Good Thoughts in Bad Times, and Other Papers

By THOMAS FULLER, D. D. Boston : Ticknor & Fields.
THERE certainly never was a greater piece of publishing felicity, in its seasonableness, than this entire reprint. The “ Thoughts ” are as good, for whatever is had or trying in our times, as they were hundreds of years ago ; so that one might almost suspect the title of the book for an invention, and consider many a passage in it to be new matter, only — after the fashion of some who, in essay or story, try to reproduce the ancients — skilfully put in the manner of the old preacher. To all who would have religious comfort in the distractions of present events we especially recommend this incomparable divine’s truly devout and thoughtful pages. None of our authors have succeeded so well in providing for our own wants. The sea of our political agitations might become smooth under the well-beaten oil which he pours out. The divisions made by the sword to-day would heal with the use of his prescriptions. Human nature never grows old; and America, in her Civil War, is the former England over again now.
Sticklers for a style of conventional dignity and smooth decorum may think to despatch Fuller’s claims by denominating him a quaint writer. This would be what is vulgarly called a snap-judgment indeed. His quaintness never runs into superficial conceit, but embodies always a deep and comprehensive wisdom. He insinuates truth with a friendly indirectness, and banters us out of our folly with a foreign instance. Plutarch or Montaigne is not more happy in historical parallels, for personal reflection and sober application to actual duty. Never was fancy more alert in the service of piety. His imagination is as luminous as Sir Thomas Browne’s, and, if less peculiar and original in its combinations, rises into identity with more child-like and lofty worship. Ever ready to fall on his knees, there is in his adoration no touch of cant, or of that other-worldliness which Coleridge complains of as interfering with the pressing affairs and obligations of the present. No pen ever drew a firmer boundary between sentiment and sentimentality. But never was shrewd knowledge of this world so humane, keen observation so kind, wit so tender, and humor so sanctified, united with resolution by all means to teach and save mankind so invariably strong.
While so much of our religious literature is a weak appeal to shallow feeling and a gross affront to reason, it is refreshing to meet with an author who helps us to obey the great precept of the Master, and put mind and strength, as well as heart and soul, into our love of God. Indeed, this precious treatise, or assemblage of little treatises, so rational without form of logic, so convenient to be read for a moment or all day long, and so harmonious in its diverse headings, should be everywhere circulated as a larger sort of religious tract. We hear of exhortations impressed in letters on little loaves for the soldiers to eat. We wish every military man or civilian, intelligent enough for the relish, could have Fuller’s sentences to feed on, as, beyond all rhetoric, bread of life.
So let a welcome go to the old worthy, our hearts’ brother, as he seems to rise out of his two - centuries’ grave. At a time when Satan appears again to have been let loose for a season, and we know the power of evil, described in the Apocalypse, in the fearful headway made by the rebellions conspiracy of his servants, carried to such a point of success, that statesmen, and scholars, and preachers, even of so-called liberal views, on the farther shore, bow to it the knee, while the frowning cannon at every point shows how remote the Millennium still is,— thanks for the counsels, fit to our need, of a writer still fresh, while the main host of his contemporaries are long since obsolete, with dead volumes for their tombs. How many precious quotations from his leaves we might make, but that we prefer to invite a perusal of the whole !
We add to our criticism no drawbacks, as we like to give to transcendent merit unstinted praise, and have really no exceptions in mind, could we presume in such a case to express any. Looking on the features of Fuller’s portrait, which makes the frontispiece of his work as here reproduced for us, we note a weight of prudence strangely blending with a buoyancy of prayer, well corresponding to the inseparable sagacity and ecstasy of his words, teaching us the consistency of immortal aspiration with an infallible good-sense, — a lesson never more important to be learned than now. To be an executive mystic, an energetic saint, is the very ideal of human excellence ; and to go forward in the name of the Divinity is the meaning of the book we have here passed in review.