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Art. V. The true Dignity of Human Nature, or Man viewed in
Relation to Immortality. By William Davis, Minister of the Croft
WE E owe an apology to the amiable and pious Author of this
volume for having omitted to notice it on its first appearance. It is certainly deserving of our cordial recommendation, being very pleasingly written, and well adapted to answer its purpose of counteracting some prevailing religious errors. The main de sign of the Writer seems to be, to put the reader on his guard against self deception in the all-important concern of his spiritual condition and prospects. We do not think the title happily chosen ; nor is the Author's purpose very distinctly intimated It will also detract from the inviting appearance of the book, that it is not broken into chapters or sections, but runs on continuously without a breathing place. This circumstance may seem immaterial, but it will not be found so in fact. Upon a subject which excites, confessedly, a small degree of interest in the bosoms of vast numbers, it is putting the perseverance of the reader to too severe a test, All that we can say is, that the perusal will repay the reader who is sufficiently in earnest and well pleased with his instructor to read to the end. The introductory paragraphs, which border, more than any other part, upon common place, might have been compressed with advantage to the work. We shall be glad to see these corrections introduced in a second edition, which, we should hope, has by this time been called for.
The admonitory cautions contained in the following paragraphs, will not be deemed unnecessary by any thoughtful Christian acquainted with the deceitfulness of his own heart.
Is there not a danger lest, in the midst of increasing efforts, and loud and repeated calls from societies, and from zealous individuals, for time, attention, and continued and persevering exertions, for the benefit of our neighbourhood, of our countrymen, and of the world ;lest in the hurry (if we may be allowed the expression) of religious secularities, the anxieties of directions, and of committees, the excitement of public meetings, and of public business—is there not a danger, lest the very nature of religion itself, as a personal thing, may be mistaken; and safety taken for granted, merely because a feeling of interest has been excited, on behalf of the progress of the Gospel in the world?
We may be allowed to suppose, that the minds of some are impressed with the dangerous idea, that something of merit attaches to all this activity, in which they participate ; while there are others who, fearing to regard their benevolent exertions as meritorions, are probably, too much inclined to look to this quarter for the most satisfactory evidence of their safety. There is certainly danger here. We refer not to the fact that many who have been at the greatest remove, both in title and in heart, from a right to the heavenly inheritance, and a qualification for the enjoyment of it, have been in every age, number
ed among the most zealous advocates of the truth. We refer not to party bigots, nor to the hot-headed, but cold hearted zeal which, like that of Jehu, has self for its object. But we allude to that love of exertion, which appears so natural to some; and to that delight in the approving smiles of our fellow-men, which comes with a charm so soothing on our self-complacent feelings. All this, so far as regards the true interest of our immortal souls, may leave us as wholly destitute of spiritual benefit, as it found us. Or it may have an effect positively injurious, it may inflate our minds with vanity and pride, and assimilate us to the character of the man, who with raised eye, bended knees, and a voice sufficiently audible, commended his piety to those who were around him: who received their applause ; and in that applause, had all the reward he sought, and even more than he deserved. It will be allowed that we have the highest authority for affirming that he adopts not the method appointed by divine wisdom and love for the salvation of the human soul, who seeks the honour that cometh from man in preference to that which descends from God.
• It becomes us therefore, to take heed that the interest which we feel on religious subjects in general, and in the progress of divine truth in particular, is of the right kind. We call that a spurious zeal for the honour of God, which does not begin with subduing sin, in the breast of him who is the subject of it: and we may denominate that zeal for the promotion of the Gospel, as not the most genuine, which expends its energies for the good of others, while it suffers the soul of the individual himself, to remain without the only satisfactory evidences of a state safe for eternity; with a heart lifted up; with evil passions unsubdued ; with a spirit at variance with that inculcated in the Gospel,—without humility, without spiritual peace and joy,--in a word, destitute of that mind which was in Christ Jesus the Lord. Separate from this character, no zeal will avail. To produce this, is one great design of the Gospel: and in every case, in which it is not discoverable, the life-giving power of the religion of the New Testament has not been experienced.
• We have thus ventured to intimate, that there is in the present day, a very great necessity for examination as to the state of individual character amongst the professors of religion. If we do not require less of the religion of the public meeting, we certainly should not be injured by more of the religion of the closet.' pp. 92-95.
The Author's remarks on assurance are, upon the whole, judicious and scriptural. We are especially pleased with the following remarks.
"There are two powerful emotions by which the mind of every genuine Christian is agitated. These are love and fear. Where love prevails, fear will be in abeyance. And where fear prevails, love will become cold. Love is the master principle of all holy obedience. It is called, by the sacred writer, the fulfilling of the law. Obedience, therefore, will correspond with the strength and exercise of this holy affection. If this becomes weakened, and its exercises are feeble, and frequently interrupted, obedience will fail, temptation become powerful, and sin, necessarily, ensue. God has placed in the bosom of all
his servants a principle of fear as will as of love : and where obedience, the necessary
effect of love, is absent, there fear will be present. Whether we term fear a gracious affection, though“ it have torment,” or a mere slavish emotion, its effect on the character and conduct of the backsliding and negligent professor, is unquestionably beneficial. Fear of the consequences of sin will induce abstinence from it; and fear of the indignation of God, will produce a desire to avert it. Where there is fear there will be pain ; but it is a pain which precedes the healing of the moral malady. And when the disease is removed, or in other words, when sin is abandoned, love will be in exercise ; and if there be a perfect exercise of this grace, it will banish fear. The apprehension of the consequences of sin
will cease, and there will be a well.grounded assurance that all the blessings of salvation are ours.
· Now we will venture to affirm, making all due allowance for the imperfection of our best services, and the sin that cleaves to our most holy duties, that where love abounds, and where obedience, the fruit of love is consequently found, that there, and there only, will the subject of this holy affection, enjoy a legitimate assurance of the divine favour. Under these circumstances, the Christian's mountain will be immoveable, the light of the divine countenance will be beheld, and peace and joy will dwell in the breast. But it is not a mere recollection of this enviable state of the mind and heart, together with a review of the corresponding practice with which it has been accompanied, that will give assurance and confidence to the bosom, if, at the period of this re. view, the affection and the practice be wanting: nor will any effort, on the part of the individual in such circumstances, to produce this consolatory assurance, be permanently successful. God has inseparably connected a holy frame of mind, and a righteous course of conduct, with scriptural confidence of an interest in the great salvation: and it will be a vain, as it is an unholy and antinomain endeavour, to seek to secure the latter, while concious to ourselves that we are destitute of the former. Bold abstractions, theoretical notions, subtle distinctions, sophistical reasonings, may amuse and impose on the intellect, but they will give no abiding solace to the heart.' pp. 163–165.
If we have any fault to find with the Author's theological statements, it is, that sufficient prominence is not given to the only source of all religion, Divine influence, and to the means of all religion, prayer. Habitual prayer is stated to be 'one great means of obtaining a consolatory assurance of our interest in the Divine favour'; but it is rather the means,
whatever else may be requisite to the attainment. The doctrine of Divine influence, the grand reconciler of all theological difficulties, the key-stone of the Christian system, is more particularly the best antidote to antinomianism, speculative or practical. This doctrine is clearly recognized in the present volume. We merely mean to suggest, that it does not stand out in due proportion. The genuine encouragement which it is adapted to afford to the sincere inquirer, or to the trembling, self-diffident, unassured believer, might have been exhibited without danger of fostering delusion ; and it would
have obviated the only objection to which, we think, the volume is open.
Art. VI. A Residence at the Court of London. By Richard Rush,
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America, from 1817 to 1825. 8vo. pp. 420.
London, 1833. IN N the unpretending form of a simple journal, Mr. Rush has
here presented to us a lively and interesting record of the impressions produced by his introduction, as American Minister, to the highest grade of English society, and by the observations which he had the opportunity of making upon our political and domestic institutions, the manners and customs, the wealth and greatness of England. A residence of nearly eight years in this country, he frankly avows, corrected many erroneous impressions he had previously taken up; and he has written this volume ' in the spirit of good feeling towards Britain, which may be
cherished by every American compatibly with his superior love ' for his own country,' and which, he expresses his belief, few Americans fail to cherish who stay here as long as he did. • Enough has been written and said on both sides to irritate.
My desire is,' says Mr. Rush, 'and such my effort, to soothe.' The volume is, indeed, well adapted to promote a cordial feeling between the intelligent classes in both countries. It displays a spirit of frank and manly courtesy towards the people of this country, which ought to shame us out of the illiberal jealousy and spirit of detraction which have been too often displayed towards the Americans. The Englishman may learn from this volume to appreciate more highly his own institutions; to estimate more justly the political and moral greatness of his own nation ; while he will at the same time be led to feel increased respect for that nation which, in all its essential characteristics, its laws, language, literature, religion, its spirit of freedom, commercial enterprise, and religious zeal, not only betrays its English origin, but is one with the people of England. What God has so united, let no one attempt to sunder.
Mr. Rush disclaims having attempted to scan all our institutions and character; but has merely thrown out brief and cursory reflections upon those portions which fell under his immediate observation. The opinions, he says, in which he feels most confidence, are those which refer to the wealth and power of England, and their steady augmentation. Since the time of his residence among us, great political changes have taken place ; but, adds Mr. Rush, I do not, at my distance, believe that 'any essential changes will yet have been produced by them, bearing upon the character or habits of the nation. Those
• when the growth of ages, alter slowly in any country. In Eng“ land, they will come about more slowly than in most countries.'
I went to England again in 1829. An interval of four years had elapsed; yet I was amazed at the increase of London. The Regent's Park, which, when I first knew the west-end of the town, disclosed nothing but lawns and fields, was not city. You saw long rows of lofty buildings, in their outward aspect magnificent. On this whole space was set down a population of probably not less than fifty or sixty thousand souls. Another city, hardly smaller, seemed to have sprung up in the neighbourhood of St. Pancras Church and the London University. Belgrave Square, in an opposite region, broke upon me with like surprise. The road from Westminster Bridge to Greenwich exhibited for several miles compact ranges of new houses. Finchley Common, desolate in 1819, was covered with neat cottages, and indeed
In whatever direction I went, indications were similar. I say nothing of Carlton Terrace, for Carlton House was gone, or of the street, of two miles, from that point to Park Crescent, surpassing any other in London, or any that I saw in Europe. To make room for this new and spacious street, old ones had been pulled down, of which no vestage remained. I could scarcely, but for the evidence of the senses, have believed it all. The historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire remarks, that the description, composed in the Theodosian age, of the many stately mansions in Rome, might almost excuse the exaggeration of the poet'; that Rome contained a multitude of palaces, and that each palace was equal to a city. Is the British metropolis advancing to that destiny ? Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and other provincial towns that I visited, appeared, on their smaller scales, to have increased as much.
• In the midst of it all, nearly every newspaper that I opened rang the changes upon the distress and poverty of England. Mr. Peel's bill banishing bank-notes under five pounds from circulation, had recently passed. There was great clamour-there is always clamour at something among this people. Prices had fallen---trade was said to be irrecoveraably ruined, through the over-production of goods. I have since seen the state of things at that epoch better described perhaps, as the result of an under-production of money. Workmen in many places were out of employ; there were said to be fourteen thousand of this description in Manchester. I saw portions of them walking along the streets. Most of this body had struck for wages. I asked how they subsisted when doing nothing. It was answered, that they had laid up funds by joint contributions among themselves whilst engaged in work. In no part of Liverpool or its extensive environs did I see pauperism ; the paupers for that entire district being kept within the limits of its poor-house ; in which recepticle I was informed there were fifteen hundred. I passed through the vale of Cheshire; I saw in that fertile district, in Lancashire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, appearances of wide-spread prosperity, in the lands, houses, canals, roads, public works, domestic animals, people-in every thing that the eye of the merely transient traveller took in.' pp. xi.xiii.