« ZurückWeiter »
Brief Literary Notices.
the contrary, is at home every where, in any society, and under all circumstances; and his hearty English feeling, added to his versatile genius, has gained him universal popularity.
The Restoration of Belief.
THE history of the evidences and external reception of Christianity is replete with profound lessons on human nature, and with proofs that infidelity is not a question of argument, but originates in "an evil heart of unbelief." Two things especially are remarkable; first, that the greatest efforts to defend Christianity were made at the time when vital religion was at its lowest state of inanition; like a seed of truth enveloped in the cere-cloth of rigid orthodoxy and lifeless morality. Yet such labours did not revive Christianity; for, secondly, it is observable that mere external evidences, however effectual in silencing the fire of the enemy, have seldom been successful in subduing the heart. The admission of the fact of its divine truth does not necessarily secure its reception as the one religion. Neither miracles nor argument form men to virtue and religion. Each new phase of society, and every advance of science, will expose Christianity to new assaults; yet it is proof against every missive; and, as the lighthouse of the world, endures all storms, dashing the broken billows into harmless spray at its base.
There is, just now, a happy tendency in our defenders to pay less regard to the outworks, and more to the citadel and temple of Christian truth. Mr. Kingsley takes the facts which are undisputed, and makes those facts reveal and defend the great truths of religion. While admitting that the positive truths of science must press against the whole structure of theology, and in their progess overthrow all that is mere opinion,-adhesive, merely, to Christianity, and not of its substance, he shows that Christianity is a grand fact,-impregnable, indefectible, invariable, eternal. Like that divinely wise arrangement of the Books of Moses, which mingles history with law and prediction, so interwoven that they are inseparable, and therefore he who admits one must admit all, to the everlasting confusion of Jews and unbelievers; the natural history of Christianity so obviously and necessarily comprises the supernatural, that all is wholly unaccountable without it. If divine, no discoveries of scientific truth can overthrow it, or militate against it. We may for a season lack the intermediate or reconciling link; but true science and real Christianity must be consistent with each other: it cannot be otherwise. Self-consistent, each of the writers of the New Testament is calmly natural, while fully conversant with the supernatural; every portion is full of individuality, and all consistently coheres. Christianity is, by our author, represented as determinable, and not as an indeterminable matter of opinion. "Nothing in the entire round of human belief is more infallibly sure than is Christianity, when it claims to be-RELIGION, GIVEN TO MAN BY GOD." This is the proper challenging front which a man convinced of the truth should show towards opponents who are not to be won by foolish candour, needless concessions, and "gentle obliquities." It is needless, and is out of place in this controversy, to rehearse the articles of our Christian belief. It is enough to prove
our facts and those facts will embrace supernatural truths and credentials, and exhibit the only religion which is suitable and saving.
The great design of this important volume is to bring us back to the simplicity of the faith and feelings of primitive Christianity; of the men who, thoroughly convinced of its truth, and permeated by its spirit, staked all for both worlds on its authenticity and power. And this is just what we need,-to come back to the Book.
This is a manly, bold, Christian volume; written in a mathematical and vigorous style, full of originality; of great practical power; and intensely interesting. Where is the sceptic who will honestly read it? Where is he who will, in the same style and spirit, attempt to answer it ?
Capital Punishment Unlawful and Inexpedient.
An Essay on
the Punishment of Death. By John Rippon.
WE gladly acknowledge the temper and ability evinced by the writer of this little volume, and the unusual candour and fairness of his statements. In the earlier and best part of his Essay, Mr. Rippon establishes-against the opinion of the majority of abolitionists-the popular and obvious sense of the passage in Genesis, (ix. 5, 6,) as an ordinance of the Almighty for the capital punishment of the murderer. We think he is much less fortunate in his attempt to prove its subsequent repeal under the dispensation of Christ. True, retaliation was then expressly forbidden, and the law of charity ordained; but this was a strictly individual rule of life, and could not be supposed to proscribe the exaction of penalties deemed necessary for the protection of society. Besides, this argument would prove too much. If valid against capital punishments, why not against those of lighter character? To practise "forgiveness" towards the shedder of blood, and yet exact a full penalty from the brawler and the thief, is not an equitable, much less a Christian, rule of procedure. We think the necessity, as well as the lawfulness, of this solemn judicial requirement has been denied on equally fallacious grounds, and should strongly deprecate any legislative measure which should award to the assassin and the poisoner no heavier punishment than that which is meted to the robber, thus tempting the latter to make murder the cloak of his concealment, and double the chances of escape without adding to the amount of his responsibility. But we forbear from further prosecuting this inquiry, while it is not imperatively called for by the agitation of a cause at once so plausible and dangerous.
A History of the Book of Common Prayer, with a Rationale of its Offices. By the Rev. Francis Procter, M.A. Cambridge: Macmillan and Co. 1855.
WE can speak with just praise of this compendious but comprehensive volume. It appears to be compiled with great care and judgment, and has profited largely by the accumulated materials collected by the learning and research of the last fifty years. Embodying
Brief Literary Notices.
much of the information long ago supplied by Strype and Comber, it derives correctness and completeness from the more recent and elaborate works of Cardwell, Lathbury, and Maskell. It is a manual of great value to the student of ecclesiastical history, and of almost equal interest to every admirer of the liturgy and services of the English Church. As a more perfect digest of the whole subject, it will, no doubt, supersede the popular use of Wheatley's "Rational Illustration."
Tonga and the Friendly Islands; with a Sketch of their Mission History. Written for Young People. By Sarah S. Farmer. London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co. 1855.
THERE is a peculiar propriety in Miss Farmer's consecrating the first-fruits of her pen to the cause of Missions in general, and of Wesleyan Missions in particular. Nor, widely as the name of the father is known throughout the Christian world, can there be any fear lest this product of the daughter's pen should be found not to merit the welcome which that name will contribute to prepare for it throughout so wide a circle.
Miss Farmer's book treats of a very interesting chapter in the history of Missions. She does for Tonga, in some respects, what Mr. Williams had done for some other of the South-Sea Missions. Her plan embraces a narrative both of the melancholy and unsuccessful, but not inglorious, attempt of the London Missionary Society to found a Mission in the Tonga group, and of the later Mission of the Wesleyan Society, which has been so remarkably successful. The introductory portion of the volume contains an elegant sketch of the subjects indicated by the following headings of the earlier chapters :"Discovery of the South Seas ; "Islands of the Pacific; Workers and their Doings; "The Friendly Islanders;" and "Captain Cook's Visits."
Of the manner in which Miss Farmer has handled her theme, we cannot be so unjust as to speak with cold commendation. The book does equal credit to her head and her heart. She has spared no research necessary to master all the topics included in her task. She commands an excellent style,-clear, fresh, and telling. The book is full of heart, but free from sentimentalism; and the interest of the story never flags. The authoress has one great merit, particularly valuable in writing for the young, she does not moralize too much. Though the work professes to be for young persons, it is suitable for all ages, classes, and intellects. It is written with elegant simplicity, but is as far as possible from any thing like puerility of tone or thought. Of the engravings which adorn the volume, we need only say that they are appropriate and valuable, and that, in beauty of execution, they are worthy of the letter-press which they illustrate. We believe it will add to the pleasure with which this delightful volume will be welcomed in many a home, both in this country and abroad, if we mention that these illustrations are understood to be from the pencil of another member of Mr. Farmer's family. We need scarcely add, that the volume is "got up" in the first style; but it may be well to say, at the same time, that its price is exceedingly low for such a volume.
Cain. By Charles Boner. Chapman and Hall. 1855.
IF ambition is the "last infirmity of noble minds," it is also the first impulse of mediocrity. This truth is once more illustrated in the work before us. The subject of Mr. Boner's dramatic poem has long been a favourite with the poets, but more especially with young and inexperienced writers. These latter have so frequently tried their "prentice han'" on the solemn story of the first murder, and often with such pitiful results, that it might be deemed no light portion of the punishment of Cain, if he could be supposed to have foreseen, or in his fabled wanderings to have witnessed, the publication of these miserable libels. Mr. Boner's attempt is not the worst of its class; the verse is smooth, and sometimes poetical; but he has not achieved success. The great significance of the story of Cain is not easily sustained in any poetical amplification; and we would advise Mr. Boner to avoid a similar mistake in choosing for the future. If he cannot effectually bend the bow of Ulysses, why should he incur the danger of its terrible recoil ?
Literary Papers. By the late Professor Edward Forbes, F.R.S.
THIS little volume, it is only right to say, has no pretensions to form a literary monument quite worthy of the genius and reputation of its lamented author. It is composed of a number of brief reviews, chiefly of books in the departments of Natural History and Travels; and these, being collected since the Professor's death, have necessarily Iwanted the benefit of his revision. This much premised, we have only to commend the volume as it is to the deserved attention of the reader. The most cursory remarks of a great philosopher are rich in allusion and suggestion, and seldom fail to illuminate the most salient points of any subject they may happen to alight upon. It is eminently so in the case before us. The papers here collected are, for the most part, on topics with which Professor Forbes was perfectly familiar; his own genius for research comes frequently in illustration or correction of the views of others; and it is no light advantage to know, from such a master, what books are especially worthy of a student's confidence, what individuals among the learned most proper for his emulous imitation. For other readers beside the earnest student, this volume will have peculiar attractions. As light reading, furnished by a learned and superior mind, it is precisely the desideratum of a considerable class, whose taste for pure literature and useful knowledge is very strong, while their zeal and leisure are not equal to its satisfaction by systematic means or original research.
Fabiola; or, The Church of the Catacombs. London: Burns and Lambert.
THIS work is a religious novel, designed to further the views of Roman Catholics, and is understood to be from the pen of Cardinal Wiseman. As a work of fiction it will not increase the literary reputation of the Cardinal, being most inartistic throughout, and totally
Brief Literary Notices.
wanting in dramatic power. The author's object is to exemplify the beauty of a religious life, as understood by the Romish Church, and to identify the opinions and practices of that Church, in their fully developed form, with the opinions and practices of the early Christians. In this attempt a considerable amount of information is afforded respecting the history and topography of ancient Rome, particularly in connexion with the catacombs. As might be expected, however, the facts of history are made to bend in subservience to the writer's views; and the Christianity of the fourth century is made to put on the garments of the twelfth. From a careful examination of the Lapidarian Gallery in the Vatican, in which are deposited the slabs taken from the cemeteries of subterranean Rome, we can affirm that the assertions and inferences of the writer of "Fabiola" are not in accordance with facts. It is untrue that the inscriptions anterior to the date of the tale (A.D. 302) abound in praises of virginity; it is absurd to say that at the same date there existed the records of numerous Pontiffs; and it is grossly unfair that no reference should be made (not even in the historical notes) to the admitted interpolations of the Middle Ages.
This book deserves not the confidence of any reader; and, fortunately, it is written with so little skill and power that it cannot possibly inspire a dangerous amount of interest.
Popery as it Exists in Great Britain and Ireland: its Doctrines, Practices, and Arguments; exhibited from the Writings of its Advocates, and from its most popular Books of Instruction and Devotion. By the Rev. John Montgomery, A.M., Inverleithen. Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute; London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co. 1854.
THE volume before us has some advantages over many works which profess to exhibit and refute Popery. The authorities to which reference is made are of modern date and easy access, and the style is uncommonly pungent and lively. The principal Romish authority to whom attention is given is Dr. Wiseman. Mr. Montgomery has had the fairness not to quote either from Roman Catholic works which have been placed in the Index, or from recent converts to Rome. We are glad to find that he has noticed and exposed such works as Geraldine, a Tale of Conscience," belonging to a class of agencies, by means of which the Romish Church has endeavoured to enlist the sentiment and taste of youth on their side. We strongly recommend the work to our readers, as one of the latest and best refutations of the principal tenets of Popery.
Chapters on Prisons and Prisoners, and the Prevention of Crime.
By Joseph Kingsmill, M.A., Chaplain of Pentonville
HERE we find a sketch of the convict systems which have prevailed from the days of Botany Bay to those of model-prisons. The gradual ameliorations are depicted as they occurred, and the existing system described with clearness. But the most valuable portions of the work