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not that it is the only one which we have, but because it is the nearest at hand, and the last of the many we have read. Since the above notice was written, and while it was waiting for the press, two other pamphlets have been received from Charleston, which were occasioned by further offence from the Wesleyan Journal. They are more local in their character, and warmer in their temperature than the first. Not that we would find fault with them, on either of these accounts. The new articles in the Journal were of a local nature themselves, and were to be answered in like manner; and they were moreover so pert, undignified and sophistical, that they could hardly be replied to except in a tone, occasionally at least, of indignant contempt. A controversy thus protracted, however, though it may be of a final good efficacy on the spot of its origin, cannot be of much general interest, and we decline pursuing it. We will only mention one thing which comes out in the course of the dispute, which is, that the 'Antidote' was taken by the Editor of the Wesleyan Journal, without the usual acknowledgment, from an old volume of the Arminian Magazine, published by Mr Wesley. This is his own confession, and is alleged in defence of himself!
Art. III.—A View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion. By Soame Jenyns, Esq. Princeton, N.J.
Soame Jenyns is one of those from whom it is impossible to withhold censure, and to whom we ought not surely to refuse praise. That he possessed qualities, which entitled him to esteem, and were fitted to inspire affection towards him, as a man, and had some vivacity and was not destitute of skill and vigour, as a writer, has never, we believe, been called in question. He lived much in the world, and is said to have exhibited great sweetness of temper, an easy flow of wit, and affable and engaging manners. He was for thirty eight years successively, a member of Parliament, but appears never to have taken an active part in debate. His pursuits, especially in early life, were chiefly literary. He was known to his cotemporaries as the author of numerous fugitive pieces, with which at different intervals, during a long life,* he sought to amuse or instruct the public. Much of what he wrote, however, is now forgotten, and we know not that it is worth being remembered.
Whatever be his merits as an author, they are shaded by gross faults. He is more sprightly, than profound, and more ingenious than solid. He is bold, sweeping, and incorrect; often glowing and eloquent, but full of extravagance and paradox. We know not whether we ought, in many instances, to feel more surprise at his premises or conclusion; at the train of reasoning he pursues, or the end for which he employs it. His thoughts are clothed in an attractive dress; but his speculations are at war with common sense and with each other.
His poetry, for he attempted poetry, is light and trifling, and though praised at the time, has long since sunk into neglect. He aimed, however, only to be gay and amusing, and what he attempted, he perhaps accomplished. He confined himself to topics capable only of inspiring local and fugitive interest, and the charms which his subjects wanted, were not supplied by any deep kindling of the imagination or feelings.
He wrote 'Disquisitions' on several subjects, in one of which,f he attempts to revive the old doctrine of the pre-existence of the human soul; the sum of which, as he states it, is, that 'man- * Born 1703—4, died 1787. The following entry, originally made in the registry of burials for the Parish of Bottisham, by William Lort Manaell, then Rector of that Parish, may be gratifying, as an obituary notice at once chaste and feeling.
'Soame Jenyns, in the 63d year of his age.
What his literary character was,
And one of the truest Christians.
By William Lort Mansell, sequestrator,
J Disquisition III. Works, Vol. II. p. 141. Ed. Dub. 1790.
kind have existed in some state previous to the present,' in which 'guilt was incurred,' and 'depravity contracted —that 'this world was formed for a place of punishment as well as of probation; a prison, or house of correction, in which we are a while confined to receive punishment for the offences of a former, and an opportunity of preparing ourselves for the enjoyment of happiness in a future life.' Some curiosity may be felt to know by what train of reflection he satisfied himself of the truth of this hypothesis; and as the reasoning he employs in its defence is characteristic of his general manner, we shall not hesitate briefly to state it.
He begins by declaring, that the hypothesis alluded to is 'undoubtedly confirmed by reason, by all the appearances of nature, and the doctrines of revelation.' The following is one of the arguments, or rather assertions, for it is nothing but mere assertion, which he employs in support of it. 'Reason assures us, that an immortal soul, which will exist eternally after the dissolution of the body, must have eternally existed before the formation of it; for whatever has no end, can never have had a beginning, but exist in some manner, which bears no relation to time, to us totally incomprehensible ; if therefore the soul will continue to exist in a future life, it must have existed in a former.'
He has more of the same quality. He then proceeds to consider the appearances of things; and pours out a long strain of querulous eloquence on the subject of the unhappiness and misery of man, intended to confirm the conclusion, that we were sent hither to be punished for the vices of a former state.—It is easy for a person disposed to take melancholy views of life, to draw a gloomy picture of the sufferings of humanity. But such pictures, we need not say, are necessarily unfaithful. They are delineations of human nature only under certain incidental modifications. They represent only its deformities, its weaknesses, and its maladies. They are shapeless and blurred portraits. They may fit the inmates of a prison or infirmary. But are we to take the unfortunate or degraded occupants of prisons and infirmaries as the true and sole representatives of the condition of human nature on earth? Yet such are the portraits, which Jenyns asks us to survey, and then expects us to admit, that the present life is 'intended for a state of punishment, and therefore must be subsequent to some former, in which this punishment was deserved.'
He would have us believe, that revelation teaches the same doctrine; 'for although perhaps it is nowhere in the New Testament explicitly enforced, yet throughout the whole tenor of those writings it is every where implied; in them mankind are represented as coming into the world under a load of guilt;'—' Christianity acquaints us, that we are admitted into this life oppressed with guilt and depravity.' Now as it is absurd to suppose, that'guilt can be contracted without acting, or that we can act without existing,' he thinks the evidence of a pre-existent state too clear to need any' positive assertion; as if a man at the moment of his entrance into a new country was declared a criminal, it would surely be unnecessary to assert, that he had lived in some other before he came there.'
The author has here fallen on a real difficulty. All guilt is by its nature personal, and supposes will and action. How then can a person be said to be 'born under a load of it?' How can it attach to one not yet in being, or not capable of willing and acting? We know of no other way of removing this difficulty, than to reject, at once, the doctrine of native hereditary depravity. But Soame Jenyns was not much in the habit of calling in question the truth of received doctrines on account of their extravagance and absurdity. By a strange perversity of mind he turned that extravagance and absurdity into an argument for their divinity.
His 'Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil,' among the remarks it drew from several quarters, called forth the masterly, but, perhaps, harsh and illiberal criticism of Johnson. The 'Inquiry,' however, is superficial and unsatisfactory, though somewhat pretending and arrogant, and not free from occasional absurdity. It is not surprising, that if Johnson condescended to notice such a work, he should chastise with an unsparing hand. In fact, he poured forth a strain of invective, to which the annals of literary criticism furnish few parallels. How it was received by Jenyns we have no means of knowing. It does not seem to have drawn from him any immediate reply. Perhaps he feared to engage with his gigantic antagonist. At all events, he appears to have submitted in silence, until a second edition of his ' Inquiry' was several years after called for, in the preface to which he attempted a sort of defence; but with the mildness and forbearance, for which he is said to have been tlistinguished, carefully abstained from reflections of a personal nature. That he felt deep resentment against Johnson, however, is evident from an epitaph of six lines, which he wrote on that great critic and moralist, and which his editor, Cole, was indiscreet enough to insert in his collection of Jenyns' works. It has not more force and point than coarseness and vulgarity.
Of the works of Jenyns the' View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion' is, at the present day, most read, and undoubtedly exhibits most power. We think, however, that its merits have been greatly overrated. It has been, and perhaps continues to be popular with a class of Christians of the school of the late Thomas Scott, who tells us, that when read by him it deeply impressed his mind. We are willing to allow, that it contains much important matter. We assent to many of the author's views, and feel the charms of his eloquence. It would be foolish to condemn it altogether, or assert, that it is the production of a weak or contemptible intellect. But we feel justified in affirming, that it bears the stamp of genius rather than of wisdom, and of ingenuity rather than good sense and judgment.
Whatever be its merits, it has prominent faults. We think it fitted to convey some impressions very injurious to Christianity. We feel the more anxious to point out its errors, as it is written in a style somewhat captivating, and in a tone of confidence and dogmatism adapted to impose on the superficial and unthinking, at the same time, that it holds out views, which, pursued in their consequences, tend to produce scepticism and infidelity.
The subject of which it treats, the Internal Evidences of Christianity, is certainly an important and interesting one, and we agree with the author in thinking, that it has not been ' considered with that attention it deserves.' We add, it is a subject, which is every day growing in importance and interest. Without going into the inquiry how far the alleged miracles of Christianity are fitted to keep alive a veneration for it in future ages, we feel no hesitation in saying, that the time has come when the attention is to be more and more directed to the indications of its origin borne on its features—to the cast of its doctrines and morality—to its tendency, spirit and object. These are evidences, of the force of which all feel capable of judging. They are more within our reach, fall more immediately under