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But I would discourage Christians from vainly pretending that they have arrived at the point of sinless perfection, when this is not the case. I would discourage them from thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think ; - from flattering themselves that they are rich, and increased in goods, and in need of nothing, when they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
If Christians would be safe in this respect, let thew study faithfully and prayerfully the law of God. They must carry it always with them. Tliey must keep it ever before then, in all its extent, its spirituality, its strictness, its purity. Let them keep up the standard biyl, where God has set it; and labor to bring themselves up to the standard, instead of laboring to bring the standard down to them. In this way, while they are ever active, and growing, and fervent; they will be ever humble, penitent, and contrite. While they are gaining new conquests over the world and sin, and advancing nearer and nearer to the standard, the standard may seem to recede faster than they approach, and they may think themselves further from it than ever. İn the measureless distance which lies before them, they will think little of the way over which they have already travelled. In their zeal to get forward, they will forget the things which are behind. And ihus will they go on, froin strength to strength, and from attaininent to attainment, to the end of their mortal conflict — till they lay down their bodies in the dust of death ; and then will the last remains of sin be overcome, and their triumphing souls will be set at liberty. Then will they lay aside their armor, and cease froin all their toils and sufferings, and enter into glorious rest.
THE WRITings or John Foster.
By Rev. Daniel Butlor, Dorchester, Ms.
Among the theological writings of the present age, few have obtained a wider circulation, or gained for their author a more lasting fame, than the volumes of John Foster. I grant, indeed,
that if we estimate this writer merely by the number and size of his works, he will be lightly esteemed in comparison with many of his contemporaries. While their huge octavos, in shining array, occupy the lower shelves of every respectable library, his three or four small duodecimos are thrust away on the upper shelf, content to stand beside Annuals, Almanács, and books simplified, or made extremely simple, for children. But if, on the other hand, we regard the truth he has given us, the just views he has taken of many important subjects, the valuable ideas he has suggested, the new fields of thought he has opened to view, and the tone of piety which pervades all his writings, we are bound to assign him a high eminence among those whose productions have blessed the world.
One of Foster's most prominent characteristics is his originality. This is displayed even in the selection of his topics for discussion. Several of them are new altogether, and of a nature which would seem, at first sight, to repay but poorly the labor of investigation.
But the originality of the selection is not more conspicuous than that displayed in the treatment of his subjects. He follows no leader. He does not content himself with dressing up anew shapes borrowed from preceding writers. As the subjects are bis, so the treatment is eniinently all his own.
He seems a spark struck out from the seventeenth century, that antiquated period, when men were content to think their own thoughts.
It is another excellence of this writer, that he displays a mastery of his subject. If he has chosen themes seldorn considered, he has not done so without a full understanding of their nature. His mind is deeply imbued with them, and displays its fulness in every line. Successive views are taken, and the great question appears to be, not what shall be said, but what omitted. Like the successful adventurer to distant lands, who, on his return, unable to bring all his wealth, casts bis eye doubtfully along the glittering heaps, uncertain which to leave ; so he, from his rich stores of thought, seems laboring to select, where all is too valuable for omission.
As a consequence of this fulness, he is all the time making progress in his subject. He does not grasp, in conscious poverty, every idea presented to bis mind, and hold it up again and again, under different aspects. Like the sun in its progress round the world, no sooner has he poured light upon one part, than he hurries forward to illuminate regions yet in darkness. You feel,
as you pass from sentence to sentence, that you are really advancing-gaining views of what is already past, and discovering what has hitherto been hid in the distance. Like the aspiring conqueror, instead of sitting down to enjoy the fair fields already won, each point gained becomes the signal for new conquests. And when the theme is dropped, an impression of completeness is left upon the mind, as though it had obtained a full and symmetrical view of the subject discussed.
The correctness of many of this author's conclusions, is easily admitted, from the fact that they are founded upon operations of the mind of which all are conscious. This remark is especially applicable to his Essay on Decision of Character. No one can read this, without the conviction that the writer possessed an intimate knowledge of the workings of the human mind; and yet in so happy a manner does he introduce bis metaphysics, that they lose their offensive features, and become interesting to all classes of readers, who are but willing to think. In the masterly description which he gives of Indecision of Character, one cannot but feel that he is speaking from bis own experience; and it is probably from this circumstance the report has arisen that the author is distinguished for this very Indecision. Certain it is, that he has described it far better than the opposite quality.
Another characteristic of our author's writings is, that they are eminently suggestive. Many writers possess the power of amusing and instructing us by what they actually say, and that is all; they leave nothing to be done by the reader. A person perusing their productions, like the traveller on the banks of the Nile, sees much that is beautiful immediately around him; but his heart sickens as he beholds, at a little distance on either hand, the prospect bounded by a hopeless desert. With the writer before us, the case is far different. If he says much, he suggests more. He excites the mind to vigorous action by the glimpses of truth, no less than by what be actually reveals. He conducts us along a high road, where many attractive objects present themselves, while ever and anon our path is intersected by others, which, stretching far away over hill and dale, disclose to our hasty glance views dim yet beautiful, and each inviting the labor of a separate journey. He gives us the materials of thought, no less than the thoughts themselves. He surrounds us with the fairest fruit, but the toil of collecting it is our own. With admirable skill he points out the position of the ore, but leaves to us the labor of removing it from its bed
and preparing it for use. Hence, it is no easy thing to read this author. If you go with him, you must work your passage. He does not take you up in his arms and carry you gently along over a level surface, pointing out the flowers that bloom here and there by the way-side. He leads you through regions bitherto untrodden ; and when, from some bigh eminence, you survey the magnificent prospect, the pleasure experienced resulis, in no small degree, from the reflection that it has been procured, in part at least, by your own agency. Thus the mind becomes emulous of the toil so abundantly rewarded. The power of rousing others to vigorous exertion, is one of the greatest proofs of a vigorous mind. None but a Hannibal or a Buonaparte could conduct an army over the horrid precipices and the eternal snows of the Alps ; none could go with them without imbibing something of their vigor and decision.
The materials out of which many compositions used in the arts are made, have, by modern discoveries, been concentrated, by the removal of substances naturally existing with them. They are kept in this state for convenience, and prepared for use by admixture and dilution. The author before us seems to have understood the art of concentrating thought, and many writers have availed, and many more will yet avail themselves of his skill. His writings afford an abundant supply for almost any number of religious publications of a certain order. In the empty brain of most modern book-makers they may be expanded indefinitely, like a drop of ether in an exhausted receiver.
Out of this lumbering baggage-wagon loaded with gold, as Robert Hall significantly calls these writings, multitudes obtain the material for trinkets and small wares, which they manufacture for the religious world, and which, like the jewels given on one occasion 1o Aaron, are far more likely to make Calves than Men.
The crowning excellence of this writer is the high tone of moral feeling displayed in bis productions. His philosophy is imbued with the principles of the Bible, and in all bis plans for improvement he keeps prominent the fact of our dependence upon God. With deserved severity be rebukes those who hope by any merely human means to reform the world, and shows that not only infidels, but Christians even, are too little sensible of their impotence when unaided from above.
The style of the author has been justly censured as harsh, and soinetimes obscure, and some of his positions are doubtless stated with less qualification than truth will warrant. His sen
tences are occasionally too long, yet it may fairly be questioned whether, as a general thing, it is possible to express the author's meaning more clearly or in fewer words than he has done. One of the most distinguished living writers remarks, that these faults are justly chargeable, not to the author, but to the language, which is unable better to express bis vast conceptions. Allowing him to be guilty of all the faults ascribed to him, it is certain they bear a small proportion to his excellence ; and no one can attentively read his works without becoming a better thinker, a better reasoner, and a better man. While the metaphysician admires bis luminous depths, and the philosopher is delighted at the soundness of his reasoning, “the Christian," in the words of another, “indulges a benevolent triumph at the accession of powers to the cause of evangelical piety which its most distinguished opposers would be proud to possess.”
GENUIXENESS OF SEVERAL TEXTS IN THE GOSPELS.
By M. Stuart, Prof. of Sac. Lit. Theol Sem. Andover.
As I have already intimated, in my review of Mr. Norton's work contained in the preceding numbers of this Miscellany, there are several other passages of the Gospels, besides Mait. 1. 11., which this writer affirns to be of a suspicious character, or more probably spurious. The length to wbich my remarks on Mr. Norton have already been extended, will not permit me to exainine these in minute detail. A brief notice of each, with some general remarks on the whole, is all that seems to be requisite and proper at the present time.
In passing to the examination of Matt. 27: 3—10, which Mr. Norton supposes to be an interpolation, he remarks, that “ we have but a single authority, the Greek translation, the representative perhaps of but one copy, probably not of many, for determining the iext of Matthew." This, he thinks, is evidence of no great weight against a strong presumption of the spuriousness of a passage.” p. lxiü.