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With the exception of Clarke and Butler, we could not easily name any of the Establishment, since the time above specified, who have decidedly carried forward the human intellect.
The latter of these is, indeed, a great name, notwithstanding the alleged obscurities of his style, and worthy to be enrolled among the master spirits of the human race. In regard to commentators, whose function, as commonly executed, holds a second rank in theology, the English Church, since the time of Hammond, bas produced none of much value, except Bishop Pearce. sume that she will not lay claim to the heretical Locke, who carried into the interpretation of the Scriptures the same force of thought, as into the philosophy of the mind; or to Whitby, whose strenuous Arminianism, as Orthodoxy would reproachingly say, tapered off into that most suspicious form of Christianity-Uni. tarianism! We have not yet named two of the most illustrious intellectual chiefs of the Church, Warburton and Horsley. Their great power, we most readily own; but Warburton is generally acknowledged to have wasted his mind, and has left no impression of himself on later times; whilst Horsley, though he has given us striking, if not judicious, sermons, in a style of unusual vigour, cannot be said to have communicated, in any respect, a new impulse to thought; and in biblical criticism, to which he was zeal. ously devoted, he is one of the last authorities on which a sound mind would lean. To Bishops Lowth and Sherlock we cheerfully acknowledge our obligations; and we question, whether the latter has ever yet received his due praise. We fear, that a higher place is given to Bishop Horne and his disciple Jones. The rank which these writers hold, does not testify favourably to the intellectual progress of the English Church. It is as dark an omen, as the value attached by the Calvinistic Dissenters to such writers as the Rev. Messrs. Scott and Newton. The piety of these men, we honour; but what must posterity think of the illumination of an age, which numbers these among its brightest lights! We have not forgotten, though we have not named, Tillotson, Secker, and Porteus. They are all worthy of remembrance, especially Secker, the clear and wise expounder of Christian ethics; but they added little or nothing to the stock which they received. It may be thought, that we have not been just to the Establishment, in passing over Paley. He has our sincere admiration. On one great topic, which indeed has been worthily treated by many of the clergy, we mean that of Christian evidence, he has shed new light. By felicity of arrangement and illustration, he has given an air of novelty to old arguments, whilst he has strengthened his cause by important original proofs. His Horæ Paulinæ is one of the few books destined to live. Paley saw what he did see, through an atmosphere of light. He seized on the strong points of his subject with an intuitive sagacity, and has given his clear, bright thoughts, in a style which has made them the property of, his readers, almost as perfectly as they were his own. In what, then, did he fail? We have said, that he was characterized by the distinctness of his vision. He was not, we think, equally remarkable for its extent. He was popular, rather than philosophical.
He was deficient in that intellectual thirst, which is a chief element of the philosophical spirit. He had no irrepressible desire to sound the depths of his own nature, or to ascend to wide and all-reconciling views of the works and ways of God. Moral philosophy he carried backward, nor had he higher claims in reli. gious, than in ethical science. His sermons are worthy of all praise, not indeed for their power over the heart, but for their plain and strong expositions of duty, and their awakening appeals to the conscience.
We leave this topic, with observing, that in the noblest branch of history, we mean Christian or ecclesiastical history, the English Church has not furnished a single distinguished name. We have one mournful and decisive proof of this deficiency. The vast majority of English readers learn what they know of the progress and fortunes of their religion, from its foe and insulter-from Gibbon, the apostle of unbelief. The history of Christianity, the most important and sublime theme in this province of literature, has, as yet, found no writer to do it justice, none to be compared with the great names in civil history. The mightiest revolution in the records of our race, remains to be worthily told. We doubt, indeed, whether the true character, style, and extent of the work which is needed, are, as yet, comprehended. That the same rigorous impartiality, the same spirit of philosophical research into causes and effects, is to be carried into religious as into civil history, is imperfectly understood. The records of particular sects and churches, instead of exhausting this great subject, are, perhaps, subordinate parts. We want to know the great conflict between Christianity and Heathenism, and the action and reaction of these systems on one another. We want to know the influences of Christianity on society, politics, manners, philosophy, and literature, and the modifications which it has received in return from all these mighty agents. We know not where history can find a nobler field for its graphic powers, than in the chivalrous ages of Christianity; nor can it find, in its whole range over the past, a subject so fitted, as the spread and fortunes of this religion, to its great end, which is, to throw light on the nature and powers of man, and to carry us deep into the human soul. When is this greatest and most lamentable chasm in our literature, to be supplied?
We have cited the English Church as a proof of the unproductiveness of the intellect in religion, and of the barrenness of theological literature. Had we time, we might find corroborations in other seets. In truth, a paralyzing influence bas been working mightily for ages in the Christian world; and we ought not to wonder at its results. Free action has been denied to the mind, and freedom is an essential condition of growth and power. A fettered limb moves slowly, and operates freely. The spirit pines away in a prison; and yet to rear prison-walls round the mind has been the chief toil of ages. The mischiefs of this intellectual bondage, are, as yet, we conceive, but imperfectly known, and need to be set forth with a new eloquence. If, as we believe, progress be the supreme law of the soul, and the very aim of its creation, then no wrong can be inflicted on it so grievous, as to bind it down everlastingly to a fixed, unvarying creed, especially if this creed was framed in an age of darkness, crime, and political and religious strife. This tyranny is pre-eminently treason against human nature. If growth be the supreme law and purpose of the mind, then the very truth which was suited to one age, may, if made the limit of future ones, become a positive evil; just as the garment in which childhood sports with ease and joy, would irritate and deform the enlarging frame.
God having framed the soul for expansion, has placed it in the midst of an unlimited universe, to receive fresh impulses and impressions without end; and man, “dressed in a little brief authority,' would sever it from this sublime connexion, and would shape it after his own ignorance, or narrow views. The effects are as necessary as they are mournful. The mind, in proportion as it is cut off from free communication with nature, with revelation, with God, with itself, loses its life, just as the body droops, when debarred from the fresh air and the cheering light of heaven. Its vision is contracted, its energies blighted, its movement constrained. It finds health, only in action. It is perfect, only in as far as it is self-formed. Let us not be misapprehended. We mean not to deny, that the mind needs the aid of human instruction, from the cradle to the grave; but this it needs as a material to act upon, and not as a lesson to be mechanically learned. The great aim of instruction should be, to give the mind the consciousness and free use of its own powers. The less of instruction the better, if it only propose to engender a slavish dependence, and an inert faith. The soul often owes its best acquisitions to itself. They come to it from glimpses of its own nature, which it cannot trace to human teaching from the whispers of a divine voice-from stirrings and aspirations of its own unfolding and unbounded energies from the indistinct dawning of new truths-or from the sudden brightening of old truths, which, if left to act freely, work a mighty revolution within. Against these inspirations, if so they may be called, which belong to the individual, and which are perpetually bursting the limits of received ideas, the spirit of religious tyranny wages its chief and most unrelenting war. It dreads nothing so much as a mind, in which these diviner mo. tions manifest themselves in power. That it should have so succeeded in checking and stifling them, is one of the very mournful reflections forced on us by human history. We have here one great cause of the sterility of theological literature. Religion, by being imposed as a yoke, has subdued the faculties, which it was meant to quicken; and, what is most worthy of remark, like all other yokes, it has often excited a mad resistance, which has sought compensation for past restraints, in licentiousness, and disgraced the holy name of freedom, by attaching it to impiety and shameless excess.
A great subject has led us far from our author. We return to him with pleasure. We welcome, as we have said, a book from Fenelon; and we do so, because, if not a profound, he was an original thinker, and because, though a Catholic, he was essentially
free. He wrote from his own mind, and seldom has a purer mind tabernacled in flesh. He professed to believe in an infallible Church; but he listened habitually to the voice of God within bim, and speaks of this in language so strong, as to have given the Quakers some plea for ranking him among themselves. So little did he confine himself to established notions, that he drew upon himself the censures of his Church, and, like some other Christians whom we could name, bas even been charged with a refined Deism. His works have the great charm of coming fresh from the soul. He wrote from experience; and hence, though he often speaks a language which must seem almost a foreign one to men of the world, yet he always speaks in a tone of reality. That he has excesses, we mean not to deny; but they are of a kind which we regard with more than indulgence, almost with admiration. Common fanaticism, we cannot away with; for it is essentially vulgar, the working of animal passions, sometimes of sexual love, and oftener of earthly ambition. But when a pure mind errs, by aspiring after a disinterestedness and purity not granted to our present infant state, we almost reverence its errors; and still more, we recognise in them an essential truth. They only anticipate and claim too speedily the good for which man was made. They are the misapprehensions of the inspired prophet, who hopes to see in his own day, what he was appointed to promise to remoter ages.
Fenelon saw far into the human heart, and especially into the lurkings of self-love. He looked with a piercing eye through the disguises of sin. But he knew sin, not, as most men do, by bitter experience of its power, so much as by his knowledge and experience of virtue. Deformity was revealed to him by his refined perceptions, and intense love of moral beauty. The light which he carried with him into the dark corners of the human heart, and by which he laid open its most hidden guilt, was that of celestial goodness. Hence, though the severest of censors, he is the most pitying. Not a tone of asperity escapes, him. He looks on human error with an angel's tenderness, with tears which an angel might shed, and thus reconciles and binds us to our race, at the very moment of revealing its corruptions.
That Fenelon's views of human nature were dark, too dark, we learn from almost every page of his writings; and at this, we cannot wonder. He was early thrown into the very court, from which Rochefoucauld drew his celebrated Maxims, perhaps the spot, above all others on the face of the earth, distinguished and disgraced by selfishness, hypocrisy, and intrigue. When we think of Fenelon in the palace of Louis XIV. it reminds us of a seraph sent on a divine commission into the abodes of the lost; and when we recollect that in that atmosphere he composed his Telemachus, we doubt whether the records of the world furnish stronger evidence of the power of a divine virtue, to turn temptation into glory and strength, and to make even crowned and prosperous vice, a means of triumph and exaltation. Another cause of Fenelon's unjust views of human life, may be found, we think, in his profession. All professions tend to narrow and obscure
the intellect, and none more than that of a priest. We know not, indeed, a nobler or more useful function, than that of the Chris. tian minister; bat superstitious notions and an imagined sanctity, have severed him more or less from his race, especially in a Church which dooms him to celibacy; and from this unnatural, insulated position, it is impossible for him to judge justly of his kind. We think, too, that Fenelon was led astray by a very common error of exalted minds. He applied too rigorous and unvarying a standard to the multitude. He leaned to the error of expecting the strength of manhood in the child, the harvest in seed-time. On this subject, above all others, we feel that we should speak cautiously. We know that there is a lenity towards human deficiencies, full of danger; but there is, too, a severity far more common, and perhaps more ruinous. Human nature, as ordinarily exhibited, merits rebuke; but whoever considers the sore trials, the thick darkness, the impetuous will, the strong passions, under which man commences his moral probation, will temper rebuke with pity and hope. There is a wisdom, perhaps the rarest and sublimest attainment of the intellect, which is at once liberal and severe, indulgent and unbending; which makes merciful and equitable allowance for the innocent infirmities, the necessary errors, the obstructions and temptations of human beings, and at the same time asserts the majesty of virtue, strengthens the sense of accountableness, binds on us self-denial, and points upward, with a never-ceasing importunity, to moral perfection as the great aim and only happiness of the human soul. We will not say that Fenelon was a stranger to this broad, comprehensive wisdom, but we cannot name it as his chief distinction.
We have said that we welcome the book under consideration, because it came from so pure and gifted a mind. We add, that we do not welcome it the less for coming from a Catholic. Perhaps we prize it the more; for we wish that Protestantism may grow wiser and more tolerant, and we know not a better teacher of these lessons than the character of Fenelon. Such a man is enough to place within the pale of our charity, the whole body to which he belonged. · His virtue is broad enough to shield his whole Church from that unmeasured, undistinguishing reprobation with which Protestant zeal has too often assailed it. Whoever remembers, that the Catholic communion numbers in its ranks more than one hundred millions of souls, probably more than all other christian churches together, must shudder at the sentence of proscription, which has sometimes been passed on this immense portion of human beings. It is time that greater justice were done to this ancient and wide-spread community. The Catholic Church has produced some of the greatest and best men that ever lived, and this is proof enough of its possessing all the means of salvation. Who, that hears the tone of contempt, in which it is sometimes named, would suspect that Charlemagne, Alfred, Dante, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Tasso, Bossuet, Pascal, Des Cartes, were Catholics? Some of the greatest names in arts and arms, on the throne and in the pulpit, were worn by Catholics. To come down to our own times, has not the metropolis of