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the Lord's Day to be desecrated, I must tell a tale
against myself. It happened that my friend ,
and I were on a rambling visit at Keswick, in the summer of 1801, during the time that Coleridge resided there with his family. He came to dine with us at the inn on a Sunday afternoon, and expressed his disapprobation very strongly of a breach of the Sabbath, which we had that day committed, in spending the forenoon in perch-fishing, from a boat, on the lake of Derwent
They are, however, paid badly. I have twice mentioned Coleridge, and much wish you were acquainted with him. It is very delightful to hear him sometimes discourse on religious topics for an hour together. His fervour is particularly agreeable when contrasted with the chilling speculations of the German philosophers. I have had occasion to see these successively abandon all their strong holds when he brought to the attack his arguments and his philosophy. Coleridge is much liked, notwithstanding many peculiarities. He is very liberal towards all doctrines and opinions, and cannot be put out of temper. These circumstances give him the advantage of his opponents here, who are always bigotted, and often irascible. Coleridge is an enthusiast on many subjects, and must, therefore, appear to many to possess faults—and no doubt he has faults—but he has a good heart, and a large mass of information, with superior talents. The great fault which his friends may lament, is the variety of subjects which he adopts, and the too abstruse nature of his ordinary speculations, extra homines positas. They can easily excuse his devoted attachment to his country, and his reasoning as to the means of producing the greatest sum of human happiness; but they do not universally approve the mysticism of his metaphysics, nor the remoteness of his topics from human affairs and human comprehension. As a poet, he severely criticizes his own productions. His best poems have, perhaps, not yet appeared in print. He is, at present, engaged on a work, which will be no less interesting in Germany than in England—a History of German Poetry, from the earliest times to the present day, including a particular review of Lessing's Works. It will probably extend to two quarto volumes. Coleridge was twenty-six last October. I think Mr. Losch, and some of his acquaintance in England, will confirm what I have said of him. Coleridge tells me that Southey has published his Madoc, and a second volume of poems."
Water. It was my first and last offence of this kind, and the stamp of Coleridge's disapprobation will never be effaced from my recollection. And yet I do not believe that he had been at church himself that day; or that he was, at any time, much in the habit of going to church. A gentleman who lived near him at Highgate, informed me, that during his long residence there, he did not recollect having seen him at church more than once, and that upon some, I forget what, public occasion, which he mentioned. An unfortunate peculiarity this, which his bodily infirmities, many and great as they were in the latter part of his life, will scarcely serve to explain; nor is the resemblance between Milton and him in any thing more remarkable than in this circumstance, of absenting themselves from the public worship of their Maker. They both appear to have looked intently to the end of religion— none could more strenuously maintain the authority of the Bible—yet they seem to have acted as if they thought themselves privileged individuals, who might dispense with a public participation in the appointed ordinances of our most Holy Faith!
There is a notion very commonly propagated by foreigners, and too readily adopted by our own countrymen who have travelled on the Continent, that Sunday must necessarily be a dull day when spent religiously. But who is to be the judge of this! Not the mere man of pleasure, surely, who has had no experience in the courts of the Lord's House, and who hears not of the delights and consolations of religion, if at all, until "the evil days come and the years draw nigh" that he can have no part in them. Rather let the individual be consulted who for a series of years had kept the Sabbath-day holy, and then, from the force of some unresisted temptation, neglected to do so, and let him say which period of his life was the happiest. In the words of the Psalmist he will exclaim, "How amiable are thy tabernacles,
0 Lord of Hosts!"
"A day in thy courts is better than a thousand.
1 had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."—Ps. lxxxiv.
In the words of Lord Clarendon, the pious and faithful historian of " The Rebellion," "there cannot be a greater resemblance to the joys of heaven in any pleasure or happiness that we can enjoy in this world, than in that tranquillity of mind and conscience which naturally attends and accompanies our fervent devotions to Almighty God; when we have deposited all our wishes with Him, and submitted and resigned all our desires to Him. Nor can there be a more lively representation upon earth of the court and company of heaven, than in the assemblies and congregations of religious and pious men pouring out their prayers, and celebrating the praises of their Creator and Redeemer." In fact, the very existence of religion may be said to be included in the observance of the Lord'sday—the Christian Sabbath—that blessed day which affords a respite from the toils and cares and pleasures of this world; and thus, and thus only, can become a fit season for making preparation for a better. Show me the family that never goes to a place of public worship, even on Sundays, and I will show you one where there is no real happiness. And when I reflect that for nearly two years of my life I scarcely once, for the purpose of divine worship, entered a church, I am almost weak enough to hope that my memory may be playing false with me. Yet so it cannot be; for there are too many witnesses of the fact, and joint partakers in its disgrace), to admit of its being doubtful. But connected with this sad omission of a positive duty, there is another which, if possible, strikes me with still more astonishment, and that is the almost total neglect of private devotion during the same period ; yet this, I conclude, is commonly the case with habitual Sabbath-breakers.
From the very bottom of my heart, I believe with that learned and pious divine, the Rev. John Henry Rose,* that " if there be one curse more bitter than another to man, it is, to be the offspring of an irreligious home, of a home where the voice of prayer and praise ascends not to God, and where the ties of human affection are not purified and elevated by the refining influence of religious feeling—of a home to which, if the cares or the sorrows of life shall bring religion to the heart in after days, that heart cannot turn without bitterness of feeling, without anguish and vexation of spirit. If there be a curse to any country, where the truths of religion are known, the deepest and bitterest curse which can be inflicted on it is a multitude of homes like that which I have supposed! Such homes send forth their sons unchecked in evil thoughts, unhallowed in their habits, and untaught in love to God—the name and cross perhaps of Jesus Christ stamped upon their foreheads, but not written in their hearts—and they send them forth to prey upon the land, and to become its curse and its destruction. But on the other hand, there is a blessing to the religious home, which no tongue can speak, no language can describe! The home where, in early years, the heart is trained to a love of God, and to take pleasure in his worship and service, interweaves with the existence of man's holy affections, which die not with the circumstances which gave them birth, which last long even though they may for a season be forgotten and neglected, and which exercise at least some check upon the evil of the human heart, and often, nay commonly, recall it to hear again the voice of God, and to return to the paths of holiness and peace!"*
* Author of the Hulsean Lectures for 1833.