to be slowly torn to pieces by wild beasts for the momentary amusement of their conquerors and masters.

“ If man had lost all sense of dignity, woman had lost all feeling of pity.

“ Pity is the last feeling to leave the heart of woman; she loses modesty before losing compassion; at this period both were lost. The young patrician lady at Rome raised herself languishingly on her purple cushions, and by a sign of her finger doomed a gladiator to die for the amusement of seeing him expire.

Despair, intellectual, moral and religious, choosing as its emblem the silver and ivory skeleton which the patricians on their festival-days placed on the table of their orgies as a memento of the shortness of life, and of the duty of enjoying it without delay ;-despair was so much the order of the day, that Stoicism, the strongest remaining moral power in this period of antiquity, was less of a struggle than a surrender.

“ It must not be forgotten that all this corruption was stagnating in the bosom of the best-governed and most intellectual civilization of antiquity.

“And while Stoicism was giving up the conflict, Jesus was winning it; from that moment, the divine element prevailed in human nature.

“We see, then, that it was high time for the Redeemer to appear; it was not too late. Concealed and lost among that degraded crowd, of whom the voice of Brutus asked, What is Virtue ? and that of Pilate, What is Truth? the

eye of God saw here and there some choice spirits, some simple and right hearts, whom idolatry had disgusted by its absurdities, and who had a glimmering perception of the true God. Their Theism needed but to be Christianized.” (See Chap. XXXV.)

The last two Books are, to the general reader, incomparably the most interesting parts of the volume. Book V. is entitled "The Method of Revelation,” and Book VI., “ The Future of Christianity in Time and beyond Time.”

As regards the Method of Revelation, Christianity is declared to be altogether a practical influence. It is a prevalent but mistaken view to regard it as a system of mere instruction. Christianity is a principle of life, as seen even in its mode of revealing truth; some of its truths being decided by facts (as the resurrection); some being assumed as at the basis of all religion; some presented as axioms ; and some reserved, i. e. “surrounded with a pale and uncertain light, designedly limited.” These last are, according to our author, the divine nature of Christ, the union of body and soul, the relation subsisting between the living and the dead, the period of the world's end, (the end of the present "phase of progress"), the heavenly organization of the human being, future recognition, and the nature of angels. In these Chapters, and those which relate to the critical character of the Scriptures, the free-minded among English Christians will admire and feel interest even where they do not exactly agree; for with such readers entire agreement of mind is not what most recommends an author, but“ unity of spirit” between him and themselves.

The sixth Book (the last) will be found by far the most generally interesting. Here the author treats of the perpetuity of the gospel, its comprehensiveness, its usefulness. He claims, as requisites for its perpetuity, that it be emancipated from systems of discipline, from clerical hierarchies, from authority, from forms, from the letter of revelation, and from dogmas. We must indulge ourselves with a few extracts :

"In religion, discipline is to piety what, in politics, legislation is to honesty. And as legislation can never render a man honest, discipline will never render even those who put themselves under it either religious or moral.”—P. 384.

“ Men, and still more frequently women, whom indolence of mind and heart lulls asleep, use the discipline of their sect as a comfortable pillow; they go just as far as it leads, and absolve themselves from even attempting to go farther. Their responsibility is covered, and even their consciences are quiet: they have followed out their system of discipline. These docile pupils (sectateurs) of ready-made virtues think themselves Christians! They are only monks!"—P. 386.

“ To say to Conscience and Reason, Examine freely; but should your examination end in an unconsecrated interpretation, excommunication is ready for you;—this is destroying liberty in its result. It would be better, instead of thus inveigling liberty, to say to Conscience, Examine not! and to Reason, Abdicate !"--P. 397.

The difference between religious authority, as claimed by Catholic and by Protestant churches, is thus tersely and acutely stated :

“ Among Catholics, it declares itself infallible ; among Protestants, it does not pretend to infallibility. Whence it follows, that religious authority among Catholics, taking its source from the principle of infallibility, is a legitimate thing, if that principle be admitted; and that, among Protestants, religious authority, starting not from infallibility, but from inquiry, must, in order to proscribe inquiry, revolve in a vicious circle, and is an illegitimate claim, a non-sequitur, a falsification of the principle of liberty.”—P. 399.

In the following, on Emancipation from Forms, how well does he distinguish between the liberality of soul which can see sincere worship under all forms, and the laxity of principle which affects to regard all forms as alike, and adopts the most prevalent for its own!

“ The form of worship is so far from being indifferent, that there is alway a danger lest the form get the better of the essence. And the choice of a form of worship is so far from being a matter of caprice or hereditary descent or artistic taste, that the believer has no right to attach himself to any form of worship which inadequately represents his own faith.

If his faith is enlightened, his form of worship must raise itself to a proportionate elevation.

“ If his form of worship hangs behind while his faith advances, if his form of worship is that of the middle ages and his faith that of modern times, his form is an unallowable concession, always tainted, at least, with something of hypocrisy.

"Woe to him who lights the taper without believing that by this act he renders himself acceptable to God or to the Virgin : his taper does not shine upon an act of worship, but upon a lie!

* These principles shew, at the same time, how Christianity is independent of its own forms, and how the believer is not independent of those forms which he thinks right to practise; so that the form of worship, whatever it be, is sufficient for the progress required of the believer, but only so long as he knows no better form.

"And these principles are in perfect accordance with the gospel,” &c.P. 403.

Here is a rebuke for Bibliolatry:

" The worship of every iota in the sacred text is an idolatry pervading Christianity; and all idolatry is fatal to true religion.

“ This idolatry is of modern invention. In the times of Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, the books of Holy Scripture were often ranked in two classes; the one consisting of the Proto-canonical books, whose authenticity was undisputed; the other, of the Deutero-canonical, whose authenticity seemed in some degree doubtful, and whose importance was regarded as secondary. The piety of believers was neither scandalized nor disturbed by seeing the sacred books thus classed in two catalogues, and no astonishment was felt when new researches or discoveries transferred a sacred book from one of these classes to the other. It is fit that discussion in this field of inquiry should no more alarm our faith than it did that of the early Christians. Let science study, let piety read; both may quietly pursue their respective aims. Every thing proclaims that insensibly, without scandal and without schism, Christianity will emancipate itself from the idolatry of the letter, and will seek in the Book of Life for that only which giveth life.


“Let fearful Christians who are astonished at the rashness or boldness of these anticipations, ask themselves whether they read all the books of the Bible with equal frequency; whether the Song of Solomon be a book on which they meditate much; whether they believe that Christianity is deeply concerned in proving Ecclesiastes to be written by Solomon—the Epistle to the Hebrews by St. Paul—the Second Epistle of Peter by the apostle of that name; whether the Apocalypse, in our days, furnishes any material aids to Christian progress; and when they shall have replied to these questions, and, if they please, to all the problems in sacred criticism which erudition has raised, then let them read again the sermon on the Mount, as recorded by the evangelist Matthewthe discourse of Christ after the supper—the eulogy upon charity prononnced by St. Paul,--or thousands of other passages worthy of being placed on a parallel with those which are indisputably divine, and if they do not feel themselves fully reassured, they are unquestionably reduced to great straits, and much to be commiserated in their Christianity.”

The following are noble passages :

“ The conscience of Christendom is roused when powerless thunders are still issued from the Pontifical throne in Rome, and moral virtues are declared, in a Bull, to be without glory or value before God. But then the general conscience of the Christian world ought to protest with equal indignation when such men as Newton, Clarke and Locke (to cite only one nation) are declared to have been bad and unbelieving Christians because they did not believe (to cite only one dogma) the Trinity.”—P. 413.

“But it will be said, Where will you place the limit to false interpretations of the gospel, beyond which Christianity ceases and no longer exists ?

“The answer is simple: There is no limit to trace, no boundary to set up. It is for God alone to trace the limit and fix the definitive bound; on earth it is left to each Christian, on his own responsibility, to fix it for himself. Doubtless, there is a point where Christianity ends; and to pass it, is to leave Christianity. This point, so far as dogma is concerned, is not, and could not be, nicely determined by revelation; human freedom would have been constrained. It does not belong to the human mind to attempt to do what the Spirit of God has left undone. The proof that the extreme line is not divinely marked is, that we are still seeking for it; it is then for each believer to examine well whether he is without or within it; and the emancipation from dogma which we promise to Christianity, will consist precisely in the exercise of this individual right, which is already tacitly recognized and practised by the laity, and must come to be recognized by the clergy.”—P. 414.

There is a noble Chapter on the Progress of pure Faith as insured by Printing (LXXII.); but we must be content with referring to it.

The volume concludes with a distinct and well-reasoned avowal of the hope of universal restoration ; on which subject it is interesting to observe, that the Orthodoxie Moderne maintained an entire silence. But neither were eternal torments an article of that confession; their denial was perhaps implied in some few expressions. But the subject of rewards and punishments in a future world was, as regards any positive statement, quietly omitted. Are we to conjecture that, in 1842, when that tract appeared, the able author's mind was in doubt or transition on this great subject; and that it has now found light and joy in the hope of universal restoration? He now finds the doctrine in the constitution of man viewed as immortal, as retaining his identity and selfconsciousness, and necessarily realizing in himself the punishment corresponding to the sin, He finds it again in the goodness of God, the Author of creation and redemption :

"A creation whose secret spring is love, and a redemption whose aim is salvation, best accord with the thought that God expects (attend, is looking for) all His children. And if God expects them, if Christ expects them,God, so to speak, rapt in the sublime intentions of creation, Christ manifested in the sweet mercies of redemption,-it follows that the Just expect them also."-P. 435.

As the fond mother-nurse at home

Hushes the infant on her breast,
So let sweet sleep, Thy angel, come,

And lull my wakeful soul to rest.
Soft o'er me spread Thy wing of love,

That broods in tenderness o'er all,
And let Thy influence from above

Gently upon my spirit fall:
Breathing serenity of soul,

Dropping the balm of heavenly peace,
And may its blest, divine control

Bid all my cares and sorrows cease !

J. B.


O! ye who have loved ones who silently sleep
In the hidden caves of the Ocean deep,
Though nor cypress droops, nor sweet roses bloom,
O'er the briar-bound grave, or the sculptured tomb,
Yet more softly strewn is their watery bed-
The foliage more varied which waves o'er the dead.
Then think while you gaze on some sprays that were cast
On the pebbly beach by the rude wind's blast,
That they speak of a Love which bids thee rest
Each heart-rending fear on a Father's breast,
Since safe 'neath His tenderest care they sleep

Who repose in the caves of the Ocean deep.
Newport, I. W.


CHAPTER XI. His uncertainty as to his destination continued for several weeks after his arrival at Norton. A few extracts from a familiar diary, penned for the eye of his dearest friend, will indicate some of his employments and feelings :

“Norton," April 8.—'Woke at half-past six. Read Bubb Doddington's Diary about an hour. Took a walk over our house and garden till nine. Talked over a little Latin with my pupil. Rode to Sheffield with Mrs. and Miss Shore. Called on Mr. Nayler, the Unitarian minister, who is going into business at Manchester. Returned to Meersbrook at five to dine, where we met General Roberts and his aide-du-camp, Captain Gossip, who have been reviewing to-day some volunteers in the neighbourhood, and are to inspect to-morrow Mr. Shore's corps in the Park. Thanked God I was not a soldier. Could not talk and would not talk. Listened with impatience for the step that should announce tea. Became interested in the intelligent talk of my female scholar.S Rode home about ten by the light of a most silvery moon, talking over Mars, Sirius, Perseus and Andromeda.

“ April 9.-An idle, though a very pleasant day. Met Dr. Bagshawe, the neighbouring squire and present high-sheriff of Derbyshire,|| in the Park at the review; was prevailed upon to accompany him to Sheffield. My concern at the uncertainty of my destination is daily augmented by the kindnesses of both the families of the Shores, who are amongst the excellent of the earth.

* Norton Hall, in its ancient state, was one of the picturesque old houses of our country gentry. Some portions of it were of high antiquity, others appeared to be built about the first of the Stuart reigns; and some of the best apartments had been added by the Offleys. There was a fine old entrance-hall, with a gallery, and in this room the Nonconformists of Norton and the neighbourhood had been long accustomed to assemble for public worship. Mr. Newton, the neighbour and friend of Mr. Shore, on his death left a sum of money for the building of a chapel at Norton. This was done in 1790, and the Hall was no longer needed as a place of worship. Norton Hall was rebuilt by Mr. Samuel Shore in 1812–1817.

† The minister's house at Norton, a spacious and commodious building, was originally built by Mr. Joseph Omey for the residence of the Rev. Mr. Lowe, who had a very flourishing school there about the middle of the last century.

† “When the country armed in its defence in the year 1803, Mr. Shore appeared in the novel character of a military officer, and raised a company of volunteers, chiefly from amongst his own tenantry and dependents, whose services were accepted by the Crown.”—Mon. Repos., N. S., III. 70.

s Miss Elizabeth Maria Shore grew up an accomplished and benevolent lady. She was acquainted with the original languages of the Scriptures, devoted much time to the poor, superintended a village school, and formed a village library for the improvement of her poor neighbours. She sank to rest, after a few hours' illness, Jan. 11, 1834, aged forty.--See Christian Reformer, 1834, p. 87.

|| The Oakes, the seat of the Bagshawe family, is about a quarter of a mile from the village of Norton.

4 They belonged, as Mr. Aspland remarked some years after, to “one of the few families of our hereditary gentry who have from generation to generation professed and consistently maintained Dissenting principles.” Samuel Shore, Esq., of Meersbrook, the head of the house in 1805, was born Feb. 5, 1737-8, and was baptized by Mr. John Wadsworth, the Presbyterian minister of Sheffield. He resorted for seven years to the school of the Rev. Daniel Lowe, the Presbyterian minister of Norton. In 1759, he married the elder of two daughters of Joseph Omey, Esq. Of the peculiar circumstances attending the alienation and recovery of the Omey estate, Mr. Hunter has published a singularly

« VorigeDoorgaan »