Notices of Books

[British Critic, October 1839.]

{508} MR. Gresley, in his Sermons on "Zeal and Moderation, preached before the University of Oxford" (Rivingtons), writes like a man who had something to say, which is one of the highest praises we can give a sermon. He understands that at the present moment a great problem lies before our Church, how to be what it once was without ceasing to be what it is, how to adapt primitive principles to existing circumstances without sacrificing the former or overshooting the latter. They are the sermons of an able and reflecting mind, which has attained to great truths and is consolidating its acquirements.

"Sermons preached before the University of Oxford, by the Rev. S. Wilberforce" (Burns), are eloquent and pleasing discourses on practical subjects, which must have been very effective in delivery; they abound in references to the Fathers, a style of preaching suited to, and which we are glad hereby to find sanctioned by, the learned body whom Mr. Wilberforce in these sermons represents.

A very beautiful and useful selection of Prayers and Meditations on the subject of the Holy Eucharist has been published by the Rev. S. Wilberforce, under the title of Eucharistica.

We are glad to find that a new edition of Dr. Field's Book of the Church is in the course of publication, in three volumes, 8vo., (Bohn), under the able editorship of Mr. Brewer.

The first number has appeared of one of the most important works of the day, The New General Biographical Dictionary, projected and partly arranged by the late Mr. Hugh James Rose, and edited by his brother, assisted by the contributions of many distinguished persons. It is no bad compliment to them to say the number before us was an agreeable surprise. We did not realize beforehand that it could be, at the same time, so comprehensive, and yet so interesting. We will particularize the lives of Abelard, Archbishop Abbott, and his brother, Lord Colchester, Abdel-Munen, and various other Mahometan Califs, Abernethy, Addison, Ĉlfric, and Adams, the Patriarch of Pitcairn's Island. The present work proposes to itself a middle plan between manuals and those voluminous biographies which are libraries in themselves; it must be observed, that from the nature of the case, every year takes away from the value of existing works of this class, and increases the call for new ones.

Mr. Benson has published "Discourses upon Tradition and Episcopacy" directed against persons whom he calls "Tractarians." He says the English Church "is not only constituted according to the Apostolic model, but it has enjoyed that blessing by an unbroken succession from the earliest times;" and that ministers in "Episcopal Churches" are by external call "clearly to be reckoned among the legitimate successors of the Apostles in their ministerial office." had Mr. Benson but said this six years ago, when there was more call for it than at present, probably he would not be writing {509} against "Tractarians" now. He proceeds to enforce the evils of disunion, and, still, after the manner of the Tracts of the Times, he pleads necessity for the foreign Protestants (vide Dr. Pusey's Letter, p. 152, &c), and for our dissenters at home the neglect of the Church (vide Tract 86). So far then Mr. Benson walks with the "Tractarians." He parts with them on the subject of Church authority. His theory of Church authority is this, that "every branch of the Christian Church upon earth has a right to form and enjoin on" its "members whatever it conceives" asserted or implied in Scripture, (p. 3,) and that those individual members on the other hand have the right of disobeying (pp. 4, 5), or partially obeying, according to their private judgment. Here is certainly implied the existence of a difference, not of view only, but of moral principle, between him and his opponents, which, as time goes on, will be more and more developed. It is the point at issue all over the world, that of submission to authority or independence. The question is, "are there any points on which persons are to submit to the authority of the Church before and apart from their own conviction?" The writers in the Tracts answer, Yes, on the points contained in the Creeds; but the ultra-protestants contend that every one must satisfy himself that every truth which he receives is contained in the Bible. Mr. Benson, speaking of the busy layman and unsettled labourer, says, "there must be no absolute surrender of the reason and conscience, which God has vouchsafed to be his guide." "Every individual Christian is bound, under a sense of the same awful responsibility, to resolve to teach nothing as a minister, and accept nothing as a member of the Church, but that which he is persuaded may be concluded and proved by Holy Writ." "It is a matter of consideration with every man to determine to what particular community of professing believers he will consent to attach himself or continue to belong." How melancholy are such statements! It is but the least fault of the principles contained in them that are so very unreal. If it be meant to extend to the doc trine of the Creeds, to which it properly relates, we are bound plainly to avow our conviction, grounded on experience, that it is tempting men to unbelief, to seek for wrong grounds of belief in a wrong spirit, to pull down their own house with their hands, with the foolish women in the Proverbs, in order to build it up with the fragments as best they may.

Mr. Mountain's "Summary of the Writings of Lactantius" (Rivingtons), is a useful analysis; but, we are obliged to add, the tone of divinity is far from Catholic; nay, far from Protestant, that is to say, if our Homilies may be considered such. For instance, the Homily says, "that merciful alms dealing is profitable to purge the soul from the infection or filthy spots of sin;" but our author speaks of it as the elements of the fatal error of Popery, "to speak of carnal sin as purged away by a course of good works," p. 80.

Reprints of several of Dr. Hook's works have been made in America, chiefly under the sanction of the well known Dr. Doane, Bishop of New Jersey.

We are glad to see that proposals have been put forward by Mr. Sherman of New York, for publishing, by subscription, "a Selection of the most interesting {510} and valuable among the Writings that have appeared within a few years in England, and which are commonly known under the name of the Oxford Theology." The plan embraces as many as six to eight volumes 8vo., of 554 pages each, which are to be completed in weekly issues.

Dr. Pusey's second edition of the first of his three Tracts on Baptism has at length made its appearance, and the size sufficiently accounts for the delay. It is the most complete book on the subject we have in the language; and is already almost out of print again. His object seems to have been to bring together all that Scripture directly teaches concerning Baptism, and to show how this was understood by the early church, and in consequence how much higher a doctrine Scripture contains than is commonly supposed.

The Oxford Translations of St. Augustine's Confessions, and St. Cyril's Catechetical Lectures, have reached a second edition. The first edition consisted of 1500 copies. A volume of St. Chrysostom's Commentary on St. Paul's Epistles is on the point of publication.

"The Listener in Oxford" (Seeley and Burnside) observes, that "Evangelical religion has been the fashion; the tide is turned;" that "life is not long enough to examine all that we must receive or reject;" that "the religion of Christ is unchanged from the beginning;" that "it has never had so much as a new dress;" that "the Lamp that illuminates" the Door, "is not removable." This is good Catholic language; but alas! the illusion is soon broken; the Listener confesses she is speaking against such a "Goliath" as "Southcote, Irving, or Pusey." Though a "Listener in Oxford," she says she "cannot speak personally of the present men," but she does know "how far from holiness such leaders usually are, how arrogant, how restless, how insubmissive and disorderly, how confident and boastful of themselves, how irascible and impatient of contradiction;" and she asks, "do these Oxford theologians believe in the Holy Spirit's agency at all in carrying on the work of salvation?" We would put it to a religious woman, is not all this random imputation against individuals whom she does not know, a sort of "bearing false witness against her neighbour?" People in their zeal forget this.

Dr. Hawley's work on "Genuine Christianity" (Lindsay, Edinburgh), begins with what we are obliged to call a dangerous principle, that Christian evidence and Christian doctrine are subjects "altogether distinct from each other," and that "the great principle, the division of labour" must "be applied" to theology; and defends it by the instance of Sir I. Newton, who, though a thorough believer in revelation, has been at length ascertained to have given "credit to the Arian heresy." We are sorry to find a speculation put forward, p. 60, which can only be consistently maintained by Sabellians or Nestorians, viz. that as the Word is incarnate in this world, so probably the "Supreme God rules every world He has made by an emanation from Himself, united with the highest intellectual being who inhabits that world." Hence he talks of "the Christ of each world." We are the more concerned at this, for the work is written in a tone of seriousness and earnestness, and contains express and satisfactory statements of the doctrine of the Trinity. {511}

"Charlotte Elizabeth" has written some sentimental and dreamy pieces called "Glimpses of the Past," (Seeley and Burnside), and has been ambitious enough to introduce "the Reformation Society," "Protestantism," and the glorious ‘88, with a view of making them sentimental, dreamy, and poetical also. Protestantism takes the shape of King William on horseback in College Green, and the "innocent statue" is spoken of in a way to make us fear that sentiment was compromising Protestantism. Old Foxe is drawn writing his history "in a soft sheltered valley, where gurgles a pure spring, overhung with fair trees, from whose branches depend many a cluster of ripened fruit." "There he rests and ponders." The authoress has a little dog called Fidelle, which sneezes "most piteously" at a snuff-box; and she has sweet flowers which "a young minister calls her painted idols." She recounts her own experience; and makes mention of a house where "it was one of the special privileges allowed her to take every day a glass of wine actually made from the grapes that grew on the mountain of Lebanon."

The second edition of "A Text-book of Popery," by John Mockett Cramp, (Wightman), has in view especially "many influential members of the Protestant University of Oxford." It professes, according to the title-page, to give "a brief history of the Council of Trent," and "a complete view of Roman Catholic Theology." The "history" may be serviceable and the "view" is innocuous.

We have received what calls itself "The Church Edition of the, authenticated Report of the Discussion between the Rev. T. D. Gregg and the Rev. T. Maguire." Mr. Gregg came forward under the benediction and "God-speed" of "a very large body of the Clergy of the Established Church from all parts of Ireland," headed by the Archdeacon of Derry; who, without "identifying themselves with him in the controversy," still "felt bound to present him an assurance of their regard and prayers, commending him to God as a brother minister of their Church." This, it will be observed, was before the controversy. We do really think, now that they know what it has turned out, our brethren ought to clear themselves from all participation in so unchristian a contest. Never did we look into so unholy a book, not written by a professed libertine or scoffer. To take one of the merely vulgar specimens: "Away with your wretched sophistry;" the Protestant champion says to his opponent; "Pray, how much salt would it take to make a hogshead of holy water? ... Now come, pray do, like a worthy priest of Belial as you are, do tell us how many holy candles it would take to drive away the devils that tempt a poor Irishman to get drunk? ... Now salt-blesser! ... I shall condescend to instruct you. Come, then, to my knee, thou mass-priest, and learn wisdom." Is this the style of St. Paul or Luther?

"Seals of the Covenant of Grace, by J. J. Cummins" (Seeley and Burnside), is a little work in recommendation of one of the coldest doctrines we know; that the office of the Sacraments is but to represent and pledge to us the blessings of redemption. We can understand persons being warmed and carried away by the doctrine of justification by mere faith; but to those who, having faith, have the substance of salvation, how impotent is the sacramental figure! {512} what need we to be assured externally of what we already feel inwardly? and what assurance is there in a sign without, which is supposed to have no sense till interpreted by an assurance within? Either the Sacraments convey grace or they convey a cold comfort.

How melancholy to find an intelligent traveller like Mr. Fellowes deliberately publishing, in his "Journal of an Excursion in Asia Minor" (Murray), such a fanatical sentence as the following, "in architecture and in sculpture the cross is a brand always attended by deformity in proportion and total want of simplicity in ornament."—p. 169. Elsewhere he talks of temples "dedicated to nominal Christianity."—p. 288. He is enthusiastic in praise of the Turks; becomes "sincerely attached to their manners, habits, and character;" "to their truth, honesty, kindness," and "devotion to their religion." "Prayer is with them universal." "Every one pursues his own devotions, independently of a priesthood, which here does not exist, with perfect simplicity and without ostentation."—p. 294. On the other hand, he speaks of "the early Christians" as he might of "the early Egyptians," or "the Aborigines" of America, or fossil elephants or elks, beings with whom he can have no possible connexion; yet he shows no signs of being what would commonly be called an irreligious man,—the contrary.

Mr. Bickersteth's "Book of Private Devotions," or "Collection of Devotions of the Reformers and their Successors" (Seeley and Burnside), embraces under this title the prayers of Bishop Andrews, Archbishop Laud, Bishop Cosin, Bishop Kenn, Bishop Taylor, and Bishop Hicks. We were particularly pleased to find the compiler saying in his preface, that "he has from no book of devotions derived more personal advantage than from Bishop Andrews' Devotions." May he induce many to seek a like benefit from them!

"Light shining out of Darkness, by Rev. A. Roberts" (Nisbet), is the production of a thoughtful and reverential mind. It takes the form of a work of evidence drawn from the internal characteristics of the four Gospels; but this is only its form. It is really a thankful and edifying contemplation of the tokens they contain that a Divine Presence was with the writers, and an attempt to realize the scenes and to hold communion with the deeds and feelings, of which they are the record.

There is great deal apposite and pleasing in Mr. Woodward's "Shunammite, a Series of Lectures on 2 Kings, iv. 11-17" (Duncan and Malcolm), (e.g. vid. his remarks on the sanctity of St. Mary,) but we suppose his religious sentiments differ a good deal from those which we should feel it right to maintain.

A new edition has been published of Sir J. Stonehouse's "Sick Man's Friend" (Washbourne), a little book which, with a great deal which is good and useful, discovers a very low tone of theology and deplorably deficient views upon the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

We particularly recommend to our readers "Hymns, translated from the Parisian Breviary by the author of the Cathedral," (Rivingtons). They are very {513} beautiful, though as being detached from the services to which they belong, they are like Gothic cornices or finials torn from a church.

"Preparations for a Holy Life" (Hodson) is a convenient pocket selection of prayers and meditations answering to its titles.

Archdeacon Todd has published a brief but pleasing "Selection from Sandys' Metrical Paraphrases of the Psalms, Job, &c." (Rivingtons.)

Mr. Burgh's "Sermon on Antichrist, With an Appendix," (Holdsworth), is intended to show that Rev. xiii. does not apply to Rome Papal, and exposes some grievous mistakes of facts in Mr. M'Neile's historical proof that the Pope is Antichrist.

Dr. Duff, in his "Missions the chief end of the Christian Church" (Johnston, Edinburgh,) confesses and laments, what Mr. O'Connell has lately urged, that Protestantism, since its first burst, has lost its expansiveness.

We observe with much satisfaction that a theological controversy is opening between Mr. O'Connell and the Wesleyans. This is as it should be. They owe us a stand-up fight with the Romanists; and they could not possibly sit down under his rude attack on their founder.

We suppose the Correspondence between some Clergymen of Ripon and Lord Londonderry falls under the head of theological literature, and may be mentioned here. Not that a few words can do justice to it; but we do not like to omit expressing our thanks to the clergymen who took part in it. The church knows no difference between men of peace and men of war, noble and peasant. "The kings of the earth and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men," must all bow down before her, and dutifully obey. It is no favour in Lord Londonderry to defend her with the sword, but a high privilege. The only drawback on our satisfaction in this proceeding is, that it was not a bishop who addressed him.

The "British Association" has celebrated its annual meeting at Birmingham, and under circumstances which show that the anticipation of its imminent declension, expressed by us in a recent number, are rapidly fulfilling. But we allude to the meeting, not for the purpose of mentioning this fact, but to show how far the dangerous tendencies of the body in question have now developed themselves. We would speak in blame of no individual—we censure systems—and strange must be the working of an institution which can lead a reverend president of the association, even in the act of formally defending its religious character, to assert that even the facts "that all men are the children of one human father and the handiwork of one Almighty God," would not be supported by evidence sufficient to claim the belief of this enlightened age without the testimony brought forward to sustain them by recent physical researches. We quote from the Athenĉum, which may, and we would fain hope does, in some degree misrepresent the reverend speaker. We would fain hope that we ourselves misunderstood the report, but the following extracts will enable our readers, on this latter point, to judge for themselves.

"Scripture … does provide for us, and has evidently aimed at providing for us, from the earliest times to the present hour, the knowledge of two facts; {514} that all men are the children of one human father, and the handiwork of one Almighty God ... And what, gentlemen, is the common quality of these two facts? Are they not the very facts on which the system of human duty subsists, on which humanity and piety depend?

"These truths, gentlemen, nursed for a thousand years in the ancient Scriptures of the Jews, led forth into new day and with new accessions of the same kind of knowledge by our holy religion, have walked through the world, and been believed alike by the ignorant and the wise, before our sciences were born; and here observe the method and the course of Providence; how, as in process of years the current of traditionary belief runs weaker,—how, as the advance of human intellect looks for other kinds of proof, the arts and sciences come in to support these essential truths; printing gives them stability and extension, optics and astronomy pour in an infinity of evidence, comparative anatomy brings up its convictions, and geology subdues the sceptical mind with hitherto unimagined demonstrations.

"And now, gentlemen, we are in a condition to draw an inductive conclusion, and even to hazard a prediction. We may safely predict that truths thus firmly established by evidence, will never be shaken by the researches of that reason which has hitherto lent them all its support; &c."— Athenĉum, No. 618, p. 654.

The association, it would seem, if the above be indeed an official declaration of its sentiments—feels that it has at last arrived at the happy period in which—whatever else may be doubted—these two simple tenets may be considered as irrefragably and definitely established. Such are the arduous points which it has at length attained, in the midst of a land long blessed with the full light of Christianity;—such the discoveries for which its labourers, in the conclusion of the speech under comment, are told to look for "the approbation and the blessing of the great Father of Truth."

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