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Review of Religious Publications.
THE BARDS OF THE BIBLE. By GEORGE | theme demanded; and could have wished
GILFILLAN. 8vo. pp. 366.
J. Hogg, Edinburgh; R. Groombridge and Sons, London.
Ir would be impossible, without the genius of the writer, to convey to our readers an adequate impression of his "Bards of the Bible." Even he, perhaps, would shrink from the description, not to say elaborate criticism, of his own book. There is nothing that we are aware of, in the English language, answering to it, on the same subject. From the first page to the last, the imaginative faculty of the author is continually on the stretch; and yet so much does he appear in his element, and so little is he under any unnatural excitement, that we are compelled to feel that he is in sober every-day mood, while he is heaping image upon image, ransacking the universe for his materials of thought, and aggregating bold and original conceptions, almost beyond the power of the intelligent reader to catch or to comprehend. Yet, so far as we can judge, Mr. Gilfillan is intelligible throughout;-he has a distinct meaning in his most gorgeous passages;-and if he claims, at times, a poet's licence, no candid critic will say that he is not entitled to it. We confess, with all our admiration of the genius of the author, to something like actual fatigue and taxation of our powers, in having to accommodate ourselves to the perpetual coruscations which dart from his thunderclouds -ever charged-never exhaustedand which play continually around our almost bewildered heads. He does not leave us repose enough, even to watch the grandeur of the storm, or to mark the rich and varied hues of the blazing elements by which we are encompassed on every side. To us, and we are not unfriendly critics, this is the great sin of Mr. Gilfillan's compositions. They oppress by their brilliancy. They fail in permanent effect, by the excess of imagery. We lose sight almost of the author's thought, in gazing on the rich drapery by which it is adorned. His literary productions would be greatly more telling, were their embellishment curtailed at least fifty per cent.
We have never felt these convictions more deeply than in reading, with a most friendly feeling, Mr. Gilfillan's "Bards of the Bible." On other subjects less sacred, the impression has not seized on us with such resistless force. We have luxuriated as we could, with our brilliant author. But in trying to follow his delineations of inspired men and their communications, we have felt the absence, at times, of something like that hallowed sobriety of thought and language which the
that a genius so fertile, and an imagination so luxuriant, could have been checked and held in by something like reverence and awe for the express oracles of the living God.
But let us not be mistaken in these criticisms. Mr. Gilfillan's uniform aim is to heighten our admiration of the sacred oracles, -to distinguish them from all human productions,-and to throw the halo of his own genius around the poetry of the Bible, for the purpose of enhancing its matchless peculiarities. He is no German neologist in disguise. He bows with profound awe at the shrine of revelation; and places the inspired writers, not on the pedestal of their own genius, but on the mount of vision, where, in a sense most solemn and true, they saw and conversed with God, and gave forth his mind to mankind.
It may be, indeed, that the gorgeousness of Mr. Gilfillan's diction may enhance the volume of inspired truth to a class of mind not easily reached; and, if such shall be the case, we shall greatly rejoice in the result, and be very willing to believe that our fastidiousness as to style has been unduly indulged.
The contents of the volume before us will evince the wide range of the author's plan. After his general Introduction, which is full of valuable thought, we have eleven chapters on the Old Testament. I. Circumstances creating and modifying Old Testament Poetry. II. General characteristics of Hebrew Poetry. III. Varieties of Hebrew Poetry. IV. Poetry of the Pentateuch. V. Poetry of the Book of Job. VI. Poetry of the Historical Books. VII. Poetry of the Book of Psalms. VIII. Solomon and his Poetry. IX. Introduction to the Prophetic Books. X. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel. XI. The Minor Prophets: Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Obadiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. XII. Circumstances modifying New Testament Poetry. XIII. Poetry of the Gospels. XIV. Paul. XV. Peter and James. XVI. John. XVII. Comparative Estimate, Influences, and Effects of Scripture Poetry. CONCLUSION: Future Destiny of the Bible. SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTER: The Poetical Characters in Scripture.
This is unquestionably Mr. Gilfillan's great work. Its merits will be variously canvassed by different writers; but all will be compelled to admit that it is a volume of extraordinary brilliancy and power. We should have been
glad to find less of the imaginative, and more of the strictly critical. But we are not ungrateful to the respected author for what he has accomplished in his own way.
We give a brief extract from the close of Mr. Gilfillan's critique on the Poetry of the Book of Psalms, as a fair sample of the general style of his work:
"But, perhaps, finer than all, are those little bursts of irrepressible praise, which we find at the close. During the course of the book, you had been conducted along very diversified scenes; now beside green pastures, now through dark glens, now by still waters, now by floods, and now by dismal swamps, now through the silent wilderness, where the sun himself was sleeping on his watch-tower-in sympathy with the sterile idleness below; and now through the bustle and blood of battle-fields, where the elements seemed to become parties in the all-absorbing fury of the fray; but, at last, you stand beside the Psalmists, upon a clear, commanding eminence, whence, looking back on the way they had been led, forward to the future, and up to their God, now no longer hiding himself from his anointed ones, they break into pæans of praise; and not satisfied with their own orisons, call on all objects, above, around, and below, to join the hymn, become, and are worthy of becoming, the organs of a universal devotion. The last six or seven Psalms are the Beulah of the Book; there the sun shineth night and day, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land. From a reflection of their fire have sprung the hymn which Milton ascribes to our first parents, the hymn which closes the Seasons,' and the great psalm which swelled from the harp of Coleridge, as he struck it to the music of the Arveiron, and in the light of the morning star."
LECTURES DELIVERED AT THE MONTHLY UNITED SERVICE OF THE NONCONFORMIST CHURCHES IN NOTTINGHAM. With other Discourses, preached on Public Occasions. By SAMUEL MC ALL, Minister of Castle Gate Meeting-House. 12mo., pp. 388.
Jackson and Walford.
AN author whose first production from the press betrays no symptom of immaturity, may well be congratulated on the prudence which has restrained him from rushing into print. From the accurate and well-trained habits of Mr. Mc All's mind, he might, long ere this, have ventured upon the field of authorship, with credit to himself, and benefit to the Christian public. But modesty, with him, is an essential element of character;-as prominent even as discreet judgment, perspicuous thought, and devout affections. His will be the consolation of having commenced authorship in the maturity of his faculties, after long discipline, extensive reading, and well-earned experience. We chide him not for his prudence; but, as we look at this goodly volume, and trace its elaborate and beautiful trains of thought, its
fine scriptural theology, and its close and skilful appeals to the heart and conscience, we have felt that the public has lost much by the reserve which he has exercised.
Of the fifteen Discourses contained in this volume, nine of them were preached before the "Monthly United Service," in Nottingham,-a body of Nonconformist ministers, of different denominations, but uniting for the common good.
These nine Lectures are all devoted to the discussion of subjects of paramount interest; and are all handled with a large amount of skill and power. The topics are:-" The Harmony subsisting between the Christian Economy and antecedent Dispensations-The solemn Responsibility which rests upon the Christian Church to promote its own Extension-The Anti-Christian Character of the Measures commonly suggested by worldly men to secure Religious Uniformity-Human Responsibility -The Special Adaptation of Christianity to promote the Happiness of the Working Classes The Influence of the Piety of the Church on its Union and Increase-The Regulation of Temper a Christian Duty-The Province of Reason with reference to Revelation
and, The Practical Results of Christianity considered as an Evidence of the Truth."
We speak in perfect moderation when we say, that there is not one of these Discourses that is not distinguished by high attributes of mind, and great adaptation to the present state of public sentiment in Great Britain.
The other six Discourses are well selected from the author's manuscripts, as having awakened peculiar interest at the time of their delivery. They are on the following subjects:"Hearing the Gospel a Means of Grace, and a Token of Revival-To Sundayschool Teachers-The Worship of God-On Open Decision for God—The Transfiguration -God's Presence Everything to the Christian Minister."
We have read these six Discourses with extraordinary satisfaction. They are full of hallowed unction, and telling intelligence. The one to Sunday-school Teachers ought to be printed by itself, and sent through the kingdom; and the last, addressed as a charge to his own Nephew, the son of the late Dr. Mc All, contains some of the best advice ever delivered to a youthful pastor.
Most fervently do we unite with the respected Author in the concluding sentence of his modest preface to this volume.-" May its perusal be accompanied with the Divine blessing! and may it be honoured as an humble means of advancing that kingdom which is righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost!'"
THE NIGHT LAMP. 4 Narrative of the means by which Spiritual Darkness was dispelled from the Death-bed of Agnes Maxwell Macfarlane. By the Rev. JOHN MACFARLANE, LL.D., Glasgow, Author of "The Mountains of the Bible," &c. 12mo., pp. 340.
James Nisbet & Co.
EIGHTEEN years have passed away since the diary was written, from which these mememorials have been compiled; and nearly the same period has elapsed since Agnes Maxwell Macfarlane entered on her bright and blessed reward. But the history embodied will ever remain green and fragrant, while the world lasts, and while youthful piety continues to be an object of interest to the Christian church. It would have been a great loss to the reading and thoughtful public, had Dr. Macfarlane been induced, by any motives of delicacy, to withhold his sister's biography from the world. We trust it was a thought from God himself, when, on reperusing the Diary of his sister, which he had not seen for many years, he "was strongly impressed that it was his duty to recompose it for publication."
We have too many perfect characters drawn in the biographies of the day. It is the crying sin of the age. We believe it is materially weakening and diluting the piety of the era in which we live. Here we have something natural, something truly honest, -something that will find a response in many devout, but perplexed and anxious bosoms.
The work before us will fill up a niche in the memoirs of the day. Miss Macfarlane was a professor of blameless reputation, loved and admired by her friends for her graces and accomplishments; but when days of darkness supervened, and the hand of affliction was laid upon her, she felt that she had too much indulged the spirit of the world, and too little lived in close communion with God. She was roused to an agony of distress; and was led to doubt the reality of her conversion in the sight of God. We hope in this she judged herself too severely; but, amidst thousands in the professing world who take licence to themselves, we are delighted to find one tender, one thoroughly awakened conscience. She found peace at last, such as she could never have realised, had she not been led to judge herself. The writer of the "Night Lamp" was a main instrument, in bringing on that state of mind which issued so gloriously. And the portions of the work which relate to his intercourses with his deceased sister, will endear him to all who read the volume.
Seldom does it fall to our lot to commend with such unhesitationg confidence a volume of Christian biography. These are times when God's people must stand out from the world in bold relief.
1. PROTESTANT NONCONFORMITY: a Sketch of its General History, with an Account of the Rise and Present State of its Various Denominations in the Town of Birmingham. By JOHN ANGELL JAMES. Small 8vo., pp. 292.
2. THE OLIVE BRANCH AND THE CROSS; or, the Quarrels of Christians settled, and Trespasses forgiven, according to the Law of Christ. A Word of Affectionate Advice to Professing Christians. By J. A. JAMES. Fourth thousand. Royal 32mo., pp. 112. 3. THE PAPAL AGGRESSION AND POPERY CONTEMPLATED RELIGIOUSLY. A Pastoral Address to his Flock. By J. A. JAMES. Small 8vo., pp. 44.
4. PRACTICAL SERMONS TO YOUNG MEN. First," Preparation for Life;" Second, "Entering on Life;" Third, "The Young Man undecided in his Religious Character." By J. A. JAMES. Small 8vo.
Hamilton, Adams, and Co.
WE are much concerned that these invaluable publications of Mr. James have been so long neglected. The omission has been purely accidental. It is very gratifying to find the mind and pen of our reverend friend so active after years of incessant, laborious, and successful toil. Long may his bow abide in strength! Never did the Church more need the continued services of such champions of truth and holiness. Mr. James's writings have been widely circulated and greatly blessed; and the volumes indicated at the commencement of this article promise to be as acceptable and useful as their predecessors.
The "Sketch" of "Protestant Nonconformity, with an account of the Rise and Present State of its Various Denominations in the Town of Birmingham," is a very instructive volume, both as it respects facts and sentiments. The first part of the volume is a very able outline of the history of nonconformity, which we should be glad to see in the hands of all our church members. In the absence of more elaborate works, it will supply most important light and guidance to thousands connected with our churches.
"The Olive Branch and the Cross" is a volume greatly needed in these times, when many who talk loudly about Congregationalism know nothing either of its principles, or the spirit in which it must be administered. This little volume is worth its weight in gold. When we thus sincerely commend it, we wish we could persuade all our readers to peruse the volume, and imbibe its spirit.
"The Papal Aggression" is worthy of its venerable author, as a man of extensive reading and sound reflection. It is a noble protest against Popery, as a system; shows clearly and convincingly what God is requiring of all sound-hearted Protestants in these eventful times and breathes the spirit of generous
love to men who have shown themselves far better than the systems to which they adhered.
The "Practical Sermons to Young Men" are worthy of universal circulation; and are as well fitted to be generally useful as the "Anxious Inquirer," which has been blessed to thousands.
THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH, CONSIDERED IN ITS VARIOUS ASPECTS. By MINISTERS OF DIFFERENT DENOMINATIONS. With a Preface by the Hon. and Rev. BAPTIST W. NOEL. Small 8vo., pp. 480.
Johnstone and Hunter.
THE deep inquiry which has sprung up in reference to the claims of the Christian Sabbath, is one of the most hopeful signs of the times. We trust that a more profound conviction of its sanctity and value has been produced in the minds of God's own people; and that some, not pledged to the Christian cause, have become thoughtful in reference to its social and moral tendency,-its real benefits to the human race. We must confess that our main hope of improvement depends, in a great measure, upon the tone and temper of the Christian Church in reference to Sabbath
sanctification. If godly men are found honouring God's day as they ought, it will tell more on the masses around them, than a thousand legislative enactments. Let Christian men, in their several spheres, stand up boldly for the honour of God's day, and stand aloof from all the various desecrations of it, and their example will be a leaven in the community, which will, every day, exert a growing influence for good on the minds of their fellow-men,
We commend this volume earnestly to our readers, as it treats the whole subject in a masterly manner, and in all its different aspects. It should be in every Christian house, and should be read by every Christian
The authors are Dr. Wardlaw, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Andrew Thomson, Dr. King, Dr. James Hamilton, Mr. Peter M'Owen, Dr. Hannah, Dr. Innes, Dr. Glover, Dr. Hethrington, Dr. Reid, Dr. Symington, Dr. R. W. Hamilton, Mr. Bickersteth, Dr. Bates, and Mr. J. A. James.
THE LADIES OF THE COVENANT. Memoirs of distinguished Scottish Female Characters, embracing the Period of the Covenant and the Persecution. By the REV. JAMES ANDERSON. Pp. 664.
Blackie and Son, Warwick-square. THE vast amount of striking incident, in reference to one of the most eventful periods in Scottish history, embodied in this volume, cannot fail to secure for it an extensive circulation. We have here the romance of
history; and yet the whole is a sober narrative of facts which actually transpired, of persecutions and martyrdoms fearlessly endured, and of liberties asserted and ultimately wrought out by men and women mighty in faith, and strong in the fear of the Lord.
These memoirs of "the Ladies of the Covenant" are a seasonable offering to our countrymen, at a time when a party in the English Establishment, the genuine representatives of those who, in the last days of the Stuart dynasty, were the oppressors and persecutors of the dauntless Scotch, are again obtruding their claims. It is a fact that, from May 27th, 1661, when the noble Marquis of Argyll, was beheaded, to the 17th of February, 1688, when Mr. James Renwick suffered, about 18,000 fell victims to the unrighteous attempt to impose episcopacy upon a reclaiming people. The same principles which are now held and vaunted by the Tractarian party, produced all the horrors in Scotland which preceded the Revolution; and it is only for them to acquire the same status, which they then held -the court and the sovereign favourable to their pretensions-to realise an equally disastrous result. Liberty, civil and religious, would perish if Tractarianism were to prevail. Our hope, however, is that it can never be again in the ascendant; and that the present struggle will issue in its final overthrow.
Mr. Anderson's book will be read with
avidity, as it unfolds the female heroism of the Scottish covenant. Of many of those "holy women," whose dauntless faith and courage are here chronicled, it may be truly said, "the world was not worthy." Their testimony to the truth, and their stern adherence to what they held to be principle, proved, beyond dispute, that they were animated by a pure and lofty faith. We have no heart, even at this time of day, to criticise some of their notions and opinions from which we widely differ, as we believe them most sincerely to have been God's witnesses in evil times, raised up by Him to perform a great work for all time coming.
CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE LORD
THIS is one of the most instructive correspondences to which the controversies of the day have given birth. Mr. Sadler is too much for the Bishop, as every child will feel who reads this pamphlet. On the one side, we have an open, honest, hearty, truth-loving Protestant, who cannot and will not compromise it with the enemies of the Reformation; -and on the other, we have a smooth, polished, cautious, do-nothing Bishop, who
would relieve himself from the responsibility | bewilder his understanding, that crime lost of expelling Tractarians from his own diocese, by calling on Mr. Sadler to tell him where they are. Mr. Sadler has done his duty nobly, and will have the gratitude of thousands who may never see him in the flesh. Let all laymen do their duty, in an equally enlightened and Christian spirit, and the Bishops will be compelled soon to do theirs.
PAPAL AGGRESSIONS AIDED AND ENCOU
RAGED BY TRACTARIAN MOVEMENTS: A
Simpkin, Marshall, and Co.
THIS is a very ingenious and argumentative Discourse, which is well worthy of extensive circulation, and careful perusal. The text is very happy: Obadiah, 11th verse-" And foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, EVEN THOU WAST AS ONE OF THEM." The author, I. Traces the history of Puseyism, and, along with it, the advance of Popery.-II. He points out some of the prominent principles of Puseyism, and exhibits their agreement with Popery.-And, III. He notices some of the influences of Puseyism, and shows their correspondence with those of Popery.
This is one of the best-argued Tracts of the day.
portion of its enormity when perpetrated by Royalists, and virtue was branded as hypocrisy when exhibited by Puritans or Commonwealthmen. As an instance of his prejudice and intense hatred of all that belonged to the Commonwealth, and also as an illustration of his tendency to regard acts of the deepest and most revolting atrocity, as sanctioned by the government and providence of God, when committed by Royalists, we give the following from his "Diary:"
"30th January, 1651. This day (0 the stupendous and inscrutable judgments of God) were the carcasses of those archrebels, Cromwell, Bradshaw (the judge who condemned his Majesty), and Ireton (son-in-law to the Usurper), dragged out of their superb tombs in Westminster among the kings, to Tyburn, and hanged on the gallows there from nine in the morning till six at night, and then buried under that fatal and ignominious monument in a deep pit-thousands of the people, who had seen them in all their pride, being spectators."
In the work now before us the same prejudice and one-sidedness of views appear when reference is made to the Puritans. The Presbyterians, the Independents, the Baptists and the Quakers, are so represented that our author must stand convicted of wilful ignorance or positive dishonesty. They are charged with holding opinions, and indulging in practices, which their whole history emphatically THE HISTORY OF RELIGION. A Rational condemns. These volumes are, indeed, a conAccount of True Religion, by JOHN EVELYN, firmation of the opinion-as far as they touch Author of "Sylva," &c. Now first pub- upon the religious sentiments and sects of the lished by permission of W. J. EVELYN, Esq.,age in which the author lived that no man M.P., from the Original MS. in the Library at Wotton. Edited, with Notes, by the Rev. R. M. EVANSON, B.A., Rector of Lansoy, Monmouthshire. In two volumes.
London: Henry Colburn. EVERY one has heard of John Evelyn; and most readers have some acquaintance with his remarkable "Diary," which gives us such insight into the habits and customs, parties and opinions of the age in which he lived, that, in its perusal, we seem to mingle and converse with the men and women who trode this "
'green earth" of ours two centuries ago, and formed the notorieties of their day. He was a man of fortune, a scholar, a devoted Royalist, and withal an honest and virtuous member of the party to which he belonged. His prejudices were, doubtless, strong, and he certainly did not deal out even-handed justice to the Puritans, and the men of the Commonwealth. His attachment to an hierarchy was so intense, and his sense of the divine right of kings was so deep, that everything like dissent, or an assertion of the responsibility of rulers, provoked his unqualified indignation, and seemed so completely to
is competent to be an impartial historian of his own times, and of events in which he himself mingled, especially when his mind is imbued with the deep prejudices inseparable from high notions of the apostolicity of an hierarchy, and the divine right of kings.
The editor of the book, amid the superior advantages and redeeming circumstances of the present age, seems to inherit the prejudices, without the amenities, of his author. He speaks of" the fallacies of dissent," and of "the gross hypocrisy of the interregnum" in a tone which induces us to think that the foul and infamous abominations of the Restoration, which he gently designates "chilling indifference," are less offensive in his estimation than the sermons and "unauthorised" teachings of the Commonwealth. We are rather inclined to imagine, indeed, that Mr. Evanson would be disposed to array the hierarchy of England in all the gorgeousness of medieval Romanism; for he hesitates not to affirm that, when restored after the destruction of the Commonwealth, it was bereft of a portion of its grandeur-of "the fulness of her rays."
The book, nevertheless, is a valuable one.