Imagens das páginas

demands of the reading public, modestly wait upon their attention with small supplies, that do not too severely tax the indolence of thought. And then, having been admitted to audience, we disappear and leave them unconscious of the extent and number of their ever-multiplying obligations to our incessant labours.

But the Writer of these volumes, who comes up from the country only once in a year or two with his more costly productions, takes his stand in the market-place, with the conscious pride of an aristocratic author of the old school,—of one who expects to be listened to. Hitherto, he has had no reason to complain. His former volumes have rapidly passed through several editions; and the present one has already obtained a fair portion of the public attention, considering the circumstances of political excitement in which we have been held, so unfavourable to the pursuits of literature, or the leisurely processes of study and consecutive thought. Since, however, he has announced his intention of coming again and again before us, it may not be inexpedient to examine a little closely into the grounds upon which he challenges so large a measure of attentive and deferential consideration.

It is only justice to remark, that neither the mere vanity of authorship, nor the love of gain, can have prompted him to engage in the long and arduous course of literary labour which these volumes comprise. There is nothing worse remunerated in the present day, than intellectual pains bestowed upon bond Jide researches, of which the public see only the results, and cannot appreciate the cost. And the Author's obvious and even morbid anxiety to remain by name unknown, may be held to prove that he has had higher objects in view than literary reputation. But, for the sake of convenience, we wish he had either given us his real name, or assumed a nom de guerre, and called himself Abraham Search, or Thomas Johnson, or John Thomson, and not have compelled us to designate him at full length, by a title as long as a Castilian Don's, as The-Authorof-Natural-History-of-Enthusiasm. Moreover, we think that the public have almost acquired a right to know the name of their instructor, after having given him so hospitable and kindly a reception.

This is, however, a point of small moment. We shall now proceed, in the first instance, to give an analysis of the present volume, and then attempt a critical estimate of the productions of one who must assuredly be ranked among the first didactic writers of the present day.

The work is divided into ten sections. Of these, the first four are properly introductory, being occupied with an explanation of the Author's motives, a definition of terms, and a general outline of the plan of the work. In the next four sections, the four distinct classes of Fanatical or 'malignant religious' sentiments are treated of under the titles of, The Fanaticism of the Scourge, or of personal infliction; the Fanaticism of the Brand, or of immolation and cruelty; the Fanaticism of the Banner, or of ambition and conquest; and the Fanaticism of the Symbol, or of dogmatism and ecclesiastical virulence. The last two sections of the work, the most valuable of the whole, are devoted to shewing the Religion of the Bible to be not Fanatical.

The very first sentence of the work is worthy of being inscribed on the heart of every one who assumes the office of a public instructor. 'The maladies of the mind are not to be 'healed, any more than those of the body, unless by a friendly 'hand.' How much has the cause of Truth suffered, and the work of reformation been impeded, through a disregard of this truly philosophical axiom. All vitiated sentiments, all moral errors, partake of the nature of maladies, as well as of that of delinquencies; they require to be cured as well as to be reprobated. He who is the True Light, assumed the character, not of a Judge, but of a Physician. In this spirit of philanthropy, the Author has entered upon the investigation of the malady of Fanaticism, impelled by motives which derive peculiar urgency from the circumstances and aspect of the present times.

'All devout minds are now intent upon the hope of the overthrow of old superstitions, and of the universal spread of the Gospel. But the spread of the Gospel, as we are warranted to believe, implies and demands its clear separation from all those false sentiments and exaggerated or mischievous modes of feeling which heretofore, and so often, have embarrassed its course. In a word, Christianity must free itself from all entanglement with malignant or exorbitant passions, if it would break over its present boundaries. Is the world to be converted? are the nations to be brought home to God? Yes;—but this supposes that the Christian body should awake from every illusion, and rid itself of every disgrace.

'True indeed it is, and lamentable, that the families of man have remained age after age the victims of error: yet this has not happened because there has not been extant in every age, somewhere, a repository of truth, and an Instrument, or means of instruction. If, even now, superstition and impiety share between them the empire of almost all the world, it is not because nothing better comes within the reach of the human mind, or because nothing more benign is presented to its choice. No—for absolute Truth, Truth from heaven, has long sojourned on earth, and is to be conversed with. Why then do the people still sit in darkness?—The question may painfully perplex us, yet should never be dismissed. Rather a genuine and intelligent compassion for our fellow-men will lead us to prosecute with intense zeal any inquiry which may issue in the purification of the means of salvation confided to our care. If the Gospel does not (as we might have expected, and must always desire) prevail and run from land to land—the anxious question recurs—what arrests its progress? 'animates each individual believer', and upon the vigour, purity, and union of Christians collectively in any particular age. The diffusive and progressive power of Christianity has always been in proportion to its purity, as existing in the Church; for in itself it is always the same, absolute truth. Hence the infinite importance of scrutinizing into the faults and errors which weaken the force of that instrumentality upon which the salvation of mankind depends. 'In the bosom of the Church rests 'the hope of the conversion of the world'; and on the character of the Church depends the fulfilment of that hope.

'Besides employing ourselves then in all eligible modes for propogating the faith, every one competent to the task should institute a scrutiny, at home and abroad, in quest as well of open hinderances to the progress of the Gospel, as of the more latent or obscure causes of obstruction. The great work in an age of Missions, should it be anything else than the re-inauguration of Christianity among ourselves? If religion—religion we mean, not as found on parchments, or in creeds, but in the bosoms of men,—were indeed what once it was, it would doubtless spread, as once it did, from heart to heart, and from city to city, and from shore to shore. The special reason therefore, or the Urgent Reason, why we should now dismiss from our own bosoms every taint of superstition, and every residue of unbelief, as well as whatever is fanatical, factious, or uncharitable, is this—that the world, even the deluded millions of our brethren, may at length receive the blessings of the Gospel.' pp. 7—9.

'Christianity, such as it actually exists in the bosoms of those * who entertain it, is the Instrument of God's mercy to the 'world; and the effect, in every age, will be as the Instrument.' The Author is quite correct in remarking, that this great principle, though not practically lost sight of in the choice of agents, is yet far from being generally or distinctly recognised. We even fear that rapid readers will not apprehend the 'middle 'truth' which he suggests to their consideration •, namely, that besides the efficient operation of the Spirit of Grace, on the one hand, and besides ' the proximate and visible means' on the other, there is requisite to the progress and triumph of Christianity, a fitness in the rational instrumentality, or rather, a power in the character of the agency, from which the ' Sove

*reign Grace refuses to sever itself. It is Christianity imbodied in the believer, and realized in the faith, charity, and zeal of the living Church, that is the instrument of regenerating the world. The cause of hinderance to the propagation of the Gospel lies in the Church. The religious welfare of mankind is suspended not simply upon the exertions of the Christian body, —this is distinctly seen*,—but upon 'the vital force which

* We cannot refrain from taking this opportunity of referring our readers to some excellent observations upon this subject, contained in a volume deserving the perusal of every pious friend to the Missionary cause. It is entitled, "The Missionary Church, by W. H. Stowell." (12mo. 3i\ 1R32.1) The Author has recently been appointed Theological Tutor of Rotherham College; and it will be a happy circumstance for the Church, if the spirit of this volume be caught by those

This truth, so far from having been universally recognised, seems at variance with a position which has been put forth with all the weight of ecclesiastical authority as an ' article of religion.' The xxvith Article of the Anglican Church alleges, that ' the

*effect of Christ's ordinance is not taken away by the wickedness' of the ministers. The sacraments are affirmed to be 'effectual, 'because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be 'ministered by evil men.' This language is no doubt intended to apply more particularly to the efficacy of the sacraments as supposed to be necessary to salvation, and as depending for their efficacy on being rightly administered. The Article, therefore, was designed to establish the validity of all ecclesiastical acts performed by unworthy ministers, the sacerdotal character not being affected by the delinquency of those who have been episcopally ordained. It may be alleged, and must be admitted to a certain extent, that the wickedness of a minister does not make the truths he preaches less true, and that some have so been the instruments of saving others, who have themselves been cast away. The language of the Article, however, is not consonant with fact, when it is stated that the effect of Christ's ordinances is not diminished by the unfitness and unworthiness of the minister. The notion conveyed belongs to the ex opere operatum theory, which substitutes orders in the place of spiritual qualification, and attributes an efficiency to ministrations apart from their visible efficacy and success. But the diffusion of Christianity by the moral and intelligent instrumentality referred to, was not in the contemplation of those whose whole attention was fixed upon fortifying points of controversy, and perfecting their scheme of church polity.

In the truth for which our Author contends, he finds the prime motive to his laborious enterprise. Additional reasons are supplied by the spread of intelligence, which, by dispelling torpor

entrusted to his tuition. 'The Missionary progress', Mr. Stowell remarks, 'is arrested by the coldness and languor of the Church.

*Here the impulse must begin which is to subdue the world.'

from the European social system, renders it the more imperative to give a right direction to the susceptibilities and capacities thus awakened.

'In now looking upon the populace of the civilized world, such as the revolutionary excitements of the last fifty years have made it, one might fancy to see a creature of gigantic proportions just rousing itself, after a long trance, and preparing to move and act among the living. But, what shall be its deeds, and what its temper?—The most opposite expectations might be made to appear reasonable. Every thing favourable may be hoped for;—whatever is appalling may be feared. At least we may affirm, that the belief entertained by some, that great agitations may not again produce great excesses, or that egregious delusions may not once more, even on the illuminated field of European affairs, draw after them, as in other ages, myriads of votaries, rests upon no solid grounds of experience or philosophy, and will be adopted only by those who judge of human nature from partial or transient aspects, or who think that the frivolous incidents of yesterday and today afford a sufficient sample of all Time.' pp. 18, 19.

'At the present moment of general indifference,' it is remarked, 'the breaking forth of any species of fanaticism may seem highly 'improbable.' Far from it. We are surprised, indeed, at meeting with such a statement at a time when a fanatical spirit has shewn itself so unequivocally in the form of ' credulity united to 'virulence,' in various instances. Of credulity, the Row heresy, the revived Millenarian epidemic, and the Unknown-tongue madness, furnish illustrative specimens; nor have there been wanting proofs to shew how nearly allied are such aberrations to spiritual arrogance and malignity. We must say, too, that we do not think with our Author, that those who regard education as a security against popular excesses, err in attributing to knowledge, secular or religious, more influence than it is actually found to exert over the passions and the imagination of the bulk of mankind. If they err, it is in supposing it possible to communicate sufficient knowledge to the bulk of mankind, to compensate for loosening those restraining principles which curb the unintelligent mass while unconscious of their power. We cannot stop to discuss this point with him; but shall content ourselves with remarking, that if knowledge were not the best security against fanaticism, the utility of the Author's own labours would be problematical. We live in an age in which, strange to say, credulity is more rife among the teachers than among the taught, and fanaticism spreads more among the polished and wealthy than among the vulgar. But heresies of all kinds have ever sprung up in high places.

We shall not suffer ourselves to be long detained with the Author's definition of his terms. Fanaticism, like Enthusiasm, is a word that takes its meaning very much from the sentiments of the party employing it; but there is this difference between

« AnteriorContinuar »