« AnteriorContinuar »
the restriction to vegetable diet, which may seem to have prevailed down to the Flood, been continued to the present time, the sheep might indeed have been propagated and preserved for its fleece, and the cow for its milk, but where would have been all the enjoyment, which arises from the long process of fattening? Compare the worn out age of an ox and a horse—the one turned out to destitution and insults, the other pampered and protected till its existence is terminated by a momentary and unexpected stroke. All this happiness arises from the use of animal food. In the paradisiacal state, as Mr. Gisborne truly observes, God gave to the whole animal creation the green herb, and that only, for meat. This provision leads into a boundless field of hypothesis and conjecture: man and the hog indeed could subsist indifferently upon animal and vegetable food, but what was to become of animals purely carnivorous f. To suppose that they originally subsisted on herbs is to suppose them to have been different creatures; their teeth, claws, muscles, eyes, smell and organs of digestion plainly point them out as made for pursuit and ravine. Now it is very extraordinary that during this whole period, from the creation to the deluge, there is no mention of beasts of prey: they appear to be unnoticed amongst the original works of the creation, for of the two words which could alone be supposed to describe them, the one means exclusively pecus or jumentum, and the other a living creature in general. It is only after the Flood that blood is said to be required of every beast: can we then conceive a subsequent creation to have taken place of these tribes, and that proper food was allowed for their sustenance : Every way and in every view the subject is enveloped in clouds and darkness. %. unfavourable and unfair view of the quantum of present happiness is exhibited in Mr. Gisborne's account of agricultural labour: - “How great, he says, “how continual is the toil annexed to the effective culture of the earth! Agriculture wears not in this our planet the characteristics of an occupation arranged for an innocent and fully favoured race. It displays to the eye of natural theology traces of the sentence pronounced on the first cultivator, the representative of all that were to succeed—“Cursed is the ground for thy sake”—“Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.”—“In sorrow shalt thou eat all the days of thy life”—“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.”” It bears, according to Mr. Gisborne, in its toils and its solicitudes plain indications that “man is a sinner.' It bears indeed plain indications thatman is placed upon earth in a state, where if he is too idle to plough and sow, he will never reap ; and this is all. But has our author attended so little to his Bible as not to know, that in this respect, Adam was not the representative of all that were to succeed, and
and that this primaeval curse of the earth was positively rePealed in the days of Noah, according to the prediction of his father Lamech, that he should comfort them concerning the work and toil of their hands, because of the earth which the Lord had cursed ? And accordingly God declares immediately after the Flood, ‘I will not curse the ground any more for man's sake.' Would that Mr. Gisborne, as a means of dispelling that gloom which a peculiar system of theology appears to have diffused over his whole understanding and temper, would take, by way of antidote, a beautiful and cheering passage of the 65th Psalm—‘Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice—Thou visitest the earth and waterestit—Thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths drop fatness—The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.” To all this we may add, that had Paul and Barnabas been of Mr. Gisborne's mind, they would not have used the appearances of divine beneficence in the present world, as a proper topic for bringing the people of Lystra to a belief of the Being and Providence of the true God:— “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness in that he did good, and gave us rain and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness;' whereas our author would make the witness to consist in the Almighty's continuing to curse the earth for man's sake, and to fill his hands with toil and his heart with sorrow. Were ever the sweet, the innocent, the healthful, the primaeval labours of the husbandman so misrepresented by gloom and melancholy before? The peculiar turn of our author's mind is no where more conspicuous than in his reflections upon war, as a proof of the depravity of human nature. On this subject, St. James had told us truly and concisely that wars and fighting proceed from the lusts of men. Our author, with equal truth, but with that verbiage which every where deforms his style, has expanded this simple proposition into the following declamation:- - ‘The employment of war—it is one which bears on its front the indelible brand of punishment and guilt' (an easy inversion would have prevented this hysteron proteron). “It is penal in its nature—it has its root in unrighteousness. The conflict of man with man is not the encounter of the wild beast with its antagonist. The brute animal, of whatever blind passion he may be following the impulse, wars not against checks of conscience and conviction of duty. His aggressions
* We would seriously recommend to our author's perusal, for his better information on los subject, the fourth of Bishop Sherlock's masterly Discourses on prophecy, where the repeal of the curse on the earth for the sin of man is discussed with a clearness and accuracy almost peculiar to that great author. The study of such writers, instead of the sthool of theology to which Mr. Gisborne has addicted himself, would have been of material service, both to his understanding and temper.
are not perpetrated nor planned' (another inversion) “in the face of moral responsibility and the knowledge of God.'
In the name of common sense, how should they, when the perpetrator has neither reason, conscience, responsibility, nor the knowledge of God bestowed upon him by his Creator? But it is not a mere unmeaning truism to which we here object. It is the spirit of Quakerism which the passage breathes throughout, the cold, heartless, unpatriotic tone which can include in one sweeping censure aggressive and defensive war, the wanton and unprovoked ravages of an invader, with the heroic resistance of an individual, or a nation bravely occupied in the protection of their hearths and altars.
In the next passage, our disapprobation is almost swallowed up in astonishment. It is imputed to original sin that man is not a bird, or flying insect, or that he cannot command the elements—the proper answer to which is, that Adam in paradise could no more do any of these things than we his fallen descendants. They are denied to us, not because we are fallen creatures, but because we are men. Yet does our author plainly assert, that these incongruous faculties are withholden from us only because in our present state they would be made instruments of greater mischief.
But let us hear our author for himself.
“While he beholds insects, fish, beasts, birds, all indulging their respective modes of locomotion, man, unhappy man, is himself laboriously creeping upon the ground, incapable of achieving, without anxious preparation, a transit promptly accomplished by a swallow, a pigeon, or a fieldfare, with the condition of a guiltless being, how accordant were the possession of this power! But look on man as a transgressor against his God, and ask yourself what corporeal endowment would be more fatally subversive of human happiness, than the possession by man of such powers of locomotion!' We are next informed, that at this hour, as twenty-five centuries ago, in the reign of David, (he ought rather to have said in the time of Moses, by whom, and not by David, the 90th Psalm was written,) “the days of our age are threescore years and ten. Man cannot check the volcano, nor the earthquake, he cannot ensure or command a prosperous harvest,--he cannot call down a shower from the sky,_he cannot foretel the events of the morrow.” That is, he is not at once a man, a bird, a fish, an insect and a prophet, with omnipotence superadded to these characters, and all because this assemblage would have been inconvenient in a fallen creature. If it be not then a fair inference that Adam either did possess or had a right to all these qualifications, before the fall, we know not what an inference means. The learned Archbishop King, and his more
more learned commentator Bishop Law, would have instructed our author, that evils of imperfection, such as he wildly enumerates, are no evils at all, but merely incidents necessary to a classification of beings, in a world so wisely and beautifully diversified as the present.* The awful subject of death is treated by Mr. Gisborne in his best manner, which will lead to several important reflections:
“Death, he says, and with great truth, ‘death, in its simple character, is not necessarily a proof that the beings to whom it attaches, have offended their Creator. Existence bestowed might be intended by the donor, to be but temporary; and happy existence, even for a limited duration, would be a gratuitous gift to be enjoyed and acknowledged with thankfulness by percipient intelligences. Moreover, existence might be prolonged after death, and the stroke which seemed to involve the annihilation of the individual, might be the instrument of his removal into another scene, and a more exalted modification of life.’
In all and every of these remarks, we wholly acquiesce. How far to adopt those which follow, we have considerable hesitation.
“But death, sudden, wide spreading, supervening in an unknown and horrid form, bears the aspect, not of a placid dismission from existence, not of a gracious transplantation into another and a nobler province of the universal empire of the Almighty, but of the execution of a judicial sentence upon a race of transgressors.'
The death of man, we allow, as a separation of soul and body, is properly penal, “the wages of sin.” But with respect to the circumstances and forerunners of death, we would ask why, upon this hypothesis, is the death of brutes, when it takes place in the course of nature, apparently not less agonizing for the most part than that of man; They have never sinned, and if the pains of death be properly penal, why do they suffer? The probability is that, if the generations of mankind had multiplied upon the earth without a fall, the first and oldest would have been translated to some better state, without any violent shock to either part, the bodily or spiritual, of which they consisted,—but in this respect, moral evil was the parent of physical. The bodies of men, inflamed by violent and sinful passions, contracted with that lamentable change, were reduced, by a judicial and righteous connection between sin and dissolution, to the original condition of brutes, and became subject to death, they were no longer in a condition to accompany the soul into that better and happier state to which they were destined, without undergoing a total decomposition. But with respect to the circumstances attendant upon that change, little more perhaps can be inferred, than that from the operation of some physical law, with which we are unacquainted, the tie which connects soul and body is so strong as to require a violent, and therefore, in general, a painful disruption.—Beyond this general truth, nothing appears with certainty. The best men, in their last hours, are not exempt from the acutest and most agonizing sufferings, on the other hand, there are habits of sin which directly lead to a quiet and gentle or a momentary departure.—But, on the whole, our author's representation of the misery preceding death is as usual overcharged, there is, or there would be no such word in the most expressive of all languages, an #všavaa'iz, for which our author has made no allowance, but which we sincerely wish he and ourselves may experience. This is beautifully expressed in the language of an old divine, which we commend to our author as an antidote, a Christian antidote, to the prevailing gloom of his disposition. “Morte Christi effectum est ut mors fidelibus jam non sit interitus, sed quaedam quasi migratio commutatioque vitae, brevisque adeo et certa in caelum transmissio. Quocirca pii mortis metu, quae laborum, solicitudinum atque malorum hujus vitae omnium perfugium illis et dux in caelum erit, exhorrescere jam amplius aut trepidare non debent.’ One more reflection on the subject, and we have done. Throughout the present work, Mr. Gisborne shews a most unhappy propensity to mistate his question, and to adduce, with an air of great self-complacency, facts which are admitted by his antagonist, as irrefragable proofs of his own positions.” Thus he quotes, like a philosopher of the last century but one, the existence of marine remains on the tops of mountains, as evidences of a deluge, and what is more, of the Noachian deluge alone; and thus too, in his verbose and declamatory manner, he enlarges on the traditionary evidence of an universal deluge. This is not the point at issue between the parties. Every Christian philosopher admits the fact, may more, he admits it on the faith of Revelation, corroborated by that very tradition. But with respect to the auxiliary evidence adduced by Mr. Gisborne's school, evidence deduced from existing
* Here we must once more recommend to our author's most serious attention, Archbishop King's Origin of Evil, with Bishop Law's profound and elaborate notes, and more particularly the chapter on Evils of Imperfection.
than * A remarkable proof of this will be found in the following passage.—"But natural theology is endowed with organs of hearing no less than of vision. From every quarter of the world she hears the voice of pagan tradition, proclaiming the memory of an ancient and a penal flood; with a concurrence bearing a resemblance to that with which on the day of Pentecost, so many languages united in publishing the wonderful works of God, she hears the Roman and the Greek, and the Mexican, and the Hindoo, referring to a judicial visitation of waters, by which their forefathers were overwhelmed.'— And then after two pages of vague declamation, our author proceeds. ‘Is not the general tradition a positive fact—is it not a fact as distinct and demonstrable as the disarrangement of the strata in the Alps, or the discovery of an uncorrupted rhinoceros in Siberia?'—That is to say, there is a general tradition of a deluge—there is a disarrangement of the strata in the Alps, therefore, not only has the latter event been produced