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his own persuasion, that ‘no reasoning nor argument could convince an unbeliever, unless the grace of God accompanied the means used. All he hoped to accomplish was to impart to his
' friends some information on the subject which might turn their attention to the Scriptures, and, at least, remove the deplorable ignorance under which they then laboured. A day was appointed for this purpose, and the circumstance coming to the knowledge of Lord Byron, his lordship signified a wish to be of the party, and said that he also would willingly be converted, if he could, as he felt no happiness in his present unsettled notions on religion.' “You know,” added his lordship to the gentleman whom he addressed, “I am reckoned a black sheep;" and, after a pause, he continued, "yet not so black as the world believes me, nor worse than others. Lord Byron's wishes were of course cheerfully
” acceded to, and the party originally consisting of only five, having been increased to ten, the argument was entered upon by Doctor Kennedy.
In a long preliminary discourse, which we fear must have exercised the patience of some of his hearers, the Doctor attempted to draw a clear distinction between what he called the Christianity of the Bible and the Christianity of men.' He would not endeavour, he said, to prove that any particular creed, confession, or form of church discipline, was divine! This he thought 'impossible !—for, he adds, although these are all founded on the
' Scriptures, or at least said to be so, yet, as they are expressed in uninspired language on the one hand, or mixed with human devices and inventions on the other, so they must partake more or less of a mixture of error, or of what cannot be clearly or unequivocally proved to be the truth. Thus our learned physician very easily gets rid of every description of church erected on the basis of Christianity-rather an inauspicious commencement of his missionary labours. He then confined his inquiry to the question,
. whether the Scriptures contain 'the genuine revelation of the will of God?' but as he was proceeding to read from Newton a summary of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, his auditors interrupted him and contended that the first object should be to prove that the Scriptures were true.
Had we been present at this lecture, we should have very humbly asked the Doctor what were the Scriptures? In what record were they contained ? Whence did he get his Bible ? How and where was it preserved? How was it handed down to him? To a man who acknowledged no Christian church, these would have been puzzling questions, for without such a church, and a true church into the bargain, having existed since the time of the Redeemer, how could it be proved that the sacred writings were preserved in a pure and authentic form ? But we abstain from further comment.
The conversation next turned on Grace and Miracles, upon both
of which subjects the lecturer was rather unsatisfactory. In the course of it, Lord Byron made a confession of his own principles.
• His lordship said, that when he was young, his mother brought him up strictly; that he had access to a great many theological works, and remembered that, among others, he was particularly pleased with Barrow's writings, and that he also went regularly to church. He said that he was not an infidel who denied the Scriptures, and wished to remain in unbelief,--on the contrary, he was very desirous to believe, as he experienced no happiness in having his religious opinions so unsteady and unfixed. “ But he could not,” he added, “ understand the Scriptures.” He said, “ that those people who conscientiously believe, he should always respect, and was always disposed to trust in them more than in others; but he had met with so many, whose conduct differed from the principles which they professed, and who seemed to profess these principles, either because they were paid to do it, or from some other motive, which an intimate acquaintance with their character would enable one to detect; that he had seen few, if any, whom he could rely upon as truly and conscientiously believing the Scriptures." said, “ it was to be regretted that there were so many who professed their conviction of the truth of Christianity, whose conduct afforded reason to suspect the reality of their belief; but that we must not judge too harshly, since we do not know how sincerely these people have repented, and how much they have struggled to preserve themselves from those errors and infirmities, which cause at once a scandal to their profession and expose them to reprehension. As an exception proves the rule, so the existence of hypocrites, --even were the people, his lordship had met with, such-proved the existence of sincere believers : it would be unjust to entertain a general suspicion against all Christians, because one has been so unfortunate as to meet only with those whose sincerity might fairly be distrusted.”—pp. 46, 47.
After making several objections to the Bible, which to say the least of them were extremely unworthy of Lord Byron's mind, such as that the Apostles were accused of not writing good Greek, and that the serpent of Paradise was not the devil, but only the subtlest of all the beasts of the field, he came to that common place of the existence of so much evil in the world. For the answer to these and other objections made on this occasion, we must refer to the volume itself. There is, however, one passage of a frightful nature, which we cannot altogether pass over.
• There were two remarks made by his lordship during the conversation, which deserve to be recorded, though no effort of memory has enabled me to recall the circumstances of the conversation which led to them. I suppose I must have said something about the sovereignty of God, and alluded to the similitude used in Scripture of the potter and his clay; for I distinctly remember his lordship having said, that he would certainly say to the potter, if he were broken in pieces, " Why do you treat me thus ?" The other observation was, that, “ If the whole world were going to hell, he would prefer going with them, than go alone to heaven." These remarks were heard by the others with apparent approbation and applause. I remember, after his departure, conversing with M. and S., and remarking on this topic, that it was easy to talk thus, when he was not
put to the test ; but that if he were tried, his decision would be different, or human nature must be changed: the observation indicating equally the selfishness of man, and an ignorance of the true nature of the Christian religion.'-pp. 66, 67.
Thus terminated the first conversation. The subject was subsequently resumed at successive meetings, at which Lord Byron was not present, and we must do Dr. Kennedy's memory the justice to say, that his arguments and illustrations on many points of doctrine and evidence connected with the sacred writings, are clearly and forcibly put. We regret to learn, however, that they produced but little effect, for—with the exception of one gentleman, of whom he had some hope,-he candidly informs us that the members of his little congregation separated as much Christians as when they first assembled to hear him.
The Doctor, meanwhile, did not altogether despair of converting the noble wanderer. He called occasionally upon him at his country residence, and it is due to Lord Byron to say that he never appeared adverse to the introduction of the Doctor's favourite topic. On the contrary, his lordship uniformly either led to it, or cheerfully went on with it when the ice was once broken. The Doctor at one of these interviews charged the poet with yielding too much to fancy, and with rejecting the Christian system without due inquiry.
I“ have no wish,” said Lord Byron, “to reject it without investigation; on the contrary, I am very desirous of believing, for I have no happiness in my present unsettled notions on religion.”
*** If that be the case," I replied, “then you have no time to lose. It is your positive duty, as well as your highest interest, to begin immediately, and if you do so with a proper spirit, and persevere a sufficient time, you will arrive at a firm conviction of its truth. You must pray humbly to God to grant you, by his holy Spirit, a sense of your own iniquity, and a proper view of the necessity of a Saviour; and when you have seen this, the propriety and harmony of the doctrines of the Gospel will unfold themselves before you."
• " But I do not see,” he said, “ very much the need of a Saviour, nor the utility of prayer. Prayer does not consist in the act of kneeling, nor in repeating certain words in a solemn manner. Devotion is the affection of the heart, and this I feel; for when I view the wonders of creation, I bow to the Majesty of Heaven; and when I feel the enjoyments of life, health, and happiness, I feel grateful to God for having bestowed these upon me.”
6" All this, is well,” I said, so far as it goes, but to be a Christian, you must go farther. Such feelings of devotion as these, I believe, every one experiences, even the most wicked, for they are forced upon him by the wonders of the Creator, and by the nature of his own constitution. If Christianity did not exist, such feelings might be excited; but as Christianity is revealed to man, and is the only means, hitherto known, by which a sinner can be reconciled to a holy God, and made for everlasting happiness, it imperiously demands the attention of every one: for, if true, it follows inevitably, that transitory moments of devotion and gratitude will
not be considered as sufficient for qualifying a man for heaven, if he reject that Saviour, the Son of God, who came to die in his stead, that his sins might be forgiven, and that, by believing in him, his heart and affections might be changed, and his conduct and conversation altered. I would entreat your lordship to read your bible most attentively, with humble prayer, that light may be given you to understand it; for, great as your talents are, without the teaching of the holy Spirit, the whole book will be to you sealed, or at most an entertaining history, or a curious fable.”
in I read more of the bible than you are aware,” said Lord B.; “I have a bible which my sister gave me, who is an excellent woman,
and I read it very often.” He went into his bed-room on saying this, and brought out a pocket bible, finely bound, and shewed it to me.
• I said, “ You cannot do better than read this; but if you have read it so much, it is singular that you have not arrived at the understanding of it.'-pp. 134-137.
Although Lord Byron was possessed of a Bible, it is painful to think how little he must have read or reflected upon its contents. The idea that Satan, of whose existence however he doubted, must be as much under the controul of the Omnipotent as any of the elements of nature, seemed to be quite novel to his mind. In one description of heresy, it appears, both the physician and the poet agreed both felt indifferent towards Milton and Shakespeare. The conversation arose out of the subject of witches.
<“ But since we have spoken of witches,” said Lord Byron, “ what think you of the witch of Endor? I have always thought this the finest and most finished witch-scene that ever was written or conceived, and you
ill be of my opinion, if you consider all the circumstances and the actors in the case, together with the gravity, simplicity, and dignity of the language. It beats all the ghost-scenes I ever read. The finest conception on a similar subject is that of Goethe's Devil, Mephistopheles ; and though of course you will give the priority to the former, as being inspired, yet the latter, if you know it, will appear to you—at least it does to me-one of the finest and most sublime specimens of human conception.”
* I smiled at the singular associations which brought such subjects together in Lord B.'s mind. I said, I agreed with him as to the first, though I had not before considered it in a poetical point of view; but the grandeur of the circumstances readily struck me, when he pointed them out to me, but I was not able to judge of the latter, as it was some time since I had looked at Madame de Staëls work on Germany, where an abstract is given, and copious extracts are made from the work. 66 The authoress praises it in very high terms; but," I said, " whether owing to want of taste or something else, I had never met with any conception of angels, whether good or bad, or devils, or witches, which conveyed an idea sufficiently high of the goodness of the one class, or of the wickedness of the other. Milton," I said, “
, appears to me completely to fail in his angels. His good angels are very good, but they are a little insipid, and the bad angels excite more sympathy and less terror than perhaps he intended. The only fine conception of its kind is the Diable boiteaux, at least, it seems to me to be more original than any other sketch of a devil which I have seen.
"“ Do you very much admire Milton ?” asked Lord B. 6. It would be heresy," I replied, " to say that I do not admire Milton, and in sober earnestness I admire his talents as a poet, but I have no pleasure in the greater part of his Paradise Lost. The weakness of fiction is strikingly manifest to him who knows the simple majesty of divine truth, and he who is so much impressed with the latter can have no enjoyment in seeing it rendered subservient to fiction.” “I do not so greatly admire Milton, myself,” said Lord B.; “ nor do I admire Cowper, whom so many people praise. Cowper happens to be my favourite among the poets,” I said, « and he is so with a large class of people, and will continue to be so, in proportion as real Christianity spreads, for he has more of moral and divine truth in his poems than any other poet of his rank and poetical abilities. My habits and studies do not lead me to read much poetry, and I am probably a very incompetent judge; but, like many others, I have read Cowper twice or thrice, and may read him oftener, but though I have more than once resolved to read Milton, I have never fairly read him twice, but tired after reading different passages.”
"" Do you admire Shakspeare ?” enquired Lord B. By no means to that extent which is generally done." “ Neither do 1,” said his lordship.'-pp. 154—156.
Lord Byron more than once acknowledged that he had failed in his tragedies. He evinced great anxiety in defending his character from the attacks that were made upon it in the reviews of “ Cain.” He conceived that he had done enough, if he drew that personage with fidelity, truth, and consistency, and that he was not answerable for his rebellion against God, the murder of his brother, and his blasphemous sentiments. To this it was properly answered, why bring forward such a character at all? Or if brought upon the stage, why do his impious reasonings remain unreproved and uncontradicted by the virtuous beings who figure in the same drama? The poet was seriously affected, however, upon being told
of a man in distressed circumstances, who one evening brought Cain in his hand to a friend, and read some passages of it to him, in which, doubts of immortality, and of justice on earth, are expressed--and who, after desiring attention to what was there said, shot himself on the following niorning.' « In what work," asked Lord B., “ did this fact appear ?".
* It was in the newspaper; whether true or false, I cannot say.' “I am very sorry for it,” he replied, "whether it be true or false. Had I known that such an event was likely to happen, I should never have written the book.” This was the repentance of an ingenuous mind. We trust it was recorded elsewhere. Lord Byron's defence of Don Juan could hardly have satisfied even his own mind.
« « Even in this work," said Lord B., “ I have been equally misunderstood. I take a vicious and unprincipled character, and lead him through those ranks of society, whose high external accomplishments cover and cloke internal and secret vices, and I paint the natural effects of such characters; and certainly they are not so highly coloured as we find them in real life.”