« AnteriorContinuar »
reading it, without perceiving ourselves the better for it. O ye ministers of that Gospel which it contains, give yourselves less trouble to instruct me in so many useless things. Throw aside all those learned volumes, which can neither convince nor affect me. Prostrate yourselves at the feet of that God of mercy whom you undertake to make me know and love; ask of him for yourselves that profound humility which you ought to preach to me. Display not to me that variety of science, that indecent pomp of learning, which dishonours you, and disgusts me. Be you affected yourselves, if you would have me so; and, above all, give me a proof in your conduct, of your practising that law in which you pretend to instruct me. You have no need of any other learning, either for yourselves, or to instruct us. Do this, and your ministry is accomplished; and that, without even the mention of the belles lettres, or of philosophy. It is thus you ought to practise and to preach the Gospel, and it was thus its first defenders caused it to triumph over all nations; not Aristotelico more, as the fathers said, but piscatorio more *.”
On the part of the philosopher, this complaint was doubtless made because it suited his purpose, and furnished him with an argument in favour of his strange position, that the sciences had been injurious to the happiness of man. It is equally certain, also, that the want of learning in the ministers of Christ, could it have been detected, and had it equally suited his purpose to expose it, would have been a more certain cause of joy to his mind;—but, still, there must have been something in their addresses which gave plausibility to this charge. The truth, in fact, of that common quotation, “Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum tibi,” is, no, where more strikingly illustrated than in the case of the Christian minister. He must first have
* Miscellaneous Works. Vol. i. p. 65. Christ. Observ. No. 130.
felt his own danger, before he will urge home with the energy of selfconviction, and the eloquence of truth, their danger upon others; he must first feel his own weakness and corruption, before he can forcibly state the value of that Saviour who supplies in his own person a remedy for both ; he must first be himself a partaker of that change of heart which the Gospel is intended to produce, before he can either fully explain its nature, or suitably enforce its necessity.
What our author has said to shew that Christianity is the dispensation of the Spirit (p. 34–41) is so able and so wise, so far removed from the wildness of enthusiastic conjecture, and so satisfactory as a vindication of the Divine agency, that we could wish to have given it entire: but we have already exceeded the limits usually allotted to a single sermon, and therefore must confine ourselves to a part of it, in which the author. after having asserted the freedom of the Spirit's operations, even though confined within the completed canon of Scripture; and the sufficiency of revelation, even though requiring the superadded influence of the Spirit to make it effectual on the hearts of men; subjoins the following observations:—
“Let me earnestly entreat you, by keeping close to the fountain of grace, to secure a large measure of its influence. In yout private studies, and in your public performances, remember your absolute dependance on superior aid; let your conviction of this dependance become so deep and practical as to prevent your attempting any thing in your own strength, after the example of St. Paul, who, when he had occasion to advert to his labours in the Gospel, checks himself by adding, with ineffable modesty, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. From that vivid perception of truth, that full assurance of faith, which is its inseparable attendant, you will derive unspeakable advantage in addressing your hearers; a seriousness, tenderness, and majesty, will pervade your discourses, beyond what the greatest unassisted talent can commandin the choice of your subjects it will lead you to what is most solid and useful, while
it enables you to haudle them in a manner the host efficacious and impressive. Possessed of this celestial unction, you will not be under the temptation of neglecting a plain Gospel in quest of amusing speculations, or unprofitable novelties; the most ordinary topics will open themselves with a freshness and interest, as though you had never considered them before; and the things of the Spirit will display their inexhaustible variety and depth. You will pierce the invisible world; you will look, so to speak, into etermity, and present the essence and core of religion, while too many preachers, for want of spiritual discernment, rest satisfied with the surface and the shell. It will not allow us to throw one, grain of incense on the altar of vanity; it will make us forget ourselves so completely, as to convince our hearers we do so; and, displacing every thing else from the attention, leave nothing to be felt, or thought of, but the majesty of truth, and the realities of eternity.” pp. 38, 39.
It is hardly necessary for us to add, after what we have already said, that the author has maintained throughout the character of those great talents by which his former writings have been so eminently distinguished ; , and in descending from the description of abstract to that of more obvious truths, he has shewn that he can be both profound and practical in his reasoning, eloquent and yet plain in his style, original and orthodox in his sentiments. We observe with sinceresatisfaction his powerful mind employed in the defence of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, now indeed more the objects of attack than its evidences; and we indulge a sanguine hope of seeing him frequently engaged in the same sacred warfare.
taphysics. Like other frontiers, it is certainly debatable ground; and some of our readers may, perhaps, think it, nearly as barren as such territories are apt to be. We will not dispute about this. The journey, whether tedious or agreeable, is ended. Those who thought it wearisome, should be pleased to find themselves entering upon a new country; and if any have passed through it without fatigue, they will be the less indisposed to attempt a new excursion. For ourselves, we confess that we are well pleased that Mr. Stewart has confined his remarks on the origin of our knowledge to the first half of his volume. A mind so fertile and so highly cultivated as his, is able, undoubtedly, to lend a charm to every subject; and those who peruse these essays will find (what we fear our critique would little lead them to suppose) that even the obscure and thorny path through which we have accompanied him, is, in his society, really cheerful. But then it is a little mortifying to discover, that with all its intricate meanderings it leads absolutely nowhere. The exercise, to be sure, is refreshing; but if only exercise is to be found, common sense will tell us to stop when we begin to grow fatigued. The subjects on which Mr. Stewart has entered in the latter part of his volume, are of a description which few will think uninteresting, whatever other objections may be made to them. The first of these essays is on the Beautiful, and the second on the Sublime. It is now somewhat more than half a century since Mr. Burke attempted to explain, on philosophical principles, the causes of that pleasure which every person of sensibility feels in the perusal of the finest writers, and in the eontemplation of animate or inanimate nature. Lord Kames preceded him (we believe) a short time, with his “Elements of Criticism;” but from these Mr. Burke appears to have borrowed little, if any thing; and, in this country at least, he may be considered as quite original. His followers have not been very numerous, but, for the most part, they have been select: Sir Joshua Reymolds, Mr. Price, Mr. Payne Knight, and Mr. Alison, are all writers of considerable eminence.
It would be an interesting subject of inquiry, whence it happens that certain researches, both literary and philosophical, happen to be omitted (if we may use the expression) for a long series of years— though of a nature, when once investigated, to become exceedingly popular. Both the science of political economy and the science of philosophical criticism had their birth in the last century; yet poets had sung and commercial intercourse existed from the earliest ages. The ancients were passionately fond of eloquence, poetry, music, sculpture, painting; of all the arts for the enjoyment and the perfecting of which a cultivated taste is peculiarly requisite. Nay, taste is exactly the particular in which their superiority over the moderns is the least disputable. Yet their most celebrated critics (and the race was numerous and of high reputation) rarely attempt any thing beyond a delineation of the rules which are to be observed in all just compositions. The principles into which these rules may be resolved, they rarely mention, and never investigate. They resemble the preceptor of young Cyrus in the art of war, who taught him the whole system of manoeuvring, but neglected to instruct him in the method of studying the characters of his soldiers, and acquiring an ascendency over their minds. It is not very easy to account satisfactorily for this phenomenon. Perhaps the course of sciences which different nations pursue, and the order in which they arise out of each other, depend more upon accidental circumstances, than ordinarily is supposed. If, however, we were -
obliged to find some probable reason for the neglect of philosophical criticism among the ancients, we should suggest, as one of the chief causes, that peculiar delicacy of organization and fineness o taste with which they were generally gifted, and which would certainly be sought in vain among our own countrymen. Theophrastus was discovered, at Athens, to be a foreigner by speaking the dialect too correctly. Demosthenes was hissed in one of his earliest speeches for a false accent. Euripides shared the same fate at the theatre because he had crowded too many sigmas (a) into a verse; and the effect was thought so comical, that Aristophanes more than once made his countrymen merry by mimicking this unhappy line. But the story told of Crassus the orator is the most singular: He was stopped by thunders of applause on pronouncing the following passage:—“ Ubi lubido. ibi innocentia leve praesidium est:” a sentence, the music of which was thought overpowering; though, probably, the most delicate modern ear cannot catch a single tone of its harmony. Where the taste was naturally so fine, it is not very extraordinary that the principles on which it may be cultivated and improved were not anxiously studied ; just as very rich soils are those where agriculture is generally most neglected. The common opposition of nature to art, is at least thus far founded in truth, that where the former has been remarkably bountiful the second is apt to be inactive. Perhaps, too, some additional light will be thrown upon the fact already noticed, if we consider the exquisite feeling which was common in the ancient world for whatever is great or affecting. Of this, abundant evidence is afforded by the classical historians, to which it would be difficult to find any thing parallel in modern writers. When Manlius was arraigned for high treason, though the indignation of the people was ex4 P 2
treme, they refused to judge him within sight of the Capitol which he had defended. [. to answer a charge of emezzling the public money, he held up to the people the articles of accusation, and, tearing them in pieces, said:—“Romans, on this day I vanquished Hannibal: let us go and return thanks to the immortal gods;” and they followed him to the Capitol. The Greek annals are not less rich than the Latin in anecdotes of a like character; and the prodigieus power of the orators, as well as the almost divine honours paid to the poets and artists, testify to the same truth. We suspect that a people capable of such lively emotions would not generally be found very patient audi1ors of a philosophical lecture upon their feelings. Mr. Burke doubtless is a strong example to the contrary, but Mr. Burke is an exception to all rules. Unless we have mis-read human nature, there is a certain reluctance, almost instinctive, in persons of great sensibility, to the nice dissection of their feelings. The part is too tender to be touched. There are pleasures, the analysis of which is a sort of sacrilege; and pains, on which it would be quite brutal to philosophise. Even where the imagination only is affected, it would be rather mortifying, in the midst of a glow of enthusiasm, to be informed that nothing could be more just than the emotion, a great part of it being manifestly resolvable into a perception of fitness, or of the sufficient reason. These last ideas, which, to avoid prolixity, we have hinted rather than developed, open to us the glimpse of a theory not wholly unworthy of a more steady attention, and which tends to explain why philosophical criticism arose so late among our own countrymen. We can but just touch it, being pressed by other topics. It is with nations as with individuals; they feel before they think. The progress of society is from fancy to reason, from sensibility to truth.
The writers who flourished in this island from the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth eentury are distinguished by an originality and extent of imagination, a copiousness of ideas, a strength of colouring, and an eager, vigorous, unlaught eloquence, which we now contemplate with amazement. In respect of correctness both of thought and expression, accurate logic, and that orderly system of discussion which conducts us to truth by the shortest process, they are far interior to their successors of the eighteenth century. Hume's Essays would probably surprise Barrow almost as much as Barrow's Sermons ought to have astonished Hume. The passions which were formerly felt and delineated, have since been surveyed and analysed. Men do not, perhaps, think more intensely in the present age, but they watch their thoughts more closely; they are more aware of the false colours which a subject may present; they are more in the habit of generalising; and have, upon the whole, a far better insight into the philosophical principses of things. Of course, we must not be understeod to say that there was no philosophy in the sixteenth century, or that there was an absolute death of imagination in the eighteenth. We speak of the gene.# character of each, without attempting a nice statement of proportions; and whoever will be at the pains to consider the difference between English and Irish eloquence in the present day, will see something like a living illustration and evidence of the theory which we have thus slightly sketched. The principles which explain why all this takes place, it would not be disficult to assign; but we have already wandered too far from the work before us. The different writers who have preceded Mr. Stewart in their inquiries into the sublime and beautiful, have, with the exception at least of Mr. Alison, proceeded, pretty generally, on the supposition that some common quality, or qualities, might be detected in all the various subjects to which the characters of beauty and sublimity are ordinarily attributed. Thus Mr. Burke thinks smoothness an essential property of beauty; and insists that all sublime objects will be found to carry with them comething of the impression of terror. Mr. Price, who is a zealous advocate for Mr. Burke's theory, finding that many rough and angular objects were ordinarily counted beautiful, bethought himself of a distinction which might save the infallibility of his great master; and he constantly describes those things which, like the moss rose, fine chrystals, and the like, are any thing but smooth, though universally admired, as properly picturesque;—a word so distinctive, in his opinion, of a particular class of objects, that he considers the common expression picturesque beauty as a solecism. Mr. Payne Knight is of opinion, that the true characteristic of sublimity is not terror, but mental energy. Sir Joshua Reynolds taught, “that the effect of beauty depends on habit only, the most customary form in each species of things being invariably the most beautiful.” This last writer, as he denies that there is any such thing as essential beauty, cannot be said to have sought for its metaphysical principle ; but then he assumes, more confidently than any of the writers above named, that there is one master key which commands the whole subject. Mr. Stewart's two essays on the beautiful and sublime are of rather a loose texture, and by no means embrace, or profess to embrace, the whole of the subject on which they treat. It was the object of the writer to furnish only such a series of observations, illustrated in examples, as should be sufficient to develope the principle which he apprehends to afford the real explanation of the difficulties that have hitherto embarrassed this question. Mr. Stewart insists, that the writers already mentioned have proceeded “on a mis
taken view of the nature of the problem to be solved.” The words beautiful and sublime he considers as applied in fact, and capable of being applied with perfect I ropriety, to a great number of subjects, physical, intellectual, and moral, which are essentially different from each other, which have no certain quality or set of qualities in com
mon, mor, indeed, any general con
nection whatsoever; except, per
haps, that all beautiful things are
agreeable, and that all subline things
are striking. His theory on this
question is of a very general nature,
and cannot so well be illustrated in
any language as his own.
“The speculations which have given occasion to the foregoing remarks, have evidently originated in a prejudice, which has descended to modern times from the scholastic ages;–that when a word admits of a variety of significations, these different significations must all be species of the same genus; and must consequently include some essential idea common to every individual to which the generic term can be applied. In the article just quoted,” (an article on the word beau, by Monsieur Diderot, in the French Encyclopedie), “this prejudice is assumed as an indisputable maxim. “Beautiful is a term which we apply to an infinite variety of things; but by whatever circumstances these may be distinguished from each other, it is certain either that we make a false application of the word, or that there exists in all of then a common quality, of which the term beautiful is the sign.’
“The passage quoted above proceeds on a supposition, which is founded, as I shall endeavour to shew, upon a total misconception of the nature of the circumstances which in the history of language attach different meanings to the same words; and which often, by slow and insensible gradations, remove them to such a distance from their primitive or radical sense that no ingenuity can trace the successive steps of their progress. The variety of these circumstances is, in fact, so great that it is impossible to attempt a complete enumeration of them: and I shall therefore select a few of the cases in which the principle now in question appears the most obviously and indisputably to fail.”
“I shall begin with supposing that the letters, A, B, C, D, E, denote a series of objects : that A possesses some one quality in