« AnteriorContinuar »
ever their failings may be, I trust that the same rules which are legitimate they will never aggravate them, by upon any other work in the same lanadopting that Pharisaical arrogance guage, I saw the absolute necessity which can say to a fellow-christian, of appealing to reason as the ultimate “ Stand aside, for I am holier than judge of the meaning of revelation, thou.”
because it is impossible there can be OMICRON. any other. To discard reason in order
to be directed by revelation in the bu
Glasgour, siness of religion, has long appeared Sir,
August 12, 1822. to me to be a course equally hopeful T is with much pleasure that I as to pluck out our eyes in order that the Monthly Repository, the substance business of this world." I need not say, of some letters which I received from that a conduct such as I have long a late highly-esteemed minister of the pursued, and am still pursuing, has Church of Scotland, the Rev. James led me to conclusions very different Nicol, of the parish of Traquair, near indeed from those in which I was eduPeebles. I do this chiefly because cated; and, upon inany of the leading they relate to subjects dear to every doctrines of Christianity, very different promoter of your interesting work, from those which are held by any and because they describe something class of Christians with which I am of the nature of a literary undertaking, acquainted. I must, however, add, in which the writer was to the period that these conclusions have been of of his death engaged; some parts of the greatest advantage to myself. They which, I have reason to believe, will have uniformly tended to free the soon be published by Mr. R. Hunter, Scripture from the only objections of St. Paul's Churchyard. To prevent which have been brought against its an objection which has before been truth; to enhance the value and immade in similar cases, I think it pro- portance of revelation; to display the per to add, that the only person who religion of Moses and the religion of has a right to be consulted, has freely Christ as worthy to command the aspermitted me to make a public use of sent of every understanding, and enthese communications.
gage the affection of every heart; and B. MARDON. to give to their precepts, their pro
mises and their threatenings, a comLETTER I.
manding influence, which upon any “ Traquair Manse, other interpretation they did not pos
September 3, 1818. “ MY DEAR SIR,
“It gives me great pleasure to under“ Your favour of the 16th of Au- stand from you, that your success in gust reached me in course of post, Glasgow is equal to what you could and if I had not been precluded by expect. Indeed, I am convinced that circumstances, which it is needless to the great point is gained when manmention, I would have answered it kind are brought to listen ; for Truth immediately.
Though is so adapted to gratify every desire of the greater number of letter.writers a rational being, that whenever she is find no subject more agreeable for allowed a patient hearing, she is alfilling a page with than themselves, most sure of gaining her cause. In yet for the most part no subject is this respect, the whole country, at more insipid to their correspondents. least in this neighbourhood, bas unI cannot, however, refrain from saying, dergone a wonderful change for the that the account which you have re- better. Opinions, which not long ago ceived of iny sentiments is true. Ever would have been heard with horror as since directed my studies to Theo- blasphemy, are now the subject of logy, I not only considered it to be an fair discussion amongst many; and it imperious duty, but I found it to be was only yesterday when I happened an exalted enjoyment to bend the to go into the house of a tradesman whole powers of my mind, fearlessly, in my parish, whose wife has been but with reverence, to the investiga- long in a bad state of health, that I tion of Scripture; and convinced that found him spending the few minutes the Scripture must be interpreted by of relaxation which his dinner-hour
allowed him, in reading the “ Vindi- hesitate to assert, that the great hincation" of your predecessor. Though derance to the complete reception of a man on the borders of seventy, his truth, is the seeming foundation which opinions have been completely changed those opinions which are called the within the last ten years; and though' peculiar doctrines of Christianity, have his conduct upon that occasion, there- in the language of Scripture. Notfore, was what I had reason to expect, withstanding all that learning and abiyet I must confess that I was not a lities have done-and they have done little surprised when he told me that much-yet I must confess that no exhe had received the book from another planation of Original Sin, which throws man of equal age with himself, who, its baneful shade over the wide surface though a constant hearer of mine, 1 of revelation, has yet been given which did not at all suspect as engaged divests that subject of absurdity and in such speculations. When such contradiction, or which in a satisfacthings, to alter our Saviour's expres- tory manner explains all the phenosion, are done in the dry tree, what mena of the word of God. Even will be done in the green
Taylor's hypothesis, though in many “Though I have not the least doubt respects a work of extraordinary merit, of the ultimate triumph of Truth, yet appears to me to labour under insuI must confess, that I have often sin- perable difficulties. I am convinced, cerely lamented that her friends have that if ever that subject be properly sometimes thought themselves called elucidated_and I think it may be cluupon to admit principles which I am cidated--the abettors of revelation convinced her cause did not require, will be able not merely to defend it as and which have given too much advan- a doctrine that may be reconciled with tage to her eneinies. Amongst them reason and common sense, but to I am forced to reckon Dr. Priestley. bring it forward as a strong proof of Never man, perhaps, entered upon Scripture itself. The same observathe investigation of truth with greater tions are applicable to the Atonement. ardour, or with a more sincere wish Till a more rational account than any to advance her interests; but I must which we have of the Jewish economy, regret that he thought it necessary, and especially of sacrifices, is given, I in order to defend his opinions, to fear much that the orthodox doctrine speak so doubtfully, at least, as he did of the Atonement, notwithstanding all speak, of the inspiration of Scripture, its absurdity, will maintain its ground. and especially of the justness of St. Nay, what is more, I suspect much Paul's reasonings. Will you believe the Arminian statement of Justificame when I say, that were I to attenipt tion is almost as absurd, though certo level the whole fabric of supersti- tainly not so dangerous to morality, tion in the dust, I would draw my as the orthodox statements; and will strongest arguments from St. Paul's you pardon me when I say, that the writings, and what is more, from his account which the Unitarians give of Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, that doctrine in some scattered notices which have been the strong bulwarks subjoined to their excellent translation of orthodoxy? I am happy to say, of the New Testament, tends not to however, that Mr. Yates, and many throw much light upon the subject ? other Unitarians, are illustrious exam- “I confess it is much easier to shew ples of a conduct very different. In- the weakness of another's system, than deed, I am convinced that when once to establish a better, or rather to estathe Scriptures are properly under-blish another altogether free from obstood, the friends of truth will find jections ; and hence, I innagine, that them in every instance perfectly con- whilst the orthodox doctrines have sistent with reason and common sense. been repeatedly proved to be altoge
“ I am not ignorant that no man ther untenable, the real doctrines of has a right to set up his own opinions Scripture, except the unity of God, as a standard for others, nor to sup- have not yet been exhibited in all their pose that circumstances which press native beauty and majesty. You will, strongly upon his own mind, will have perhaps, impute all this to vanity-if the same weight upon the minds of you do, I will not say, that in your all ; yet, if it were allowed us to judge present circumstances you have great from our own feelings, I would not reason to impute it to any thing else.
ay the commencement of a correspon: I pemarked by others as well
But when you know me better, which Female Writers on Practical Divinity. I hope will soon be the case, I trust
No. I. you will find that, as Pope somewhere says, 'I am too proud to be vain.'
DO not know whether it has been dence, and will you allow me to say, of a friendship, from which I expect myself, that some of the finest and both pleasure and advantage, I wish most useful English works on the subyou to bear in mind, that when I ject of Practical Divinity are by female speak, as I have now done, of the state authors. I suppose it is owing to the of religious knowledge, I must be un- peculiar susceptibility of the female derstood as speaking of it as it is mind, and its consequent warmth of known to me. Many illustrations feeling, that its productions, when may have been given of the different they are really valuable, find a more doctrines which I mentioned above, ready way to the heart than those of which I have not seen, and hence many the other sex; and it gives me great of the objections which I could bring pleasure to see women gifted with against those which I have seen, may superior talents, applying tħose talents have been already fully obviated. For to promote the cause of religion and instance, I have never seen • The virtue. As I think this a subject Monthly Repository,' and hence I which it may be useful to consider, must be ignorant of many things it both as doing justice to those whose contains. I design, however, to avail names are before the public, and us myself of it from your recommenda- exciting the emulation of those of tion.
[Dr.] Southwood their sex who are capable of imitating Smith I only know from his Reply to such bright examples, I wish to deThomson *—a performance which did vote this and some future articles to him infinite honour.
the consideration of some of the works “ I hope to have the pleasure of of the English female authors of the meeting with you some time; and day on Practical Divinity, and further should that happen, we could say more to examine some of the prejudices in an hour than we can write in an which still exist on the subject of age. Are you never in this part of female education. the world ? Nothing could give me It is a proof (if any were needed) greater pleasure than to see you at of the value of our religion, purified Traquait Manse. As it is, you can from the degrading superstitions of write, and I expect to hear from you the Romish Church, that England has soon, and to receive all the informa- produced in one age so many female tion which I know you can give re- writers on morals and divinity, whose specting the advancement of pure works are conspicuous for their force and undefiled religion' in the world. of argument, for their simplicity, and
for that earnestness which can be ex“I was sorry that the Turnbulls pressed only because it is felt, and found it necessary to leave Scotland.+ which can be felt only because the “The little leaven might have leavened truths which it declares are as evident a great lump;' but there is no help to the understanding as they are intefor it, and we ofttimes cannot be cer- resting to the heart. While, if we tain what is best. Of one thing, how. turn our attention to authors of the ever, I am certain, that I am,
same sex in Catholic countries, and “ My dear Sir,
consider the services which they have
rendered to the cause of religion, what Yours, &c.
a contrast will they form with our “ JAMES NICOL.”
countrywomen! Whatever their religion may be as exemplified in their lives, in their writings it is cold, artificial, made use of to display talents by
unnatural refinements, at the same • The Editor of the Christian Instruc. time that it evinces the grossest in
consistencies. If in reading their † For the United States.
works we find any religions observa46
tion which pleases us, how. soon is our more than is necessary; but the way pleasure alloyed by discovering some in which holy truths are made evident, defective morality, some hidden licen- and carried home to every one's bosom, tiousness, or at least some artificial renders the work truly valuable. In sentiment, which proves that they the chapter on “Periodical Religion" have drawn their ideas from that some forcible remarks occur on a subsource which is tainted by the foul ject highly important, but on which admixtures of superstition, instead of it is most convenient for the world in from that well-spring of life which, general to entertain ideas totally opunder the influence of a pure religion, posite to those of Mrs. More, viz. springs up in every bosom! Compare religious conversation. How strange the elevated and noble works of Mrs. does it appear that the object for Hannah More with the qualified mo- which we were brought into the world, rality, the affected feeling, the long- the object which ought to engage our drawn-out sentiments of Madame Gen- principal, not to say our whole attenlis; though I believe both to be women tion, should be kept entirely out of of great talents and sincere piety. It sight in our intercourse with one anois the difference of the religions that ther! How strange it is that countless has raised one to such an eminence millions of beings, created for the above the other. Compare the bril- same ends, endowed with the same liant imagination, the warm feelings, powers, enjoying in a great degree the conversational accomplishments of the same facilities and privileges, with Madame de Staël, with the similar a reward great beyond conception qualities of our first female poet, Mrs. placed within the reach of each and Barbauld. What has given to the all, with a punishment too dreadful productions of the latter their irre- for the imagination to comprehend, sistible force, their universal interest ? set before them, which they are all in Surely, the spirit of pure and simple danger of incurring without the strictdevotion which breathes through every est vigilance, should pass through life Jine. For genius, Madame de Staël in constant communication with each stands pre-eminent, for goodness of other, should experience its vicissiheart scarcely less 80; but our coun- tudes and uncertainties, should aptrywoman has been taught to fix her proach its boundary, should be sumstandard higher, and has consequently moned to the last tribunal, without made the greatest advances.
ihaving held communion together conMany have feared that we are losing cerning their best interests! While the simplicity and purity of our man- they experience the instability of every ners, by intercourse with the conti. thing earthly, while they sicken at and nent; but I do not fear. As long as become weary of the best enjoyments our women, and such women, live and the world can give, they leave the glowrite under the influence of a pure rious hopes, the awful threatenings, religion, we are safe; and I would ra- the thousand interesting objects of the ther hope that truth is making sure, gospel, to be unheard of, disregarded, though slow advances, and that a and I fear I must say too often unfelt; simple belief and pure morality will in for surely those who feel the hourly time take place of the superstitions influence of religion in their conduct, and corruptions now prevalent in the who make it the delight of their countries of which I have been speak- thoughts, cannot for ever banish it ing.
from their conversation, cannot preThe first work which claims our vent the mouth” froin giving utterattention on the subject of which I ance to the “ abundance of the heart." am treating is Mrs. More's Practical I am aware of and can make allowance Piety, a production which, though I for the sacredness of the feelings on believe it has been much read, is not this holy subject, but I must believe in general sufficiently studied. I do that those feelings are indulged too not entirely approve the whole work, far, which would lead us to forget or perhaps even the whole of any one religion, or to encourage the forgetchapter; some doctrines are incul- fulness of it in others. cated which are repugnant to my rea- I by no means advocate the practice son, some subjects are refined upon of lightly bringing forward subjects of religious discussion in mixed company; higher rank or brighter talents, then, but there is a seriousness of deport- indeed, my influence might be exerted ment, a tone of mind, of manners to some purpose. Thus under the and of conversation, which at once mask of diffidence we justify our indodistinguish the religious man, and lence, and let slip those lesser occawhich I should wish to see generally sions of promoting religion which if esteemed and practised. I cannot ren- we all improved, how much might the der a more acceptable service to my condition of society be raised !” “The readers than by extracting a passage hackneyed interrogation, 'What! must on this subject from the chapter before we be always talking about religion?' us, and by directing their attention to must have the hackneyed answer, Far a chapter on the Introduction of from it. Talking about religion is not Religious Conversation in mixed Com- being religious. But we may bring pany."
the spirit of religion into company, "If we really believe that it is the and keep it in perpetual operation, design of Christianity to raise us to a when we do not professedly make it participation of the Divine Nature, our subject. We may be constantly the slightest reflection on this elevation advancing its interests, we may be of our character would lead us to giving an example of candour, of momaintain its dignity in the ordinary deration, of humility, of forbearance. intercourse of life. We should not We may employ our influence by corso much inquire whether we are trans- recting falsehood, by checking levity, gressing any actual prohibition, whe- by discouraging calumny, by vindicating ther any standing law is pointed misrepresented merit, by countenanagainst ils, as whether we are sup- cing every thing which has a good tenporting the dignity of the Christian dency,-in short, by throwing our character ; whether we are acting whole weight, be it great or small, into suitably to our profession ; whether the right scale.”-Practical Piety, Vol. more exactness in the common occur. I. Chap. iv. rences of the day, more correctness in The chapter on Prayer is a highly our conversation, would not be such valuable summary of the reasons for evidences of our religion as, by being the practice of this important duty, obvious and intelligible, might not and of the answers to the most comalmost insensibly produce important mon objections against it. I will not effects.
injure this dissertation by extracting “The most insignificant people must any part where the whole is so connot undervalue, through indolence or nected together, but will content myselfishness, their own influence. Most self with recommending this and the persons have a little circle of which following chapter to the serious conthey are a sort of centre. Its smallness sideration of my readers. may lessen their quantity of good, but Greatly, indeed, are we indebted to does not diminish the duty of using the author of the work before us. It that little influence wisely. Where is contains rules for the government of the human being so inconsiderable the Christian in his conduct towards but that he may in some shape benefit God, his fellow-creatures and himself. others, either by calling their virtues Many may deem the duties inculcated into exercise, or by setting them an too severe, the observances too strict, example of virtue himself?
the threatenings too urgent, the pro“But we are humble just in the mises too difficult of attainment; but wrong place. When the exhibition let such consider the paramount imof our talents or splendid qualities is portance of the object in view ; let in qnestion, we are not backward in them admire and be grateful for the the display. When a little self-denial benevolent earnestness of one who, is to be exercised, when a little good having so far pressed forward toward might be effected by our example, by that standard which she has not disour discreet management in company, placed from its divine elevation, enby giving a better turn to conversation, deavours to lend a helping hand to then at once we grow wickedly mo- those who desire to advance, and to dest—'Such an insignificant creature awaken those who slumber in a fearful as I am can do no good. Had I a indifference to eternal things. It is