Изображения страниц

which we should remember in connection with this period of our English History ;-I meant the discovery of America, and the great naval expeditions which followed that discovery. You have heard of Christopher Columbus, the celebrated Genoese navigator to whom we are so much indebted for our first acquaintance with the great Western continent. As his history is connected rather with Spain than with England, I am not going to say much about him here; only I may tell you, that the great excitement wbich filled the minds of men when it was once known that there was such a vast extent of land to be explored on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, led to many


voyages of discovery. One in particular I will mention, which was undertaken by a Venetian settled in Bristol, named Cabot. He was sent out at the expence of Henry VII., and discovered part of the main land of the New World, the island of Newfoundland, and other countries along the coast. He was succeeded by some other Bristol merchants, who went out in the


1502. The king was much interested in these voyages ; and in order to encourage naval enterprize, he expended a large sum of money in building a ship which was called the Great Harry.

You may suppose that knowledge of every kind was greatly extended by those voyages of discovery. Geography, history, the manners and customs of nations never before heard of, the various productions, arts, and manufactures of newly-found countries, the numerous plants and animals hitherto unknown,--all these interesting matters now became subjects of thought and conversation among intelligent people; and additional sources of interest were continually opened to them, as fresh accounts were brought home by the enterprizing voyagers. There is something very delightful in the acquisition of knowledge ;-you yourselves often feel this. How pleasant it is when you too make little discoveries, in your daily studies, in the world of science and literature, quite as new to you as America was to those bold navigators of the time of Columbus. How delightful it is to you to find out something which you had never heard of before; some fact or truth perhaps quite unknown to you, and which strikes you now with all the freshness and charm of novelty! You can enter therefore a little into the feelings of pleasure which our forefathers experienced when they listened, for the first time, to the tales of wonder, and yet of truth, brought from far distant lands. And then, you know, that as every new thing we learn opens the way for the acquisition of another and another, our information goes on extending further and wider, and it is our own fault if every day does not find us wiser and more intelligent than the day before. Those who have once tasted how pleasant knowledge is, will wish to be always increasing it; and they will think time and labour well bestowed in gaining what they feel to be so valuable. Only we should always remember what I told you long ago,that it is not so much the mere knowledge of any subject which is so important, but rather the means and opportunities it gives us of becoming more useful to others.

All this that I have been saying about knowledge, is true of nations, as well as of individuals. The acquisition and the love of learning, once implanted among the people of a country, goes on increasing ; each year as it rolls away, and each generation as it passes along, adds something to the general stock ; and so you may expect to hear of a succession of learned men, and a long catalogue of inventions and improvements in art and science ; dating from the commencement of civilization of a higher kind than had hitherto been known in our country.

I have nothing particular to tell you as to the state of religion in England just at this time. In our next chapter, I shall have much to say on the subject; because we shall then enter upon that very important period which

[ocr errors]

is called the era of the Reformation ;-a time when men in general began to see more clearly than hitherto the errors of the Popish system of religion; and to desire and seek after truth more earnestly than during many a preceding century of darkness and ignorance. Meanwhile, God in his providence had been preparing the way for this happy change. We have just seen how knowledge was extending, and how people were beginning to think, and study and enquire for themselves, on all subjects. And then, in different countries, God was preparing one and another as instruments for the work which was soon to be undertaken. Men remarkable for talents and learning were rising up here and there, fitted by circumstances to act an important part when the time, the right time, should arrive. Do

you remember what I told you when we were speaking of the first introduction of Christianity into Britain ? I then tried to show you

how one event is linked to another in the chain of Providence; how necessary each link is, and how exactly it is fitted into its right and proper place. Now as often as we remark this in any particular instance, we should learn to admire the wisdom and goodness of God as to what is past; and to trust to his arrangement and direction as to what icture. In dark and stormy times, such as those of which we have lately been talking, there is often much to dishearten and to perplex us. Sometimes religion and the knowledge of the truth appears almost lost ; every thing that was good seems to have passed away, and nothing remains, we think, but what is evil; and so we grow sad and discouraged. But there is no occasion for such a feeling as this. No; for through all these dark times, God has been secretly and silently working. The wonderful plan wbich he has laid down for the good of His creatures, for the benefit of the world he has created, has been still going on; it has never ceased for one single moment. Like some mighty work, performed it may be in the night, and in darkness, when no eye can see, it has been progressing unnoticed and unknown, hour after hour; and at last, the night passes away, and the morning dawns, and the sun arises; and then that great work is seen rising up before us almost ready for completion; and those who look at it wonder, and admire the wisdom which, unknown, unseen by them, contrived and prepared it all.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »