« 上一頁繼續 »
to add much more. In the works of the author before us, we fancy to ourselves the occurrence of a third era; since combining the improvements that have been made of late in theological inves tigation, with a rich vein of imagination, and a bold and racy style," he seems to possess, in a very uncommon degree, the power of religious analysis,-of dissecting with perfect clearness, the different states and feelings of our moral nature; and of handling in an attractive and discriminating manner the abstruser parts of religious speculation.
Curiosity has been strongly excited in Great Britain, respecting the name of this writer, as he has hitherto chosen to appear anonymously in print. For a time, the Natural History of EDthusiasm was attributed to Mr. Douglas; but the style bears no resemblance to the style of that author. Conjecture has more recently fixed upon Mr. Isaac Taylor, brother and biographer of Miss Jane Taylor, and his name has of late been very confidently given to the public in our newspapers, as author of these works. One of the publishers of this work however, has been assured by a London correspondent, in answer to an inquiry on the subject, that this report which was once current in England, is not now believed to be correct. The author, at all events, has not yet chosen to disclose his name-apparently with the design of enhancing the effect of his writings, by the air of mystery which naturally belongs to productions of such ability, when unclaimed.
In addition to the works mentioned at the head of this article, the author has given two others at least to the public-one entitled "A Model of Christian Missions," and the other an "Essay on the Application of Abstract Reasoning to the Christian Doctrines." The former was an early work in which his object was twofold-first to show the impropriety and inefficiency of the present plan of conducting missions to the heathen, by the separate denominations under their distinctive banners-and next to point out a new plan, the principle of which should be a union of missionary exertions, under the direction of some one of the existing denominations. On this plan he would bring into action one of the great secrets of success in all enterprises-the division of labor. For the sake of exemplifying his principle, he proposes that the entire resources of christian beneficence should be turned into the channel of seven societies, to each of which he assigns as the quota of its spiritual care and achievement, a distinct portion of the unevangelized world. The arguments which he brings forward, in favor of his new model are certainly well chosen; and such is the zeal, not to say the force and sometimes the show of right with which they are urged, that the whole structure of christian missions as at present reared,
night well nigh be considered as shaken to the ground, were here not on the face of his own plan something too chimerical, and in its execution that which too nearly approaches impossibiliy, for prudent men to think of adopting it. These features in ais proposal he endeavors indeed to smooth over, and ventures to assert the utter hopelessness of effecting the conversion of the world, as the work is now carried on, or in any other way than that of the general coalescence of christians. It would be easy, however, to answer his objections; and much as we might desire the union of christians in this work, and much as we have reason to be mortified by their baneful collisions, it might be enough to say, that the providence of God seems as yet to open no way, in which the work can be done differently from that, in which it has been commenced. He is doubtless correct in supposing, that it would be impossible to contrive a new model of worship, and a new platform of church government, by means of deputies from the several communities, without awakening "the formidable ghosts of obsolete polemics." But why he should imagine that the different parties, having each its strong predilections for its own modes, would be more satisfied with having the direction of the great work of missions, assigned to one existing model-the Establishment, it is not so easy to tell. The same difficulty would exist in all, except in the favored denomination, because each would be called upon to merge its own distinctive peculiarity, in the faith and the forms of the established church. This circumstance would rather show, that his plan is not feasible, and would
"Seem to cast
It is here, as in some other portions of his writings that we perceive the author is much better fitted to find fault and pull down, than to build up. There is in him much that is adventurous and adapted to set men a thinking, but he seems far from possessing a The book emmind which can ever establish systems of its own. bodies many striking observations and much truth; but the great principle which he recommends, however desirable it may be in itself, or would be in different circumstances of the church, is any thing rather than wise and felicitous in its details. The improbability of its adoption, at least in the present situation of things, if ever indeed, was soon made apparent in an answer which the book received from Mr. Orme, in a preface to Swan's Letters on Missions.
The Essay on the Application of Abstract Reasoning to the Christian Doctrines, we hardly know how to characterize. Simply to pronounce it able, would, perhaps, be saying too little in its
favor, and yet to admit that its conclusions are just, or that it promises to be of any direct use to theological science would be saying too much. It is unique in its character. While the author exhibits in many respects an admirable keenness, discrimination, and capacity to pursue a fleeting and tenuous idea in every shape and form till it borders on unreality, he writes at the same time with more sprightliness, vigor, elegance, and richness of illustrations-illustrations drawn from science, history, general literature, and common life, than we recollect ever to have met with on topics of this description. The result however, at which he arrives, viz. that the question respecting free-will is of no practical importance, may induce many to doubt whether he has not himself been bewildered by refined speculation. Discussions of this kind may be injudiciously conducted, but seriously to maintain that it is of no importance how we settle the question whether we are free agents or notof no use to relieve the testimony of conscience on such a subject, from the load of false philosophy-is too gross an error to meet with much favor in a country like ours. Revivals of religion bring home the subject to christians here, in a manner totally unknown in England. The first objection of every impenitent sinner, under Calvinistic preaching, when pressed to the instantaneous performance of his duty, is, "I cannot." This objection must be met in some way, or it is in vain to urge upon sinners the commands of the gospel. Nor will it avail to tell them, they are bound to repent-that to deny this duty, brings them into direct collision with their maker who enjoins it-that we must leave them to settle the controversy with him-that their consciences tell them, they are in the wrong. Their consciences do not tell them they are in the wrong, for not doing what they have no power to perform. Men may be silenced by authority, or driven by anguish of soul to drop the question, and go directly forward and "strive to enter in at the straight gate;" but it is impossible from the constitution of our nature for a man really to condemn himself for not turning to God, when he feels that he has not the requisite power. To attempt to do it, is like endeavoring to repent of Adam's sin. Revivals of religion have taught us, that we must meet this question directly in the face; and that instead of being removed from the practical concerns of life, it is one in comparison with which all other questions are of no moment. It is idle to say as the author does, that this plea is not admitted in any of the practical interests of life, because the subject belongs to a different department, that of abstract ethics; and that we ought on this ground to set it aside in religion. It is not true, that the plea is any where set aside on this ground; and the author's assumption that it is, furnishes a striking proof to our minds, that with all his ingenuity he has looked with but little
discrimination into this subject. When a court of justice (to take his own example) reject an argument in exculpation of a prisoner, derived from the science of craniology, they do it, not because this science belongs to a different department from that of law, but because they have no belief in craniology. Let them be once convinced that the fact alledged is true, and has a real bearing on the point at issue, and there is not a tribunal in christendom which would not receive it in evidence, to whatever department it may belong. Thus in point of fact, questions in anatomy, chimistry, mineralogy, and many other branches of science, are continually brought to bear on the decisions of courts of justice. When, therefore, the plea of "man's inability to act otherwise than he does act," is rejected both in judicial proceedings, and in the ordinary concerns of life, it is done solely on the ground, that there is no truth whatever in the pretense. The facts adduced by the author, instead of proving that men in their practical concerns, consider it of no importance how this question is decided, show that every human being has already decided it in one way. Mankind will not suffer the business of life to stand still for a moment, or a single worldly interest to be sacrificed, under such a pretense; nor can the individual be found of sufficient hardihood, to insult his fellow-men with such a plea for invading their rights. But men do thus insult their Maker; and "because sentence against" this "evil work is not executed" by God as speedias it is by man," their hearts are fully set in them to do" so. Hating their duty, they lay open their minds with eagerness to every suggestion of false philosophy, which may serve to silence conscience and excuse delay. Taking it, then, as a mere philosophical question, is it of no importance to strip the sinner of this "refuge of lies," which has been the ruin of so many millions? For our own part, we do believe that the man who should fully accomplish the design of Edwards-who should finally and forever remove from the minds of men, all the doubts which they cherish on this subject, resulting from our acknowledged dependence for holiness on divine grace-who should exhibit the doctrines of decrees and free agency in such perfect consisteney, that every mind could see it, in all its bearings, and thus leave each of these truths to take its full effect on the human heart, unobstructed by the other-would do more to promote the salvation of our race, than has been done by any uninspired man from the beginning of time. Why should such an attempt be considered hopeless?
To do justice however, to our author's deep-toned piety and love of scriptural truth we would observe, that he admits Edwards' work to have answered some good purposes, not however so directly as incidentally. While he laments that it has become al
most the text-book of infidelity, he acknowledges it has not been useless in respect to the spirit it exhibits, and its exemption from the common offenses of polemical literature. He believes it to have checked the flippancy of the world, and that the recent return of episcopal divinity to a sounder state, is owing to its influence, in a greater degree than those who have yielded to that influence, are willing always to confess. He admits especially, that it has laughed to scorn the philosophy of Arminianism, and placed Calvinism as a general system on high vantage ground,-expressing his belief that in this system, and not even in evangelical Arminianism, is found the destined barrier against the inroads of neology and atheism.
But it is time to come to the books, on which we designed more particularly to remark. We took them up not so much for the purpose of giving a minute account of their contents, as of reviewing their author generally as a writer; and it is for this reason that we have dwelt, in a few paragraphs, on two other publications from the same pen. They all show the same original and highly gifted mind-the profound thinker-the evangelically devout christian. The Natural History of Enthusiasm, as above intimated, has produced a powerful impression on its readers, an impression, it cannot be doubted, favorable to true piety. It is one of those works which must be felt, whenever it comes in con tact with intelligence and virtue. Its execution in general is marked by an intellectual and moral vigor, an extent and accuracy of observation, and a purity and elevation of taste which highly commend it to the enlightened, the refined, the serious, and the meditative. The reader, however, must not expect to be merely amused, gratified, or instructed. Much as he may think himself free from enthusiasm, he will be searched, and if he is indeed a child of God, he will probably be purified. He will find the writer's spirit mingling familiarly with his own, revealing the secret thoughts of his heart, and bringing forth to light the cherished errors, and "the dark idolatries" that may remain within. The nature of the subject led the author to be discriminative, and to apply to the reader's heart, indirectly indeed, but effectually, the tests of piety in his several discussions. Enthusiasm, with him, is no part of true religion; and though connected with it, and often viewed as an innocent infirmity, he treats it as a moral nuisance, deadly to the soul, inasmuch as it usurps the place which the gospel is meant to occupy. By considering enthusiasm as a term "not of measurement but of quality," he has attempted very correctly, we think, to dispel those perilous illusions of which so many are enamored, under the idea that their fervor, however unenlightened and erratic it may be,