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and fully declared and settled. May we not perceive this in perusing the works of the great Tillotson, whose name is so juftly here mentioned as one among others who did honour to the leventeenth century ? Considerations of which kind may tend to convince us that it is improper and unreasonable for any men to form a set of propofitions on disputable topics to which others should be obliged to yield at least an outward consent.
But to return to the Writer, who dwells with pleasure on the above-mentioned period, and asks, ' Were we to fix on a particular æra, when all political and theological principles were ascertained with sufficient precision, when all essential errors were excluded from the theories of learning, religion, and government, should we err, in taking for our model che settlement that followed the revolution ? Shall we not attain to perfection in science, policy, and religion, in proportion as we revert to the maxims of that epoch? which, diftinguished by a true philosophy, and a state of society refined without luxury, eftablished a free government without faction, uncorrupted, un ncumbered ; a Protestant church, with a full toleration, free from the insults of popery, herefy, and deilm.' But our Author laments that this pure and happy settlement did not long continue in this ideal perfection, and that in many respects, it is to be feared, we have been degenerating ever fince? And now we are brought to our own times, on which Mr. Apthorpe enters, with a difpofition, while he cenfures, to give the full allowance of praise. He begins with the state of learning.
• It should seem, says he, that as the last was the age of reason and judgment, the eighteenth century is the age of science, of method, and of memory. Like rich heirs, we are contented with collecting and accumulating the fruits of our fathers induftry, without being solicitous to augment or improve them. That invention is not our characteristic, might be thewn, were it not somewhat invidious, from an induction of particulars. Poetic invention expired with Milton, and with Dryden, and was succeeded by harmony and correctness. This is easily accounted for. When philosophy and science are in a state of maturity, poetry declines. The former furnish the materials of erudition, and exercise the judgment. The latter, the spontaneous produce of a rich imagination, withers with too much culture; and always degenerates, from that period, when its genuine enthusiasm is restrained by art and criticism.- Among the causes of the decline of poetic genius, we might assign that anxious diligence, with which our beft poets fun that rich source of sublime and delightful imagery, which flows from the facred fountain of religion. ---In philology, the present age has given accuracy and spiendour to the immortal productions of antiguiry : yet, is it an ill-grounded apprehension that ancient
literature is rather the ornament of our libraries, than the accomplishment of our minds ? and that it has been supplanted by the modish productions, which are daily read and forgotten?
• The eclectic philofophy, both natural and moral, hath happily taken place of the sectarian, and is cultivated with afsiduity. Yet the philosophy of Bacon, Locke, and Newton, has not perhaps received any great accessions, beyond what may be deduced from the writings of those most eminent of men. If in aught we are originals, it seems to be in the mechanic arts, and in some physical discoveries.
In dogmatic theology, and in ethics, it may be doubted whether we have made coufiderable advances. Our chief glory is in the elaborate defence and confirmation of the gospel against the inroads of deism. In the interpretation of scripture, philology and criticism have almost excluded the doctrinal and devout investigation of the sublime and spiritual sense of the inspired writers. If I am not much mistaken, the Oriental and Jewish literature (especially of Philo, Josephus, and the early Fathers) is more applicable to the style and sentiment of the Old and New Testament, than those parellelisms which have been so industriously collected from Greek and Roman authors.
• Thus,'adds this Writer, ' with a freedom which perhaps is somewhat cenfurable, I have stated our improvements and defects in science. We or our successors may happily avail ourselves of past inventions ; so as to combine the distinct merits of the fixteenth and seventeenth centuries with those which give luftre to our own.' He goes on to state some oblacles to our improvement, and the causes of modern infidelity, which, fays he, is the great bar to all advancement of human happiness. Among these he reckons the neglect of solid literature, and thus proceeds:
• We are deemed a learned nation, and the age itself is generally addicted to letters.--Literature is amazingly cultivated by immense multitudes of writers as well as readers. neral the aim of the former seems to be to turnish the latter with a fugitive amusement. The chief recommendation of books consists in their dressing up in a pleasing form such parts of a subject as admit of embellishment, and too often presenting under those flowers the poison of asps.
• Many parts of science, much in fashion, have no connection with revealed religion. Pure mathematics and experimental physics, induce principles and modes of reasoning, which seem favourable to the investigation of abstract truth, yet in narrow minds are repugnant to that moral evidence which we allege for the certainty of revelation. Even the argument from prophecy, though as strictly demonstrative as any geometrical process, would not convince an unbeliever addicted to mathe.
Yet in ge
matical reasoning ; though the greatest of mathematicians felt and taught the demonstration that results from it. À minute mathematician, if prejudiced against revelation, would rank the argument from prophecy in the class of probabilities, perhaps of enthusiasms, and embarrass the proofs it affords with endless uncertainties : while plain reason perceives intuitively, that a great number of ancient and circumstantial predictions are proved by their completion to come from God. Those who undervalue moral evidence, fall into scepticism, the fashionable malady, which infects all, who, pretending to be above vulgar minds, renounce that common sense which is the bafis of truth.
• The study of nature, now so much in vogue, has this excellence, that it constrains us to look up to nature's God. But unhappily, this study, especially in its minuter branches, botany, entomology, conchology, and other frivolisms (in which the science chiefly consists in burdening the memory with a barbarous and complicated vocabulary) has little other tendency than to divert the mind from looking into itlelf, and to lead it to contemplate the omnipotent Author of nature as a physical not a moral agent in his empire of creation.
· The ancient philosophy thoroughly explored, leads us directly to revealed religion. The abuse of the ancient philosophy in the very few who search into its depths, confifts in fe. lecting from the mass those thining fragments, which place po. litical and social duties, and some rational principles of natural religion in the faireft light: not reflecting on the impure mixture of scepticism and absurdity with truth, of turpitude with beauty, and of atheism or pantheiim lurking in the most ad. mired works of antiquity. Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, Antoninus, have more of this inconsistency than common sense is now capable of : so that one may even afiirm, that vice and impiety are no where taught with more effrontery than in the writings of the most applauded philosophers.'
Among our Author's farther observations, we have the fol. lowing, that it is of use, in order to convince ourselves, and others, of the true nature, extent, and perfection of the Chrifa tian faith and ethics, to form them into coherent fyftems; and he laments the neglect of systems in the present day : ' I know not, says he, any prejudice more fatal to the science of théology than that contempt of systems, which is almost always an unequivocal proof of ignorance.' This is speaking very strongly; a contempt for fyftems may be very improper, and proceed from pride, out that it is always a proof, and as our Author terms it, an unequivocal proof of ignorance is not so certain ; and perhaps when he confiders what great mischief a bigotted atrachment to forms and fyftems has done in the world, he will per
haps abate a little of his censure. Some plan and method it is natural and useful to form on most subjects, but in points concerning which we can only be guided by revelation, and where that has not explicitly settled the subject, it is not only unreasonable but dangerous to prescribe what ought to be believed.
Mr. Apthorpe proceeds to speak of the character of the age, and confiders modish irreligion and infidelity as one great and chief source of our corrupted manners; becaufe all restraints except those of revealed religion are insufficient to controul imperious paffion, &c. He however comforts himself and his friend, and we would hope juftly, with the persuasion that irreligion has done its worst, and that a veneration for the scriptures begins to revive. And now, after, many sensible and judicious obser, vations on subjects bearing some connection with his immediate design, we are brought to that part of the volume in which he endeavours to detect the fallacy of some passages in Mr. Gibbon's History, and to vindicate Chriftianity from the censures of that elegant writer. He speaks of Mr. Ĝ. with just respect, but observes that the prejudices of this accomplished author are so obvious from the most cursory perusal of his work, as to lead both the friends and enemies of revealed religion to difcern that the ecclefiaftical part of the imperial history, was much more interesting to the writer, than the confused policy, the military despotism, and rapid succession of its fanguinary tyrants.'
The limits allotted to this Article will not admit of our presenting our Readers with a satisfactory view of what Mr. Apthorpe says in this important part of the work. We shall, therefore, only add, that in the fourth and last letter, which treats of the Establishment of Paganism, he discusses the subject with that learning and ability which justly entitle his observations to the attentive regard of the Public. On the whole, he draws this general conclufion, that such was the strength of the Pagan establishment, that humanly speaking it must appear to the highest degree astonishing that the gospel scheme should have been able not only to withstand but to destroy its power ! a power which, he observes, was irresistible, and its subverfion impracticable, otherwise than by a divine and miraculous energy. And from hence, he apprehends, arises, ' a moral demonstration of the Christian religion.'
Here we take leave of our Author, referring the Readers of this Article, for further particulars, to his work at large; which, we are persuaded, will afford them both improvement and pleasure.
Art. III. The Christian Orator delineated. In Three Parts. By Thomas Weales, D. D. Vicar of St. Sepulchre's. 8vo. 48.
sewed. Cadell. 1773.
HOSE who have turned their thoughts to the subject of
our most celebrated preachers, will find little that is new in this work. It contains, however, many pertinent and just obfervations, and some striking passages from Clarke, Coneybeare, Sherlock, Seed, Sterne, &c. and, consequently, it may be read with considerable advantage by those who have the sacred office in view.
In a short introduction, the Doctor tells us what he means by a SERMON.- By that species of composition, says he, which goes under the name of a SERMON, I understand, a discourse that is but one contexture of doctrines, thoughts, words, figures, and images, contained in holy writ.'
If this definition conveys to any of our Readers a clearer and more distinct idea of a Sermon than they had before, they will have the advantage of us; for to us it appears such a definition as leaves the thing defined much more unintelligible than it was before. The Doctor goes on to tell us, that the great ends which a preacher hath in view are, and can be, no other, than either to command the reason, engage the fancy, or touch the passions of his hearers.
• Now there are three qualities, or perfections, says he, indispen. fibly requisite for the attainment of such valuable ends, viz. an unity of design, a juft diftribution of the subject into its several heads, and a simplicity of thought and expression. In regard to the first, a perfect discourse does virtually comprehend in it but one fingle propofition, or branch of doctrine, and that placed in the most Itriking point of light. Certain roving declaimers, whose motley pieces are made up of the most independent matters that can be eafily ima. gined, are wonderfully deficient in this article. Their discourses, in which a variety of morals or doctrines are treated in a light per. fonctory manner, have the ordinary effect of large prospects, where the eye fees little or nothing diftinctly, and as it ought to be seen. With respect to the second requisite, or a just division of the subject into its several heads, it cannot be too simple and concise. The two radical defects of our ancient sermons are their being crumbled inta minute insignificant divisions, or enervated by useless and impertinent digreflions. And many a modern one totally void of that lucid order, or such a connexion of parts as ferves to refle&t a light upon, and strengthen each other, is little else but a parcel of maxims or sentences cacked together in I know not what fantastic form. Of this fort are most of those equivocal things commonly called essays, which afford no convition to the undertanding, no entertainment to the fancy, no je lists to the heart. Their auchors are thus hapo pily decyphered by the poet,