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Art. XII. Enthusiasm: a Poem. In Two Parts. By Mr. Jerning
ham. 4to. pp. 36. 25. Robson and Clarke. 1789. AVING, in the progress of our critical labours, received
much amusement from some of the poetical pieces which this gentleinan has occasionally presented to the Public, we took up the poem before us with all thole favourable sentiments that such a recollection may be supposed to excite; but the strict laws of impartiality oblige us to conless, that Mr. Jerningham has not, on this new occasion, fully answered our expectations. Unfortunately, he seems not to have formed in his mind, adequate conceptions of che grandeur and dignity of his present subject, as a subject for verse. The prose writer may treat of EnTHUSIASM with all the apathy of a troic, and with languor creeping through each period; but it is a theore that will be expected to animale, to enfame, the poet. It calls for a foul of fire;--for thoughts that breathe, and words that burn; and if the Mule dors not beltow a double portion of her inspiration, so as to make the bard himself the very theme he draws, the reader will suffer disappointment.
Sucn was our fituation after perusing this poem. Though it contains mans poetical lines, we perceive several which are prosaic; and, in general, it wants that ipirit and energy lo peculiarly required by the subject. The author's aim is to display the good and bad effects enthusiasm. The bad are described in the first part, the good, in the latter. In the former, Enthusiasm, personified, and not improperly cailed the duughter of Energy, is accused of being the cause of the destruction of the great Alexandrian Li. brary, in the oth century, by OMAR,-of ine revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 17th (1685),—of occalioning that penal law in France which confiscated the estates of those who did not, at their death, renounce the Reformed religion—and of exiling James Saurin. These are the articles of indictment preferred against her; to overturn which, in the second part, the Seraph (for the scene is laid " above this visible diurnal sphere”), who takes the part of 'ch' Enthusiaitic Maid,' thinks it fufficient to enumerate the good effects of her influence. To her, therefore, is attributed the patriotism of those fix persons, who after the taking of Calais by Edward III. presented themselves before him to redeem the lives of their fellow.cicizens ;--the acquifition of Britih freedom on (what Mr. J.calls) the fam'd ranjamground * of Runnyinede ;'--the discovery of America by Columbus--and the Reformation begun by Luther ; in consequence of which, reason again became enthroned, truth shone forch, and
* Mr. Jerning ham discovers a love for compound epithets; in the choice of which he is frequently happy. 22
Liberty and toleration prevailed. We will not stay to enquire whether all these instances strictly and properly belong to the subject; but must express our surprise that the poet fhould have omitted the kind influence of Enthusiasm on science, polite literature, and the fine arts.
But though the enumeration has not satisfied us, it produced the intended effects on the heavenly tribunal before whom the cause was heard: which acquits Enthusiasm of the charge preferred against her by the accusing angel, and urges her to vindi. cate her injured fame. For this purpose, she makes the following oration relative to herself, Britannia, and America, with which the poem concludes:
“ Bold on a tow'ring rock, with soul elate,
• BRITANNIA quick retorn’d with loud acclaim,
• 'Twas then I added with indignant air-
Marvellous infant, doom'd co act my plan,
Enough," th' abruptly-rising Quire exclaim,
And glow for ever in the breast of God.” To lavish commendation on this poem, would be an impeachment of our judgment, and diminish the value of that praise, which we hope in future to have an opportunity of offering to its author. It does, however, possess beauties; of which the foregoing extract affords instances. It has also its defects; and what human composition is perfe&t ? моо-у.
Art. XIII. Sermons on practical Subjets : By the late Reverend
Henry Stebbing, D. D. Preacher to the Honourable Society of
HATEVER juft cause there may be to complain of
Clerical negligence, it must nevertheless be pleafing to a benevolent mind to observe how many fermons of real and fubftantial use are delivered in this kingdom. Such must those be acknowleged which here fall under our review : they are Hot indeed remarkable for brilliancy of style, or for elegance of composition : in this respect they are rather negligent; perhaps, in some instances, faulty: yet they contain much good sense, and have the superior merit of recommending, in a plain and forcible way, those truths, and that practice, which are most offential to the welfare of mankind.
From the short account of his life, prefixed by his Son, it appears that Dr. Stebbing was a pious and benevolent man, and bis discourses breathe the same spirit. They are properly pofthumous, not having been published till after his decease, but, we are informed, he had himself transmitted the original manuscripts to the press, and written the dedication and prerace a few weeks before his death. As this was the case, we are a little surprised at an inequality observable at times in the dirRev. March, 1789,
courses, and marks of carelessness and impropriety which now and then occur. 'The sententious manner which occasionally presents itself, reminds us of the quaintness (in fome instances the expresive quaintness) of former days. Though not perfeetly suitable to the more chaftised taste of the present times, we might ftill allow it to be said, -However God may suffer those who pray to him, to want his bounties in their busket, he will never ruffer them to want his bounties in their hearts :'- Perhaps also we may bear to be told, when speaking of the weddinggarment, the robe of righteousness—Though we cannot expect to wear it absolutely without spot or wrinkle, through this dirty pilgrimage of life, yet we must endeavour to wear it as clean as we can: But the patience of some persons may be nearly exhausted when they read that~ Good actions proceeding from a false or empty heart, are a light, which however bright it may appear for a time, soon goes out and leaves a stink behind ic':or, when it it said An honest man may think of the grave, but a rogue is ever thinking of the gallows. The sentiments are, however, juft; and it thould be considered that such expreffions pals off differently when connected with others, than when they appear thus detached from the main body of the discourse.
Dr. Srebbingid said to have adhered steadily to the tenets of the Church of England. We confider these volumes as more acceptable, becaufe disputable doctrines are not very much introduced: the fifty-first and fifty-second sermons are on a topic of this kind, and contain some rather exceptionable pas. sages, as when we are told, in reference, we suppose, to the Socinians,- Was Chrit really no more than a teacher, these men would make no scruple to reduce him to the Atill lower character of a field-preacher.'--Burlesque phrases, even when molt juft, have an effe&t on some minds, beyond the intention of the speaker, and should therefore be generally, if not wholly, avoided in pulpit composition. We acknowlege ourselves bust, when we find men of sense, learning and piety, with whom this author certainly ranks, exhibiting merely what is plausible, or popular, or objectionable, and advancing affertions with an air of confidence and triumph, instead of modeftly and diligently endeavouring to investigate a subje&t.
Thus have we ventured to point out fome little defects in discourses which, on the whole, have real merit, and are calculated for important service; in proof of which, did our limits allow, we might produce several extracts.. But we can only juft mention some of the topics here considered ; such as, The Jewish and Chriftian dispensations; Mission of St. Paul; Neceflity of the Gospel; Consequence of rejecting it; Faith in Chrift; Superiority to the world, Servitude of lin; Interest in Heaven;
Worldly Worldly affections; Government of the passions; Industry; Agur's Prayer; Returning good for evil; Fear and love of God; Hope and trust in him; Vain professions ; Rich man and Lazarus ; Divine assistance ; Christian-like behaviour ; Prayer ; Humility; Purity; Good example; Repentance; Incarnation, Sufferings, and Resurrection of Chrift; Death ; Uncertainty of life; Permission of evil; Progress of virtue ; Bad company; Prudence and diligence; Courtesy, &c. &c. The whole number is seventy-nine. One sermon, viz. The Miserable end of profligate finners, is said to have been occaSioned by the conviction of the Perreaus : we mention this merely as a proof of the author's attention to circumstances and events, which might usefully impress the minds of his hearers. Is there not a mil-quotation observable, p. 306 of the first volume, where the words pass the time of our sojourning here in fear, are introduced as those of St. Paul, but seem rather to have been St. Peter's language? 1 Pet. i. 17.
pp. 142. 8vo.
Art. XIV. A Letter to the Author of Thoughts on the Manners of the Great.
25. sewed. Murray. 1788. OTHING can be more true than the principle laid down
by the author of the Thoughts; viz. that REFORMATION, to be general, must originate with the superior members of society. 'To them the inferior ranks look up, with such a degree of deference, as makes them proud of becoming their imitators. Even Vice, itself, ceases to ftrike them as odious, and Folly as ridiculous, when countenanced by the Great, and decidedly influencing their manners. Such being the persuasiveness of their example, there is reason for wishing them to recommend virtue and religion by it, rather than their contraries. The author of the Letrer before us, and the author of the Thoughts, are thus far agreed ; but they differ, respecting the line of conduct which the Great should pursue, in order to become the moral and religious lights of the land; especially as to the observance of Sunday.
The author of the Thoughts says, “ Sunday seems to be a kind of Christian Palladium, and the city of God will never be totally taken by the enemy, till the observance of that be quite loft."
But this Letter-writer is of a contrary opinion : for he says, • that if any thing has conduced to lessen the general reverence for religion, to impede its progress, and even to lead the vulgar to suspect its sacred authority, it seems to me to be our English Sabbath.'
Moft of our readers, we are persuaded, will think the author very bold in this affertion. Why the Englidh Sabbath should be so vehemently attacked, and have such bitter things said. of R 2