Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

The conclusion is, that nothing can justify a person in leaving his parish Church : it is apostacy from Christ;'---and therefore, as their adversaries pretended, the Reformers were schismatics and apostates.

But it is quite time to have done with Mr. Sikes. His heavy absurdity, feeble bigotry, and confident ignorance, have been sufficiently obvious in the foregoing abstract of his discourse. The narrow, illiberal, and schismatical spirit that he discovers, must excite the abhorrence of all enlightened and benevolent Christians; while his clumsy and malevolent attempts (pp. 133, 135.) to bring into doubt the honesty and piety of Baxter, consign him to lasting ridicule and contempt. The vulgarity of liis mind sufficiently appears in his abuse of clergymen and dissenters; in his extravagant charges of insubordination to Government, of fraud, rapine, spiritual adultery and fornication, and we know not what. In his notions of the Church he evidently symbolizes with the Romanists, and he hesitates not to promulge political doctrines directly hostile to the fundamental principles of the British government. “Evangelical preachers,' as well as dissenters, have great reason to rejoice in the hatred of a man, whose friendship would be as severe a reproach as any they could well sustain.

Art. V. Studies in History; containing the History of Greece, from

its earliest period to its final subjugation by the Romans; in a series of Essays, accompanied with Reflections, References to original Authorities, and Historical Exercises for Youth. By Thomas

Morell. Vol. I. 8vo. pp. 382. Gale and Co. 1813. AS history is a species of reading more extensively agreeable,

perhaps, than any other, it is to be lamented that the greater number of the popular works of this class betray such a criminal neglect of correct moral and religious principles. Some of the most eminent historians have been avowedly hostile to the Christian institution; others have endeavoured secretly to undermine it; and even those who professedly hold it in esteem and reverence, have too frequently, in their judgement of events and estimate of characters, proceeded in direct opposition to its plainest decisions. The perusal of the last description of writers, especially, tends to generate in youthful minds a train of sentiments and feelings exceedingly hostile to evangelical religion,--and imperceptibly leads them to approve and admire qualities and actions which the scripture severely reprobates.

This mischievous tendency, which so many good men have regretted, it is Mr. Moreli's design in the present work to counteract, and at the same time to make history the direct • vehicle of religious instruction. The plan which he has chosen for these purposes, is to abridge the space usually allotted to military achievements and political disquisitions; to turn the light of Christianity upon the characters and events of antiquity; and to divide the narrative into small portions, called essays, adding to each of them nearly an equal portion of such moral and religious reflections, as the events under consideration seemed to suggest to a pious mind.

It will doubtless occur as an objection to such an undertaking, that the reflections extending, as they can hardly fail to do, to a very disproportionate length, must of necessity interrupt the course of the narration, and consequently lessen its interest. History is a species of writing perfectly distinct from a sermon or a moral lecture. Instead of bringing his own remarks obtrusively forward, it is the business of the historian, it will be said, so to relate his story, so to connect causes and effects, so to trace events to their springs and follow them in their consequences, as that the appropriate reflections may spontaneously arise in the reader's mind. An author mistakes the nature of his province when, at every turn, he indulges in trite or prolix observations. Even Tacitus, whose reflections have such depth and originality, has not escaped censure; and Robertson has been thought by very great judges, at least in the earlier part of his works, to indulge too freely in disquisitions but loosely connected with the business before him.. Now, as the present volume contains in the narration, perhaps, more than the ordinary quantity of remark, the additional reflections, it may be urged, are out of place, and serve only to clog the reader in his progress.

To observations of this nature it may be sufficient to reply, that Mr. Morell professedly combines the functions of the historian and the moralist; that with him history is but the means, and moral improvement the end; and that he writes for those in early life, who are little capable of making reflections themselves, and whose conclusions from past events are more likely, perhaps, to be erroneous than correct. It seems to us, therefore, that the present work may be of great use. T'he facts that form the basis of the narrative are judiciously selected, and related in a manner. concise, clear, lively, and interesting. In estimating the qualities and actions of the agents in the scenes that he describes, Mr. Morell's decisions are strictly accordant with the purest Christian principles. The reflections added to each of the essays, are appropriate and correct, and breathe a spirit of exalted piety and enlarged benevolence.' Parents and teachers of youth are under great obligations to this well-informed and Christian writer, for enabling them to put into the hands of their children and pupils, a work from which they will derive aecurate and interesting historical information, and at the same Vol. X.

X

1

time learn to judge with propriety of events and characters, and imbibe sound principles of justice, benevolence, and piety.

Two or three extracts will bring our readers tolerably well acquainted with the performance which we here recommend to their attention. The following is our author's account of the battle of Marathon. After detailing the progress of the Persians, he thus proceeds :

• In the mean time, the Athenians were not inactive. They ap. plied to the Lacedæmonians for assistance, who immediately per: ceived that the danger was common, and therefore called for united and prompt relief. Forgetting their former jealousies, they promised, with the utmost readiness, all. their military strength to defend the liberties of Greece; but, at the same time, informed the Athenian ambassabors, that an established an ancient custom of their country would prevent their troops from marching, till the fall of the moon, which was yet five days distant. No time was to be lost. Desperate as it appeared, the Athenians had no alternative, but to meet the overwhelming forces of Persia, without any foreign aid, except that of their faithful allies, the Platæans, who sent one thousand warriors to share with nine thousand Athenians, in the la. bours and honours of the perilous contest. The number of armed slaves that were probably added to these ten thousand freemen, is not known. Ten generals were elected from amongst their most distinguished officers, each of whom in rotation was to command the whole army for a day. Amongst these were Miltiades, Themistocles, and Aristides, names most familiar to the ear of every one, who is conversant with Grecian history. Contrary to the ordinary feelings and practise of men entrusted with power, and that parrow spirit of rivalry that is too commonly seen in such characters, these joint commanders acted together with the utmost harmony and confidence, “ in honour preferring one another." The genius of Miltiades was well known to them. His great military talents had been put to the test in former years, when he was the governor of a Greek colony, settled at Cardia in Thrace, and proved most successful. A common sense of danger, as well as the true spirit of patriotism, induced the other nine commanders to give up their several days of authority to Miltiades, as the more experienced general, and sacrifice their private ambition for the general good. To the honour of Aristides it should be recorded, that he set the example in this act of disinterested patriotism.

• Miltiades knew the character of the enemy, and their peculiar mode of warfare. He knew also the invincible bravery of the army under his command, and resolved, notwithstanding the great disparity of numbers, to risk a battle, on which were suspended the liberties of Greece. Though the native historians of Greece, who were familiar with the spot, on which this great battle was fought, and wrote for the instruction of the immediate descendants of those who conquered or expired on the plains of Marathon, might deem it necessary to enter into minute detail; to describe, with topogra. phical accuracy, the exact situation of both armies, their various

the war.

evolutions, with their modes of attack and defence; and to calculate the numbers killed or wounded on that memorable day-it cannot be deemed necessary to imitate the example of many modern historians, in collecting from these ancient records the sad recital, and dwelling upon it with melancholy pleasure. However sacred the cause in which this select band of patriots had embarked, and however laudaa ble their efforts to defend their threatened liberties and lives, Chris. tianity forbids us to exhibit such scenes of carnage and desolation in a prominent, and much less in a winning, form. Suffice it to say, in brief, that the contest was long and sanguinary; the bravery of the Athenians and Platæans unparalleled ; and their ultimate victory decisive and complete. The Persian army fled to their ships with precipitation, leaving their camp, with all its rich stores, to the conquerors. The immense spoil found there was entrusted to Aristides, who had already acquired a high reputation for integrity, and who faithfully discharged the trust. In this battle the banished tyrant of Athens was slain, who had been the principal instigator of

The Lacedæmonian auxiliaries arrived on the following day, and, though mortified that they had no share in the honours of the day, pronounced the highest eulogium on the valour and patriotism of the Athenians.'

pp.

109-111. Some of his reflections on this event are as follows:

The circumstances and issue of the battle of Marathon, forcibly remind us of that scriptural truth, “ the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong: Events cannot be determined by outward appearances or probabilities. They are frequently such as to baffle all human conjecture, and cut off at once the most sanguine hopes of man. Who that had seen the little band of Greeks, drawn

up

in battle array against the numerous legions of Persia, if he judged by ordinary rules, would not have confidently anticipated the annihilation of the Grecian army? However brave, however desperate it might be, it could scarcely be considered any other than the “ forlorn hope” of Greece. But the result, which has been stated, proved that a mere handful of freemen is more than equal to many myriads of slaves, and that, if liberty smile upon a country, it transforms every individual of that country into an invincible hero; whilst the absence of this blessing is of itself sufficient, so unnerve the arm-to depress the mind" to make cowards of us all.”,

PP 112, 113.

None of the Greeks is more a favourite with our author than Aristides.

• He was of comparatively mean extraction ; his parents were in low circumstances; his early advantages were few and exceedingly limited. The talents he discovered in youth were not brilliant, but sterling. The qualities in which he excelled were chiefly moral and intellectual ; such as were calculated rather to win the esteem and confidence of the discerning, than to gain the applause of the mul. titude. Modest and retiring in his natural disposition, he avoided public notice as far as possible ; but, when duty urged, he did not shrink back from the most difficult or invidious task ; firmly resolved on all occasions to administer justice, both to friends and foes, with the most rigid impartiality. In the most trifling, as well as in the most important concerns he adhered inflexibly to truth, nor could he be induced either by threats or promises, by flatteries or rewards, to swerve from it. He was no less wise and brave than Themistocles, but his wisdom partook less of cunning, and his bravery was less vehement and boisterous than that of his political rival. He possessed a remarkable calmness of temper, which attended him through life, amidst all its diversified scenes. He combined the most rigid integrity of principle and conduct, with habitual suavity of mannersthe most heroic courage, with calm deliberation-an ingenuous boldness of character, with unassuming modesty' pp. 161, 162.

• The predominant virtue of Ăristides, which acquired him the unlimited confidence both of the Athenians and all the other Grecian states-and, in consequence of which, he was honoured with the title of the Just—was unimpeachable integrity. This admirable quality, so necessary both in private and public life, was frequently put to the severest test during his administration, and, in every instance, proved genuine and invincible. After the battle of Marathon the spoils of the Persian camp were entrusted to his care, previously to their distribution amongst the conquerors ; 'a charge which he executed with the utmost fidelity.

When it became necessary, during the

progress of the war, to levy a tax upon all the Grecian republics, that they might contribute, in equal proportions, to its sup. port, Aristides was chosen, by common consent, as the only individual in Greece to whom they could safely commit so difficult and delicate a task.'

• It was to be expected that this unyielding disposition, opposed as it was to the growing corruptions of the times, would procure him many enemies. Themistocles, especially, hated him, both on account of the high reputation he had acquired, and the severity with which he had frequently reproved his dishonest artifices. Nor could he rest till the faction opposed to Aristides, acquired so much strength, as to produce his banishment by the Ostracism.' p. 163.

• When Themistocles became the object of suspicion and envy, (as was stated in the preceding essay,) Aristides was far from wish ing to retaliate on his fallen rival the injuries he had received from him. Instead of joining with these adversaries of Themistocles, who accused him of capital crimes, he pleaded his cause, and endeavoured to avert the storm of popular indignation from him. Though unsuccessful in this generous design, he sympathized with him in his distresses and persecutions, which he ever considered most unjust. His old age was occupied with instructing in the principles of government, and training up for public life, those youths who were most promising ; and to whom, he foresaw, the future direction of the republic wou'd be committed. Amongst these, Cimon, the son of Miltiades, was the most distinguished-a pupil worthy of such a master! To him, Aristides was most affectionately attached, as a father to his son; nor was his paternal tenderness ill repaid, for that amiable youth honoured and cherished his preceptor in his declining

p. 169.

« AnteriorContinuar »