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Art. VIII. Nautical Essays, or a spiritual View of the Ocean and Maritime Affairs: with Reflections on the Battle of Trafalgar and other Events. By the Author of the Retrospect. 12mo. Price 5s. London.
WE are glad that we are not now called upon to solve the tremendous problem, which has been repeatedly brought to our minds during our perusal of these tracts-the lawfulness, to a Christian, of war as a profession. We feel it a present relief, to release ourselves from the necessity of this discussion, though, should it be forced upon us by circumstances of more direct appeal, we shall not be found to shrink from an important duty, merely because it may be attended with painful feelings. One of the characters put forward most conspicuously in these Essays, is held up to general esteem, as a bright exemplification of the Christian soldier,' a title usually applied to the soldier of Christ, but used here, as we understand it, in its application to the battles of miserable and malignant men. James Stuart was serjeant-major of a British regiment; pious in spirit, firm but gentle in demeanour, steady and consistent in his Christian profession. Throughout a season of mutinous fermentation, he resolutely supported his officers, and for his eminent services on this occasion, he received, on his return to England, a lieutenant's commission. He afterwards embarked for the West Indies, where he was killed at the head of a storming party.
'Happy,' exclaims the Author, happy Christian soldier! cut down in the path of duty, thy soul at once escaped, before its earthly tenement had fallen into ruins, or wearied thee by lingering painful sickness. So would I fall in the active service of my gracious Lord, before the infirmities of old age have cramped the active mind, and made me burdensome to others and to myself.'
The Author of this small, but not uninteresting volume, was formerly, as we collect from his own expressions, an officer in the navy, but has now adopted a much less equivocal path of duty, as an humble village pastor.' Although we can detect the influence of some of his old partialities, upon his habits of thinking and modes of expression, yet we have no doubt that we might safely leave with himself, the answer to the inquirywhich he feels to be the safer way of duty,' the active furtherance of the present and eternal happiness of mankind, by holding forth the word of peace and life, or the exercise of a fierce and ambitious spirit in the destruction of the health, the property, the life of his fellow man? His reflections on the barbarisms ' of war,' though a little tinged with former feelings, do ample credit to his humanity and piety.
These Essays contain a considerable variety of matter, and some interesting anecdotes and descriptions. We would have
quoted a very rich and animated specimen of the latter, in the distinct and vivid representation of a thunder storm, in the noble bay of Marmorice, but we are deterred by its length, and we feel reluctant to abridge it. With the notice of the battle of Trafalgar, at which the Writer was present, many judicious and pertinent reflections are mingled, and in a note, we find a distinct recapitulation of the reasons which should have induced a compliance with Lord Nelson's dying injunction, Anchor, 'Hardy, anchor.' Had Lord Collingwood chosen to comply with that salutary order, many lives would have been saved, and nearly the whole of the prizes would, probably, have been brought into port. We believe this volume well adapted to its object, it is both attractive and instructive, and we hope that the benevolent intentions of the Author may be fully realized by its extensive circulation, and its happy effects.
Art. IX. A Treatise on the Covenant of Grace. By John Colquhoun, D.D. Minister of the Gospel, Leith. 12mo. pp. 556. Price 6s. Edinburgh, 1818.
THIS volume, Dr. Colquhoun professes to be, 'most part, a compilation.'
It is,' he says, proper to acknowledge that the Authors to whom much of the doctrinal part of this treatise is indebted for its materials, are, Cloppenburg, Witsius, Turretine, Moor, Erskine, Brown, Hervey, Gib, Muirhead, Gill, and Boston. As to the last judicious writer, I freely acknowledge, that, so far as he has proceeded, I have followed him so closely, as often to adopt, for the most part, his method, and even his illustrations and proofs. Indeed, the substance of the greater part of his book on the Covenant of Grace, is extracted, and will be found in the following pages; though the sentiments are expressed in a different manner.'
In bestowing a general recommendation upon this volume, we conceive it to be our duty to our readers, to apprise them (and we do it in the Author's own words) of the near coincidence of his work with that of Boston. It contains, however, so much additional matter, that we feel warranted in saying, that the studious and pious reader, although familiar with Boston's "View of the Covenant of Grace," may with advantage furnish himself with Dr. Colquhoun's Treatise.
We had marked a few passages for animadversion, but finding them in substance, and nearly in form, the same as the parallel places in Boston, it seemed not within our province to advance criticisms which must be considered as resting upon a work long known and appreciated.
That our readers may be able to judge for themselves of the manner in which Dr. Colquhoun amplifies and improves upon the writer whose work he has assumed as his text, we make,
without selection, a quotation, excellent in itself, which may be compared with the corresponding passage in Boston.*
Christ, in the Gospel, does not direct the offer to me by name; and therefore I cannot believe that he offers himself with his righteousness and fulness to me in particular. To this I reply: Neither does he direct the commands and curses of the law to you by name. How came you to believe that you are a sinner, or a transgressor of the law? Is it not that, seeing the commands of the law are directed to all men, you conclude that, as you are one of the number of mankind, they are therefore directed to you, as well as to others, and forbid you in particular to commit sin? And how come you to believe, that you in particular, are under the curse of the violated law? Is it not that, since the law denounces its awful curse against every one who transgresses it, you conclude that it curses you, seeing that you are one of the transgressors of it? Now you have as good ground to believe that the gospel offer is made to you in particular; seeing it is made to all without distinction, and without exception, to whom the gospel is preached. You see that it is ordered to be made to every reasonable creature under heaven; and how sinful soever you be, you are one of those creatures. The voice of Christ, in the offer of the gospel, is to men, to the sons of men; and be what you may, you cannot but be one of the sons or daughters of men: you cannot be less than a sinner of mankind, and cannot be more than the chief of sinners. gracious offer, therefore, is assuredly to you in particular. Accordingly, the ministers of the gospel are authorised to direct the general offer to every one in particular, and every one is warranted to apply it to himself. "Believe then, on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." pp. 415, 416.
Art. X. A Familiar Review of the Life of David, King of Israel; for the Instruction of Young Persons. By Henry Lacey. 12mo. 5s. London. 1818.
WE perfectly accord with Mr. Lacey in his just though temperate remarks on what he terms Evangelical Novels. There are but very few instances in which we should be disposed to adopt fiction as a fit vehicle for Divine truth, and still fewer in which we should approve its application to the purposes of education. The true attraction of Gospel verity, lies in its simplicity, and it is scarcely practicable to mingle it with imaginary circumstances and adventures, without contamination to its purity. There is something revolting in the idea of suffering the imagination to take its range, while in contact with eternal realities; and we firmly object to every thing which tends to impair, in the minds of the young, those feelings of implicit belief and veneration, which should ever associate themselves with celestial truth and with religious experience. Inven
* IV. Head, 2d Sect. 2d Objection.
tion is here out of its province. We must, however, admit that there are some exceptions. There are peculiar and exigent occasions on which it may be wise to use this, in common with other extra-official expedients, to stimulate the mind, and by procuring a momentary attention, prepare the way for permanent impression. It is to its systematic employment that we object, and á fortiori, to that excess of it, which, however, we hope is beginning to operate its own cure.*
*The pregnant and impressive parables in which our Divine Teacher at once veiled and enforced his elementary instructions, do not, even as exceptions, properly fall within the range of these remarks. They are bold, strong, and at the same time, exquisite and affecting allegorics. This mode of composition, when correctly employed, can scarcely be considered in the light of fiction; it is rather truth invested with tangible or visible form; abstract ideas expressed by shape and substance, and put into action, or dialogue, or scene, or into all these together. If it falls short of this, it is either ineffectual or incorrect; if it goes beyond, it wanders from its proper sphere. The instant it ceases to be the strongly defined expression of simple truth, it abandons its legitimate claim, by departing from that character in which alone it is entitled to our regard. The same remark will apply to the brilliant and original productions of John Bunyan. If that extraordinary man had accomplished nothing more than the composition of a protracted allegory of continued interest, he would have effected one of the most difficult of literary tasks. But to have done this, is the least and lowest of his merits; for we do not feel that we incur any hazard by affirming that Bunyan's Pilgrim and his Holy War are among the prime efforts of the human intellect. Without adverting to certain charges both of excess and defect to which they are liable in their allegorical character, and without touching upon their excellences or failures as works of religion, we would say, especially of the latter, that it contains more thought, and a deeper knowledge of the human heart, than are to be found within an equal compass elsewhere. And this is combined with so much high poetic feeling, and wrought up in such vigorous and appropriate language, as to leave us in utter astonishment where a man without education, and of low, vulgar, and gross training, could find the rich materials of such a structure, and whence he could acquire the master-skill which enabled him to put them so exquisitely together. His own mind was, no doubt, of consummate strength; but the rejection of its grossness, the refinement of its wealth, and the germination and luxuriance of its beauty, must, in their exciting causes, be looked for elsewhere. The strength, the richness, and the beauty of Bunyan's mind, were already in existence, but they were dormant; or if at any time they were awakened, it was in the debasing service of sin and hell; but it was not until their possessor had passed into a different state, till the discipline of heavenly grace had taught him their true and nobler value, that they came forth in all their excellence, for the improvement of mankind. If we were called upon to select passages as samples of VOL. XI. N.S. 2 R
It is with a view to assist in counteracting this too prevalent system, that Mr. Lacey has published this acceptable little volume, and we sincerely hope that it may fully answer his benevolent intention. The character and life of David, which he has undertaken to illustrate, is at once one of the most interesting and most difficult portions of the word of God; it has exercised the reflections and reasonings of many of the best and wisest of mankind, and it has excited the flippant ridicule and the malignant reproach of some of the worst. We cannot say that we have been altogether satisfied with any of the views of the general subject which have been given to the world: they have not, as we think, gone into the question with a sufficient regard to the great features of human nature, nor to the specific qualities of the individual. The inquirers have suffered themselves to be too much entangled in obscurities and contradictions, which are common to every question in which the pature of man is concerned; and they have not sufficiently, in difficulties of another kind, adverted to the peculiar character of David. Both too much and too little have been conceded; and we are persuaded that the mere exposition of the proper limits of the discussion would have been enough to silence many a cavil to which a laborious and circuitous reply has given very undue importance. Mr. Lacey's object has been to take a popular view of the subject; to bring forward such striking circumstances in the life of David, as should at once afford him the opportunity of giving a connected history of his reign, and of intermingling with it reasonings and explanations adapted to the minds of the young. The work is, however, of more general use, and contains much that is valuable to those of riper age, who have not access to deeper and more elaborate investigations. There are, indeed, some points on which we do not perfectly agree with Mr. L. either in his general principles, or in the mode of argument which he has adopted in their application; but these differences of opinion are on minor points, and require no distinct enumeration. We hope that Mr. Lacey will be encouraged by the success of the present volume, to select other passages of Scripture history, and to bring them forward in the same useful and attractive manner.
Bunyan's genius, we might refer to many, but to none more impressive than those in his Holy War in which he describes the banners of the different armies employed in the rescue or the ruin of Mansoul.