Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

In these circumstances we look upon the publication and the success of this History of the Reformation as a favorable omen. It is just the book which we need for general circulation; and it is destined, we have no doubt, to become a universal favorite. To thousands, who are but slenderly acquainted with the greatest event in modern history, it will impart a knowledge, sufficiently accurate and eminently salutary. We haz. ard nothing in saying that these volumes will be extensively read, and when read they will be remembered ; for almost the first thing, which arrests the attention on their perusal, is the vivid impression which they make upon the memory. The author's talent at description is extraordinary. He is like one who holds up to our view a succession of pictures, distinctly drawn and not easily forgotten. As we follow the great Reformer step by step, we are confident that we see the very man,-Dr. Martin Luther, the monk, the preacher, the disputant, the antagonist of princes, kings, emperors, nuncios and popes, always, however, the fearless defender of the truth as it is in Jesus.

M. Merle D'Aubigné has other qualifications--some that we should hardly expect to find in the same individual,--for writing the History of the Reformation. His long residence in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands, his thorough knowledge of the language of these countries give him advantages which very few possess. The original documents illustrative of this interesting epoch have thus been placed within his reach; and it would be superfluous to say that he has been unwearied in his endeavors to arrive at the truth. In addition to all this, the author has a heart that beats in uni. son with the spirit of the reformers. He can appreciate their love of the doctrines of the cross, for he has felt their power. That great truth,—the corner stone of the Reformation, and of the church of Christ,-justification by faith, is as dear to him as it was to the inquiring monk of Erfurt. Expressions and actions, that would be mysterious to another, are perfectly intelligible to him.

But our author's sympathy with the Reformers has not been allowed to interfere with his fidelity. At the close of his Preface, he remarks: “From what I have said, it will be seen that I believe the Reformation to be the work of God. Nevertheless, as its historian, I hope to be impartial. I think I have spoken of the principal Roman Catholic actors in the great drama,-Leo X., Albert of Magdeburg, Charles V., Doctor Eck, etc.,-more favorably than the majority of historians. And, on the other hand, I have had no wish to conceal the faults and errors of the Reformers."

We have been so much pleased with these volumes that we are disinclined to qualify our praise. We will barely observe that the author is sometimes unnecessarily minute. The vividness of his sketches would have been increased by condensation. We should have also preferred a more frequent reference to authorities. This, we are aware, is not essential in a popular history ; still it would have enhanced the value of the

work.

2.-The History of Christianity from the Birth of Christ to the

Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire. By the
Rev. H. H. Milman, Prebendary of St. Peter's, and Min-
ister of St. Margaret's, Westminster. With a Preface and
Notes. By James Murdock, D. D. New-York: Har-

per & Brothers. 1841. One Vo). large 8vo. pp. 528. · The author of this work makes a distinction between the history of Christianity and the history of the Church. The former, he says, “has usually assumed the form of a history of the Church, more or less controversial, and confined itself to the annals of the internal feuds and divisions in the Christian community, and the variations in doctrine and discipline, rather than to its political and social influences. Our attention, on the other hand, will be chiefly directed to its effects on the social and even political condition of man.” He accordingly endeavors to portray the genius of Christianity, in every age in connection with that of the age itself; to show the reciprocal influence of Christianity on civilization and of civilization on Christianity. The work, then, was not intended to be an ecclesiastical history, in the ordinary sense of the term. And yet it bears a genuine historical character. It enters into those details of actual occurrences which the author judges to be the most generally interesting in their secular relations and influences; and thus in fact gives a pretty full history of the Church, as well as of Christianity. But the grand pecu. liarity of the author's plan, and his leading object, are to trace the influence of Christianity on the individual and social happiness of man; on the polity, the laws and institutions, the opinions, the manners, the arts and literature of the Christian

world.

From the first announcement of this plan, it has struck us as a design of great value to the cause of Christian knowledge; and from the character of the author, as well as from several favorable notices and reviews of his work which have appear. ed in the British periodicals, we were prepared to welcome its appearance from the American press. It is brought out by Harper and Brothers, in good style, and the “Preface and Notes” by Dr. Murdock, though not voluminous, add not a little to the historical value of the work. We have read a large portion of it, and most gratefully acknowledge that our raised expectations have been fully answered. The learning and the indefatigable industry of the author are worthy of the highest praise ; and his style, though sometimes obscure, is often glowing and splendid, in keeping with his reputation as a poet, as well as a historian.

The work begins with the history of the state and forms of Pagan religion and philosophy, at the coming of Christ, and takes up, in their order, the following leading topics: The Life of Jesus Christ, with the state of Judea and the belief of the Jews in the Messiah ; the successive years of Christ's public life; the Resurrection ; Christianity and Judaism ;-and Paganism ;-and Orientalism; then, after following the history of Christianity through all the changes of the Roman empire to the close of the period indicated on the title-page, he takes a general review of that empire under Christianity, and closes with a succession of chapters on the public observances, spectacles and ceremonies of the church and the empire, the history of Christian literature, Christianity and the fine arts, with a Čonclusion embracing valuable reflective remarks upon the history thus far, and the providential preparation of Christianity to enter the dark ages of European history as “the great conservative principle of religion, knowledge and humanity, and of the highest degrees of civilization of which the age was capable, during centuries of violence, of ignorance and of barbarism.”

In the filling up of this outline the most difficult and delicate part of the author's work was his attempt to write the “ Life of Christ.” The language, the method, the simplicity of the Evangelists are so incorporated with our earliest associations and with the thoughts and language of Christendom, that to exhibit them under new forms, excites in most minds a sense of incongruity and desecration; and Mr. Milman's effort to reconstruct the materials of this portion of Scripture strikes us as a failure. This, however, is perhaps a proof of the imprac. ticability of the subject rather than of any deficiency of talent in the author. But we doubt the necessity of the attempt in carrying out his general plan. The materials, as they standin the Evangelists, were as available for his purpose as in the form which he has given them. Mr. Milman, however, remarks in his preface that if, at any time he entertained doubts as to the expediency of including a historical view of the life SECOND SERIES, VOL. VII. NO. 1.

20

of the Saviour in the history of his religion, those doubts were set at rest by the appearance of the recent work of Strauss in Germany. His remarks on the “Life of Jesus,” as well as on the nearly contemporary work of Dr. H. Weisse, are placed in several appendices and notes, and contain a valuable, though perhaps not a sufficiently thorough, refutation of the mythical theory of these German writers. In this relation his vindication of the Divinity of the Saviour is by no means an unimportant part of his work. And as a whole we regard this history as justly entitled to the high character of a standard work. It is not in all respects as we could wish. The author in his great liberality to the German writers, to whom he acknowledges his indebtedness, has allowed himself to be influenced in some degree by the skeptical tendency of their philosophy. But as a history, his work is generally impartial and candid, as well as learned and amply supported by the best authorities.

3.- Visit to Northern Europe ; or Sketches, Descriptive, Histor

ical, Political and Moral, of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the Free Cities of Hamburg and Lubeck ; containing Notices of the Manners and Customs, Commerce, Manufactures, Arts and Sciences, Education, Literature and Religion, of those Countries and Cities. By Robert Baird. With Maps and numerous Engravings. In two Volumes. New-York: John S. Taylor & Co.

1841. pp. 347, 350. A title so long and particular might seem to be a sufficient index to the numerous and miscellaneous subjects of the work to which it is prefixed. But our friend Mr. Baird has chosen to be still more explicit. On opening these volumes, we are greeted with eighteen pages of Contents, presenting a pretty full analysis of the work, and spreading before the reader a bill of fare which is by no means stinted or unattractive. Then follows a well executed map of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, with the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia and the outlines of Finland on the East; presenting the whole country occupied by the ancient Scandinavian nations. The principal towns of these countries our author has twice visited, first in 1836, and again in 1840, and passed over considerable portions of their territory and of their waters. His opportunities of personal observation have thus been, we think, quite sufficient to jus. tify his attempt to describe those hyperborean regions, where,

if we may credit the legends of Scandinavia,—the Goths, or Scythians, planted themselves some 2000 years before the Christian era; whither Odin is said to have arrived.-B. C. 70,—and was followed by a long succession of kings fabled to have been half divine, and whose apotheosis was confirmed by their deaths; and where the Northmen, in succeeding times, emerging from the mist and darkness of their mythological history, have left traces of their bold adventures both by sea and land, and have at length taken their place among the civ. ilized and Christian nations of modern Europe. A sketch of the history of such a people, with an account of their manners, customs, institutions, etc., by one who has enjoyed their hospitality and travelled over a considerable portion of their picturesque and romantic countries, cannot fail to be interesting, and especially to American readers; for some portions of our own country, we are assured, strikingly resembles those lands of the Northmen.

In addition to his personal knowledge of the countries he describes, Mr. Baird has availed himself of the researches of numerous authors, among whom are Mr. Wheaton, Mr. Laing and others, and has thus collected a mass of materials more ample, perhaps, for the construction of a popular history than any of the modern travellers who have preceded him. Those countries, particularly Sweden, have attracted much attention of late, and numerous works, on portions of Northern Europe, have appeared in England, Germany and France, within a few years, both historical and descriptive. But the volumes before us are more full and satisfactory on topics of interest to American readers, and will doubtless answer a purpose which could not have been attained by the reprint of any of the foreign works in this country.

It would be in vain, in the space allowed to this notice, to attempt a particular analysis of these volumes. The subjects of the author's brief and running descriptions are too numerous for us even to name. He dwells especially upon the history and description of the countries and cities named on the titlepage, beginning with Hamburg and Lubeck, which to us are the least interesting portions of his work, and proceeding to the northern countries. These countries, considered histori. cally, present many curious and interesting lessons of instruction to the scholar, the statesman and the Christian ; and the story of their progress from the lowest degrees of barbarism, or at least from a state of mythical obscurity, to their present enlightened condition, is so interwoven with the history of the whole of Europe, and even with the first discovery of our own country, that a knowledge of it seems essential to a right understanding of the origin, and the historical and political rela

« PoprzedniaDalej »