Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

scale of her power of conviction and persuasion. This is the product of a far-reaching mind; the intuition of native genius ; the apritude of art; the perfection of practice.

The judgment which Hannah More has displayed, in these ef. forts of her pen, is equal to her genius. Every thing is seasonable ; occupies its proper place; preserves its due proportion; and is suited to produce the desired effect. She seems to know how much should be said, and how little; on what motives it is best to operate; and to what extent she may push the advantages she has secured, over the prejudices or the fears of her readers. She is too prudent to hazard what she gained, by grasping more than would be willingly and discerningly accorded to her. She goes to no extremes; and always commands respect, by stopping short, not of truth, but of exaggeration.

Of her style, we must say, that it has the merit, generally, of perspicuity and fullness,-of neatness and elegance ; although we think it too labored and artificial, for a perfect model. It is but little encumbered or enlivened by figures, and would be considered tedious and abstract, but for the charm of her thoughts, and the richness of her illustrations. We have remarked a very considerable degree of difference between the style of her letters and that of the works in question. The style of the one, is easy and graceful; that of the other, is stately and measured. In the one, she was familiarly conversing with her friends; in the other, she was professedly addressing the public. Her dignity here is nevertheless pleasant; it is not affected. It was a habit of thought early formed, in the school of highly polished and noble society. We think, however, she takes too much pains in balancing her sentences, and delights by far too much in antithesis. Hence to us, every paragraph of any length, simply as to style or manner, seems alike. We have to read but a few pages, to learn the extent of her powers, not as to her thought, but as to the forms in which she expresses it. She satisfies every reasonable wish of those who look for beauty of execution, but she never more than satisfies it: she never overpowers the reader; never transports him beyond himself, by surpassing sweetness or sublimity. We have in our own mind, a passage in her first important prose work, viz., the Thoughts on the Manners of the Great; which, perhaps, presents an average of the prominent features of her style and manner : and with this, we shall conclude our remarks on this topic. “ Another cause, which still further impedes the recep, tion of religion, even among the well-disposed, is, that garment of sadness, in which people delight to suppose her dressed; and that life of hard austerity, and piping abstinence, which they pretend she enjoins her disciples. And it were well, if this were only the

misrepresentation of her declared enemies; but, unhappily, it is the too frequent misconception of her injudicious friends. But such an over-charged picture is not more unamiable than it is unlike : for I will venture to affirm, that religion, with all her beautiful and becoming sanctity, imposes fewer sacrifices, not only of rational, but of pleasurable enjoyment, than the uncontrolled dominion of any one vice. Her service is not only safety hereafter, but freedom here. She is not so tyrannizing as appetite, so exacting as the world, nor so despotic as fashion. Let us try the case by a parallel, and examine it, not as affecting our virtue, but our pleasure. Does religion forbid the cheerful enjoyments of life, as rigorously as avarice forbids them? Does she require such sacrifices of our ease, as ambition ? or such renunciation of our quiet, as pride ? Does devotion murder sleep, like dissipation ? Does she destroy health, like intemperance? Does she annihilate fortune, like gaming? Does she embitter life, like discord ? or abridge it, like duelling? Does religion impose more vigilance, than suspicion? or inflict half as many mortifications, as vanity? Vice has her martyrs : and the most austere and self-denying ascetic, (who mistakes the genius of christianity almost as much as her enemies mistake it,) never tormented himself with such cruel and causeless severity, as that with which envy lacerates her unhappy votaries. Worldly honor obliges us to be at the trouble of resenting injuries, and worldly prudence obliges us to be at the expense of litigating about them; but religion spares us the inconvenience of the one, and the cost of the other, by the summary command to forgive : and by this injunction, she consults our happiness no less than our virtue; for the torment of constantly hating any one, must be, at least, equal to the sin of it. And resentment is an evil, so costly to our peace, that we should find it more cheap to forgive, even were it not more right. If this estimate be fairly made, then is the balance clearly on the side of religion, even in the article of pleasure."

Several reflections have been suggested to our minds, while preparing this article, and on which we intended to dwell; but we can only hint them to our readers. How much may be done, by the union of talents and piety! What an example and lesson is thus given to her sex! We see, that it is possible to be learned, without being vain ; accomplished, without being worldly ; admired and caressed, without being corrupted. What a polished, beautiful, holy character is it not possible to become, through the influence of the gospel! What a rebuke upon the disputatious, wrangling spirit which now prevails, was the manner of life and example of HANNAH MORE!


To the Conductors of the Quarterly Christian Spectator. GENTLEMEN :- I propose, with your permission, to notice, somewhat at large, in " The Christian SPECTATOR,” the document, whose title is recorded at the head of this article. Its relative value is much greater than its intrinsic. It is one of those numerous productions, thrown upon the world at the present day, which may serve the purpose of an ecclesiastical thermometer, to inform us of the temperature which prevails, at least, in one hemisphere of the church.

The remark has become familiar, bordering almost upon triteness, that the age in which we live, (and the “ Act and Testimony” is contemporaneous with ourselves,) is marked by strong peculiarities. It is an age of excitement. The church and the world are impressed. Earth and beaven are in motion. The era of the steamboat, the rail-road, and the loco-motive, we might well conclude, by a brief process of a priori reasoning, must be an age in which every great subject, whether political or moral, would become paramount and absorbing. And such is the matter of fact. Experience, the prince and paragon of teachers, confirms this position. Every thing has received a new impulse ; and whatever moves, is hurried on by a kind of steam-power. High-pressure is the order of the day. These data will secure their own application in the sequel. The reader will be good enough to remember them. There is one feature, however, in this age of excitement and motion, which I do not remember to have seen distinctly noticed by any of our philosophers. It is this. The direct and onward movement of the church, seems to have produced a retrocession, as it regards a part of its members. The current has become so deep and rapid, that it has created, not a few rippling eddies merely, but a strong counter-current, which is hurrying on, with

great velocity, in an opposite direction. Elements are at war with kindred elements. While one portion of the stream is hastening to mingle with congenial waters, in the bosom of the ocean ; another portion of the same, is endeavoring to hide itself again in its native mountains. Different detachments of the same army, are marching in opposite directions. Open the eye upon one scene, and you anticipate the speedy erasure of the last line of sectarianism, and the happy union of all evangelical christians, in the great bible, tract, and missionary operations of the age: look upon another, and you begin to apprehend, that the churches are to be divided, and subdivided, till names of distinction, for new sects and parties, shall utterly fail. This contest will be variously defined, according to the mental associations of different individuals. Some

call it the resistance of orthodoxy to the encroachments of fundamental error; and they consider it a struggle for existence. It is the magnanimous, and perhaps the last, effort of truth, in the midst of a corrupt age, and in the bosom of a deteriorated church. Here is a fine opportunity for the display of spiritual heroism: and hence we have our modern Luthers, opposing the corruptions of our American Leos; our young Calvins, bidding defiance, in no measured accents, to the thunders of another Vatican ; and our John Knoxes, inspiring not only queen Mary, but many others, and some of the sterner sex too, with no ordinary trepidation. There is a moral sublimity in the self-sacrifice with which many are ready to throw themselves into “ the imminent deadly breach." There are others, the ecclesiastical antipodes of this class, who take a different view of the matter. They deem this warfare nothing more nor less than the proscriptions of bigotry, against the spirit of christian liberality. The tables are now turned; and your

Luthers, and Calvins, and Knoxes, and Leos, and Marys, all continue to exist; and they meet upon the arena, and mingle in the conflict; but with this difference,-they have exchanged places in the arrangement. Neither of these statements can be admitted, without many qualifications. There is a conflict, it is true; and it is a fearful one. There is war in the earthly heaven. It is a struggle, not of Protestants against Romanism, nor of evangelical sentiment against latitudinarian liberality ; but it is a conflict among those who, in many cases, are members of the same church, who subscribe the same creed, and who entertain kindred views, on almost every point, in relation to the character and purposes of God, and the condition and destiny of man. This position, strange as it may seem to some, and bold and hazardous as it may be pronounced by others, it is the object of this paper to illustrate, fortify, and defend. This will be done, not directly, but incidentally, in connection with the document under review.

What, then, is the “Act and Testimony"? It is a new "confession of faith,” or a recently invented test of orthodoxy, agreed upon, subscribed, and published, by thirty-seven ministers, and twenty-seven ruling elders of the Presbyterian church, at the close of the last general assembly, in Philadelphia. It occupies, exclusive of the array of sixty-four nanies appended, a little less than two columns in a religious newspaper; and consists of an introduction, intended to form a justification of the measures adopted; three specifications, constituting the bone and sinew of the instrument, “as regards doctrine,” “as regards discipline," and " as regards church order;" and closes with a “recommendation to the churches.” The introduction does not abound in the qualities of conciliation, which some masters of rhetoric tell us, ought to be prominent in this part of a discourse. It is more in keeping Vol. VII.


with the habits of a western huntsman; for it takes the beast by the horns, at the very outset of the battle. Or, to pass by one bold stride from the wilderness to the ocean, these “ Act and Testimony" brethren are no sooner embarked, than they nail the flag of nullification to the mast. It cannot for a moment be admitted, that the Presbyterian church, in this country, is in a condition to merit the sweeping denunciation which breathes, or rather thunders, in the first sentence of this manifesto. “In the solemn crisis to which our church has arrived, we are constrained to appeal to you, in relation to the alarming errors which have been hitherto connived at, and now, at length, have been countenanced and sanctioned by the acts of the supreme judicatory of our church.”

But, as general assertions, on either side of the question, can be of little avail, I propose to show the real attitude in which the subscribers to this “Act and Testimony" stand before the public; that some of the charges of heresy, embodied in this document, relate to sentiments which no one has avowed; that others apply to a large proportion of the Presbyterian church; and, in conclusion, advert to the true origin of this production.

1. The attitude in which these brethren stand before the public. This is truly novel, and very far, indeed, from being enviable. As ministers and elders of the Presbyterian church, they are bound by their own constitution and rules. One or two principles of their system, as set forth in their standards, it may not be improper here to present. “It is absolutely necessary, that the government of the church be exercised under some certain and definite form. And we hold it to be expedient, and agreeable to scripture, and the practice of the primitive christians, that the church be governed by congregational, presbyterial, and synodical assemblies."*

In accordance with these principles, the book goes on to specify the several kinds of church courts, or judicatories. These are church-sessions, presbyteries, synods, and the general assembly. Nothing is left to voluntary associations. All action upon the ministers and members of the church, by way of discipline, must be conducted through this organization, or the movement is anti-presbyterial. To spend time in proof of this position, would be something worse than trifling. It would be like striking up a rush-light, at noon-day, within the tropics, to enable men to see the sun shine. Let the “ Act and Testimony," then, be arraigned at the bar of these principles, and have a fair trial, and receive a righteous sentence. The subscribers of this document begin by a practical renunciation of their whole system; and if their solemn manifesto proves any thing, it proves, that,

[ocr errors]

* See Form of Government, chap. viii. sec. 1.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »