Obrazy na stronie

must have its cause. How absurdly as well as impiously do those reason, who would deny that that cause may be, and often is, supernatural and Divine !

Admitting, as we readily do, that bodily feelings often determine the varying force of our emotions, and even give a colouring to our thoughts,--and that changes which seem purely mental, are often in fact, transitions from disease to health ;-admitting, too, that it is impossible to discriminate between the different sources of our mental emotions, or to draw the line between what is of a moral and what of a constitutional nature ;-still, as our whole nature is the workmanship of one Divine Hand, of Him who knoweth our frame, it matters little, as regards either the First Cause or the final design of such impressions, whether the second cause be simple or complex, partly physical or purely moral. There is a propensity in too many persons to fall into the atheistic notion of the philosopher who, maintaining that God is the name we give to every unknown cause, imagined that by every fresh link in the chain of causes which he could discover in Nature, that unknown cause was removed further back, less and less necessity and scope being left for its operation, till at length the progress of knowledge would exclude the agency of God from his own universe, and annihilate the idea of Deity. Without going this length of absurdity, philosophers and moralists are too apt to imagine that supernatural agency is excluded in proportion to the ascertained operation of natural causes ; than which there cannot be a more pernicious mistake. Whether

of God be more or less immediate, whether the instrumental cause be known or unknown, mechanical or moral, external or internal, affecting primarily the body or the mind, the First Cause devoutly to be recognised, is the same. "All these things worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, as he wills."

One word more on this subject. Prayer has no other rational foundation than the belief, which men are so slow to entertain, that there is an immediate and reciprocal communication between their minds and the Father of Spirits, by which they are enabled to approach his presence, and He has access to the inmost recesses of their nature. This fact. being established, nothing remains to be accounted for, except that the results should so little correspond to it in the experience of Christians in general ; and this is no difficulty to any person who knows his own heart, for he finds its solution there.

Perhaps it may be thought, that we have taken unnecessary pains in thus commenting on the expressions which suggested our remarks; but it is evident that Miss Taylor referred the

the agency

consolation thus iinparted to her mind, to the immediate operation of Divine influence, (and that it was so, we have no doubt) we deemed it a proper occasion to place so important a subject in its proper light. The elation of feeling in time subsided, but the view which produced it was never lost; and as it answered its immediate purpose, and incited her to the fulfilment of a long delayed duty, so it gave place only to a settled hope, which secured her from any future distress.. It deserves to be mentioned, however, that she ascribes the first removal of her difficulties to the sentiments contained in a letter from a pious friend. · I saw,' she says, “how absurd it • was to doubt the promise of God, and that it was in respect • to these very difficulties that he says, “ Seek, and ye shall, “ find."' But what difficulties, it may be asked, could disturb such a mind as that of Jane Taylor, apart from her constitutional timidity? Her Biographer must answer this.

• The doubts that at times distressed her, took their rise, for the most part, from the high notions she had formed of the requirements of Christianity. Her frequent expressions were such as these: “I have no doubt as to the way of salvation ;-it lies upon the surface of the Scriptures, and appeals with the force of truth to every heart that is humbled by the conviction of personal guilt. But those who shall receive the benefit of this free salvation, and who shall be accounted worthy to stand before the throne,' are those who on earth are meet for heaven, by being truly like Christ :-and am I-are the mass of those of whom we are accustomed to think well-are they like Christ?”.)

In fact, her difficulties appear to have been occasioned by a high-toned sincerity and ardour of feeling, leading her to view

with self-distrust what she deemed the low degree of her spiritual attainments. On a mind of less sensibility and a frame less delicate, these same difficulties and misgivings would have had no other effect than that of a salutary stimulus, producing a humility free from despondency, a solicitude never amounting to distress. Her views seem to have been altogether clear, practical, and in themselves conducive to right feeling, -such, indeed, as are held in common by thousands of sincere Christians who are but just made to move by the considerations with which her mind seems to have been overwrought. That such views should for a long time have counteracted the influence of the Christian hope, which at length triumphed over every constitutional infirmity, must be ascribed to that morbid vividness of imagination which is so often the fatal prerogative and penalty of genius, combined with an organization too fragile to sustain the force of its own emotions. • Happily for VOL. XXV. N. S.


[ocr errors]

' herself,' says her Brother, my sister's imagination, which,

throughout her life, had been too much alive to ideas of

terror, seemed in a great degree quelled (towards the last) by • the langours of disease. Thus her mind was relieved from · those unreal fears which otherwise might have possessed her • thoughts in the near approach of death.' For many months, she had the last enemy steadily in view, and must have been able almost to watch his approach, and hear his footstep drawing nearer; but all apprehension and distrust were gone. The last day but one before she died, she said: 'I am now quite happy-as happy as my poor frame will bear.'

Of her Biographer, we need say nothing, but that a large circle of friends, and indeed all who knew Jane Taylor either personally or in her works, will feel under lasting obligations to him for the well drawn portrait and valuable memorial which he has presented to them of his accomplished Sister.

Art. V. The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul; by P.

Doddridge, D.D. With an Introductory Essay, by John Foster. 12mo. Price 6s. pp. 627. Glasgow. 1825. *HIS is one of the very valuable series of Select Christian

• Authors' now in course of publication from the Glasgow Press, and which, we believe, owes its origin to the recommendatory suggestion of Dr. Chalmers. Some of the introductory addresses, which form a distinguishing feature of the work, are of permanent worth. Mr. Erskine's, in particular, are marked by all the peculiar richness and piquancy of his style of thought and composition. But in all respects of originality and impressiveness, the · Essay before us must stand alone. It occupies more than a hundred and sixty pages of the volume, and exhibits, in undiminished excellence, the same extraordinary faculty of unborrowed conception, with even superior powers of vivid representation. The character of this striking production is essentially dramatic, though the forms of monologue and dialogue are not preserved ; and we have been not a little reminded of Randolph's Muse's Looking-glasse, by the succession of characters and scenes which it causes to pass before the intellectual eye. A higher praise, must, however, be assigned to it, than that which belongs to the successful exertion of talent on subjects of common interest. The great concern is never lost sight of, and circumstances of slight import and unheeded occurrence are made the vehicles of profound reflection and impressive adnonition.

• There are more ways to derive instruction from books, than the direct and chief one, of applying the attention to what they contain. Things connected with them, by natural or casual association, will sometimes suggest themselves to a reflective and imaginative reader, and divert him into secondary trains of ideas. In these the mind may, indeed, float along in perfect indolence, and acquire no good; but a serious disposition might regulate them to a profitable result.

• Of these extraneous ideas, the most obviously occurring, as being the most directly associated with the book, may be some recollections or conjectures concerning the author. Perhaps the most remarkable circumstances of his life and qualities of his character are well known. Some of these may come on the reader's mind, suspend his attention to the written thoughts, and draw him away into meditation on the person, perhaps now no longer on earth, who once thought them, and deliberately put them in the words just seen on

the page.

• Sometimes the conjectural reference to the former possessors

and readers of books, seems to be rendered a little less vague, by our finding at the beginning of an old volume, one or more names written, in such characters, and perhaps accompanied with such dates, that we are assured those persons must long since have done with all books. The name is generally all we can know of him who inserted it ; but we can thus fix on an individual as actually having possessed this volume; and perhaps there are here and there certain marks which should indicate an attentive perusal. What manner of person was he? What did he think of the sentiments, the

passages, which I see that he particularly noticed? If there be opinions here which I cannot admit, did he believe them? If there be counsels here which I deem most just and important, did they effectually persuade him? Was his conscience, at some of these passages,

disturbed or calm ? In what manner did he converse on these subjects with his associates ? What were the most marked features of his character, what the most considerable circumstances of his life, in what spirit and expectations did he approach and reach its close ? The book is perhaps such a one as he could not read, without being cogently admonished that he was going to his great account; he went to that account ; how did he meet and pass through it! This is no vain reverie. He, the man who bore and wrote this name, did go, at a particular time, though unrecorded, to surrender himself to his Judge. But I, who handle the book that was his, and observe his name, and am thus directing my thoughts into the dark after the


toward the same tribunal, when it will be proved, to my joy or sorrow, whether I have learned true wisdom from my books, and from my reflections on those who have pos. sessed and read them before.'

From this primary idea of the casual associations connected with the mere tangible substance of a book, Mr. Foster leads the reader forward through an ascending train of speculations,

man, I also

sometimes attractive by their ingenuity, and sometimes almost 'oppressive by their awful bearing on actual experience, up to considerations of the most overwhelming importance in their application to life, death, and eternity. The book-its Author -his character, as contrasted or illustrated by his writingshis motives-his influence for good or evil-all these, with their collateral and incidental elucidations, pass in review, and are followed up by a lively and heart-searching representation of the process of thought and feeling which might be supposed to take place in the minds of different individuals when brought in contact with such a book as the Rise and

Progress. The unbeliever' is left without excuse for his contempt and gainsaying, and convicted, on his own chosen ground of argument, of weakness and self-contradiction. Ingenuous, but thoughtless and dissipated youth, is addressed in language of a different kind, but equally cogent. ... If, nevertheless, you are still positive in the resolution that you will devote your attention to religion at a more advanced period, I would represent to you, that what you are meanwhile losing, is not merely so much time. You deem there is a peculiar value and charm in this prime of your life, so that you rejoice you are not old, nor middle-aged. You do so even independently of any direct thought of being so much further off from the latter end. And what is this so valued peculiarity of youth? Doubtless it is the plentitude of life, the vigour and elasticity of body and mind, the quickness of apprehension, the liveliness of emotion, the energy of impulse to experiment and

daring. Now consider under what signal advantage with respect to the subsequent progress, religion would commence its course in the strength of these animated forces. It would be like taking a steed of fire for some noble enterprise, instead of one already tamed with time and labour, or nearly worn down. You would thus be borne onward a greater length before the vigour of nature begins to remit, and would have acquired a principle of impulsion to advance, after that peculiar vigour should have ceased. Your youth at leaving you would seem to send its spirit forward with you. The religious career thus commencing, would have all the advantage which a stream, of vast length of course, acquires from rising and running its first stage on the

slope of a lofty mountain, as compared with that which is put in motion on a tract little better than flat, and creeps heavily on for want of such an impulse from its origin. So important is it to the progress of religion, that it should have the utmost benefit from its rise.

• Do not practise any dissimulation with yourself on the subject. In making the resolution that sometime (and, now, honestly, is not that a time willingly regarded as far off?) that sometime you will apply yourself to religion, you plainly intend that you will not be religious, ihat you

will be estranged from religion till then. But, in resolving that it shall not command you, you necessarily must wish that neither

« PoprzedniaDalej »