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both new and old, which tend to create the taste, and foster the desire for instructive reading, and a thirst for the most important of all kinds of knowledge. In this manner, not by any sudden and rapid transition, but by a silent and unmarked progress, we may hope that prejudices will be softened, and in time removed, and the light of Divine truth spread more and more widely. Of an increasing desire, by no means confined to our own body, for the perusal of our tracts, and of other publications which may explain what Unitarianism really is, we possess very satisfactory indications. Among these, one of the most encouraging is the very extensive demand for many of the publications of our American brethren, particularly of the writings of Channing, of which four or five large editions have appeared in this country, and have made their way in all quarters, from the cottage to the palace.
Of periodical literature, the extensive diffusion of which forms so remarkable a feature of the present age, Unitarians have not been slow to avail themselves. The periodical publications now in existence are the Christian Reformer, the Prospective Review, the General Baptist Magazine, the Christian Pioneer published at Edinburgh, and the Bible Christian at Belfast. In addition to these, the weekly newspaper entitled the Inquirer is, and it is hoped will continue to be, a very valuable acquisition. All these may fairly be considered, not merely as indications of actual progress, but as additional instruments for carrying it on to a greater extent and on a larger scale.
What effect the recent legislative measure, which has at length imparted a legal security to the tenure by which Unitarians hold their chapels and other property, will have on their prosperity as a denomination, remains to be seen. Some there were, observing the spirit in which this measure was opposed by many of the more Orthodox dissenters, and anticipating its probable failure, who looked forward to their speedy ejectment from the places where they and their fathers had been wont to worship, as a discipline which might put Unitarian zeal to a satisfactory test by rousing it to renewed and more vigorous exertions; and they persuaded themselves that the effect of a little persecution would be, as usual, to promote the cause against which it was directed. Others had their misgivings, lest VOL. XXXVIII. -4TH S. VOL. III. NO. III.
by such rough handling the rope of sand, as they called it, which bound us together, should be scattered to the winds. Without attempting to decide which of these expectations was the more probable, we cannot but rejoice with all thankfulness, that they are no longer likely to be tested by experience; and in the midst of the exultation which the triumph of our cause naturally excites, look forward with hope, tempered by much solicitude, to the practical results to be henceforth exhibited in increased and more zealous efforts to show ourselves worthy of the position in which we are now placed. One ground of heartfelt encouragement there certainly is, in the enlightened and liberal sentiments expressed by many men of the highest eminence and of distinguished talents in all parties, during the very interesting discussions which took place while the Bill was in progress. They showed not only a surprising knowledge of the facts of the case, but a readiness to enter into the spirit of our institutions and principles, which many of us were not prepared to look for in the leading statesmen of the day; and we trust that the same liberal and enlarged views will guide the proceedings of our legislature in dealing with measures affecting the most important interests of other religious communites. As far as this measure is concerned, they have certainly shown themselves to be decidedly ahead of the great mass of the community in enlightened liberality. Unhappily they are so hampered by party and class interests, and by a multitude of established, -not to say, antiquated-institutions, that it would be impossible for them fully to carry out in practice all the sentiments and principles they have professed; even if we could imagine that they are themselves prepared to perceive and acknowledge all the consequences to which these lead, or disposed, when acknowledged, to act upon them consistently.
For ourselves, whatever may be in reserve for us as a religious denomination, we look forward with confidence to the increasing spread of knowledge, and the active spirit of inquiry which is rapidly diffusing itself. With implicit faith in truth, and a reliance on the wise appointments of Providence, we doubt not that the cause of rational and Scriptural, of pure and vital Christianity will grow and prosper.
ART. II. LAYS OF THE GOSPEL.*
THERE are no books in which we are so deficient, as in those suited to seasons of devotional meditation. By this we do not mean books of prayers and manuals of devotion, nor appeals to the conscience, nor religious exhortations. Of these we have an abundance, but they do not supply the deficiency of which we speak. Their chief object is to secure greater attention to the forms of devotion, or to excite a devotional feeling which did not before exist. But we want also books for those persons in whom devotion is already a habit of the mind, books which shall not take the place of counsellors above us so much as that of friends at our side, with which we can hold communion, rather than go to for advice. We want works which shall reveal the life of a devout mind, and express its real emotions, experiences and meditations, without any reference to producing an effect on others. Very few such works have ever been written, and those that would claim this character are for the most part vitiated by the consciousness, on the part of the writer, that he is to have readers, or by the purpose manifest throughout, that he is not so much uttering what is in his own soul as endeavoring to produce certain results in the souls of others. But when such a book appears, it is of inestimable value.
Of such a character, in spite of the general tone of its theology, are many passages in the "Confessions" of Saint Augustine. To the same class belong Thomas a Kempis's "Imitation of Christ," some of the poems of George Herbert, the "Meditations" of Hall, and especially the devotional parts of the writings of Fenelon. The perfect example of what we mean is to be found in many of the Psalms of David. They are not intended to be appeals to the conscience, nor to be statements of theological truths-whatever of this occurs is incidental; they are not exhortations to others, nor are they, properly speaking, prayers, though prayer and praise are interfused through them, like the light through sunset clouds. But they are the meditations and emotions of the soul when conscious of the presence of
* Lays of the Gospel. By S. G. BULFINCH. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1845. 12mo. pp. 194.
God, now filled with gratitude and adoration while the Psalmist contemplates his works and his providence, and now overwhelmed with shame and remorse from a sense of unworthiness. It seems as if they must have been uttered or written down unconsciously, so clearly do they reveal all the workings of his soul, from the depths of its penitence to the heights of its exulting hope. While we read, it is not the conscience chiefly that is acted upon, but we are won and drawn by sympathy into the same region of spiritual light and life. Communion with the feelings of the Psalmist awakens like feelings in our souls. While we muse, the fire burns. We contemplate with him the wonderful works of God; we follow with him the good Shepherd "beside the still waters;" and our souls are borne up by his words, as if on wings, in adoration and praise.
Formerly, great account was set on Christian meditation. Men sought the solitude of the monk's cell and the anchoret's cave, that they might meditate on God. We have almost lost the meaning of the word, meditation. It is too calm, has too little to do with outward results, to suit our busy, struggling, enterprising civilization. The great point with us is the discovery of truth. Meditation is a pausing on truth already discovered. It takes it home to the mind, and ponders it, and dwells with it, and makes it a familiar friend. Instead of throwing a truth aside as soon as it is attained and hurrying on in search of another, it holds it before the mind, keeps it steadily there, till its light shines into the heart. It is the process by which a truth is made our own, incorporated with the principles and moral affections of the soul. Much of the time spent in theological speculation is utterly profitless, except as it may promote intellectual discipline. But devout meditation is to the soul, what the dew and the sunshine are to the earth. In such meditative hours we are in the presence of the Most High, and the power of the world flees away before "the brightness of his coming." The truths of religion become realities. The spiritual world is unveiled. The soul is opened to Divine influences. As he goes forth "at eventide to meditate," like the patriarch of old, man "walks with God;" and in such hours, he can say with the Apostle, our conversation is in heaven.” No matter how wise or
learned, how skilled in controversy, or how deep an explorer into theology, that man's soul will become impoverished in its heavenly aspirations and holiest hopes, who does not habitually have seasons of devout religious meditation. Any work proceeding from such a state of mind, and calculated to awaken or promote it in others, we gladly hail.
For this reason we welcome the volume of poems, whose title we have given at the head of this article. It is not our purpose to criticise its literary merits, though these are very considerable. An author must be considered successful, who has written anything which deserves a permanent place in our books of devotion. There is scarcely any literary success which we should value so much, as that of having written a hymn which should endure from generation to generation, be sung in churches, be committed to memory by the young, be read, remembered, repeated, because of its awakening or expressing the highest devotional feelings of the heart. In this class the following hymn, a part of which appeared in our journal many years ago, is deserving of being placed.
JESUS APPEARS TO HIS DISCIPLES.
Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures? - LUKE Xxiv. 32, Hath not thy heart within thee burned
At evening's calm and holy hour,
Hast thou not heard, mid forest glades,
And as upon
the sacred page,
Thine eye in rapt attention turned
Hath not thy heart within thee burned?
It was the voice of God, that spake
And bade each worthier thought awake,