« PředchozíPokračovat »
history, means producing out of nothing. But this is a mere inference from their preconceived notions. We do not affirm, that the exigency of the case may not require this restriction in the meaning of the term; but it is certain, that the usual meaning is to fashion or alter, to make or to form in any way. Milton believes neither that matter was created out of nothing, nor that it had an independent and eternal existence; consequently he maintains that there is but one solution of the difficulty, namely, that all things are of God.
• There are,' says he, four kinds of causes, efficient, material, formal, and final. Inasmuch then as God is the primary, and absolute, and sole cause of all things, there can be no doubt but that he comprehends and embraces within himself all the causes abovementioned. Therefore the material cause must be either God, or nothing. Now nothing is no cause at all; and yet it is contended that forms, and above all, that human forms were created out of nothing. But matter and form, considered as internal causes, constitute the thing itself; so that either all things must have had two causes only, and those external, or God will not have been the perfect and absolute cause of everything. Secondly, it is an argument of supreme power and goodness, that such diversified, multiform, and inexhaustible virtue should exist, and be substantially inherent in God (for that virtue cannot be accidental, which admits of degrees, and of augmentation or remission, according to his pleasure), and that this diversified and substantial virtue should not remain dormant within the Deity, but should be diffused and propagated, and extended as far and in such manner as he himself may will. For the original matter of which we speak, is not to be looked upon as an evil or trivial thing, but as intrinsically good, and the chief productive stock of every subsequent good. It was a substance, and derivable from no other source than from the fountain of every substance, though at first confused and formless, being afterwards adorned and digested into order by the hand of God.' Vol. 1. pp. 238, 239.
This theory is considered by the author consonant not only with reason, but with Scripture. It is grounded in the supposed impossibility of Creation in the commonly received sense of the word; and therefore it is intended only to deny what in its very nature is deemed incredible. Hence it is that he declares so plainly what has been less directly intimated by other theologians, that creation is not strictly the production of existence of any kind from nothing, but from the boundless fullness of the self existent Being himself
. In correspondence with this kind of mixture of the spiritual and material, some of the thoughts and expressions of the author concerning the conceptions that we may form of Deity, seem to approximate too nearly to anthropomorphism. Such kind of representations may be expected in poetry, and they are found sufficiently prominent in the great poem
of our author. But it seems this was not with him a mere poetic license, helping out the machinery of his great Epic. His principle on this subject is, that it is safest to form such a conception of God, as shall best agree with the representations he has given of himself in the sacred writings. Passing over what he says of grief, anger, repentance &c, as referring to God, we come nearer to what we have alluded to above, when he speaks of the form and parts attributed to Deity.
• If God,' says he, be said to have made man in his own image, after his likeness, and that too not only as to his soul, but also as to his outward form, and if God habitually assign to himself the members and form of man, why should we be afraid of attributing to him what he attributes to himself, so long as what is imperfection and weakness, when viewed in reference to ourselves, be considered as most complete and excellent, whenever it is imputed to God.' Vol. 1. pp. 22, 23.
There can be no doubt that when the attributes of God are represented by the aid of sensible objects, as his power by an outstretched arm, his omniscience by his eyes being in every place, and the like, it is done for wise purposes, to give us some faint notions of his perfections. But we cannot but agree with those divines, who consider such representations as merely auxiliary, or illustrative, and not intended to be associated with our purest and most intellectual conceptions of the invisible Jehovah. Some of the most sublime descriptions of his attributes and Providence, in the prophetic writings, are conveyed through the instrumentality of sensible objects, which are made to give us more lively and exalted impressions of them, than we should derive from purely abstract notions; but it is, as it were, merely a dense medium, through which we see something darkly, and magnified to an immeasurable extent. And the more we can rid ourselves of what is merely sensible, the nearer we shall approach to the idea of God, which the Scriptures, in their general tenor, aim to convey ; namely, of a perfect, invisible spirit, requiring a true, spiritual worship.
Of the author's opinions concerning what the Christian Scriptures do or do not teach, in regard to marriage, and to the institution of the Sabbath, we shall not speak particularly. It is enough to say, that while Christians are divided into an infinite variety of sects on other subjects, they are sufficiently well united on these. The usage in each particular might have been well understood by the immediate disciples of Christ, and have been sanctioned by his authority, and yet not have been subjects of express instruction, or of historical record. And if we advert, in this connexion, to the immemorial practice of the Christian Church, it seems to us that all grounds of scepticism concerning marriage, and the observance of a stated Sabbath, as both are now regarded, are sufficiently removed. If Christianity was intended to serve the highest moral purposes, which no true believer can doubt, it could never have sanctioned polygamy, so destructive as it would be of all the purest virtues that grow out of the domestic relations. And if it was intended for a perpetual religion, which is alike unquestionable, it would not have overlooked a principal means of its own preservation.
There is one other subject to which we shall advert for a moment, before we close our remarks, and that is to the author's opinions concerning Death.
• The death of the body is the loss or extinction of life. The common definition, which supposes it to consist in the separation of soul and body, is inadmissible. For what part of man is it, that dies when this separation takes place ? Is it the soul ? This will not be admitted by the supporters of the above definition. Is it then the body? But how can that be said to die, which never had any life of itself? Therefore the separation of soul and body cannot be called the death of man.' Vol. 1. pp. 362, 363.
After discussing the subject, and examining the texts of Scripture relating to it at considerable length, he concludes with the explicit declaration of his belief in the death of the whole man, and his remaining in unconscious rest to the day of the resurrection and final judgment. In all this there is the same tincture of materialism, that we have noticed before. But while we have not room to follow him in the arguments, which he deduces from Scripture and philosophy, till he comes to the fearful result of all his reasoning ; yet we think there are instances enough in the New Testament to encourage us in the helief, that when the frail body returns to the dust from whence it came, the spirit will return to God who gave it. The doctrine maintained by Milton is not, indeed, so overwhelming as that of total annihilation ; but it reminds us of that passage in his Paradise Lost, in which even infernal spirits cannot contemplate the extinction of being without horror. And amidst the greatest afflictions of our mixed condition, when wholly submissive to the will of God, we should be with difficulty reconciled to the loss of existence, for we know not how many ages.
• To be no more; sad cure! for who would lose
Devoid of sense and motion ?' Though we are aware, that we have distorted this passage from its intended application, yet it is so far applicable to the case before us, that it presented itself to us uncalled for. On such a solemn subject we are not disposed to dogmatize ; but since death is not the final extinction of being, we cannot believe, without being expressly taught so, that it is a long suspension of existence, limited only by the remote (we know not how remote) consummation of all things here upon the earth.
We have seen some contemptuous expressions concerning this Treatise of Milton; much more contemptuous than, from our examination of the work, it seems to deserve. The mere biblical critic may not value it highly; the mere metaphysician may not value it highly; but one who is fond of comparing Scripture with Scripture, and finding what is taught by its general tenor, rather than what seems to be taught in a few detached passages, will have no inconsiderable respect for it. For upon every subject is cited a great collection of texts, as proofs, not indeed always apposite, but in general so many texts, and so much that is apposite, as, one would think, almost to exhaust this species of proof. This will save the theologian, who is examining the same subjects, much expense of time, in turning over the leaves of his concordance, and present to him in a train, all that he would seek for. In applying and weighing the value of texts, he
may often have occasion to differ from the author ; but this makes no greater deduction from the merits of the work, than is to be expected in such a mass of extracts, under the various subjects. In reasoning from Scripture, or from the sug
gestions of his own mind, he seems for the most part free from a contentious spirit, and an overweening fondness for his own opinions. If we are disappointed, on the whole, that so great a man in the poetical world, and one so distinguished by his political writings, is not also first among theologians, it is a disappointment arising from the unreasonableness of our expectations.
Art. VI.-Memoir of the Life of Richard Henry Lee, and his
Correspondence with the most distinguished Men in America
1825. It has been said, that we of the North are prone to laud our own men and things. This is probably true, since, if we had not this disposition, we should form an exception to one of the most general laws of human society. Beginning with the first natural combination, the family (the only natural one according to Rousseau), and ascending to kingdoms and empires, a disposition to boast may always be traced, where it is not controlled by some stronger passion. In this country, our peculiar political organization has set two forms of this vanity in occasional opposition to each other. The disposition to laud certain things, which we might cherish simply as Americans, is controlled and modified by our State partialities. We are sometimes afraid to speak in unqualified terms of those, who are only our countrymen, lest we should do injustice to the paramount claims of those, whose reputation may be the pride of the individual State to which we belong.
For ourselves, we are not inclined to censure the operation of the latter feeling. We are disposed to be very indulgent, not only to the New Englander, who derives all that there is valuable, in American institutions, from the principles of the Pilgrims, and to the Pennsylvanian, who proposes the founder of his commonwealth as the perfect model of a legislator ; but also to the Virginian, who believes that but for Patrick Henry the spark of the Revolution would never have been struck out, and to the VOL. XXII.-N0. 51.