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Church, and the ruin of its ministers; the destructon of the Monarchy, and the murder of the Monarch! Was it not rather indiscreet in Mr. Brougham's encomiast to recall these facts to our recollection? Does he believe that the event of another little trial will be desired by bis readers, or is be merely guilty of pilfering a libel under the pretence that it is a prayer? Whatever his intention may have been, we believe that his imprudent violence will prevent its accomplishment. He has opened his fire by declaring that the prosecution of a Durham Printer has excited a controversy ont of which the Church must inevitably retreat with diminished credit. Bat in another part of his article he stumbles upon an assertion which is considerably nearer the truth, namely, that the attack upon the Clergy by Messrs. Brougham, Williams, Jeffrey, and Co. " has excited the liveliest feelings in all parts of the neighbouring kingdom, and is calculated to produce etfects probably as little in the contemplation as they may be to the liking of its promoters.” If this sentence be involved and awkward, the blame must be cast upon the fastidious northern critics. If it be just, and in one sense its justice is indisputable, it deserves to be cherished by its elegant fabricators as a proof that they have not written fifty pages of' clerical abuse' without stumbling upon one word of truth,
Art. IX. Essays on Subjects of Important Enquiry, in
Metaphysics, Morals and Religion ; accompanied by References to Passages in numerous Authors, illustrative of the same. By the late Isaac Hawkins Browne, Esy. 8vo.
pp. 628. 15s. Cadell. 1822. The appearance of this posthumous work, serves to remind us of the gradual, but important alteration, which is taking place in English society. The author, the late Mr. Hawkins Browne, belonged to a class which has already become scarce, and which will soon be altogether extinct.
He sat in parliament for nearly thirty years, as an independent country gentleman. During the whole of that time he devoted himself to the various duties of the senate, and was accústomed to take a part in the most important discussions. His private life, was that of a scholar and a Christian, whose leisare is employed in extensive reading and profitable meditation, and who is not unwilling to communicate the results of his study. We do not say that it is possible or desirable to convert all modern senators into men of this description; but when we observe the different characters which most of them assume, we cannot take leave of the old school, without feelings of regret and alarm.
If a young man of birth and fortune obtains a seat in the House of Commons, and wishes, without entangling himself in the trammels of party, to make use of his understanding and activity, the chances are, that he will go astray. He will be tempted to put himself forward in all causes, and upon all occasions, to become vice-president and orator to five hundred institutions ; to be a police man, or a corn-law man, or a Lanark man, or a road man. He will move for a committee of the honourable house, and treat his constituents and correspondents with a journey to town at the public expence, for the sake of proving that there may be smoke without fire, or fire without smoke, plague without infection, or infection without plague. Much curious information may be procured in this manner, and some real improvements introduced into the management of public business. But will the system tend to strengthen and elevate the minds of our statesmen? Will it enable or prepare them to take a comprehensive view of the interests of their country, or the duty of its children? Will it recruit tbe senatorial ranks with English gentlemen of the old stamp, well versed in the bistory of their native land ; firmly attached to its institutions, and incapable of consenting to remove its land-marks? It would be difficult and hazardous to answer in the affirmative. Constitutional questions are now discussed, after a different fashion from that which prevailed in days of yore. There is not the same disposition to reason, or to act upon fixed principles. There is not the same reliance upon the tried wisdom of preceding generations. There is more affectation of science, more smattering and smartness, and, of course, more presumption and more ignorance. Unless there be a certain number of persons of solid judgment and long experience, who are listened to upon great occasions with deference--the political vessel is deficient in ballast. Such deficiency may be expected to arise from too great an extension of the present system. And we shall sincerely rejoice at its abandonment. The return of our country gentlemen to old pursuits and old studies, will be advantageous to every class of society. It may diminish their present means of making a noise, or cutting a figure; but it will enable them to do permanent good to their country and their fellow-creatures. To return to the volume before us. It consists of five and
twenty essays, on the most important religious and moral subjects. Reason; The Passions; Free Agency; Society; Moral Obligation ; Virtue; Vice; The Being of God; The Incommunicable Attributes of God; The Moral Attributes of God; the Wisdom of God; the Power of God; the Moral Government of God ; Infidelity; Religion; Enthusiasm; Superstition; Prayer; A State of Trial; The Reward of Virtue ; The Punishment of Vice; Providence ; The Immateriality of the Soul; The Immortality of the Soul; The Evidences of the Christian Revelation. The Author informs us in his Preface, that the arrangement was formed many years ago, and that he was led in the course of his reading upon theology and moral philosophy, to transcribe those passages which appeared to throw a material light upon the subjects be intended to discuss. He did so with the hope of entering fully into all those points ; but having no leisure for the accomplishment of so great a work, and unwilling that his labour should be entirely lost, he drew up a short essay on each of the forementioned subjects, as an introduction to that extensive enquiry which the references suggest, and may produce. These essays, and these references, are comprised in the present work. The latter are divided into eleven periods, occupying a space of two or three years each, during which they were collected. Some idea may be given of their author's industry and perseverance, by stating, that the references occupy at least a third of the book, and send us to specified parts of the writings of two or three hundred voluminous authors. We do not see the advantage or propriety of retaining the division into periods. The reader cannot easily divest himself of the notion, that these divisions relate to the subject matter of the essays. And the fact that they are only governed by the time at which Mr. Browne happened to peruse this or that volume, is continually overlooked. If any divisions had been retained, they should have followed either the different parts of each head of enquiry, or the different subjects of which the authors treat. The latter strikes us as the preferable plan. The theological, the moral, the metaphysical, the historical writers might have been separately classed, and afterwards subdivided into ancient and modern, Christian and heathen, domestic and foreign, or any other similar divisions.
We shall furnish the reader with extracts from the essays on Infidelity, and on the Reward of Virtue, which will enable him to form a fair opinion of the general contents of the volume.
“ It has been contended, that we are quite passive in our belief, therefore infidelity cannot be criminal; and that the human mind is so differently framed, that the same evidence which convinces one nian bas no effect upon another. Both these theories are unfounded, or supported by false principles. The former supposes that we are not free agents in our thoughts, whatever we may be in our words and actions. The latter supposes, that mind in every rational being is not the same, but capable of a diversity destructive of its very essence. This is a position which would lead to universal scepticism. Upon the same principle, that we are supposed passive in our belief, we may imagine ourselves passive in all moral and social virtues. It is difficult, I allow, to conquer an inveterate prejudice, especially the prejadices which pride and licentiousness indulge against religion ; but not more difficult than to subdue an inordinate passion. The fastidious declare that they find it impossible to sympathize with any man. The capricious and conceited feel an invincible reluctance to accommodate them. selves to company they dispise, or to enjoy that society into which they must naturally fall; but are these difficulties, or these impossibilities, as we fondly call them, pleas, which any wise or good man will allow, for the violation of every duty which benevolence, gratitude, or natural affection demand? Can the misanthrope or the infidel plead an insuperable necessity at the tribunal of an omniscient judge, who knows the free agency he has bestowed upon inan, and the responsibility flowing from it? Every truth, when it is brought before the mind, becomes self-evident, and must be universally received. But the difficulty consists in bringing truths properly before the mind, when they are not evident at first sight. No religious truth is evident at first sight; it must, therefore, be brought before the mind by some voluntary exertion of the intel. lectual agent, that is, of the being who contemplates it. No instructor can teach a pupil, without some active energy of the pupil's own mind. It is, therefore, in our power to refuse to make this exertion, and if we do not decline the effort altogether, the intenseness or remission of it, the time we employ in it, all depends upon ourselves. As ignorance depresses us in the moral intellectual scale, so we raise ourselves, not only in the moral and intellectual, but in the religious scale of being, by all the conviction which we are enabled, through our own voluntary exertions, to obtain of divine truth. I am ready to acknowledge, that we cannot investigate the truth of any theological position, nor have it properly presented to the mind, if there is a great deficiency of natural capacity, or education, or learning, or leisure; but these advantages are not required in an eminent degree, if we confine our examination to the fundamental doctrines of natural or revealed religion. These qualifications becoine chiefly necessary, when some subtlety of human invention, supported by sophistry is to be exploded ; or when we enquire into the true interpretation of a particular passage in scripture ; or when we attempt to explore the regions of eternity and immensity;
or the nature of that Being who, in his full perfection, is incompre hensible to every created mind. If, however, in our inquiries after divine truth, we are properly sensible of our defects, whatever is wanting in knowledge or ability will be supplied by an humble and a docile temper, and our right of private judgment will be best exerted in the choice of an enlightened guide. Although we advance towards perfection, and gradually ascend according to the number of true propositions which we believe, if we act corre, spondently to them, yet we shall not, at the day of judgment, be rewarded or punished exactly in this proportion; for the number of true propositions, which we believe, depends upon a variety of unavoidable circumstances. Our reward or punishment will be awarded in conformity with our laudable diligence or culpable neglect" P. 336.
“ If self-satisfaction proceeds from adulation and vanity, it is of a very shadowy and fluctuating nature ; liable to be overthrown by every wind of popular fáme; dependent upon the breath of man; subject every hour to innumerable mortifications, and always regu. lated by the flow or depression of animal spirits. But if it proceeds from a real knowledge of moral truth, and of our own hearts, it is the habitual consciousness of virtue, which we cannot have without the possession of it.
« Nor will our sense of deficiency impair this satisfaction, if we are assured of our sincere endeavours to conquer every bad propensity, and to make a daily progress in virtue. The more earnest these endeavours are, and the greater the success of them, the higher will be our enjoyment, and the more perfect our morality. When there is a particular danger of acting wrong, a firm resolution constantly opposed to that danger, is a continued act of virtue. Vicious indulgencies deprave, virtuous self-government improves, the inward constitution and character; and by raising us to a greater eminence in the moral scale, renders us more capable of self-satisfaction. The more accurate, the more enlarged, the more elevated our conceptions of duty are, the happier we shall be, if we act according to our knowledge of what is right. Duty and happiness are inseparable from virtue; the former as the principle, the latter the result ; the former the guide, the latter the reward. A bad mind is the sorest adversity which can befall us ; for in the most accumulated distress, the comfort of a good conscience will afford a pleasure, far beyond any delightful sensations which prosperity the most unbounded, without a good conscience, can bestow. The want of this true principle of self-satisfaction renders all pleasures insipid, if we partake of them; at the same time that they become necessary to dispel our ulental gloom, and we cannot endure the calamity which their deprivation inflicts. We cannot bear their absence, yet have no enjoyment of them when present. I acknowledge, that self-satisfaction, though arising from the most frivolous fancies and absurd pretensions, will furnish some transient gratifi
VOL. XIX. MARCH, 1823.