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Slaves, their treatment in Cuba, 266 Van Rensalaer, Dr, his ascent of Mont
Wales, 299-cure for their bites, 500 and their number, 354—those of the
could not be avoided in common
course of things, 354–unreasonable
to expect that the N. T. should be
req'iire, 357-how made so many,
important, 359–Mill's collection
portant of the, 366-1 John, v. 13,
an example of one of merely critical
Vegetation, as effected by different
Rev. J. E. Abbot, by, 273
characteristic words, by Mrs He-
Welsh Triad, descriptive of the attri-
of the new measures' in Revivals,
Whitefield & Wesley, their modes of
147-its chief benefits, 148-evils the Congregational and Presbyte-
Mr Furness, 136
Moore, 141-outlines of his biogra-
gurtha in Prison, 141-his Grave of
of Gramachree, 144
END OF VOL. VI.- NEW SERIES VOL. I.
THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.
NEW SERIES-NO. I.
Art. I.-Selections from the Writings of Fenelon; with an
Appendix, containing a Memoir of his Life. By a Lady.
We are glad to begin a new series with introducing and recommending to our readers the book which stands at the head of this article. An attractive and quickening work on practical religion we regard as a valuable accession to our literature. Indeed anything written with power on christian morals and theology is most welcome. It is too true, and a sad truth, that religious books are preeminently dull. If we wished to impoverish a man's intellect, we could devise few means more effectual, than to confine him to what is called a course of theological reading. The very subject, to which, above all others, the writer should bring his whole strength of thought and feeling, which allies itself to our noblest faculties, to which reason, imagination, taste, and genius should bring their richest tribute and consecrate their noblest efforts, is of all subjects treated most weakly, tamely, and with least attractions. Of course there are splendid exceptions, but we speak of the immense majority of theological books. It is wonderful how men can think and write upon religion to so little effect. That a theme so vast, so sublime as Christianity, embracing God and man, earth and heaven, time and eternity, connected intimately with
VOL. VI.-N. S. VOL. I. NO. I.
all human history, deriving lights from all human experience, admitting application to the whole of human life, and proposing as its great end the everlasting progress of the soul—that such a subject should be treated so monotonously as to be proverbially dull, that its professed explorers should be able to plant their footsteps so exactly in the track of their predecessors, that the boundlessness of the field should so seldom tempt an adventurous spirit from the beaten way, is wonderful, and might seem a miracle to a man unacquainted with the vassalage which has broken down the mind in the department of religion. It is true, that those who write on this topic are accustomed to call it sublime; but they make its sublimity cold and barren, like that of mountain tops, wrapped in everlasting snows.
We write this, not in severity, but in sorrow of heart; for we despair of any great progress of the human character or of society, until the energies of the mind shall be bent, as they seldom have been, on those most important subjects and interests of the human mind, morals and religion.
As a striking proof of the poverty of religious literature, and of the general barrenness of the intellect when employed in this field, we may refer to the small amount of original and productive thought in the English church since the days of Barrow and Taylor. Could our voice be heard in England, we would ask impartial and gifted men, more familiar with their country's history than ourselves, to solve the problem, how a Protestant Establishment, so munificently endowed with the means of improvement, should have done so little, in so long a period, for Christianity, should have produced so few books to interest the higher order of minds. Let not these remarks be misunderstood, as if we were wanting in respect and gratitude to a church, which, with all its defects, has been the bulwark of Protestantism, which has been illustrated by the piety and virtues of such men as Bishops Wilson, Berkeley, and Heber, and in which have sprung up so many institutions, consecrated to humanity, and to the diffusion of the christian faith. We mean not to deny it the honor of having fostered talent in various forms and directions. Among the English clergy we find profound and elegant scholars; we find the names of those giants in ancient learning, Bentley and Parr, and a crowd of proficients in polite literature, of whom Hurd and Jortin are honorable representatives. We speak only of the deficiency of their contributions to moral and religious science. With the exception of Clarke and Butler, we could not easily name any of the Establishment, since the time above specified, who have decidedly carried forward the human intellect. The latter of these is indeed a great name, notwithstanding the alleged obscurities of his style, and worthy to be enrolled among the master spirits of the human race. In regard to commentators, whose function, as commonly executed, holds a second rank in theology, the English church, since the time of Hammond, has produced none of much value, except Bishop Pearce. We presume that she will not lay claim to the heretical Locke, who carried into the interpretation of the scriptures the same force of thought, as into the philosophy of the mind; or to Whitby, whose strenuous Arminianism, as Orthodoxy would reproachingly say, tapered off into that most suspicious form of Christianity, Unitarianism. We have not yet named two of the most illustrious intellectual chiefs of the church, Warburton and Horsley. Their great power, we most readily own; but Warburton is generally acknowledged to have wasted his mind, and has left no impression of himself on later times; whilst Horsley, though he has given us striking, if not judicious, sermons, in a style of unusual vigor, cannot be said to have communicated, in any respect, a new impulse to thought, and in biblical criticism, to which he was zealously devoted, he is one of the last authorities on which a sound mind would lean. To Bishops Lowth and Sherlock we cheerfully acknowledge our obligations; and we question whether the latter has ever yet received his due praise. We fear that a higher place is given to Bishop Horne and his disciple Jones. The rank which these writers hold, does not testify favorably to the intellectual progress of the English church. It is as dark an omen, as the value attached by the Calvinistic Dissenters to such writers as the Rev. Messrs Scott and Newton. The piety of these men we honor; but what must posterity think of the illumination of an age, which numbers these among its brightest lights ! We have not forgotten, though we have not named, Tillotson, Secker, and Porteus. They are all worthy of remembrance, especially Secker, the clear and wise expounder of christian ethics; but they added little or nothing to the stock which they received. It may be thought, that we have not been just to the Establishment, in passing over Paley: He has our sincere admiration. On one great topic, which indeed has been worthily treated by many of the clergy, we mean that of christian evidence, he has shed new light. By felicity of arrangement and illustration, he has given an air of novelty to old arguments, whilst he has strengthened his cause by important original proofs. His Hora Paulina is one of the few books destined to live. Paley saw what he did see, through an atmosphere of light. He seized on the strong points of his subject with an intuitive sagacity, and has given his clear, bright thoughts, in a style which has made them the property of his readers almost as perfectly as they were his own. In what then did he fail? We have said, that he was characterized by the distinctness of his vision. He was not, we think, equally remarkable for its extent. He was popular, rather than philosophical. He was deficient in that intellectual thirst, which is a chief element of the philosophical spirit. He had no irrepressible desire to sound the depths of his own nature, or to ascend to wide and all-reconciling views of the works and ways of God. Moral philosophy he carried backward, nor had he higher claims in religious, than in ethical science. His sermons are worthy of all praise, not indeed for their power over the heart, but for their plain and strong expositions of duty, and their awakening appeals to the consience.
We leave this topic with observing, that in the noblest branch of history, we mean christian or ecclesiastical history, the English church has not furnished a single distinguished name. We have one mournful and decisive proof of this deficiency. The vast majority of English readers learn what they know of the progress and fortunes of their religion, from its foe and insulter, from Gibbon, the apostle of unbelief. The history of Christianity, the most important and sublime theme in this province of literature, has as yet found no writer to do it justice, none to be compared with the great names in civil history. The mightiest revolution in the records of our race remains to be worthily told. We doubt indeed, whether the true character, style, and extent of the work which is needed, are as yet comprehended. That the same rigorous impartiality, the same spirit of philosophical research into causes and effects, is to be carried into religious as into civil history, is imperfectly understood. The records of particular sects and churches, instead of exhausting this great subject, are perhaps subordinate parts. We want to know the great conflict between Christianity and Heathenism, and the action and reaction of these systems on one another. We want to know the influences of Christianity on society, politics, manners, philosophy, and literature,