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though not less steady and consistent in action (perhaps more so,) yet continue o hold converse with reasons they have repudiated ; and to traverse again and again the ground of their firmest convictions. p. 36.
A bold startling air of paradox may be mentioned as another characteristic of the writer, in the works before us. This, though in general not a safe mode of writing, has nevertheless its advantages. It draws attention to the thought; and the mind of the reader, while settling the meaning of the apparently absurd, proposition, is the more struck with the real truth, which it partly hides and partly reveals. This mode of exhibition adequately sustained, throws an aspect of vivacity and sprightliness over a work, and accordingly our author with no small share of sagacity, has availed himself of it at times, to set forth the important sentiments which he wished to inculcate. The consciousness of strength, and of having truth on his side, can alone, however, warrant a person in advancing tenets, which, though correct in fact, are contrary to the common opinion of mankind, or carry on the face of them an absurdity. It is probably owing to this cause, as well as to some others, that our author has often been charged with obscurity. There is occasionally a paragraph, which the reader, if he is not commendably patient, must leave in uncertainty as to its precise import. In the majority of cases, however, where the paradoxical and highly abstract turn of the thought produces a momentary perplexity, the reader will be well rewarded, by giving to the page a second perusal. Perhaps we may find in the following casual remark of the author, the reason Which, in connection with his habits of thought, induced him to adopt bis somewhat peculiar mode of statement. "It is indeed,” he says, “always well that writers should labor to attain prespicacity, and simplicity and vivacity; but is it well when they feel theinselves compelled (as in terror,) 1o avoid whatever supposes in the reader, high culture and intelligence?”
Again, the rich and beautiful imagery with which the writer clothes his thoughts, and in general the force und felicity of his descriptions are a striking feature in his works. These will have appeared in the extracts already given : but single sentences may be adduced with a view to convey a more definite idea, particularly ol that sort of style which seems to paint the conceptions of the mind, in which the author so much abounds.
“If things spiritual in the force of reality rested on our hearts, We should in a moment start out from our niches of marble formallly, and press up to the altar of philanthropy, each bringing the Toathed bundle of his prejudices in his band to be taken up no more."
" Let but some hotly agitated question of policy or political
economy cease to be vigorously treated, and yet continue to be a matter of common conversation, and we shall find in ten years, or seven, perhaps in three, that words, phrases, and wonted forms of expression on such subjects have slipped their meaning; and being disburdened of the weight which they once carried, hare taken the wing, and float vague and idle in upper air.”
“The attractions, the dangers, the urgent interests of the present state form (we may say) a screen, which, with its gaudy and various colors, its painted pomps and trickeries, hangs on every side before the eye of man, encircling his theater of exercise, and fencing out from his knowledge, the world of intellectual life.”
“ The swelling and rolling flood of human life moves on in billows so brief and proud, that in rising to the brow of each watery ridge, nothing of the general expanse is beheld, nothing seen but the surge and fall of the precursive wave.”
A writer, who,on fitting occasions, can set forth his thoughts in an imagery so bold and rich-in a manner so lively and picturesque, is master of a talent which will procure him readers, and which be should turn to the best account. In our author it is well employed, as a vehicle of his startling, original, profound conceptions; and direcied as it generally is, by sound judgment and correct taste, it adds to the charms of his otherwise fascinating compositions. We do not, however, consider his style to be unexceptionable throughout. It is faulty in some respects, and susceptible of improvement. The occasional hardness and abruptness of its mechanical structure might be laid aside without detriment.
A characteristic above all others to be admired in our author. as exhibited in his works, is the decided prevalence of deep spiritual religion. His books bear this delightful signature, so eridently, so prominently, that we suppose none will doubt it-21 least none who have themselves known the transforming influences of the gospel. The piece on the Family affection of Christianity, would alone prove the geniality of his spirit to that of all christians, since he could not otherwise have so drawn that spirit to ibe lise. His developement of moral character and feelings, abore commented on, is too profound—too accurate-too authenticated not to have been the result of experimental knowledge. The spirituality of the author is indeed inanisested in every page, and his constant aim most evidently is to make a deeply religious impression on the minds of readers. There is in fine, a fresbness in his sketches of religion, a vitality, a faithfulness to the original, a breadth and fullness of views, which show the strength of his own conviction on the subject, and his claims as a sound spiritual man, on the confidence of the reading public.
While, however, all this may be safely said concerning the
christian spirit of the writer, and the evangelical character of his books, it is proper at the same time to observe, that he appears to be less acquainted with theology as a science, or a body of elementary principles, having a definable connection with one another, than might have been expected. At least considering in how masterly a manner he has analyzed the feelings of the heart, we have a great sense of disappointment when we find him fail here. The relations of speculative truth, however, he may very naturally have overlooked in a degree, while examining so minutely its practical operation. On this account, his knowledge of the doctrinal religious system of the bible, may have been actually acquired less from a critical examination of the documentary evidence, (a method however, which he highly approves,) than from a sort of internal consciousness, or feeling of their truth. If we are at all correct in this suggestion, it will readily be explained, why the author speaks so slightingly of systematic divinity in every shape. While we agree with him in his main principle, that religious truth should be sought from the scriptures, in a manner
similar to that in which, according to Bacon, physical truth should : Je learned from nature-viz. by the inductive process; we would -- 100 with the author, go so far as to avoid all attempts to connect ft in a system, and to give it proportion. We would not with him, seem to hold it altogether in fragments, and in detached parcels, is if the relation of one truth to another could never be seen, or when seen, could not be at all important. It can readily be explained, also, in the view here taken, how it happens that the aubor has expressed himself much more unguardedly at times, on mportant topics, than an accurate and disciplined theologian vould have done, or one who nicely comprehended the relations of truth, and the analogy of faith. An instance will be adduced Oorder to exemplify the present remark. The author in his chapier on the State of Seclusion, (and this world he considers such,)
easoning hypothetically concerning the manner in which proba* Jonary beings should be treated, says, “ The probationers must
dot see or know that, the knowledge which would at once dis
pate the obscurity that invests the questions of right and wrong. They may indeed receive a rule of conduct, and they may be
oldly informed of the distant consequences of their present course y action ; but this information must itself take its place quietly
mong those reasons that are much more valid than imperative." le soon adds, passing from suppositions to the reality. “And re not such in fact the circumstances of that abode to wbich he human family is confined ?" &c. His plan of remark, and the reat principle he would illustrate, seemed to render it necessary hat he should represent the condition of probationers, and man
kind of course, in the above light: and contrary to the obvious declarations and spirit of the scripture, on one point at least, he so represented it. But are mankind in the bible left in “obscurity” as to the question of right and wrong ; are they coldly in formed of the distant consequences of their present course of ac tion? On the contrary, what can be more clear than the whole subject of our duty as there presented—what more beart-stiring than the exhortations and warnings of scripture in reference to the future allotments of men ? This is a single instance out of a num. ber which might be substantiated, where the writer appears to have -> overlooked the exact relations of truth, in pursuing his exposition of independent and isolated principles.
The spirit of our author, as generally manisested in his books, is certainly kind and liberal; yet in some instances, there is an approximation at least towards an opposite feeling, attended with a somewhat hasty and injudicious attack on certain evils, of which it wouid be difficult to say, whether the attempt to expel them, of their continuance would be the greater calamity. He would pull down, however hard it might be to build again. Indeed his mode of condemning present operations for doing good, mixed as they confessedly are with imperfection, and his style of talking about what might be done, show more the strength of his zeal, than the soundness of his discretion. This is apparent in his plan of cbristian missions, and in representations that are occasionally met with in the books under review. He scems but too little satisfied with things as they are, and has a turn and a talent for fault-finding, which, if they be not regulated by benevolence, might easily lead him to excess. Perhaps it is a too easy charity in us--nevertheless we venture to ask, who would love to surmise, as the author has done, and proclaim his suspicion to the world, even if be be. lieved it? “May it not,” he says, “be conjectured that at the present moment, where we shall find one man, (meaning among professors of religion,) who is both sound-minded and truly spiritval, we shall meet with three pusillanimous religionists, and twenty secular believers." Are these then, we ask, the triumphs of the grace of God? Only one out of twenty four members of the christian body among evangelical communities, who can be considered as fit to belong to that body! Only one to twenty who is a true christian! In our blessed revials of religion, as well as in ordinary times, do we receive into our churches, twenty hypocrites or self-deceivers to one genuine convert? We know not how it is in England, but for the honor of the gospel and for the hope of the world, we trust that nothing like this can be the case in our own country. In our zeal to guard the purity of religion and religious profession, let us not seem to undervalue the achievements of di
nine mercy, or be willing to diminish the confidence with which i piety should labor to confer the saving benefits of religion on lost
meo. If our author has sometimes made representations of the kind above noticed, we are happy to know that there are others in his works, which are likely to counteract them. On the whole, though by no means faultless, he may be reckoned one of the most powerful, accomplished, and useful writers of the age.
ART. V.-DICKINSON's Prize LETTERS.
Prize Letters to Students, in two parts; By Rev. Baxter Dickinson, Newark,
If there is any one class in our country upon which the philanthropist, the patriot, and the christian, must look with more interest than any other, it is that class which is composed of our active and enterprising young men ; especially of those who enjoy the advantages of a liberal education. In almost any circumstances, knowledge is the parent of influence : it gives to one mind the ability of controling many; and if there are good principles along with it, it may be expected, in proportion to its extent, to help forward the great cause of human happiness. What would Newton, and Bacon, and Locke, and Edwards, have accomplished for the world with only an ordinary degree of knowledge? But we may almost ask, what did they not accomplish by means of the actual improvement to which they attained? And if knowledge secures influence in any circumstances, surely there were e never circumstances more favorable to give it influence than ex
ist in our own country. We are not trammeled with the fetters of aristocracy. We know nothing, happily, of the influence of mere rank, and have never been taught to do homage to titles, or to respect men for any thing else than their own merits. Here every man may speak and write his own thoughts with perfect freedom; and if he speaks and writes well, he has a fair chance to be heard, and by multitudes; and his thoughts are tried in no worse crucible than reason and common sense. While there is every advantage in this country for knowledge to exert its full influence, there are circumstances connected with the present state and prospects of the country, which render it of the utmost importance that the cultivated intellect of the present and next generation should be directed in a right channel. For it seems
obe acknowledged on all hands, that we have reached a critical . period in our national history, and that it is to be decided within
much less than half a century, what is to be the ultimate destiny