« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
and Rome. With regard to the natural and moral perfections of God; the duty of justice, compassion, temperance, and other moral virtues; it is asserted that all these may be found in the systems of antient philosophy. But this cannot be said of the principle of Love to God. It is found in various parts of the Scripture ; commanded in the Pentateuch, enforced by the Prophets, and above all other duties prescribed and explained in the New Testament: but no hint of it is to be met with any where else. The ancient Philosophers were peculiarly anxious to find out some general principle, from which as from a fountain-head might be deduced the various rules of conduct, constituting the excellence, and conducive to the happiness of man.
But their researches failed. In the mean time, this favorite object of their investigations, this Summum bonum, by which they frequently understood the mark at which they ought to aim for the attainment of Happiness rather than Happiness itself, was to to be found in the records of the Jewish people!
It may be asked, in what does the excellence of this principle consist, so as to deserve a peculiar attention from him who undertakes to shew the pre-eminence of the Jewish Theology and Morality? To satisfy this inquiry, we add the following observations. The exercise of this principle ensures the moral excellence of man.' For what is moral excellence, but a sincere obedience to the will of God; which is no other than the performance of the various duties which we owe to him and one another. Now the very nature of affection leads us to comply with the injunctions and rules which the object of it makes known, and to feel a delight in co-operating in the same designs. It is also worthy of remark, that the most ample provision is made for the exercise of this principle, with regard to those characters, at least, whose moral taste and opinions are duly regulated. Setting aside that powerful instinct which impels the parent to provide for her offspring, what is it which chiefly excites our affection? Confessedly, supposed excellence, or favours conferred, or the union of both. We feel a sort of admiration and regard for characters born in a distant period, if we discover in their conduct niarks of generosity, inflexible justice, benevolence, disinterestedness, fidelity, and other virtues? Who does not admire even Julius Cæsar while he is weeping over the ashes of Pompey on the shores of Egypt ; and suspend for a moment his glowing indignation at the sanguinary monster who destroyed a million of his species to satisfy his ambition ? And if for a character, living at a distant period, stained with the most atrocious crimes, from whom we have received not the smallest benefit, either intentional, or undesigned, we feel a momentary regard because he displays a spark of
virtue ; what must be our admiration and regard toward a Being who comprehends all moral perfections in an infinite manner, and whose perfections have been and we know will be employed, in forming, heightening, and confirming our own happiness! To this we may add, that the Love of God is a principle evidently sufficient to produce that high degree of happiness which is alone commensurate with the large desires of an immortal spirit. For it must be allowed, that the exercise of affection is the most delightful of all the passions and energies of the soul. In truth, it may be questioned whether any of our passions are pleasing, farther than this enters into their composition. Hence we may form some feeble conception of the happiness, which will be experienced in a state where every excellence is found, and in that degree wbich is calculated to raise the most pure, intense, and exalted glow of celestial affection. We are afraid of trespassing on the attention of our readers by offering any further observations on this subject. Enough has been said, we trust, of this principle of Love to God, to shew that it is sufficient to constitute the highest excellence and highest happiness of man, and that ample provision is made for a perfect exercise of it. If then this important doctrine is found among the ancient records of a single people devoted to agriculture, and having no taste or genius for abstruse speculations, while nothing that can by any means be compared with it, is to be met with in the Books of Grecian and Roman Philosophers; how shall we explain this fact, but by acknowledging that the principle literally came down froin Heaven, as was fabled of the celebrated apophthegm of Thales,
e colo descendit γνωθι σεαυτον. Juυ. xi, 27. The recognition of the exalted principle of loving our enemies, which is noticed in this branch of the work, might also be compared with the heathen systems of morality to great advantage. We are not afraid to assert that this, as well as the sacred principle mentioned before, is something over and above what is to be learnt in the Grecian Schools. It is indeed pretty generally believed that this lesson was taught in the streets of Athens, and afterwards confirmed and illustrated in the shades of Academus. This opinion may have taken rise from the doctrine contained in the Gorgias of Plato: where Socrates is introduced as one of the speakers, and directs that an enemy should not be brought into a court of justice, or judicially punished in any other way. But if we attentively consider the whole conversation of Socrates, on this occasion, we shall find that, instead of recognizing the exalted principle of loving our enemies and doing good to them that hate us, he VOL. IV..
inculcates the indulgence of the most refined, and, according to his own statement, the most baleful malice toward those who have injured us. We shall give merely the substance of his reasoning. “ You allow, (says he, to the interlocutor,) that moral excellence is the greatest good. You allow also that the punishment of offences is one means of reforming the authors of them. If then our enemy has injured us, the greatest good we can bestow upon him is to bring him to a court of justice, and inflict the vengeance of the law.” The practical conclusion is truly worthy of remark.
" Then by no means, (continues Socrates,) punish your enemy for having injured you, for so you defeat your own purpose of revenge. Leave him to the whole uncontrouled, uncounteracted influence of his moral depravity, because this is the greatest evil which can be endured!"
It can scarcely be necessary to remind our readers how widely the haughty forbearance of the Stoics, or the ostentatious clemency of Cicero's system, differs from that feeling of regard toward an enemy which Revelation inculcates, and which is taught by the example of that All-perfect Being who
causes his sun to arise, and his rain to descend, upon the just and the unjust.” So that the Scriptures, which from their earliest promulgation have recognized and prescribed the duty of doing good to those who hate us, are left in exclusive possession of this benign and salutary principle.
With regard to what has been taught in later systems of Ethics, whose authors have been the advocates of Infidelity, we do not consider this as sufficient to affect the established prerogative of Revelation. The rays of divine truth, from passing through a variety of mediums, suffer so many refractions, that it becomes difficult for the eye to determine in what direction, and from what point, they first proceeded. Hence doctrines are sometimes ascribed to the unassisted powers of the human mind, which originally issued from the fountain of heavenly truth.
In the third branch of the work, the Author reviews the objections which are commonly advanced against the divine origin of the Jewish scheme. In an undertaking of this kind, it would be an endless task to consider every trivial objection which the fertile imaginations of sceptical men have invented, or to expose every cavil which the contemptible wit, or the virulent malice, of impiety has produced; it is enough if the most pressing difficulties be selected, and fairly stated; and the most effectual and satisfactory solutions be applied. One mistake into which the advocates of Revelation bave sometimes fallen, is to assume some of the points in dispute, or (as the logicians say) to beg the question. There are eminent writers who have not seemed aware of the extent to which some infidels have carried their disbelief, or of the extreme reluctance with which a mind once infected with the poison of infidelity admits an argument in favour of Revelation, though it has all the force which moral evidence can attain; nor do they seem to have had a suspicion of the inflexible obstinacy with which any assertion, however probable, is rejected, if not regularly and logically proved. It is a fact nu less melancholy than astonishing, that men reason against the truth of Revela. tion, as they would against the probability of an earthquake, a famine, a pestilence, or an exterminating war, and take a delight in showing that the overwhelming mischief will never. fall upon them.--Neither is it an uncommon fault among religious writers, to charge the partizans of Infidelity with inveterate prejudice and unfair reasoning, and to treat them as men who shut their eyes against the light of truth. Now, however just these charges may be, we cannot consider it as prudent to tell the Sceptics so to their face; especially as they are apt to value themselves on every talent and qualification, both moral and literary, which is essential to solid and legitimate reasoning. By bringing these charges forward in compositions written professedly to win the objector over to our own sentiinents, we must defeat our purpose. They are suited rather to repel than attract. A pleader who should endeavour to persuade a Jury to espouse his side of the question, to which he had reason to think they were adverse, would hardly expect to gain his point by loading them with reproaches.
We are happy to say that the work under review is entirely free from these objections. Our Author treats his opponents as inquirers after truth ; if he pays them too high a compliment, it is at least erring on the side of good nature and policy. Without evasion he selects and fairly proposes those difficulties which they represent as the most formidable; he replies to them with a fair and manly spirit suited to the rectitude of bis cause, and with a force and success only to be found on the side of Truth. Our limits will not permit us to follow him through the wide range which he takes, in the enemies' country. Those, however, who think they see obstacles to the admission of Revelation, in the proceedings of the Jews while acting under the direction of God, whether in their conduct toward the Egyptians, the Amalekites, or the Canaanites; or are at a loss to account for the various changes which took place in an economy purporting to be of divine appointment; and for its final abrogation by Christianity; and those who cannot reconcile the rare inculcation of the doctrine of a future state in the early times of the Jewish dispensation with the full display of that momentous truth in the New Testament, may find in this part of the work a satisfactory solution of these, and other less plausible difficulties.
One excellence of this work is the constant attention which the author directs toward the grand object of his discussions ; this attention induces a character of unity in all the lectures, it prompts him to a logical and consecutive arrangement of his remarks, and results in a recapitulation, at the end of the several lectures, of the observations which they contain, which is distinctly applied to prove the divine origin of the Jewish religion. Of its general nature and merit, we hope our readers will be able to form a tolerable estimate from our critique. They will find it not less pleasing, from the manner in which it is written, than instructive and useful from its subjects and purpose. It displays learning without ostentation, force and clearness of reasoning without arrogance, and a dignified and elegant style without obscurity or superfluous ornament.
Among the writings from which the author has drawn a powerful auxiliary force, though not without candid and honourable acknowledgement, we were glad to see those of the profound Bishop Butler form a conspicuous part.
His Analysis is like Eneas's sevenfold shield, formed to be an effectual defence against all the shafts of his enemy.
Ingentem clypeum informant, unum omnia contra
Tela Latinorum. We conclude with the following pertinent remark from our author's Introduction.
• The effect of every species of religious instruction, and consequently of this, depends much more on the disposition prevalent in the heart of those to whom it is addressed, than on the degree of information conveyed to their understanding ; purity, seriousness, and humility of mind, are the only sure guides to the eternal temple of religious truth, the opposite qualities will ever lead to error and impiety.'
- Dr. Graves is author of several single sermons, (for the last of which see Ecl. Rev. Vol. III. 264) and also of“ An Essay on the character of the Apostles and Evangelists designed to shew that they were not Enthusiasts,” 8vo. Mawman, 1798, which we doubt not the readers of his present work will be desirous of seeing. Art. VI. A Treatise on Plane and Spherical Trigonometry. With their
most useful Practical Applications. By John Bonnycastle. 8vo. pp.
xxviii. 419. Price 12s. bds. Johnson. THE name of this author is doubtless familiar to most of
our readers ; as he is one of the few existing writers, who possess, in conjunction with a profound and extensive knowfedge of mathematical science, the happy talent of communi