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Sermon on the Comparative Advantages of Prescribed ,
FOR JANUARY, 1821.
Art. I. 1. The Life of Wesley; and the Rise and Progress of Methodism. By Robert Southey, Esq. Poet Laureate, &c. 2 vols.
8vo. pp. 1134. London, 1820. 2. Observations on Southey's “ Life of Wesley :” Being a Defence'
of the Character, Labours, and Opinions, of Mr. Wesley, against the Misrepresentations of that Publication. By Richard Watson.
8vo. pp. 228. London. 1820. 3. A Letter to Robert Southey, Esq. on his Life of the late Mr. John
Wesley, and especially that Part in which he treats of the Moravians. By William Okely, M.D. Presbyter of the Brethren's Church, and Minister of their Congregation at Bristol. 8vo. pp.
55. Bristol. 1820. WE cannot believe, as some of his biographers maintain,
that Plutarch was ignorant of Christianity. Not to insist upon the alledged traces of his acquaintance with its doctrines which are to be met with in his writings, the imputed obstinacy, fanaticism, and infatuation of the Christians must, no doubt, have been the subjects of frequent discourse in the higher circles in which Plutarch moved. Besides, he was an industrious collector of facts, and a curious observer of the manners and opinions of men ; and it appears to bave been with the express design of gathering various information, that he travelled through Greece, visited Egypt, and resided at Rome. Now, in the time of Plutarch, a society of Christians had been formed in almost every city of the Empire ; and every where, some members of these societies had been called to give their testimony against idolatry before the Roman authorities. It may, however, be supposed, that the Christian Scriptures had never fallen into his hands : his curiosity and inquiries bad, perhaps, been satisfied with the vague reports of the magistrates or priests with whom he conversed, and who bad assured him, that the new opinion,--the exitiabilis superstitio,' professed
Vol. XV. N.S.
by those whom, per flagitia invis08, vulgus christianos appellabet,'—was nothing better than a senseless subdivision of Judaism, the grounds of wbich were utterly veiled from philosophical apprebension under the unintelligible jargon of that peculiar and barbarous superstition. But even had he known enough of the Christians to have thought them worthy of explicit animadversion, Plutarch would not have written like Lucian : profane and scurrilous in vective, deliberate and indecent calumnies, would not have accorded with his intellectual habits. Alive to poetic beauty in character and action, the devotedness and heroism, if not the purity, humility, and patience of the Christians, would have kindled a sort of dramatic sympathy in his bosom. He would have conceded. a purblind admiration to those parts of their conduct which bore the nearest affinity with his gross apprehensions of morality. So far as his imperfect information and bis limited apprehensions on the subject had allowed, he would have done the fanatics justice ; and there would have been a mildness, a candour, and a fairness, even in his contempt of their dogmas. For, at this period, Christianity had not reached that balancing importance in the Empire, which inspired the later adherents of Paganism with the unvarying malignity of fear. It is true, that in the 'Tract-'fR AETEIA AIMOΝΙΑΣ, “ Concerning Superstition, or the excessive Fear of the “ Gods,”-there appears a light acrimony in the style of his allusions to Jewish observances ; but yet, he is always more the philosopher than the satirist."
We might imagine bim to have received from some wellbred Platonist, (of whom many were converts to the faith,) such an abstracted exposition of the Christian system as would have drawn from him nothing more than the mild animadversion which he bestows upon other purely intellectual errors,—Yeuding avroantose it is a false conceit, but’:(while it rests as a mere opinion in the mind) • it breeds no sore ;* it quickens not the
* Less ingenuity than has often been employed to discover in ancient authors more than they ever thought of, might serve to detect, in the little treatise we have referred to, several dim allusions to the supposed tenets or practices of the Christians. May he not, for example, be thought to have had in view the influx of Hebraisins into the Greek language, occasioned by the spread of Christianity and the diffusion of the Scriptures,—when he inveighs against those who, at the same time that they are labouring to overturn the old' and authorized religion, pervert and corrupt the language, by the introduction of absurd names and barbarous words '-XTOTOIS óvouansκαι ρήμασι Βαρβαρικούς. But we must leave this incidental question. . The words above quoted are as follow : Yeudas a utoantos, anno inxosa ποιέν, ουδε σφυγμον, ουδε οδυνην ταραττουσαν.