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But this is vain wishing. They made clean work at Constantinople! Every divine verse of Sappho and Mimnermus, which we now do possess, is only ours, because it was enshrined in the unobnoxious manuscripts of collectors or critics. Every shred of their mantles-every string of their lyres, was meant to be burnt; and we were to dry our tears with Gregory Nazianzen! We do not know that the darkness of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was ever made more visible than by the light of that bonfire.
ART. IV.-1. The Entire Works of the Rev. Robert Hall, A.M., &c. Published under the superintendence of Olinthus Gregory, LL.D., F.R.A.S. 5 vols. 8vo. London. 1830-32. 2. Reminiscences of the Rev. Robert Hall, A. M. By John Greene. London. 1831.
E have not, of late years, undertaken a task of greater difficulty than this, of laying before our readers our opinion of Hall and of his writings, and the grounds upon which it has been formed. On the one hand there is to be taken into consideration the dignity of Hall's talents, for they were surpassed perhaps by those of very few men in his time; the reverence we naturally feel for one who, so gifted, was content, for conscience sake, to occupy a far lower station in society than seemed his due; the reserve which we would most sincerely desire to exercise in dealing with a noble mind in which there was a flaw-a flaw extending perhaps farther than met the eye; and the allowance which ought, in fairness, to be made for the defects of an author, no longer alive to superintend the publication of his own works, to revise, to reconcile, above all, to withhold. On the other hand, we cannot forget, that the editor has been acting a deliberate part towards the memory of his friend, whether a discreet one or otherwise; that the sentiments of such a man as Hall, so vividly conceived, so eloquently expressed, (for he is an absolute master of English,) cannot fail of producing powerful effects; and that, whilst they are often tributary in the highest degree to patriotism, to liberty, to morals, to all the graces of a Christian life, they often again breathe a spirit so fierce, so dogmatical, so impatient of fair opposition, so studiously offensive to every honest member of the Church of England, that, though quite unconscious of party feelings, and certainly having opened these volumes with many prepossessions in favour of the writer, we cannot altogether submit to charges so intemperate, and lick the hand upheaved to lay what of earthly institutions we most estimate low. If, therefore, Dr. Gregory has allowed himself, from whatever motive, to give to the public essays composed at distant intervals, under different circumstances, in the fervour
of youth and the circumspection of age, at seasons of extraordinary ferment and of calm repose, of bright hope and of bitter knowledge-regardless of the inconsistencies they betray, which are many and grievous-on him and not on us be the blame. We are unwilling to pronounce that there is anything in the condition of the times, which stimulates the principles of dissent to unwonted and ungenerous activity-that they are working just now, as they have done in times past (to use Mr. Southey's illustration), because there happens to be thunder in the air-but if it be so, we advise them to be still a little longer, lest eagerness should get the better of discretion-lest that which is probably meant as a menace should be taken as a warning; and the temper already shown, should only suggest the caution, if it be such in the green tree what will it be in the dry?
Hall, at the age of seven and twenty, publishes a pamphlet, entitled, Christianity consistent with a Love of Freedom.' It is impossible to read the works of this extraordinary man without perceiving, that his passions in his youth were turbulent in the extreme-that the energies of his mind were then scarcely under his own control-that years of reflection and dear-bought experience were wanting to him, above all men, in order to tame his spirit-that, like Milton's lion, he was a long time before he could struggle out of earth. I presume,' says he, in one of his letters, 'the Lord sees I require more hammering and hewing than almost any other stone that was ever selected for his spiritual building, and that is the secret of his dealing with me.'* Tranquillity,' he writes in another letter, is not my lot; the prey in early life of passion and calamity, I am now perfectly devoured with an impatience to redeem the time.' Why then will Dr. Gregory disturb his repose by a republication, to which Mr. Hall would never consent, he tells us, during his life; doubtless condemning, in his more sober years, the bitter temper which spake in this youthful effort; for of the ability with which it is writen even Hall could never have had any reason to be ashamed. It is a poor apology, as seems to us, to the wounded spirit of Hall, if his spirit can now be wounded, to say, that surreptitious editions of the work had been printed and must be met. What if they had? These editions, some or all of them, must have been known to Hall himself, yet they did not provoke him to republish. He had unhappily suffered words to escape him which he was not able to revoke, and he made all the atonement he could to his own sense of right and wrong by refusing to repeat them ;-we cannot but think that it would have been the office of a true friend, to respect his self-accusing silence, and set upon it his seal. For, after all, the treatise, now that it is once again + Vol. v., p. 424.
* Vol. v., p. 479.
before the public, as compared with Hall's subsequent writings, is full of contradictions; so that whatever honour it may reflect on the genius of the man is at the expense of his judgment—a poor compensation. Thus, he calls the maxims of Mr.'s sermon, to which the tract is an answer, servile,' because Mr.
thinks it better that ministers of the gospel should not turn politicians, or if they do depart from their natural line, that it should be to defend governments, to allay dissensions, to convince the people that they are incompetent judges of their rights.'* Yet, servile' as was this counsel, the time came when Hall himself was determined to have as little to do as possible with party politics, and in the exercise of his professional duties nothing at all.' And again, at a later period, he expresses a reluctance to appear as a political writer, from an opinion, whether well or ill founded, that the Christian ministry is in danger of losing something of its energy and sanctity by embarking on the stormy element of political debate.' Mr. - had said no more.
Our author,' writes Hall in the same treatise, expresses an ardent desire for the approach of that period, when all men will be Christians. I have no doubt,' he adds, that this event will take place, and rejoice in the prospect of it; but whenever it arrives it will be fatal to Mr.'s favourite principles, for the professors of Christianity must then become politicians, as the wicked, on whom he at present very politely devolves the business of government, will be no more; or perhaps he indulges a hope, that even then, there will be a sufficient number of sinners left to conduct political affairs, especially as wars will then cease, and social life be less frequently disturbed by rapine and injustice. It will still, however, be a great hardship, that a handful of the wicked should rule innumerable multitudes of the just, and cannot fail, according to our present conceptions, to operate as a kind of check on piety and virtue.'-vol. iii., p. 18. Now, to say nothing of Hall misrepresenting his antagonist-for Mr. if we understand right, was confining his observations to ministers of the gospel, and restricting them, and them only, from taking an active part in matters of state-to say nothing of this-we confess that we do not discover aught, in this irreverent badinage on the fulfilment of prophecy, which should recommend the divine to descend to the politician, and mingle hot blood and devotion.
Again; Mr. had presumed to quote the example of our Lord in favour of his view of the question:
'On this ground,' replies Hall, the profession of physic is unlawful for a Christian, because our Lord never set up a dispensary; and that of law, because he never pleaded at the bar.'-vol. iii., p. 40.
*Vol, iii., p. 7.
+ Vol. i., p. 83.
Vol. iii., p. 81.
And in the same vein, in another passage in this treatise, Hall takes advantage of what he considers an obscure allusion to the Birmingham riots, in a turn of Mr.'s sermon, and imputes the obscurity to that mystic sublimity which has always tinctured the language of those who are appointed to interpret the counsels of heaven;'* and recurring to the same figure in the next page, declares himself no longer surprised at the superiority he assumes through the whole of his discourse, nor at that air of confusion and disorder which appears in it,' both of which Hall imputes to his dwelling so much in the insufferable light, and amidst the coruscations and flashes of the divine glory.'t Surely this is ground on which angels should fear to tread.
Accordingly, we find Hall on this, as on the former occasion, living to see the day when he stood self-corrected-when this very flippancy on sacred subjects became a just offence to him, and was thought worthy of receiving a chastisement, which no man knew better how to administer. Thus, in allusion to an article on Methodism that appeared in the Edinburgh Review, he talks with great indignation of the poison of impiety,' (for such he discovers in that paper,) prepared, it is generally understood, by hallowed hands,' (we pretend not to know whose,) and distributed through the nation in a popular and seducing vehicle, which had met with a powerful antidote and rebuke from Dr. Gregory, who, himself a layman, will be honoured,' says Hall, ' as the champion of that religion which a clergyman has insulted and betrayed.' And, in another place, the author of Zeal without Innovation,' having talked of a certain class of preachers holding their hearers by prosings on the hidings of God's face,' Hall now says, and says well, that to good men it will be a matter of serious regret, to find a writer, from whom different things were to be expected, treat the concerns of the spiritual warfare in so light and ludicrous a manner.' §
In the same youthful essay Hall maintains, that the Revolution. in France may be defended on its principles, against the friends of arbitrary power, by displaying the value of freedom, the rights of mankind, the folly and injustice of those regal or aristocratic pretensions by which those rights were invaded, and that accordingly in this light it had been justified with the utmost success; or, again, that it might be defended upon its expedients, by exhibiting the elements of government which it had composed, the laws it had enacted, and the tendency of both to extend and perpetuate that liberty which was its ultimate object. Yet the days were at hand, when Hall could commend Mr. Gisborne as Vol. iv., p. 179. || Vol. iii., p. 22.
*Vol. iii., p. 31. +Vol. iii., p. 33.
the individual to whom the country was under unequalled obligations for discrediting this very doctrine of expediency, which threatens, says Hall, to annihilate religion, to loosen the foundation of morals, and to debase the character of the nation.'* And for the principles-the real principles-of the French Revolution, Hall lived to lay them bare in one of the most eloquent and philosophical sermons ever preached in any pulpit in any countrya sermon, for which England was most grateful at the time, and the extraordinary merit of which renders it painful to us at this moment to unveil the earlier errors of so great a man, which, but for this republication of them, might, for us at least, have slept till doomsday. Mark then the principles which the mature Hall discovers to have been actively at work in the French Revolution :Among the various passions,' says he, which that Revolution has so strikingly displayed, none is more conspicuous than vanity' -vanity, both in those whose business it was to lead, and in those whose lot it was to follow-infusing into the former-into those entrusted with the enaction of laws- a spirit of rash innovation and daring empiricism—a disdain of the established usages of mankind—a foolish desire to dazzle the world with new and untried systems of policy, in which the precedents of antiquity and the experience of ages are only consulted to be trodden under foot' vanity, predominating among the latter, the million, by reason of
'political power, the most seducing object of ambition, never before circulating through so many hands; the prospect of possessing it never before presented to so many minds-multitudes who, by their birth and education, and not unfrequently by their talents, seemed destined to perpetual obscurity, being, by the alternate rise and fall of parties, elevated into distinction, and sharing in the functions of government; the short-lived forms of power and office gliding with such rapidity through successive ranks of degradation, from the court to the very dregs of the people, that they seemed rather to solicit acceptance than to be a prize contended for. Yet, as it was still impossible for all to possess authority, though none were willing to obey, a general impatience to break the ranks, and rush into the foremost ground, maddened and infuriated the nation, and overwhelmed law, order, and civilization with the violence of a torrent.'-—vol. i., P. 39.
Here was one of the principles of the French Revolution, but not one on which it could be defended. Another was, that ferocity of character which was the effect of sceptical impiety, the life of a man being very differently estimated by the Christian and the infidel: its extinction appearing to the one the summons of an immortal being to the bar of its judge; to the other, the diverVol. iv., p. 139. + Vol. i., p. 38.