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investigation of the Sacred Volume. Those men, confirmed in the faith of the Gospel, and matured in personal religion hy the privations and adversities which they endured, cnt< • into the spirit of revealed truth: they felt its incalculable worth, their souls were absorbed in the subjects they discussed, and they wrote without fear or restraint.
These considerations lead us cordially to approve republications like this before us. It consists of two short treatises The first is founded on the triumphant challenge of the Apostle, in Rom. viii. 34. and contains much important matter on the doctrine of Justification by faith. The other unfolds with admirable judgement and tenderness, 'the heart of Christ in 'heaven towards sinners on earth.' The language is a little improved from the original edition, and the title is changed to one more concise but equally appropriate. The Rev. G. Burder, in a recommendation of the book, has prefixed the following short account of its highly respectable author.
'Dr. Thomas Goodwin was a very learned and eminent divine of the seventeenth century, and President of Magdalen College, Oxford; where he made it his business to promote piety and learning. He was a member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, and one of the triers of ministers. Being dismissed from his situation at Oxford, on the restoration of Charles the Second, he removed to London, where he was pastor of an Independent Church for many years. He died in 1679, in the eightieth year of his age. in the fullest assurance of faith, and with such expressions of joy, thankfulness, and admiration of God's free grace, as extremely affected all who heard him.'
Art. IX. The Sick Man's Pious Assistant; or Aids to Devotion in the Time of Affliction. By John Renals. pp. 149. Price 3s. Printed, Wellingborough. Sold by Conder, London. 1815.
^PHE avowed design of this publication, is 'to edify plain ■*■ 'people.' On the whole, it is adapted to the object, and we hope will obtain a wide circulation. It is divided into thirtynine sections, consisting chiefly of close inquiries and devout aspirations, something after the manner of Doddridge's Meditations in his Rise and Progress of Religion. The Author has confessedly availed himself of the aid of Doddridge, Ed .^irds, Hallyburton, and others, in his composition; and it must be admitted that more pious and evangelical sources he could not have found. We cannot speak highly either of the correctness or the energy of the style, nor have we always perceived the exclusive appropriateness of the matter to circumstances of affliction. The sentiment however is good, and devotional simplicity pervades the whole. A tolerably accurate notion may be formed of the book by the following extract from the fourth section.
* Can I do no more than I have done for God? He gave me all I possess. He deserveth all praise, love, and obedience. He seeth my heart, my duties, my sins, and puts me on trial for his service, and for his sake. Can I love him no more, obey, watch and pray, no better?
'Can I do no more for Christ's sake, who has done so much for me? Who lived so exactly, and obeyed the law so perfectly, walked so inoffensively and meekly, despising all the temptations and honours and riches of the world. Who loved me to death, and now holds forth all the promises of the Bible, and the blessings of his throne, to make me happy. What careless, poor, and cold endeavours my best returns are for all his mercy! Wherein have I kept close to my pattern?
'Can I do more when heaven and hell are set before me in the Holy Scriptures that I may see what is prepared for the diligent and the negligent 1 What work there will be in heaven and in hell on these accounts! when " the lukewarm will be spewed out," and they who have done his will on earth, "shall have an abundant entrance into the kingdom of heaven." And could I do no more if my house were on fire, than I do when my heart is enflamed with lust or temptation? or when my estate, or life, or friend is in danger, than I do to " work out my own salvation I"'
—. ii i in iii. i i. .I,. »ia ■ Ip m ■—.—
Art. X. Catechisms for Children, adapted to their different Ages and Capacities, and designed to lead them gradually to the Knowledge of Scripture Doctrine and Christian Duty. Compiled by Anthony Kidd (Cottingham). Fourth Edition. 12mo. pp. 36. Price 4d. 3s. 6d. per Dozen. 11. 8s. per 100. Williams and Son.
T1/"E are sincerely happy to announce a fourth edition of this valuable publication. It consists of three distinct Catechisms, designed to facilitate the instruction of children in the principles of Christianity, and to aid their progress in the knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. No other recommendation is necessary to the first and second of the series, than to intimate their selection, with a few judicious alterations, from Dr. Watts. The third also, is partly compiled from respectable authors, but it contains a considerable share of original matter. We certainly regard this little work, as an excellent compendium of evangelical truth; and we very cordially recommend it to the use of Christian families and schools, among many of which it has already obtained an extensive circulation.
Art. XI. 1. Ilderim, a Syrian Tale. In four Cantos. 8vo. pp. 74. Price 4s. 6d. Murray. 1816. 2. The Naiad, a Tale. With other Poems. 8vo. pp. 63. Price 4s. Taylor and Hessey. 1816.
^T^HERiO certainly has never been a period in the history of English Literature, when the compositions of the day exhibited so high a degree of general cultivation and taste, as the present. We speak now in reference to poetical compositions, the average quality of which will be found to correspond pretty nearly to the progress made in the cultivation of other branches of literature. As to those extraordinarily-gifted individuals, the phenomena of every age, whose appearance forms an era in the science or in the language of their country, they present no criterion of the degree to which the diffusion of knowledge has advanced in the nation at large; any more than the wealth of Croesus was a criterion of the prosperity of his subjects. The earlier periods of national civilization have been judged peculiarly favourable to the development of the more lofty and original kind of genius; but this is, perhaps, a prejudice founded on the fact, that the early history of nations has been characterized by the birth of such extraordinary individuals. Every age has its great men, and the present age is not an exception. But what determine the general advancement of society, in regard to intellectual attainment, are not some one or two super-eminent productions: it is, if we may so express it, the standard of mediocrity. It is obvious that this will be estimated, not by the intrinsic quality of the production as a work of art, but by the previous perfection to which the art has been carried, and by the facility of the performance. Mediocrity is a relative term, implying, in reference to works of imagination and art, that which it requires no distinguishing exercise of the faculties to achieve. Much of the poetry which in the present day must be termed mediocre, would, it must be confessed, in the time even of Waller and Denham, have obtained and deserved considerable celebrity, while by far the larger proportion of the Works of the English Poets, edited by Dr. Johnson, possesses the humblest degree of merit, and is interesting only from the date. The merit, however, of those works, is greater than their excellence; for, doubtless, they were the compositions of men who possessed talents quite equal to those of many of our modern versifiers, with whose productions theirs will not bear comparison. It would, perhaps, be difficult to account for the inferiority, wholly on the ground of less advantageous circumstances. One principal reason that modern poetry is, generally speaking, of a higher character, is, we believe, that a more naVol.vi. N.S. 2Q
tural taste has been introduced, and that the national character has actually undergone improvement. The habits of the age are not, indeed, favourable to the production of works exhibiting the slowly collected learning of the cloister, or the traces of deep and patient meditation It is not the age of learned men or original thinkers. But there is upon the whole more of mind brought into operation, and the circulation of thought and of feeling has been considerably quickened. The arts of language are more generally understood, and a proportionate facility is displayed in using what may be termed the tools of intellect. With regard to poetry, we have not only more good poets than there were in the time of the Dunciad, but our worst poets are not so bad as those of that day, and our standard of mediocrity is much more elevated. It may have become easier to write a fair gentlemanly description of verse, than it was then; but certainly the amusement has been brought to exhibit much more meaning and skill. The generality of our poets are not perhaps less than then, imitators, and in some instances copyists of imitators; but they imitate better models, and the variety which offers itself to the mind, by rendering imitation less servile and less obvious, places the appearance even of originality not wholly out of their reach.
Of late it has become the fashion to go back for subjects of imitation, to the very infancy of English poetry, to legendary tales and ballad histories, the offspring of a childish age, and which are well adapted to seize hold of the imagination in childhood; but the fondness which the full grown public have manifested for such compositions, is rather an indication of incipient dotage. Besides, the polished versification, the artificial carelessness, and the ornate diction of modern poetry, do not suit the class of subjects we allude to. The effect resembles that of a trim modern Gothic edifice: the mystery, the grandeur, the mellow colouring of age, are wanting, and the imitation, therefore, not only fails to excite the fancy, but offends by its palpable incongruity. The legends which delighted us in childhood, were indebted for their hold upon our imagination, to the very obscurity which attends the dawn of reason, and which prevented us from fully disceruingtheir absurdity. It was their indefiniteness which gave such rude materials the semblance of beauty and grandeur; but when brought out into a stronger light, the illusion vanishes, and it requires a powerful effort of imagination to recall in afterlife, by artificial means, the feelings which were in childhood the natural effect of simple excitement. The stories which interested us so strongly then, may please us still, from the associations connected with them, and from sympathy with our former selves, and we may amuse ourselves by clothing those stories in a style more adapted to
cprreot taste: but when we have done so, we shall find that they are altogether different things, and that we have substituted the pleasures of composition for those of fancy. There is another way in which the class of subjects we allude to, interests us, and that is, by sympathy with the race that did actually believe in the legends of wonder and superstition. If the poet can thus carry us back in feeling, so that we identify ourselves for the moment with the circumstances of that remoter age, the interest excited will be powerful: but this a rare achievement.
Another class of subjects which it has of late become popular to select for imitation, is that of Eastern tales. From the time of the Crusades, the East has supplied us with favourite materials, in story and in scenery, for the combinations of fiction. Its treasures were deemed almost exhausted, and the subjects of Oriental romance were seemingly abandoned to the inventors of spectacles and melo-dramas, till the new fashion w is set of sentimental corsairs and interesting mussulmen. We think this a worse direction for taste to follow, than that of border romance and black letter legend, inasmuch as it leads the poet further away from Nature, and from those models which next to Nature it is si lest to follow.
The prevailing faults of the poetry of the day, are diffuseness and mannerism. The former is conspicuous in the attenuation of what might serve very well as the subject of a ballad or a short poem, into three or six cantos of tedious description and prosaic dialogue. By mannerism, is not simply meant a marked manner, for by this artists of the mo«t original genius may, with rare exceptions, be distinguished, but something obviously artificial in the mechanism of the composition, arising either from affectation or from an acquired facility in executing things after a certain manner, which sometimes leads the more original writer to be the mere copyist of himself. Mannerism implies a sameness of idea as well as of expression, and it cannot be denied that in this sense Walter Scott and Lord Byron are complete mannerists. What then must their imitators be?
The poems which we have placed together at the head of this Article, and which have suggested these remarks, have not much in common, except the degree of merit which we think attaches to them. After the foregoing remarks, it will not be considered as doubtful praise, if we place them both rather above the standard of mediocrity. It is not our design to draw any parallel between them, further than to remark, that in " Ilderim" the critic will find the least to disapprove, and in " The Naiad" the poet will recognise the most to interest.
Ilderim is announced as forming * part of a work, the plan