’s vessel,
and in addition to the fury of the wind, it was night time and the
thickest darkness.  Captain Ball, however, brought his vessel at length
to Nelson’s assistance, took his ship in tow, and used his best
endeavours to bring her and his own vessel into Port Mahon.  The
difficulties and the dangers increased.  Nelson considered the case of
his own ship as desperate, and that unless she was immediately left to
her own fate, both vessels would inevitably be lost.  He, therefore, with
the generosity natural to him, repeatedly requested Captain Ball to let
him loose; and on Captain Ball’s refusal, he became impetuous, and
enforced his demand with passionate threats.  Captain Ball then himself
took the speaking-trumpet, which the fury of the wind and waves rendered
necessary, and with great solemnity and without the least disturbance of
temper, called out in reply, “I feel confident that I can bring you in
safe; I therefore must not, and, by the help of Almighty God, I will not
leave you!”  What he promised he performed; and after they were safely
anchored, Nelson came on board of Ball’s ship, and embracing him with all
the ardour of acknowledgment, exclaimed, “A friend in need is a friend
indeed!”  At this time and on this occasion commenced that firm and
perfect friendship between these two great men, which was interrupted
only by the death of the former.  The pleasing task of dwelling on this
mutual attachment I defer to that part of the present sketch which will
relate to Sir Alexander Ball’s opinions of men and things.  It will be
sufficient for the present to say, that the two men whom Lord Nelson
especially honoured, were Sir Thomas Troubridge and Sir Alexander Ball;
and once, when they were both present, on some allusion made to the loss
of his arm, he replied, “Who shall dare tell me that I want an arm, when
I have three right arms—this (putting forward his own) and Ball and

In the plan of the battle of the Nile it was Lord Nelson’s design, that
Captains Troubridge and Ball should have led up the attack.  The former
was stranded; and the latter, by accident of the wind, could not bring
his ship into the line of battle till some time after the engagement had
become general.  With his characteristic forecast and activity of (which
may not improperly be called) practical imagination, he had made
arrangements to meet every probable contingency.  All the shrouds and
sails of the ship not absolutely necessary for its immediate management,
were thoroughly wetted, and so rolled up that they were as hard and as
little inflammable as so many solid cylinders of wood; every sailor had
his appropriate place and function, and a certain number were appointed
as the fire-men, whose sole duty it was to be on the watch if any part of
the vessel should take fire; and to these men exclusively the charge of
extinguishing it was committed.  It was already dark when he brought his
ship into action, and laid her alongside _L’Orient_.  One particular only
I shall add to the known account of the memorable engagement between
these ships, and this I received from Sir Alexander Ball himself.  He had
previously made a combustible preparation, but which, from the nature of
the engagement to be expected, he had purposed to reserve for the last
emergency.  But just at the time when, from several symptoms, he had
every reason to believe that the enemy would soon strike to him, one of
the lieutenants, without his knowledge, threw in the combustible matter:
and this it was that occasioned the tremendous explosion of that vessel,
which, with the deep silence and interruption of the engagement which
succeeded to it, has been justly deemed the sublimest war incident
recorded in history.  Yet the incident which followed, and which has not,
I believe, been publicly made known, is scarcely less impressive, though
its sublimity is of a different character.  At the renewal of the battle,
Captain Ball, though his ship was then on fire in three different parts,
laid her alongside a French eighty-four; and a second longer obstinate
contest began.  The firing on the part of the French ship having at
length for some time slackened, and then altogether ceased, and yet no
sign given of surrender, the senior lieutenant came to Captain Ball and
informed him, that the hearts of his men were as good as ever, but that
they were so completely exhausted that they were scarcely capable of
lifting an arm.  He asked, therefore, whether, as the enemy had now
ceased firing, the men might be permitted to lie down by their guns for a
short time.  After some reflection, Sir Alexander acceded to the
proposal, taking of course the proper precautions to rouse them again at
the moment he thought requisite.  Accordingly, with the exception of
himself, his officers, and the appointed watch, the ship’s crew lay down,
each in the place to which he was stationed, and slept for twenty
minutes.  They were then roused; and started up, as Sir Alexander
expressed it, more like men out of an ambush than from sleep, so
co-instantaneously did they all obey the summons!  They recommenced their
fire, and in a few minutes the enemy surrendered; and it was soon after
discovered that during that interval, and almost immediately after the
French ship had first ceased firing, the crew had sunk down by their
guns, and there slept, almost by the side, as it were, of their sleeping


    —Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
    Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
    A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
    But who, if he be call’d upon to face
    Same awful moment, to which Heaven has join’d
    Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
    Is happy as a lover, is attired
    With sudden brightness like a man inspired;
    And through the heat of conflict keeps the law
    In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw.


AN accessibility to the sentiments of others on subjects of importance
often accompanies feeble minds, yet it is not the less a true and
constituent part of practical greatness, when it exists wholly free from
that passiveness to impression which renders counsel itself injurious to
certain characters, and from that weakness of heart which, in the literal
sense of the word, is always craving advice.  Exempt from all such
imperfections, say rather in perfect harmony with the excellences that
preclude them, this openness to the influxes of good sense and
information, from whatever quarter they might come, equally characterised
both Lord Nelson and Sir Alexander Ball, though each displayed it in the
way best suited to his natural temper.  The former with easy hand
collected, as it passed by him, whatever could add to his own stores,
appropriated what he could assimilate, and levied subsidies of knowledge
from all the accidents of social life and familiar intercourse.  Even at
the jovial board, and in the height of unrestrained merriment, a casual
suggestion, that flashed a new light on his mind, changed the boon
companion into the hero and the man of genius; and with the most graceful
transition he would make his company as serious as himself.  When the
taper of his genius seemed extinguished, it was still surrounded by an
inflammable atmosphere of its own, and rekindled at the first approach of
light, and not seldom at a distance which made it seem to flame up
self-revived.  In Sir Alexander Ball, the same excellence was more an
affair of system; and he would listen, even to weak men, with a patience,
which, in so careful an economist of time, always demanded my admiration,
and not seldom excited my wonder.  It was one of his maxims, that a man
may suggest what he cannot give; adding, that a wild or silly plan had
more than once, from the vivid sense or distinct perception of its folly,
occasioned him to see what ought to be done in a new light, or with a
clearer insight.  There is, indeed, a hopeless sterility, a mere negation
of sense and thought, which, suggesting neither difference nor contrast,
cannot even furnish hints for recollection.  But on the other hand, there
are minds so whimsically constituted, that they may sometimes be
profitably interpreted by contraries, a process of which the great Tycho
Brahe is said to have availed himself in the case of the little Lackwit,
who used to sit and mutter at his feet while he was studying.  A mind of
this sort we may compare to a magnetic needle, the poles of which have
been suddenly reversed by a flash of lightning, or other more obscure
accident of nature.  It may be safely concluded, that to those whose
judgment or information he respected, Sir Alexander Ball did not content
himself with giving access and attention.  No! he seldom failed of
consulting them whenever the subject permitted any disclosure; and where
secrecy was necessary, he well knew how to acquire their opinion without
exciting even a conjecture concerning his immediate object.

Yet, with all this readiness of attention, and with all this zeal in
collecting the sentiments of the well informed, never was a man more
completely uninfluenced by authority than Sir Alexander Ball, never one
who sought less to tranquillise his own doubts by the mere suffrage and
coincidence of others.  The ablest suggestions had no conclusive weight
with him, till he had abstracted the opinion from its author, till he had
reduced it into a part of his own mind.  The thoughts of others were
always acceptable, as affording him at least a chance of adding to his
materials for reflection; but they never directed his judgment, much less
superseded it.  He even made a point of guarding against additional
confidence in the suggestions of his own mind, from finding that a person
of talents had formed the same conviction; unless the person, at the same
time, furnished some new argument, or had arrived at the same conclusion
by a different road.  On the latter circumstance he set an especial
value, and, I may almost say, courted the company and conversation of
those whose pursuits had least resembled his own, if he thought them men
of clear and comprehensive faculties.  During the period of our intimacy,
scarcely a week passed in which he did not desire me to think on some
particular subject, and to give him the result in writing.  Most
frequently, by the time I had fulfilled his request he would have written
down his own thoughts; and then, with the true simplicity of a great
mind, as free from ostentation as it was above jealousy, he would collate
the two papers in my presence, and never expressed more pleasure than in
the few instances in which I had happened to light on all the arguments
and points of view which had occurred to himself, with some additional
reasons which had escaped him.  A single new argument delighted him more
than the most perfect coincidence, unless, as before stated, the train of
thought had been very different from his own, and yet just and logical.
He had one quality of mind, which I have heard attributed to the late Mr.
Fox, that of deriving a keen pleasure from clear and powerful reasoning
for its own sake—a quality in the intellect which is nearly connected
with veracity and a love of justice in the moral character.

Valuing in others merits which he himself possessed, Sir Alexander Ball
felt no jealous apprehension of great talent.  Unlike those vulgar
functionaries, whose place is too big for them, a truth which they
attempt to disguise from themselves, and yet feel, he was under no
necessity of arming himself against the natural superiority of genius by
factitious contempt and an industrious association of extravagance and
impracticability, with every deviation from the ordinary routine; as the
geographers in the middle ages used to designate on their meagre maps the
greater part of the world as deserts or wildernesses, inhabited by
griffins and chimæras.  Competent to weigh each system or project by its
own arguments, he did not need these preventive charms and cautionary
amulets against delusion.  He endeavoured to make talent instrumental to
his purposes in whatever shape it appeared, and with whatever
imperfections it might be accompanied; but wherever talent was blended
with moral worth, he sought it out, loved and cherished it.  If it had
pleased Providence to preserve his life, and to place him on the same
course on which Nelson ran his race of glory, there are two points in
which Sir Alexander Ball would most closely have resembled his
illustrious friend.  The first is, that in his enterprises and
engagements he would have thought nothing done, till all had been done
that was possible:—

    Nil actum reputans, si quid superesset agendum.

The second, that he would have called forth all the talent and virtue
that existed within his sphere of influence, and created a band of
heroes, a gradation of officers, strong in head and strong in heart,
worthy to have been his companions and his successors in fame and public

Never was greater discernment shown in the selection of a fit agent, than
when Sir Alexander Ball was stationed off the coast of Malta to intercept
the supplies destined for the French garrison, and to watch the movements
of the French commanders, and those of the inhabitants who had been so
basely betrayed into their power.  Encouraged by the well-timed promises
of the English captain, the Maltese rose through all their casals (or
country towns) and themselves commenced the work of their emancipation,
by storming the citadel at Civita Vecchia, the ancient metropolis of
Malta, and the central height of the island.  Without discipline, without
a military leader, and almost without arms, these brave peasants
succeeded, and destroyed the French garrison by throwing them over the
battlements into the trench of the citadel.  In the course of this
blockade, and of the tedious siege of Valetta, Sir Alexander Ball
displayed all that strength of character, that variety and versatility of
talent, and that sagacity, derived in part from habitual circumspection,
but which, when the occasion demanded it, appeared intuitive and like an
instinct; at the union of which, in the same man, one of our oldest naval
commanders once told me, “he could never exhaust his wonder.”  The
citizens of Valetta were fond of relating their astonishment, and that of
the French, at Captain Ball’s ship wintering at anchor out of the reach
of the guns, in a depth of fathom unexampled, on the assured
impracticability of which the garrison had rested their main hope of
regular supplies.  Nor can I forget, or remember without some portion of
my original feeling, the solemn enthusiasm with which a venerable old
man, belonging to one of the distant casals, showed me the sea coombe,
where their father Ball (for so they commonly called him) first landed,
and afterwards pointed out the very place on which he first stepped on
their island; while the countenances of his townsmen, who accompanied
him, gave lively proofs that the old man’s enthusiasm was the
representative of the common feeling.

There is no reason to suppose that Sir Alexander Ball was at any time
chargeable with that weakness so frequent in Englishmen, and so injurious
to our interests abroad, of despising the inhabitants of other countries,
of losing all their good qualities in their vices, of making no allowance
for those vices, from their religious or political impediments, and still
more of mistaking for vices a mere difference of manners and customs.
But if ever he had any of this erroneous feeling, he completely freed
himself from it by living among the Maltese during their arduous trials,
as long as the French continued masters of their capital.  He witnessed
their virtues, and learnt to understand in what various shapes and even
disguises the valuable parts of human nature may exist.  In many
individuals, whose littleness and meanness in the common intercourse of
life would have stamped them at once as contemptible and worthless, with
ordinary Englishmen, he had found such virtues of disinterested
patriotism, fortitude, and self-denial, as would have done honour to an
ancient Roman.

There exists in England a gentlemanly character, a gentlemanly feeling,
very different even from that which is the most like it, the character of
a well-born Spaniard, and unexampled in the rest of Europe.  This feeling
probably originated in the fortunate circumstance, that the titles of our
English nobility follow the law of their property, and are inherited by
the eldest sons only.  From this source under the influences of our
constitution, and of our astonishing trade, it has diffused itself in
different modifications through the whole country.  The uniformity of our
dress among all classes above that of the day labourer, while it has
authorised all classes to assume the appearance of gentlemen, has at the
same time inspired the wish to conform their manners, and still more
their ordinary actions in social intercourse, to their notions of the
gentlemanly, the most commonly received attribute of which character is a
certain generosity in trifles.  On the other hand, the encroachments of
the lower classes on the higher, occasioned, and favoured by this
resemblance in exteriors, by this absence of any cognisable marks of
distinction, have rendered each class more reserved and jealous in their
general communion, and far more than our climate, or natural temper, have
caused that haughtiness and reserve in our outward demeanour, which is so
generally complained of among foreigners.  Far be it from me to
depreciate the value of this gentlemanly feeling: I respect it under all
its forms and varieties, from the House of Commons to the gentleman in
the shilling gallery.  It is always the ornament of virtue, and
oftentimes a support; but it is a wretched substitute for it.  Its worth,
as a moral good, is by no means in proportion to its value, as a social
advantage.  These observations are not irrelevant; for to the want of
reflection, that this diffusion of gentlemanly feeling among us is not
the growth of our moral excellence, but the effect of various accidental
advantages peculiar to England; to our not considering that it is
unreasonable and uncharitable to expect the same consequences, where the
same causes have not existed to produce them; and, lastly, to our
proneness to regard the absence of this character (which, as I have
before said, does, for the greater part, and, in the common apprehension,
consist in a certain frankness and generosity in the detail of action) as
decisive against the sum total of personal or national worth; we must, I
am convinced, attribute a large portion of that conduct, which in many
instances has left the inhabitants of countries conquered or appropriated
by Great Britain, doubtful whether the various solid advantages which
they derived from our protection and just government, were not bought
dearly by the wounds inflicted on their feelings and prejudices by the
contemptuous and insolent demeanour of the English as individuals.  The
reader who bears this remark in mind, will meet, in the course of this
narration, more than one passage that will serve as its comment and

It was, I know, a general opinion among the English in the Mediterranean,
that Sir Alexander Ball thought too well of the Maltese, and did not
share in the enthusiasm of Britons concerning their own superiority.  To
the former part of the charge I shall only reply at present, that a more
venial, and almost desirable fault, can scarcely be attributed to a
governor, than that of a strong attachment to the people whom he was sent
to govern.  The latter part of the charge is false, if we are to
understand by it, that he did not think his countrymen superior on the
whole to the other nations of Europe; but it is true, as far as relates
to his belief, that the English thought themselves still better than they
are; that they dwelt on and exaggerated their national virtues, and
weighed them by the opposite vices of foreigners, instead of the virtues
which those foreigners possessed and they themselves wanted.  Above all,
as statesmen, we must consider qualities by their practical uses.  Thus,
he entertained no doubt that the English were superior to all others in
the kind and the degree of their courage, which is marked by far greater
enthusiasm than the courage of the Germans and northern nations, and by a
far greater steadiness and self-subsistency than that of the French.  It
is more closely connected with the character of the individual.  The
courage of an English army (he used to say) is the sum total of the
courage which the individual soldiers bring with them to it, rather than
of that which they derive from it.  This remark of Sir Alexander’s was
forcibly recalled to my mind when I was at Naples.  A Russian and an
English regiment were drawn up together in the same square: “See,” said a
Neapolitan to me, who had mistaken me for one of his countrymen, “there
is but one face in that whole regiment, while in that” (pointing to the
English) “every soldier has a face of his own.”  On the other hand, there
are qualities scarcely less requisite to the completion of the military
character, in which Sir A. did not hesitate to think the English inferior
to the continental nations; as for instance, both in the power and the
disposition to endure privations; in the friendly temper necessary, when
troops of different nations are to act in concert; in their obedience to
the regulations of their commanding officers, respecting their treatment
of the inhabitants of the countries through which they are marching, as
well as in many other points, not immediately connected with their
conduct in the field: and, above all, in sobriety and temperance.  During
the siege of Valetta, especially during the sore distress to which the
besiegers were for some time exposed from the failure of provision, Sir
Alexander Ball had an ample opportunity of observing and weighing the
separate merits and demerits of the native and of the English troops; and
surely since the publication of Sir John Moore’s campaign, there can be
no just offence taken, though I should say, that before the walls of
Valetta, as well as in the plains of Galicia, an indignant commander
might, with too great propriety, have addressed the English soldiery in
the words of an old dramatist—

    Will you still owe your virtues to your bellies?
    And only then think nobly when y’are full?
    Doth fodder keep you honest?  Are you bad
    When out of flesh?  And think you’t an excuse
    Of vile and ignominious actions, that
    Y’ are lean and out of liking?

                                            CARTWRIGHT’S _Love’s Convert_.

From the first insurrectionary movement to the final departure of the
French from the island, though the civil and military powers and the
whole of the island, save Valetta, were in the hands of the peasantry,
not a single act of excess can be charged against the Maltese, if we
except the razing of one house at Civita Vecchia belonging to a notorious
and abandoned traitor, the creature and hireling of the French.  In no
instance did they injure, insult, or plunder, any one of the native
nobility, or employ even the appearance of force toward them, except in
the collection of the lead and iron from their houses and gardens, in
order to supply themselves with bullets; and this very appearance was
assumed from the generous wish to shelter the nobles from the resentment
of the French, should the patriotic efforts of the peasantry prove
unsuccessful.  At the dire command of famine the Maltese troops did
indeed once force their way to the ovens in which the bread for the
British soldiery was baked, and were clamorous that an equal division
should be made.  I mention this unpleasant circumstance, because it
brought into proof the firmness of Sir Alexander Ball’s character, his
presence of mind, and generous disregard of danger and personal
responsibility, where the slavery or emancipation, the misery or the
happiness, of an innocent and patriotic people were involved; and because
his conduct in this exigency evinced that his general habits of
circumspection and deliberation were the results of wisdom and complete
self-possession, and not the easy virtues of a spirit constitutionally
timorous and hesitating.  He was sitting at table with the principal
British officers, when a certain general addressed him in strong and
violent terms concerning this outrage of the Maltese, reminding him of
the necessity of exerting his commanding influence in the present case,
or the consequences must be taken.  “What,” replied Sir Alexander Ball,
“would you have us do?  Would you have us threaten death to men dying
with famine?  Can you suppose that the hazard of being shot will weigh
with whole regiments acting under a common necessity?  Does not the
extremity of hunger take away all difference between men and animals? and
is it not as absurd to appeal to the prudence of a body of men starving,
as to a herd of famished wolves?  No, general, I will not degrade myself
or outrage humanity by menacing famine with massacre!  More effectual
means must be taken.”  With these words he rose and left the room, and
having first consulted with Sir Thomas Troubridge, he determined at his
own risk on a step, which the extreme necessity warranted, and which the
conduct of the Neapolitan court amply justified.  For this court, though
terror-stricken by the French, was still actuated by hatred to the
English, and a jealousy of their power in the Mediterranean; and in this
so strange and senseless a manner, that we must join the extremes of
imbecility and treachery in the same cabinet, in order to find it
comprehensible.  Though the very existence of Naples and Sicily, as a
nation, depended wholly and exclusively on British support; though the
royal family owed their personal safety to the British fleet; though not
only their dominions and their rank, but the liberty and even the lives
of Ferdinand and his family, were interwoven with our success; yet with
an infatuation scarcely credible, the most affecting representations of
the distress of the besiegers, and of the utter insecurity of Sicily if
the French remained possessors of Malta, were treated with neglect; and
the urgent remonstrances for the permission of importing corn from
Messina, were answered only by sanguinary edicts precluding all supply.
Sir Alexander Ball sent for his senior lieutenant, and gave him orders to
proceed immediately to the port of Messina, and there to seize and bring
with him to Malta the ships laden with corn, of the number of which Sir
Alexander had received accurate information.  These orders were executed
without delay, to the great delight and profit of the shipowners and
proprietors; the necessity of raising the siege was removed; and the
author of the measure waited in calmness for the consequences that might
result to himself personally.  But not a complaint, not a murmur,
proceeded from the court of Naples.  The sole result was, that the
governor of Malta became an especial object of its hatred, its fear, and
its respect.

The whole of this tedious siege, from its commencement to the signing of
the capitulation, called forth into constant activity the rarest and most
difficult virtues of a commanding mind; virtues of no show or splendour
in the vulgar apprehension, yet more infallible characteristics of true
greatness than the most unequivocal displays of enterprise and active
daring.  Scarcely a day passed in which Sir Alexander Ball’s patience,
forbearance, and inflexible constancy were not put to the severest trial.
He had not only to remove the misunderstandings that arose between the
Maltese and their allies, to settle the differences among the Maltese
themselves, and to organise their efforts; he was likewise engaged in the
more difficult and unthankful task of counteracting the weariness,
discontent, and despondency of his own countrymen—a task, however, which
he accomplished by management and address, and an alternation of real
firmness with apparent yielding.  During many months he remained the only
Englishman who did not think the siege hopeless, and the object
worthless.  He often spoke of the time in which he resided at the country
seat of the grand master at St. Antonio, four miles from Valetta, as
perhaps the most trying period of his life.  For some weeks Captain
Vivian was his sole English companion, of whom, as his partner in
anxiety, he always expressed himself with affectionate esteem.  Sir
Alexander Ball’s presence was absolutely necessary to the Maltese, who,
accustomed to be governed by him, became incapable of acting in concert
without his immediate influence.  In the outburst of popular emotion, the
impulse which produces an insurrection, is for a brief while its
sufficient pilot: the attraction constitutes the cohesion, and the common
provocation, supplying an immediate object, not only unites, but directs
the multitude.  But this first impulse had passed away, and Sir Alexander
Ball was the one individual who possessed the general confidence.  On him
they relied with implicit faith; and even after they had long enjoyed the
blessings of British government and protection, it was still remarkable
with what child-like helplessness they were in the habit of applying to
him, even in their private concerns.  It seemed as if they thought him
made on purpose to think for them all.  Yet his situation at St. Antonio
was one of great peril; and he attributed his preservation to the
dejection which had now begun to prey on the spirits of the French
garrison, and which rendered them unenterprising and almost passive,
aided by the dread which the nature of the country inspired.  For
subdivided as it was into small fields, scarcely larger than a cottage
garden, and each of these little squares of land inclosed with
substantial stone walls; these too from the necessity of having the
fields perfectly level, rising in tiers above each other; the whole of
the inhabited part of the island was an effective fortification for all
the purposes of annoyance and offensive warfare.  Sir Alexander Ball
exerted himself successfully in procuring information respecting the
state and temper of the garrison, and, by the assistance of the clergy
and the almost universal fidelity of the Maltese, contrived that the
spies in the pay of the French should be in truth his own confidential
agents.  He had already given splendid proofs that he could outfight
them; but here, and in his after diplomatic intercourse previous to the
recommencement of the war, he likewise outwitted them.  He once told me
with a smile, as we were conversing on the practice of laying wagers,
that he was sometimes inclined to think that the final perseverance in
the siege was not a little indebted to several valuable bets of his own,
he well knowing at the time, and from information which himself alone
possessed, that he should certainly lose them.  Yet this artifice had a
considerable effect in suspending the impatience of the officers, and in
supplying topics for dispute and conversation.  At length, however, the
two French frigates, the sailing of which had been the subject of these
wagers, left the great harbour on the 24th of August, 1800, with a part
of the garrison: and one of them soon became a prize to the English.  Sir
Alexander Ball related to me the circumstances which occasioned the
escape of the other; but I do not recollect them with sufficient accuracy
to dare repeat them in this place.  On the 15th of September following,
the capitulation was signed, and after a blockade of two years the
English obtained possession of Valetta, and remained masters of the whole
island and its dependencies.

Anxious not to give offence, but more anxious to communicate the truth,
it is not without pain that I find myself under the moral obligation of
remonstrating against the silence concerning Sir Alexander Ball’s
services or the transfer of them to others.  More than once has the
latter aroused my indignation in the reported speeches of the House of
Commons: and as to the former, I need only state that in Rees’s
Encyclopædia there is an historical article of considerable length under
the word Malta, in which Sir Alexander’s name does not once occur!
During a residence of eighteen months in that island, I possessed and
availed myself of the best possible means of information, not only from
eye-witnesses, but likewise from the principal agents themselves.  And I
now thus publicly and unequivocally assert, that to Sir A. Ball
pre-eminently—and if I had said, to Sir A. Ball alone, the ordinary use
of the word under such circumstances would bear me out—the capture and
the preservation of Malta were owing, with every blessing that a powerful
mind and a wise heart could confer on its docile and grateful
inhabitants.  With a similar pain I proceed to avow my sentiments on this
capitulation, by which Malta was delivered up to his Britannic Majesty
and his allies, without the least mention made of the Maltese.  With a
warmth honourable both to his head and his heart, Sir Alexander Ball
pleaded, as not less a point of sound policy than of plain justice, that
the Maltese, by some representative, should be made a party in the
capitulation, and a joint subscriber in the signature.  They had never
been the slaves or the property of the Knights of St. John, but freemen
and the true landed proprietors of the country, the civil and military
government of which, under certain restrictions, had been vested in that
Order; yet checked by the rights and influences of the clergy and the
native nobility, and by the customs and ancient laws of the island.  This
trust the Knights had, with the blackest treason and the most profligate
perjury, betrayed and abandoned.  The right of government of course
reverted to the landed proprietors and the clergy.  Animated by a just
sense of this right, the Maltese had risen of their own accord, had
contended for it in defiance of death and danger, had fought bravely, and
endured patiently.  Without undervaluing the military assistance
afterwards furnished by Great Britain (though how scanty this was before
the arrival of General Pigot is well known), it remains undeniable, that
the Maltese had taken the greatest share both in the fatigues and in the
privations consequent on the siege; and that had not the greatest virtues
and the most exemplary fidelity been uniformly displayed by them, the
English troops (they not being more numerous than they had been for the
greater part of the two years) could not possibly have remained before
the fortifications of Valetta, defended as that city was by a French
garrison that greatly outnumbered the British besiegers.  Still less
could there have been the least hope of ultimate success; as if any part
of the Maltese peasantry had been friendly to the French, or even
indifferent, if they had not all indeed been most zealous and persevering
in their hostility towards them, it would have been impracticable so to
blockade that island as to have precluded the arrival of supplies.  If
the siege had proved unsuccessful, the Maltese were well aware that they
should be exposed to all the horrors which revenge and wounded pride
could dictate to an unprincipled, rapacious, and sanguinary soldiery; and
now that success has crowned their efforts, is this to be their reward,
that their own allies are to bargain for them with the French as for a
herd of slaves, whom the French had before purchased from a former
proprietor?  If it be urged, that there is no established government in
Malta, is it not equally true that through the whole population of the
island there is not a single dissentient? and thus that the chief
inconvenience which an established authority is to obviate is virtually
removed by the admitted fact of their unanimity?  And have they not a
bishop, and a dignified clergy, their judges and municipal magistrates,
who were at all times sharers in the power of the government, and now,
supported by the unanimous suffrage of the inhabitants, have a rightful
claim to be considered as its representatives?  Will it not be oftener
said than answered, that the main difference between French and English
injustice rests in this point alone, that the French seized on the
Maltese without any previous pretences of friendship, while the English
procured possession of the island by means of their friendly promises,
and by the co-operation of the natives afforded in confident reliance on
these promises?  The impolicy of refusing the signature on the part of
the Maltese was equally evident; since such refusal could answer no one
purpose but that of alienating their affections by a wanton insult to
their feelings.  For the Maltese were not only ready but desirous and
eager to place themselves at the same time under British protection, to
take the oaths of loyalty as subjects of the British Crown, and to
acknowledge their island to belong to it.  These representations,
however, were overruled; and I dare affirm from my own experience in the
Mediterranean, that our conduct in this instance, added to the impression
which had been made at Corsica, Minorca, and elsewhere, and was often
referred to by men of reflection in Sicily, who have more than once said
to me, “A connection with Great Britain, with the consequent extension
and security of our commerce, are indeed great blessings: but who can
rely on their permanence? or that we shall not be made to pay bitterly
for our zeal as partisans of England, whenever it shall suit its plans to
deliver us back to our old oppressors?”


    “The way of ancient ordinance, though it winds,
    Is yet no devious way.  Straight forward goes
    The lightning’s path; and straight the fearful path
    Of the cannon-ball.  Direct it flies and rapid,
    Shattering that it may reach, and shattering what it reaches.
    My son! the road the human being travels,
    That, on which blessing comes and goes, doth follow
    The river’s course, the valley’s playful windings,
    Curves round the corn-field and the hill of vines,
    Honouring the holy bounds of property!
                There exists
    A higher than the warrior’s excellence.”


CAPTAIN BALL’S services in Malta were honoured with his sovereign’s
approbation, transmitted in a letter from the Secretary Dundas, and with
a baronetcy.  A thousand pounds were at the same time directed to be paid
him from the Maltese treasury.  The best and most appropriate addition to
the applause of his king and his country, Sir Alexander Ball found in the
feelings and faithful affection of the Maltese.  The enthusiasm
manifested in reverential gestures and shouts of triumph whenever their
friend and deliverer appeared in public, was the utterance of a deep
feeling, and in nowise the mere ebullition of animal sensibility; which
is not indeed a part of the Maltese character.  The truth of this
observation will not be doubted by any person who has witnessed the
religious processions in honour of the favourite saints, both at Valetta
and at Messina or Palermo, and who must have been struck with the
contrast between the apparent apathy, or at least the perfect sobriety of
the Maltese, and the fanatical agitations of the Sicilian populace.
Among the latter each man’s soul seems hardly containable in his body,
like a prisoner whose gaol is on fire, flying madly from one barred
outlet to another; while the former might suggest the suspicion that
their bodies were on the point of sinking into the same slumber with
their understandings.  But their political deliverance was a thing that
came home to their hearts, and intertwined with their most impassioned
recollections, personal and patriotic.  To Sir Alexander Ball exclusively
the Maltese themselves attributed their emancipation; on him too they
rested their hopes of the future.  Whenever he appeared in Valetta, the
passengers on each side, through the whole length of the street, stopped,
and remained uncovered till he had passed; the very clamours of the
market-place were hushed at his entrance, and then exchanged for shouts
of joy and welcome.  Even after the lapse of years he never appeared in
any one of their casals, which did not lie in the direct road between
Valetta and St. Antonio, his summer residence, but the women and
children, with such of the men who were not at labour in their fields,
fell into ranks and followed or preceded him, singing the Maltese song
which had been made in his honour, and which was scarcely less familiar
to the inhabitants of Malta and Gozo than “God save the King” to Britons.
When he went to the gate through the city, the young men refrained
talking, and the aged arose and stood up.  When the ear heard then it
blessed him, and when the eye saw him it gave witness to him, because he
delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and those that had
none to help them.  The blessing of them that were ready to perish came
upon him, and he caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.

These feelings were afterwards amply justified by his administration of
the government; and the very excesses of their gratitude on their first
deliverance proved, in the end, only to be acknowledgments antedated.
For some time after the departure of the French, the distress was so
general and so severe, that a large proportion of the lower classes
became mendicants, and one of the greatest thoroughfares of Valetta still
retains the name of the “_Nix mangiare stairs_,” from the crowd who used
there to assail the ears of the passengers with cries of “_nix
mangiare_,” or “nothing to eat,” the former word _nix_ being the low
German pronunciation of _nichts_, nothing.  By what means it was
introduced into Malta, I know not; but it became the common vehicle both
of solicitation and refusal, the Maltese thinking it an English word, and
the English supposing it to be Maltese.  I often felt it as a pleasing
remembrancer of the evil day gone by, when a tribe of little children,
quite naked, as is the custom of that climate, and each with a pair of
gold earrings in its ears, and all fat and beautifully proportioned,
would suddenly leave their play, and, looking round to see that their
parents were not in sight, change their shouts of merriment for “_nix
mangiare_,” awkwardly imitating the plaintive tones of mendicancy; while
the white teeth in their little swarthy faces gave a splendour to the
happy and confessing laugh with which they received the good-humoured
rebuke or refusal, and ran back to their former sport.

In the interim between the capitulation of the French garrison and Sir
Alexander Ball’s appointment as His Majesty’s civil commissioner for
Malta, his zeal for the Maltese was neither suspended nor unproductive of
important benefits.  He was enabled to remove many prejudices and
misunderstandings, and to persons of no inconsiderable influence gave
juster notions of the true importance of the island to Great Britain.  He
displayed the magnitude of the trade of the Mediterranean in its existing
state; showed the immense extent to which it might be carried, and the
hollowness of the opinion that this trade was attached to the south of
France by any natural or indissoluble bond of connection.  I have some
reason for likewise believing that his wise and patriotic representations
prevented Malta from being made the seat of and pretext for a numerous
civil establishment, in hapless imitation of Corsica, Ceylon, and the
Cape of Good Hope.  It was at least generally rumoured that it had been
in the contemplation of the Ministry to appoint Sir Ralph Abercrombie as
governor, with a salary of £10,000 a year, and to reside in England,
while one of his countrymen was to be the lieutenant-governor at £5,000 a
year, to which were to be added a long _etcetera_ of other offices and
places of proportional emolument.  This threatened appendix to the State
Calendar may have existed only in the imaginations of the reporters, yet
inspired some uneasy apprehensions in the minds of many well-wishers to
the Maltese, who knew that—for a foreign settlement at least, and one,
too, possessing in all the ranks and functions of society an ample
population of its own—such a stately and wide-branching tree of
patronage, though delightful to the individuals who are to pluck its
golden apples, sheds, like the manchineel, unwholesome and corrosive dews
on the multitude who are to rest beneath its shade.  It need not,
however, be doubted, that Sir Alexander Ball would exert himself to
preclude any such intention, by stating and evincing the extreme impolicy
and injustice of the plan, as well as its utter inutility in the case of
Malta.  With the exception of the governor and of the public secretary,
both of whom undoubtedly should be natives of Great Britain and appointed
by the British Government, there was no civil office that could be of the
remotest advantage to the island which was not already filled by the
natives, and the functions of which none could perform so well as they.
The number of inhabitants (he would state) was prodigious compared with
the extent of the island, though from the fear of the Moors one-fourth of
its surface remained unpeopled and uncultivated.  To deprive, therefore,
the middle and lower classes of such places as they had been accustomed
to hold, would be cruel; while the places held by the nobility were, for
the greater part such as none but natives could perform the duties of.
By any innovation we should affront the higher classes and alienate the
affections of all, not only without any imaginable advantage but with the
certainty of great loss.  Were Englishmen to be employed, the salaries
must be increased fourfold, and would yet be scarcely worth acceptance;
and in higher offices, such as those of the civil and criminal judges,
the salaries must be augmented more than tenfold.  For, greatly to the
credit of their patriotism and moral character, the Maltese gentry sought
these places as honourable distinctions, which endeared them to their
fellow-countrymen, and at the same time rendered the yoke of the Order
somewhat less grievous and galling.  With the exception of the Maltese
secretary, whose situation was one of incessant labour, and who at the
same time performed the duties of law counsellor to the Government, the
highest salaries scarcely exceeded £100 a year, and were barely
sufficient to defray the increased expenses of the functionaries for an
additional equipage, or one of more imposing appearance.  Besides, it was
of importance that the person placed at the head of that Government
should be looked up to by the natives, and possess the means of
distinguishing and rewarding those who had been most faithful and zealous
in their attachment to Great Britain, and hostile to their former
tyrants.  The number of the employments to be conferred would give
considerable influence to His Majesty’s civil representative, while the
trifling amount of the emolument attached to each precluded all
temptation of abusing it.

Sir Alexander Ball would likewise, it is probable, urge, that the
commercial advantages of Malta, which were most intelligible to the
English public, and best fitted to render our retention of the island
popular, must necessarily be of very slow growth, though finally they
would become great, and of an extent not to be calculated.  For this
reason, therefore, it was highly desirable that the possession should be,
and appear to be, at least inexpensive.  After the British Government had
made one advance for a stock of corn sufficient to place the island a
year beforehand, the sum total drawn from Great Britain need not exceed
£25,000, or at most £30,000 annually: excluding of course the expenditure
connected with our own military and navy, and the repair of the
fortifications, which latter expense ought to be much less than at
Gibraltar, from the multitude and low wages of the labourers in Malta,
and from the softness and admirable quality of the stone.  Indeed much
more might safely be promised on the assumption that a wise and generous
system of policy were adopted and persevered in.  The monopoly of the
Maltese corn-trade by the Government formed an exception to a general
rule, and by a strange, yet valid anomaly in the operations of political
economy, was not more necessary than advantageous to the inhabitants.
The chief reason is, that the produce of the island itself barely
suffices for one-fourth of its inhabitants, although fruits and
vegetables form so large a part of their nourishment.  Meantime the
harbours of Malta, and its equidistance from Europe, Asia, and Africa,
gave it a vast and unnatural importance in the present relations of the
great European powers, and imposed on its government, whether native or
dependent, the necessity of considering the whole island as a single
garrison, the provisioning of which could not be trusted to the
casualties of ordinary commerce.  What is actually necessary is seldom
injurious.  Thus in Malta bread is better and cheaper on an average than
in Italy or the coast of Barbary; while a similar interference with the
corn-trade in Sicily impoverishes the inhabitants, and keeps the
agriculture in a state of barbarism.  But the point in question is the
expense to Great Britain.  Whether the monopoly be good or evil in
itself, it remains true, that in this established usage, and in the
gradual enclosure of the uncultivated district, such resources exist as
without the least oppression might render the civil government in Valetta
independent of the Treasury at home, finally taking upon itself even the
repair of the fortifications, and thus realise one instance of an
important possession that cost the country nothing.

But now the time arrived which threatened to frustrate the patriotism of
the Maltese themselves, and all the zealous efforts of their
disinterested friend.  Soon after the war had for the first time become
indisputably just and necessary, the people at large and a majority of
independent senators, incapable, as it might seem, of translating their
fanatical anti-Jacobinism into a well-grounded, yet equally impassioned,
anti-Gallicanism, grew impatient for peace, or rather for a name, under
which the most terrific of all wars would be incessantly waged against
us.  Our conduct was not much wiser than that of the weary traveller, who
having proceeded half way on his journey, procured a short rest for
himself by getting up behind a chaise which was going the contrary road.
In the strange treaty of Amiens, in which we neither recognised our
former relations with France nor with the other European powers, nor
formed any new ones, the compromise concerning Malta formed the prominent
feature; and its nominal re-delivery to the Order of St. John was
authorised, in the minds of the people, by Lord Nelson’s opinion of its
worthlessness to Great Britain in a political or naval view.  It is a
melancholy fact, and one that must often sadden a reflective and
philanthropic mind, how little moral considerations weigh even with the
noblest nations, how vain are the strongest appeals to justice, humanity,
and national honour, unless when the public mind is under the immediate
influence of the cheerful or vehement passions, indignation or avaricious
hope.  In the whole class of human infirmities there is none that make
such loud appeals to prudence, and yet so frequently outrages its
plainest dictates, as the spirit of fear.  The worst cause conducted in
hope is an overmatch for the noblest managed by despondency; in both
cases, an unnatural conjunction that recalls the old fable of Love and
Death, taking each the arrows of the other by mistake.  When islands that
had courted British protection in reliance upon British honour, are with
their inhabitants and proprietors abandoned to the resentment which we
had tempted them to provoke, what wonder, if the opinion becomes general,
that alike to England as to France, the fates and fortunes of other
nations are but the counters, with which the bloody game of war is
played; and that notwithstanding the great and acknowledged difference
between the two Governments during possession, yet the protection of
France is more desirable because it is more likely to endure? for what
the French take, they keep.  Often both in Sicily and Malta have I heard
the case of Minorca referred to, where a considerable portion of the most
respectable gentry and merchants (no provision having been made for their
protection on the re-delivery of that island to Spain) expiated in
dungeons the warmth and forwardness of their predilection for Great

It has been by some persons imagined, that Lord Nelson was considerably
influenced, in his public declaration concerning the value of Malta, by
ministerial flattery, and his own sense of the great serviceableness of
that opinion to the persons in office.  This supposition is, however,
wholly false and groundless.  His lordship’s opinion was indeed greatly
shaken afterwards, if not changed; but at that time he spoke in strictest
correspondence with his existing convictions.  He said no more than he
had often previously declared to his private friends: it was the point on
which, after some amicable controversy, his lordship and Sir Alexander
Ball had “agreed to differ.”  Though the opinion itself may have lost the
greatest part of its interest, and except for the historian is, as it
were, superannuated; yet the grounds and causes of it, as far as they
arose out of Lord Nelson’s particular character, and may perhaps tend to
re-enliven our recollection of a hero so deeply and justly beloved, will
for ever possess an interest of their own.  In an essay, too, which
purports to be no more than a series of sketches and fragments, the
reader, it is hoped, will readily excuse an occasional digression, and a
more desultory style of narration than could be tolerated in a work of
regular biography.

Lord Nelson was an admiral every inch of him.  He looked at everything,
not merely in its possible relations to the naval service in general, but
in its immediate bearings on his own squadron; to his officers, his men,
to the particular ships themselves, his affections were as strong and
ardent as those of a lover.  Hence, though his temper was
constitutionally irritable and uneven, yet never was a commander so
enthusiastically loved by men of all ranks, from the captain of the fleet
to the youngest ship-boy.  Hence, too, the unexampled harmony which
reigned in his fleet, year after year, under circumstances that might
well have undermined the patience of the best-balanced dispositions, much
more of men with the impetuous character of British sailors.  Year after
year, the same dull duties of a wearisome blockade, of doubtful
policy—little, if any, opportunity of making prizes; and the few prizes,
which accident might throw in the way, of little or no value; and when at
last the occasion presented itself which would have compensated for all,
then a disappointment as sudden and unexpected as it was unjust and
cruel, and the cup dashed from their lips!  Add to these trials the sense
of enterprises checked by feebleness and timidity elsewhere, not omitting
the tiresomeness of the Mediterranean sea, sky, and climate; and the
unjarring and cheerful spirit of affectionate brotherhood, which linked
together the hearts of that whole squadron, will appear not less
wonderful to us than admirable and affecting.  When the resolution was
taken of commencing hostilities against Spain, before any intelligence
was sent to Lord Nelson, another admiral, with two or three ships of the
line, was sent into the Mediterranean, and stationed before Cadiz, for
the express purpose of intercepting the Spanish prizes.  The admiral
despatched on this lucrative service gave no information to Lord Nelson
of his arrival in the same sea, and five weeks elapsed before his
lordship became acquainted with the circumstance.  The prizes thus taken
were immense.  A month or two sufficed to enrich the commander and
officers of this small and highly-favoured squadron; while to Nelson and
his fleet the sense of having done their duty, and the consciousness of
the glorious services which they had performed, were considered, it must
be presumed, as an abundant remuneration for all their toils and long
suffering!  It was, indeed, an unexampled circumstance, that a small
squadron should be sent to the station which had been long occupied by a
large fleet, commanded by the darling of the navy, and the glory of the
British empire, to the station where this fleet had for years been
wearing away in the most barren, repulsive, and spirit-trying service, in
which the navy can be employed! and that this minor squadron should be
sent independently of, and without any communication with the commander
of the former fleet, for the express and solitary purpose of stepping
between it and the Spanish prizes, and as soon as this short and pleasant
service was performed, of bringing home the unshared booty with all
possible caution and despatch.  The substantial advantages of naval
service were, perhaps, deemed of too gross a nature for men already
rewarded with the grateful affections of their own countrymen, and the
admiration of the whole world!  They were to be awarded, therefore, on a
principle of compensation to a commander less rich in fame, and whose
laurels, though not scanty, were not yet sufficiently luxuriant to hide
the golden crown which is the appropriate ornament of victory in the
bloodless war of commercial capture!  Of all the wounds which were ever
inflicted on Nelson’s feelings (and there were not a few), this was the
deepest—this rankled most!  “I had thought” (said the gallant man, in a
letter written on the first feelings of the affront), “I fancied—but nay,
it must have been a dream, an idle dream—yet, I confess it, I did fancy,
that I had done my country service—and thus they use me.  It was not
enough to have robbed me once before of my West India harvest—now they
have taken away the Spanish—and under what circumstances, and with what
pointed aggravations?  Yet, if I know my own thoughts, it is not for
myself, or on my own account chiefly, that I feel the sting, and the
disappointment; no! it is for my brave officers; for my noble-minded
friends and comrades—such a gallant set of fellows! such a hand of
brothers!  My heart swells at the thought of them!”

This strong attachment of the heroic admiral to his fleet, faithfully
repaid by an equal attachment on their part to their admiral, had no
little influence in attuning their hearts to each other; and when he
died, it seemed as if no man was a stranger to another; for all were made
acquaintances by the rights of a common anguish.  In the fleet itself,
many a private quarrel was forgotten, no more to be remembered; many, who
had been alienated, became once more good friends; yea, many a one was
reconciled to his very enemy, and loved and (as it were) thanked him for
the bitterness of his grief, as if it had been an act of consolation to
himself in an intercourse of private sympathy.  The tidings arrived at
Naples on the day that I returned to that city from Calabria; and never
can I forget the sorrow and consternation that lay on every countenance.
Even to this day there are times when I seem to see, as in a vision,
separate groups and individual faces of the picture.  Numbers stopped and
shook hands with me because they had seen the tears on my cheek, and
conjectured that I was an Englishman; and several, as they held my hand,
burst themselves into tears.  And though it may awake a smile, yet it
pleased and affected me, as a proof of the goodness of the human heart
struggling to exercise its kindness in spite of prejudices the most
obstinate, and eager to carry on its love and honour into the life beyond
life, that it was whispered about Naples, that Lord Nelson had become a
good Catholic before his death.  The absurdity of the fiction is a sort
of measurement of the fond and affectionate esteem which had ripened the
pious wish of some kind individual, through all the gradations of
possibility and probability, into a confident assertion, believed and
affirmed by hundreds.  The feelings of Great Britain on this awful event
have been described well and worthily by a living poet, who has happily
blended the passion and wild transitions of lyric song with the swell and
solemnity of epic narration.

    “—Thou art fall’n! fall’n, in the lap
    Of victory.  To thy country thou cam’st back,
    Thou, conqueror, to triumphal Albion cam’st
    A corse!  I saw before thy hearse pass on
    The comrades of thy perils and renown.
    The frequent tear upon their dauntless breasts
    Fell.  I beheld the pomp thick gathered round
    The trophied car that bore thy graced remains
    Through armed ranks, and a nation gazing on.
    Bright glowed the sun, and not a cloud distained
    Heaven’s arch of gold, but all was gloom beneath.
    A holy and unutterable pang
    Thrilled on the soul.  Awe and mute anguish fell
    On all.—Yet high the public bosom throbbed
    With triumph.  And if one, ’mid that vast pomp,
    If but the voice of one had shouted forth
    The name of NELSON, thou hadst past along,
    Thou in thy hearse to burial past, as oft
    Before the van of battle, proudly rode
    Thy prow, down Britain’s line, shout after shout
    Rending the air with triumph, ere thy hand
    Had lanced the bolt of victory.”

                                                  SOTHEBY (_Saul_, p. 80).

I introduced this digression with an apology, yet have extended it so
much further than I had designed, that I must once more request my reader
to excuse me.  It was to be expected (I have said) that Lord Nelson would
appreciate the isle of Malta from its relations to the British fleet on
the Mediterranean station.  It was the fashion of the day to style Egypt
the key of India, and Malta the key of Egypt.  Nelson saw the hollowness
of this metaphor; or if he only doubted its applicability in the former
instance, he was sure that it was false in the latter.  Egypt might or
might not be the key of India, but Malta was certainly not the key of
Egypt.  It was not intended to keep constantly two distinct fleets in
that sea; and the largest naval force at Malta would not supersede the
necessity of a squadron off Toulon.  Malta does not lie in the direct
course from Toulon to Alexandria; and from the nature of the winds
(taking one time with another) the comparative length of the voyage to
the latter port will be found far less than a view of the map would
suggest, and in truth of little practical importance.  If it were the
object of the French fleet to avoid Malta in its passage to Egypt, the
port-admiral at Valetta would in all probability receive his first
intelligence of its course from Minorca or the squadron off Toulon,
instead of communicating it.  In what regards the refitting and
provisioning of the fleet, either on ordinary or extraordinary occasions,
Malta was as inconvenient as Minorca was advantageous, not only from its
distance (which yet was sufficient to render it almost useless in cases
of the most pressing necessity, as after a severe action or injuries of
tempest), but likewise from the extreme difficulty, if not
impracticability of leaving the harbour of Valetta with a NW. wind, which
often lasts for weeks together.  In all these points his lordship’s
observations were perfectly just; and it must be conceded by all persons
acquainted with the situation and circumstances of Malta, that its
importance, as a British possession, if not exaggerated on the whole, was
unduly magnified in several important particulars.  Thus Lord Minto, in a
speech delivered at a county meeting, and afterwards published, affirms,
that supposing (what no one could consider as unlikely to take place)
that the court of Naples should be compelled to act under the influence
of France, and that the Barbary powers were unfriendly to us, either in
consequence of French intrigues or from their own caprice and insolence,
there would not be a single port, harbour, bay, creek, or roadstead in
the whole Mediterranean, from which our men-of-war could obtain a single
ox or a hogshead of fresh water, unless Great Britain retained possession
of Malta.  The noble speaker seems not to have been aware, that under the
circumstances supposed by him, Odessa too being closed against us by a
Russian war, the island of Malta itself would be no better than a vast
almshouse of 75,000 persons, exclusive of the British soldiery, all of
whom must be regularly supplied with corn and salt meat from Great
Britain or Ireland.  The population of Malta and Gozo exceeds 100,000,
while the food of all kinds produced on the two islands would barely
suffice for one-fourth of that number.  The deficit is procured by the
growth and spinning of cotton, for which corn could not be substituted
from the nature of the soil, or, were it attempted, would produce but a
small proportion of the quantity which the cotton raised on the same
fields and spun into thread, enables the Maltese to purchase, not to
mention that the substitution of grain for cotton would leave half of the
inhabitants without employment.  As to live stock, it is quite out of the
question, if we except the pigs and goats, which perform the office of
scavengers in the streets of Valetta and the towns on the other side of
the Porto Grande.

Against these arguments Sir A. Ball placed the following considerations.
It had been long his conviction that the Mediterranean squadron should be
supplied by regular store-ships, the sole business of which should be
that of carriers for the fleet.  This he recommended as by far the most
economic plan in the first instance.  Secondly, beyond any other it would
secure a system and regularity in the arrival of supplies.  And, lastly,
it would conduce to the discipline of the navy, and prevent both ships
and officers from being out of the way on any sudden emergency.  If this
system were introduced, the objections to Malta, from its great distance,
&c., would have little force.  On the other hand, the objections to
Minorca he deemed irremovable.  The same disadvantages which attended the
getting out of the harbour of Valetta, applied to vessels getting into
Port Mahon; but while fifteen hundred or two thousand British troops
might be safely entrusted with the preservation of Malta, the troops for
the defence of Minorca must ever be in proportion to those which the
enemy may be supposed likely to send against it.  It is so little
favoured by nature or by art, that the possessors stood merely on the
level with the invaders.  _Cæteris paribus_, if there 12,000 of the enemy
landed, there must be an equal number to repel them; nor could the
garrison, or any part of it, be spared for any sudden emergency without
risk of losing the island.  Previously to the battle of Marengo, the most
earnest representations were made to the governor and commander at
Minorca by the British admiral, who offered to take on himself the whole
responsibility of the measure, if he would permit the troops at Minorca
to join our allies.  The governor felt himself compelled to refuse his
assent.  Doubtless, he acted wisely, for responsibility is not
transferable.  The fact is introduced in proof of the defenceless state
of Minorca, and its constant liability to attack.  If the Austrian army
had stood in the same relation to eight or nine thousand British soldiers
at Malta, a single regiment would have precluded all alarms as to the
island itself, and the remainder have perhaps changed the destiny of
Europe.  What might not, almost I would say, what must not eight thousand
Britons have accomplished at the battle of Marengo, nicely poised as the
fortunes of the two armies are now known to have been?  Minorca, too, is
alone useful or desirable during a war, and on the supposition of a fleet
off Toulon.  The advantages of Malta are permanent and national.  As a
second Gibraltar it must tend to secure Gibraltar itself; for if by the
loss of that one place we could be excluded from the Mediterranean, it is
difficult to say what sacrifices of blood and treasure the enemy would
deem too high a price for its conquest.  Whatever Malta may or may not be
respecting Egypt, its high importance to the independence of Sicily
cannot be doubted, or its advantages as a central station, for any
portion of our disposable force.  Neither is the influence which it will
enable us to exert on the Barbary powers to be wholly neglected.  I shall
only add, that during the plague at Gibraltar, Lord Nelson himself
acknowledged that he began to see the possession of Malta in a different

Sir Alexander Ball looked forward to future contingencies as likely to
increase the value of Malta to Great Britain.  He foresaw that the whole
of Italy would become a French province, and he knew that the French
Government had been long intriguing on the coast of Barbary.  The Dey of
Algiers was believed to have accumulated a treasure of fifteen millions
sterling, and Buonaparte had actually duped him into a treaty, by which
the French were to be permitted to erect a fort on the very spot where
the ancient Hippo stood, the choice between which and the Hellespont, as
the site of New Rome, is said to have perplexed the judgment of
Constantine.  To this he added an additional point of connection with
Russia, by means of Odessa, and on the supposition of a war in the
Baltic, a still more interesting relation to Turkey, and the Mores, and
the Greek islands.  It had been repeatedly signified to the British
Government, that from the Morea and the countries adjacent, a
considerable supply of ship timber and naval stores might be obtained,
such as would at least greatly lessen the pressure of a Russian war.  The
agents of France were in full activity in the Morea and the Greek
islands, the possession of which, by that Government, would augment the
naval resources of the French to a degree of which few are aware who have
not made the present state of commerce of the Greeks an object of
particular attention.  In short, if the possession of Malta were
advantageous to England solely as a convenient watch-tower, as a centre
of intelligence, its importance would be undeniable.

Although these suggestions did not prevent the signing away of Malta at
the peace of Amiens, they doubtless were not without effect, when the
ambition of Buonaparte had given a full and final answer to the grand
question: can we remain at peace with France?  I have likewise reason to
believe that Sir Alexander Ball, baffled, by exposing an insidious
proposal of the French Government, during the negotiations that preceded
the recommencement of the war—that the fortifications of Malta should be
entirely dismantled, and the island left to its inhabitants.  Without
dwelling on the obvious inhumanity and flagitious injustice of exposing
the Maltese to certain pillage and slavery from their old and inveterate
enemies, the Moors, he showed that the plan would promote the interests
of Buonaparte even more than his actual possession of the island, which
France had no possible interest in desiring, except as the means of
keeping it out of the hands of Great Britain.

But Sir Alexander Ball is no more.  The writer still clings to the hope
that he may yet be able to record his good deeds more fully and
regularly; that then, with a sense of comfort, not without a subdued
exultation, he may raise heavenward from his honoured tomb the glistening
eye of an humble, but ever grateful Friend.

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