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E S S A Y S
PRINCIPLES OF MORALITY,
ON THE PRIVATE AND POLITICAL RIGHTS AND OBLI-
GATIONS OF MANKIND.
AUTHOR OP "AN INQUIRY INTO THE ACCORDANCY OF WAR WITH THE PRINC.PLES OF (HRIS
DJUNCT PROFESSOR OF IEBREW AND ORIENTAL LITERATURE IN THE NEW-YORK CITY UNIVERSITI
AUTHOR OF TILE * LIFE OF MOHAMMED," " TREATIDE ON THE MILLENNIUM," &c.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1837, dy
HARPER & BROTHERS, In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New York.
In looking at the system of Christianity as exhibited in the pages of the New Testament, we see not only a grand and gracious scheme, the fruit of the benignant counsels of its Author, for the recovery of a fallen race, but a body also of moral precepts most wisely adapted to mould the character and to regulate the entire conduct of mankind. Yet the fact is indubitable, that for reasons which it would be more easy to specify than to obviate, there has hitherto existed a strong propensity in the Christian world to contemplate the religion of the gospel under the exclusive aspect of its remedial features, as a relief for the guilty, and as connecting itself mainly with the interests of another life. Its ethical has been lost sight of in its doctrinal character; and in the various developments of its genius and tendencies which have been given to the world, a work adequately displaying its true nature as a system of moral instruction, adapting itself to the various departments of responsible human action, must yet, we fear, be pronounced a desideratum.
The volume now presented to the public with a view to supply, in some measure, this deficiency, is the production of a Mr. Dymond, an English gentleman, and a member of the Society of Friends, a portion of the religious community who, whatever may be thought of their doctrinal and speculative views of Christianity, have certainly aimed at such a practical exhibition
of its spirit and precepts as to exempt them very much from the application of the remarks made above upon the too partial display of its character in other quarters. The work, though hitherto but little known in this country, has passed through two editions in England since the death of its lamented author, in the spring of 1828. But even in that country, though reviewed and commended in the London Quarterly,* it would seem, from the rarity of the allusions made to it in the current writings of the day, to have attracted comparatively little notice, and to have been by no means appreciated according to its intrinsic worth. But with books, as with
“The present work is one which the Society (the Friends) may well consider it an honour to have produced ; it is indeed a book of such ability, and so 'excellently intended, as well as well executed, that even those who differ most widely, as we must do, from some of its conclusions, must regard the writer with the greatest respect, and look upon his death as a public loss”-QUAR. Rev., Jan., 1831.
men, the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Wero it so, a different award, we are persuaded, would have fallen to the lot of the “ Essays on Morality.” Whether the failure of the work hitherto to command a degree of notoriety at all proportioned to its merits be owing to the fact that many of its leading positions on the great questions of Moral and Political Rectitude are too far in advance of the state of public opinion in that country, or to a presumption somewhat akin to that which once prompted the incredulity of an Israelite in reference to the coming forth of any good from Nazareth, a presumption that no work of distinguished ability on such a subject was to be expected from the source in which this originated, or to other causes of which we are not competent to form a judgment, we are unable to say; yet it is not among the least pleasing of the anticipations connected with its present appearance from an American press, that a just though tardy tribute of honour and applause shall redound to a name at once so little covetous and so highly deserving of a grateful distinction.
The general object and plan of the work are so fully explained by the author in his “ Introductory Notices,” that it will be unnecessary to recapitulate or enlarge upon them here. His aim appears to have been to establish, by a train of valid argumentation, the system of moral and political duties upon what he considered to be its only true and legitimate basis, the expressed will of God. This is, in fact, but a peculiar mode of converting the dubious system of moral philosophy into a definite code of Christian ethics—a task for which the author, by the original structure of his mind and his prevailing habits of reflection, seems to have been eminently fitted. His success has accordingly been decided and signal. Whether we regard the soundness and lucidness of his reasonings, the temper, candour, and wisdom of his conclusions, the elegance of his style, the felicity of his illustrations, or the singularly excellent spirit which pervades the whole, the Essays of Dymond are entitled to rank high in the highest class of ethical productions.
We learn from the author that his undertaking sprang from a belief (in which he probably is not alone), that the existing treatises did not exhibit the principles nor enforce the obligations of morality in all their perfection and purity, and from the desire to supply the apprehended deficiency, by presenting a true and authoritative standard of rectitude, one by an appeal to which the moral character of human actions might be rightly estimated. Such an object, it is obvious, could not be attained without bringing the writer into direct collision with the most prominent of the extant theories of moral obligation, particularly that of Paley and his disciples. It will accordingly be found that he intrepidly enters the lists with the great apostle and champion of erpediency, and with the weapons of an uncompromising logic battles the fallacies of that specious but dangerous doctrine through every stage of his investigations. How complete and triumphant is his refutation, and upon what a far more stable foundation he builds his own, or rather Heaven's, beautiful system of obligations, duties, and rights, we will not forestall the reader by stating. Suffice it to say, that he has erected his edifice on the solid basis of inspired truth ; and that in the choice of his materials he has excluded the wood, hay, and stubble of vain hypotheses, and admitted no ornaments but such as are