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bopes to survive the passing ephemera of the day. With feelings of patriotic satisfaction, we add that, to no country, ancient or modern, can our own be required to yield the palm of merit in this walk of literature. The inoral advantages resulting from the works of Addison, Johnson, and others, especially in the formation of the youthful mind, can hardly be estimated; not to mention the influence they have had in abolishing many absurd opinions and customs, which in past times disgraced the public character. ; That the reader may form a better idea of the nature of these volumes, we present bin with a list of the several subjects that are discussed.
Vol. I. The Universal Pursuit of Happiness; the Absurdities of Moral Writers; the Consolations of Religion in Temporal Difficulties; National Establishments in Religion; Universal Liberty of Conscience; Ecclesiastical Emoluments, the Cause of the Diversity of religious Opinions; Education ; Popular Superstitions; Oinens; Ghosts; the Arts of Sorcery; the Estimation of Characters; the Knowledge of Mankind.
Vol. II. Friendship ; Company, Solitude and Retirement; Industry and Genius; the Passion for Posthumous Fame; the right Ordering of the Mind; Religious Melancholy; the Formation and Combination of Ideas; the Advantages of a wellcultivated Mind; Exercise; a City and a Country Life; Emigration and Colonization; Advantages resulting from the Use of Letters; the Construction of Language and the Diversity of Stile; the frequent Absurdity of Human Prayers; Optimism; the Manner in which near and remote Expectations affect the Mind..
These Essays, in general, on account of their useful tendency, and their agreeable stile, deserve, and have received, a tolerable share of public approbation. At the same time, we are far from wishing to grant them an unqualified recommendation; and some of our reasons for withholding it may appear in the course of our critique,
As Mr. B. uniformly appears to pay a deference to the authority of Scripture, we were surprized to find hiin so frequently stating his belief, that speculative opinions on religion are perfectly innocent," so long as they produce no actions immediately detrimental to the interests and peace of society.” If we could have supposed that by these religious opinions our author intended merely such as relate to external circumstances, our candour would have kept pace with his. But it is too evident that he occasionally refers to sentiments, the belief of which is required, by a divine command, from every rational human being who is favoured with revelation. Although we fully accord with that liberality which allows from man to man the right of private
judgement, judgement, yet the Bible being our standard, we cannot but deem that person criminal, who rejects or treats with indifference the prominent doctrines which revelation proposes to our faith. On this point, Mr. B. seeins to have mistaken even the great Author of our holy religion, by representing him as withholding his censure from the tenets of the Sadducees. (Vol. I. p. 68, 69.) If he did not condemn the erroneous disciples of Sadoc with asperity, yet he sufficiently expressed his abhorrence of their opinions and characters. Matthew informs us, (xvi. 3. and 12.) that he pronounced them to be " hypocrites," and that he bade his followers
beware of the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” We have no objection to admit that, in some cases, speculative error may be harmless, but can by no means adopt it as a general principle, that it is so, either in science or religion.
Mr. B. has let slip from his pen a strange hypothesis respecting the continued existence of Christianity. Speaking of ecclesiastical emoluments, he observes, if they had not been liberally conferred, in all probability,“ the Christian religion, degraded and rendered contemptible by the abject situation of its ministers, would, before this day, have either been totally extinguished, or degenerated into a mass of superstitions and absurdities, which would have reduced it nearly to the level of paganism." How came it to pass, that this divine religion did not become almost extinct, during the first three centuries after its promulgation, nor sink into a mass of superstition and absurdity, till long after it was propped by secular benefices ? Christianity had already extended itself on every side, and triumphing over the opposition of carnal philosophy, superstition, iniquity, and persecution, flourished in unexampled glory, though destitute of these temporal advantages. While it affords us satisfaction to see the ministers of religion enjoying a liberal support, yet we are confident that the noble fabric does not rest on so frail a basis as the exterior respectability of the clergy. Like the bush on Horeb, the Church cannot be consumed, because “ the Lord is in the midst ;” and although outward circumstances might conspire against it, yet that declaration guarantees its perpetuity; “ On this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” : The Essays on Education, we think, are defective. A Chris. -tian moralist surely ought not to represents the grand object of juvenile instruction," to be" the initiation of youth in the knowledge and literature of the world.” Literary acquisitions should doubtless be subservient to religious and moral ends. We wish to see the rising generation well furnished with useful learning, but must ever view it as the principal object of education, to fix just sentiments in the understanding, and right principles in the heart.
Mr. B. exhibits the Christian religion as a system so sublime, as not to be intelligible to the untutored poor. It is allowed that
a stricter a strictet regard to their education, would in some measure faci litate the success of the clergy in their religious instruction; but our author has not confined his observations within due limits. The predominant success, and cordial reception, of the Gospel among the lower classes must confute this very common error. The capacities of some of the poor may not be equal to the task of embracing or defending a systematic theory of religion ; nevertheless most of them are competent to receive its plain trutks, and enjoy its consoling assurances. One leading feature of christianity is simplicity. It was intended to suit the mind of the barbarous Scythian, as well as that of the polished Greek and learned Jew, and both reason and experience must acknowledge, that it is not an ill-contrived or inadequate revelation. .
In the remarks on romantic friendships, and the discussion ofa well-known maxim of Bias, that we ought to live with our friends as if they were to be our enemies, we meet with several useful and judicious sentiments. Many inoralists, and two favourite poets, Young and Cowper, have warmly censured this maxim ; Mr. B. defends it, but we think with too little qualification. The volto sciolto e pensieri stretti appears to be a principle which he could carry even inte the intimacies of friendship ; and, indeed, his code of prudential advice smells too powerfully of the Chesterfield schrol, to be very grateful to Christian refinement.
The following extract, from an Essay on Retirement, contains some just observations, and at the same time affords an agreeable speciinen of our author's manner. .
" The effects of company and conversation are almost invariably conspicuous in discourse. He who bas never been accustomed to company, will infallibly find himself embarrassed in his first introduction to the world. He discovers that conversation with his own mind is very different from conversation with other men; he is unprepared to meet op. position with confidence, and unexpected objections.with ready reply to bear up against noisy petulance, to contemn the attacks of ridicule, and the obstinacy of ignorance.
“Many persons of consummate learning, and acknowledged abilities, have been remarkable for a timid reserve, and apparent dulness in conwersation, at least, whenever they passed the limits of their familiar circles of select friends or particular acquaintance. Although this might, in sone, cases, proceed from a natural shyness of disposition, it appears nore frequently to have risen from their habits of silent contemplation, and soliiary reflection, which are opposite to those of reciprocal communication and social intercourse. A man who is accustomed to converse only with himself and his books, has leisure to arrange his ideas, to colleci his scattered thoughts, and to digest his arguments. When contrarieties, contradictions and exceptions present theniselves, nothing impedes the • balancing of contradiciory evidence and opposite probabilities : all is done at leisure : the operations of the mind glide smoothly along, like a placid stream, without opposition or impediment. A person thus accustomed to converse with bis own mind, supposes that conversation with the world will be of a similar nature, that reason will invariably
predominate, and sonnd argument always prevail. He finds this expectation disappointed, and is in consequence disconcerted. He sees himself divested of bis armour, in which he trusted and exposed, naked and defenceless, to an enemy with whose discipline and mode of warfare he is unacquainted. Coming from solitude into company, he is unfit to contend with that quickness of reply, that shrewdness of remark, that obstinacy of argument, and that noisy impetuosity of speech, which will disarrange his ideas, confuse his thoughts, embarrass his mind, and disconcert his plan of reasoning.
“ The man of science and speculation, who, from the silent recess of his contemplative solitude, rushes into the world, often comes prepossessed with an exalted opinion of his own penetration, and the extent of his own knowledge. He has been accustomed to applaud his own observations, arguments, inferences and conclusions, or perhaps to hear them approved and commended by some intimate friend, who has had : the leisure to examine them, who delights in the same studies, and who is in some measure attached to the same pursuits, or accustomed to the same habits of life. Such an one resembles a spider in some obscure corner of a room, which, having had the good fortune to escape the cleanly vigilance of the chamber-maid, sits enveloped in his web, disregarding the beauty of the cornices, the curious workmanship of the chimney-pieces, and the elegance of the furniture. Regardless of the work of the architect and the painter, and himself equally unnoticed, his own web is his world : just so the man who has been long accustomed to solitary studies, has his mind too frequently enveloped in a net work of his own ideas, which constitutes his intellectual universe. When he enters the world with this strong persuasion of his own knowledge and abilities. he is surprised at finding himself totally ignorant of a thousand subjects, which every one else understands. Disconcerted, abashed, and con- • founded, his embarrassment may be compared to that of a general, who marching, as he sopposes, to certain victory, with a numerous and welldisciplined army, sees his plans disarranged, his hopes frustrated, his dreams of conquest dispelled, and his forces defeated by an enemy whose inferiority he despised, and from whom he expected but a feeble resistance. He discovers his erroneous estimate of the success of his expedition, as the other perceives the inutility of his solitary studies, and the deficiency of his knowledge. The student is then convinced that as his ideas have been formed in solitude, they are better calculated for a state of solitary meditation, than for actual converse with mankind."
pp. 22–25. • We are sorry that Mr. B. has so jumbled his ideas, that before we have time to admire one remark, he introduces another that offends us. Thus in his Essay on Religious Melancholy, he judges rightly, that it is not the system of any sect in particular that we should charge with a tendence to produce mental derangement; he ascribes those few instances that are met with, to a personal ardour of imagination, and warmth of feeling, especially if connected with a life of profligacy. But he seems also to suppose, that all persons in a state of depression, from religious causes, are powerfully impressed with horrible visions of Vol. II.
future torment, and with a terror of the Almighty as an implacable oppressor. He does not seen to be aware that distress of mind may arise from genuine contrition and remorse of conscience; or that such a state of feeling is far preferable to the hardened indifference of philosophy, or a delusive reliance on fits of repentance and resolutions of amendment. On account of similar defects and errors which greatly detract from the merit of this work, we feel some difficulty in committing it to casual and unguarded readers. The light which it conveys, pleasant to the senses, and useful to the understanding, is occasionally tinged by passing through an imperfect medium, where it loses not a litile of its purity and distinctness. It deforms, disguises, or decorates important objects, with artificial colours, and unless detected by experienced eyes, or overpowered by rays of unaltered brightness, it may occasion false estimates and hurtful mistakes.
The tale designed to illustrate the peculiarities of a city and *country life is ingenious, and suited to correct many visionary notions. The Essay on Optimism is a perspicuous display of Mr. B.'s theory; yet we apprehend that some features of it are not only unwarranted, but contradicted, by that revelation which is our only safe guide in such disquisitions. Mr. B. unhappily places religion and philosophy together, as if they were sisters; and as heathenism preceded Christianity, we have been sometimes ready to imagine that he treated her like an elder sister. -We, on the contrary, find continually more cause to reter all our opinions and doubts to the oracles of truth, being fully convinced that there only all that is essential for us to know can be sought successfully. In a neglect of the spirit and tenor of this divine revelation, we place the origin of many mistakes in these volumes. The Bible and its author are alluded to, but not appealed to; and consequently our duties to man are often withdrawn from their broad and firm basis, our duties to God, and rested upon the du· bious and changeful support of philosophical declamation. This
tone we are sorry to find so much assumed by Mr. Bigland : he sometimes appears to be defending one side of a question, when he ought to be examining both sides; he is contented therefore · with superficial and partial arguments, and is often more anxious
to dazzle than to illuminaté. It is unfortunate that awork likely to be useful, and sure to be entertaining, should render it necessary for us to suggest these precautions. ·
We cannot let Mr. Bigland escape without noticing a degree of negligence in this pablication, which is seldom rivalled. Its fagrant blunders in grammar, construction, orthography, and punctuation, are rather heightened than extenuated, by the neatness of its appearance, and the merit of its contents.