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spirit in the poetry of Milton, must forever repel the imputation of incompatibility with the very highest form of literary excellence; and even its homely, popular, expression in the pregnant allegory of Bunyan, yielded nutriment to the national heart, at least as wholesome and generous as the banter of Hudibras, which was the delight of the reinstated Royalists.
It is a curious speculation — not so remote from the present subject as to forbid a moment's entertainment — what might have been the effect on the subsequent development of our literature if the triumph of Puritanical principles under Cromwell had been lasting, and prevented the Restoration. Twice in the course of our history has our native literature - the spontaneous growth of the Saxon element which is so widely diffused through our population, and forms the very heart of our national character — been submerged beneath a foreign influence breaking in upon it from France. The earliest poetry of our nascent Eng. lish — if we except a few songs and ballads circulated among the lowest classes – was in its form, its spirit, and for the most part even in its materials — essentially Norman. Chaucer and Gower wrote for the court and the nobles — not for the people. Towards the close of the fifteenth century, the genuine English spirit rose into influence, and strengthened by a continual accession of popular elements, in which religion had perhaps the largest share, brought forth in little more than a century and a half an exuberance of literary fruit, whose rich juice and racy flavor proclaim it the unforced produce of our native soil. Within this period sprang up our national drama — that breathing expression of English life. To it belong the greatest and most original of our authors, uniting a wild fertility of imagination, as yet unbroken by criticism, with a masculine strength of thought the fathers of our eloquence and poetry - Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton, Hooker, Raleigh, and Bacon. With whatever party in Church and State they may outwardly be classed, these noble minds are thoroughly English in feeling, and instinct with the spirit of progress and mental independence. Their works announce that redundancy of moral and intellectual energy, which, craving after some higher good, but not at one with itself as to the form and measure of it, at length broke out into action and spent itself on civil discord. The movement in this direction ceased with the expiration of the Commonwealth. On the return of Charles, a second inundation of French influence overwhelmed our manners and our literature. The poetry of the blind old schoolmaster,' John Milton, was forgotten; the drama of Shakspeare, Massinger, and Fletcher, true to nature and humanity, whose last echoes died away in the feebler genius of Otway -- was replaced by the rhyming tragedies of Dryden; and the soul of native inspiration which breathed in
our ancient song, expired under the fetters of art imposed on it by a Parisian criticism.
This change could not have occurred had Puritanism maintained its ascendancy. Milton would have become the immediate model of imitation, and his influence must have introduced a severer taste and a purer tone of sentiment. At the same time, his scholarlike feelings and healthful mind would have preserved from the ignorant contempt and destruction of fanatical zeal, the precious remains of our older literature. Even under Puritanical rule, the mind of England would doubtless have been gradually affected by the progress of European ideas : -- but the very different relation in which we should then have stood towards France, must have prevented our writers from taking her classical productions as a standard of excellence; and Dryden and Pope -- in the form at least which their genius actually assumed, and with the influence which they exerted on the literature of the Revolution - could not have existed. Their vigorous and polished couplet, embodying sharp epigrammatic contrasts of thought, and their inimitable art of reasoning in verse — so well adapted to a cold and satirical cast of mind, and the effect of reaction against an over-strained enthusiasm — were never, however, in perfect harmony with the latent sympathies of the people; they floated over the surface of society, but did not penetrate to its living depths.” — pp. 284 – 287.
We must here somewhat abruptly, from want of space, terminate our notice of this interesting volume, which we regret the more, as the remaining chapter relating to “Free Inquiry" leads us over a rich and varied field. We can only indicate some of the topics which are, with greater or less brevity, treated in it. They are — the distinction between the independence of religious societies and the freedom of the individual mind; different elements of religious freedom evolved during the seventeenth century; re-action against the doctrines of the first Reformers; rise of latitudinarian principles ; effect of philosophical theories and scientific discoveries; first school of English Unitarianism; influence of the writings of Locke ; Dissenting academies; character and position of Doddridge; English deism ; influence of Hartley's philosophy; revival of Unitarianism by Priestley ; Orthodox dissent; Channing; influence of Germany; powerful organization of Independency. We part with Mr. Tayler with many thanks for a volume from which the public will derive both pleasure and profit, and in the hope of being soon permitted to renew our intercourse with him through some other work from his pen.
NOTICES OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS.
The Extent of the Atonement, in its Relation to God and the
Universe. By THOMAS W. JENKYN, D. D., President of Coward College, London. Second American, from the third revised London edition. Boston: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln.
1846. 12mo. pp. 266. The Union of the Holy Spirit and the Church in the Conversion of the World. By THOMAS W. JENKYN, D. D., Author of “The Extent of the Atonement,” etc. First American from the second revised London edition. Boston: Gould, Kendall & Lincoln. 1846. 12mo. pp. 304.
The first of these volumes would' amuse us as a curiosity, were it not matter of sorrow rather, to witness so signal an illustration of the power of theological system or prejudice in warping the intellect, and perverting or confounding all its conceptions of right and wrong. “Atonement,” whether we regard etymology or Scriptural use, means, as every tyro in theology knows, reconciliation. Not so, however, does Dr. Jenkyn define the term, but thus: “Atonement,” says he, “is an expedient substituted in the place of the literal infliction of the threatened penalty, so as to supply to the government just and good grounds for offering and dispensing pardon to the offender;" that is, is " substitution," — as the author applies it in the case of Christ,“ a substitution of his person instead of the offenders ; and a substitution of his sufferings instead of their punishment." All this as an “expedient" to satisfy the claims of “justice" and “ sustain the interests of moral government!” This is the old “Governmental theory" as it has been called, but which will not do for this nineteenth century. How long, we may ask, could human governments stand, if administered on such a principle ? And how long will theologians continue to abuse the patience of the public, and set at defiance all the laws of common sense and sound biblical criticism, and shock our moral perceptions and our reverence, by the utterance of such absurdities ? Truly may the author say that the “sufferings of Christ," thus viewed, “ were perfectly novel in the universe," and that they "posed and amazed all angelic intelligences." Well they might.
The influence of the “ atonement" the author does not regard as confined to man, but as extending through the universe, natural, it would seem, as well as moral. Thus the title of one of his chapters is, “On the atonement in its relation to all the works of God," that is, as he explains it, the “ whole universe."
Notices of Recent Publications.
He says, “Nature, providence, and grace, then, are three immense wheels in one machinery, - the cogs, and revolutions of each, catching and influencing those of the others, and all put in motion by the great atonement.” All true science, then, for ought we see, must be regarded as founded on the “atonement.” “There is no class of truths,” he affirms," which may not be either proved or explained by the principles of the atonement.” “There is not a truth pertaining to God and man, to eternity and time, but is connected with him," that is, Christ. “ In him all truths live, move and have their being." Further, in reference to the extent of the atonement he says, " the intelligences of other worlds are positively benefitted by sharing in the blessings" of it. “God has no medium, no way of blessing any being, in any world, but the mediation of Christ!” As if Dr. Jenkyn knew anything of God's government of other worlds. What miserable presumption! In conformity with this view he calls Christ, with sufficiently questionable taste, “the President of the universe," — the “great President," – and speaks of what the “illustrious President of the universe himself has said:" Still worse, in point of taste at least, he tells us that “in his official character, Christ is the Receiver General of all the revenues of God's immense empire." Again, “it is his work, as the public officer of the moral commonwealth, to present to God all the reverence," etc. We want words to express the disgust with which such language fills us. It shocks every sentiment of reverence for the Saviour. It pains us to observe that a book of this character, after having gone through three London editions, should have arrived at a second edition in this country. Alas for the popular theology when it is fed from such channels.
The volume on the “Union of the Holy Spirit and the Church," is in our view far less exceptionable, and though tainted with a remnant of the old scholastic theology, portions of it contain sound views, which we recommend to the special attention of those who are accustomed to regard the Divine spirit as working by "fits" and " impulses," or in any way“ arbitrarily," or "irrespectively of means.”
Walt and Vult, or The Twins. Translated from the Flegel
jahre of Jean Paul. By the Author of the “ Life of Jean Paul." Boston : J. Munroe & Co. 1845. 2 vols. 16mo. pp. 320, 311.
It is with much diffidence that we express our regret, that the graceful and efficient powers of the translator of these volumes had not been applied to some other work. Not that we think the “ Flegeljahre" unworthy of being translated. That would express more than our meaning. We doubt not that Jean Paul knew his public very well; that he wrote for their entertainment and instruction; and we know that there was very small chance of his writing for those objects otherwise than successfully. He was not likely to fail in any literary enterprise which he undertook in earnest. But as he sat quietly composing this work in Coburg, he had before his eye, not the literary circles of Boston, Philadelphia, or London, but of Leipsic, Weimar and Göttingen. It is impossible that a book of this character, so dependent for its interest on a knowledge, on the part of the reader, of events and characters local and transient, of minor habits of thought and expression, of national peculiarities and current bywords, that such a book should not suffer prodigiously, by being transferred to another intellectual climate and to a foreign soil. Add to this the loss that works of humor and satire always must sustain by any, even the best translation, such as this is, and it will not appear strange that “ Walt and Vult” should be laid down by many persons with a feeling of disappointment.
The work itself, in its design, is an ample illustration of Richter's pet idea, — the painful disparity between the loftiness of man's, especially a poet's ideal, and the meagreness of his attainments; between the boundless aspiration of his faculties, and the wretched poverty of his acquisitions; between the breadth and magnitude of his purposes, and his miserable failures in fulfilling them. It is indeed a noble and a solemn theme. It is worthy the power and pathos of the most inspired genius. In this particular instance, however, we cannot possibly see why a true poet might not combine something of the intellectual elevation, pure fervor, and meditative wisdom of “ Walt," with a respectable share of that knowledge of the world and address in society, which appears in “Vult.” Both belong to humanity, and we do not believe they are necessarily disjoined. Literary history affords distinguished examples of their harmonious union. Need poets and prophets be simpletons, or simply ridiculous ?This work is marked by Jean Paul's characteristics, – a vivid perception, a broad reach of vision, a various culture, an affluence of imagery, sometimes fanciful, a genial sympathy with all forms and departments of life, and the capability to make them serve his artistic ends. He enters so heartily into his subject, and writes so eminently from a love of writing, that it is difficult to conceive that he could ever have been under the necessity to make books for bread. Notwithstanding what we have said here, we believe, and are happy to believe, that these volumes are welcomed and read by a large class of persons with unqualified interest.