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ON THE CHARACTER OF JONAH.
The piety and morality of most of the
Jewish prophets were, in general, highly The biography of the Holy Scriptures con- creditable to the religion they professed, tributes materially to the proof of their and the office they bore, and as much inspired authenticity. While those cha- superior to those of surrounding heathens, racters which it exhibits as religious, are, as the doctrines of the Bible are superior in generally speaking, worthy of the religion truth and dignity to the wretched dreams of the Bible, there is, both amongst them of pagan superstition. Nevertheless, in this and all others, that vast and singular variety class of men we discover the usual variation which all true history exhibits, and which in moral excellence that is every where to precisely corresponds with the varieties of be found. While the piety of some was the existing generation : at the same time, evidently of the most exalted and blameless most of the scripture characters bear strong description, of that of others we not unreainternal marks of genuineness.
sonably doubt the very existence, or, at Writers of fiction are reluctant to attri. best, believe it to be of the most imperfect bute to their favourite personages mean or
kind. How very different, for instance, is Aagitious actions; and hence, the fabricated the aspect in which the characters of the origin of their characters is often betrayed prophets Daniel and Jonah appear :-the by nothing more than a consistency too former receives our unmingled admiration; uniform to be real. But there are few of the latter provokes only our pity or disgust. the scripture characters that are not some- Daniel displays the courage of a hero, times very inconsistent with themselves; Jonah the pusillanimity of a coward. and we know that anomalies are nowhere The remarkable transaction in which so abundant as in the human character. Jonah bore so conspicuous a part, brings Modern history attests this : a Bacon is into view several features of his character, charged with venality and corruption ; a but in every view he appears to disadMilton, with indevotion ; a Cranmer, with vantage. cruelty; and even martyrs in prison, await- But, notwithstanding the disadvantageous ing the sentence of burning, are said to have light in which the character of this prophet been betrayed into fierce contentions is presented to us, the charitable reader will among themseves about minor points in pardon us for entertaining a belief that he theology. Hence the instances of prevari- was not wholly destitute of piety—that he cation in Abraham, of perfidy in Jacob, of was overpowered by strong temptation, cruelty and lust in David, should even add rather than disobedient from irreligious feelto our conviction of the truth of the Bible; ing. The honour of religion requires us to because such occasional moral aberrations believe that Jonah's piety, if he was pious, even in good men, are not only rendered was of a very superficial kind, and that probable by the deep and universal depra- he manifested dispositions utterly at vavity of human nature, but they accord with riance with the spirit of religion ; at the all experience and all religious history. same time common justice forbids us to
There are in the world some persons consider his conduct, on one single and emiwhose real characters are but very super- nently trying occasion, as a proper specificially known, whose actions are an uncer- men of his general conduct, or an adequate tain index to their principles. As the pre- expression of the principle by which he cious metals are sometimes imposingly was generally actuated. If many characters imitated by a skilful combination of the in scripture history, of whom we only baser; in like manner, dexterous hypocrisy, just obtain a glance, had been more fully aided by favouring circumstances, enables developed, it is probable they would premany a corrupt character to impose him- sent a different aspect to that which they self upon the world as a man of virtue. now exhibit ; some would stand higher On the other hand, sterling worth may be and others lower in our esteem than they do unnoticed, through want of opportunities at present. for its development; it may be disfigured Many, no doubt, are faultless, merely by ignorance, superstition, and rugged man- because their faults are not recorded; while ners; or it may be so weak in itself, and others are apparently destitute of moral associated with so many defects, as to lead excellence, only because it has not fallen us even to doubt its existence, These facts within the province of the inspired writer shew the necessity of caution in the judg- to notice their virtues. This we may hope ments we form of human characters, and is the misfortune of Jonah. The faults of particularly of many of those mentioned in this individual, glaring as they are, are Scripture, the notices of whom are often unfortunately not uncommon ones, even extremely brief and incidental.
amongst christian ministers ; they are, in
fact, the easily besetting sins of all whose Perhaps to escape, not personal dangerpiety is superficial. Such persons might for that we did not dread; nor loss of protherefore, find that the most edifying perty—that we could not apprehend ; nor method of contemplating the conduct of even general contempt-for to that we Jonah, would be, to view it in comparison were not exposed; but to escape the scoffs with their own, and thus make it subser- and indignation of those whose anger could vient to the oft-neglected duty of self-exa- do us no harm, and whose favour was of mination. By this means, they would at no value we have dared to desert our once improve their humility and candour: duty, and brave the frown of an offended it would suggest topics of self-condem- God. Surely, if such be the case, we ought nation, and reasons for moderating their deeply to repent ourselves, before we pass a censures of the prophet.
single censure úpon the cowardice of When Jonah received the divine com- Jonah. mission, to proceed to Nineveh, and an. We have no means of knowing to what nounce to the inhabitants its approaching extent Jonah was employed in his prodestruction, he took ship, we are told, with phetic capacity; it is scarcely probable the intention of going to Tarshish, and of that his mission to the Ninevites was the thus fleeing from the presence of the Lord, only official service in which he was ever and escaping from the task imposed upon engaged ; and yet it might possibly be him. Here Jonah betrayed a base sub- the only one in which any considerable mission to the fear of man, and a lament- unfaithfulness could be charged upon him. able want of confidence in God. Why did Perhaps many pious and heroic deeds of he not consider, that the Almighty Being, benevolence, unremembered and who had called him to the work, could corded by man, will appear in his behalf easily preserve him in the performance of in the great day of retribution. it, from all personal injury--that the Nine- His conduct, even in this instance of cowvites could not kill him without the per- ardly dereliction, has in it some redeeming mission of God—that a glorious death was circumstances. He, at least, deserves compreferable to an ignominious and miserable mendation for the honest confession of his life-and that no danger ought to be so guilt to the ship's crew, and his magnaalarming to a mortal as that which attends nimous readiness to devote himself to dedisobedience to the divine commands ? struction for their preservation. Nor must Perhaps Jonah did consider all this ; but, it be forgotten that he repented ; and alas, the finest moral sentiments, even when verified the sincerity of his penitence, by intrenched in conviction, are powerless entering upon the work from which he in until the breath of divine love gives them the first instance had shrunk. life.
It does not appear that any explicit exBut it would be unjust to condemn the hortation to repentance, or promise of the pusillanimity of Jonah, without recollecting remission of their doom thereupon, accomthe very hazardous service to which he was panied the denunciation of the prophet to appointed. It was no light matter, humanly the Ninevites ; nevertheless, they did “ speaking, for an unknown, obscure, and pent at the preaching of Jonah;” the awful friendless individual, to enter the streets of announcement was credited ; and though a city, the cry of whose wickedness had uninformed as to its conditionality, they reached to heaven, and to proclaim that naturally conjectured that as wickedness in forty days it should be overthrown. was the cause of their approaching ruin, à Worldly prudence, if it had for a moment contrite abandonment of it would be the been listened to, would have suggested, only way, if there was a way, to arrest its that the only effect of such a message, progress. insulting and unwelcome as it would seem Nor were they deceived or disappointed. to them, would be to procure for the mes. The infinitely gracious God, in accordance senger ignominious banishment, or a violent with one of the established laws of his death.
moral government, was moved by their Let us inquire whether our faith and penitence to defer the manifestation of his courage would have been equal to such a anger, and give them further opportunity dangerous service. Perhaps, if we scru- for amendment. And was not this event tinize our past conduct, we shall not find it a matter of great joy to the prophet ? Such difficult to discover, that, on more occasions it certainly would have been, if he had than one, we have betrayed even baser possessed the views and the spirit suitable pusillanimity than Jonah. Probably we io his office. So far from this, however, it have too often suffered the fear of man to displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was overpower the clearest convictions of duty. very angry. And he prayed unto the Lord,
and said, “I pray thee, O Lord, was not and sin, and regard me as one that has this my saying, when I was yet in my mocked them.” country? Therefore I fled before unto Now, in some such way as this Jonah, Tarshish : for I know that thou art a gra- it appears, had expostulated with God, cious God, and merciful, slow to anger, before he entered upon his mission. Such and of great kindness, and repentest thee of expostulations we do not undertake to de the evil.” So it appears that Jonah would fend, nor are we attempting to vindicate rather have witnessed the destruction of any part of Jonah's conduct; we wish this vast city, than be exposed to the im- merely to shew, that from the evils into putation of a deceiver, and a false prophet. which he fell, we should not be secure, if Every one must be shocked at the immea- placed in his circumstances; that, detestable surable selfishness and cruelty of the pro as were the dispositions which he maniphet; and we confess it merits unmitigated fested, they are not uncommon even in condemnation and abhorrence : it was the persons who_rank far above the worst of very spirit of Satan, who rejoices in the inankind. To compose or deliver a serruin, and repines at the happiness, of man mon, with a more direct intention of pleaskind.
ing our hearers, and securing their applause, But charity, and even justice, requires the than of imparting spiritual benefit to them; greatest crimes to be contemplated in con or to shun a valuable opportunity of benenexion with all their extenuating circum- fiting the souls of some of our fellow-creastances. Let us not refuse this justice to tures, merely because we cannot do it withJonal, which conscience informs us we so out debasing ourselves in the view of the frequently need ourselves.
carnal; would be to exemplify the very Some persons may think that he could same spirit which induced Jonah to grieve not labour under any very powerful temp that the Ninevites were spared--and that is, tation to indulge so wretchedly unfeeling a a preference of our own reputation to the spirit as he here manifested. But if these salvation of souls. individuals could imagine themselves in the We observe in the conduct of Jonah a situation of the prophet, their views on that very natural consistency. It was to be ex. point would probably undergo a change. pected, that a man who had so little inward Let them suppose that they had received a comfort, should overrate outward conrespecial call from Heaven to perform some niences; and accordingly Jonah was “er extremely arduous and dangerous service, ceeding glad of the gourd.” Every one without being permitted to expect any tem- perceives the weakness and folly of being poral reward, either in the shape of honour so excessively delighted with so trivial a or gain, but, on the contrary, that the work object. All will acknowledge that an imwas as profitless as laborious, and as humi- moderate delight in merely earthly comforts, liating as dangerous; probably it would if it do not necessarily imply the want of require all the grace they possess, if not religious joy, will assuredly end in the want more, to prevent them from shrinking, like of it. He who would be happy must Jonah, from the task. Suppose the indi “ delight himself in the Lord, and be vidual who is most disposed to think hardly moderate in all his earthly attachments and of this prophet, should receive a divine joys. The deeper we drink of the fountain commission, the validity of which he could of religious joy, the purer and sweeter it not dispute, to go to some exceedingly becomes ; but when we dip too deeply in wicked city or town, and proclaim in its carnal pleasure, we stir a sediment that renstreets, that at the expiration of six weeks ders it impure and noxious." it should be destroyed. Perhaps that indi But “the gourd withered,” and the gladvidual would venture to expostulate thus ness of the prophet withered with it; and with the Alınighty : “Ah, Lord, the work such is always the termination of earthly thou hast assigned me is exceedingly de blessings, and of the happiness that is solely grading and perilous. I shall be placed in founded upon them. Those things to which a painful dilemma : if the people disbelieve inen are immoderately attached, often prove my announcement, they will despise and the occasion of bitter disappointment and persecute me as an impostor ; if they be vexation : the Almighty thus punishes idolieve, and repent, then thou wilt pardon latry by means of the objects that are them, and recall thy threatening, for I idolized. know that thou art a gracious God and If we are disposed to accuse Jonah of merciful, slow to anger and of great kind excessive fondness for a paltry object, and ness, and repentest thee of the evil; and unreasonable grief for its loss, it becomes us when the evil day is past, then I fear that to remember, that if we are destitute of the many of them will relapse into unbelief happiness of religion, we shall commit the
THE DEAD INFANT.
"Sweet babe !"
same faults; and if we are exceedingly glad stayed on his God; and his imagination of any earthly blessings, we must expect to rose above the lovely scene around him, be exceedingly miserable when we are called to one far lovelier, to a country far fairer to part with them.
and a peace more pure than that of which W. ROBINSON. he was now tasting. “ Yes, lovely moun
tains," said he, "fair glens, and sweet falling waters—beautiful as ye are, you are far surpassed by another country, to which I
am bound : “It tasted of life's bitter cup,
“The world to which I'm going,
Has fairer fruits than thine;
Life's rivers ever flowing,
And skies that ever shine."
There all is peerless ; roses without thorns,
pleasures without pain, love without sorrow: "Friend of distress! the mourner feels thine aid : She cannot pay thee, but thou wilt be paid ?”
hasten thy kingdom, O Lord, when thy glory “shall cover the earth, as the waters
cover the seas. In a village about one hundred and fifty He walked on, meditating thus, till, on miles from London, in the west of England, turning the angle of a projecting rock, he there lived a gentleman of independent for suddenly came upon an interesting group, tune, which, though small, was so ably ma seated upon a large flat stone, under the nayed, that a great part of his income was shelter of the steep side of the hill. They consumed year by year in charitable pur. were four in number, the cheerless children poses. He bore a character very similar of poverty; a father, a mother, a fine little to that of the Man of Ross, so beautifully boy about seven years of age, and an infant described by the poet Pope. He was
at the breast. The mother was gazing upon accustomed to devote the former part of it with intense interest, in which there every day to visiting the poor of his neigh mingled sorrow such as none but a mother bourhood; and, by his assiduous attentions, can feel; and tears fell fast from her eyes he in a great measure supplied the place of upon her threadbare garments. The father the negligent minister of the parish: for a sat close by; his hands joined together belong time he had borne the title of father fore him, and his eyes fixed on the same of the poor, who gave him the name of dear object as those of the mother: but he “ The good man.
watched it “ in all the silent manliness of It was in one of his walks into a distant grief.” No outward signs of sorrow were part of the parish, which was but thinly visible ; but care, that sat upon his brow, peopled, though full of the most romantic indicated a deep contest within. The little scenery, and of exuberant fertility, that the boy had strayed from his parents, and was circumstance occurred which forms the leaning down over a bed of rich moss, and burden of this tale. The good man left his hunting for snailshells. Whatever was the home one morning; and it was on a blessed cause of the deep grief of his parents, he errand—to bear the message of a Saviour's seemed to partake but little of it: the love to a dying cottager. The sun shone sorrows of childhood, like the dews of the in a cloudless heaven. It was in the latter
morning, are exhaled by the first ray of the part of the spring ; and his way lay through warm sun; and, except now and then a a glen, which was formed by two high hills, solitary instance to the contrary, the deeper that were so steep, as nearly to rise perpen evils of life pass over their heads like the dicularly: the sides were clothed with verdure
tempest, that spares the tender plant, but of the most luxuriant green; and through lays in the dust the mighty oak. Such the glen rushed a stream, by the side of was the scene which broke in a moment which the narrow pathway wound. Such upon the eye of the good man. He adscenes are common in that part of the vanced towards them, and in a kind tone country, and therefore but little admired by inquired the cause of their distress. the inhabitants, though the romantic nature “ Our poor babe, Sir," said the father, of the scenery, almost a Switzerland in “is very ill; and its weary mother is unable miniature, invites many a stranger from the to proceed farther."
“ What is the matter fashionable world to drink of the pleasure with the infant ?" inquired
the other, it affords.
stepping up to the cold hard seat on which The good man was an enthusiastic ad- the woman was sitting, and just about to mirer of nature; and its face at present well lay his hand upon the little dimpled arm accorded with the feelings of his soul : all of the infant. “ Amy," said the father, was peace, perfect peace; his mind was advancing with him, " this kind gentlen
will look at the poor babe.” “ Better not would proceed on to the village. The disturb him," said the anxious mother; good man would have relieved her of her “ he's just fallen into a quiet sleep, and dear lifeless charge, but she refused to part he'll be better when he awakes."
with it. While they walked on, the good The good man looked into its little face, man learned that they were from India; and started. The state of the poor babe that the husband had been a soldier, and was plain; he had indeed fallen into a had risen to the rank of ensign, when, in quiet sleep, but it was one which knows no consequence of ill health, he was compelled dream : and from which there is no waking to resign, and embark for home with his till the last great morn.
wife and two children, the youngest but two “My poor dear woman,” said the good months old. They were wrecked at the man, dashing away with his finger a rebel Cape, and brought home, destitute of every tear from his eye,
your babe's last sor. thing, in another vessel. Having been rows are over !” She lifted up her infant landed at Falmouth, they were journeying from her bosom : its little mouth still clung to London in search of his wife's relations, to its mother's breast; but its chest no who were in comfortable circumstances, longer heaved with life, and the vital cur. and had lived on the munificence of a rent had ebbed to its last confines. The stranger, till they had reached this place, poor bereft mother pressed the fast cooling when their resources had failed them; and clay to her lips, and fell heavily back upon they were in an almost starving condition the turf behind. Her husband, almost dis- when discovered by him. tracted, ran to lift her up, while the little The little boy, who had walked behind, boy, who on the approach of the good encouraged by a benevolent look from the man had left his amusement, and stood at good man, now came forward, and took a respectful distance, began to cry. The hold of his hand. God's blessing upon you, good man assisted the trembling husband my dear boy,” said he : "you have early to raise his insensible wife, and, pouring tasted of the cup of affliction.”
« Where down her throat a little cordial, which he does God live ?" asked the little boy. “In was carrying to the dying cottager, she heaven, my dear,” said the other. “Then revived.
little Billy is gone to God, and perhaps he The interest of that moment was intense. is a little angel now," said the child, with Her almost broken-hearted partner was affecting simplicity. The good man anleaning over her, with one hand supporting swered not: his thoughts had taken wing her back, and with the other wiping away at the last words of the sweet little boy, up the blood which ran from her wounded to the throne of God : for there he saw by head. The good man stood close, and faith, one “ dear little angel,” that he had silently implored the assistance of his hea once called his own, standing on the right venly Father. The little boy was kneeling hand of his Saviour, ready to wing his on the grass by the body of the dead flight on some errand of mercy. He infant, which had fallen from the fainting thought, (and passing sweet mother's arms, and endeavouring to lift up thought,) that perhaps he was now hovering with his finger the little cold eye-lid : at the over him, and shedding from his pinions same time calling to it by name, uncon that heavenly peace which entered into his scious that it was now but dust and ashes. soul: nor was he recalled back to the
The whole scene was indescribably world, until he found himself, together with affecting. At length the mother opened the poor mourners, at the gates of his own her eyes, and called wildly for her infant. dwelling He provided them with every
“ He is in heaven, Amy," said the good thing that was necessary, and gave them man, calmly. She appeared thoughtful for beds in his own house : indeed, the good a moment, then turned suddenly round, man saw plainly that the present calmness and, lifting her departed babe from the of the afflicted mother was but the effect of ground, bedewed its chill face with tears. a strong effort, which would be followed by a “He is happy now, then,” said she, “and rapid sinking of nature. His conjecture why should I wish to bring him back again was right : she went to bed, and the next to starvation and woe? No: dear little morning was totally unable to rise. In the Billy will never cry again for his food, nor mean time, a little coffin had been provided shiver at his mother's cold breast; the cold for the poor infant, and its body placed in winds cannot vex him now: it is all over, a room by itself. Poor Amy grew worse and thank God for it."
and worse; and though the doctor of the Her mind seemed to have received new village called every day to see her, and left energy, which imparted vigour to her ema her medicines, they seemed to have but riated frame : she rose up, and said she little effect : for her constitution had been