Page images
PDF
EPUB

certainly not in our line ; but, as Christian reviewers, we must just intimate that, though written in the very heart of the nineteenth century of the Christian æra, and sketching the characters of all the great ones who have filled the eye of Christendom during the most eventful period of its history, there is not a line of Christianity in them. His Lordship, too, has almost well-nigh forgotten that there is a “God in history ;” and therefore, in our view, his Sketches are not reading for the people, as certainly they are not much entitled to come out under the patronage of the “ Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.” If we append an extract from his sketch of that greatest of Christian statesmen, William Wilberforce, our readers need not be reminded that it is possible to say all that Lord Brougham has said, and yet not purge himself from the censure we have reluctantly pronounced upon him. Would · that his knowledge and admiration of Mr. Wilberforce had made him altogether such as he was, and added to the other attributes of his powerful eloquence the distinctive grace which he has so beautifully noticed in the following passage.

“ His eloquence," says Lord B., “was of the highest order. It was persuasive and pathetic in an eminent degree: but it was occasionally bold and impassioned, animated with the inspiration which deep feeling alone can breathe into spoken thought, chastened by a pure taste, varied by extensive information, enriched by classical allusion, sometimes elevated by the more sublime topics of holy writ-the thoughts and the spirit

"That touch'd Isaiah's hallow'd lips with fire.' Few passages can be in the oratory of modern times of a more electrical effect than the singularly felicitous and striking allusion to Mr. Pitt's resisting the torrent of Jacobin principles :-' He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague was stayed.' The singular kindness, the extreme gentleness of his disposition, wholly free from gall, from vanity, or any selfish feeling, kept him from indulging in any of the vituperative branches of rhetoric: but a memorable instance showed that it was any thing rather than the want of power which held him off froin the use of the weapons so often in almost all other men's hands. When a well-known popular member thought fit to designate him repeatedly, and very irregularly, as the 'honourable and religious gentleman,'— not because he was ashamed of the cross he gloried in, but because he felt indignant at any one in the British senate deeming piety a matter of imputation, he poured out a strain of sarcasm which none who heard it can ever forget. A common friend of the parties having remarked to Sir Samuel Romilly, beside whom he sat, that this greatly outmatched Pitt himself, the great master of sarcasm, the reply of that great man and just observer was worthy to be remarked— Yes,' said he, “it is the most striking thing I almost ever heard ; but I look upon it as a more singular proof of Wilberforce's virtue than of his genius; for who but he ever was possessed of such a formidable weapon and never used it?'"

We recommend this pregnant remark of Sir Samuel Romilly to all Christian statesmen, and are glad to find that Lord Brougham himself can so well appreciate it.

SENTIMENTS AND EXPERIENCE, AND OTHER REMAINS OF LUCY COBHAM HENNEN. Edited by her Daughter, SARAH JANE HENNEN. With Introductory Remarks, by the Rev. ROBERT MONTGOMERY, M.A. London: Baisler. 1846.

“ At all times, and under all circumstances," as Mr. Montgomery has well observed," a manuscript of the heart, when permitted to see the light, is interesting to those who study the moral anatomy of human character: but how is our interest heightened, when we have reason not only to believe such a manuscript perfectly sincere, but also to know the subject of it to have been an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile.” Such, there can be no doubt, was the character of Mrs. Hennen,- a lady-judging from the internal evidence of this little volume—of high accomplishment, and presenting, we can easily conceive, “ a perfect ideal of the Christian gentlewoman, graced with that combination of active energy and meditative calm, which constitute the perfection of female piety." Such is Mr. M.'s tribute, given on personal knowledge. He adds :

"In early life she had been schooled in severe and solemn trials, and as those trials had been evidently sanctified, they had only served to make the equipoise of her character complete. She thought profoundly, but could also act energetically: and thus deep contemplativeness of mind, combined with energetic zeal in conduct, together with a prayerful frequency at a throne of grace, caused her to become a beautiful example of all that woman, when religious, can embody."

The following extract from the preface (which contains a most touching and graceful sketch of Mrs. H. by her daughter), will introduce the contents of the volume better than any thing we can say ourselves, and will also, from the pen of the bereaved husband, Dr. Hennen, give our readers a further insight into the character of the excellent lady whose “ sentiments and experience” it records, together with “Reflections arising from Self-Examination,” -“ Sacramental Meditations and Prayers," --" Miscellaneous Prayers,”—and “ Selections intended for Nightly Meditation.”

“The beloved mind from whence this little work emanated," writes Dr. Hennen, “is departed. Early domestic afflictions and subsequent years of exquisite suffering from an incurable malady, at last subdued the body; but her blessed spirit triumphed over every affliction, and was sustained amidst her severest sufferings by an unshaken stedfast faith in the promises of God in Christ.

“ The author of this little volume was pre-eminently distinguished for PRACTICAL PIETY from an early age, for decision of character upon CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES, for inflexible integrity and unspotted purity of heart and mind. Her mental acquirements were of a high order: her mind was strikingly original, and richly stored with varied literature. She was gifted to an extraordinary extent with conversational powers; and possessing a remarkable clearness of expression, with a countenance of heavenly beauty, her society was eminently delightful and instructive. When conversing on any subject of particular interest, but especially when discussing or inculcating the momentous importance of a religious life, it was then more particularly that the original powers of her mind, her language, manner, and expression thrilled the hearts of all who had the privilege of listening to her; and it may be said with reverence and with truth, that on these occasions her countenance looked 'as if it had been the face of an angel.'

About two years ago, a charitable object in which she was much interested first suggested the publication of these 'Sacramental Meditations,' and, with her characteristic energy, in two evenings she penned the manuscript, though at the time labouring under acute bodily suffering. On subsequent inquiry, it was found that the expense of printing and the delay in publishing would defeat the immediate object of her wishes, so that the manuscript was laid aside. But now that she is gone, every relic of that beautiful mind has become inexpressibly more dear to her bereaved partner; he derives a melancholy gratification in presenting to her surviving friends this memento of departed excellence."

Miss H. adds :

“Such is the short introduction my father wrote to the third section of this little volume, when he placed it in the hands of the printer, intending to present a copy to each of my dear mother's friends, as a slight memorial of one so dearly loved. But on re-perusing some other manuscript remains, he found them to contain so much that was characteristic of her intellectual vigour, and so much that is calculated to improve the minds of others, whilst her sentiments exalt and do honour to the female character in general,—that he resolved to enlarge the work, and kindly permitted me to undertake the delightful task of arranging it for publication. The papers are printed in chronological order in which they were written. , ... The two first divisions of the volume are the productions of comparative youth: from an early age, circumstances obliged her to reflect rather than speak; and not finding congenial minds to whom she could fully express her sentiments, her custom was to write them down for her own improvement; and in this way volumes accumulated. But after a severe illness, she destroyed the greater part of her manuscripts, tu prevent them falling into the hands of strangers, and it is not more than two years since the papers now published were accidentally discovered to have escaped, and were given to me by my dear inother.”

We agree with Miss H. that these papers, though but few in number and occupying but a very small space, “ contain most valuable matter condensed into few words; and not the least interesting part of their history is, that whilst they were written under almost every possible disadvantage, they are the genuine thoughts and expressions of a youthful, yet powerful and beautiful, mind, ardently bent on improvement and self-knowledge.” We have no doubt the manual will prove very acceptable to many devout readers, and would just add that it might prove exceedingly serviceable as a present to the young, especially to such as are little in the way of meeting with such patterns of Christian piety.

THE DAWN OF LIFE ; or, Scripture Conversions. By a CLERGYMAN. Foolscap 8vo.

Foolscap 8vo. London : Seeleys. 1845.

This very interesting and useful little volume explains its plan and object, in the following opening of the Introduction.

" Scripture contains records of the dawn of spiritual life, in certain individual souls. These recorded conversions are few in number, but though few, so various in their circumstances and so unlike in their details, that they enable us to see with remarkable clearness those common points in which they all agree. And the conversions of those early believers were no doubt registered for this very purpose, that in them we might find examples with which to compare ourselves, and ascertain whether we have passed through the same happy change from death unto life.”-(pp. 1, 2.)

“ It might have pleased God to have pursued three different plans. Either to have given us no such histories at all; which would have deprived us of the great advantage of seeing inspired doctrine exemplified by inspired narratives; or to have recorded a large and unarranged collection, leaving us to put the heap into the best order we were able; or to have selected a few cases out of the great mass, each of them the pattern of a large and separate class, thus giving us the full benefit of the manifold wisdom of God. This last course seems to have been the one adopted. If so, each case of conversion recorded in the Bible, is the pattern of one great class of conversion in all ages of the world. We are not to put them all together as though they were disjointed fragments, and to make to ourselves an ideal convert, uniting in himself all these various characteristics. We must rather look for exanples of each different class, alike in this, that they are all the planting of the Lord, and in every other respect as unlike, as a cedar is unlike a rose, or a lily unlike an oak.

“Keeping this in view, let us examine some of the principal instances of conversion recorded in the Bible. We shall find them in certain respects very unlike. The individuals who form the subject of these narratives were of various ages, stations, occupations and natural characters. Some of them had many more advantages than others,- were blessed with greater light and with greater opportunities for increasing it. Some lived in the twilight of redemption, others in its morning brightness, when the Sun of Righteousness had risen on our earth. But all, however differing in outward circumstances, and inward temperament, and however free and various the actings of God's Spirit in their bosoms, were alike in this, that they all owed their conversion to the same Almighty grace. It will be interesting to examine this grace in its different developinents. We shall see a unity of design coupled with a diversity of method. Just as in music you may hear the same air hidden under a thousand variations; so in the regeneration of many souls, it is easy to mark the footsteps of the ONE SPIRIT, who worketh in each one severally, according to his own will.

“ We will begin with Samuel, and examine in his call the nature of infant piety. Manasseh will give us a pattern of late repentance; and Josiah of youthful conversion. În Nicodemus, Zaccheus, and the restored Demoniac, we shall see the converted Moralist, the converted Worldling, and the converted Opposer. From the example of the Dying Thief, we shall learn never to despair of conversion ; from that of the Ethiopian Eunuch, to read and listen to the word, as the great means of conversion ; and from that of the Apostle Paul, to see in conversion the Almighty power of grace. And lastly, in the contrast between those two eminent converts of Philippi, the gentle

Lydia and the savage Jailor, we shall observe at a glance, variety of method and oneness of end."-(pp. 2–5.)

It would be difficult to imagine a more legitimate use of Scripture. It seems to come up to the very idea of the expression“ rightly dividing the word of truth.”

And the execution is as happy as the idea is just. Take the following from the first lecture on “Samuel, or Infant Piety":

“ Suppose a mother sitting in the midst of a group of smiling little ones of various ages, from two years old and upward. One on her knee, the rest on the lawn at her feet. She tells them the simple tale of Samuel's childhood, and then speaks thus :

My dear children, there is not one of you too young to be a pious child. Children of all ages have loved and served God. Samuel, as we have seen, was quite an infant when his mother brought him to Shiloh. Yet though so very young, he had given his heart to the Lord. He worshipped him,--that is, prayed to him, gave him thanks, tried to please him. He ministered to him,--that is, he served him, did all that he could do to show him honour. While in God's house he behaved with great stillness and reverence. His work was to shut the doors and open them, probably to watch the lamp, and perhaps to sing pleasant hymns. All this he loved to do. He loved to spend his time in doing God's work. He listened to God. When God said, Samuel, Samuel; Samuel answered, "Speak, for thy servant heareth.' He did not turn away and think of other things, but bent his whole mind to know what God was going to speak. He tried to do God's will, first, by kindness to the old man Eli; secondly, by telling the truth. And lastly, he knew the way to God's mercy-seat. Within the tabernacle in which Samuel dwelt, was an ark. The cover of this ark was called the mercy-seat, because God shone over it in a great light, and was very merciful to those who prayed to him there. When Samuel wanted anything, he could go to the mercy-seat and ask God for it. When Samuel was sad and sorry, he could tell his grief before the mercy-seat. And God would give him all he needed, and make his little heart brimful of joy.'”—(pp. 19–21.)

Again, take the following sketch of “ Nicodemus, the converted Moralist " :

“Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews and a master in Israel. He was accustomed to teach in the synagogue, to attend the council, and probably, like Gamaliel, was, as we should say, a divinity-professor to the young men who went up from other cities to study at Jerusalem. But all this time, while no doubt deeply read in scripture and tradition, and much esteemed for his worth and learning, he was a stranger to converting grace. The word of God had not proved to him the seed of incorruptible life. He had not been born again.

" Yet even before his conversion Nicodemus seems to have possessed certain natural qualities which made him an universal favourite. For the expression " a master of Israel” should rather be rendered the master of Israel. It was undoubtedly a title of high respect, bestowed on him by an admiring nation. It told of the value they attached to his talents or learning or moral excellence, and probably to all the three.

“ He was candid-of this, his willingness to enquire into the character of Jesus is some proof. Just-for had he not been, we may feel quite sure that, as on so many other occasions, Christ would have pressed this matter home to his conscience. Wise the learned Rabbi had doubtless made himself master of all the knowledge of his age ; nor could he have attained so great

« PreviousContinue »