« PreviousContinue »
minds of religious inquirers.-III. The influence of buman writings.-IV. The influence of intimate intercourse with open transgressors of the Divine law.-V. The influence of worldly professors.-VI. The influence of ridicule.-VII. The difficulties arising from the case of backsliders.--VIII. The difficulties arising from the existence of so many different denominations in the Christian church.-IX. The difficulties arising from the imperfections of real Christians.—These difficulties, it will be seen, are chiefly such as are referred to in Scripture under the denomination of offences, or stumbling-blocks; and they are such as arise out of the existing state of society, secular and religious. The work is more argumentative, therefore, and enters less into the interior workings of the heart and conscience, than Dr. Henry's Letters. It is designed, indeed, to administer succour and advice at a different stage, and one scarcely less critical than that to which Dr. H. has addressed himself; to rescue not so much from anxiety with respect to personal safety, as from scepticism and fatal declension under circumstances of outward difficulty and temptation. Nothing can be more judicious than the manner in which Mr. Matheson has executed his task; and the work is well adapted to do extensive good. If a little more of the vivacity of familiar correspondence could have been thrown into its pages, it might have rendered the perusal more attractive to young persons; but to those who are really in earnest in their inquiries, the substantial value of the advice it tenders, the candour, discrimination, and sound judgement by which the Author's remarks are characterized, and the kindness of his aim and manner, will render it a most suitable and acceptable present. And it may, we think, be very especially useful to younger ministers, and indeed to Christians generally, in supplying them with useful hints as to the best way of dealing with a large and interesting class of the community, whose eternal interests are often placed in jeopardy by the difficulties here combated. As a specimen of the work, we take from the fourth chapter, the Author's statement of a difficulty with which, under some circumstances of a distressing character, it is a more painful and delicate task to engage than with, perhaps, any other.
If it be indeed true, that evil results from the example of mere acquaintances who are amiable, but destitute of religious principles; we may readily conclude, that when religious inquirers are exposed to the influence of relations, or dear and intimate friends who are irreligious, the injurious effects will be much greater than in the former case. It may be that they are parents, or at least those whose opinions have been adopted as wise, and whose example has powerfully influenced their formation of character. The very supposition, that these persons, so beloved, and so venerated, are exposed to the displeasure of God-that
they are living constantly in a state of the greatest danger, is painful in the extreme. “ What”, they feel constrained to ask themselves, “ are those individuals, whom they have loved and honoured, the enemies of God? Can those who have been so useful in the spheres of life they occupy, be notwithstanning this, among the number who are described as having no hope and without God in the world ?"" Their minds revolt at the statement.
• Here we perceive that not only has the natural unbelief of the heart been strengthened against the Bible by an evil example ; but even filial atfection, and the claims of friendship unite to oppose its unbending statements. All the endearments of domestic life, all the pleasures of the social circle, seem to be blighted; and the very
idea of receiving tenets which so intimately and fearfully affect a Father's or Mother's welfare, appears little less than parricide. There is a rising up of the spirit against the fearful declarations of Scripture; and the suggestion of the “evil one” may lead them to fancy, that after all, as far as it regards their present peace, they should take their chance with their friends.
• But such a state of mind cannot long continue. cannot proceed far in their search after truth, without discovering that their friends are really in the state of danger represented in the word of God. Still, however, the doubt comes across their minds, and they feel inclined sometimes to welcome it—that all this cannot be ; and that in some way or other their friends may yet escape, though destitute of even the form of religion.
• Why are their minds thus agitated and distressed? Why do they for a moment cherish thoughts which bear the stamp of infidelity Because they are not yet sufficiently acquainted with the character of God, the extent of his law, and the nature of sin; and consequently they do not know the fearful transgressions of which their friends have been, and are still guilty, while rejecting religion. They cling to the idea, that God will not be strict to mark iniquity; while they forget, that if God were to mark iniquity at all, the holiest must perish.
• While a better acquaintance with divine truth will rectify the above and other mistakes, one or two difficulties which disturbed their minds at first may still linger. They may still ask, “ how can we account for the fact, that persons possessed of sound judgement, and who are conscientious, respected, and useful in the world, should yet in the matter of religion be so careless and opposed to God? Or how is it that there is so much in their conduct that is excellent and amiable, even while they make no profession of Christianity, and refuse to be called religious people?
. They will find these questions also answered, as they proceed in their inquiries after truth. They will soon ascertain, that no natural or acquired talents
no amiability of disposition, will of themselves have any influence in leading men to seek the knowledge of God. Alas ! how frequently is a contrary effect produced. These individuals have never seriously examined Christianity, or considered its high and paramount claims: their powers of mind, and their desires after knowledge, have been directed to other pursuits, and exercised VOL. II. N.S.
Henry's Letters to a Friend, fc. on very different objects. They have willingly allowed the love of error and indifference to keep them from the investigation of divine truth. Conscientious in worldly matters between man and his fellows, they have not been so between God and their own souls. They have been earnest and sincere in the pursuit of knowledge, as far as it was connected with natural and physical truth; but they have shrunk from the investigation of the moral and spiritual truths of Jehovah. The external evidences of Christianity they have indeed glanced at; but they have no wish to find them true. And why is this? Because the heart is diseased, and they dislike God. Because the very character they sustain among men induces them the more readily to reject true religion. They cannot endure a system which seeks to overthrow all their fondest hopes, and bring them down from the fancied elevation on which their pride of heart had placed them, to the level of the guiltiest in the sight of God. Possessing the esteem of men, they try to persuade themselves that they can do well enough without the favour of God: or that if the latter is really needed, their good qualities of heart and life will secure it. All that is respectable, and amiable, and benevolent, they attribute to themselves, and claim boldly the merit of a useful life. Can we wonder, then, that with such inadequate views of God -- with such high thoughts of themselves—with so much in the heart that is opposed to spiritual religion, they should altogether reject the Gospel of Christ?
"Nor need we be surprised, that in the conduct of such persons before their fellow-creatures, there should be many things to commend. Much of this may be accounted for from the circumstances of life in which they have been placed. They may from early life have associated with those who sustained a high character for kindness and integrity. The principles of honesty
and benevolence may have been early instilled into their minds; and being also placed in affluence or comfort, there has been no temptation to do any thing mean or dishonourable. Besides, they have heard benevolent actions extolled as the very essence of virtue, and being naturally of a kind disposition, they have the more readily performed those actions. The grosser vices (at least their display before men) have been described to them as injurious to health, property, and reputation, and they have abstained from many of these.
There is, however, another way, by which we may account for the conduct of such persons, even while they reject true religion; and perhaps what is about to be mentioned, has the most powerful effect upon some minds. Thus it may safely be affirmed, that the very religion which they will not acknowledge to be true,—that very system, which they declare to be unable, beneficially to influence the morals of men, even when believed, has yet produced a good effect upon thein. They may not be willing to admit the fact, but it is nevertheless true. A brief reference to this view of the subject, may therefore be useful.
· Had these individuals been born in a country where Christianity is unknown, they might have been amiable, as it regarded their natural disposition, but they would not have had the same opportunities of displaying their benevolence. Mere science and philosophy, or ci
vilization, will not of themselves produce kindly dispositions, or incline to their exercise if they already exist. We look in vain, during the brightest days of Greece and Rome, for institutions like those which adorn our country. The purest of their ethical systems never produced the thousandth part of the tender and benevolent effects which Christianity has directly and indirectly produced. These individuals, therefore, from the existence of philanthropic institutions around them, and the example of others, are inclined to assist them with their property and their influence. And how often is all this ascribed to the exercise of reason, or to the native goodness of their own hearts ! PP
Messrs. Dymond and Dawson, of Exeter, are about to publish, a Map of England and Wales, upon a new Plan, in which Numerals and Letters are substituted for the Names of Places and Rivers; the former being used to denote the Places, while the latter designate the Rivers : with an Explanatory Key, including a brief Description of the Counties, Places, and Rivers laid down in it, &c. &c.
In the Press, a revised Edition of the Life and Works of Richard Hooker. With an Introduction, additional Notes, and a characteristic Portrait, finely engraved by E. Finden, after Hollar. By a careful collation with the genuine and earliest copies of this celebrated Author's respective productions, the numerous passages in the subsequent editions, which have been either accidentally rendered obscure, or perverted by conjectural interpolations, are restored to their primary and true reading. Those obscurities, too, which Time had brought upon many brilliant and piquant controversial points in the “ Ecclesiastical Polity,” are elucidated by apposite Notes; and the Editor has ventured occasionally to remark on the sentiments of the Author, and to discuss some of the subjects of his Works.
In the Press, The Heraldry of Crests, containing nearly 3500 Crests, from Engravings by the late I. P. Elven ; with the Bearers' Names alphabetically arranged, and Remarks, Historical and Explanatory; forming a Companion to Clark's “Easy Introduction to the Study of Heraldry."
Preparing for publication, The Work of the Holy Spirit in Conversion, considered in its relation to the Condition of Man and the Administration of God. By John Howard Hinton, M.A.
In the Press, The Early Reformation in Spain, and some Account of the Inquisition. Translated from the French, by the late A. F. Ramsay, Esq. M.D. With a Memoir of the Translator.
Thoughts on the present State of Religion in England, its Impediments, and the Means of Advancement, are preparing for the Press.
Mr. Hood, the Author of “ Whims and Oddities ”, has a new Work in the Press, entitled Epping Hunt. It describes the Adventures of a worthy Citizen, who joins the Easter Hunt, and will be illustrated with several first-rate Engravings on Wood, after the Designs of Mr. George Cruikshank.
Just published, the new Edition of Calmet's Biblical Encyclopædia, in Five Vols. 4to, much improved ; with Additions from authentic Sources, New Maps, &c.
Practical Suggestions and Discourses intended to aid a Reformation of the Christian Churches, and the Revival of Religion in Individuals, Families, and Communities. By Charles Moase.
ART. XI. WORKS RECENTLY PUBLISHED.
comprehending the Elements of Botany, with their application to Agriculture. By the Author of “ Conversations on Chemistry.” 2 vols, 12mo. 12s.
BIOGRAPHY. Life of John Locke, with Extracts from his Correspondence, Journals, and Common Place Books. By Lord King. 4to.
Memoirs of the King of Sweden ; illustrative of his Character, of his Relations with the Emperor Napoleon, and of the present state of his Kingdoms, with a Dis. course on the Political Character of Sweden. By William George Meredith, Esq. A.M. of Brazen-nose College, Oxford. 8vo. - 12s.
Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe, wife of the Right Hon. Sir Richard Fanshawe, Bart., Ambassador from Charles II. to the Court of Madrid. Written by Herself. Now first published from the original MS. To which are added, Extracts foom the Correspondence of Sir Richard Fanshawe. I vol. 8vo. Portrait, 14s.
The Nature and Duration of the Papal A postacy: a Discourse delivered before the Monthly Association of Congregational Ministers and Churches. By Robert Vaughan. 8vo. 2s.6d.
TRAVELS AND TOPOGRAPHY
Polynesian Researches during a Residence of nearly Six Years in the South Sea Islands. Including Descriptions of the Natural History and Scenery of the Islands : with Remarks on the History, Mythology, Traditions, Government, Arts, Manners, and Customs, of the Inhabitants. By W. Ellis, Missionary to the Society and Sandwich Islands. 2 vols. 8vo. Plates. Il. 83.
A Journal through Norway, Lapland, and part of Sweden, with some Remarks on the Geology of the Country, its climate and scenery; the ascent of some of its mountains; statistical tables; &c. By the Rev. Robert Everest, A.M. F.G.S., late of University College, Oxon. 8vo. 14s.
The Modern Traveller.-Africa. 3 vois. 16s. 6d. boards.
Journal of a Passage from the Pacifie to the Atlantic, crossing the Andes in the Northern Provinces of Peru, and descend. ing the River Maranon. By Henry Lister Maw, Lieut. R.N. 8vo. 128.
Sketches of Buenos Ayres and Chile. By Samuel Haigh. 8vo. 12s.
Forest Scenes and Incidents in the Wilds of North America. By George Head, Esq. Post 8vo. Bs. 6d.
Travels to Constantinople, in the Years 1827 and 1828. By Captain Charles Coba ville Frankland, R.N. 2 vols. 8vo. With 38 Engravings. 11. Ils. 6d.
Travels in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia, Pa. lestine, &c. By R. R. Madden, Esq. vols. 8vo. ll. 4s.
MISCELLANEOUS. Literary Memorials. By the Author of “ Four Years in France and “ Italy as it is.” I vol. 8vo. 14s.
nversations on Vegetable Physiology,