Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

ous currents which bear down upon them and sweep theur away."

The crimes of the revolution occupy many volumes >> but, according to this writer, its advantages may be enumerated in a very narrow space. After speaking ironically of the law adopted on the motion of the fanguinary Couthon, by which the republican juries or judges were allowed to substitute moral proofs in the room of legal evidence, ho says,

Let us consider the discoveries by which the republic, is now enriched : an uniformity and invariability of weights and measures, the swiftness of telegraphs, and the organifation of aërostats--the metaphysical fchools, which, as it were by magic, enlighten the human species--and the new methods of fabricating falt-petre, gun-powder, leather, and men of genius, by the means of normal institutions.'

The fatire of this passage, unfortunately for mankind, is too juft. - Violent changes of government are rarely productive of benefit; but it is the peculiar anomalous charace ter of the French revolution, to have produced infinite mira chief with scarcely a particle of good; and both the present generation and pofterity will wonder at, and regret, the scandalous perversion of an opportunity offered to a great nation; of gradually becoming wise, free, and happy: these words have indeed been founded through the trump of equality, but they have been founded to deceive, and to a people who either could not, or would not, understand their meanins, who have been the infatuated dupes of impious and fanguinary factions, and wbo now crouch beneath the despotism of a government profeffedly republican, which, however, can be distinguished from the fubverted monarchy, only by the excess of its arrogance and profligacy-a government of bombast and hyperbole, which over-steps the modesty of nature in all its transactions--which, under falle pretences, ravages the territories, and plunders the property of its neighbours—which views with haggard envy, and with futile anger, the prosperity and the firmness of insua lated Britain-which even extends its bloody and mercenary fangs across the Atlantic ; and endeavours to contamia nate the politics of those who, in their sober and prudent revolution, knew not the massacres of Lyons, or the crimes of Paris.

The author of this performance has not confined himself to the refutation of mischievous tenets in the political science. Justly considering true religion as connected with the welfare of every civilised state, he has, in the beginning

of his second volume, adduced fome able arguments on the immortality of the soul, and other congenial topics. As a repository of characteristic sketches, fragments of the speeches of demagogues, &c. during the fiercest revolutionary ebullitions of France, the work is curious and valuable. That the writer' is a man of ability, is evident from our quotations; and the importance of a subject thus skilfully handled, cannot but render the work interesting.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Chriftliche Schriften. Dritte Sammlung:-Von Gottes Sohn,

der Welt Heiland, nach Johannes Evangelium.-Vom Geist des Christenthums.-Von Religion, Lermeinungen, und Ge

bräuchen. 7. G. Herder. Leipzig. 1797. Herder's Christian Writings, third Collection : 1. On the

Son of God, the Saviour of the World, according to John's Gospel: 2. . On the Spirit of Chriftianity : 3. On Religion, Opinions, and Rites.* 8vo. Imported by

Ércher. In these three treatises, an eminent writer continues to give his sentiments on the most important subjects of religion; and Trinitarians, Arians, Socinians, myftics, enthufiafts, all will rise up in battle against him. But they cannot contend with him ; for he will not wage war with any. Argument and fyllogism, disputes on words, and vehemence of exprefsion, are entirely lost on one whose great drift it is to exhibit christianity as an enlivening principle of action, not a theme for disputation--as a fubject intelligible to the meanest capacity, yet escaping the fubtilties of the most learned a doctrine influencing the heart, correcting and improving the temper, and inspiring the breast with love to God and all mankind.

Before M. Herder enters upon his subject, he investigates the character of St. John's goipel, as differing from the rest, and makes these observations.

· The great end of our evangelist is to give the true sense of the expressions, the Son of God, and to thew how, as saviour of the world, he gives everlasting life. The apoftles did not esteem themselves called or authorised to introduce new doctrines; but it was their bufiness to build upon these expressions, used by Christ himself, as upon a rock. St. John has done the same thing in his gospel. Would any

See our XXIft. Vol. New Arr. p. 503. App: VOL. XXIV, NEW ARR, Na

onę, on this account, call it dogmatical? It may be fo; yet it explains no new doctrine, and is employed on the single ancient christian dogma. Would any person call it polemical? Let it be remarked, that it defends, and does not attack. It contends with weapons of love and conviction, not with the fresh-Tharpened arrows of presumption The prudence of grey hairs dictated it, not the rashness of youth. Would any one call it a spirituál gospel? It may be fo; but the other gospels are not carnal: they also cons tain the living words of Christ, and are founded upon the tame rock of faith. St. John, by his gospel, would not displace them, but would explain, strengthen, completa them.

· This gospel (he adds) is a complete work, composed upon a fixed plan, in exact order, with studied regularity in all its parts; and it is ratified within and without by the seal of truth.'

The firtt eighteen verses of the gospel in question occupy a confiderable degree of our author's attention. These verses have been, for many ages, subjects of contention and the contenders - stood in need of the remark that this ' is a gospel of peace, not a mandate against heretics, or a formulary of the inquisition. The plain fignifications of the words are to be examined. John thought in Hebrew, and wrote in Greek. We must look to Hebrew metaphors, to Hebrew writings, to underftand his terms. The systems of Plato, of Zoroaster, and the Gnoftics, will lead us into error. This is clearly pointed out by an examination of the three fyftems; and thofe of Cerinthus, Saturninus, Bafilides, and Valentinian, are also investigated. M. Herder now gives his own interpretation, which agrees with the leads ing feature in the religion of the Jews--that there is only one felf-exiftent being, Jehovah, the true God; that the phrale Son of God can be taken only in a moral sense ; that the inpisible God was present in his son, who was to inankind the speaking God.

He was not only the inmost interpreter of the divinity, but his all-active organ to revive in the human race the god-like dignity, for which he was created." This interpretation leads our expositor to fome remarks on. fathers, on councils and canons; and he has put the following addrefs into the mouth of John.

• My beloved, we require not these things. My doctrine and that of my brethren, concerning our

Christ, were fimple and intelligible. Without him we knew not God; we looked up to Christ as to one through whom God revealed himself. When God had spoken for a long time by the mouth of the wife men and the prophcts, hae fpake tà us

[ocr errors]

by his son. This fon had only one notion of God, that of father, from which he derived every thing relative, either by knowledge or action, to the salvation of mankind. Of himself he had only one idea, that of son, who was to obey and imitate his father. Of man alto, he had only one notion, that he is a fallen creature, to whom, however, there is a higher destiny, by which mankind will become a happy family of brethren, a godlike race. Our notion also of the fon was clear: we loved and honoured the father in the fon

3
and we looked

upon

the fon as our brother.' Several miracles, actions, and discourses of our Saviour are now examined; all of which, according to M. Herder, were related by the evangelist for the purpole of proving in what sense Jesus was the saviour of the world ; and it is from our ignorance of those times that we cannot, on this plain construction, give an account of every fyllable in this gospel. The trinity of modern times is not to be found in

'God (says our author) is in Chrift; Christ is inseparably in active community, through the spirit, in his own disciples : this is St. John's trinity, as intelligible as heart.felt.'

The question, of the use of this gospel to us, is answered 'in a satisfactory manner; and in this, as well as in the other parts of the work, though we cannot in every instance agree with the author's interpretations, we highly approve his mode of investigation. He looks to fcripture alone for the explanation of scripture : he rejects all metaphysical fpeculations, he is filled with the noblest ideas of the wildom and goodness of God; and, with him, chriftianity is not a mere exercise of the reasoning principle, but a cordial senfe of the love of God toward mankind, exemplified in sending Christ to be the saviour of the world. Every thing which opposes that love, whether from amibition, felf-interett, or the interest of the church, is anti-christian ; and the prevailing idea throughout the work is, that God is love, and that christians ought to love each other. The spirit of christianity is investigated in a similar

The meaning of the word mvumą is examined with care; and the ideas entertained by the ancient Hebrews when this term (or a corresponding word in their language) was used, are explained with propriety. Hence the use of the term amongit the early christians is recona ciled with its original ineaning:

In treating of religion and its dogmas, our author well distinguishes between the principle that affects the heart, and the science derived froin the accurate investigation of the phrases or sentences of creeds. He does not think it unitie

manner.

portant to have the creed accurate; but to digest it in such is form of words as will suit every one, seems to him impossible, and superfluous even if it were poflible. The difcriminating mark of a chriftian is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the saviour of the world : the other points, if introduced fo as to destroy the bonds of love which ought to subsist among christians, are marks of devi. ation from the christian character. Hence it appears that the system of religion is very simple. There may be fects, there

may be differences of opinion, without breach of charity; and while each is convinced in his own mind of the rectitude of his intentions, and of his defire of arriving at the truth, he cannot be far from the right path. But if, with this rectitude of intention, and earneft desire of approving himself a member of Christ's community, the zeal of any one should carry him to the excess of imposing a fingle article of his creed on another, or of interfering in any way whatever beyond spiritual love and perfuafion, he swerves from the religion of Christ, becomes carnal, throws himself out of spiritual communion, and, till he repents of such a crime, is an alien from the gospel, a slave to the maxims of the world. In this and other parts of the work, sentiments are delivered very different from those which generally prevail; and we shall. sele& one, as a farther specimen of our author's manner. On the modern notions of the devil he is particuJarly severe; and he reprobates tħe fyftem, as a philosophical diaboliad, invented to do honour to the evil principle.

Where (says he) is it written that Satan, as a being of a higher order, can take away enjoyment from any earthly and bodily object, constitute himself the fole proprietor of *all the goods of the earth, and, in spite of the good principle,

erect a kingdom of fing, to which all men sprung from Adam must be subjected? Where is it recorded, that the good principle, on account of its lawful pretensions to dominion over mankind, secured itself by the erection of a ftatutable government, and for this reason formed the Jewish Itate? Where is it written that Satan offered to Jesus, as a seemingly dangerous rival, to make him a partner of his king: dom, and, when this offer was rejected, not only deprived Him, as a stranger and an intruder, of whatever could make life comfortable, but excited against him all kinds of trouble, and persecuted him to an ignominious death? Miseratle Satan! or rather, in this new philofophical light, glorious Satan! how much is afcribed to thee, that thous mayeft enjoy the honour of occafioning the salvation of man! thou art still more glorious, fince, according to this doctrine, thou dwellest in human nature as sovereign. lord' b It is not then true, that every thing which God created

« PreviousContinue »