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Art.-X. Dialogues on the DoHrines and Duties of Christie anit;: intended for the Instruction oj the Young, and to lead thm lo the Studv oftbejacred Scriptures. Jn Two Volumes. Bi \Irs.John JWkfon. 8vo. 627 pp. 15s. Rivingtons. 1806.
'T'HE labours of Mrs. Trimmer, Mrs. More, Miss Hamil■*■ ton, and others, on the subject of education, reflect honour not only on themselves, but also on the country in which such labours are duly estimated. It has been said *, that, on the continent, ladies of education have leagued with the philosophers of the modern school to corrupt the principles of youth, and to diffuse that spirit of anarchy and irreligion which was first excited by Voltaire and his associates, and has drenched Europe in blood. How different has been the conduct of the British fair? The writings of Helen Maria Williams indeed may be thought an exception; but Miss Williams seems to have renounced her country; and we trust, that the country which has encouraged the works to which we have alluded, is equally ready to renounce her.
To the respectable list of female authors, who have written with distinguished abilities on this most important of all subjects, we have now to add the name of Mrs. Jackson, whose elegant volumes contain much found instruction in language generally correct and always perspicuous. Dialogues indeed they are not; and it is well that they are not; for we do not at present recollect one British author who has succeeded as a writer of philosophical and religious dialogues, except the celebiated Berkeley, bilhop of Cloyne. His Minute Philosopher is indeed an example of that species of compost-'tion, to which nothing, perhaps, will be found equal since the days of Plato; but what are the dialogues of Hume, and Lyttelton, and others, who have endeavoured to tread in the bishop's steps?
"A dialogue," fays an elegant and judicious critic+, " ought to be a natural and spirited representation of real conversation; exhibiting the characters and manners of the several speakers, and uniting to the characters of each, that peculiarity of thought and expression which distinguishes him from another."
Plato's dialogues are in fact the representations of real conversations, carried on by speakers whose characters and
• See Professor Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy, He,
E e 2 manners
manners were distinctly marked, and well known to trie writer of the dialogues. The Minute Philosopher is the composition of a man, who, besides possessing a very delicate taste, and more than common genius, had conversed much with such characters as he exhibits, and had imbibed the manner ot his master Plato. Hence the characters and manners of his fair speakers are so accurately distinguished, that a reader of good taste, after perusing the first dialogue with attention, could hardly once mistake A'ciphron for LyJitles, or Crito for Euphranor, though these names were effaced from the fix remaining dialogues. But in the greater number of modern dialogues, even when written by men of learning and genius, the speakers, or pretended speakers, have no characters by which they are distinguished from each other; and the apparent conversation, though interrupted by the awkward introduction of useless names, is one continued discourse, in which the author appears throughout in his own person.
Such, truth compels us to fay, are the dialogues before us. They are carried on between a preceptress * and her pupil; but the pupil, instead of asking questions, or proposing difficulties for solution, generally continues or concludes the discourse which the preceptress had begun; while on some occasions she seems to change places with hei preceptress. The subjects, however, of the dialogues are of so great importance, and in general so justly and ably treated, that the interruption given by the denominations of the speakers, is the only thing exceptionable in the two volumes.
After a wejl-written introduction, pointing out the importance of the sacred scriptures, and describing the spirit with which they should be studied, Mrs. Jackson treats, in ten dialogues, of which some are divided into parts,—
"Of the nature and attributes of God; of creation; of mar. in his original state; of sin and death; of redemption; of the divine and human natures of Christ; of sacrifices, and the institution of the Lord's supper; of the resurrection and ascension; os rhe holy Spirit ; of the assent of the understanding to the truth of the Gospel; of the effect of faith; os repentance, baptism, and the nature and constitution of the christian church; of prayer; of the love of God -, os the decalogue; of confirmation, and receiving the sacrament of the Lord's supper; and of the general judgment."
* W« .do, not recollect to have seen this word before; and we certainly do not approve of it. Riv.
. - Al
As a specimen of her manner, we shall extract part of her first dialogue on creation.
"We proceed now from contemplating the inherent perfection of God, to view and *' praise him in hit noble acJs*." Gen. i.
"Pupil.—And the earth neat without form, and 'void; and
darkness <was upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit Of Gon moved upon the face of the •waters. And God said, let there be tight, and there •was light.
"Precep.—He who gave the light, inspired the relater of this glorious truth.—The fact is announced in words of correspondent sublimity. As we pause on the reflections which they excite, we rife from created light to that Almighty source which gave it being, " and who dwellcth in that light which no < mortal eye can approach unto +," but which the " pure in hearts" shall behold, when the " heavens aud the earths" shall " have faffed a-way." Rev. xxi. 28.
"Pupil.—And the city had no need of the fun, neither of the moon to fbine on it, for the Glory O/god did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
"Precep.—As we lift our eyes each returning day, to receive that light which shines upon our earth, let us raise our hearts to., wards the Fountain of a light surpassing all the glory which created light can unsold, of which the Psalmist has spoken, and to which we may refer the sublime words of one who drew largely from the scriptures.
"Hail! holy light, offspring of heaven, first-born,
Or of the eternal, co-eternal beam,
May I express thee unblamed! Since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity: dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence uncreate.
"We have already observed, that creation was a communication of the divine goodness. Gen. i. 4, 5.
"Pupil.—And Gon saw the light that it was gsed, and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night; and the evening and the morning ■were the first day.
"Precep.—We perceive here not only the creation of light previous to any mention of the fun, but that the mornirg and evening are spoken of, while the cause from which this vicissitude now results, is not yet adverted to. We may account for this by supposing that the order of time, which was of flight im
• " Psalm cl. 2. + " i Tim. vi. 16.
J " St. Matt. vi. 8. § "z Peter iii. to."
JS'e 3 portaifce,
portance, (though the notificaaon of facts \. ..s of the highest) was not observed in the relation; or that the Almighty prefigured, by periodically abated light, that course of things he was about to establish. The causes of this, (if it was so) could not relate to man, and therefore we need not wonder at the conciseness of a narration which answers the necessary end, by show, ing, that without God "ivas net any thing made that -was made*." We may readily believe that the universal Father renders his providential dispensations to one race of beings, an evidence of his wisdom and goodness to another. The time of which we speak preceded the creation of Adam, but He who " jlrttcketh out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing +," was "seen of angeli \."
-"■ Think not, though men were none, That heaven would want spectators, God want praise.
"He needed not time to effect his mighty work, yet condescended to that order which gave it its completion in fix days, consecrating the seventh. May we not, without presumption, apprehend that this gradation took place fir some purpose of good, relative to the creatures of God, on account 01 > !;ich he proceeded to regulate the elemental mass in the manner we read. Gen. i. 6. .
"Pupil.—And God said, let there be a firmament in the midfl of the -waters, and let it divide the waters from the -wafers. And God made the firmament, and divided the -we: rs -which -tuere under the firmament from the ivaters -which -were above the firmament. And it "was fa. A.^god called the firmament heaven, and the evening and the morning -were the second day. And God said, let the 'waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear. And it ivas so. And God called the dry land earth; and the gathering together of the -waters called he seas; And GoDfaiv that it -was gcod.
"Precep,—By this declaration we understand the adaptation of the creation to promote the happiness or good of the sensitive creatures, to whose use it was destined §. Light is no sooner spread over the face of chaos, than the rarer fluid particles ascend in rapour, while the gtc sser, prated from the mass, are gathered together into one place, that the dry land may appear, and become fit to receive and nourish all vegetable productions. Gen, i. 11—16.
"Pupil.—And God said, let the earth bring forth graft, the herb yielding feed, and the fruit.tr.-e yuldmg Jruit after hn
* ff St. John i. 3. + " Job xxvi. 7,
$ " 1 Timothy iii, i'6.
5 " See this illustrated by Dr. Paley in his Natural Theology."
kind, whose fed is in itself upon the earth. Aud it ivasfa. And the earth brought forth grass and herb yielding feed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose feed vjns in it/elf ester his kind; and God fatv that it •was good. And the evening and the morning luere the third day. And Goo said, let there be lights in the fir. mument of heaven, to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days andfar years. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. And it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the ftars also.
"Precep.—The earth is now richly replenished, and the heavens adorned with radiant and resplendent bodies. Gen. i. 17.
"Pupil.—And God set them in the firmament of the heaven, t« give light upon the earth. And to rule over the day, and over tht night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God faia that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
"Precep.—The fun which rules the day, and the moon which rules the night, serve us to measure the course of time, while they and it remain; but as we have seen them originate in creation, so we know that time itself, (the periods of which they now mark by the return of " diiy mid night, summer and winter, feed time and harvefi,"*) " Shall be no longer^," and these glorious luminaries themselves "pass <rway%." "These Jh.Alperish, but God /hall endure," and, if we fail not in our duties we ourselves also, "shall inherit eternal life ||." But as it is the effect of our conduct in time which will follow us throughout eternity, let US " while it is called to duy§," " work out cur salvations," and keeping in mind that state of blessedness for which the present time is given us to prepare ourselves, exalting our contemplation above every object of fense, rise with our sublime poet, from the effect produced, to its great cause.
*' Pupil.—These are thy glorious works, Parent of good, Almighty. Thine this universal frame, thus wondrous fair!Thyself how wondrous then!" P. 77.
That the sentiments displayed in this passage are just, and that the language is elegant, will not, we think, be questioned; but the reader perceives that it has not one distinguishing feature of a dialogue. It is a specimen, however, of a mode of instruction, which, if regularly practised, could jpot fail to be successful. Mrs. Jackson's object, in this pub«
* " Gen. viii. 22. + " Rev. x. 6,
% " 2 Peter iii. 10. || " St. Mark x. 17.
J " Heb. iii. 13. 1 " Phil. ii. 12."