Abbildungen der Seite

tion, which would be nourished and ripened by contact. This observation will be best illustrated by adverting to the present division of mankind upon the principle of representation, the fate of Spain and Naples leaving little room to doubt that our distance from the sphere in which the arbitrary governments of Europe revolve, is all that secures us from the perfidy of their machinations, and the terror of their arms.

It is, at the same time, the object and the felicity of conquering nations, to carry their arms far beyond their own possessions, and to wage destructive wars without, while all is order and tranquillity within. Such was the policy, and such the good fortune of Rome.* But this circumstance is not peculiar to the ancient mistress of the world. England, in modern times, with superior advantages of position, has spread her forces over almost every soil in the known world, without suffering her own territory to be polluted by the footstep of an invader. We should, perhaps, hardly be justified by a reference to history, unconnected with philosophical abstractions, in saying, that there is any particular form of government, which is more peculiarly favorable than any other to peace. Rome was martial in the days of her servitude, and in the days of her freedom. Athens was formidable with habits of licentiousness, and Sparta with habits of restraint. The spirit of commerce has been considered adverse to warlike pursuits, those nations which have been devoted to the business of traffic and exchange, having exhibited the least inclination to encounter the collisions of war. Carthage, notwithstanding the martial achievements which she performed in defence of her commerce, was pacific in her spirit, and waged those falal wars which terminated in her downfall, with the money, rather than the arms, of her own citizens. But the deductions which have been made from her example, and the example of other nations of analogous constitution and character, have all been defeated by the history of England-a nation which has united, in a single career, the commercial enterprise of Carthage, the military triumphs of Rome, and the naval achievements of Greece.

Our wars are to be defensive wars. Our policy, the genius of our institutions, the division of our industry, the spirit of society, and the pursuits of our citizens, all invite to peace. With these influences, our geographical position combines, confirming and giving them effect. We shall, therefore, only be likely to engage in hostilities when we are stimulated by flagrant acts of aggression, unless we should be seduced by the spirit of conquest,—and this cannot take place until our political and social condition is radically changed. That we shall be occasionally involved in wars is, however, to be anticipated: to expect a different lot would be to disregard the whole course of civil society. We, however, hope, and we have reason to believe, so long as our national character and institutions are unchanged, that in our future wars, as in those through which we have passed, we shall always be able to justify ourselves in the language used by Caius Pontius, in addressing an assembly of the Samnites, who were convened for the purpose of resisting the aggressions of Rome-56 Justum est bellum quibus necessarium; et pia arma quibus nulla nisi in armis relinquitur spes."*

*“ Fuit proprium populi Romani longè à domo bellare,” says Cicero. Thus their enemies could not turn against them the resources of their own country. It was on this account Hannibal said to Antiochus, that the Romans could never be beaten but in Italy.

Vol. I.


Art. III.—Essays on the Nature and Uses of the various Evi

dences of Revealed Religion. By Gulian C. VERPLANCK. New-York, 1824. 8vo. pp. 267.

In that department of human knowledge, which is bounded on the one hand by science merely physical, and on the other by developments purely spiritual, the evidences of christianity lift themselves up, as the middle term of extremes, wide as earth from heaven. The proofs are sometimes substantial, as the miracles which men saw, and heard, and felt in its opening era ; and sometimes moral, but not less satisfactory, such as ever gleam from that face of divinity, which is impressed upon the pages of the revelation of Jesus.

The volume of which we now proceed to present a brief notice to our readers, draws its demonstration of the divine original and use of the holy scriptures from the latter, which is a practical and unfailing source of evidence. Without advancing into any distinct exhibition of the severing lines of theological belief, it surveys a field too much neglected, and prepares the way for a more definite exposition of the truths of religion. We may have books upon the subject here selected from persons of the most varying tenets, and from those who have almost no other tenet than that the scriptures are inspired. The evidences are, like man, who pursues these ratiocinations, of double composition: sometimes like the matter, which miracle

* Liv. Lib. IX. Cap. 1.

materialen, and fits toman, to feel ive the brief aven. 'of all

losurtual phenobe studiele from

disenthralled from disease and death, and sometimes like the immaterial spirit which religion emancipates from every link to corruption, and fits for a residence beyond the skies. One surely need but be a man, to feel the importance of this investigation, and to desire to examine the brief of him, who sets forth the authenticity of an oracle from heaven. Of all books, the bible is most to be studied, if it deserves any notice; of all intellectual phenomena, prophecy is the most curious; of all diclosures, the prophetic portraiture of what is after death, and in the judgment, is the most momentous. While our courts of law attract a host of idlers, “ the trial of the witnesses” to the christian revelation has invited many of the philosophers and the polite of every age. To walk around this monument of christianity, to examine the substructions of an edifice which towers untouched over the desolations of eighteen centuries, to observe the hand of the Great Architect in this temple which he has provided for his worshippers, is to occupy ourselves in what philosophy earnestly advises, and in what religion solemnly enjoins.

Instead, therefore, of the reprehension which his motto modestly deprecates,* Mr. Verplanck is highly to be praised, that forsaking, for a time, the pursuits of general literature and the toil of a statesman's duty, he has followed in a track where Addison, and Littleton, and West, and Beattie, and Erskine (of Edinburgh) have led the way. The last named “advocate” has anticipated our author in the publication of his work, but we much mistake, if the productions in manuscript were not cotemporaneous. We think it just ground of congratulation to our readers and our nation, that we can bring forward to their notice a volume like these Essays. For although we would be the last to admit, that not the innate reasonableness of the arguments in favor of religion, but the cloak of him who preaches them gives them comeliness and force in the audience of the world; although we think that the mere professional weight of the clergy has, in this country, fallen below its just standard, having once been much above it; yet there are those who would rather hear laymen speak on these topics; and we know that all the profession will be delighted to see that a layman is convinced that they are not for their exclusive guardianship and use.

Mr. Verplanck's address before the New-York Historical So

* Quis tandem me reprehendat, si quantum alii tempestivis conviviis, quantum aleæ, quantum pilæ ; tantum mihi egomet ad hæc studia recolenda sumpsero.-Cic.

ciety, ranks among the very best works of the kind, and we are, therefore, glad to see the attention of so admired a writer turned towards a sacred subject. All who labor in this field may use the words of the early eloquent defender of the faith, the christian Cicero, as Lactantius is deservedly called :—“Si quidam prudentes, et arbitri æquitatis, institutiones civilis juris compositas ediderunt, quibus civium dissidentium lites contentionesque sopirent: quanto melius nos et rectius divinas institutiones litteris persequemur; in quibus non de stillicidiis aut aquis arcendis, ant de manu conserendâ, sed de spe, de vitâ, de salute, de immortalitate, de Deo loquemur, ut superstitiones mortiferas, erroresque turpissimos sopiamus.99*

Among the various authors upon the evidences of revealed religion who have preceded our countryman, the affinity is the nearest between himself and Erskine. They both insist less upon the external, or, as we might say, physical evidences, than upon the internal proofs and moral demonstrations which evince an inwrought divinity in the scriptures. Without attempting to describe the features of similarity, or to note the points of difference, it will satisfy our present purpose, to pass hastily over the contents of this volume, and induce our readers to study it afterwards for themselves. It is well deserving of it for many reasons, as we shall show; and while it possesses graver sources of interest, there is this minor one, that such a degree of coincidence in plan and execution should exist in works written simultaneously in Edinburgh and New-York.

In his preface, the author states, that it is not his design to present a regular and formal exposition of the evidences of christianity; but leaving this ample field to its present occupants, he limits himself to the consideration of the manner in which revelation meets the intellectual and moral wants of human beings. The first essay passes generally over the several heads of the evidences of revealed religion; their various characters; and the argument resulting from their concurrent testimony. He says

"The evidence of revelation is, throughout, not only in its general heads, but in every branch of it, (to use the happy and expressive phrase of Dr. Paley,) strictly cumulative;'t each part serving not merely to confirm the other evidence of the same nature, but also, by the aggrega

* Lactantius de falsâ Religione, lib. I. cap. prim.

† “ This useful and expressive word is, I believe, original with Paley; at least, in the general and popular sense in which he applies it. It is borrowed from the civil law, where it has an analogous technical signification."

tion of innumerable probabilities, to strengthen the whole an hundred fold, until every chance of error or fraud is gradually, and at length completely, excluded ; and thus,' says Jeremy Taylor, 'the heaping together heads

of probabilities is or may be the cause of an infinite persuasion.' • Pro.bable arguments, continues that eloquent divine, with his accustomed lavish exuberance of beautiful illustration and brilliant imagery; pro"bable arguments are like little stars, every one of which may be useless 'to our conduct and enlightening, but when they are tied together by

order and vicinity, by the finger of God and the hand of an angel, they 'make a constellation, and are not only powerful in their influence, but ' like a bright angel to guide and enlighten our way. And although the light is not so great as the light of the sun or moon, yet mariners sail by their conduct, and though with trepidation and some danger, yet very regularly they enter into the haven. This heap of probable inducements ‘is not of power as a mathematical demonstration, which is in discourse as a sun is in the heaven, but it makes a milky and a white path, visible enough to walk securely." "*

In preparing to discuss the moral internal evidence, as our author styles it, he has occasion to allude to the state of mind in which the truth should be examined. We surely ought to purge ourselves of malice or prejudice, if we will be jurors in the great trial which every work on the evidences supposes to be in progress. It is a maxim equally beautiful and just of St. Jerome, 6 nudam crucem nudus sequens, expeditior et levior scandis scalam Jacob.” Revelation has its type in the ladder of Jacob; they most resemble the ascending angels, who bear the least of earth with them.

After an induction of particular arguments, which the brevity of this notice forbids our stating, Mr. Verplanck concludes the essay as follows:

6 The more all or any of these truths are examined and studied, so much the more numerous and cogent will they appear; but a very general and superficial view of them, if it be but an unprejudiced one, will show the existence of many such points of evidence, which, if not irresistible, all possess at least some degree of probability,

6. If this be so, no prudent and no honest man should turn contemptuously from this evidence; because, to his understanding, or his imperfect knowledge, no single part of it seems conclusive, without first attending to the concurrent power of the whole.

“It is for this purpose, that when we have thoroughly digested, and familiarized to our minds the historical and prophetic arguments in proof of Christianity, and have in the same manner satisfied ourselves in the study of the innumerable points which compose and fortify its other heads of moral demonstration, it is highly useful to retire back, as it were, froin this minute inspection, to such a general and comprehensive survey as allows us to take in at once the distinct outlines of all, and observe how they severally harmonize, both in their various component parts, and

* Taylor's Ductor Dubitantium.

« ZurückWeiter »