Page images


disease, on multitudes of different tempers, ages, habits, religions, so as never once to fail; and this at the first application, compleatly and permanently, so that no one complained of a relapse, or of having been imperfectly healed. Nothing is more clear in the gospel history than this, the evangelists relate confidently that our Lord healed multitudes at Capernaum, at the † sea of Galilee, afterwards in the plain, through all the cities and villages of Galilee; at Genesareth, even in the temple at Jerusalem on the sabbath day, shortly before his crucifixion. In all these places were brought unto him all who lay sick of divers diseases, the "blind, the dumb, the lame, sick persons borne in beds, those that had the palsy, demoniacks, lunaticks, and he healed them all-every one, as many as touched him were made whole."

Of these miracles multitudes were witnesses, who attended him from place to place; sometimes crouding the houses where he was, so that there was 66 no room, no, not so much as about the door;" thronging round him in the streets, following him to the sea; to the most retired and uninhabited parts of the country, the mountains, the desert-staying with him near "three days together; so that he and his disciples had not leisure scarcely even to car"-and these multitudes came from various and distant places; for great multitudes, says the evangelists, followed him from Galilee, and from Derapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan, from Idumea, and they of Tyre and Sidon, and his fame went through all Syria, and they brought unto him all sick people, and from all the region round about Genesareth."And what is most important to observe, amongst these witnesses of our Saviour's miracles, we often find his most inveterate enemies, the priests and scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who very early conceived a rooted aversion to the humble and pure Jesus, and watched the progress of his ministry with a jealousy which raged with still increasing fary, till it glutted itself with his blood.

These enemies always attended the synagogues where he frequently wrought his miracles; they often also mixed with the multitude, and watched to detect any thing censureable in his conduct.-Did he assume the character of the Son of God, and the power of forgiving sins, they were ready to accuse him of blasphemy.-Did he cat bread with unwashed hands, in opposition to their traditions, they were filled with indignation.-Did he neglect to imitate their hypocritical austerity in fastings-and did he associate with the humble and penitent converts, they reproached him with being a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. Did he restore health and vigour to the diseased, even these works of mercy, if performed on the sabbath, they condemned as impious violation of that sacred day.'

Matt. iv. 23

28, 29, 30Matt. xxi. 14.

|| Matt. xv. 32. Ib. xiv. 13. Luke iv. 38-44 and 5. 1-17.



* Luke iv. 40. v. 17-26. vi. 12.-19. viii. 1. -25. ix. 34. xi. 4. xiv. 35. Newcome's Harmony, 34, 35, 32-68. † Vid. Appendix. Matt. iv. 23. John xii. 37. Matt. iv. 25. Mark iii. 8. John vi. 2.

The third section of the second chapter, on Christ's prophecies, is very interesting.-On the famous prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, Mr. Graves makes these remarks:


The very obscurity of some parts of this prophecy seems as inconsistent with fraud, as the plainness and exact accomplishment of others is unaccountable on the supposition of fanaticism. An impostor writing after the event, would take care not to diminish the credit of his supposed prediction, by leaving its application doubtful or obscure; yet it is certain many Christians did very early so far mistake this prophecy, as to apply it not only to the destruction of Jerusalem, but also to the end of the world; and to expect the immediate approach of the final judgment, an error which St. Peter and St. Paul in different passages expressly and earnestly correct, and in a manner totally remote from every appearance of enthusiasm or imposture. Enthusiasts would more probably cherish than detect such a delusion, calculated as it was to make a deep religious impression on the minds of men; and impostors, if they found it necessary to correct an erroneous interpretation of any supposed prediction uttered by themselves, would naturally point out its exact accommodation to the event, which alone they had intended to mark out by it, and would be doubly cautious of exposing themselves to new difficulties, by uttering new predictions; whereas St. Paul, addressing the Thessalonians, and warning them, "not to be troubled by word or by letter as from us, that the day of Christ is at hand," adds a declaration, that that day should not come till after some signal apostacy, and the revealing of some mighty and unrighteous power, which he terms "the man of sin," the character and progress of which, he reminds them he had already in conversation described to them, and now therefore only briefly touches on.'

We shall next make an extract from the third chapter, which describes the nature of enthusiasm, and its effects on the human mind; fully vindicating the Apostles from every imputation of that sort.

Now, we ever find that, so far as this prevails, reason and judgment are proportionably laid aside; the mode in which this weakness displays itself, will necessarily vary with the peculiar temper and character of him who labours under it; but in every temper and character extravagance and folly will appear. Is the enthusiast naturally gloomy and despondent? we shall find him overpowered by religious melancholy and abstraction, devoted to excessive mortification and fantastic penances. Is he sanguine and violent? we shall see him -rush forward in the hot pursuit, to which he conceives himself driven by a divine impulse, without any regard to reason or discretion, perpetually trampling on the restraints of order and decency-not only ready to sustain, but impatient to search out and court persecution, danger and death. In both cases he is alienated from and unfitted for the relations and offices of common life; such men will not la

*Thess. the entire 2d chap.


bour, it is unworthy their sanctity; they will despise all human dis tinctions as beneath their notice: thus, though the end pursued may be religious and praise-worthy, the means employed to attain. it will be found, in some respect or other, extravagant and absurd. Now the conduct of the apostles, as it is incidentally disclosed to us by the artless historian, who has described the first establishment of Christianity, appears entirely free from these various weaknesses.

We discover in their mode of life no melancholy, no abstraction from society, no aversion to labour; in the interval between the re-.. surrection of their Lord and the commencement of their own public ministry, we find they had returned to the calm and humble pursuit of that laborious industry which had originally formed their sole occupation. They were employed in * fishing on the lake Tiberias, when our Lord appeared to them, and by the miraculous success, which at his word they obtained, convinced them he still retained the same divine power which they had seen exercised on a similar occasion in the commencement of his ministry. Such a situation and employment were as remote from enthusiasm as can be imagined.'

St. Paul's activity, zeal, and, above all, the fervour of his imagination, have induced the infidel writers to single him. out as the peculiar object of their enmity; and, if we rightly, remember, no man ever treated that illustrious Apostle with greater indecency than Morgan: but his character has been ably defended by many writers; and among the rest, George Lord Lyttelton acquired considerable reputation by his excellent book on the conversion of St. Paul.-Mr. Graves quotes his Lordship with great respect; and the arguments which he employs, in the fourth section of the third chapter, cannot but be highly satisfactory to every fair and candid inquirer.


On the style of the historical parts of the New Testament, the author thus expresses himself:

What then are the characters which reason would lead us to expect, and which experience proves generally prevail in the composi tions of enthusiasts? In such men the imagination is violently heated, a confusion of ideas ensues, the style becomes forced and obscure, full of mysterious and metaphorical, dark and distorted allusions; with this obscurity is most frequently combined an exaggerated and extravagant strain of thought and expression; nothing is attributed to natural causes; every thing is spiritualized and magnified; common events are described as secret providences, uncommon as decided miracles: but neither the obscurity nor the exaggeration of enthusiasm are so conspicuous or so offensive, as the heat and violence, the arrogance and bitterness, which are too frequently found in such men as conceive themselves to be the only favourites of heaven, and pronounce the rest of mankind to be alienated from, and offensive to God, and who naturally betray this self-exaltation and uncharitableness by a strain of affected humility, and real ostenta tion, by overbearing dogmatism and virulent invective.

* John xxi.



Thus obscurity and extravagance, self-exaltation and uncharitable. hess, are the natural characters of enthusiastic compositions. Now compare these with the style of the historical works of the New Testament, and the contrast is surely most clear and decisive. In these compositions, simplicity of style and structure, and its attendant per spicuity, form the leading features; every thing is clear, unforced, unadorned; the sentences are short and intelligible; the language plain and natural; no superfluous or far-fetched epithets-no accumulation of synonimous, or nearly synonimous words, to amplify or impress the ideas of the speaker-no involved circumlocutions-no effort to express things in a bold, emphatical manner. This simpli city of style and structure is essentially connected with, and evidently arises from the simplicity of the design. The writers of these nar rations appear solely as Christ's humble attendants, selected for introducing to the knowledge of others this infinitely higher character, who is himself in a pre-eminent sense, the mouth, and the oracle of God;" it is this subordinate part which they professedly and uni formly act. Struck with the ineffable dignity of the Messiah whom they serve, they lose no opportunity of exhibiting him to the world, and appear to consider the introduction of their own opinions, conjectures or reasonings, unless where they make a part of the narration, as an impertinence; they sink themselves in order to place him in the most conspicuous point of view; they preach not themselves, but Christ Jesus, the Lord. Hence in the historical part of the New Testament, we never find the least trace of any attempt to shine by studied expression, composition, or sentiment; plainness of language is always preferred, because the best adapted to all capacities, though in a style by no means slovenly, yet in little points, as about those grammatical accuracies, which do not affect the meaning and perspicuity of the sentence, rather careless than curious. In this sort of simplicity, our Lord's biographers peculiarly excel; and surely this is very opposite to the turgid and obscure productions of a mind inflated and confused by fanaticism.

But the turn of thought and expression is not only clear and intelligible, but in the highest degree moderate and calm; so far from exaggerating trifles into importance, and indulging the extravagancies of enthusiasm, that the most striking displays of wisdom, the most engaging exertions of beneficence, calculated to rouse the warmest admiration and gratitude, are related with perfect coolness, without any marks of wonder, or exclamations of sympathy: nay further, the most stupendous exertions of miraculous power-the course of nature suspended-all manner of diseases healed by a word--the winds and waves controuled by their master's voice; and even the depths of the grave yielding back the dead to life at his command. Events such as these, the history of which we cannot peruse without astonishment, which seem necessarily to call forth the

Vid. Dr. George Campbell's preliminary dissertation to his translation of the gospels, in 2 vols. 4to. Lond. 1789-vol. 1ste 3d dissertation, § 44, p. 66, § 18, p. 82, and § 24. p. 95.

REV. SEPT. 1799.



strongest expressions of wonder and reverence, the boldest flights of enraptured eloquence; even these are related as coolly as the most common occurrences, laid before the reader with all their minutest circumstances, but laid before him briefly and plainly, without any attempt to magnify their greatness or their consequences.

The same calmness of mind is equally conspicuous in the unimpassioned, but not unfeeling manner in which the evangelists relate the cruel sufferings of their divine Lord, as well as the obstinacy, the perverseness, the insatiable malignity of his enemies; in all their narration, not one opprobrious epithet, not one severe expression escapes them; can any thing more strongly distinguish them from fanatics, whose fury and hatred perpetually burst forth, when roused by opposition of any kind, much more when such opposition inflicts the severest personal injuries, and pursues with contempt and persecu tion the most sacred objects of religious reverence? Such calmness, rarely, if ever attained by philosophic wisdom, is surely utterly inconsistent with fanaticism."

From the style, Mr. G. proceeds to the facts of the evangelie history; and in this part of his subject, he is equally sensible and judicious.

The fifth chapter, which treats chiefly of the Epistles of St. Paul, contains much good matter, well arranged, and applied to the best of purposes-the vindication of those writings in which we all feel, or as Christians ought to feel, the deepest interest.-Had we not such daily proofs of the pertinacity of the human mind, we might suppose that few arguments were necessary to prove that the morality of the gospel could not be dictated by a spirit of enthusiasm. The sixth chapter, which is employed on this subject, we have read with entire satisfaction; and many valuable extracts might be made from it, had we not sufficiently extended this article.-Besides the general praise which we have bestowed on this work, we deem it right to observe that it possesses the discriminating merit of order in arrangement, judgment in selection of argument, and at style flowing and perspicuous. It seems to discover, also, a candid and humane disposition, with a love of truth, virtue, and religion.


ART. XI. Transactions of the Society instituted at London, for the En couragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce; with the Premiums offered in the Year 1798. Vol. XVI. 8vo. 58. Boards, Robson, Becket, &c.


'HE plan of this valuable publication has been so repeatedly explained, that we have only to speak of the contents of each volume, as they successively come before us.

Among the new premiums now offered, we are particularly glad to find one for taking Porpoises: not more for the oil

« PreviousContinue »