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Which comes to punish us; and we punish it,
Seeming to bear it lightly.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act iv. Sc. 12.

Finally, it is left also to a heathen to teach the elementary lesson* that no distresses or afflictions, however many or great, should be allowed to provoke us into destruction of the life, of which, as no one (except by just authority) can lawfully deprive us, so neither can we lawfully deprive ourselves:

Gloster. You ever gentle gods, take my breath from me;
Let not my worser + spirit tempt me again
To die before you please.

King Lear, Act iv. Sc. 6.

Even in the mouth of Brutus (who eventually is

represented as putting an end to his much as King Saul had done, and

See above, p. 149. + See above, p. 19.

own life,‡ as Antony

See above, p. 150.


afterwards did and Cassius did), our poet has ventured to place substantially the same sentiment:

Cassius. If we do lose this battle, then is this

The very last time we shall be together;
What are you then determined to do?

Brutus. Even by the rule of that philosophy
By which I did blame Cato for the death
Which he did give himself:-I know not how,
But I do find it cowardly and yile,

For fear of what might fall, so to prevent *
The time of life:-arming myself with patience,
To stay the providence of some high powers,
That govern us below.

Julius Caesar, Act v. Sc. 1.

Compare Macbeth, Act v. Sc. 8.

Why should I play the Roman fool, and die

On mine own sword?

See also Hamlet, Act v. Sc. 2.

In looking back upon the subjects of this and the four preceding sections, in which an outline has been sketched of the main departments of the duty of a Christian towards his neighbours, I am tempted to add, as a summary illustration of the whole, two short passages in which our poet has drawn to perfection the characters of virtue both in low and in high life-that is, of a good peasant and a good prince; of the peasant in Corin the shepherd in As you like it; of the prince in Malcolm (afterwards King Malcolm III. or Canmore) the successor of Duncan, in Macbeth:

* i.e., to anticipate the full, appointed time. See above, p. 40.

i.e., stay for, wait upon.

See below, Add. Illustr., p. 368.

Corin. Sir, I am a true labourer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear; owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness; glad of other men's good, content with my harm: and the greatest of my pride is, to see my ewes graze, and my lambs suck. Act iii. Sc. 2.


I never was forsworn ;
Scarcely have coveted what was mine own;

At no time broke my faith; would not betray
The devil to his fellow, and DELIGHT


Act iv. Sc. 3.

SECT. 14. Of Holy Scripture, the Christian Ministry, and Church Membership.

For Shakspeare's own estimation of Holy Scripture, we have no occasion to look beyond the evidence contained in every page of the present volume. To him, I doubt not, it was what it is to every faithful reader-' the Word of God unto Salvation.' In King Henry VI., 2nd Part, Act ii. Sc. 5 (where reference is made to Exod. xxii. 18), he speaks of it as 'God's Book;'* and his habitual regard for its authority may be traced in language such as that which he has put into the mouth of Iago :

Trifles light as air

Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of Holy Writ.

Othello, Act iii. Sc. 3.

At the same time, the age in which he lived would not suffer him to be ignorant how liable men are, from various causes, to pervert God's

* See also below, p. 262,The books of God.'

Word, and give to it a meaning which it was never

meant to convey.

In religion,

What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it, and approve it with a text
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?

Merchant of Venice, Act iii. Sc. 2.

Compare the speech of the wicked Gloster, quoted above, p. 66.

Moreover, our poet's own study of the Bible had discovered to him how much judgment and caution are required in reconciling and adjusting texts which, though susceptible of perfect harmony, to a hasty and superficial reader may appear discordant, or even contradictory. When King Richard II. is confined in the dungeon of Pomfret Castle, he amuses himself by comparing his prison to the world, and he imagines his own thoughts to form the population, which is necessary to give verisimilitude to the comparison :

And these same thoughts [are, he says,]
In humours like the people of this world;
For no thought is content. The better sort-
As thoughts of things divine-are intermixed
With scruples, and do set THE WORD itself
Against THE WORD.-

As thus-Come little ones; † and then again-
It is as hard to come, as for a camel

To thread the postern of a needle's eye.‡

K. Rich. II., Act v. Sc. 5.


Justify it.

See Matt. xi. 28.

See Matt. xix. 24.

The three last lines are omitted by Mr. Bowdler. Surely they savour of no irreverence; and, when taken with the context, they point not unprofitably to difficulties and dangers which every reader of the Scriptures must expect to encounter, and which every well-disposed and well-instructed reader will be enabled to overcome.

And as no intentional irreverence towards Holy Scripture, often as he quotes or refers to it, is to be found in our poet's works, so neither does he ever allow himself to speak of the ministers of religion, as other play-writers have done, with disrespect, still less with derision. That he entertained indeed a just sense of the dignity and responsibility of their sacred office, and of the mischiefs that must ensue whenever it is disgraced by insufficiency, or perverted by unfaithfulness; that he regarded them as ambassadors for Christ, and as intercessors, through Him, in behalf of man, we need no further proof than the speech of Prince John of Lancaster, in the Second Part of King Henry IV. He is addressing Scroop, Archbishop of York, who had joined the Earl of Northumberland's party against King Henry, the Prince's father, in the Forest of Gualtree :

My Lord of York, it better showed with you,
When that your flock, assembled by the bell,
Encircled you to hear with reverence

*See above, p. 21.

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