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urges them to impart its holy truths to neighbours. The spirit, then, in their language, moveth them to speak.
The mysticism of the Methodists is described no where so well as in the sermon of Mr. John Wesley, entitled “ The Witness of the Spirit.” He takes for his text the verse, (Rom. viii. 16.) “ The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” The doctrine which he professes to deduce from these words, he announces to be important. He observes, that “it the more nearly concerns the Methodists, so called, clearly to understand, explain, and defend it; because it is one grand part of the testimony which God has given them to bear to all mankind. It is by his peculiar blessing upon them in searching the scriptures, confirmed by the experience of his children, that the great evangelical truth has been recovered, which had been for many years well nigh forgotten.” He then proceeds to unfold the great evangelical truth. The spirit which he first mentioned in his text is, according to the explanation which he gives of it, the spirit of God; the other spirit mentioned in it, is the testimony of one's own conscience.
“By the former, I mean,” says Mr. Wesley, “an inward impression on my soul ; whereby the spirit of God immediately and directly witnesseth to my spirit that I am a child of God. That Jesus Christ has loved me; has given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out; and I, even I, am reconciled to God. But I do not,” continues Mr. Wesley, “mean hereby that the spirit of God testifies this by any outward voice: no, nor always by an inward voice, although he may do this sometimes. Neither do I suppose that he always applies to the heart (though he often may) one or more texts of the scriptures : but he so works upon the soul by his immediate influence, and by strong, though inexplicable, operation, that the stormy wind and troubled waves subside, and there is a sweet calm : the heart resting as in the arms of Jesus, and the sinner being already satisfied, that God is reconciled, that all his iniquities are forgiven, and his sins covered.” This inward conviction, or, in the language of the Methodists, this experience of the soul, that she is an object of divine favor, is not the result of reasoning, it is the voice of the spirit announcing its feelings antecedently to any reasoning whatsoever. “But let none,” says Mr. Wesley, “presume to rest on any supposed testimony of the spirit, which is separate from the truth of it; love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance. On the other hand, let none rest on any supposed trust of the spirit without the witness." What, then, is this great evangelical truth which Mr. Wesley seems to claim exclusively for himself and his followers? In what does it differ from the general belief of all Christians, that he who loves God and keeps his com
mandments, that he has a consciousness of the divine favour and the joy of a good conscience.
All who turn their attention to mystical lore will peruse with pleasure Peter Poiret's Bibliotheca Mystica, 1 vol. 8vo. Amst. 1708; the preface of de Villeson to his life of St. Theresa, and the preface of the late M. Emery, the superior of the Sulpician congregation of St. Sulpice at Paris to his work entitled L'Esprit de Sainte Theresa, 1 vol. 8vo. In the Exposition de la Doctrine de Leibnitz, 1 vol. 8vo. a very interesting publication, for which we are chiefly indebted to M. Emery, some passages from the letters of Leibnitz are transcribed, in which he mentions the writings of St. Theresa with esteem, and says, that “ they had suggested useful reflections to him," and that “ he had found some solid reflections in those of St. Catherine of Genoa." In considering the nature and operations of the intellectual powers of man, we have sometimes thought that the reciprocal action of the soul on the imagination, and of the imagination on the soul, where the senses do not interfere, has not been sufficiently considered, and that a philosophical perusal of some of the most eminent mystics would lead to useful observation on this curious subject.
ART X. The Works of Mr. John Dennis, in Two Volumes, con
sisting of Plays, Poems, &c. London, 1721. Original Letters, Familiar and Critical, by Mr. Dennis, in Two
Volumes. London, 1721.
John Dennis, the terror or the scorn of that age, which is sometimes strangely honored with the title of Augustan, has attained a lasting notoriety, to which the reviewers of our times can scarcely aspire. His name is immortalized in the Dunciad; his best essay is preserved in Johnson's Lives of the Poets; and his works yet keep their state in two substantial volumes, which are now before us. But the interest of the most poignant abuse and the severest criticism quickly perishes. We contemplate the sarcasms and the invectives which once stung into rage the irritable generation of poets, with as cold a curiosity as we look on the rusty javelins or stuffed reptiles in the glass cases of the curious. The works of Dennis will, however, assist us in forming a judgment of the criticism of his age, as compared with that of our own, and will afford us an opportunity of investigating the influences of that popular art, on literature and on the affections.
But we must not forget, that Mr. Dennis laid claims to public esteem, not only as a critic, but as a wit, a politician, and a poet. In the first and the last of these characters, he can receive but little praise. His attempts at gaiety and humour are weighty and awkward, almost without example. His poetry can only be described by negatives; it is not inharmonious, nor irregular, nor often turgid—for the author, too nice to sink into the mean, and too timid to rise into the bombastic, dwells in elaborate “ decencies for ever.” The climax of his admiration for Queen Mary—“ Mankind extols the king—the king admires the queen”—will give a fair specimen of his architectural eulogies. He is entitled to more respect as an honest patriot. He was, indeed, a true-hearted Englishman—with the legitimate prejudices of his country-warmly attached to the principles of the Revolution, detesting the French, abominating the Italian opera, and deprecating as heartily the triumph of the Pretender, as the success of a rival's tragedy. His political treatises, though not very elegantly finished, are made of sturdy and lasting materials. He appears, from some passages in his letters, to have cherished a genuine love of nature, and to have turned, with eager delight, to her deep and quiet solitudes, for refreshment from the feverish excitements, the vexatious defeats, and the barren triumphs, of his critical career. He admired Shakespear, after the fashion of his age, as a wild irregular genius, who would have been ten times as great, had he known and copied the ancients. The following is a part of his general criticism on this subject, and is a very fair specimen of his best style: I
“ Shakespear was one of the greatest geniuses that the world e'er saw for the tragick stage. Tho' he lay under greater disadvantages than any of his successors, yet had he greater and more genuine beauties than the best and greatest of them. And what makes the brightest glory of his character, those beauties were entirely his own, and owing to the force of his own nature; whereas his faults were owing to his education, and to the age that he liv'd in. One may say of him as they did of Homer, that he had none to imitate, and is himself inimitable. His imaginations were often as just, as they were bold and strong. He had a natural discretion which never could have been taught him, and his judgment was strong and penetrating. He seems to have wanted nothing but time and leisure for thought, to have found out those rules of which he appears so ignorant. His characters are always drawn justly, exactly, graphically, except where he fail'd by not knowing history or the poetical art. He has, for the most part, more fairly distinguish'd them than any of his successors have done, who have falsified them, or confounded them, by making love the predominant quality in all. He had so fine a talent for touching the passions, and they are so lively in him, and so truly in nature, that they
often touch us more, without their due preparations, than those of other tragick poets, who have all the beauty of design and all the advantage of incidents. His master passion was terror, which he has often moy'd so powerfully and so wonderfully, that we may justly conclude, that if he had had the advantage of art and learning, he wou'd have surpass'd the very best and strongest of the ancients. His paintings are often so beautiful and so lively, so graceful and so powerful, especially where he uses them in order to move terror, that there is nothing perhaps more accomplish'd in our English poetry. His sentiments, for the most part in his best tragedies, are noble, generous, easie and natural, and adapted to the persons who use thein. His expression is, in many places, good and pure, after a hundred years; simple tho' elevated, graceful tho' bold, and easie tho' strong. He seems to have been the very original of our English tragical harmony; that is, the harmony of blank verse, diversified often by dissyllable and trisyllable terminations. For that diversity distinguishes it from heroick harmony, and, bringing it nearer to common use, makes it more proper to gain attention, and more fit for action and dialogue. Such verse we make when we are writing prose; we make such verse in common conversation.
“ If Shakespear had these great qualities by nature, what would he not have been, if he had join'd to so happy a genius learning and the poetical art. For want of the latter, our author has sometimes made gross mistakes in the characters which he has drawn from history, against the equality and conveniency of manners of his dramatical persons. Witness Menenius in the following tragedy, whom he has made an arrant buffoon, which is a great absurdity. For he might as well have imagin'd a grave majestick Jack Pudding, as a buffoon in a Roman senator. Aufidius, the general of the Volscians, is shewn a base and a profligate villain. He has offended against the equality of the manners even in the hero himself. For Coriolanus, who in the first part of the tragedy is shewn so open, so frank, so violent, and so magnanimous, is represented in the latter part by Aufidius, which is contradicted by no one, a flattering, fawning, cringing, insinuating traytor."
Mr. Dennis proceeds very generously to apologize for Shakespear's faults, by observing, that he had neither friends to consult, nor time to make corrections. He, also, attributes his lines “ utterly void of celestial fire," and passages “ harsh and unmusical,” to the want of opportunity to wait for felicitous hours and moments of choicest inspiration. To remedy these defects-to mend the harmony and to put life into the dulness of Shakespear—Mr. Dennis has assayed, and brought his own genius to the alteration of Coriolanus for the stage, under the lofty title of “ The Invader of his Country, or the Fatal Resentment.” In the catastrophe, Coriolanus kills Aufidius, and is himself afterwards slain, to satisfy the requisitions of poetical justice; which, to Mr. Dennis's great distress, Shakespear so often violates. It is quite amusing to observe, with how perverted an ingenuity all the gaps in Shakespear's verses are filled up, the irregularities smoothed away, and the colloquial expressions changed for stately phrases. Thus, for example, the noble wish of Coriolanus on entering the forum
“ The honoured gods
is thus elegantly translated into classical language:
“ The great and tutelary gods of Rome
The conclusion of the hero's last speech on leaving Rome
“ Thus I turn my back: there is a world elsewhere,” is elevated into the following heroic lines :
“For me, thus, thus, I turn my back upon you,
His fond expression of constancy to his wife
“ That kiss
Hath virgined it e'er since," — is thus refined:
" That kiss
The icicle, which was wont to “ hang on Dian's temple," here more gracefully “hangs upon the temple of Diana.” The burst of mingled pride, and triumph of Coriolanus, when taunted with the word “ boy,” is here exalted to tragic dignity. Our readers have, doubtless, ignorantly admired the original :
“ Boy! False hound !