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chronological order in which science of all kinds is disposed to manifest and expand itself,—and that as the science of man and his relations is at the head of the whole host of arrangements, this science, considered in its widest extent, will probably be the last portion of the series that will undergo its destined evolution.
In all this we agree with our author—and on these principles we think ourselves both entitled to expect a glorious futurity for the race to which we belong, and to triumph with no common exultation in so delightful an anticipation. But when we have gone thus far with the tendencies of enlightened speculation, we perceive two extreme errors, into which, in the further and ultimate prosecution of the inquiry, we have found our guides, as explorers of the far distant evolutions of futurity, extremely apt to be betrayed, and against both of which we wish, with all submission, to guard our readers.
In the first place, proceeding on the idea of the essential tendencies of nature and life to progression, and on expanding knowledge as the chief instrument and necessary concomitant of this progress, some speculators spin out the thread of progress, till it becomes mere inanity or identical futility, and land in the wise result, that when all men are perfectly wise, and act according to this perfect wisdom, there will be no more ignorance, nor vice, nor misery, nor, it may be, death in the world ; but that perfection, in the widest sense of that term, will be the characteristic of the concluding scenes of even this terrestrial habitation
Other speculators insist, that as all present misery, and vice, and misrule proceed from ignorance and error, the last result of the destined progression of our race will be, not merely a continuation of their progress with some sublimated and inconceivable absence of defect and exhibition of perfection, but a reversal of all that now characterises the condition of our world, and that gives to it its distinctive aspect as a varied but progressive manifestation of Divine wisdom and goodness,that is to say, all distinctions are to be abolished—all notions of high and low, rich and poor, good and bad, energetic and slothful, wise and foolish, are to be done away, and a universal radicalism to characterise the face of our earth, and the conditions of its inhabitants, in the final evolution of their destinies.
The former of these two errors we consider to be mere simplicity and folly, and not worthy of a serious refutation, for it is in fact but an identical proposition ; the latter we consider to be at variance with every just interpretation of the actual appearances of nature and of life—to be calculated to lead the minds even of those who only speculatively adopt it, into altogether erroneous and delusive trains of thought; and when attempted to be brought into actual operation, even on a very low scale, to be the certain forerunner of some of the greatest calamities and most hateful aspects which human society is capable of exhibiting.
" If Society," says our author, “ continue to progress on the same routine or plan that may be inferred from our observation of its past progress, and if sufficient time be allowed for the completion of the evolution, there must come a period when the equilibrium of equity shall be restored, and every
individual in the state shall be exactly equal in his primary political function."
And—“ Absolute equality in the eye of the law, without the slightest distinction of individuals or classes, is therefore the ultimatum of political progression.”
Against all such notions we seriously and earnestly caution our readers for ourselves, we think them utterly untenable ; but yet neither this portentous error, nor the childish and mawkish fancy that precedes it, have the least effect in lessening our belief, that the world is to go on in a glorious progress through ages which it is not given to us to number. We are sure of this prophets have foretold it—great poets have sung of it—the heart of man exults in it—and nature, justly interpreted, sets her seal on the glorious and mighty truth. We love, occasionally, to let our minds out in the blessed anticipation of the many generations that are to come forth, to admire the same scenes that we have admired, to enjoy the same pleasures, and to carry forward, under better auspices than we have known, the great work which our race has been called into existence to accomplish. We think with rapture of the great cities that will yet arise-of the great deeds that will be done—of the gifted men that will put forth their powers—of the sciences that will be cultivated—of the beautiful specimens of art that will be exhibited—of the benevolent institutions that will be established of the wider influence of moral and religious truth that will be displayed—of the savage nations that will be reclaimed—and of the celestial light that seems to our prophetic fancy to hover over this long and blissful evening of our beloved earth. But the subject is better fitted for poetry than philosophy, and it must be a dull mind indeed that does not rise into poetry when occupied with such anticipations.--Here, then, goes our Apostrophe
TO THE UNBORN.
Ye slumbering forms, that wait the call to rise,
Earth has seen much of beautiful and good;
But mightier far and lovelier shall arise,
To the Eternal Spirit that shall call
What cities vast
savage life abounds,
Earth now has many fields and mountains famed
Ye unborn multitudes, whom now my thought
Roll on, ye ages of progressive good; And be my soul transported with the view, Which, in prophetic vision, thus I trace. What, though our day be short and full of care ? What, though we cannot tell what things shall come In time's long revolutions to augment The glory and the peace of our loved world? Oh! my heart swells with rapture, not with grief, Or envy of the happier times to be, When I perceive, by faith's prophetic light, Heaven's glorious scheme, still brightening in its course And love and wisdom, which will none o'erlook, Showering, on unborn ages, gifts of bliss, Augmenting still as Time's long race proceeds.
Sermons by the late Rev. WILLIAM Ramsay, Minister of Guthrie.
Blackwood and Sons. 1851. This little volume is introduced to the reader's attention by a “prefatory note,” brief and modestly written, which once more tells the melancholy tale of great youthful promise and corresponding expectations, prematurely extinguished by death. In the circles of domestic life such calamities are of perpetual recurrence; and, to the world, all separate memory of them is Jost in that general sorrow whose inarticulate voice goes sighing, like the mournful night-winds of autumn, through the heart of humanity at large. But William Ramsay lived long enough to prove how well, had it pleased God to spare him, he might have fulfilled the fondest hopes of parental and private affection. He had become a Minister of the Church on earth, before his presence was claimed by the Church of the first-born in heaven. His public career, however, was destined to be short ; and the bereavement sustained by his friends when he was removed, was participated in by the community to which he had attached himself. Indeed, we can remember no recent instance wherein the Ecclesiastical body to which he had dedicated his services, and which he was so well fitted to adorn, has had equal, or nearly equal, occasion to deplore a loss that, in the common course of nature, might have been supposed to be still far remote. Ordained at the early age of 22, his ministerial duties were interrupted by illness when he was no more than 26, and he was cut off by death in his 28th year,
It would be absurd to look for the results of extensive research or mature experience in the productions of so mere a youth. Still Mr. Ramsay may justly be said to have been an old student while but a very young man. Not only had he been diligent, and distinguished by brilliant capacity, from his boyhood; there had also been about him that earnest meditative, deeply reflecting thoughtfulness which digests the materials of education, converting them into a vital nutriment,--and without which, the greatest cleverness and the most protracted opportunities prove wholly unprofitable, so far as the chief ends of learning and of life are concerned. We have been furnished with no information whatever respecting the development of his character; none which sets him before us as the subject of divine grace in its saving and sanctifying efficacy. On these points the compositions that have been printed as a memorial of his name, contain all the evidence to which we have access. And that evidence is enough ; for it displays a singularly clear and discriminating apprehension of evangelical truth, along with meek humility and ardent devotion. We could well have believed, therefore, had we not happened to know it otherwise, that he who wrote them was, in the words of his editor, “ beloved by all who knew him well, for his unaffected piety, and his genuine amiability and kindliness of disposition;" and that " he possessed, in a high degree, all the qualities which endear and give a charm to familiar intercourse.”
This, we think, is a modest under-statement of the truth. Mr. Ramsay's society was indeed peculiarly attractive. Sterling good sense, an easy unobtrusive demeanour, varied accomplishments, combined with an agreeable figure, necessarily made it so, But besides, his frank cheerfulness seemed to us to be habitually subdued by the presence and activity of graver thought; and a low soft strain of perhaps unconscious sadness, ran through his gayest conversations, as if at intervals some deeper and tenderer chord had vibrated within him, tempering the natural vivacity of his mind. Our intimacy with him was too brief and interrupted to warrant our speaking with perfect confidence on this point;-we aim merely at the utterance of our own recollected impressions. And we have attempted to utter these at all, mainly because it appears to us that the Discourses now presented to the public discover the same under-tone of gentle, chastened melancholy. We feel this as we read; but it is so recondite and ethereal, that we continue unable to bring it up into open view. Yet we think it is not, as it might well be, a shadow projected by our own regret ; but a positive, though a dim reality, in the Sermons themselves. And as it lent a peculiar charm to the living converse of the author, so now, when he is gone, it secures, by an additional tie, a hold for his compositions on the attention and the heart of his reader. In other respects, the discourses faithfully reflect the character of the preacher,--his plain practical sense, his unaffected simplicity, his sweetness of temper, his charitable dispositions, his rectitude and candour, his habitual musing thoughtfulness, and his warmly affectionate piety. · The manuscripts from which the volume has been printed off, were not intended by the author for the press; and no doubt, had he survived to bestow upon them such a revision as his refined taste would have demanded, they might have undergone great alterations, perhaps manifest and important improvements. But, except in the circumstance that one of the sermons is unfinished, few readers probably will detect in the volume any evidence of the disadvantages inseparable from posthumous publication. The specimens which we are about to transcribe will make it sufficiently plain, that, whatever they might have derived from further toil in the way of rhetorical adornment, Mr. Ramsay's pulpit preparations could scarcely have gained anything at all, in point either of perspicuity of thought, or precision and clcarness of language. Exact conception, and accurate diction, legitimate yoke-fellows always, have seldom been more equally matched than in his pages, where nothing is vague, ambiguous, obscure, or redundant.
The first sermon in the volume has for its subject the "call to salvation.” It is founded on the text, John vii. 37. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come onto me and drink.” The following is the second division of the discourse, under which the author considers “ who they are to whom our Savivur addresses this invitation."
“ Is it to the righteous exclusively? to men of correct deportment and moral lives, who walk blamelessly before God and man? No; if the invitation were restricted to such, if for the righteous only salvation was provided, such an invitation would be of no use ; for in the sight of God there is none righteous—there is none who, in himself, can deserve anything at the hands of God but wrath and punishment. Even the cradled infant is polluted by a deep stain of guilt, which nothing but the atoning merits of Jesus Christ could wash away. The holiest man, the most pious towards his Maker, the most charitable towards his neighbour, the most mortified in his sinful affections, the most heavenly in his desires-even he could not stand for a moment before the pure holiness and inflexible justice of God, were not the death of Christ interposed as a shield to protect him from the wrath of the Almighty, which shall hereafter be revealed from heaven to take vengeance on the breakers of His law. Even he cannot rightly build his hopes on any other foundation than simply on Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Let none imagine that, by a well-spent life, or by his self-denial, or by the abundance of his good works, he has entitled himself in any measure to the favourable consideration of God. All evil in His sight is abominable ; nor can any degree of excellence, as men count excellence, atone for a single sin : it is only a perfect righteousness by which divine justice can be satisfied ; it is only by the perfect righteousness of Christ, imputed unto us, that we are delivered from the condemnation. All, in the sight of God, are alike unworthy; and to every one, without respect to his greater or less unworthiness, the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed,