Page images
PDF
EPUB

into a world, formed by him whose nature and perfections are unbounded goodness and divine benevolence," he seems to have forgotten, that the nature of God is just and holy, as well as good and benevolent. It is not, perhaps, impossible to shew, that to exclude from creation the possibility of moral evil, would be to destroy the moral system.

We can scarcely perceive the consistency of the following passages.

"That man must be unacquainted with the weakness of the human memory, and the general imbecillity of the mental powers, who does not perceive the necessity of Divine assistance, in recording the numerous sermons, and various transactions of our Lord."—p. 16.

"It is now added, that, independent of their inspiration, the men who wrote the history of Christ, were placed in such circumstances as perfectly qualified them to give an accurate and faithful narrative."—p. 51.

As an example of our author's success, we gladly recommend the argument contained in the following extract.

"In order to invalidate the miracles of the New Testament, a celebrated writer has strenuously laboured to disprove the existence of miracle* altogether. The substance of his argument is, 'that it is contrary to experience, that a miracle should be true, but not contrary to experience, that a testimony should be false.'

"In the deduction of evidence, it is an established maxim, that if an argument proves too much, it is not applicable to the subject to which it is applied; therefore it ought to be rejected. Such is the fact with regard to Mr. Hume's argument. For if men are to reject every relation which is not supported by the testimony of their own experience, then the man who never visited a foreign country must deny the existence of any other except his own native country, because he has not the testimony of experience that any such does exist. He, also, who resides in this quarter of the globe, must deny, that under the north and south poles there is only one day and one night during the whole year; because this is not only eontrary to any thing which he has experienced, but he actually experience* the very reverse; there being, in this quarter of the globe, no fewer than three hundred and sixty-five days in every year. In this case, there are three hundred and sixty-five experiences againit one testimony; yet they do not invalidate its force. Upon the principle of Mr. Hume, the unlearned peasant must likewise treat with contempt the information of philosophers concerning the round form of the earth, its daily and annual motion round the sun, because they are in appearance contrary to his experience. Nay, according to his doctrine, the discoveries of science would become useless, and the mistakes of uninformed men would be substituted in their place."

This volume is presented to the public in a form sufficiently respectable, excepting the numerous orthographical errors. To enter upon all the parts of the work which we think open to criticism, would exceed our limits, and might be deemed wearisome and useless to, the reader. We shall, therefore, dismiss it, by repeating our approbation of its design,and gone

[ocr errors]

ral tendency, while we regret that it was not more ably exe-' cuted; and by joining our cordial wishes with the "fond hope" of the author, " that whatever be its reception with the public, it may meet, at least, with the approbation and encouragement of those under his immediate charge, and that, by the blessing of Gotl, they may reap some benefit from this humble attempt to promote their eternal welfare."

Art. VI. Christian Politics, in Four Parts, by Ely Bates, Esq. 8vo. pp. 460. Price 8s. Longman and Co. 1806.

^F the man who at the present time ventures into the field of political discussion, the opinio i of many is, *' Intetiit per ig>ies suppositos cineri doloso." Not a few labour under an inveterate Politico-phobia; and express the strongest emotions of abnorrence, whenever the subject is placed Defore their eyes. But this is neither manly nor wise. Whatever is of real importance to the happiness of mankind, should not i be treated with contempt, or with neglect, because vice and

folly have abused it: the abuse only was wrong, and this only should be studiously shunned. From what has taken place in the world within the last twenty years, there certainly never was a time when men of talents, judgement, and observation, could write so well on political subjects, and assign, with so much propriety, to theory and practice, their distinct and peculiar provinces. The danger of the two extremes, anarchy and despotism, has been proclaimed to all the nations of Europe with the voice of thunder! For while in one country on the Continent, the heart has been appalled with the horrors of anarchy and its desolating miseries; in others, even in succession to the very hour in which we write, the paralyzing influence of despotism on the people, has occasioned them to look on as unconcerned spectators, and surrender their native land to the ravages of the invading foe. Let despots, anarchists, the advocates of despotism, and the promoters of anarchy, look at these awful scenes with dismay and confusion: while the friends of genuine liberty come forward with confidence to display and assert their principles, as at once giving happiness to the people, strength to the throne, and manly defence and security to the country. In this honourable company it affords us pleasure to introduce Mi. Bates to our readers, as a sensible and moderate writer on political subjects, and one who professes to be the advocate of rational freedom.

Hit> work consists of four parts, the first of which contains a view of civil government in its influence on virtue and happiness, chicfiy from the relation which it bears to liberty and property.

To ascertain what can be done by governments, Mr. B. analyzes human nature, in order to discover what it is cnpable of attaining; and he represents man as a being actuated by the love of pleasure, the love of consequence, and the love of wealth. He then proceeds to consider the objects which a government aims to promote and secure, namely, personal liberty, personal security, private property, and public decorum. In speaking of the influence of Government on virtue and happiness from its relation to liberty, we meet with the following sensible remark.

* It is therefore in those states whose animating principle is liberty, that we must look for a just exercise of reason, or a spirit of free enquiry. Under despotic governments, the mind lies abpet and depressed with the body, without any ardour for rational investigation, which might draw down the vengeance of a power founded in ignorance and injustice; and this general depression of reason goes still further to strengthen the hands of despotism. Thus civil and intellectual slavery generate and increase one another; and the same is true of liberty. Let the government be free, and it will no less elevate and liberalize the public understanding, than it will sink and degrade it, when despotic. On the other hand, let the public mind be dignified and expanded with knowledge, and it will liberalize the government; as it will be sure to invite oppression and tyranny, when contracted and debased by ignorance.'—pp. 57, 58.

In considering the salutary influence of government, as a species of discipline, on the human mind, Mr. B. cites the awful examples of Nero, Caligula, Caracalla, and others of that imperial race, which seems to have been raised up by Providence, as he observes,

"To teach the world of what dreadful enormities our nature is- capable, when left without control, and abandoned to its own propensities. tJut there is no necessity of recurring to former periods to show, that those who have been least under the government of others are generally least able to govern themselves; and that power, when it falls into such hands, is commonly converted into an instrument of sensuality and injustice. We need only to take a view of our own times, to be supplied with too many examples to this purpose.'—p. 66.

Many similar illustrations are happily introduced in the course of the treatise.

In this part of his work Mr. B. examines the influence of the arts and sciences on national virtue. He admits them to he useful, as they improve the mind, and minister to man's reasonable wants: but in forming an estimate of their moral effects, he does not rate them highly ; yet as highly perhaps as they deserve. He likewise institutes a comparison between the civilized and the savage state, and though he rejects the plausible sophisms of Rousseau, and justly gives the preference to ,the former, yet he thinks civilization may be tarried to excess, and that "the care of Government should be to place and secure a people in that situation, in which the fewest individuals possible are in extreme wealth or indigence; and in which the arts and sciences are no further encouraged, than as they are calculated to increase and preserve useful knowledge, to furnish employment, and minister to the real wants or innocent satisfactions of life."

The second part of the book treats of the importance of religion both to society and the individual, with reflexions on religious establishments and toleration; it contains a large portion of very interesting matter. The importance of religion to the welfare of a community is displayed with much ability. In three sections of peculiar interest, our author treats of a toleration without an establishment, of an establishment without a toleration, and of an establishment with a toleration. In the first, he considers the people as all enjoying, in the fullest degree, liberty of conscience, and the equal possession of every political privilege ; and he points out what he conceives to be the advantages and the inconveniences of such an order of things. The history of the world presents us but with one instance of such an arrangement, which has been made under circumstances not the most favourable; and its duration has not yet been long enough, to furnish us with absolutely certain maxims of conduct derived from facts. America is the country to which we refer; since the establishment of the independent government of the United States, all religious sects without distinction have enjoyed equal privileges both civil and religious, without any establishment whatever. But when we consider the constant influx of all kinds of people from the different countries of Europe, and that it is the asylum of " every man who is discontented, and of every man who is in debt," &c. &c. &c. it will be allowed, that, with the exception of the New England Provinces, whose inhabitants are of a more homogeneous and respectable descent, the experiment has been made under circumstances peculiarly unfavourable. The effects of such a system will, from year to year, be growing more apparent, and in the issue will furnish the moral and political world with new maxims of wisdom of the highest kind. It will then be seen whether Mr, B.'s reasoning, and decisions on the subject, be just or not.

In the second section, on an Establishment without a Toleration, he argues with great force and cogency against all kinds of intolerance and persecution; and justly represent? such a system as decidedly hostile both to true religion and to the welfare cf the community. We anxiously wish to present our readers with some of his excellent observations on, this head, but we can only find room for his conclusion.

•I think it sufficiently appears,' says Mr.B.' that an establishment withtut a toleration, is neither consistent with the true interest of religion, nor with the peace of society; that for the magistrate to interfere at all in religious matters is a point of extreme delicacy; and that when he does interfere, it should be his first care to do no harm, either by an unnecessary abridgment of the liberties of any class of citizens; by his patronage of a false religion, or by his endeavours to promote the true one vi ways that are not agreeable to its spirit, and that might endanger the temporal as well as spiritual welfare of the people. We have already, noted some of those furious wars that have been kindled by religious persecution; and where it does not cause ?n onen revolt, it is sure to diffuse an angry ferment, and to engender hypocrisy, which, by gradually undermining principle, may prove more destructive than the bitterest hostile contention. And so far as religion is made a tool for political purposes, the same, or other consequences no less mischievous, may be expected to follow.'—pp. '205, 206.

An establishment with a toleration, is the system which our author conceives to be, on the whole, most advantageous ia the present state of human affairs. He distinguishes between a partial, and a complete toleration. The former allows men liberty of religious worship: the latter opens to them every. civil office, honour, and emolument. The former, he says, is more advantageous to the establishment, but less favourable to the state, while the latter is favourable to the state, but prejudicial to the establishment. By Establishment is intended, " an order of men set apart to attend on the offices of religion: a legal provision for their maintenance; and a restriction of this provision to teachers of a certain description."

A section is here devoted to the most effectual methods by which an establishment may support itself under a complete toleration: it is a section which will be read with interest by every friend of religion; and which it becomes the ministers and members of every establishment to peruse with the most serious attention. "The church must provide the best means of spiritual instruction and edification, among which the following, as Mr. B. conceives, are the most considerable. Her doctrine must be evangelical, she must pay a proper attention to elementary or catechetical instruction, her general discourses from the pulpit must be rather plain and expository, than curious or polemical; there must be a due regulation of her public prayer and psalmody, and there must be a proper exercise of christian discipline. In order to carry these things into execution, the clergy must be good men—To piety must be added zeal and warmth of address—To piety and zeal must be added ability—To the offic e of a public teacher must be added that of a pastor who watcnesfor the souls of his flock, as one that must give account." To these Mr. B. adds another precaution

« PreviousContinue »