« AnteriorContinuar »
of Scripture was that which alone accorded with the system of revealed truth, and declared his conviction, "that there was no intermediate ground upon which a sound reasoner could make a fair stand between that of pure Deism, and that of moderate orthodoxy, as held by the evangelical classes1 both of churchmen and dissenters."
It is but candid to remind the reader, that this great change of sentiment, followed as it was by a correspondent change of practice, took place when its subject was in the vigour of manhood, and the maturity of his intellectual acquirements. And to exhibit this change, as it was, thorough and radical, notwithstanding it has been insinuated otherwise, the following notes in his Bible are inserted, written by himself.
"Hebrews X. 19,20. The spirit of man is concealed by the veil of the flesh: the spiritual things of the law, the holy of holies, were concealed by the veil of the temple. Christ is the end and sum of the whole; and as the high-priest entered into the holy of holies by the veil of the temple under the law, so we can only enter into the holiest by 'the blood of Jesus,' by the veil of his flesh, or incarnation, of which the veil of the temple was a striking type. And never did type and antitype more completely harmonize with each other, and prove their relation: for when Christ exclaimed upon the cross, 'It is finished,' and gave up the ghost—when the veil of his flesh was rent, the veil of the temple was rent at the same moment. The former entrance into the holy of holies, which was only temporary and typical, then vanished—and the 'new and living way,' the way everlasting, was then opened; and what under the old dispensation was only open to the high-priest, and that but once a year, was, from that moment, open to us all, and open for all times and all occasions—a consecrated way, in which we are exhorted to enter with all boldness, in full assurance of faith; having ' our hearts first sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.'"
"Genesis ii. 23, 24. Under the figurative language contained in these two verses is a concealed representation of the whole mystery of the gospel —the union of Christ with the church, the glorious bride, that in the fulness of the times he will present to himself, free from spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish. St. Paul expressly tells us, Eph. v. 30, 31, that this momentous fact is here referred to, and spoken of in veiled or esoteric language. It is the first reference in the Old Testament—the earliest history of man, therefore, opens with it; it was the mystery of Paradise—' the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto his own glory.'"
"Genesis iii. 7. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig-leaves," &c.
"It is so in every age and every part of the world. The moment a man becomes consciously guilty, his eyes are opened to the knowledge of evil; —he feels himself naked, and seeks a cover or a hiding-place: he is full of shame, and cannot endure to be looked at even by his fellows;—he endeavours by some flimsy pretext, some apron of fig-leaves, to screen either himself or the deed he has committed from their eyes. But most of all does he feel his nakedness before God, and endeavour to hide from his presence. Happy, indeed, is he, who, with this consciousness of guilt and shame, is able by any means to discern a covering that may conceal the naked deformity of his person from the penetrating eye of his Maker. One such covering there is, and but one, and blessed is he who is permitted to lay hold of it, and to put it on—it is the -obe of the Redeemer's righteousness."
For the same purpose, we here insert a specimen of his devotional poetry; not so much for its poetic merit, as for the distinct and decided expression of sentiment it contains.
IN THB BEGIITNINQ WAS THE WORD J AND THE WORD WAS WItH COD,
O Word! O Wisdom! heaven's high theme!
Where must the theme begin.'—
Now, Reason! trim thy brightest lamp,
Thy boldest powers excite;
And arm thee for the fight.
View nature through—and, from the round
Of things to sense reveal'd,
Th' abyss of things concealed.
Hold, and affirm that God must heed
The sinner's contrite sighs,
Or frankincense to rise.
Prove by the plummet, rule, and line,
By logic's nicest plan,
Nor aught Divine be man:
That he who holds the worlds in awe,
Whose fiat formed the sky,
Nor breathe, and groan, and die.
This prove till all the learn'd submit:
Here learning I despise,
To heavenly minds supplies.
O Word! O Wisdom !—boundless theme
Of rapture and of grief:—
O, help my unbelief.
This devotional effusion furnishes us a satisfactory and conclusive demonstration of the entire revolution which his sentiments had undergone; and the emotions of his heart seemed very frequently to prompt his muse, for a great number of poetical pieces were found among his private papers.
"For the last seven or eight years of his life, Dr. Good, persuaded of the incalculable benefits, of the highest order, likely to accrue from Bible and Missionary Societies, gave to them his most cordial support; on many occasions advocating their cause at public meetings, and on others employing his pen in their defence. To the concerns of " the Church Missionary Society" especially, he devoted himself with the utmost activity and ardour, as a most judicious, learned, and able member of its committee. He suggested some useful plans for the instruction of missionaries, and, in certain cases, of their wives, in the general principles of medical science, the nature and operation of the simpler remedies, and in the safe practical application of such knowledge to numerous cases which may obviously occur among the inhabitants of the dark and uncivilized regions in which Christian missionaries most frequently labour. These suggestions were not merely proposed in general terms, in the committee; but, in many instances, carried into the minutia: of detail, by instructions which Dr. Good gave personally to the missionaries themselves. Nor was the advice thus given confined to professional topics. The stores ot his richly endowed mind were opened to their use on subjects of general literature, biblical criticism, the rules of translation, the principles of geology, botany, zoology, nay, every department of knowledge calculated to fit them thoroughly for their noble and arduous undertaking. Nor, again, were these kind and valuable offices confined to individuals of the Church Missionary Society alone. His soul was too liberal and capacious, and his conviction of the paucity of the labourers too deep, to induce him for a moment to wish or to imagine that the glorious object could be accomplished entirely by missionaries of anyone persuasion. On different occasions I have introduced to him missionaries and others connected with various religious societies, who were anxious to profit by his advice, on topics respecting which they scarcely knew where else to apply; and, uniformly, the individuals who thus availed themselves of the privilege, have testified in the most lively terms their grateful sense of the affectionate kindness of his demeanour, and the value of his suggestions."
His piety exhibited itself in his intercourse with his patients; for, in prescribing for an intricate disease, he was in the habit of praying for Divine direction; on administering a medicine himself, he was known frequently to utter a short ejaculatory prayer; and, in cases where a fatal issue was inevitable, he most scrupulously avoided the cruel delusion too common on such occasions, and with the utmost delicacy and feeling, announced his apprehensions.
As an evidence of his devotional character, the following, bearing date July 27th, 1823, is here inserted.
"FORM OP PRATER,
"Which I purpose to use, among others, every morning, so long as it may please God that I shall continue in the exercise of my profession; and which is here copied out, not so much to assist myown memory, as to give a hint to many who may perhaps feel thankful for it when 1 am removed to a state where personal vanity can have no access, and the opinion of the world can be no longer of any importance. I should wish it to close the •ubsequem editions of my 'Study of Medicine.'
"0 thou great Bestower of health, strength, and comfort! grant thy blessing upon the professional duties in which this day I may engage. Give roe Judgment to discern disease, and skill to treat it; and crown with thy favour the means that may be devised for recovery; for, with thine assistance, the humblest instrument may succeed, as, without it, the ablest must prove unavailing.
"Save me from all sordid motives; and endow me with a spirit of pity and liberality towards the poor, and of tenderness and sympathy towards all; that I may enter into the various feelings by which they are respectively tried; may weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice.
"And sanctify thou their souls, as well as heal their bodies. Let faith and patience, and every Christian virtue they arc called upon to exercise, have their perfect work: so that in the gracious dealings of thy Spirit and of thy providence, they may find in the end, whatever that end may be, that it has been good for them to have been afflicted.
"Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the love of that adorable Redeemer, who, while on earth, went about doing good, and now ever liveth to make intercession for us in heaven. Amen."
One cannot help being struck with the resemblance of character between the great Bocrhaave and Dr. Good; but that excellent man Baron Haller resembled him still closer. This great and learned physician in the early part of his life, likewise, had doubts concerning the objects of the Christian faith. "But these doubts were dispelled by a successful application to every branch of science on the one hand, and by a candid examination of the sacred oracles on the other. The first, by purging his soul, according to his own emphatic language, of arrogance and pride, filled it with true poverty of spirit. The second convinced him that the Divine Revelation conveyed in the Holy Scriptures is a boon worthy of the merciful Author of our nature to give, and such as is fit for guilty mortals to receive with humble gratitude and reverence."
The parallel between these great and good men, devoted as they were to the work of doing good to the bodies and souls of their fellow-men, is still greater, from the circumstance that Dr. Good, like Boerhaave and Haller, had envious and malignant enemies. But he never regarded calumny and detraction, nor ever thought it necessary to confute them. He adopted the sentiment of Boerhaave, who said, "They are sparks which, if you do not blow them, will go out of themselves. The surest remedy against scandal is, to live it down by perseverance in well-doing; and by praying to God that he would cure the distempered minds of those who traduce and injure us."
After a life of virtue and consistent piety, such as characterized Dr. John Mason Good, the reader may anticipate a peaceful termination, even in the light of nature itself. But, illuminated as were the dark valley and shadow of death by the resplendent light and glory of the Christian revelation, his path seemed, like "that of the just," to " shine brighter and brighter even to the perfect day."
Mark the humility, devotion, and faith which were exhibited in the hour of hi* approaching dissolution. He called the members of his family around his bed, and thus addressed them: "I have taken what unfortunately the generality of Christians too much take—I have taken the middle walk of Christianity—I have endeavoured to live uo to its duties and doctrines. but I have lived below its privileges. I have had large opportunities given me, but I have not improved them as I might. I have been led astray by the vanity of human learning, and by the love of human applause."
How insignificant are the highest intellectual endowments, and the most extensive erudition, when compared with the Christian character. In the light of the invisible world just dawning upon his vision, he exclaimed, more than once, "O, the vanity of human learning I" "0, the folly of human applause V And then he would dwell with evident satisfaction upon the text, which he so often repeated in his last moments—" Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." And after the power of distinct articulation was gone, and he was almost in the embrace of death, when his kind clergyman repeated the words, "Behold the Lamb of God!" he added, as the last effort of his expiring breath, "who taketh away the sins of the world."
For this brief outline of the life and death of the learned and excellent author of the " Book of Nature," I am indebted chiefly to "Dr. Gregory's Memoirs," and to the able review of that work in the "Christian Spectator." And although precluded by the limits of this sketch from entering into numerous details of his writings, learning, and virtues, which possess an enduring interest; yet enough is here recorded to afford matter for much useful reflection and improvement to the philosopher, the philanthropist, and the Christian. And the profession of medicine is here seen to be honoured in the life of one of its most enlightened and zealous votaries, who superadded to his high literary and professional attainments the still higher character of a sincere and consistent Christian philosopher, bequeathing to us and to posterity his bright example, to be inscribed with those of Boerhaave, Haller, Mead, and Rush, on the tablet of our memories, stimulating us to emulate their virtues, that we may, like them, have a peaceful death, cheered bv the hope of a blissful immortality.