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in their subserviency to the best interests of mankind, the reader may judge from the following statement:
“The work was sketched, its principles settled, and the whole plan of their connexion formed, at a time when the Author had little expectation that he was again to be permitted to take an active part in that living scene, the duties of which he has endeavoured to describe, — and when, with no view certainly of literary distinction, nor any care about literary :honors, with an earnest desire to ascertain the duty actually assigned to man on earth, he busied himself, — with that deep anxiety which is known only to those who believe themselves to be bidding 'farewell to time,' — in endeavouring to find out what is the object really proposed to man as a subject of the kingdom of God, and how far he himself had succeeded in acting conformably to that object.
“No length of days can ever efface from his mind the remembrance of that bright summer noon, - made more bright and infinitely more affecting by the thought, that such brightness might be seen but for a little, -- when, being incapable of more active exertion, he sketched with his pencil, in the open air, and amidst the blossoms and overshading foliage of that 'cottage garden' which had been dear to him from infancy, — the whole series of views and principles which, in a more finished form, but with no alteration whatever of their original design, he now submits to the judgment of the public;— indeed all subsequent reflection and investigation have but served more deeply to impress him with the conviction that these principles are in strict agreement with the order of Nature, and with the arrangements of Providence ; and he has, accordingly, only to add, that, having made this statement, he cannot doubt, the reader will give him entire credit, when he declares, that he now offers the work to the public with the solemn belief, that the principles which it contains are in accordance with the purest truth, and that their adoption, as rules of conduct, would indeed make man a Living Temple,' - or, to use the fine words of the Divine Teacher, would bring the kingdom of Heaven upon earth.'” – pp. XXV. - xxvii.
It will at once be seen, from this sketch of the “ distinctive features ” of the work before us, that it will be impossible to bring them into view, even in an outline, within the limits allowed to this article. These “features," however, are all more or less palpable manifestations of a few first principles ; and these in connexion with the general “plan” of the treatise, we shall attempt to lay before the reader, with such
illustrative remarks of our own, as, from their relative importance, or from
they may seem to demand. But we are embarrassed with a difficulty of a peculiar kind, even at the very outset, which constitutes, so far as manner is concerned, one of the principal objections to the book. It is the diffuseness and dilution, both of thought and expression, that pervade it. The leading object and plan of the author are plainly enough, and quite often enough, brought into view, and there is, we believe, no real deficiency in oneness and logical completeness in the system, as it existed in the mind of the author; but there is a want of distinctness and prominence, both in the elementary principles, and in their connexion with each other, and with the final result, as laid down in his three volumes. We are reminded by contrast, oftener than we could wish, of that old and excellent rule of all good writing,
"Denique sit quidvis simplex duntaxat et unum." And this, however singular it may seem, arises from excessive efforts to make himself understood. Instead of exposing himself to the difficulty spoken of by Horace, that of becoming obscure by laboring to be brief, he becomes obscure by laboring to be clear. The mystery wrapped up in the sententious saying, “Never over-explain," seems always to have been a mystery to him. He appears not to have learned the import of the rule, “Do and have done,” and painfully illustrates how hard the latter is to do. If we may be permitted to use the illustration, he sometimes reminds us of those much-enduring animals, who being placed on a rotary surface, for the purpose of turning machinery, are constantly struggling onward, and seem to themselves, doubtless, to be advancing at a quick pace, but, deceived by their delusive foothold, remain, all effort and no advance, much in the same spot, all the live-long day. Or, (if we may add another illustration without exposing ourselves to the fault we venture thus to indicate,) in reading these volumes we are often in the condition of those who, having embarked on shipboard under a serene sky, with a favoring breeze, with the sails all set, and the course well ascertained, may seem to be making good head-way ; but find, to their deep and blank chagrin, when they come to take an observation, that a treacherous under-current has been continually carrying them back towards the point of their departure.
And now that we have hinted at one exception, which, in
our critical capacity, we have felt ourselves obliged to take, we may as well perhaps finish at once all that we have to say of the same ungracious character, that we may go on unimpeded to give some account of this, on the whole, very good and not innutritive book.
Connected with the fault just alluded to, is another of a not dissimilar kind, which attaches to the style of these volumes. This is too much amplified. The sentences are much too long and involved. They want, like the trains of thought, condensation and point. They are singularly deficient in what rhetoricians call a periodic structure ; that is, they do not terminate where the meaning stops; or, in other words, they are loosely put together. We arrive at what we suppose to be the end of one, and where an end is plainly indicated, and then find that we must enter on another, and so on, in long succession, until the mind becomes weary and lost in a sort of impatient bewilderment, instead of being put, as is doubtless intended, in fuller possession of the author's thought. All definite points and bearings of the prospect, intended to be opened upon the view, are merged in the gentle undulations of the surface. We are reminded, as we read, of a remark of Mr. Sydney Smith on the conversational style of Sir James Mackintosh: “Though his ideas were always clothed in beautiful language, the clothes were sometimes too long for the body, and common thoughts were dressed in better and longer apparel than they deserved." The author, as appears from his Preface, adopted this very mode of writing, partly for the sake of perspicuity, and partly that he might avoid that false and inflated diction that has now become so common, which has been chiefly fostered and diffused by the multitude of periodical works' that are at present in circulation, - but which is essentially so disgraceful to the taste of any age that favors it.” Both objects are good. But we much doubt, in respect to the first, whether perspicuity is ever gained by this looseness and prolixity of style. Sentences which thus “ drag their slow length along," never tell on the mind of the reader. On the contrary be is very liable to forget absolutely, or to retain only a sort of hazy recollection of what was said at the commencement, when he reaches their close. Thoughts when thus diluted become feeble. They are too much attenuated to reflect light. They do not in consequence, shine out like the constant stars, by their own inherent brilliancy, or arrange themselves like them into definite shapes, and leave a distinct image on the mind, but by being spread, like comets' tails, over a large surface, present only a dim, evanishing, and ill-remembered outline. And in respect to the other evil which the author so earnestly eschews, namely, " the false and. inflated diction diffused by the multitude of periodical works' that are at present in circulation, this is undoubtedly one of the crying literary sins of our time; but is there no happy medium between this attempted intensity of expression and straining after effect, and a tame and wearisome, however decorous and dignified, dilation and prolixity of style ?
There is a less objection than this, which we shall just advert to in passing; and this is, an extremely redundant use of certain pet expressions of the author; such as, “fine," "luminous," "opened," "opening up, fragmentary,” and “fragmented,” which occur passim throughout the volumes. This, though of not much importance, except as it shows a negligence on the part of the writer, and consequently the want of a proper respect for his readers, had been better avoided.
And may we gently hint another objection which has been forced upon our notice? We mean the rather over complacent estimate, which the author himself appears to have of the author. He thus considers and speaks of many of the leading principles of his books as "original," and as needing in consequence to be presented in much detail, and with reiterated repetition. Thus in his preface he says, (p. xvi.)“ he had important principles to make familiar, - almost to introduce, - to his read
Again, (at the commencement of the second volume,) he observes, certain speculations of his “ will probably be found to have awakened an entirely new train of thought in the minds of most of those who have submitted to the study of it.” And, (in the same volume, p. 110,) he hopes “to present views as novel, but at the same time as instructive and pleasing as in the two former parts.”
however 66 novel” these views may be to his readers within the pale of the Scottish church, we can assure him, that most of them will be recognised, as familiar and long-known acquaintances, by those who are in the habit of attending the churches, or reading the practical ethics, of liberal Christians on this side of the water. Besides, why not leave to his hearers to find out for themselves whether his “views” were “novel," "instructive," and
pleasing”? But this trait shows forth more vividly among the notes, appended to the third volume ; the very insertion of most
of which betrays the want of proper deference to other minds above spoken of, being apparently mere undigested transcripts from his commonplace book. We quote in illustration of our meaning from the note marked SS., entitled “Queries proposed to the author by himself.” After reminding the reader (lest he should mistake on this point!), that "they have nothing in common with those which are appended to the immortal work of Newton on light, inasmuch as they are not of doubtful solution, and to which he thinks himself in a condition to give a catagorical answer, and after remarking that he is peculiarly free from being actuated by a desire of the applause of men, he goes on to observe: “ Nature has fitted my mind, not so much for opening up new views, as for finding out, amidst the mixed alloy, the pure and valuable metal; and long practice in this art has given me considerable proficiency in it.” And immediately subjoins his own estimate of this peculiar gift of his : “In my opinion, the rarest and most valuable, though not the showiest of all talents, is that which [thus] enables a man to seize the pure gold amidst all its alloys." Can we well avoid here the
windy suspiration of unforced breath,”-Ohe! jam satis est ! Now, while we are fully aware that “ many a gem of purest ray
” is kept from the light that is necessary to reveal and manifest its beauties, by a want of proper self-opinion in its owner; and know also, that self-trust and a comfortable selfcomplacency, not to say self-conceit, constitute the very inspiration of many not ineloquent voices, that might otherwise have remained “mute and inglorious"; still we cannot but think, that it is well to keep up the appearance of diffidence, at least, in this brassy age, and, were it only for the effect of contrast,
assume the virtue, if we have it not.” We have thus felt constrained to hint at these imperfections of the book because we wish to give an accurate idea of it to our readers. But
“ Paulò majora canamus.” And it is with great pleasure we proceed to lay before them what seem to us to be its leading principles, which are essentially true, and extremely important both to the happiness and improvement of man.
The seminal principle out of which most of all that is peculiar to the author before us is evolved, is his idea of the Divine kingdom, or that “kingdom of God” which it was the great design of the Founder of Christianity more fully to make known and establish among men, and for the extension of which he taught his disciples to pray, to toil, and to suffer.