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The most favourite topic, however, of this American essavist, is religion.
How does it happen, that as soon as we hear the name of a clergyman mentioned, we immediately associate with the inan the qualities of bigotry arrogance and spiritual pride? How does it happen, that they, whose business it is to inculcate benevolence, charity, humility and patience, should be characterized, wherever they are known, by a proud overbearing and intolerant disposition,' p. 292.
Sunday. We awoke. The morning had considerably advanced ; and the sun sent his cheerful beams through our window. We raised our head, rubbed ur eyes, cast a glance of recognition upon the rusty furniture of our narrow disorderly apartment, and determined to arise, We said to ourself, “ shall we go up to Mount Zion and worship with the christians? Are we not all children of the same common father? Why then may we not join together in public adoration and prayer?” But short was the empire of feeling: we thought of a vain proud avaricious intriguing hypocritical multitude, who assemble for the purpose of imposing on each other by a specious affectation of piety, and a variety of religious grimaces. -Do they suppose that the Lord will be delighted with their crocodile tears and face of despair? or do they expect to deceive him by their whining complaints and cringing servility?' p. 294.
We shall conclude our quotations, with the last paragraph of the book : it requires no comment.
• Evangelical Christians never mention virtue, unless in the way of reproach: it is a heathenish kind of a thing—filthy rags-yea, d*** in the sight of the Lord. Any one who hopes to acquire favor with God by promoting the good of his fellow creatures is regarded by them with the utmost contempt and abhorrence. -They flatter themselves with the idea that they, the saints, shall be placed on thrones, and will have the sublime happiness of pronouncing the irreversible doom of never ending torments, upon impenitent millions; among whom they expect to see reprobate fathers mothers brothers sisters wives and children!'
Art. IX. Sermons on Select Subjects. By Charles Buck. 8vo. pp. 326.
Price 4-s. boards. Williams and Smith, 1810. MR. Buck assigns the importunity of his friends, as the sve reason for the appearance of these sermons; and in apology for the homeliness and simplicity which he thinks they discover, he says, “I freely confess that I have studied perspicuity rather than elegance, and simplicity rather than ornament. The longer I live; the more I consider the vanity of the world; the transitory nature of all earthly things; and the value of immortal souls; the more I am convinced, that, in order to do good, every minister and author ought to cultivate the most plain, easy, and simple style.' (p. iv.) We cannot pass by these modest pleas, without bestowing a few thoughts upon them.
These sermons, it seems to us, are very excellent. They are, it is true, neither profound nor original ; which, how. ever, cannot be considered as defects, sermons being chiefly designed for the instruction of the common people. But they are remarkable for a vein of good sense and pious observation. Our author manifests great knowledge of the trials and difficulties of the faithful; and, while he skilfully directs them to the proper source of relief and support, appears every where to entertain a deep sense of the supreme importance of the religion that improves the heart and regulates the life.
But, though we are very well satisfied with Mr. B. for yielding so far to the request of his friends, as to publish this little volume, we should yet be very sorry if the same cause should become any thing like general in its operation. It may be laid down as a maxim that holds true in the majority of cases, that each of those congregations that enjoy the advantage of genuinely religious instruction, considers its own teacher as holding the first rank among sermon-makers. The persons that form the body of such assemblies read very little, or seldom hear other preachers. Their own teacher they regard as the standard of excellence in that line. Even if they do not place him in the first rank, several local circumstances—such as long acquaintance relief and improvement they may have derived -an admiration of his zeal, his devotion, or benevolence concur to make them find, an interest and a charm in his productions : and, affectionately supposing that they will be equally interesting to all the world, they will vehemently importune him to publish what his sober and unbiassed judgement would have committed to the flames.
It gave us a little uncasiness, we must confess, to find a man of Mr. Buck's good sense and information giving his sanction to what has long appeared to us to be vulgar cant. Does Mr. B. then seriously imagine that our best authors, our models of correct and elegant composition, are less perspicuous, less easy of apprehension, than those who have been unskilled in the arts of fine writing? Will he pretend that it is more difficult to get at the meaning: of Dr. Watts, than of Dr. Owen,- or that the speculations of Mr. Addison are darker and more obscure than those of Mr. Edwards ? « Prima est eloquentiæ virtus, perspicuitas." While there is a degree of positive beauty in the essential quality of good writing, the author who does not make it the medium of displaying his other virtues, will hardly maintain his credit with the public. But, besides that it is an egregious error to represent writing of the first order as obscure, these good persons who make war upon the graces,
betray not a little inconsistency in their pretensions to simplicity. For if they employ simplicity in its usual acceptation, when applied to these subjects, and not to signify vulgarity or childishness, it will imply a degree of beauty, at which most authors have studied to arrive, though but very few have been able to diffuse it throughout their compositions. It is this, we believe, that constitutes the charm of Xenophon, of Terence, of Tillotson, of Parnell, and of Hume.
It seems rather strange that the writer's time should be of so much greater consequence than the reader's. If bookmakers are to throw off their two hundred lines in an hour. if they think proper to print all sorts of effusions, without being at the pains to mature their thoughts and elaborate their works till they become beautiful and elegant, and then gravely plead in excuse, the brevits of human life, readers will soon learn to reason in the same way. They will consider their time as too precious to be thrown away on those who would serve them with any kind of entertainment. Unripe fruit may indeed please a vicious palate: but persons of judgement will persist in thinking, that what has been thoroughly matured is the most grateful and wholesome.
After all, whatever Mr. B. might wish us to receive in the form of plainness and simplicity, he could never expect that such faults as the following, should pass without a note of censure. 'Has he not already began?' p. 24. "The consideration of this should learn us to submit,' &c. p. 28. “That which appeared complex, should be harmonious and regular.' p. 40. Others equally as important,' p. 51. There is no diminution in the blessings to be enjoyed : they stand as thick, and shine as bright as ever.' p. 245. There number is but few and form exceptions, &c. p. 212. “Let us take care we do not put a wrong sense on it to what God intended it, and thereby fall a victim to unbelief.' p. 249. "He can rise up and lay down.' p. 26. “The wounds and Transfigurations disease have left. p. 263. How many but the other day were fresh and vigorous, are now gone p. 298. "What is the voice of every bereaving providence but this, to call, &c.' p. 301. - Beneficients are sometimes called to witness the dissolution of their benefactors.' p. 292. It is in vain for him to entrench himself; the bitter streams will find their way into his habitation, communicating a deadly influence, and withering his rising joys,'-and so forth.
This volume contains fourteen sermons, of which we shall set down the titles. "Pure religion. The mystery of
dissol P: 301. - every bens, are now many
of their clients are song providene
Biovidence. The nature of -gospel liberty. Sanctified ad. versity. On reproach, On divisions in churches On trials peculiar to business. On the vicissitudes of life. Jesus Christ, the foundation of the church. Bereavement of children. On the promises. On sickness. On the death of friends. The diligent preacher.' . . .
These sermons have no connexion with each other; and it is probable the same principle directed our author in the selection, as in the publication, of them.-We shallinsert the following extract from the sermon on the nature of gospel liberty, as a just specimen of our author's manner.
• Thus we see what a privileged character the christian is. If liberty be a blessing, he has it in the most eminent degree. God is the great Creator and Lord of the universe, the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity ; yet the christian has the liberty of access to his throne, to obtain mercy, and find grace to help him in time of deed. Jesus Christ is the great mediator and advocate of his people; the christian has the liberty to put his cause into his hands, and is sure to prevail. The Holy Ghost is the all-powerful agent in the sanctification and consolation of man; he has the liberty to implore his influence and to expect his blessing. The Bible is the complete and delightful revelation of the designs of God towards a guilty world; he has the liberty to read it for himself, and, as far as he can, to make it his own. The people of God are the excellent of the earth, and the delight of heaven; he has the liberty of associating with them, to gather encouragement from their experience, benefit by their prayers, and fresh motives to diligence by their conduct. The ministers of the Gospel are raised up with various talents to dispense the word of life: well, his is the liberty to hear the man whom he pleases ; to profit by his instructions, to be warned by his admonitions, or consoled by his exhibition of the promises of God. The ordinances are established, and means afforded of various kinds, to communicate the blessings of gospel grace. His is the liberty to attend them, and in the present day, without any daring to make him afraid, or attempting to infringe the liberties of conscience. The blessings of Providence are given for the support of his creatures; his is the liberty to enjoy these blessings with moderation and gratitude, and no where is the christian commanded to shut himself up from the world, to destroy his body in order to save his soul. Yea even as it respects things that are indifferent, which are neither commanded nor forbidden of God, he has liberty to use or abstain from them at pleasure, provided he does not lay a stumbling block in the way of others. In a word, his liberty is such, that he has a right through Christ, to all the blessings of the new covenant, extended through this life, and for ever in the life to come. Blessed were those Jews whose hearts rejoiced at the sound of the jubilee trumpet, though only once in a course of years; but o far, far more blessed, are ye christians whose jubilee returns every day, whose debts are all cancelled,
whose liberty is proclaimed, and the earnest of that inheritance given qhat cannot fade away!' pp. 71.-73..
In case of another edition, we would advise the author to purify his volume of the blemishes we have noticed, and of several others that a careful revision will detect; and at the same time to put all his references to Scripture at the bottom of the page, and not partly in the text and partly in the margin Art. X. Essays on Man, delineating his Intellectual and Moral quali
ties. By Thomas Finch. 8vo. pp. xii. 290. Price 48. boards.
Sherwood, Neely and Jones. 1811.. IT is certainly of great importance to the happiness of these
kingdoms, that the minds of the rising generation should be richly stored with the principles of moral and religious wisdom;-but it by no means follows that every man is qualified to take upon himself the office of instructor, and publish speculations for the improvement of the British youth, Beside the very laudable intention of obliging the public with a new volume, he who would convey instruction of any kind with the hope of success, must have at least a general knowledge of the subject upon which he treats; and be so far in the possession of the didactic faculty, as to be able to make others acquainted with his conceptions and reasonings.
In expecting these pre-requisites in a teacher of any kind, it seems to us we are very moderate and reasopable : and therefore, without any more ceremony, we shall proceed to consider how far Mr. Finch has, in the volume before us, discovered himself qualified for tbe office of a moral and metaphysical instructor. We deem this the more expedient, as our author very modestly rests it with persons of our profession, whether he shall ' at some future period trouble. them with some additional lucubrations', or
• retire with composure from the public scenes, and enjoy that obscurity which may, perhaps, continue without injury, his unalterable fate. Instead of cherishing that ambition which pants after literary fame, he will repose himself in the calm tranquillity of unapplauded life, and with virtuous contentment exclaim,
- “ Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,
Tell where I lie.”pp. xi, xii. When those who are not conversant with books uodertake to teach, their knowledge, it is obvious, must be derived either from observation or reflection. They must either Vol. VII.