« AnteriorContinuar »
sure to sway the judgement and gain assent in whatever cases they are examined with calmness and impartiality. It cannot be supposed that Mr. H. wished to place himself on a level with those ornaments of Britain; and yet, when he talks of leaving behind him, to perpetuate his faith in the truth of the gospel, a book, in which that is not so much as once attempted to be proved, but all along taken for granted, it is a natural inference that he imagined the bare mention of his name would put to the bļush those sophists, and silence those cavillers, on whom Butler and Paley have made no impression.
Much as the design of publishing a volume to refresh the memory of his parishioners, and transmit to future ages his
unalterable belief of the truth and authenticity of the gospel,' deserves reprobation, the alarm that Mr. H. discovers at the progress of licentiousness, and his good wishes to the interests of piety, are in our judgement truly laudable.
Not only does the increasing wealth of the nation administer to the growth of licentiousness: it extends its roots and puts forth its vigorous branches under the influence of a lax morality; it is quickened by the pernicious co-operation of an infidel philosophy, infused into the prevailing modes of thinking, and principles of speculation; and is encouraged by too common a propensity, among men of taste and genius, to represent as impracticable the morality of the gospel, and deride as foolishness the doctrines of the cross. This latter circumstance, it seems to us, is the most favourable to the spread of licentiousness, and consequently the greatest cause for apprehension. Christianity, whose prevalence is the only effectual restraint of corruption, is unnerved; and the blow, which it aims at the root of our depravity, falls harmless and without effect. As this state of things calls upon the friends of evangelical religion and morality for unusual exertions, so it suggests a strain of preaching, more uncommon perhaps than is suspected by any of those who give counsel to our national teachers. Neither a bare statement of one or two of the articles of natural and revealed religion --nor the profoundest reasoning on the different points of the gospel accompanied with the most original illustration,-nor the warmest zeal softened by an enlarged and tender benevolence, is singly adequate to the present exigencies. The omission or concealment of any point of Christian doctrine or duty, in deference to the pride of philosophy or the spirit of the world, would be to betray the faith delivered to us, and abandon the diseases of human nature as incurable. Without adducing arguments in proof of our
religion itself, as well as of its several articles, to press it upon the attention and inculcate its principles would be to leave the mind defenceless, and liable to yield one by one the truths of the gospel, and at last to forsake Christianity itself. The indifference and torpor into which men have so generally fallen, can only be removed by an ardent and active zeal; while their regards must be conciliated by a charity so condescending and catholic, as to lead the least intelligent to recognize, in the preachers of the gospel, the friends and promoters of their happiness. Sermons seem to be required, which are distinguished by a just and particular view of the peculiarities of the Christian scheme, by a close and dige nified tone of reasoning, and which breathe an irresistible ardour of mind, mingled, indeed, with the gentleness of Christ, but incapable of restraint until the corruptions of man be subdued, and his happiness perfected.
Of these excellences, so loudly called for by the present times, we are very sorry to say Mr. H. has infused none into his compositions. Common, superficial, cold, and uninteresting, he falls into few positive errors ; because he keeps at a proper distance from every thing on which peryersity itself could have committed a mistake. The topics which he handles are indeed important; but without ever stopping to discuss them, to place them before the mind in their just proportions, he despatches them with a few hasty remarks so trite and unaffecting, that we should have thought it. scarcely credible that any man would have taken the pains to put them together. There appears no reason why the author should have confined himself to the Old Testament; since he introduces neither doctrines nor precepts, which might not with equal ease have been deduced from any other part of divine revelation.
Mr. H. has been so successful in diffusing mediocrity through the whole of this volume, that we can find no portion more favourable than another to select as a specimen of bis manner. The following extract however will serve, we believe, to satisfy our readers, and to verify what we have said. It is taken from a sermon on Ps. vi. 4.
Though the goodness and forbearance of God may spare, for a considerable time, the vessels fitted for destruction, that period must have an end, and mercy must give place to judgment. The dresser of the vineyard, for a time, may intercede for it, and say, let it alone for this year also, till I dig about it and dung it.' But if it still bring forth no good fruit, it is then at length cut down, as a cumberer of the ground. If mercy is long extended to wicked men, that they may turn from their wickedness and live, and they still harden their hearts, and shew that they are indeed unworthy of eternal life,' what else can be expected, than that judgment should triumph over mercy, and no place be found for repentance, shough, like Esau they seek it carefully with tears ?'
" What then shall we say? It is surely a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God: for our God is a consuming fire. Stand in awe, therefore, and sin not. Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. If God is awful in holiness, as well as in justice, and we should therefore stand in awe, I shall observe, once more, that the goodness of God will prove as awful, and as full of alarm, to incorrigible, impepitent sinners, as any other of his attributes." The great mystery of Redemption was a circumstance of such moment, and pregnant with such consequences, that the angels in heaven were desirous to look into it. And yet when the grace it communicates is offered to unthankful men, how many are there who reject it, and begin with one consent to make excuse! One is engaged with his farm, another with his merchandize; and a third has married a wife ; and therefore they have no leisure, because they feel no inclination, to hearken to the voice of God, and to obey his call in the gospel. And thus it frequently comes to pass, that what was intended for their good, in the most important sense of the word, is abused and perverted to their ruin. Rejecting the counsel of God, at the risk of eternal perdition, they stumble upon this stone, till at length it falls heavily upon them, and grinds them to powder.'
How many are there among us, who take occasion from the goodness of God, to continue sinning against him!
• What?' as St. Paul argues, shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid !'
The greater and the more conspicuous his goodness, and surely the more should we be withheld, from gratitude, as well as from duty, and regard to our own salvation, from persisting in sinning against him. It is intended that uch goodness should lead us to true repentance ; should fill our hearts with gratitude, and our mouths with praise ; and teach us to walk humbly before him all the days of our life. If it produce not such effects, the greater our condemnation must be. If you know your Lord’s will, and do it not, you will be beaten with many stripes. But if you take his yoke upon you, and learn of him, imbibing his spirit, and imitating his, example, you will then find rest unto your
souls. If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Easy will be his yoke, and light his burden, in comparison of those galling fetters, and that infamous, ignominious bondage, under which they groan, who continue the servants of sin, and under the dominion of that evil spirit, which ruleth in the children of disobedience. If once you are made free from sin, become the servants of God, and persevere in the sacred path of truth and duty, happy is your condition here, and unspeakably happy will it be, when he shall say unto you, enter ye into the joy
Lord." pp. 245-248.
In concluding, we cannot but recommend Mr. H.'s sermons to those persons, who still think it proper to retain a small quantity of religion to relieve the dull vacancies of life, and allow them, with greater ease and less disturbance, to indulge appetite and gratify passion; because, while they contain the due portion of religion, they may be read without the labour of thought, without any alarm to the conscience, or the least apprehension of inducing a dissatisfaction with oneself.
Are. V. Evening Amusements ; or, the Beauty of the Heavens dis
played. In which several striking Appearances, to be observed on various Evenings in the Heavens, during the year 1810, are described ; and several Means are pointed out, by which the Time of young Persons may be innocently, agreeably, and profitably employed within Doors. Intended to be continued annually. By William Frend, Esq.
M. A. &c. 12mo. pp. iv. 198. Price 3s. bds. Mawman. 1810, MR. FREND has here presented the public with the seventh
annual volume of his Evening Amusements.' The plan of the work, so far as relates to astronomical topios, we described in our first volume, (pp. 272-275.) where we gave an account of Mr. F.'s two volumes for 1804 and 1805. The same plan, at least with regard to the scientific department of the work, is still maintained ; and the execution is on the whole moderately correct and respectable. No reader will expect that the author's statements should all be correct to the nearest minute or second; they are frequently the mere result of approximations, or of operations performed upon a celestial globe: they are, however, sufficiently accurate for the purpose of the general reader. The chief marks of inadvertency we notice, are in the specifications of the times of day, in which the author often omits to mention whether it be before or after noon, when it is by no means apparent which is meant.
Had the author confined himself, in these his annual publications, to purely astronomical topics, accompanied occasionally with remarks upon the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, as evinced in the regulation of the heavenly bodies, we should have continued to recommend his work, as in the article to which we have just adverted. Even then we had some doubts as to Mr. F.'s abstaining from the introduction of controverted theological points, and therefore concluded with saying, 66 We trust Mr. F, will not feel himself conscientiously called upon in his future volumes to insinuate-bis opinions; but if he should, we shall feel ourselves compelled conscientiously to reprobate his undertaking.” The time wben we ought to have fulfilled this engagement has long since arrived ; and we regret that accidental circumstances have hitherto prevented our exposing the true character of the latter volumes of the Evening Amusements.
Mr. Frend's method of making his astronomical lucubrations the vehicle for diffusing his notions as'a Socinian, iş generally covert and indirect. Thus, he can make his book of scientific recreations serve also as an obituary; and then, by introducing accounts of his deceased Socinian friends,
can contrive, almost without seeming to intend it, strenuously to recommend the sentiments which they adopted and promulgated. His conduct in this respect, with regard - to the late Theophilus Lindsey, justly drew upon him the ani. madversions of some of our critical brethren ; for, whatever might be Mr. Lindsey's merits as a defender of Socinianism, or as an honest and amiable man, (and the writer of this article is happy to testify,' from personal acquaintance, to his mild and estimable character in private life) he certainly had attained no celebrity as an astronomer. The animadversions to which we now allude, seem to have stung our author to the quick. He has found it necessary to devote a portion of the Amusements' of each of the first six months, to the defence of his own conduct, and the misrepresentation of that of his antagonist. As his remarks may be seen by many persons who will never see the reply of the animadverter, and as they often contain very erroneous, not to say dangerous reasoning, we think it our duty to quote a few of the most remarkable passages, and to engraft upon them two or three observations.
Mr. Frend commences the volume by answering the ques. tion, Why should the author's religious notions be introduced at all into a book of astronomy?' This he answers in part, by telling us, that
• The truths of religion and philosophy have in a great measure 'dis. pelled the mists which clouded the minds of our heathen ancestors'; yet, if the heavenly bodies cease to excite religious homage, it has been our lot to live in times, when the greater part of the European world pays its adoration to those mortals with whom they have filled the heavens.'
Without staying to inquire how truths' dispel “mists, or how mists' cloud minds,' we may venture to ask what the author means to affirm, when he states, that the greater part of the European world worship the host of mortals with which they have filled the heavens? It would seem as though he meant to affirm that the majority of Europeans worshipped many gods. Yet, when pleading before the Vice-Chan.. cellor of the university of Cambridge in 1793, this same Mr. Frend affirmed, with equal positivity, that, “among the various sects of Christians with which he had been conversant, he knew but one person who had expressly denied himself to be an Unitarian.”* Whom, then, are we to believe? The Rev. W.
* This was one of the most glaring and inexcusable, instances of misrepresentation that ever occurred. The gentleman against whom Mr. F. directed this remark, and who was in the senate-house at the time, had shortly before defended the Socinians from some aspersions cast upon them on account of their political principles ; and said he hoped his ob