« PrécédentContinuer »
“ But it is urged that though the Gospel is above human aid, the poor and ignorant should be protected from sophistical and demoralizing works. I know of but one way of protecting the ignorant, and that is, by destroying igoorance by the diffusion of information. The best defence against sophistry is not its suppression, but its ré. futation. Danger from books implies ability to read those books, and he who can read one book, can read another ; he wbo can read Paine can read the Bible. The New Testament, originally addresse ed to the poor, is a continued appeal to the understanding ; its character is changed, if you make it any thing else. It knows nothing of implicit faith or blind obedience, and to make them its substitute is gross imposition. By the Toleration now allowed, the poor and ignorant, as they are called, are legally recognized as judges of the Trinitarian controversy, the Arminian controversy, the Episcopaliani controversy ; and surely not more ability is required for deciding on tbe merits of the Deistical controversy. Our Lord appealed to the poor on the divinity of his mission, and have we a less enlightened commonalty than Judea, sunk as it then was in ignorance and bigotry and barbarism ? Men forget the progress of society when they talk thus ; they forget what the art of printing, or even the diffusion of education and knowledge during the last twenty years has done for
There are but two things which can infidelize the poor of this country, and they are, the obstinate retention of the corruptions of Christianity, and the persecution of Deists. By those means perhaps it may be accomplished, for they and they alone, will rouse the best feelings of human nature against the name of Christianity.
“ The feelings of pious Christians are doubtless wounded by insulting language offered to all they revere. Let them meet it by a Christian spirit. Nothing will shew so well the heavenliness of their religion. Let them imbibe the spirit of the following beautiful re-, mark of Robinson ;- Is God dishonoured ? Imitate his conduct then. Does he thunder, does he lighten, does he afflict this poor man ? Bebold, bis sun enlightens his habitation, bis rain refreshes his fields, his gentle breeze fans and animates him every day, bis revelation lies always open before him, his throne of mercy
is ever accessible to him, and will you, rash Christian, will you mark him out for vengeance ? I fancy to myself a Christian, who has abetted a prosecution for infidelity, reading such a passage as this. Does not his heart sink within him at the incorrectness of the picture, an incorrectness produced by bis instrumentality? No, he may say, the sun does not enlighten his habitation; I have consigned him to a dungeon. The rain does not refresh his fields; I have invaded his property. His home does not smile ; I have filled it with mourning. Revelation is not open before him ; I have made him loathe the book, and done the utmost of a mortal to reverse the benignity of God.' Miserable man !"
The following is the concluding paragraph.
“ There is a more excellent way than prosecutions to convert Deişts and counteract their efforts. Christians, make your religion more defensible
not in itself, that cannot be, but as exhibited in your opinions and practices. In your absurd creeds, in your rapacious claims, in your unholy alliance with the state, in your bigotry and persecution, in your tenacity of what is untenable, and in your want of practical conformity with the pure morality of Christianity, lies all the strength of Unbelief. That mighty change effected, wbich must come, when the reign of Antichrist is over, all hostility will be disarmed, and the genuine Gospel, rising from the ruins of corruption, like the fabled Phenix in renewed youth from the funeral pile, shall spread its wings for a glorious flight, and urge its resistless course around the globe. The sword then broken, whether drawn for Christianity or against it, more celestial weapons, mighty through God, shall achieve the victory of Truth, and in the name of Jesus shall every knee bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.'”
We have thus done what we proposed towards making our readers acquainted with this sermon. Enough is laid before them to enable them to judge of its sentiments and style for themselves, and to render unnecessary any remarks of our own.
The Judgment, a Vision. By the Author of Percy's Masque.
New York. 1821. pp. 46.
PERCY's Masque easily placed its author in the very first rank of our poets. We considered it when it first appeared as the most perfect poetical production, with which native genius had presented us ; and we think so still. Certainly nothing has since been written, that renders its claim to this rank questionable. We admired the rich and classical simplicity of its style, its easy beauty of thought and manner, its freedom from all prosing and all extravagance, from every thing puerile and affected. We congratulated ourselves on having among us a writer, who had caught so largely the spirit of the purest and best times of English verse ; and have scarcely felt satisfied with the measured praise that has been passed upon him. Indeed it has been matter of wonder to us, that while so much commendation has been bestowed on short effusions and performances of an agreeable but irregular kind, or lavished on an indifferent story in rhyme, Nero Series-vol. III.
the public should have received with so little enthusiasm a work, which has done more than any other to vindicate and raise our poetical character.
In “The Judgment” we find the same manly and skilful hand that produced the Masque; but employed we think with less effect, and presenting more for a rigid criticism to censure. There is the same beautiful flow of language happily chosen and in every part full of meaning: there is the same gentle and elevated spirit pervading it:--but it is abrupt and disjointed in its several parts ; shapes come and pass like forms in a dream ; the interest is broken up amidst a variety of objects ; and the impression of the whole is vague and feeble. The Judgment, is in fact a collection of small pictures; exquisitely drawn and coloured, it is true, but having little connexion with each other, and sometimes as it appears to us quite misplaced. We have fine descriptions, sometimes sublime and gorgeous, sometimes tender and touching; but we are so hurried from one to another as to be fairly fatigued by the very moderate course of forty-six pages. We do not know whether our readers will think there is most of applause or of fault-finding in this. They may think of it as they please ; but it is no more than right to bear in mind, that the Judgment is the sketch of a vision, and not the ample order of a poem according to the rules. Perhaps, after all, the author has failed but in single point,—the choice of his subject. Not that it is too awful and solemn, and ought not to be approached ; but that it is too deep and high, and cannot be. The secret place of dark- : ness is that which it has chosen ; and this is more imposing than any drawn out scene which imagination can present. He confesses in a modest note the intrinsic difficulties of the theme : we go but one step further, and pronounce these difficulties insuperable. If he has fallen short of success, it is only where no one has ever succeeded ; and where-we venture to predict, though a work is just announced from the pen of Mr. Southey bearing almost the same title with that under review,-no one ever will be successful.
We have really not much to offer on this piece of some defects and a hundred beauties. We abstain on set purpose from saying any thing of its theology, and any minute criticism of its poetry might seem improper in a journal like ours. But from what has been said already, the author may be shaken a little in his opinion that "they who think the former objectionable, will not easily be pleased with the latter." He will exempt us at least from that censure ;-censure we call it ; for that is but a poor and narrow mind, which refuses to be stirred by the representations of genius and taste, and the sweet utterance of high thoughts, on account of mere differences of christian opinion.-We will give but an abstract of his design with a few passages ; at the same time assuring our readers, that the selection will not be of occa. sional bright and blooming spots out of a waste, but will exhibit a fair specimen of the whole.
The Vision is supposed to open itself upon the mind of the sleeping poet on a Christmas eve. A boundless plain is before him, in the midst of which a beautiful mountain rears itself, destined to become the seat of the world's judgment. A new light shines about him, there is a sound of wings and voices, and bright forms are descending.
“ Sudden a Seraph, that before them flew,
Pausing upon his wide-unfolded plumes,
Then follows, in a similar style of magnificence, a description of the celestial personages, who bear chief parts in " the wild pa. geant." And now the plain is filled with a countless multitude moving towards the mount :-it is universal mankind, raised from their dust to meet their award. Each comes in the garb and semblance of his earthly days, the prince in his purple, the warrior in his steel, and to the eye of the poet each countenance seems familiar and well-known. ter a basty glance at the mixed, tumultuous crowd, the poet presents to us single groups and distinguished individuals. We pass in quick transition from the Grecian philosophers to the apostles of our Lord; Adam and Cæsar are brought side by side ; we turn to the Virgin Mary from the bacchanal hue” of the son of Philip ; and the he. roes of our revolution are not far off from the monarchs of the East. Most of these sketches, taken by themselves, are of great beauty. The look of Cæsar is nobly conceived ; and Adam, his hyacinthine locks changed to gray, and the bloom of
Eden fled from his cheek, is an affecting figure though the author asks a question, which we do not know how to answer, when he inquires why Eve is absent from him at this awful season.
We cannot forbear showing our readers the picture of Joseph :
“ Not in the poor array of shepherds he,
Nor in the many coloured coat, fond gift
pp. 21, 22.
The description of Alexander is richly poetical; and that of the great king of Babylon is full of force; but we have no room to quote from either. The following is a part of what is said of the group of American patriots :
“ They were the Watchmen by an Empire's cradle
Whose youthful sinews show like Rome's ; whose head
This we confess, is splendid language ; but surely nothing could be more sadly out of place than such a panegyric. The feeling of national pride but ill mixes with the solemnities of judgment; and why speak of the growing greatness of an empire in the day when all the empires of the world shall be dust ?.
Enoch and Elijah now appear in a fiery chariot,