Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

picture to itself a simplicity more magnificent and fruitful of marvellous beauty and utility than this! But farther, as air answers in the universe so many important purposes besides that of conveying sounds, although this alone comprehends language, which almost means reason and civilization-so also does the material of light minister in numerous ways, in the phenomena of heat, electricity, and magnetism.

The truths now positively ascertained with respect to the nature of light and vision, are perhaps those in the wide field of human inquiry, which, acting on ordinary apprehension, most forcibly place the individual as it were in the presence of Creative Intelligence, and awaken the most elevated thoughts of which the human mind is capable. Had there been no light in the universe, all its other perfections had existed in vain. Men placed on earth would have been as human exiles with their eyes put out, abandoned on an unknown shore, of climate and productions totally new to them: every movement might be to destruction, for their perceptions would be limited by the length of their arms, and of their fearful groping steps, and the wretched beings, separating when impelled by hunger to search for food, would probably scatter to meet no more. But the material of light exists, pervading all space, and certain impressions made upon it in one place rapidly spread over the universe, the progressive impression being called a ray, or bean of light. The beams of light, then, from all parts coming to every individual, may be regarded as supplementary arms or feelers belonging to the individual, and which reach to the end of the universe, so that each person, instead of being as a blind point in space, becomes nearly omnipresent :—then these limbs or feelers have no weight, they are never in the way, they impede nothing, and they are only known to exist when their use is required! But this miracle of light would have been totally useless, and the lovely paradise of earth would have been to man still a dark and dreary desert, had there not been the twin miracle of an organ of commensurate delicacy to perceive the light, viz., of the eye; in which there is the round cornea of such perfect transparence, placed exactly in the anterior centre of the ball (and elsewhere it had been useless), then exactly behind this, the beautiful curtain the iris, with its pupil dilating and contracting to suit the intensity of light-and exactly behind this again, the crystalline lens, having many qualities which only complex structure in human art can attain, and by the entering light forming on the retina beautiful pictures or images of the objects in front, the most sensible part of the retina being where the images fall. Of these parts and conditions, had any one been otherwise than as it is, the whole eye had been useless, and light useless, and the great universe useless to man, for he could not have existed in it. Then, farther, we find that the precious organ, the eye, is placed not as if by accident, somewhere near the centre of the person, but aloft on a proud eminence, where it becomes the glorious watch-tower of the soul; and, again, not so that to alter its direction, the whole person must turn, but in the head, which, on a pivot of admirable structure, moves while the body is at rest; the ball of the eye, moreover, being furnished with muscles which, as the will directs, turn it with the rapidity of lightning to sweep round the horizon, or take in the whole heavenly concave; then is the delicate orb secured in a strong socket of bone, and there is over this the arched eyebrow as a cushion, to destroy the shock of blows, and with its inclined hairs to turn

aside the descending perspiration which might incommode ; then is there the soft and pliant eyelid, with its beauteous fringes, incessantly wiping the polished surface, and spreading over it the pure moisture poured out by the lachrymal glands above, of which moisture the superfluity, by a line mechanism, is sent into the nose, there to be evaporated by the current of the breath : still further, instead of there being only one so precious organ, there are two, lest one by accident should be destroyed, but which two have so entire a sympathy, that they act together as only one more perfect; then the sense of sight continues perfect during the period of growth from birth to maturity, although the distance frou the lens to the retina is constantly varying; and ihe pure liquid which fills the eye, if rendered turbid by disease or accident, is, by the actions of life, although its source be the thick red blood, gradually restored to transparency. The mind, which can suppose or admit that within any limits of time, even a single such organ of vision could have been produced by accident, or without design, and still more, that the millions which now exist on earth, all. equally perfect, can have sprung froin accident-or that the millions of millions in past ages were all but accidents—and that the endless millions throughout the animate creation, where each requires a most peculiar fitDess to the nature and circumstances of the animal, can be accident-must surely be of extraordinary character, or must have received unhappy bias in its education.

As a concluding reflection with respect to vision, we may remark, that all the provisions above considered have mere utility in view, for any one of them wanting would leave a necessary link in the chain of creation wapting: but, we have shewn in a preceding part of the work, that if there had been white light only, susceptible of different degrees of intensity and shade, the merely useful purposes of vision would have been answered about as perfectly as with all the colours of the rainbow—which truth is instanced in the facts, that many persons do not distinguish colours, and that it imports not whether a person view objects in the morning, or at mid-day, or at even-tide, or through plane glass or coloured glass. While, therefore, the existence of light generally, and of the eye, speaks of Creative Power and Intelligence, the existence of colours, or of that lovely variety of hues exhibited in flowers, in the plumage of birds, in the endless aspects of the earth and heavens; in a word, in the whole resplendent clothing of nature,-because appearing expressly planned, as a source of delight to animated beings, speaks of Creative Benevolence, and may well excite in us towards the Being in whom these attributes concentrate, the feelings associated in our minds during this earthly scene, with the endearing appellation of “ Father.”—pp. 315—320.

We have not left room to notice his chapter on Heat, which is equally well executed as that on light. We must, therefore, refer our readers, who are interested in the subject, to the work itself, wbich we again cordially recommend as both perspicuous and profound-qualities which are very rarely found combined in the same volume.

102

Art. IX.-1. Histoire des Sectes Religieuses, qui sont nées, se sont modi

fiées, et se sont eteintes dans les differente contrées du Globe, depuis

le commencement du siécle derniér jusqu' á l'époque actuelle. Par · M. Gregoire, ancien evêque de Blois. 8vo. Tom. v. Paris. 18:29. 2. De l'influence du Christianisme sur la condition des Femmes. Par

M. Gregoire, &c. 8vo. Paris. 1827. We have presented our readers with a review of the four volumes already published, of the first work mentioned in the title of the present article.

The volume now before us is a continuation of it on the same plan. We understand that a sixth volume will soon be published, and conclude the work ; which, when completed, will certainly be found to contain an abundance of curious information, both on the tenets, and the literary history of every denomination of christians,

The author begins the volume now before us by an account of the English Dissenters. Separate histories of every sect, into which they are divided, have been published. We have seen a collection of them in about forty octavo volumes. To make the work complete, the histories of the established church, and of the British and Irish Catholics, should be added to those included in the collection we have noticed. This would increase it by ten volumes at least. · M. Gregoire's account of the English Dissenting congregations is extremely concise; but conciseness is a part of his plan. Sketches of twenty or thirty other denominations of christians then follow ; few of these were known to us even by name. His accounts of them show learning and research, and contain occasionally curious facts and observations; yet we cannot help lamenting that so much talent and labour have been thrown away in saving from oblivion the inglorious and uninteresting tenets and proceedings of such obscure sectarians.

He dedicates a chapter to the Latitudinarians. No part of the ecclesiastical history of the Protestant church of England stands so much in need of illustration, as the origin and progress of the Latitudinarians, and the different denomination of christians, which have sprung from them; such as the Hoadleyans, the advocates of the Confessional, and the modern Unitarians. We hope that some of the distinguished lights of the last of these congregations, will favour us with an account of them and their antecessors. In the forty volun.Js to which we have alluded, nothing of the kind is to be found.

M. Gregoire proceeds to the Armenians. A short but excellent history of thene nd of the Synod of Dort, and the events which immediately fol?'. fed it, is inserted in the second volume of the Bibliotheque ancienne et moderne of M. Le Clerc. We think the intolerant proceedings of the Synod of Dort, deserve

Setarians.

Gregoire on Sectarianism and the Influence of Christianity. 103 the severest reprobation. On the great point in contest between the followers of Arminius and their adversaries, respecting grace and free-will, we are so far favourable to the doctrine of Arminius, that we think the terms in which it is expressed, excite to piety, activity, and beneficence; while the language of the opposite party appears to us to lead immediately to the dreary and deleterious doctrine of fatalism. But we think that in theory the doctrines of the Armenians, and that of their opponents, are equally liable to be disputed. Motive either does or does not necessitate. If it do necessitate, then there is an end of human virtue or human vice; for how can man offend or merit by an action which he is necessitated to perform ? If motive do not necessitate, then, in determining his will to perform a virtuous action, man does a good of which the Deity is not the author. Thus, when on either side the argument is pushed to its utmost bearing, a difficulty presents itself, which it has not yet been given to man to solve—what then is to be done? We should obey the laws of God; and without attempting to penetrate into his councils, we should “Wait the great Teacher, Death, and God adore.”

Essay on Man. - It is,' says M. Gregoire, disputed even in the divisions of the Church of England, whether their Church be or be not Calvinistic; a multitude of publications upon this point has issued from the press; the dispute has been very animated, and the late Bishop Prettyman, by his Refutation of Calvinism, made a great figure in it. We think it certain that since the time of Archbishop Laud, in the reign of Charles I., the great majority of the Anglican Clergy has leaned to Armenianism. Doctor Tillotson, and Doctor Barrow, adopted its doctrine with modifications; it has made some progress even in Scotland. It is received by the Quakers, the General Baptists, the Moravians, and the Wesleyan Methodists. John Wesley, in bis Apology, published in 1770, justified this doctrine. His apology. was attached by Huntingdon, in a work intitled “ the funeral of Armenianism,” in which he does not spare the Pope, or the Church of Rome, or its followers. He describes in it the doctrine of Wesley as poison, and as a rebellion against God and his word.

* From this it is evident, that Armenianism—a brother as it may be called of Pelagianism is spread among many Protestant sects, and counts in them many who do not appear as its followers. Still there are several congregations of them in the United States, and Fredericstadt in Holstein.

In 1796, the Remonstrants addressed a Letter generally to all the Protestants of the United States, in which they invited them to a union with them; the Walloon Churches, in their Synodical Assembly at Gorkun in 1798, answered this invitation by an afirctionate letter.

• In this letter they reproached the Armenians with assuming a tone more decisive than should be used in a religious matter. Sinkel, a jurisconsult of great eminence, took this occasion to ad 's an epistle to the Deputies of the Armenian communion, in which he .ommended them to enlarge the boundaries of their proposed union, b admitting into it not only Protestants of every description, but Roman Catholics. This he

104 Gregoire on Sectarianism and the Influence of Christianity. assured them was the only practicable mode of effecting a substantial reunion. The Remonstrants in their answer exposed to Sinkel, 'the reasons which had induced them to confine their invitation to Protestants. Sinkel replied, and defended his opinion by the unsuspected authority of Grotius, an Armenian, who thought no union of Protestants practicable unless it extended to Catholics. Sinkel strengthened this consideration by an acknowledgment of Grotius, that if God permitted a corruption of manners to take place in the Church of Rome, he had preserved in it the Christian doctrine in its integrity. Even Daillé, and Claude, and the national synod of the French Calvinistic churches at Charenton, had, before this time, declared that the Church of Rome had preserved inviolable the fundamental tenets of faith; and that, in the essentials of religion, she had retained all that was necessary to salvation; and that its pastors had the true mission.

•The rigid Gomarists have considerably softened the severity of the decisions of the Synod of Dort, in the new organization of the Reformed Churches in the Low-Countries. The measures taken by them in their Synod in 1816, shew a marked inclination to make all differences of opinion disappear. In consequence of the decree of the Synod of Dort, the Candidates for the ministry were obliged to undergo a special examination on the five articles of Faith, adopted by that Synod against Armenianism ; and were bound to teach them in their schools. This usage is abolished. The candidates for the ministry were also obliged by the Synod of Dort, to subscribe a Formula, condemning the opinions of the Remonstrants : this too is abolished. They are now only required to subscribe a Formula obliging them to conform in their instructions to the doctrine of the Holy Scripture. This allows a full latitude of interpretation, and the Remonstrants fully avail themselves of it.

«« The Decrees of the same Synod of 1816 enjoined that the members of every protestant communion, (which, of course included the remonstrants),-should be admitted to the ceremony of our Lord's Supper, in all the reformed churches, on producing a certificate of their confirmed belief of the Christian faith. The Synod also recommended all the ministers of their own churches to officiate in their ministry to all the members of any other protestant sect, who had not congregations of their own.

. These measures shew a great disposition to form an external union of worship, without any particular profession of faith ; and even without any fixed religious opinions in the members of the congregation. For when persons confine themselves to say that they adopt the Gospel, and reject all public or private authority to interpret it, the door is opened to all sects, and they have no bond of union, but protesting against the Catholic Church.'

From this extract, and from many publications on the continent, particularly in the German territories, it is evident that many active spirits wish to begin the work of re-union, as they call it, by inducing Christians of different religious denominations to assemble, for public religious worship, in one congregation; the ceremonial and the prayers used in it being such as all may conscientiously join in, but without any specific creed, or profession of faith. This was the plan of Napoleon. In furtherance of it,

« ZurückWeiter »