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Eloquence, rhetorical effect, poetry, were alike remote from his design. He expressly disclaims the possession of learning, an acquaintance with terms, and a knowledge of style. He did not write from necessity, scarcely perhaps for fame. But he lets us understand that the pleasure derived from his voluntary employment was to him an adequate return. He desired to leave France, nay, and the world, something to be remembered by, something which should tell what kind of a man he was—what he felt, thought, suffered—and he succeeded immeasurably, I apprehend, beyond his expectations. This is the secret of his repute and estimation, hardly popularity. His pages are candid and unrestrained to a fault. His book may be said to err on the side of honesty, and he shocks us not unfrequently by the strangely ingenuous frankness of his disclosures. Whatever we may judge the Essays to be as they lie before us, there is the feeling that, had any professional school of criticism existed in France in the author’s time, and its verdict been present to his mind, they might have been more chastened and labored, and, on the contrary, less spontaneous, less conversational, less intimate, less a book constituting in itself a class and a type.
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The Christian religion has all the marks of the utmost utility and justice: but none more manifest than the severe injunction it lays indifferently upon all to yield absolute obedience to the civil magistrate, and to maintain and defend the laws. Of which, what a wonderful example has the divine wisdom left us, that, to establish the salvation of mankind, and to conduct His glorious victory over death and sin, would do it after no other way, but at the mercy of our ordinary forms of justice subjecting the progress and issue of so high and so salutiferous an effect, to the blindness and injustice of our customs and observances; sacrificing the innocent blood of so many of His elect, and so long a loss of so many years, to the maturing of this inestimable fruit? There is a vast difference betwixt the case of one who follows the forms and laws of his country, and of another who will undertake to regulate and change them; of whom the first pleads simplicity, obedience, and example for his excuse, who, whatever he shall do, it cannot be imputed to malice; ’tis at the worst but misfortune:—