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grass, and motion to every particle of
"This is a popular argument against Christianity, not much dwelt upon in books, but we believe, a good deal insinuated in conversation, and having no small influence on the amateurs of a superficial philosophy. At all events, it is right that every such argument should be met, and manfully confronted; nor do
we know a more discreditable surrender
of our religion, than to act as if she had any thing to fear from the ingenuity of her most accomplished adversaries."
Spurinna or the Comforts of Old Age. With Notes and Biographical Illustrations. BY SIR THOMAS BERNARD, BARONET. London. Longman and Co.; pp. 248. 1816. SPURINNA was a hale old man, who had pursued such a temperate course of life, that in his seventy eighth year he discovered no symptom of old age but the wisdom. method of living, Pliny has given an Of his elegant description, in the first letter of his third book: it was the gratification he derived from the perusal of this letter, that influenced Sir Thomas Bernard, in fixing on the title of Spurinna.
The following extracts from the preface will convey to the reader some conception of the plan of the volume.
sessed, no one could have made a better "Of the materials which Cicero posuse, than he has done in his Essay on Old Age. But the Gospel has since opened purer and more valuable sources of con theism and heathen Philosophy. The solation, than are to be found in Polymiserable uncertainty, or affected indifference, of some of their best and wisest men with regard to a future state, form a striking contrast to the sure and certain God, and faith in the merits of our hope, which reliance on the word of Redeemer, will supply during age and infirmity, to the poorest and humblest Christian.
passing between eminent men of the "In adopting the form of a dialogue of Cicero. The venerable Bishop Hough same period, I have followed the example is the Cato of my Drama; a prelate, health of body and mind, to the advanced who enjoyed an extraordinary degree of lived, respected and beloved. He is well age of ninety-two; and died, as he had known for his manly resistance, as President of Magdalen College, to the tyranny Thus the reader has before him, lately published by our friend Mr. Wilof James the Second. His private letters, this specious objection, in all its force. mot, present an amiable portrait of his Dr. Chalmers has nothing extenuated mind; and have enabled me, in some deit, nor hath he put down aught in gree, to mark his peculiar manners and malice. How successfully he meets mode of expression; so as to offer a view and refutes it, we shall endeavour to of his character in his ninetieth year, in show in our next number. In the which succeeded the hard frost of 1739, the meantime, the specimen we have point of time which I have fixed for this now furnished of the lofty concep-friend and correspondens, Bishop Gibson, Dialogue. The two other parties are his tions and beautiful illustrations which
pervade this volume, will no doubt stimulate many of our readers to have immediate recourse to it, without waiting for any further account of it from us and we greatly mistake if the highest expectations which they can form of it be disappointed.
ton (afterwards Lord Lyttleton) his neighbour in the country."
then Bishop of London, and Mr. Lyttel
In considering the inconveniences of age, the author has adopted the Ciceronian arrangement, and classed them under the four following heads":
1. That it unfits for public life: 2. is attended by infirmity of body: 3. diminishes the power of animal enjoyment: and 4. is a state of anxiety on account of the approach of death. Under each of these divisions, many valuable observations occur, interspersed with a pleasant admixture of anecdote. We can only make room for the following quotation.
"BISHOP GIBSON. Assuredly, Brother, there cannot be a more animating motive to virtue and piety, thau the prospect of eternal happiness. Whenever the arch-fiend-our great enemy, is most earnest to pervert and corrupt us, he labours to erase from the mind the hope of immortality: and as Dr. South has quaintly expressed it, 'when once infidelity can persuade men, that they shall die like beasts, they well soon be brought to live like beasts also.'
"BISHOP HOUGH. Yet this hope has cheered the heart of man in all ages. Some of the wisest and most virtuous heathens have perceived that our future, existence is the only one, deserving the name of life; and that the soul, during its confinement in a mortal body, is doomed to a state of penance and probation, looking with desire to its native seat in heaven. If we consider the faculties of the mind, the rapidity of its conceptions, its recollection as to the past, its sagacity with regard to the future, and its discoveries in every branch of art and science, it must be evident that this active and comprehensive principle cannot be corporeal or mortal. O my sons, (said the dying Cyrus) do not suppose that, when I shall be separated from you by death, I shall cease to exist. You beheld not my soul, while I have been with you; yet you were persuaded of its existence, by the actions you saw me perform. Infer the same, when you see me no more I never will be induced to believe, that the soul can properly be said to live, while it remains in this mortal body; or that it will cease to have existence, when death has dissolved the vital union. Neither can I be persuaded, that it will become void of sense, because it has quitted its connection with senseless matter; or that, on the contrary, its intellectual powers must not be improved, when refined from corporeal mixture.'
"MR. LYTTELTON. I have frequently admired that passage, my Lord, and considered it as one of the most favourable examples of the consolations of heathen philosophy.
"BISHOP HOUGH. What, however, are these faint glimmerings of unassisted reason, compared with the divine light of Revelation, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day ?-My strength indeed declines and my end approaches:
but I am most grateful, that the moderate degree of understanding, which God has been pleased to give me, is not impaired ; and I have a consoling hope, that when judge mankind, you and I, with all faithour Saviour shall come in all his glory to ful people, shall through the mercy of God, and the merits of our Redeemer, find a place at his right hand. What our portion may be in that kingdom. is known only to his Father and himself: but this is revealed to us, that at his right hand are pleasures above our conception to all eternity. I have no doubt but that I have lengthened my life, and preserved my health, by the calmness and composure which I derive from frequent meditation on this subject; for what can be more delightful and invigorating to the mind, than to contemplate with the eye of faith, a period now no longer distant, when I shall arrive at the eternal mansion, where the glory of God shall lighten it, and the Lamb shall be the light thereof? The earthly house of this pilgrimage shall then be dissolved, and I shall have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; and shall exclaim with the Apostle, 'I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.'-The sun shall then no more be my light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto me; but the Lord shall be my everlasting light, and our God shall be my glory.-Nation shall not then lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more: for there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain. And is not this a subject, my dear friends, to awaken all the enthusiasm of gratitude in my breast, and abundantly to recompense for the little aches and pains, the weaknesses and infirmities, of old age? With these contemplations present during the day, and always ready to tranquilize my waking hours at night, is it wonderful that I should, with so little suffering or anxiety, have advanced to my ninetieth year? or that I should exclaim, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.-The calm and steady perseverance, with which the martyrs for our faith in the times of primitive Christianity, and the victims of bigotry in our latter days, have endured all the torments which malice and ingenuity could invent and inflict, has ever been a subject of admiration and astonishment to the world. If, however, we reflect that (like as to the Proto-Martyr Stephen, when he looked stedfastly into
Heaven, and saw the glory of God, and | The Prospects of the New Year: or,
Jesus standing on the right hand of God) these contemplations must have been present to the mind; and that they then anticipated with hope and faith, the blessed regions to which they were immediately advancing, and the glory and felicity prepared for them,-their steadfastness and constancy become less matter of wonder. It was this Christian hope, this foretaste of the bliss of Paradise, which enabled the expiring martyr, Maccail, to exclaim, Farewell sun, moon, and stars; farewell kindred and friends,-farewell world and time,-farewell weak and frail body:--welcome eternity,-welcome Angels and Saints,welcome Saviour of the World, and welcome God, the Judge of all."
In his Essay on Old Age, which has always excited the admiration of the classical reader, Cicero seems to have collected all the rays of heathen philosophy into a focus; but the darkness of the tomb defied his attempt at invasion. It required a greater than Cicero, to bring "life and immortality to light," and the invisible world continued to be enveloped in mist, till the Star of Bethlehem arose to chase away the clouds. The reflection of the mild glories of this fairest gem in the "diadem of night," sheds a lustre on the present production, superior to the brilliancy of the Roman orator, and we would recommend it to every one who is qualified for the undertaking, to compare the heathen with the Christian philosopher. He will find the latter, substituting certainty for doubt, and adopting that celebrated passage, "Oh præclarum diem," &c. in reference to a nobler meeting, and without any hesitation annexed to it.
We cannot conclude without thanking the author for his acceptable present to the public, and expressing our wish, that the book may meet with an extensive circulation among the higher classes of society for whom it is more particularly adapted. We regard with peculiar complacency, a nobleman, who employs his talents -not in aiming to shine the first in the camp or in the senate,-not in investing misanthropic sentiments with all the charms of poetry-but in teaching Christianity to his fellow
God a National Refuge in times of trouble. A Sermon delivered in Leman Street Chapel, Duke Street, Blackfriars, London. On Lord's Day's Afternoon, January 5, 1917. BY THOMAS CURTIS. London. Gale and Fenner. Pp. 36. 1817. We must absolutely enter our protest against Mr. Curtis's manner of accommodating the words of the living God to purposes altogether foreign to their true intent and meaning. Nor can we repress our astonishment that a person of his capacity, and professing such sentiments as he does, should indulge in such fanciful interpretations of the holy scriptures as are calculated to excite the derision of the scoffer and to promote the laughter of fools. "The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord." Jer. xxiii. 28. Surveying the aspect of the present eventful period, Mr. Curtis like every other man of sober reflection, is deeply affected at the distresses which have come upon us as a nation, and this honourable feeling is mingled with alarm, lest our impatience should hurry us into the adoption of vain and impracticable plans of reform. Here he sees, or thinks he sees, great danger arising from the factious conduct of certain political demagogues, against listening to whose counsels he, in the spirit of true benevolence, most solemnly warns us. All this is very good; and had he taken for his text the words of the wise man. My son, fear thou the Lord and the king; and meddle not with them that are given to change"-he would have so far escaped our But who in his wits, would ever have thought of taking for such a purpose the following remarkable text: "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter: should not a people seek unto their God?" &c. Isaiah viii. 19. Now if we look into the plain, literal meaning of these words, we shall find that, in the days of the prophet, the children of Judah gave heed to wizards, dreamers, necromancers, and false prophets, in direct violation of the divine law, recorded in Deut. xviii. 10, 11, 20. Like Saul, they
see its impropriety in a proper light, we now pass on to other matters.
We have already intimated our approbation of the general drift and design of this discourse, which is to advocate the cause of benevolence, and guard us against being infected with the spirit of sedition and tumult.
sought unto them that had familiar spirits, and applied for direction "from the living to the dead,” instead of having recourse to the true God, and hearkening to the words of his law in opposition to which abominable practice, the inspired writer calls their attention to the lively cracles, “to the law and to the tes-To the little doctrinal sentiment that timony." ver. 20. But who would ever have expected to find Mr. Curtis applying this passage to the popular demagogues of our day—the Hunts and the Cobbetts, and all the rest of our political leaders! What else can we make of the following words—
"Truth will compel us to add to this picture of real distress, and much real feeling,-(as will indeed, in such cases, by all prudent men be expected) much Irritation of spirit, and some Insubordination, in the ranks, if not in the parties that claim relief;-chiefly attributable to the false views and feelings of other ranks, the necromancing wizards' of our text. Those who seek to the " familiar spirits of popular discontent and outrage to all the bad passions of the heart to envy, pride, and personal revenge,-just at the moment when we most want an Union of all the best and strongest feelings of our nature-to enjoy the blessings of peace in the spirit of peace! As if to patronize discontent were both wiser and better than to relieve distress or universal anarchy a safe and salutary prescription for particular and personal grievances!
it contains, we have not much to object: but the style in which it is composed, really surprises us exceedingly ; for though it does not by any means reach the turgid declamation of Mr. Richard Winter Hamilton, (See our Mag. Vol. I. p. 209.) we regret to say that it approximates too nearly to that model. Mark, reader, how the Sermon opens—
"We have just survived the largest ordinary revolution of created thingsanother year. Our custom has been for some time past, you will remember, my brethren-to ask of these momentous Harbingers of Eternity some instruction, as they appear, and to pause over the period of their departure. For as the revolution of those beavenly bodies, which are ordained by divine wisdom for signs and for seasons, for days and for years,' embraces in its compass all our time—as they form and furnish the great PresenceChamber, in the midst of which the living God takes his station as the Origin, the Animating Spirit, and Impartial Judge of all our gifts, our graces, and our duties -these living witnesses have seen much of our character in their passage; and the complete change of all this mighty scenery may well remind us of that final change to which all things around us are hastening—may remind us, too, of the distinguishing prerogative of their only Great Inhabitant to remain Himself unchanged-and of each of our respective stations amongst them while they last."
“We shall find, indeed, in the entire review of our affairs as 'a people' at this time, some suitability in the whole of our text, and its connection-some room for the rebuke implied, as well as for the direction afforded us, by the Prophet. For every spirit of this world that would prescribe a remedy for our entire casethat would attempt to reach the roots of discontent on the one hand, or of profuNow it strikes us that had Mr. sion and hard-heartedness on the other, Curtis been writing an Ode on the independent of a constant reference to New Year, by throwing this sentence the revealed will and presiding providence into lines of an equal number of of the most high God, will fall ultimately syllables, it would have done admishort of its object: will be found either rably well for blank verse; but it is a mere spirit of heat without light, with quite out of character for humble which the populace and pópular men, have been in all ages of the world but prose! The great apostle of the too familiar-or a cold and calculating Gentiles certainly did not preach in policy that has no feeling for any rank, this style. "And I, brethren, when nor idea of any sufferings, but its own-a I came to you, came not with excelSomething that is always peeping' into lency of speech or of wisdom-I was distress, but never relieving it, and mut-with you in weakness, and in fear, tering' forth the duties and ability of others, to the neglect of all its own.”
This is a specimen of the use, we ought rather to say the abuse, of the holy scriptures in which Mr. Curtis indulges himself; and hoping he may
and in much trembling; and my speech and my preaching, were not with enticing words of man's wisdom"-" lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." Alas! how much wiser are we grown now
a-days, than the first preachers of the gospel were.
Having never been favoured with an opportunity of witnessing the public worship in "Leman-street Chapel," we are incompetent to form any judgment of the class of persons who usually attend Mr. Curtis's ministry; but this much we think ourselves warranted to affirm, that unless they greatly surpass, on the score of intellectual attainment, every other congregation in London with which we have any cquaintance, his preaching, provided the Sermon before us be a fair specimen of it, will do them just as much good as if he preached to them in Greek. They may indeed be charmed with the modulations of his voice, and the gracefulness of his action-but their understandings will remain uninformed and their hearts unaffected. We question if Mr. Curtis himself always understands his own meaning. Take, for instance, the following paragraph."
"Look to it, my brethren, of every rank-God is a Spirit but not an abstraction, that is, not a Spirit abstracted from the works he has made. He is a living, penetrating, intense Presence.-Neither an idle spectator of your conduct, nor a gloomy Eastern Monarch retiring into the arbitrariness of his power as a refuge from its exercise. He is the living Governor or God. The only Governor that is alive to every act and thought in his dominions. And forget not ye are living
men and women-and that as God is not the abstraction of a philosopher, neither are his people, nor any people living, the members of a philosophical republic."
What, now, we ask, are we to understand by this strange sentence? "God is a Spirit-but not a Spirit abstracted from the works he has made!" Here then let us ask "If God is not a Spirit abstracted from the works he has made-is he included in the works he has made, so as to form a part of those works? or are we to understand Mr. Curtis's meaning to be, that "the Universe is God," which was the doctrine of Epicurus! If this be not his meaning, we protest that we know not what it is. Perhaps, being a poet, he had his eye upon Pope's well known lines
All are but parts of one stupendous whole, Whose body nature is, and God the soul; To Him no high, no low, no great, no small; He fills, he bounds, connects and equals all!
This language might suit the mouth of a Heathen philosopher, but it is Atheistical, in the creed of a Christian divine. Mr. Curtis, however, calls us back again, and tells us that what he means to affirm is, that God is "a living, penetrating, intense presence!" We are now just as wise as we were before. Does the preacher mean to teach us that the term GoD and PRESENCE are convertible, so as that the latter is exegetical of the former? If so, it must then follow that Presence is God-the Creator and the alone object of worship! Now if we ask Dr. Johnson to define to us the meaning of the word "Presence," he will tell us that it is "the opposite of absence"-and thus, according to Mr. Curtis, the living and true God is reduced to a mere nonentity! A happy specimen of the manner in which persons impose, first upon themselves, and then upon others, by words to which they affix no definite meaning.
As we have extracted the first sentence of this Sermon, we shall now take our leave of it by quoting the last; and if any of our readers are made either wiser or better by it, our souls shall rejoice, even ours.
"Acknowledged Goodness, the only root of Rights, and Duties the only fruit of them, form the tree of Christian Life in the midst of the paradise of God. As the claims of Gratitude for this goodness more particularly concern the Christian in his closet, and his personal communion with his God; Rights and Duties will be the inseparable companions of each other in his thoughts, in his language, and in his conduct before men.-Let this be the bias of your Political Vocabulary in these times, my brethren. You will find it living peace, living contentment-living joy, and may you find it ultimately, Life Eternal! Amen."
We know not how the case may be with others, but for ourselves we can truly say, that after reading such a Sermon as the one now before us, in which there is such an affected refinement of style, such a continued glitter of language, without any solid sentiment to feed the mind, we recall with emotions of the profoundest admiration, the conduct of him who could say, "I thank God that I speak with tongues more than you all; yet -I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."