صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

cause in all the instances here mentioned, the language corresponds, though not to the truth of things, yet to common conception and Outward appearances. These popular modes of speech are understood to exprefs those appearances only; and being used only in describ. ing them, no one is fo absurd as to miscon/true them into affertions or declarations of men's real opinions on the several subjects to which they refer. This again is as just an answer to Dr. Worthington as to Pope Urban. To have a demon, was a phrase that was as much underitood to express an outward effect amongst the ancients, as the phrase, ia have St. Anthony's fire, is so understood amongst us. The former, therefore, migiit be used by those who did not believe in the power of demons, with as much propriety as the latter is by those who do not believe in the power of St. Anthony. You are not to learn any man's system of astronomy or physic, from his describing certain celestial appearances, or bodily aittempers, in the language of the vulgar; but from the account he prolifiedly gives of that system. Proceed, Sir, by the same rule in judging of the real sentiments of the apofiles on the subject of poffeffion; form your judgment by their prosessed doctrine concerning demons, not by their descriptions of demoniacs; in which they might, very innocently, adopt the popular language, without designing to eitablish the doctrine on which it was originally founded. This they have done on o:her subjects: they might, therefore, do it on this. They have done it on all subjects not included in their commiflion.'

Our Author farther adds, that there is one very peculiar reafou for believing that the founders of Christianity did use the popular language on the fubject of poffeffions, without intending to establish the popular hypothefis concerning it, because it is allowed that they do, at other times, speak both of demons and bodily disorders, in mere conformity to the vulgar opinion concerning them, without designing to give their fanction to it.

In the fifth letter, Mr. Farmer refutes Dr. Worthington's other proofs of the reality of poffeffions, drawn from the hiftory of the New Testament demoniacs. ' And in the sixth and last letter, the question is examined as it ftands on the footing of reason, experience, tradition, and such parts of revelation, as had not hitherto come under consideration. The conclufion of the whole is, that the antidemoniac system does nó prejudice do revealed religion, and that the vulgar hypothelis has not a fingle recommendation. Beside exposing the miracles described, by the difpoflefion of demons, to contempt, it fubverts the fundamental principle of all true piety,' the sole dominion of Jeho. vah over the course of nature, contradicts the scripture doctrine concerning the demons or gods of the Heathens, destroys the evidence of revelation, or the foree of those miracles which were wrought to atteft its divine original, and casts the greatest reflection on the character and conduct of Christ ad his apoftles.

After

E e 3

After having heretofore given our opinion so freely on the question concerning the demoniacs of the New Testament, few readers will be surprised at our saying, as we do say with the fullest conviction, that Mr. Farmer hath obtained a compleat victory over his antagonist. But this is not the only, nor, indeed, the principal merit of the present work. It contains much more additional matter than could have been expected upon a subject which the Author had before fo amply confidered, and it exhibits a perspicuous and judicious epitome of what had already been advanced in the course of this interesting enquiry.

As Dr. Worthington will probably appear again in the controversy, we would with him not to be offended at our honestly suggesting to him a little wholesome counsel.-Though we never entertained an high idea of the Doctor's judgment, we had a sincere respect for him, on account of the piety, learning, and candour displayed in his earlier performances. It is, therefore, with concern, that we have seen him, in his late public cations, manifest a bigoted and uncharitable disposition. If he could be persuaded to correct this disposition, and to return to his former good temper, he would assuredly find that, in so doing, he would contribute much to his own personal satisface tion, and not a little to his reputation and esteem in the learned and Chriftian world.

K. Art. II. Letters on the Prevalence of Christianity, before its civil

Efablishment : With Observations on a late Hijlory of the Decline of the Roman Empire. By East Apthorpe, M. A. Vicar of Crove don. 8vo. 5 s. sewed. Robson. 1778.

R. Gibbon's Roman History, above referred to, is al

lowed, by all readers who have any pretensions to taste, to possess great merit; but that the ingenious Author should have sedulously thrown out suspicions and infinuations unfavourable to the Christian revelation, and this under the specious appearance of having a respect for it, has been matter of general complaint, among the friends and advocates of our religion. He could not, it is urged, but know, that the objections which, with an affected caution, he has brought forward, are not such as have been suggested only to himself

. Believers in and defenders of the gospel, have long since perceived, considered, and replied to them, in the most fatisfactory manner : and wherefore, then, it is asked, should so noble a work as Mr. Gibbon's History have been disgraced by an apparent want of candour, or of a due attachment to the best interests of mankind ? Christianity is universally acknowledged to be a system of the most benign tendency; and therefore, it is preSumed, no attempt to weaken its credit, and lefsen its influence,

can

[ocr errors]

can be thought to wear a very benevolent afpect. One benefit, however, we may observe, has accrued to the Christian world, from Mr. Gibbon's attack : it hath produced a number of learned and able defences; among which we must rank the Letters now before us.

In this performance, Mr. Apthorpe discovers much erudition, as well as good sense and piety. It consists of four letters, addressed to Dr. Backhouse, Archdeacon of Canterbury. The first contains a brief view of the controverly concerning the truth of the Christian religion. The second treats on the study and use of history. The third presents us with characteristics of the past and present times. Toward the close of tiis third letter fome of Mr. Gibbon's objections are considered ; and with the same view, the establithment of Paganism is discussed in the fourth. Each letter is followed by a large collection of remarks and quotations to illustrate and confirm his subject; and to the fecond letter is added, among other things, a methodized catakogue of historians, selected from the fourth volume of the works of Voffius, the Bibliotheques of Fabricius, Du Fresnoy's method of studying history, chronology, and geography, &c.' The Author speaks of it as a brief, defective, and contracted catalogue, but we are persuaded that any person who wished to enter deeply into this study would find it an useful directory, containing a greater number of volumes in this science, than most, perhaps, of those who are considered as learned men, in the present day, have laboured through,

Mr. Apthorpe seems to have been solicitous to crowd his book with learning, and authorities ; perhaps beyond what was abfolutely requisite; such adjuncts are, however, instructive and useful, and are not foreign to the main design of the Author, who takes a large compafs before he directly attacks some of Mr. Gibbon's reflections. The observations on history, its uses, the qualifications of an historian, &c. in the second letter, would afford some acceptable extracts, but we shall select a few passages from the third, which characterizes different periods of the world, and which will, perhaps, prove more in. teresting to the generality of our Readers.

• Of the three centuries, which have nearly elapsed since the revival of learning and the reformation of religion, I think, says our Author, we may discern three diftinct characters, corresponding in some degree to the several powers of the human mind, invention, judgment, memory; which, though all are blended, and, in fome degree, inseparable in the operations of intellect, and in the state of society resulting from those operations, yet may juftly be applied to characterize each of the preceding ages, from that quality which predominates in each,

Your

Ee 4

Your sagacity will anticipate the uses of this speculation, re. specting the manners and principles of our own times.

In the fixteenth century the minds of men were agitated with a religious ferment, in part occafioned by the revival of learning, but chiefly by the discussions relative to church government and reformation in the preceding age, which led the way to the great revolution begun by Luther. The age of the reformation may be confidered as the age of invention. A spirit of enterprize and of heroisin characterized the princes of that age. Leo X. and the Popes his fucceffors, Solyman the Magnificent, the Emperor Charles V: Francis I. Henry VIII. and Queen Elizabeth, were the most eminent fovereigns that had ever been contemporaries on the thrones of Europe. Every circumstance at this period concurred to excite the spirit of invention, in religion, literature, and the arts. The three capital dise coveries, of printing, the compass, and artillery, were now applied with emulation to enlarge the efforts of the mind.—Theories in religion, long lost or suppreffed, were brought to light by the learning, genius, and industry of the reformers. The Scriptures, now first published and translated, opened a new world of science, and Christendom was astonished to find the religion of the New Testament so directly opposite to that of Papacy. The spirit of invention exerted its powers in the fine arts of poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, revived on the ancient models, by a just and bold imitation of nature, rather in her great and sublime, than in her beautiful and delicate exertions. Imagination seizes the sublime and the auguft by its native efforts aided by novelty and admiration; while the correct and elegant result from the flow procefs of imitation, art, and experiment. In Italy, while painting animated the canvas with unrivalled expression, and lent its aid ic totiering superstition; poetry revived from its long Number of twelve ages. It found or formed a language suited to its fine conceptions, and gave models of excellence to the rest of Europe. The dark fide of this cen, tury shocks us with a portentous atheism, arising from the detection of Popith superstition, from the first efforts of philosophy, and from the literary profligacy of those humanists, who imbibed and propagated all the corruptions of Paganism, thro an excessive fondness for the Greek and Roman clallics. Papery exerted all its efforts to maintain its authority by its partial de citions and relentless perfecutions. In the reformation itself, free enquiry, absurdly connected with a spirit of dominion, produced innumerable schilms, while a spirit of fanatic sedition clouded the first dawn of liberty, and portended the enthusiasm and long civil wars, that agitated the next age,

Thc

[ocr errors]

• The seventeenth century was the age of erudition and cri. ticism, of eclectic and experimental philosophy, of a rational and scriptural theology. The prevailing character was the cultivation of judgment and the powers of reason ; but with excesses or defects in each department of science. Literature and criticism, especially the verbal part of each, were carried to excess; and ancient elegance was lost and encumbered in the retinue of her critics and commentators. The preceding age, on the diffolution of the religious foundations, had disclosed the rich treasures of literature, the copying of which was one of the belt employments of the monaftic orders in the middle ages.-Different nations had their specific merit in this revival of true science. The Italians excelled in criticism on the writings of their renowned ancestors; the Dutch and Germans in antiquities and literary history; the French in ecclefiaftical learning; the English in philofophy and theology. In philosophy all the ancient fects were revived and cultivated : stoicism by Lipsius and Gataker; the Epicurean fyftem by Gailendus; Platonism, both in its original form, and in that which the school of Plotinus had fraudulently set up in opposition to Christianity, was cultivated perhaps to excels in England; and produced a refined and philosophic enthufiasm. Yet in the last age, philofophy knew its province, and held itself in due subjection to religion. The eclectic, which alone has truth for its object, was so successfully introduced by Lord Bacon, as to have happily become the reigning philosophy.'

Mr. Apthorpe proceeds to speak in very high terms of the sea yenteenth century, as the age of true and profound erudition, when science of all kinds was reduced to a rational and moral certainty, founded on experiment, evidence, and just criticism, Theology, he apprehends, attained to fo high a degree of fectiun, that per haps, he says, all the dogmatic or polemical discussions of late might safely be decided by an appeal to the judgment of the great divines, especially of the English church, in the last century; and farther he adds, I am firmly perfuaded that the best remedy for the errors of the present century is to revert to the principles of the last.

We sincerely join with our Author in his eulogium on this period; it produced many learned, eminent, and excellent men in different denominations of Christians, to whose labours the world has been much indebted, and from whole works we still receive great benefit: but we suppose that to erect any of their decisions as an absolute standard of faith, is unnecessary, una fuitable to the spirit of the gospel, and what few or any of them would have withed. , As upright and candid enquirers after and lovers of truth, they were probably, at times at least, doubtful themselves on some points which the scriptures have not clearly

and

per

« السابقةمتابعة »