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fancy will promptly figure to them, as the very things, if they would but occur, to accomplish their wishes at once, without the toil of a sober process. In this connection, the author justly reprobates the principles and plans of modern novels and romances. Another deception of this kind which he exposes, is the facility with which fancy passes along the whole train of means, and reckons to their ultimate effect at a glance, without resting at the successive intermediate stages. And again, adds Mr. Foster, where imagination is not delusive enough to embody future casualties as effective means, it may yet represent very inadequate ones as competent. This is an important point, which he pursues through several particulars. Plans for the civilization of barbarous nations, without the intervention of conquest, or of that religion by which omnipotence will at length transform the world*, he considers as coming under this charge. His sentiments on this point, though containing much truth, are perhaps stated somewhat too strongly. But we are more concerned with the illustrations which "One is the expectation of far too much from the influence of mere direct instruction."
"Nothing," observes Mr. Foster," seems more evident than that youthful character, as far as it depends on external causes, is mainly formed by surrounding circumstances, to the operation of which direct instruction is indeed a useful ally when they are auspicious, but a feeble counteractor if they are malignant. And yet this mere instruction is, in the account of thousands of parents, the grand tutelar saint and genius, which is to lead the youth to wisdom and happiness; even that very youth whom the united influence of almost all things else which he is exposed to see, and hear, and participate, is drawing, with the unrelaxing grasp of a fiend, to irretrievable destruction." (p. 52, 53.)
* Mr. Foster appears to us to have too slightly noticed this last exception to his general theory.
+ The growing civilization of Russia, for example, cannot with any propriety be ascribed to conquest.
There is something sadly true in the preceding melancholy observation-and we are sorry to add, that it may be particularly exemplified in the case even of many religious parents. They are, in general, profuse, indeed, in imparting Christian knowledge and instruction to their children, according to their views and opportunities-but how seldom do they seriously consider that all their precepts and admonitions are, in a great measure, continually counteracted, either by their own inconsistent practice, or by the various circumstances, connections, and associations, with which they are surrounded. earnestly recommend this reflection to all those who are concerned in the education of youth. They cannot too constantly bear in mind, that children are influenced by every thing which they see and hear around them, and that such as their parents and tutors are in their own conduct, and such as are the circumstances of general situation and society in which they are placed, such, in all probability, will they become, in spite of the best and most reiterated instruction to the contrary, if there should, unhappily, be any striking difference between the precept and the example.
Respecting the extravagant presumption of the efficacy of instruction, Mr. Foster thus continues:
"A too sanguine opinion of the efficacy of instruction, has sometimes been entertained by those who teach from the pulpit. Till the dispensations of a better age shall be opened on the world, the probabilities of the effect of preaching must be ascertained by a view of the visible effects which are actually produced on congregations from week to week; and this view is far from flattering. One might appeal to preachers in general-What striking improvements are apparent in your societies? When you inculcate charity on the Sunday, do the misers in your congregations liberally open their chests and purses to the distressed on Monday? Might I not ask as well whether the rocks and trees really did move at the voice of Orpheus? After you have unveiled even the scenes of eternity to the gay and frivolous, do you find in more than some
rare instances a dignified seriousness take
Yet, notwithstanding this melancholy, state
observation, the most romantic enthusiasm
operation strictly divine, the probability of the intervention of which, at any given season, is exactly in proportion to the apparent frequency or infrequency of its intervention in the general course of experience.
"Reformers in general are very apt to over-rate the power of the means by which their theories are to be realized."
"It is presumed, that truth must at length, by the force of indefatigable inquiry, become generally victorious, and that
all vice, being the result of a mistaken
There is undoubtedly, too much truth in the foregoing very spirited representation. But it is, as certainly, partial and defective, and as we conceive not without some mixture of positive error.
Thus, we cannot agree with Mr. Foster in his sentiments respecting We en the efficacy of preaching. tertain no vain persuasion of a mysterious apostolic sacredness in the ministerial office; but we certainly consider it as of divine appointment, and intended to be one of the most important means of conveying moral and religious instruction, in every age. And though the visi ble effects of preaching are not in general such as might be expected or wished; yet in numerous instances it has proved instrumental,-nay, in every age, it has been the grand engine which the Holy Spirit has employed, in converting men from the error of their ways to the know, ledge and practice of true religion. The success of public instruction is so various, that no conclusion re specting it should be drawn from
particular and confined observation. Neither should our opinion be formed hastily upon this subject. It may be a long time before the efficacy of preaching appears in a congregation; but if a minister who preaches the truth as it is in Jesus, be earnest and diligent in the discharge of his duty, and exemplary in his own conduct, the blessing of God will assuredly accompany his labours; and he will have the satisfaction of observing, in a greater or less degree, the beneficial effects of his instructions. We think it of so much importance to hold out every encouragement to preachers to exert themselves in the work of the ministry, that we cannot but deprecate any observations tending to paralyse their efforts; and we trust that further reflection and experience will lead Mr. Foster to correct his opinions on this subject.
Great part of what remains of this essay is taken up with views of a similar nature; but as they are intermixed with each other, without much regard to order, we shall take occasion, from the passage we have last quoted, to consider them somewhat more distinctly. We entirely agree with Mr. Foster, that there is no such intimate connection, as some have supposed, between the admission of truth, and consequent action; -that to have informed and convinced a man ay be but little towards emancipating him from wrong habits, and making him the practical disciple of the truth which he receives; and therefore, that though truth is a most important agent, the expectations that presume its omnipotence, or even its moral efficacy without the intervention of an agency "strictly divine," are romantic delusions. We coincide with him, also, in his sentiments respecting the chimerical nature of those speculations and schemes for the moral reformation of mankind, which anticipate their effect independently of the assistance of Christianity.-We cannot
however, say so much when we con sider his opinious respecting the aid which Christianity may be expected to afford, even in the existing circumstances of the world. general inefficacy of Christian instruction, in producing such characters as the Gospel requires, is indeed, a deplorable fact; but we are far from attributing it, as Mr. Foster seems to do, to any failure or defect in the administration of Christianity, considered with reference to the divine agency. We could with him, "smile in bitterness," if feelings of a more appropriate kind would permit us to do so, 66 to hear some of the professed believers and advocates of the Gospel, avowing high anticipations of its progressive efficacy, solely by means of the force which it carries, as a rational address to rational creatures." With Christians of this order we have but little in common. But our author admits of a specialdivine agency in rendering Christianity efficacious.
"Some success," says he, "in transforming the hearts and characters of men is attendant on the system of Christian
meaus among those who rest all their efficacy on divine agency, and this affords some glimmering consolation amidst the mournful darkness of the economy; only, the small degree of effect, indicating an ex
ceedingly restricted operation of divine, as energies, supplies a scale for limiting exwell as the utter inefficiency of human, pectation, and forbids even the man who acknowledges the divine agency in all Christian successes, to pronounce, unless some new and decisive omens should appear, more than the humblest predictions. (p. 66.)
It is here that we think Mr. Foster's views defective, and in some degree prejudicial. He appears to us to entertain too low an idea of the administration of divine grace, under_ the present economy of the Gospel. It is true that very extraordinary interpositions for the conversion of men are not now frequent; and that the present state of the Christian world does not present a very favourable view of the reality and extent of this divine efficacy. But the
fault is in ourselves, not in the proffered influence of the grace of God. This is rich and powerful, and ready, to be conferred on all who sincerely and earnestly implore it. It is adequate to the utmost wants and infirmities of mankind; nor would we despair, with the author before us,(both Scripture and experience forbid it-) of effecting, even on obdurate and thoughtless minds, a grand change, by which they shall become transformed into such persons as might be justly deemed true disciples of Christ. This is a subject of the very last importance. If the dispensation under which we live be, indeed, defective in affording the means of fully realizing the principles of the Gospel, our condition is surely very awful and distressing. But we cannot think thus, without contradicting the whole tenor of the New Testament, which is emphatically stiled, "the law of the spirit of life," and which, however confined and ineffectual it may sometimes appear to be in its operation and influence, is, unquestionably," the power of God unto salvation" to every one who faithfully avails himself of the help which it offers*.
*Mr. Foster, at the beginning of the fourth letter of this essay, advances an opinion on the subject of the divine agency, which appears to us to be at variance with what is said in Scripture. He assumes, without any symptom of doubt or hesitation, that the degree of divine agency which has been exerted to reform the moral state of man is to be measured exactly by the success which has attended it, this agency "stopping where the effect stops, leaves men to accomplish, if they can, what remaius." p. 63. On such a principle as this, if we have not mistaken Mr. F.'s meaning, we should be utterly at a loss to explain the many passages both of the Old and New Testament which speakof the resistance or abuse of divine grace. Even that class of Christians, who are considered as extolling most highly the efficacy of divine grace,'we have always understood to regard, in their own case, resistance to the motions of the Spirit of God on their hearts, and abuse of his grace, as having constituted a formidable aggravation of their guilt. On a sub
Much of what Mr. Foster has written on this subject is connected with his views respecting "the dispensations of a better age," which when arrived he thinks will unfold an energy of operation, such as mankind have never, except in a few momentary glimpses, beheld; and which will "command the dreary chaos of turbulent and malignant elements into a new moral world." We anticipate with equal anxiety, the manifestation of such latter times, when, agreeably to prophetic intimations, the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, and when the efficacy of the Gospel shall be abundantly increased.-Perhaps, also, as the author suggests, the grand moral improvements of this future age may be accomplished in a manner that shall leave nothing to man but humility and grateful adoration. But with whatever eagerness and joy we may look forward to such events, our main business is with the economy under which we are placed; and our most strenuous efforts should be directed to the accomplishment of the utmost good which is thus brought within our power.-So says Mr. Foster also; but in a way which seems to imply, that very little can be done, and that to expect more is to entertain visionary and romantic expectations. It is but just, however, after what we have said, tó permit him to speak for himself as to this point, though we can scarcely afford room for very extended quotations.
"I should deem a train of observations," says Mr. Foster, "of the melancholy hue which shades some of the latter pages of this essay, useless, or perhaps even noxious, were I not convinced that a solemn exhibition of the feebleness of human agency in relation to all great objects, might aggra
ject of so delicate a nature, we are reluctant to express any very strong opinion: and yet conceiving as we do, that the view which Mr. Foster has given of it is unscriptural, and may be hurtful, we could not conscientiously avoid a slight reference to it.
vate the impression, often so faint, of the absolute supremacy of God, of the total dependence of all motal effort on him, and of the necessity of devoutly regarding his intervention at every moment. It might promote that last attainment of a zealously good man, the resignation to be as diminutive an agent as God pleases, and as unsuccessful a one. I am assured also that, in a pious mind, the humiliating estimate of means and buman power, and the consequent sinking down of all lofty expectations found -d on them, will leave one single men, and that far the best of them all, not only undiminished, but more eminent, in value, than it ever appeared before." (p. 87, 88.)
"I am convinced that every man who amidst his serious projects is apprised of his dependence on God, as completely as that dependence is a fact, will be impelled to pray, and anxious to induce his serious
ought, in the first instance, to have their influence on our present circumstance, and that instead of yielding to the suggestions of indolence, or to the fascinating visions of future times, we should be faithful to that degree of power which is already offered to us, and strain every nerve in promoting both in ourselves and others, the great purposes of the Gospel.
We now proceed to the fourth and last of the Essays before us the subject of which is of the utmost importance, and is treated by Mr. Foster in a very superior manner. It is a splendid, and in our opinion an eminently useful production. object is to point out some of the causes by which evangelical reli
friends to pray, almost every hour. He gion has been rendered less accepta
will as little without it promise himself any noble success, as a mariner would expect to reach a distant coast by having his sails spread in a dead stagnation of the air. I asserted it visionary to expect an unusual success in the human administration of religion, unless there are unusual omens ; now a most emphatical spirit of prayer would be such an omen; and the individual who should solemnly determine to try its last possible efficacy, might probably find agent in his little sphere. And if the whole, or the greater number, of the disciples of Christianity, were, with an earnest unalterable resolution of each, to combine that Heaven should not withhold one single influence which the very utmost effort of conspiring and persevering supplication would obtain, it would be the sign that a
himself becoming a much more prevailing
revolution of the world was at hand." (p. 90, 91.)
Without entering into any discussion respecting this last view of the subject, we would only further observe, that we quite agree with the author in thinking, that the acknowledged feebleness of human means in effecting moral and religious improvements, should lead us to depend more humbly and simply on the divine agency; and in ear nestly wishing, that this were more generally felt amongst us. We cannot however, avoid repeating, that this conviction and dependence CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 501
ble to persons of cultivated taste." In the first letter, the author briefly, but very ably, describes the feelings which are sometimes the effects of these causes. He supposes the persons in question fully to admit the divine authority of the Christian religion, and to be by no means recoil from some of its peculiar and mere triflers respecting it; but to distinguishing doctrines, which are chiefly comprised in that view of Christianity denominated among a large number of the professors of it, in a specific sense, evangelical. He observes, however, that though the greater proportion of the injurious influences on which he proposes to remark, operate more peculiarly against evangelical distinctions, some of them are hostile to the spirit which Christianity inevitably retains, even in the least modified form in which it is possible to profess it: and that, though he has specified the more refined and intellectual class of minds as indisposed to the religion of Christ, by the causes to which he refers; and though he keeps them principally in view; yet the influence of some of these causes extends to many persons of subordinate mental rank.
The first cause which the author notices, as having excited in persons