Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

But it contains much interesting information relating to the progress of evangelical religion in the Church, from this period, up to the close of the last century; and a series of biographical notices are given, which are serviceable for the purposes of reference. Some of these, however, are extremely meagre. The notice of the Rev. W. Grimshaw, for instance, is much too brief. But it is not our intention to pursue any

further our examination of the volume. It has afforded us some pleasure, by enabling us to retrace, though very imperfectly, the history of the period, and we only wish that it had been more competently executed.

Art. VI. Testimonies to the Truths of Natural and Revealed Religion :

extracted from the Works of distinguished Laymen. By the Rev. James Brewster, Minister of Craig, and Author of “ Lectures on Christ's Sermon on the Mount.” 12mo. pp. 380. Price 5s, 6d.

Edinburgh. 1822. DUGALD

STEWART has remarked, that ' authorities are

not arguments.' It would be more correct, perhaps, to say, that authorities are not proofs ; for the argument which authorities supply, is good, when properly conducted. That a thing is probable, is surely an argument for believing it. Now a probability in favour of the truth of a thing, is furnished by the very circumstance of its having been believed by competent judges ; because that belief must have had some evidence or some appearance of truth, on which to found itself. In the absence of any contra-probability, the presumption is very strong that the thing is true; and we are accustomed to act, in a thousand instances, upon such a presumption. Authorities are a species of testimony; and testimony is evidence, which, though not demonstrative, is capable of reaching almost the force of demonstration. The influence of authorities is, therefore, derived from the reason of the thing,—although it is often yielded to without reasoning about it, owing to that principle in our nature which impels us to conform ourselves to example. Those who blindly yield to authorities, act on this principle of imitation: their actions and their creed are determined by mere example. In this case, the influence of authorities may be delusive and mischievous, as precluding examination, and as leading to an implicit, indolent, irrational faith. Their true use is, to arrest attention, and to direct inquiry to the proper sources of evidence. But, inasmuch as they possess only the force of probabilities and presumptions, authorities, whether in religion or in science, can never be admitted to outweigh direct proofs on the opposite side.

The incalculable mischief which is attributable to a slavish deference to human authorities in matters of religion, has led some individuals to reject the argument drawn from them as altogether useless. But the evil has arisen from the mistaken use of the argument. It is our duty in religion to examine the Scriptures for ourselves. The use of arguments drawn from authorities and examples, is, to induce men to do so; to preclude that contempt for the truth prior to examination, which infidels generally discover. That Bacon, and Newton, and Milton believed, is no sufficient reason for my believing ; but it is an unanswerable argument against the wisdom of my rejecting without examination what they found reason for believing. It shews at least the irrationality of that flippant infidelity which rests satisfied without devout inquiry. To disbelieve, ought to require, in such matters, as strong reasons as to believe. "But he who disbelieves without examination, disbelieves without reason.

Authorities, then, prove the probability, though not the truth of a thing; and this is all that we want them to prove in the argument with an infidel. For, if he be once brought to think Christianity probable, he has the strongest rational motive to examine whether it be not indeed true. And that inquiry, the proper evidence of Christianity will not fail to satisfy.

But the infidel has authorities on his own side, to which he appeals, and to which he discovers an adherence not less fond, and implicit, and enslaving, than that which he is apt to ridicule in the subjects of priestcraft. Admitting the force of those anthorities, although it might be shewn that they can never have that force on the negative side of a question, which they have on the positive,-yet, give to them, those wise and learned authorities of irreligion and infidelity, all the weight we have attributed to the opposite authorities; yet, if the individual disbelieves on the simple ground of their disbelief, he is obviously acting upon a mere possibility, that the thing may be false, upon a mere presumption against it, founded on its having been disbelieved ; is acting as if it were proved to be so. If he stops here without satisfying himself that it is false, he is acting not less servilely and more irrationally, than the person who believes on the strength of a mere presumption, without troubling himself to examine the direct evidence. The disbelief of learned infidels may be a good reason for not believing without examination; as the belief of learned Christians is a good reason for not rejecting without examination. But the former can be no reason for not believing, much less for not examining ; just as the latter is not the reason for our belief, but only for our devout and humble inquiry.

The infidel tacitly admits the force of authorities, when he endeavours to evade or nullify the force of a very large class of them, those of the clerical advocates of Divine truth, by referring their belief or their zeal to personal interest or professional prejudice. We are chiefly indebted to National Establishments and richly endowed National Priesthoods, for the force of this prejudice, which has been incalculably strengthened by the dogmatism and intolerance of too many individuals of the order. But it is only, in fact,' as Mr. Brewster remarks, • the very weakness of resting upon authorities more than upon reasons, that can account for this reluctance to allow their full weight to the statements of the professional teachers of religion; and the only effectual mode of counteracting these latent objections, (for they are such as many are ashamed to acknowledge, while they are acting under their influence,) is to produce that very species of authority which they are so much disposed to follow

the authority of great names.'

This will explain Mr. Brewster's design in undertaking this compilation, which has evidently cost him considerable pains. The plan of the work will be better understood from the following extract from the Preface.

• The passages here brought together are of two very different descriptions; the one class consisting of the concessions of deistical writers, and the other containing the testimonies of avowed believers in Christianity. It was once intended to distribute them in separate divisions. But this plan, besides having an insidious appearance, would have been attended with various inconveniences; and, particularly, would have required a complete repetition of nearly the same heads of chapters and sections. With regard to the arrangement of the extracts, as they now stand, it will be obvious, that their place in the volume was necessarily regulated by the principal subject on which they touched ; and that it would have been impossible, without greatly mangling a passage, and weakening its impression, or even altering its import, to have excluded every sentence which referred to other topics. Many of these passages, therefore, might have been placed with almost equal propriety, under different titles or sections ; but it is hoped, that they are in general so distributed as to carry on a series of illustrations, and to form as natural a connexion, in a sort of system, as detached portions of different works could well be expected to preserve.'

The general heads under which the extracts are arranged are as follow:

Chapter I. Testimonies to the irrational nature and injurious effects of atheism, scepticism, and irreligion. II. Testimonies to the Principles of Morals, and the foundation of Virtue. III. Testi.

monies to the Principles of Natural Religion. IV. Testimonies to the general importance of religious Belief. y. Testimonies to the particular uses of Religion—as a bond of society as a rule of con. duct—as a source of consolation. VI. Testimonies to the connexion of religious sentiments and virtuous conduct with Happiness. VII. Testimonies to the Evidences and Excellence of Christianity, VIII. Testimonies to the general doctrines of Christianity. IX. Testimonies to the particular doctrines of Revelation : 1. the existence of spiritual beings; 2. the Trinity; 3. human depravity, 4. the evil and penalty of sin; 5. man's incapability of claiming merit with God; 6. the mediation and atonement of Christ ; 7. salvation by the grace of God; 8. repentance and conversion. X. Testimonies to the Duties of Christianity. Appendix : 1. traditionary and historical Testimonies to the truth of Scripture History ; 2. physiological and d.geoca logical Testimonies to the Mosaic account of the Creation ; 3. mis

101 97 26 OW 100 AUTO cellaneous extracts.'

pisco Byrosi The public are, we think, much indebted to Mr. Brewster for the labour bestowed on this very judicious and interesting collection, which cannot fail to do essential service, Jasnio susil-4

[graphic]

Art. VII. Narrative of a Voyage round the World, in the Uranie and

Physicienne Corvettes, commanded by Captain Freycinet, during the Years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820; on a scientific Expedition undertaken by Order of the French Government. In a Series of Letters to a friend. By J. Arago, Draftsman to the Expedition. With 26 Engravings. To which is prefixed, the Report made to the Academy of Sciences, on the general Results of the Expe. dition. 4to. pp. 586. Price 81. 13s. 6. London. 1823. M.ARAGO plays a little the Gascon when he says,

• There is scarcely a midshipman in our navy (the French) who could not now, if required, steer a vessel to

Kamtschatka, to Otaheite, or to New Zealand ;' but he is not far from right when he adds, that the Pacific Ocean has

been so frequently explored, that it is almost better known, and certainly less dangerous than the Mediterranean. A voyage round the world is no longer a novelty or a tale of wonder; but, in the hands of a Frenchman, the narrative of such a tour cannot fail to be in a high degree entertaining. This "merit certainly attaches to the present volume. Its Author displays all the mercurial liveliness of the national character, in the vivacity of his descriptions and of his petits sentiments : it is some drawback :, on this captivating quality, that he is often very flippant, and sometimes very nasty, which is fully accounted for by his having grafted the morals of a sailor on the habits of a Frenchman. During a three

years' voyage, he became acquainted,' as he tells us, with nuVol. XX. N. S.

F

[ocr errors]

• merous tribes, hunted with the Brasilian and the Guanche,

danced with the negroes of Africa, and slept under the hut • of the Sandwich islander. I participated,' he adds, in the • festivals of these children of nature,' I sat at their hospitable • tables, and, every where welcomed, I every where contri.

buted my share by a cheerful gayety or the present of some • European trifles. Unfettered by the rigid shackles of morality, this all-accommodating citizen of the world found no difficulty in adapting himself and shaping his gallantries to his company, of whatever colour or_character. No one goes through the world so easily as a Frenchman; and he must, therefore, needs be the best man to go round it,--an adventure sometimes accomplished with less difficulty.

Our Author was, as set forth in the title-page, the draftsman attached to the Expedition, and his sketches are the most interesting and perhaps valuable part of the work. They are extremely spirited and characteristic; sometimes, we suspect, a little outstepping the tameness of nature for the sake of gaining effect, yet, substantially accurate, and forming a good index to the most important contents. As we cannot recommend the work to our readers, on account of its perpetual and flagrant indelicacy, we shall endeavour to give the substance of the information which it comprises.

The Uranie sailed from Toulon in Sept. 17, 1817, and reached Rio Janeiro, Dec. 6. where the Commander devoted nearly two months to observations on the pendulum and compass. Between sixty and seventy pages are occupied with a description of the Brazilian capital and the manners of its inhabitants, of which it may be enough to state, that it entirely coincides with the account given by Mr. Luccock* and other English travellers. It is, however, gratifying to find a Frenchman speaking with horror of the slave-trade, and of the atrocious cruelty with which the negroes are treated. At the period of his visit, Rio contained, according to his statement, 120,000 souls, of whom five sixths were purchased slaves ; and fifty vessels were engaged in the trade. It is still considered he says, “as problematical whether the negroes are men or • brutes : they are employed as the first, but beaten like the • latter.' The problem has been solved at St. Domingo.

• I have seen-yes, I have myself seen,' says M. Arago,' two young ladies whose countenances wore the expression of mildness and benevolence, endeavour, by way of pastime, to cut, at a certain distance with a whip, the face of a negro, whom they had ordered

. See Eclectic Review, Vol. XVI. p. 193.

« ForrigeFortsett »