-It might have occurred to him, that as the filence of the writers of the New Testament is no proof that the worship of dead men had not obtained in thcir cime; so the silence of the writers of the Old Testament is no proof that that kind of idolatry was not practised in the age in which they lived. He tells us, indeed, that there were no sacrifices offered to dead men in the days of Moses; for the Grecian heroes, the first deified human spirits, were not then even born: nor was that fuperftition ever practised among the nations round Judea, during the time of any of the prophets ;' But for these things we have only his word: he has not vouchsafed to offer any proof of his affertions.

In the two next chapters, Mr. Fell proposes to consider the various application of the term, Dæmons, among the ancient Greeks, and by the facred penmen. These chapters are princi. pally employed in combating Mr. Farmer's ideas and reasoning on the subject. Mr. Fell's inquiry into the meaning of the term, as used by the ancient Greeks, is very short and indecisive: and we have not the shadow of an argument to prove, that pofleffing deemons were not considered by them as human fpirils converted into dæmons after death. With respect to the sacred writers, it is Mr. Fell's opinion, that the apostles,' agreeably with the established and common use of the word, as fignifying, intelligent natures in general, and more especially, beings fuperior to men, "have applied it to such intelligent natures as are superior to mankind,' and particularly, ' to those malignant spirits, the head of which is “ Satan,” &c.' that is, to the devil and his angels. With these two chapters the Inquiry properly ends.

The reft of the publication, which is by far the greater part of it, comprehending fix chapters, is taken up in answering the objections that have been alleged against the doctrine of possesions, and asserting the common notions of the agency and influence of angels both good and evil,' in the natural and moral world. Through the whole, we meet with more railing than reasoning: Mr. Farmer, bis opinions and arguments, are treated with much scorn and abuse; and the most unworthy practices and designs are charged upon him, and other opposers of dæmoniacal possessions. Mr. Fell (as well as his predecessor, Dr. Worthington) secms to forget that all Chriftians are agreed, that the facts contained in the evangelical history are

The matter in debate respecting the present subject is, what the facts were, or what is the sense and meaning of the

language in which they are recorded. It is in vain, therefore, to quote text after text, in which dæmons are said to be cast out, &c. The same principles upon which we reject the literal fente of the phrase, this is my body, will justify us in rejecting the N 3



[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

literal sense of, the devils, or dæmons, went into the herd of swine.
Mr. Fell thinks otherwise. He understands the Mofaic account
of the fall literally, the angels of God ascending and descending
upon the Son of Man literally, and poffeffions by evil spirits, that
is fallen angels, literally. And with the same reason, he may
believe, that Jacob wrestled with an angel literally, that God
held two conversations with the Devil upon the character of Job,
that Michael and his angels fought in heaven with the Dragon
and his angels, or any other absurdity that is founded upon a lite.
sal exposition of figurative expressions, scenical representations, or
popular phraseology. But his belief is to himself, and he has
an equal right with every other man to state and defend it. It
is the manner in which he writes to which we object, and which
must be condemned by every one who reckons gentleness and
meekness among the virtues. Mr. Farmer is injuriously ranked
with Bolingbroke, Hume, and Dodwell; if he inakes use of con-
ditional expreffions, he is charged with drawing intcrences from
suppositions and conjectures; if he cmits them, he is a dogmatist,
They who reject Mr. Fell's ideas of angelical and diabolical
agency, are positively asserted to contradict the Scriptures; and,
strange as it may appear, are suspected of a design to over-
throw men's faith in the wisdom and stability of divine provi-
dence. Mr. Fell, like other writers on the fame side of the
question, does not perceive, or will not acknowledge, any dif-
ference with respect to the wildom and goodness of the Supreme
Governor, between admitting the power and influence of visible,
and those of invisible beings, over our bodies and minds: he
even asserts, that it is more consistent with those perfections to
ascribe the entrance and continuance of fin and mifery in the
world to superior wicked spirits, than to any original imperfec-
tion in human nature, or the influence of bad men in corrupt-
ing and oppressing others. We shall give our readers a passage
or two upon this head, as a very favourable specimen of the
Author's manner of writing and reasoning.

• In opposition,' says he, « to that account, which hath
been so often juftly urged from the Holy Scriptures, concerning
the entrance of fin into this world, and the rise of human cala-
mities, the following objections may, perhaps, have been al-
leged, “ That the origin of evil, toth natural and moral, is a
subject which hath employed, and hitherto perplexed, the greatest
philosophers and divines in every age; and that some judicious
persons will probably be of opinion, that the Mosaic history of
the fall, however explained, is not a complete solution of it,
or that, if it hath removed some difficulties, there are others
remaining.” To this, or to any thing of the like import, if it
should be pleaded, the following brief answer may be given,
$ That the Mosaic history of the full was never intended as a


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

flution of the origin of evil, far less as a complete one, nor was it ever so urged, that we know of, by any Chriftian divine ; none, therefore, but either injudicious or uncandid persons will represent the subject in this light.” Our business, at present, is with the following question, “ Will any Christian divine cake upon him to say, that the account which is delivered to us by the sacred penmen, concerning the introduction of natural and moral evil into this world, is not a just one ?" According to the Holy Scriptures, neither human calamities, nor death, nor the evil passions of men, are from the original conftitution of nature, but were brought into the world by that sin to which the Devil first seduced man. The history of the fall, the previous threatening of God in case of disobedience, and the fentence pronounced on Adam's transgression, together with the consequent alteration in the state of the world, and in the condition of mankind, do all naturally lead us to a source of human calamities very different from the original conftitution of nature. That account which is given us in the Bible, concerning the introduction of natural and moral evil among men, hath bitherto been received by Christians in general, as authentic ; the principles and design of the Gospel everywhere suppose its truth; there is nothing in it contradictory to human reaion, or inconsistent with our natural ideas of the divine perfections, for nothing injurious throughout the whole affair is attributed to the agency of God. The origin of evil is a subject not within the comprehension of the human mind, because we are, at present, deftitute of those common principles without which a clear knowledge of the matter cannot be conveyed to us : if there were a proper medium through which such information could be given, we should undoubtedly perceive, that God was no more the contriver and agent in the first rise of moral evil, than he was, according to the Scriptures, in the entrance of fin into this world.'

In the next paffage that we shall quote, Mr. Fell, after the load of abuse that he has thrown upon Mr. Farmer, in the preceding three hundred pages, and the many pernicious views and sentiments he has ascribed to him, many of which are afterwards repeated, generously acquits him of all bad intentions.

• Farbe it from us,' says he, to impute any evil design to this writer ; we doubt not, he really meant to serve the cause of virtue, which he thought could not be more effectually done, than by removing every thing which appeared to him in the light of superstition. But we have a right to affirm, that in fupporting his hypothesis concerning Dæmoniacs, and in point. ing out what he apprehends to be the true source of human calamities, he

very arguments that have been so often alleged both against the truth and necessity of a revelation. InN 4


urges those

deed, it appears to us, that either his scheme or the Gospel of Christ mult fall to the ground; there seems no alternative. He denies the power of all superior beings, God excepted, to do either good or evil to mankind, and on this principle rejects the influence of evil spirits from every cause of human misery. But the Holy Scriptures constantly affirm, that the Devil beguiled man from his allegiance to God, and seduced him into fin; they represent this prince of wicked spirits as the immediate author of all mischief, and therefore,call him “ an homicide from the beginning," Mr. Farmer considers all the calamities and advantages of human nature as immediately determined and fixed in the original constitution of things, and hence maintains, that the human system is governed by the very same invariable laws with the natural world. But the Holy Scriptures assure us, that the present state of human nature is not that in which it was originally created : they attribute all the evils of mankind to fin: they will neither allow, that God is the author of death, nor that human miseries arise from the original constitution of things : but they attribute every bleffing to the immediate and constant agency of the divine Being, and his unmerited goodness. This is the grand hinge on which, not only the whole controversy between Chriftians and the apposers of a divine revelation, but the very being of religion and virtue, turns. If the present state of human nature arose from the original conftitution of things, and man be just such as he came at first from the hands of his Maker, we must conclude with Lord Bolingbroke, that neither the goodness nor the justice of God ever required, that we Mould be better or happier than we are, at least in the present world, and that no sufficient reason can be affigned for an extraordinary revelation. If the settled order of causes and effects in the moral world, together with the reguJarity and uniformity of the natural world, are all to be ascribed to the operation of the very same laws, we can by no means avoid that conclufion which Mr. Hume seems to have intended in his “ Essay on Liberty and Neceflity,” That it is impossible for reason to thew how human actions can have any moral turpitude at all, without involving our Creator in the fame guilt. We have never yet seen any objections raised against those principles on which the Gospel is rested, which do not strike as much at the ground of natural religion as at the foundation of the Christian scheme. The present interest of society in general, as well as the future happiness of mankind, is inseparably connecled with the truth and reality of those doctrines, which are delivered in the Scriptures, concerning the ruin of human nature by the malice and wickedness of the Devil, and its recovery from fin and wretchedness by the Son of God. The principles of the Christian religion can never be overthrown without the loss


of morality; and, while a real difference is maintained in the world between virtue and vice, and man is considered as a moral agent, it seems clear to us, Mr. Farmer's account of the origin of human calamities must be rejected.'

Our Readers cannot but notice the consequential style, we and us, which Mr. Fell adopts. They ought also to be apprised, that he reckons, original sin, and the renewal of our nature' by an immediate divine agency,' among those doctrines of Christianity, which, according to his representation in the paragraph just quoted, are connected with the present interest of society, and with the future happiness of mankind, and which • can never be overthrown without the loss of morality.'

Mr. Fell, in another chapter, seems willing to believe, that madness is sometimes, at least, owing to possesion by evil spirits, though he acknowledges, that it would be highly presumptuous in any one in the present day to determine what particular instances of madness are to be ascribed to this cause. His reasons are, that some of the phenomena of madness are not to be accounted for, and that some particular kinds of madness are incurable. The same reasons led the ancients to ascribe the epilepsy, madness, and every other disorder, and every other phenomenon, with the nature of which they were unacquainted, to the supernatural agency and influence of superior evil beings.

If Mr. Farmer Thould think it proper to take any public notice of this opponent, he will, in our opinion, obtain an easy victory. We can only wish for his own reputation, and for the credit of his profellion, that Mr. Fell had proved himself a more rational, modest, and generous adversary.

ART. II. Zoraida ; a Tragedy. As it is alted at the Theatre

Royal in Drury-Lane. To which is added a Postfeript, containing Observations on Tragedy.' 8vo. I s. 6d. Keadly. 1780.

DDISON was accused by Dennis of poisoning the town A with falle criticism in the Spectator, in order to prejudice their minds in favour of Cato. Critics as we are, we be. lieve this censure of Addison, by our predecessor, to have been malevolent and ill-founded ; and that the Spectators on Tragedy, however they might occasionally coincide with the practice of the author, were dictated by the spirit of taste and candour. The Writer of Zoraida has, however, subjoined to his piece some “ Observations on Tragedy,” professedly written in vindication of the principles on which his drama is conItructed. It will not be improper, therefore, to blend an investigation of thele principles with an examination of the tra. gedy; both of which the Author has, with much fairness, fubmitted to critical decision.


* lo ritten by a MrJodion

« ElőzőTovább »