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monly end either in yielding a credulous, and therefore an infirm assent, or by reposing in a self-sufficient and far more hazardous incredulity. For these reasons, we attach less value to the long series of Baxter's works in support of the foundations of the Christian faith than to the rest of his books which have floated in safety down the tide of time to the present day. Yet it would be difficult to select, from the same class of writings, any more eminently distinguished by the earnest love and the fearless pursuit of truth; or to name an inquirer into these subjects who possessed and exercised to a greater extent the power of suspending his long-cherished opinions, and of closely interrogating every doubt by which they were obstructed. In his solicitude to sustain the conclusions he had so laboriously formed, Baxter unhappily invoked the aid of arguments, which, however impressive in his own days, are answered in ours by a smile, if not by a sneer. The sneer, however, would be at once unmerited and unwise. When Hale was adjudging witches to death, and More preaching against their guilt, and Boyle investigating the sources of their power, it is not surprising that Baxter availed himself of the evidence afforded by witchcraft and apparitions in proof of the existence of a world of spirits; and therefore in support of one of the fundamental tenets of revealed religion. Marvellous, however, it is, in running over his historical discourse on that subject, to find him giving so unhesitating an assent to the long list of extravagances and nursery tales which he has there brought together; unsupported as they almost all are by any proof that such facts occurred at all, or by any decorous pretext for referring them to preternatural agency. Simon Jones, a stout-hearted and able-bodied soldier, standing sentinel at Worcester, was driven away from his post by the appearance of something like a headless bear. A drunkard was warned against intemperance by the lifting up of his shoes by an invisible hand. One of the witches condemned by Hale threw a girl into fits. Mr. Emlin, a bystander, “suddenly felt a force pull one of the hooks from his breeches, and, while he looked with wonder what had become of it, the tormented girl vomited it up out of her mouth.” At the house of Mr. Beecham, there was a tobacco pipe which had the habit of “moving itself from a shelf at the one end of the room to a shelf at the other end of the room.” When Mr. Munn, the minister, went to witness the prodigy, the tobacco pipe remained stationary; but a great Bible made a spontaneous leap into his lap, and opened itself at a passage, on the hearing of which the evil spirit who had possessed the pipe was exorcised. “This Mr. Munn himself told me, when in the sickness year, 1665, I lived in Stockerson hall. I have no reason to suspect the veracity of a soberman, a constant preacher, and a good scholar.” Baxter was credulous and incredulous for precisely the same reason. Possessing by long habit a mastery over his thoughts, such as few other men ever acquired, a single effort of the will was sufficient to ex
clude from his view whatever recollections he judged hostile to his immediate purpose, Every prejudice was at once banished when any debatable point was to be scrutinized; and, with equal facility, every reasonable doubt was exiled when his only object was to enforce or illustrate a doctrine of the truth of which he was assured. The perfect submission of the will to the reason may belong to some higher state of being than ours. On mortal man that gift is not bestowed. In the best and the wisest, inclination will often grasp the reins by which she ought to be guided, and misdirect the judgment which she should obey. Happy they, who, like Baxter, have so disciplined the affections, as to disarm their temporary usurpation of all its more dangerous tendencies : Controversies are ephemeral. Ethics, metaphysics and political philosophy are doomed to an early death, unless when born of genius and nurtured by intense and self-denying industry. Even the theologians of one age must, alas ! too often disappear to make way for those of later times. But if there is an exception to the general decree which consigns man and his intellectual offspring to the same dull forgetfulness, it is in favour of such writings as those which fill the four folio volumes bearing the title of “Baxter's Practical Works.” Their appearance in twenty-three smart octavos is nothing short of a profanation. Hew down the Pyramids into a range of streets, divide Niagara into a succession of water privileges, but let not the spirits of the mighty dead be thus evoked from their majestic shrines to animate the dwarfish structures of our bookselling generation. Deposit one of those gray folios on a resting-place equal to that venerable burden, then call up the patient and serious thoughts which its very aspect should inspire, and confess that, among the writings of uninspired men, there are none better fitted to awaken, to invigorate, to enlarge, or to console the mind, which can raise itself to such celestial colloquy. True, they abound in undistinguishable distinctions; the current of emotion, when flowing most freely, is but too often obstructed by metaphysical rocks and shallows, or diverted from its course into some dialectic winding; one while the argument is obscured by servent expostulation; at another the passion is dried up by the analysis of the ten thousand springs of which it is compounded; here is a maze of subtleties to be unravelled, and there a crowd of the obscurely learned to be refuted; the unbroken solemnity may shed some gloom on the traveller's path, and the length of the way may now and then entice him to slumber. But where else can be found an exhibition, at once so vivid and so chaste, of the diseases of the human heart—a detection so fearfully exact, of the sophistries of which we are first the voluntary and then the unconscious victims—a light thrown with such intensity on the madness and the wo of every departure from the rules of virtue—a development of those rules so comprehensive and so elevated—counsels more shrewd or more persuasive—or a proclamation more consolatory of the resources provided by Christianity for escaping the dangers by which we are surrounded—of the eternal rewards she promises—or of the temporal blessings she imparts, as an earnest and a foretaste of them “Largior hie campis aether.” Charles, and Laud, and Cromwell are forgotten. We have no more to do with antipacdobaptism or prelacy. L'Estrange and Morley disturb not this higher region; but man and his noblest pursuits—Deity, in the highest conceptions of his attributes which can be extracted from the poor materials of human thought—the world we inhabit divested of the illusions which insnare us—the word to which we look forward bright with the choicest colours of hope—the glorious witnesses, and the Divine Guide and Supporter of our conflict —throng, animate, and inform every crowded page. In this boundless repository, the intimations of inspired wisdom are pursued into all their bearings on the various conditions and exigencies of life, with a fertility which would inundate and overpower the most retentive mind, had it not been balanced by a method and a discrimination even painfully elaborate. Through the vast accumulation of topics, admonitions, and inquiries, the love of truth is universally conspicuous. To every precept is appended the limitations it seems to demand. No difficulty is evaded. Dogmatism is never ormitted to usurp the province of argument. }. equivocal term is curiously defined, and each plausible doubt narrowly examined. Not content to explain the results he has reached, he exhibits the process by which they were excogitated, and lays open all the secrets of his mental laboratory. And a wondrous spectacle it is. Calling to his aid an extent of theological and scholastic lore sufficient to equip a whole college of divines, and moving beneath the load with unencumbered freedom, he expatiates and rejoices in all the intricacies of his way—now plunging into the deepest thickets of casuistic and psychological speculation — and then emerging from them to resume his chosen task of probing the conscience, by remonstrances from which there is no escape—or of quickening the sluggish feelings by strains of exalted devotion. That expostulations and arguments of which almost all admit the justice, and the truth of which none can disprove, should fall so inef. fectually on the ear, and so seldom reach the heart, is a phenomenon worthy of more than a passing notice, and meriting an inquiry of greater exactness than it usually receives, even from those who profess the art of healing our spiritual maladies. To resolve it “into the corruption of human nature,” is but to change the formula in which the difficulty is proposed. To affirm that a corrupt nature always gives an undue preponderance to the present above the future, is untrue in fact; for some of our worst passions—avarice, for example, revenge, ambition, and the like—chiefly manifest their power in the utter disregard of immediate priYations and sufferings, with a view to a supposed remote advantage. To represent the world as generally incredulous as to the reality of a retributive state, is to contradict universal experience, which shows how firmly that persuasion is incorporated with the language,
habits, and thoughts of mankind;—manifesting itself most distinctly in those great exigencies of life, when disguise is the least practicable. To refer to an external spiritual agency, determining the will to a wise or a foolish choice, is only to reproduce the original question in another form — what is that structure or mechanism of the human mind by means of which such influences operate to control or guide our volitions? The best we can throw out as an answer to the problem is, that the constitution of our frames, partly sensitive and partly rational, and corresponding with this the condition of our sublunary existence, pressed by animal as well as by spiritual wants, condemns us to a constant oscillation between the sensual and the divine, between the propensities which we share with the brute creation, and the aspirations which connect us with the author of our being. The rational soul contemplates means only in reference to their ends; whilst the sensuous nature reposes in means alone, and looks no farther. Imagination, alternately the ally of each, most readily lends her powerful aid to the ignobler party. Her golden hues are more easily employed to exalt and refine the grossness of appetite, than to impart brilliancy and allurement to objects brought within the sphere of human vision by the exercise of faith and hope. Her draperies are adjusted with greater facility, to cloth’, the nakedness and to conceal the shame of ‘hose things with which she is most conversant, than to embellish the forms, and add grace to the proportions of things obscurely disc'osed at few and transient intervals. It is with this formidable alliance of sense and imagination that religion has to contend. Her aim is to win over to her side that all-powerful mental faculty which usually takes part with her antagonist, and thus to shed over every step in life the colours borrowed from its ultimate as contrasted with its immediate tendency;-to teach us to regard the pleasures and the pains of our mortal state in the light in which we shall view them in our immortal existence; to make things hateful or lovely now, according as they impede or promote our welfare hereaster. He is a religious, or in the appropriate language of theology, a “fegenerate” man, who, trained to this discipline, habitually transfers to the means he employs, the aversion or the dislike due to the end he contemplates; who discerns and loathes the poison in the otherwise tempting cup of unhallowed indulgence, and perceives and loves the medicinal balm in the otherwise bitter draught of hardy self-denial. Good Richard Baxter erected his four folio volumes as a dam with which to stay this confluent flood of sense and imagina tion, and to turn aside the waters into a more peaceful and salutary channel. When their force is correctly estimated, it is more reasonable to wonder that he and his fellow-labourers have succeeded so well, than that their success has been no greater. On his style as an author, Baxter himself is the best critic. “The commonness and the greatness of men's necessity,” he says, “commanded me to do any thing that I could for their relief, and to bring forth some water to cast upon this fire, though I had not at hand a silver vessel to carry it in, nor thought it the most fit. The plainest words are the most p. oratory in the weightiest matters. ineness for ornament, and delicacy for delight; but they answer not necessity, though sometimes they may modestly attend that which answers it.” He wrote to give utterance to a full mind and a teeming spirit. Probably he never consumed forty minutes in as many years, in the mere selection and adjustment of words. So to have employed his time, would in his judgment have been a sinful waste of that precious gift. “I thought to have acquainted the world with nothing but what was the work of time and diligence, but my conscience soon told me that there was too much of pride and selfishness in this, and that humility and self-denial required me to lay by the affectation of that style, and spare that industry which tended but to advance my name with men, when it hindered the main work and crossed my end.” Such is his own account; and, had he consulted Quinctilian, he could have found no better precept for writing well than that which his conscience gave him for writing usefully. First of all the requisites for excelling in the art of composition, as one of the greatest masters of that art in modern times, Sir Walter Scott, informs us, is “to have something to say.” When there are thoughts that burn, there never will be wanting words that breathe. Baxter's language is plain and perspicuous when his object is merely to inform; copious and flowing when he exhorts; and when he yields to the current of his feelings, it becomes redundant and impassioned, and occasionally picturesque and graphic. There are innumerable passages of the most touching pathos and unconscious eloquence, but not a single sentence written for effect. His chief merit as an artist is, that he is perfectly artless; and that he employs a style of great compass and flexibility, in such a manner as to demonstrate that he never thought about it, and as to prevent the reader, so long at least as he is reading, from thinking about it either. The canons of criticism, which the great nonconformist drew from his conscience, are however, sadly inapplicable to verse. Mr. James Montgomery has given his high suffrage in favour of Baxter's poetical powers, and justifies his praise by a few passages selected from the rest with equal tenderness and discretion. It is impossible to subscribe to this heresy even in deference to such an authority; or to resist the suspicion that the piety of the critic has played false with his judgment. Nothing short of an actual and plenary inspiration will enable any man who composes as rapidly as he writes, to give meet utterance to those ultimate secretions of the deepest thoughts and the purest feelings in which the essence of poetry consists. Baxter's verses, which however are not very numerous, would be decidedly improved by being shorn of their rhyme and rhythm, in which state they would look like very devout and judicious prose, as they really are. Every man must and will have some relief
from his more severe pursuits. His faithful pen attended Baxter in his pastime as in his studies; and produced an autobiography, which appeared after his death in a large folio volume. Calamy desired to throw these posthumous sheets into the editorial crucible, and to reproduce them in the form of a corrected and well-arranged abridgment. Mr. Orme laments the obstinacy of the author's literary executor, which forbade the execution of this design. Few who know the book will agree with him. A strange chaos indeed it is. But Grainger has well said of the writer, that “men of his size are not to be drawn in miniature.” Large as life, and finished to the most minute detail, his own portrait, from his own hand, exhibits to the curious in such things a delineation, of which they would not willingly spare a single stroke, and which would have lost all its force and freedom if reduced and varnished by any other limner, however practised, or however felicitous. There he stands, an intellectual giant as he was, playing with his quill as Hercules with the distaff, his very sport a labour, under which any one but himself would have staggered. Towards the close of the first book occurs a passage, which, though often republished, and familiar to most students of English literature, must yet be noticed as the most impressive record in our own language, if not in any tongue, of the gradual ripening of a powerful mind, under the culture of incessant study, wide experience, and anxious self-observation. Mental anatomy, conducted by a hand at once so delicate and so firm, and comparisons so exquisitely just, between the impressions and impulses of youth, and the tranquil conclusions of old age, bring his career of strife and trouble to a close of unexpected and welcome serenity. In the full maturity of such knowledge as is to be acquired on earth, of the mysteries of our mortal and of our immortal existence, the old man returns at last for repose to the elementary truths, the simple lessons, and the confiding affections of his childhood; and writes an unintended commentary, of unrivalled force and beauty, on the inspired declaration, that to become as little children is the indispensable, though arduous condition of attaining to true heavenly wisdom. To substitute for this self-portraiture, any other analysis of Baxter's intellectual and moral character, would indeed be a vain attempt. If there be any defect or error of which he was unconscious, and which he therefore has not avowed, it was the combination of an undue reliance on his own powers of investigating truth, with an undue distrust in the result of his inquiries. He proposed to himself, and executed, the task of exploring the whole circle of the moral sciences, logic, ethics, divinity, politics, and metaphysics, and this toil he accomplished amidst public employments of ceaseless importunity, and bodily pains almost unintermitted. Intemperance never assumed a more venial form; but that this insatiate thirst for knowledge was indulged to a faulty excess, no reader of his life, or of his works, can doubt. In one of his most remarkable treatises “On Falsely Pretended Knowledge,” the dangerous result of indulging
this omnivorous appetite is peculiarly remarkable. Probabilities, the only objects of such studies, will at length become evanescent, or scarcely perceptible, when he who holds the scales refuses to adjust the balance, until satisfied that he has laden each with every suggestion and every argument which can be derived from every author who has preceded him in the same inquiries. Yet more hopeless is the search for truth, when this adjustment, once made, is again to be verified as often as any new speculations are discovered; and when the very faculty of human understanding, and the laws of reasoning, are themselves to be questioned and examined anew as, frequently as doubts can be raised of their adaptation to their appointed ends. Busied with this immense apparatus, and applying it to this boundless field of inquiry, Baxter would have been bewildered by his own efforts, and lost in the mazes of a universal skepticism, but for the ardent piety which possessed his soul, and the ever recurring expectation of approaching death, which dissipated his ontological dreams, and roused him to the active duties, and the instant realities of life. Even as it is, he has left behind him much, which, in direct opposition to his own purposes, might cherish the belief that human existence was some strange ci.imera, and human knowledge an illusion, did it not fortunately happen that he is tedious in proportion as he is mystical. Had he sessed and employed the wit and gayety of yle, there are some of his writings to which a place must have been assigned in the Inder Expurgatorius of Protestantism. Amongst his contemporaries, Baxter appears to have been the object of general reverence, and of as general unpopularity. His temper was austere and irritable, his address ungracious and uncouth. While cordially admitting the merits of each rival sect, he concurred with none, but was the common censor and opponent of all. His own opinions on church government coincided with the later judgment, or, as it should rather be said, with the concessions of Archbishop Usher. They adjusted the whole of that interminable dispute to their mutual satisfaction at a conference which did not last above half an hour; for each of them was too devoutly intent on the great objects of Christianity to differ with each other very widely as to mere ritual observances. The contentions by which our forefathers were agitated on these subjects, have now happily subsided into a speculative and comparatively uninteresting debate. They produced their best, and perhaps their only desirable result, in diffusing through the Church, and amongst the people of England, an indestructible conviction of the folly of attempting to coerce the human mind into a servitude to any system or profession of belief; or of endeavouring to produce amongst men any real uniformity of
opinion on subjects beyond the cognisance of the bodily senses, and of daily observation. They have taught us all to acknowledge in practice, though some may yet deny in theory, that as long as men are permitted to avow the truth, the inherent diversities of their understandings, and of their circumstances, must inpel them to the acknowledgment of corresponding variations of judgment, on all questions which touch the mysteries of the present or of the future life. If no man laboured more, or with less success, to induce mankind to think alike on these topics, no one ever exerted himself more zealously, or more effectually, than did Richard Baxter, both by his life and his writings, to divert the world from those petty disputes which falsely assume the garb of religious zeal, to those eternal and momentous truths, in the knowledge, the love, and the practice of which, the essence of religion Consists. One word respecting the edition of his works, to which we referred in the outset. For the reason already mentioned, we have stuck to our long-revered folios, without reading so much as a page of their diminutive representatives, and can therefore report nothing about them. But after diligently and repeat!edly reading the two introductory volumes by |Mr. Orme, we rejoice in the opportunity of bearing testimony to the merits of a learned, modest, and laborious writer, who is now, however, beyond the reach of human praise or censure. He has done everything for Baxter's memory which could be accomplished by a skilful abridgment of his autobiography, and a careful analysis of the theological library of which he was the author; aided by an acquaintance with the theological literature of the seventeenth century, such as no man but himself has exhibited, and which it may safely be conjectured no other man possesses. Had Mr. Orme been a member of the Established Church, and had he chosen a topic more in harmony with the studies of that learned body, his literary abilities would have been far more correctly estimated, and more widely celebrated. We fear that they who dissent from her communion, and who are therefore excluded from her universities and her literary circles, are not to expect for their writings the same toleration which is so firmly secured for their persons and their ministry. Let them not, however, be dejected. Let them take for examples those whom they have selected as teachers; and learning from Richard Baxter to live and to write, they will either achieve his celebrity, or will be content, as he was, to labour without any other recompense than the tranquillity of his own conscience, the love of the people among whom he dwelt, and the approbation of the Master to whom every hour of his life, and every page of his books, were alike devoted.
PHYSICAL THEORY OF ANOTHER LIFE.*
[EDINBURGH Review, 1840.) In a series of volumes of later birth than fashioned meeting-house, coeval with the acthat from which the author of the “Natural cession of the House of Hanover-and near History of Enthusiasm" takes the title of his it the decent residence, in which, since that literary peerage, he has bent his strength to auspicious era, have dwelt the successive pasthe task of revealing to itself the generation to tors of that wandering flock-fanning a gene. which he belongs. A thankless office that of rous spirit of resistance to tyrants, now happily the censorship! A formidable enterprise this, to be encountered only in imagination, or in to rebuke the errors of a contentious age, the records of times long since passed away, while repelling the support of each of the con Towards the close of the last century, a mild tending parties! To appease the outraged and venerable man ruled his household in that self-complacency of mankind, such a monitor modest but not unornamented abode ; for there will be cited before a tribunal far more relent might be seen the solemn portraits of the oriless than his own. Heedless both of con- ginal confessors of nonconformity, with many tumely and of neglect, he must pursue his a relic commemorative of their sufferings and labours in reliance on himself and on his their worth. Contrasted with these were the cause; or, if fame be the reward to which he lighter and varied embellishments which beaspires, he must content himself with the anti- speak the presence of refined habits, female cipation of posthumous renown. It is not, taste, and domestic concord. There also were however, easy for the aspirant himself to find drawn up, in deep files, the works and the biothe necessary aliment for such hopes. The graphies of the Puritan divines, from Thomas writer of these works will therefore indulge us Cartwright, the great antagonist of Whitgift, in a theory invented for the aid of bis and our to Matthew Pool, who, in his Synopsis Criticoown imagination. Let it be supposed, that, rum, vindicated the claims of the rejected miinstead of yet living to instruct the world, he nisters to profound Biblical learning. This was now engaged in bringing to the test of veteran baltalion was flanked by a company experiment his own speculations as to the of recruits drafted from the polite literature of condition of mankind in the future state. He a more frivolous age. Rich in these treasures, reappears amongst sublunary men under the and in the happy family with whom he shared auspices of some not unfriendly editor; who, them, the good man would chide or smile away however, being without any other sources of such clouds as checkered his habitual sereintelligence respecting his course of life and nity, when those little nameless courtesies, so studies, has diligently searched his books for pleasantly interchanged between equals, were such intimations as may furnish the materials declined by the orthodox incumbent, or ac. for a short “ Introductory Notice" of him and cepted with elaborate condescension by the of them. The compiler is one of those who wealthy squire. The democratic sway of the prefer the positive to the conjectural style of ruling elders, supreme over the finances and recounting matters of fact; and has assumed the doctrines of the chapel, failed to draw an the freedom of throwing into the form of un- audible sigh from his resolute spirit, even when qualified assertion the inferences he had gleaned his more delicate sense was writhing under from detached passages of the volumes he is wounds imperceptible to their coarser vision. about to republish. With the help of this He had deliberately made his choice, and was slight and not very improbable hypothesis, the content to pay the accustomed penalties. A author of these works, while still remaining sectarian in name, he was at heart a Catholic, amongst us, may suppose himself to be read generous enough to feel that the insolence of ing, in some such lines as the following, the some of his neighbours, and the vulgarity of sentence which the critic of a future day will others, were rather the accidents of their posipass on bis literary characten
tion than the vices of their character. VexaOne of those seemingly motionless rivers tions such as these were beneath the regard of which wind their way through the undulating him who maintained in the village the sacred surface of England, creeps round the outskirts cause for which martyrs had sacrificed life of a long succession of buildings, half town, with all its enjoyments; and who aspired to half village, where the monotony of the wat- train up his son to the same honourable sertled cottage is relieved by the usual neigh-vice, ill requited as it was by the glory or the bourhood of structures of greater dignity ;- riches of this transitory world. the moated grange-the mansion-house, pierced That hope, however, was not to be fulfilled. by lines of high narrow windows-the square The youth had inherited his father's magnanitower of the church,struggling through a copse mity, his profound devotion, his freedom of of lime trees--the gray parsonage, where the thought, and his thirst for knowledge. But he conservative rector meditates his daily news- disclaimed the patrimony of his father's ecelepaper and his weekly discourse—the barn- siastical opinions. His was not one of those
minds which adjust themselves to whatever *. Physical Theory of Another Life: By the author mould early habits may have prepared for 9 “Natural History of Enthusiasm." . 1839.
them. It was compounded of elements, be