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ON CHRISTIANITY AS A CHECK TO THE INCREASE
OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODUX CHURCHMAN's MAGAZINE.
competent judge, that “ Horace was one of the greatest masters of life, and of true sense in the conduct of it*.” It may be added, that he had also a perfect knowlege of human nature ; that is, a knowlege of the cause of human actions, as well as of the actions themselves ; that he had a thorough acquaintance with that system of passions or affections, inci. dent to man at the several periods, and in the several modes of his existence here, of which Aristotle, in his admirable treatise on Rhetoric, has given such a masterly analysis. It was this knowledge, which enabled him to perceive, that the gradually increasing depravity of mankind, unless counteracted by some exterior check, was a consequence to be reasonably expected. In his situation, it was greatly to his credit as a moralist, as well as a poet, that he wrote the following lines :
Damnosa quid non imminuit dies ?
Carm. Lib. iji. Od. vi,
Ourselves degen’rate, sons still worse to rear.
* Essay upon the gardens of Epicurus. ,
+ It is but justice to a man of genius to say, that these lines of Horace were pointed out to inc many years ago, when I was a student at Sidney College, as remarkably full of just meaning, by a fellow-student, the Rev, F.J.H. Wollaston, the present Jacksonian Professor at Cambridge.
3 A 2
Few sons attain their glorious fathers' deeds:
Mo t fall far short, and scarcely one exceeds. It is not, indeed, any just matter of surprize, that so important a fact did not escape the attention of such accurate observers of nature and of life*. This is the great fact, though those poets were not able so to consider it, by which the necessity of a scheme of redemption may be most satisfactorily made out; and it is wonderful to consider what care has been taken to establish the truth of it. Before the deluge, God seems to have left the passions or affections of men very much to their own operation ; as if to show by experiment, what effect was naturally to be expected from them. In consequence of this, the wickedness of men in creased to such a degree, that it was found necessary, with the exception of Noah and his family, utterly to destroy them. From the time of Noah to the calling of Abraham, the same principle produced an effect of sa similar a kind, that isolatry and corruption of manners almost universally prevailed. The calling of Abraham, and the subsequent establishment of the Mosaic dispensation, so far operated as a check, as to render his descendants, though far from the perfection of human nature, yet very much superior to the rest of the world in the knowlege and rational worship of the true God, and in the observance of all moral duties. What the rest of the world were, at the time of our Saviour's appearance on earth, may be learnt from St. Paul's account of them, in the firse chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. Evidence to the same purpose has not been wanting since, and is but too abundant even now.
Wherever, in Mahometan or Popish countries, the Christian religion, by any error in the mode of its propagation or otherwise, has either disappeared, or lost its hold on the minds of the people, a gradually increasing degree of moral darkness and moral depravity lias invariably succeeded. This is a proof built on experiment, in this case the most satisfactory kind of proof possible, that Christianity, or at least some mode of divine revelation, is indispensably necessary,not only to advance the happiness of mankind, but to preserve them from the operation of a principle which would render them deserving of destruction, if it did not actually destroy them; and it shows, in the clearest light, the obligation, which is incumbent upon all men, to promote the true knowlege and pure practice of Christianity in the world to the utmost of their power. Rempstone, Nov. 7, 1803.
* The popular fable of the Four Ages of the World, golden, silver, brazon, iron, gradually retrograding in quality, may be considered as an evidence of the general sentiment of mankind to the same purpose.-See Ovid's Met. Lib. I. v. 89—150.
An INQUIRY into the NATURE and PURPOSE of that ASSENT, which is supposed to be implied by a SUBSCRIPTION to ARTI. CLES of RELIGION.
THE signature of mens' hunds to any writing is ahvays supposed to be a
declaration of their approbation of consent to, or agreement with, the subject matter of such writing.
Now there are but two conceivable purposes for which subscriptions to articles of religion, can possibly be required- either—.
1. To procure an exact şiMILARITY of sentiment, a perfect UNITY of opinion, amongst those who chuse to become members of a particular Church-Or
2. To insure concord and agreement anjongst the subscribers, whilst they continue members of such Church, that so it may not be harassed by contentions, or torn by divisions, but may continue at peace and unity within itself.
Those who attend to the nature of the human mind, and the nature of the different sorts of truth, which it is fitted to attain, will see that exact similarity of sentiment, perfect uity or opinion, can only obtain in those sorts of knowledge, in which the ideas themselves, and the relations be.. tween these ideas, are precisely the same in every individual. But this perfect agreement in knowledge, is only found where this knowledge arises from those particular ideas, whose relations are discerned by intuition, or are made known by demonstration, or by the clear evidence of sense. Thus all mankind are exactly of the same opinion with respect to a proposition in Euclid ; there is no heterodoxy to be found in the conclusion of a demonstration. For in the formation of this species of ideas, the human will, or the human judgment, have no more concern, than they have in the formation of ideas received through the senses. But when our ideas arise from mere words, and knowledge is conveyed to us by human language, no precision naturally attends the signification of these words, or the information of this language ; because there is no natural connection between ideas, and words expressive of them. The application, or the extent of a metaphor, are subject to no rules; the meaning of a mixed mode is wholly arbitrary, Hence some sincere Christians understand our Lord's own words, Mat. xxvi. 26, 27, 28. Mark xiv. 22, 24. Luke xxii. 19, 20. 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25, in the literal sense ; and other no less sincere Christians understand the same words in a metaphorical sense. Insegnava Luthero (says Father Paul, Concilio Tridențino, Lib. I.) che le parole dette da' nostro Signore Giesu Christo, " Questo e il mio corpo,” debbiano essar ricevute in senso nudo & simplice ; & in contrario insegnava Zuinglio, che erano parole figurate, spiritualmente, & sacralmente, non carnalmente intese. Many very pious and learned men hold a passage in an inspired writer to be genuine. Many other equally pious, good, and learned men hold the same passage,
7, to be utterly spurious : wherever from the nature of the ideas, or the mode by which they are received, precision of knowledge is unattainable, judgment must be employed : but where judgment has place, nothing is more certain, that quot homines tot sententiæ, so many
1 John v.
decisions. A proverb which in this case, has the force of demonstration. We call those iruths alone certain in which all men agree. I conclude therefore from the nature of the ideas, and the mode, in which mankind become possessed of them, that uniformity of religious opinion, is as unattainable, as uniformity of faces, or uniformity of stature,
Nor does this seeming uncertainty in the attainment of truth, at all hinder that trial of our moral character, which may
for improvement in virtue. Whether mistaken or not, men can equally shew that their pursuit of, and their attachinent to, what they deem to be, truth, is not the effect of passion, prejudice, or any worldly interest ; and whatever they may accomplish; with such dispositions, and desires, they will certainly receive that comfortable commendation, “ Well done good and faithful servants,” Their labour may indeed be insignificant, but it cannot possibly be useless. Nov. 28, 1803.
THE AMARANTH; WITH A POSTSCRIPT.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE..
A volume of "Religious Poems” was put in my hands the other day, entitled “The AMARANTH.” It consists of " Fables, Visions, Emblems, &c.” and is adorned with numerous etchings. The frontispiece is a very fine print, etched by W. Hibbart, (a name altogether unknown to me,) after a painting by Annibale Carracci: the subject Divine Contemplation, expressed by a female figure treading on the head of a serpent, supporting the sacred volume and a palm branch on her knee, withi one hand, and pointing upwards with the other ; her elbow resting on an altar inscribed Sursum Corda. The book was printed for Robinson and Roberts, London, and Frederick, at Bath, in the year 1767.-I shall esteem it an obligation, if any of your correspondents will have the goodness to favour me with the author's name *. . His father seems to have been a non-juror; and minister of St. Mary Magdalen's Church, at Taunton; when Judge Jeffries, in 1685, tried at that town the unfortunate people concerned in Monmouth's rebellion. A note informs us that he remonstrated with the Judge against his severities; and that Jefferies “ listened to him calmly, and with some attention,” and though he had never seen him before, advanced him in a few months to a prebendal stall in the Cathedral Church of Bristol.- The author gives a portrait (etched) of his father, prefixed to "an Epistle to the Rev.Dr. Robert Hort,
The author was the Rev. Walter Harte, A. M. who wrote the History of Gustavus Adolphus, 2 vols. 4to. Essays on Husbandry, 8vo. and other pieces. He died in 1975. His father was also called Walter, and is mentioned in the appendix to Mr. Ket well's Life, as the deprived Vicar of Taunton Dean, and Prebendary of Bristol.-EDITOR.
Canon of Windsor ;" this epistolary Poem is called Macarius, or the Confessor. There is nothing peculiarly characteristic in the features of Macarius ; he is represented as habited in his gown and cassock, with a band, wearing his own hair, parted on the forehead, and falling, not ungracefully, down each side of the face. He was educated, I apprehend, at Pembroke College, Oxford ; as we may gather from the following lines, and the notes appended to them :
“His younger days were not in trisling spent,
Sincere in youth, and stedfast to the end.” I beg leave to transcribe another passage, in a note on which we have an intiination of something favourable to the character of that ungracious sovereign King William Ill.
“ B- (who is this ?) sometimes would to thy cottage tend ;
*“Mr. John Hall, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1667, and Rector of St. Aldate's, in the same University. Created D. D. in 1669 ;-elected Margaret Professor in 1676, and consecrated Bp. of Bristol the 12th of June, 1691. All which preferments he enjoyed together.”
t" Mr.Simon Harcourt, afterwards Lord Chancellor Harcourt, offered him a Bishoprick from Queen Ann, many years after the Revolution ; but the favour was declined with grateful acknowledgments.”
"Bishop Ken used to say that King William and Queen Mary, would gladly have permitted the non-juring Bishops and Clergy, (who had just before signalized themselves in a steady opposition to Popery) to have enjoyed their preferments till death, upon their parol of honour given, that they would never disturb the government which favour would have been thankfully accepted of, and complied with, by the aforesaid Bishops, &c. but somebody, here alluded to, [perhaps Burnet] (at least Ma. carius thought so,) traversed their Majesties' gracious intentions. In proof of this, Bishop Ken performed the funeral service.over Mr. Kettlewell, in ihe year 1695, and prayed for King William and Queen Mary.”'
“ Dr. George Hoofier. N.B. It must here also be remembered, that Dr. Beveridg? refused to succeed Bishop Ken, in 1691, and then the offer was made to A. Kidder, D.D.” Mr. John Kettlewell, Vicar of Coleshill, in Warwickshire.