Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

sternation; it will only announce your deliverance, your triumph, your eternal gain. And if your life should be continued through the year we have begun, and through many following years, his grace shall be sufficient for you, rendering your trials supportable, and your duties practicable and pleasant. Whether you live, you will live unto the Lord, or whether you die, you will die unto the Lord, so that living or dying you will be the Lord's. Amen. pp. 156–159.

These discourses, as we have already hinted, have very little cement. Our author hardly ever confines himself to one subject. He does not, indeed, appear to be convinced that unity is an essential quality in every discourse : and, accordingly, remarks upon as many topics, or even words, as are contained in his text. We should not despair, however, of finding an apology for this defect, were it not that it may be thought inseparably connected with another, still less excusable,-a poverty of instruction ; for, to some persons, we have no doubt, he will appear to afford neither an adequate explanation of particular passages of scripture, nor of the individual branches of Christian doctrine or morals.- To what extent, however, the foregoing objections may be applicable, we shall not give ourselves the trouble to inquire.. We could readily overlook many more blemishes than this work will be · found to contain, in consideration of its peculiar adaptedness to engage the attention of the younger members of families ; to promote a serious and devout spirit in their minds; and by furnishing them, in a pleasing and interesting manner, with a multitude of important principles, to prepare them for the study of more intellectual and instructive volumes.

After what we have said, it would be needless to give these sermons our cordial recommendation, or to assure those who may be in possession of Mr. Jay's former volumes, that they will find the present in no respect inferior. Art. VII, The Pilgrim's Progress from this World 10 that which is to

come. In two Parts. By John Bunyan. A new and corrected Edition. [By the Rev. Joshua Gilpin, Wrockwardine, Salop.] 8vo. pp. xi. 482. Hatchard, 1810. THE waking thoughts of few men have been so frequently

read as the dreams of Bunyan. His Pilgrim has been our wonder and delight in early youth, and ministered to our instruction and consolation io riper years. While philosophers have admired the simplicity, the wit, the ingenuity, and good sense of this unrivalled allegory; the pious have derived from it, in all the stages of their religious course, relief, caution, direction, and encouragement. There is no work in which the rise and progress of a religious spirit and temper are descibed with such fidelity to truth and nature; and in which

the difficulties and perplexities and temptations of a devout life, together with its supports and satisfactions, are represented in such simple and affecting colours, as in this ingenious dream. It is level to the meanest capacity, and yet the wisest'will be edified in perusing it.

Nothing, indeed, can be a greater proof of the merit of this work than its surprising success, notwithstanding the many gross blemishes that disfigure it. The commonest rules of grammar are violated in almost every page. In many places it. is gross and indelicate. It abounds in needless repetitions ; and is, in some places, very dark and obscure.

It is obvious, therefore, that whoever should purge away these defects, without impairing the beauties of the work, would render a very essential service to the public. Now this is precisely what Mr. Gilpin, the present editor, has attempted.

My intention,' says he, 'was to deal with the venerable Bunyan as delicately as possible, and in no instance to deprive him of that beautiful simplicity in which he will assuredly stand unrivalled to the end of the world, I admired his Pilgrim's guise, and wished only to adjust it in a few points, where it seemed to be inconsistent with the general decorum of his character. It appeared to me desirable that he should be made to speak with a little more grammatical precision; that his extreme coarse. ness should be moderately abated ; that he should be rendered less obscure in some passages, less tautological in others, and offensive in none.' -Pref. pp. xiv, xv.

This is exactly what was required, and we are heartily glad that the business has fallen into the hands of Mr. Gilpin ; a man of genuine piety, and of a cultivated mind. The task, indeed, he has undertaken was delicate and laborious; but, we must say, it is executed to our entire satisfaction. Whatever is excellent in the Pilgrim's Progress, not only remains in this edition, but appears with increased advantage; since it is perfectly cleared of the gross and offensive ingredients with which it was originally mixed up. It is Bunyan himself without his faults. As Mr. Gilpin has bestowed immense labour on this very delightful and profitable work, in order to render it more generally acceptable, we cannot but give him our warmest thanks ;-while we have no doubt but that its rapid sale will speedily evince the gratitude of the public.

It may be proper to add, that we owe this improvement of the Pilgrim's Progress to the dying request of Mr. Gilpin's interesting son:* a circumstance which, while it must have very much softened the fatigue of the editor, will, we have no doubt, very much recommend this volume to the generality of young persons.

* See Ecl. Rev. Vol. V. p. 87.

Art. VIII. Letters, Elegant, Interesting, and Evangelical ; illustrative of

the Author's amiable Character, and developing many Circumstances of his Early History not generally known. Never before published. By James Hervey, A. M. Late Rector of Weston Favell and Collingtree, Northamptonshire ; &c. &c. 8vo. pp. 348. Rivingtons, and Hatchard. 1811. A SHORT advertisement by the editor, whose signature to

the dedication is Isaac Burgess, Lieutenant Colonel Commandant, Pendennis Artillery,' thus accounts for the appearance of these letters.

- Nearly three years since, in travelling through the North of Devon, my mind became much impressed with an idea, that many unpublished Letters of Mr. Hervey might still be in existence at Stoke Abbey; and upon paying a visit there, I could not refrain mentioning it to the worthy proprietor of that charming place. He confirmed the opinion, and promised, that at his leisure he would collect them. Some long journies, and a variety of other avocations, in a great measure obliterated the circumstance from my memory, till December last, when going again into that country, it presented itself to my mind with increased interest. Upon renewing my application to Colonel O ' (Orchard) •he obligingly favoured me with all the following Letters, except the last. They are given to the public, faithfully, from the original manuscripts, (which, unless in two or three instances, are all in Mr Hervey's own hand) save that some circumstances of family, local, or trivial concern, are omitted.

I cannot help considering it as a singular, and to me most honourable dispensation of God's providence, that I should have been made the humble instrument of bringing those pious and beautiful Letters to light, after having lain in oblivion for so long a period of time. It therefore behoves me, earnestly to implore that a divine blessing may accompany the perusal of them, &c. &c. • A very remarkable circumstance attends the dedication (to Paul Orchard, Esq. :) it begins thus :

It is now sixty-four years since the venerable author of the following Letters waited upon you with the dedication of some of his invaluable writings. After such a lapse of time, it will form a singular circumstance in the history of dedications, that another Volume of his Works should solicit the honour of your patronage*.?

To this gentleman's father and mother, but especially to to the latter, by much the greater proportion of these letters are addressed. The very few not so addressed, are chiefly to a few clerical friends, among whom we find the names of Wesley ana Whitefield. There are two of extraordinary length to " the Rev. Mr. Robins,' on the author's favourite topic, the imputed righteousness of Christ. The series begins in the

* The dedicatee was, however, but a little boy at the time the Meditations were publicly inscribed to him, as appears by dates in these letters,

year 1736, and ends at the close of 1754. In the last of them, that has a date, the writer mentions that he has just sent to the press the last sheet of his Theron and Aspasio.

The editor should be prepared against feeling surprise, if he should find it to be rather a general opinion, that he has felicitated himself on bringing these letters to light in terms fully strong enough for the occasion. There has been a time when the public sentiment would have been considerably more in sympathy with his own, than probably it may be at present, Among serious readers, the estimate of their most excellent author, on points far more important than those that relate to the art of authorship, has been, and will ever remain, invariable. There can be very few individuals, whose opinion would be worth hearing, that will not speak with delight of his exalted piety, of his zeal for such views of the Christian religion as animated our venerable and heroic reformers, and the worthiest of their successors, and of the exemplary purity of his life. In addition to this, his writings manifest an understanding of a respectable order; and have been exceeded, we believe, by very few books in extent of beneficial influence. His Meditations, especially, have con. tributed more, it is probable, than any other book, to the valuable object of prompting and guiding serious minds, of not the superior rank in point of taste, to draw materials of devo. tional thought from the scenery of nature. An immense num. ber of persons, have been taught by him, to contemplate the vicissitude and phænomena of the seasons, the flowers of the earth, and the stars of heaven, with such pious and salutary associations, as would not otherwise have been suggested to their minds: and the value of these associations is incalculable, on the double ground of enlargement of thought, and devotional tendency. Hervey ranks, therefore, among the high benefactors of his age. But in turning to the more strictly literary estimate of his writings, there is no averting the heavy charges which critics, without one dissenting voice, bring against his style.' No one qualified in the smallest degree to judge of good writing, ever attempts to controvert the justice with which they pronounce that style artificial, tumid, and gaudy, loaded with an inanimate mass of epithets, and in short, very fine, without being at all rich.

The letters before us, however, partake less of this fault, than his elaborate printed compositions. Here and there, indeed, the writer comes upon us with passages like this; ... If these lines shall chance to find you expatiating in the fields, les them by no means stop or divert your walk. It is pleasing, it is healthy, to rove along the grassy carpet, delicately enamelled with white and yel.

[ocr errors]

low; to breathe the air perfumed with purest sweets.; to hear the pretty songsters from the woods and hedges warbling out their unambitious notes ; to feast the eyes with the various colours of nature, and the inimi. tably fine strokes of the Divine pencil. All this is delightful; and then to raise the mind to the great fountain of all.creating excellence, &c.' But, for the most part, the writing is in a much plainer, and therefore in a much better style. At the same time, when the writer suffers himself to descend to the more simple mode of expression, and leaves undisturbed the wardrobe of artificial ornament, it appears very palpably that his imagination was intrinsically feeble. This forbearance of factitious magni. ficence, this abstinence from the storehouse of highly coloured phraseology, allows his faculties to stand out in their natural form and dimensions. And his mental properties, as displayed in this simple light, appear to be, clear sense, of moderate reach, religious and philanthropic affections of the most refined and elevated order, and a languid and ineffective imagination, the injudicious stimulating of which, in the author's elaborate works, (where a motive of the most genuine and unmingled piety made him wish to recommend religious sentiment by 'embellishing it,) resulted in swelling poetic diction, instead of brilliant conception. Not, indeed, that it is at all difficult to discern the real quality of this ima. gination through the artificial diction ; but still it is curious, and may be instructive to those who are learning the art of composition, to see such a proof how completely it was artifi. cial, as is afforded by a comparison between the author's fi· nished writings, and such parts of these letters as were writ.

ten without any rhetorical effort. We are not saying that even here the style is easy and varying. On the contrary, it appears in a considerable degree what we call set: but still it is tolerably plain, and keeps near the level of the thought. In those paragraphs, however, where an excursion of fancy is attempted, the reigning fault of his diction generally becomes again apparent. In some instances, also, an inconsistency or unfortunate arrangement of images, or a defect of taste in the selection and adaptation of them, will require the cultivated reader to recollect, that no sentences of private friendly communication were ever written in more perfect absence of any thought of the press. It is impossible, however, not to regret that the Editor had not so far kept this recollection in mind, as to be induced to exempt from the press such an uncouth and huniiliating application as the following, of one of the images in one of the visions in the Revelation; an image presented, if we may so express it, through a certain medium of dark and awful magnificence, from the solemnity of which a refined, and we will confidently say, a devotional taste, will dis

« ElőzőTovább »