Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

p: 66.

« The

Do fellows of Caius College, Cambridge, ever descend upwards, or ascend downwards ? Was Dr. Davy exalted, or depressed, by his elevation to the mastership? If equation be', p. 79. The angles of triangle,' p. 92. sides of supplemental triangle', p. 93. Conceive () to be center of the sphere', p. 99. We seriously assure reader, not one of these is error of press, or blunder of transcriber, or misrepresentation of critic ; but each is beauty of author, of which gentleman is proud, and of which we presume no

aliter writer will be envious. But we must conclude article.

It was our intention to furnish some proofs of the author's prejudices and negligences respecting other writers : his ascription of every thing valuable to Cambridge mathematicians; and sometimes, as at p. 53, when even his own testimony proves that the ascription is not their due; but it would be an irksome employment, and we must decline it. The book may be of use to a few undergraduates at Cambridge, whose prejudices or whose finances hinder them from procuring other performances. It often displays analytical expertness, and now and then an ingenious elucidation : but, considered as a whole, it is so extremely desultory, inelegant, and incomplete, that we know not how to account for the circumstance of so able a mathematician as Mr. Woodhouse producing so indifferent a volume. On the present occasion, we say nothing of the Treatises on Trigonometry by Cagnoli and Bonnycastle; because it might be thought uncandid to institute a comparison between Mr. W.'s performance and others of double the size. But we must say, and that upon the most impartial survey, that for all purposes of real utility we prefer the Trigonometries. of Lacroix, of Legendre, of Mauduitt, and even of Emerson (though published 50 years ago), to the treatise before us.

Indeed Emerson's wants little besides a modern. ized notation, to make it still one of the best treatises on trigonometry extant. Art. IV. A Series of Discourses, on the Principles of Religious Belief,

as connected with Human Happiness and Improvement. By the Rev. R. Morehead, A. M. of Balíol College, Oxford, Junior Minister of the Episcopal Chapel, Cowgate, Edinburgh. 8vo. pp. xviii, and 441.

Price 9s. Constable and Co. 1809, EVEN in the rashness and presumption of our youth we

never formed a more hasty judgement of any book, than we have to express concerning the volume before us. The Pery first sentence gave us an opinion of its character, which subsequent perusal and consideration only tended to confirm.

6

This ominous sentence occurs in the epistle dedicatory to the Rev, A. Alison, the author's senior colleague in the episcopal chapel.

My dear sir, I have preached about philosophy and philosophers, till I am tired of the very names ; and of course my congregation must be still more tired than myself. There are people, however, who may derive some benefit from reading upon these subjects

which are in fact better adapted for the closet, than the pulpit ; and a reader possesses at least one advantage over a listener,----whenever he is wearied, he can take the liberty to silence his instructor.'

On this singular introduction, which presents a more distinct view of the complexion and tendency of the sermons, than a host of quotations would do, we shall take the liberty' of stating a few observations ; not presuming to doubt, for a moment, the correctness of the author's estimate of his own work.

We have then, in the first place, a specification of the topics of these discourses, - philosophy and philosophers.' It is scarcely to be supposed that Mr. M. refers to natural philosophy. We may surely venture to interpret this expression as referring to moral science, the philosophy of the mind. Here indeed is extended scope for the most enlarged and penetrating inquiry. But subjects of metaphysical speculation have little reference either to the attainment of happiness or the conduct of life. They are often investigated with painful, though interesting, anxiety : the frivolousness of the question is overlooked ; a momentary illusion deceives the inquirer, and he fancies the subject to be important, in proportion to the difficulties which attend his researches, and the triumphant vigour which surmounts them. Such speculations, it is true, are not without their advantages. If they extend not the range of science, they strengthen the powers of thought. They have occasionally presented convincing demonstrations of those truths, which the superficial multitude bas admitted on far less circuitous and perplexing evidence. Some of the topics included in metaphysical science may be allowed to possess peculiar importance, on account of their connection with the primary truths of natural and revealed religion ; and occasions may possibly arise, when the discussion of abstract and ultimate principles may be required by the prerailing tendency of popular opinions. But what have these disquisitions to do witi men's business and bosoms?" what pretence have they to occupy the pulpit of Christian instruction why are they not confined, as they certainly are better adapted, to the closer. After all, perhaps, we have not ascertained what that pbilosophy was, about which Mr. Morehead preached till he was tired; possibly he meant nothing more than that he had gone through a system of practical ethics, here and there graced with a few ambiguous and complimentary allusions to the discoveries of revelation.

Now we would just take the liberty of asking, whether philosophy,' even according to the latter explanation of the -term, forms the proper subject of a series of discourses' for a Christian preacher ? Preaching about philosophy and philosophers' is the business of the college, not of the church. Had Mr. Morehead recommended his hearers to attend the profound and eloquent' lectures of Professor Stewart, they vould have heard something about philosophy and philosophers' to much better purpose, than by listening till they were tired to the series of discourses,' at the episcopal chapel. A more copious and satisfactory discussion of practical as well as speculative ethics would have been exhibited before them. Relieved from the painful conviction that any incongruity subsisted between the design of their attendance and the dissertations of their instructor', they wonld never have been wearied'; nor for a moment have wished him 'silenced.' As it happened, they had little pilosophy, and less religion; so that, without admiring the wisdom, we most readily acquiesce in the truth, of Mr. Morehead's ingenuous confession, that, of course, his congregation must have been still more tired than himself'!

We are next to consider the inefficacy of the philosophical essays. Mr. Morehead assures his colleague, with much sentimental complacency, and in a tone of modish and agreeable languishment, that he has preached till he had tired' both himself and his hearers. Perhaps all this was uttered in a fit of ennui, when soft complainings were not only to be accounted for, but allowed ; and the dolorous language of the miserable man' was never intended to be believe ed. Yet surely Mr. M. would not address his reverend.senior in a style of fashionable affectation ! He must have imagined that the patron was truly merged in the 'goodnatured' friend, as he terins bim, if he could indulge such puerile, such effeminate extravagance, without fearing the frown of that man who had given bis instructions on Criticism and Taste with so much ability! For what could be

more palpable violation of all the just laws of propriety, of all right estimates of things, than for a religious teacher to tell the world that he has tired himself and his congregation with discourses, which he yet ventures to pro. mulge to the public for their' happiness and improvement?'

a

The

If Mr. Morehead has said what he does not mean, he may escape the charge of being frivolous to incur that of being insincere ; if not, he has degraded his character as a religious instructor by the sentence he has awarded against himself.

While. Mr. Morehead is in custody of this dilemma, we shall presume to give him one gentle hint. When a Mis nister of religion is tired of the subject about which he preaches, either that subject itself is a deplorable contrast to the truths of Christianity, or the temper with which he discusses it to the spirit of its primitive teachers, apostles had sometimes reason to complain, like their compassionate Master, of the inefficacy of their labours, and to jament how few had believed their report ; but were they tired'? Did the grand theme of their ministry lose either its interest or its importance in their esteem? It is said of Linacre, that, when he read the New Testament for the first true, he hurled it from brim in a passion, exclaiming, ' Eithet ebis

: is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians ! We are now prepared to admit the conclusion which our author himself has drawn froni his own recital. These subjects' are in fact betier adapted for the closet than the pulpit. If they had assumed the form of essays, or any, shape and title whatever, excepting that of Sermons, we should have read them with pleasure, as elegant and ingenious produce sions ; not marked, indeed, by much novelty of illustration or depth of reasoning, yet occasionally interspersed with successful delineations of character, and interesting appeals to the fancy and the heart. We cheerfully acknowledge, too, that there are many well written passages, distinguished by the simplicity and beauty of their descriptions, and not ill adapted to elucidate the characteristic genius of the Christian Revelation. The preacher sometimes appears to iose sight even of philosophy and philosophers; and, attracted by the influence of truth, sceins on the point of adtancing to the exhibition of its inost sublime and interesting discoveries. Unfortunately he remains only just within the outer circle of the system, resting in those general and undefined assertions which may indeed convince us that he is more than a mere philosophic theist, but which after all leave us to the chilling suspicion, that his notions of Chrisgianity are such, as imply that a great proportion of the saFred volume is unnecessary and useless. Some of the more pbvious appearances and proofs of religious character are also faithfully detailed: the subordinate movements (if we might allude to an exploded theory) are accurately described; and even the chrystalline beavens may be included in the exhi

bition :-but tbere is no primum mobile in the system. That which forms the energetic motive to purity of conduct and the exciting cause of all holy feelings and determinations, is never brought distinctly before our view. Various principles of action, remote and immediate, are specified and illustrated; all of which; when subjected to the influence of Christian faith, may become subservient to the most useful results. But if that influence and power be wanting, whatever effects they may produce before men', they will be deenied essentially deficient in the estimate of him whose cye is on the heart.'

Such rague and distant allusions to the doctrines of scripture as are to be found in this volume, are admirably adapted to protect the preacher from the censures of the orthodox', and at the same time exempt him from all possible suspicion of a tendency towards fanaticism. There are some exhibitions of the influence of Christian principles, which infidelity itself may admire, and which may extort the reluctant confession, that, whatever be the cause, the effect is good. But insist upon that cause, and its necessity in order to the value and acceptance of the effect,--and you presently discover the antipathy of depraved beings to the distinguishing features of Christianity as a dispensation of mercy: It is the concession, however, of weakness and pusillanimity, to lower the tone of assertion on the principles themselves; and, if they are not denied or explained away, yet to present them to ihe eye through such a diminishing medium of vision as deprives them of all their grandeur and importance. Philosophists may well admire the mild and gentle temper with which he asserts and vindicates his opinions. Roused by nothing which opposes their prejudices or their passions, by no stimulants to self inquiry, no reasoning that offends their pride, no direct flashings of truth upon their conscience, they may doze on, and approve: they may say“ peace, peace," when there

But those who are persuaded of the importance of Christian be. lief, and its intimate connection with human happiness', will lament the feelings of that preacher, who, on subjects of eternal moment, can refine and philosophize with all imaginable coolness, just gilding the apprehension and playing upon the surface of the heart'*, but fixing no deep and lasting impression.

It would have been an easy task to confirm both our censures and commendations by citing numerous passages from the Sermons before us : but the dedication of the author

* South.

« ZurückWeiter »