ePub 版

though not less steady and consistent in action (perhaps more so,) yet continue to hold converse with reasons they have repudiated; and to traverse again and again the ground of their firmest convictions. p. 36.

A bold startling air of paradox may be mentioned as another characteristic of the writer, in the works before us. This, though in general not a safe mode of writing, has nevertheless its advantages. It draws attention to the thought; and the mind of the reader, while settling the meaning of the apparently absurd, proposition, is the more struck with the real truth, which it partly hides and partly reveals. This mode of exhibition adequately sustained, throws an aspect of vivacity and sprightliness over a work, and accordingly our author with no small share of sagacity, has availed himself of it at times, to set forth the important sentiments which he wished to inculcate. The consciousness of strength, and of having truth on his side, can alone, however, warrant a person in advancing tenets, which, though correct in fact, are contrary to the common opinion of mankind, or carry on the face of them an absurdity. It is probably owing to this cause, as well as to some others, that our author has often been charged with obscurity. There is occasionally a paragraph, which the reader, if he is not commendably patient, must leave in uncertainty as to its precise import. In the majority of cases, however, where the paradoxical and highly abstract turn of the thought produces a momentary perplexity, the reader will be well rewarded, by giving to the page a second perusal. Perhaps we may find in the following casual remark of the author, the reason which, in connection with his habits of thought, induced him to adopt his somewhat peculiar mode of statement. "It is indeed," he says, "always well that writers should labor to attain prespicacity, and simplicity and vivacity; but is it well when they feel themselves compelled (as in terror,) to avoid whatever supposes in the reader, high culture and intelligence?"

Again, the rich and beautiful imagery with which the writer clothes his thoughts, and in general the force and felicity of his descriptions are a striking feature in his works. These will have appeared in the extracts already given: but single sentences may be adduced with a view to convey a more definite idea, particularly of that sort of style which seems to paint the conceptions of the mind, in which the author so much abounds.


"If things spiritual in the force of reality rested on our hearts, we should in a moment start out from our niches of marble formality, and press up to the altar of philanthropy, each bringing the loathed bundle of his prejudices in his hand to be taken up no


"Let but some hotly agitated question of policy or political

economy cease to be vigorously treated, and yet continue to be a matter of common conversation, and we shall find in ten years, or seven, perhaps in three, that words, phrases, and wonted forms of expression on such subjects have slipped their meaning; and being disburdened of the weight which they once carried, have taken the wing, and float vague and idle in upper air."

"The attractions, the dangers, the urgent interests of the present state form (we may say) a screen, which, with its gaudy and various colors, its painted pomps and trickeries, hangs on every side before the eye of man, encircling his theater of exercise, and fencing out from his knowledge, the world of intellectual life."

"The swelling and rolling flood of human life moves on in billows so brief and proud, that in rising to the brow of each watery ridge, nothing of the general expanse is beheld, nothing seen but the surge and fall of the precursive wave."

A writer, who,on fitting occasions, can set forth his thoughts in an imagery so bold and rich—in a manner so lively and picturesque, is master of a talent which will procure him readers, and which he should turn to the best account. In our author it is well employed, as a vehicle of his startling, original, profound conceptions; and directed as it generally is, by sound judgment and correct taste, it adds to the charms of his otherwise fascinating compositions. We do not, however, consider his style to be unexceptionable throughout. It is faulty in some respects, and susceptible of improvement. The occasional hardness and abruptness of its mechanical structure might be laid aside without detriment.

A characteristic above all others to be admired in our author. as exhibited in his works, is the decided prevalence of deep spiritual religion. His books bear this delightful signature, so evidently, so prominently, that we suppose none will doubt it—at least none who have themselves known the transforming influences of the gospel. The piece on the Family affection of Christianity, would alone prove the geniality of his spirit to that of all christians, since he could not otherwise have so drawn that spirit to the life. His developement of moral character and feelings, above commented on, is too profound-too accurate-too authenticated not to have been the result of experimental knowledge. The spirituality of the author is indeed manifested in every page, and his constant aim most evidently is to make a deeply religious impression on the minds of readers. There is in fine, a freshness in his sketches of religion, a vitality, a faithfulness to the original. a breadth and fullness of views, which show the strength of his own conviction on the subject, and his claims as a sound spiritual man, on the confidence of the reading public.

While, however, all this may be safely said concerning the

christian spirit of the writer, and the evangelical character of his books, it is proper at the same time to observe, that he appears to be less acquainted with theology as a science, or a body of elementary principles, having a definable connection with one another, than might have been expected. At least considering in how masterly a manner he has analyzed the feelings of the heart, we have a great sense of disappointment when we find him tail here. The relations of speculative truth, however, he may very naturally have overlooked in a degree, while examining so minutely its practical operation. On this account, his knowledge of the doctrinal religious system of the bible, may have been acually acquired less from a critical examination of the documentay evidence, (a method however, which he highly approves,) than rom a sort of internal consciousness, or feeling of their truth. If ve are at all correct in this suggestion, it will readily be explained, why the author speaks so slightingly of systematic divinity in evry shape. While we agree with him in his main principle, that religious truth should be sought from the scriptures, in a manner similar to that in which, according to Bacon, physical truth should e learned from nature-viz. by the inductive process; we would hot with the author, go so far as to avoid all attempts to connect t in a system, and to give it proportion. We would not with him, seem to hold it altogether in fragments, and in detached parcels, Is if the relation of one truth to another could never be seen, or when seen, could not be at all important. It can readily be explained, also, in the view here taken, how it happens that the auhor has expressed himself much more unguardedly at times, on mportant topics, than an accurate and disciplined theologian would have done, or one who nicely comprehended the relations of truth, and the analogy of faith. An instance will be adduced norder to exemplify the present remark. The author in his chapter on the State of Seclusion, (and this world he considers such,) reasoning hypothetically concerning the manner in which probationary beings should be treated, says, "The probationers must not see or know that, the knowledge which would at once dissipate the obscurity that invests the questions of right and wrong. They may indeed receive a rule of conduct, and they may be coldly informed of the distant consequences of their present course of action; but this information must itself take its place quietly among those reasons that are much more valid than imperative.' He soon adds, passing from suppositions to the reality. "And are not such in fact the circumstances of that abode to which the human family is confined?" &c. His plan of remark, and the great principle he would illustrate, seemed to render it necessary that he should represent the condition of probationers, and man


kind of course, in the above light and contrary to the obvious declarations and spirit of the scripture, on one point at least, he so represented it. But are mankind in the bible left in "obscurity" as to the question of right and wrong; are they coldly informed of the distant consequences of their present course of action? On the contrary, what can be more clear than the whole subject of our duty as there presented-what more heart-stiring than the exhortations and warnings of scripture in reference to the future allotments of men? This is a single instance out of a number which might be substantiated, where the writer appears to have overlooked the exact relations of truth, in pursuing his exposition of independent and isolated principles.

The spirit of our author, as generally manifested in his books, is certainly kind and liberal; yet in some instances, there is an approximation at least towards an opposite feeling, attended with a somewhat hasty and injudicious attack on certain evils, of which it would be difficult to say, whether the attempt to expel them, or their continuance would be the greater calamity. He would pull down, however hard it might be to build again. Indeed his mode of condemning present operations for doing good, mixed as they confessedly are with imperfection, and his style of talking about what might be done, show more the strength of his zeal, than the soundness of his discretion. This is apparent in his plan of christian missions, and in representations that are occasionally met with in the books under review. He seems but too little satisfied with things as they are, and has a turn and a talent for fault-finding. which, if they be not regulated by benevolence, might easily lead him to excess. Perhaps it is a too easy charity in us-nevertheless we venture to ask, who would love to surmise, as the author has done, and proclaim his suspicion to the world, even if he believed it? "May it not," he says, "be conjectured that at the present moment, where we shall find one man, (meaning among professors of religion,) who is both sound-minded and truly spiritual, we shall meet with three pusillanimous religionists, and twenty secular believers." Are these then, we ask, the triumphs of the grace of God? Only one out of twenty four members of the christian body among evangelical communities, who can be considered as fit to belong to that body! Only one to twenty who is a true christian! In our blessed revials of religion, as well as in ordinary times, do we receive into our churches, twenty hypocrites or self-deceivers to one genuine convert? We know not how it is in England, but for the honor of the gospel and for the hope of the world, we trust that nothing like this can be the case in our own country. In our zeal to guard the purity of religion and religious profession, let us not seem to undervalue the achievements of di

vine mercy, or be willing to diminish the confidence with which piety should labor to confer the saving benefits of religion on lost men. If our author has sometimes made representations of the kind above noticed, we are happy to know that there are others in his works, which are likely to counteract them. On the whole, though by no means faultless, he may be reckoned one of the most powerful, accomplished, and useful writers of the age.


Prize Letters to Students, in two parts; By Rev. BAXTER DICKINSON, Newark, N. J.

If there is any one class in our country upon which the philanthropist, the patriot, and the christian, must look with more interest than any other, it is that class which is composed of our active and enterprising young men; especially of those who enjoy the advantages of a liberal education. In almost any circumstances, knowledge is the parent of influence: it gives to one mind the ability of controling many; and if there are good principles along with it, it may be expected, in proportion to its extent, to help forward the great cause of human happiness. What would Newton, and Bacon, and Locke, and Edwards, have accomplished for the world with only an ordinary degree of knowledge? But we may almost ask, what did they not accomplish by means of the actual improvement to which they attained? And if knowledge secures influence in any circumstances, surely there were never circumstances more favorable to give it influence than exist in our own country. We are not trammeled with the fetters of aristocracy. We know nothing, happily, of the influence of mere rank, and have never been taught to do homage to titles, or to respect men for any thing else than their own merits. Here every man may speak and write his own thoughts with perfect freedom; and if he speaks and writes well, he has a fair chance to be heard, and by multitudes; and his thoughts are tried in no worse crucible than reason and common sense. While there every advantage in this country for knowledge to exert its full influence, there are circumstances connected with the present state and prospects of the country, which render it of the utmost importance that the cultivated intellect of the present and next generation should be directed in a right channel. For it seems to be acknowledged on all hands, that we have reached a critical period in our national history, and that it is to be decided within much less than half a century, what is to be the ultimate destiny


« 上一頁繼續 »