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3. Farewell to Time, or Last Views of Life, and Prospects
of Immortality, including Devotional Exercises, a great
Third Edition. Edinburgh and London : 1829. 4. The True Plan of a Living Temple ; or Man considered
in his proper Relation to the Ordinary Occupations and Pursuits of Life. In Three Volumes. Edinburgh and London : 1830.
It is not our intention to remark, particularly, on all these works. We have arranged them together at the head of this paper, for the purpose of introducing and recommending them in general terms to our readers; for, though they have been received with much approbation abroad, they are, we believe, but little known in this country.
It is the less necessary to advert with much particularity to the first three of these works, as they are pervaded by the same spirit, and are, in fact, illustrations and aids of the same general design that is more fully detailed in the last, namely, “ The True Plan of a Living Temple.” This contains the fullest exposition of the author's views on practical religion, and it is to this that our remarks will be principally confined. He himself remarks ; — “This treatise, though the last that has appeared, is intended, however, to take place as the first of the series ; - the arrangement of the different treatises, according to their objects and uses, being as follows: First, the Living Temple, as a guide to active and social duty, next, the Morning and Evening Sacrifice for daily devotions, then the Last Supper, for assisting those who are preparing to celebrate the most interesting solemnity of the Christian faith, – and, lastly, the Farewell to Time, for the use of those who either have the near prospect of leaving this world, or who may wish to be useful to persons in that situation.”
Indeed, works which are strictly devotional in their character, or which are intended to be merely instrumental in the great work of spiritual advancement, seem to us to claim a peculiar exemption from strict critical analysis. They partake too much of the retiredness and solemnity, which belong to the intercourse of the soul with God, to be canyassed in open day, and weighed, as it were, in the scales of the market. The unconcern with which the usual public devotional services are
often regarded, and the flippancy with which they are frequently spoken of, are, to our minds, not less shocking as a matter of sentiment, than they are mournful as a moral phe
It is enough for us t! at they answer, in any good degree, the great design they were intended to subserve. Do they give a fitting utterance to the often vague, but sincere and earnest aspirations of the soul, touched with a sense of its religious wants ? Do they serve to express, and, in expressing, deepen, a sense of its religious responsibleness ?
We think that the devotional works before us possess this merit in a very considerable degree. They are pervaded with a spirit of enlarged, comprehensive, and enlightened piety. They possess the great negative merits of being free from all parade and prettiness of phrase, metaphysical jargon of creeds, insincere self-humiliation, verbiage, and consecrated cant; and not unfrequently breathe forth that deep tone of sincerity, which goes directly to the heart, and to which all hearts respond. And, if these volumes be read, in the spirit in which they ought to be read, they will not need our or others' praise. After all, every thing, almost, depends on the state of the recipient mind; since the slightest word, nay an infant's sigh, that falls upon the devotionally prepared heart, may be more potent in its religious influence, than all eloquence of language ; and, without this response of the religious affections, an angel's voice would be powerless, and a messenger from the dead, unheard.
With these remarks on the general character and claims of the three first-mentioned works, we take final leave of them, and now turn to the last, namely, “ The True Plan of a Living Temple.” This title, it is well known, has been preoccupied, and on this account it were well that some other had been substituted. But those who expect to find in this treatise any thing to remind them of the celebrated work of Howe bearing a similiar title, will be greatly disappointed. They differ in all respects; in their plan, leading principles, in the theory of religion which they severally adopt, in their whole spirit and tendency, and still more, if possible, in their style and method of illustration.
The “ Living Temple” of Howe partakes largely of those unfortunate peculiarities which marked the theological literature of the excited, troubled, and, in no small degree, the
benighted age in which he lived.
A popular preacher of the Court and Parliament, in the time of the Commonwealth the chaplain and personal favorite of Cromwell, he made all bis learning and all his rhetoric subservient to the technical theology that then prevailed. Unlike his cotemporary Jeremy Taylor, — that writer of all times, — he did not look abroad over creation, and through the providence of God, for those analogies and coincidences, which necessarily pervade the written and unwritten revelation of the same Great Author; - unlike him, he did not listen, with attentive ear, to the myriads of voices that are continually speaking from the heavens above and from the earth beneath, to every contemplative and devout spirit, of truth and duty ; but, like the common tribe of the theologians of his day and generation, took it for granted that all saving knowledge was summed up within the dogmas of a cramped and narrow creed, of man's device. of course, fatal to all true enlargement and illumination of his mind. And when we recollect, further, that the particular creed, which thus shut out all light except that which might serve to illustrate and gild its own darkness, was essentially Calvinistic in its tenor, we shall not wonder that the writings of Howe, and the “Living Temple
Living Temple” among the number, find at the present day, with all but some persons of his own religious caste, a very qualified acceptance. Indeed, with any but these, the principal recommendations of his voluminous productions, will be found to consist in the occasional power and beauty of their style, and in those strong and faithful appeals to the conscience, which, though founded on erroneous and belittling views of human duty and destiny, yet bear the impress of entire honesty and solemn self-conviction, and, therefore, fall on the heart in tones of power.
We speak of these traits as occasional. And we must use this qualifying expression, since, notwithstanding the indiscriminate praise which it has become sufficiently common to lavish on the style of the leading writers of that age, it seems to us, in many respects singularly infelicitous. It is beside our present purpose to enter here into any elaborate illustration of this remark. The strictures of our author on their manner of presenting their thoughts strike us as entirely just. They seem to have had no idea of a logical division of a subject, or that there were such things as a beginning, middle, and end of it. They divided and subdivided it by a process, which seemed to have no limit, but that imposed by the exhaustion of their ingenuity, and the failure of their power of analysis. The consequence is, that their most elaborate treatises lie before us as a mass of slightly connected fragments, and though the separate parts may present some salient points, and reflect, in their disjointed state, some prismatic hues, yet they are greatly wanting in oneness and entirety of effect.
Again, most of the theological writings of that age are essentially controversial in their character. Those of Howe, however, are a delightful exception to this remark; for though bound, as we have said, by the hard and close fetters of a technical faith, he was not, as is generally the case, so fretted and galled by them, as to impair the sweetness of his own pious nature, or make him ready to “call down fire from heaven," or bring up that from below, to consume those who honestly differed from him in opinion. He was too great and good a man, moreover, to love controversy for its own sake. But he could not, we think, claim an entire exemption from another besetting infirmity of the writers of his time. We refer to that poor parade of learning, which led them to fill up their pages, and crowd their paragraphs, with quotations and references, relevant and irrelevant, congruous and incongruous, almost without measure or end, which give them the appearance of being more ambitious of displaying their own reading than of communicating solid knowledge to their read
They appear to have had little idea of that refined scholarship, which, like true dignity of manners, is discoverable in the general air and bearing, or indicated by indirect or unconscious allusions, rather than by an elaborate and painstaking display.
These brief remarks on the general character of the writings of Howe, apply to his treatise, the “ Living Temple” which called them forth. And in all these respects, it stands opposed to the book before us bearing the same title, of which we are now to give some account.
Of the theological character of this work we scarcely know how to speak. We gather from hints scattered through the volumes, that the author, who is anonymous, is a clergyman of the Established Church of Scotland. And when we remember that the creed of this church is bristled all over with the thorniest points of the old Geneva school, we find it difficult to reconcile the fact with the prevailing religious views
of the book, which are large and liberal, and still less with its pervading tone, which is merciful and bland.
There is, we apprehend, scarcely a single doctrine peculiar to the “ Standards ” of the author's professed faith, that is not brought into question or falsified by the positions, reasonings, and general strain of his book.
aware that he admits in terms the doctrines of the Trinity and Atonement, but expressly says that they are not to be received “in any sectarian sense”; that they “should not be moulded into the systematic shape of doctrines, but considered as addressed to the heart and sentiments of men." He quotes very largely from the “Light of Nature,” implies that he too belongs to the “ family of the Searches,” and apostrophizes the author, who we suppose is not considered a particularly sound Calvinist, in the line,
“Euge! tu mihi eris magnus Apollo." He regards David Hume as being “ by far the most accomplished metaphysician of modern times, — perhaps of any time, and considers the “ Treatise of Human Nature the “one source” whence has flowed the “two modes of philosophizing that are at present most prevalent in the world, or that divide the philosophical world between them, the Scotch and the German ;” which we deem to be rather an heretical opinion. After describing “Mysticism, Ascetism, Fanaticism, Dogmatism, Superstition, and Enthusiasm,' “degenerate varieties of the religious disposition," he hesitates not to say, in so many words, that “ Fenelon was a mystic, — all the monks were ascetics, — Howe had a strong tinge of the fanatic, Calvin was the Prince of Dogmatists,
- the Romish clergy have been great patrons of superstition, and Bunyan, and Swedenborg, and Wesley, and — some others whom we don't care to mention, but who stand high in the public view, – are notorious specimens of enthusiasm." He maintains that the " origin of evil” is a phrase which has no meaning, except as embodying an abstract idea that the mind forms for its own convenience. He holds that no man is utterly worthless, but that, perhaps, good predominates even in the worst character; and he reprobates the doctrine of final reprobation. In the “Farewell to Time," he more than questions the doctrines of a “sudden conversion," and that all mankind are, either here or hereafter, to be divided into