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that it is not in the power of man thoroughly to explore the works of God. And thus this reflection again occurs to him as an angel of deliverance, leading him in safety from the dark labyrinth into which he had wandered.
A similar instance in one of the Psalms, where the writer by reflecting on the prosperity of the wicked would have been in danger of wavering in his belief, had it not been for bis firm reliance on Providence, is too excellent and too appropriate to be omitted.
To those that are pure of heart.
Within a little my steps had slipped :
And regarded the prosperity of the wicked.
And their health remains firm;
And are not afflicted like other men :
Violence covers them like a garment;
They surpass the desires of their hearts ;
Loftily they speak ;
And their tongues go through the earth.
And water in abundance is poured out to them.
Is it regarded by the Most High?
And in continual security they amass wealth.
And washed my hands in innocence ?
And chastened in the morning ?
I should deal falsely with the generation of thy children.
But to me it seemed hard ;
And discovered what was their end.
On what slippery places hast thou set them!
Thou hast cast them down to ruin.
They are swept away with sudden destruction.
Thou Lord shall publicly despise their image.
And my reins are pierced ;
And like a beast in thy sight:
Thou holdest me by my right hand.
And conduct me to glory ;
And what besides thee can I desire on earth?
The stay of my heart and my portion is God forever.
Thou destroyest all those who go astray from thee.
But as for me, the presence of God is my delight; In the Lord Jehovah I confide, and recount all thy works. Being thus led anew to the conviction that it is impossible for man to estimate the actions of God, the poet exerts all his power of reason to vindicate the conduct of the Most High. He asserts that all is under the control of God, that each individual thing is to be regarded as a portion of the whole to which it belongs; and that nothing exists for itself alone, or can rise independently above the rest of creation. Every thing, therefore, to be judged of correctly, must be viewed in all the relations which it bears to other existences; but as this is frequently altogether beyond the power of man, he should ever guard against suffering himself to be misled by those isolated facts which are above his comprehension, bearing in mind the warning of Homer : Μοίραν δ' ούτινά φημι πεφυγμένον έμμεναι ανδρών.
N. vi. This is the language which every one should address to himself, to prevent bis being led into error and consequent unhappiness by the contradictions and obscurities to be met with in nature. But, says the poet (v. 3), the greatest evil under the sun is, that one and the same fate happens to all : this is an evil which leads men to the commission of crime ; for it causes Vol. XII. No. 31.
them, as our author expresses it, to entertain the idea that the condition of a living dog is preferable to that of a dead lion, since, with death, every thing is at an end. From this doctrine it follows that physical enjoyment is to be pursued as the greatest good; for, says the deluded one, if even during life there is no distinction made between the good and the bad, how much less is it to be expected after death! The poet expresses his pity for mankind in this respect (v. 12), and leaves the reader to his own reflections.
By this mode of viewing it, the apparent inconsistencies of the chapter under consideration are removed, and the preacher appears in the light of a noble moralist free from all reproach. In this chapter also he takes occasion to show that to his reason he owes his deliverance from the labyrinth into which his restless endeavors to penetrate all the secrets of nature had plunged him. For it is reason alone in its highest state of development that can form an estimate of its own powers, and in consequence be is content with comprehending only so much as it is possible for it to know, without attempting what is entirely beyond its reach, and in this manner working its own destruction. The poet illustrates the value of this practical wisdom by an example (v. 14), from which he draws the conclusion that knowledge is to be prized above physical force. In chap. x. he lays down those maxims which this conviction of the preëxcellence of wisdom suggests. He had already (c. 8. v. 2.) recommended obedience to the powers that be : he now describes the blessing which a good ruler and the curse which an evil one may prove to a State ; concluding (v. 20) with the advice not to conspire against the latter however secretly, as it is impossible to tell how soon it may come to his knowledge.
Having now completed his researches into the obligations of man to bimself, to his fellow-man, and to God; and having stated the results in the shape of maxims for the conduct of life; the Preacher proceeds in chap. xi., in the form of a peroration, to draw his subject to a close. He reverts once more to the duties which man owes to himself, and instructs him in what manner to make use of his possessions and to enjoy life. He advises him not to strive incessantly after riches, or selfishly to appropriate his acquisitions to bis own exclusive use; neither should he pass his days in apathetic indolence, but with cheerfulness and moderation enjoy the blooming peri
od of youth. He then pronounces in chap. xii. the noble precept which crowns the entire production, and brings his self-imposed task to an end : “Remember thy Creator even in thy youth; before the unhappy days arrive, or the years approach, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.”
The work closes with a description of the latter end of man, in which is depicted, in faithful colors and with a master hand, the gradual approach of old age and finally of death. On reaching the grave, he suggests (v. 7) the consoling thought of an after life to be spent in the presence of the Deity. “Then sball the dust of the body return to the earth which it sprang
from: The spirit itself shall ascend, to dwell with its Giver on high.”
Such is the object and such are the contents of that precious fragment of sacred oriental philosophy, the book of Ecclesiastes, through the whole of which is shadowed forth the sentiment contained in the concluding words, “ Fear God, and keep his commandments."
STATE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
Presbyterianism. A Review of the Leading Measures of the Gen
eral Assembly of 1837. By a Member of the New York Bar. New York: John S. Taylor, 1838. pp. 47.
By the Editor.
The publication of this unpretending pamphlet stands connected with events of painful interest and of high and momentous bearing. It claims the attention of the friends of religion and of religious liberty on several accounts.
It is not the production of a heated partizan, whose own acts and positions before the public imposed upon him the necessity of a public defence. The author had nothing at stake in the controversy of which he treats. He is neither a minister nor an elder, but an intelligent lawyer, of good reputation, and a private member of the church. His mind, therefore, may be supposed to have been unbiassed by any personal or private interest in the questions at issue; and this, we think, is apparent from the candor and fairness which marks his discussion. He sketches with accuracy and clearness the origin and organization of the Presbyterian church and the pronipent events in its history, which have led on to the existing controversy, and examines the great principles involved in it, with the freedom and directness of one whose only aim is to illustrate the true interests of both parties and the rights and duties of each. This he has accomplished with singular ability and in a manner to interest and instruct the candid reader.
It is not, however, principally, the candor and talent exhibited in this production, which have given it the importance we attach to it at the present time. Had it been issued a few months earlier, or a few days later, than the date of its actual publication,* it might have failed to accomplish the important and striking results which it seems already to have produced. It appeared at the very moment when a lucid and attractive discussion of the principal points embraced in it was especially needed to harmonize the views and concentrate the action of that portion of the church, who considered themselves as oppressed and injured by what they regarded the unconstitutional acts of the General Assembly of 1837. Had this been the result of contrivance, or of suggestion, by the leading men of that portion of the church who have availed themselves of the principles maintained in this publication, we should have regarded it with less adıniration. But, assured as we are, that, while others, personally interested in the controversy, of both parties, were urging their conflicting views before the public, our author, unadvised by either, was pursuing his investigations, and while they were yet speaking, was unconsciously answering and refuting the positions of some, and confirming those of others, we are constrained to contemplate it as an agency especially excited and controlled by Him who seeth not as man seeth. It is this strikingly seasonable appearance of the publication before us, and its peculiar adaptation to meet and affect the crisis which was approaching, that has induced us to select it from the numerous documents; essays and opinions which have a bearing upon the existing controversies in the Presby
* About the 25th of April, 1838.