Imágenes de página
[ocr errors]

spectable Mr. Hugh Farmer, together with those of other writers, and scrutinizes also the Old Testament on the subject. It is well known that the celebrated passage in the book of Job, ch. xix. p. 25, has long with great probability been explained to signify that release from present distress and restoration to health and enjoyment, which Job expected and at length obtained :but, does it follow that all other passages, in the antient Jewish writings, which exhibit with apparent strength the signature of a future life, are to be limited to the short compass of mortal existence? Yet in this manner, though not without difficulty, our author explains and confines them. We incline, at present, to ask with Dr. Jortin, " who ever heard of such a thing as a devout Epicurean,” and to say with him, “that the strain of piety and devotion which discovers itself in those books, and distinguishes them eminently from all Pagan compositions, is a proof that the authors entertained hopes beyond the present state and scene of things*.”—Mr. Amner on the whole concludes • that, as the Mosaic system seems not to have taught, so neither did the thoughts of the antient Hebrews go so far as to the soul's immateriality or immortality :'-but here a question occurs : if it be thus, how is it that the Jews had those apprehensions of a resurrection and a future state which they cer. tainly discover in the days of our Saviour ?-After a quotation from the epistle to the Hebrews, ch. xi. ver. 8, and following, a reply is offered in these words. Here, I conceive, much more is 'supposed than the reader will be able to find in the book of Genesis-- unless he shall be pleased to assume in the reading that principle of Cabbalism, allegory, or spiritual and recondite meaning, call it what we will, which seems to have been prevalent or popular among some of the Jews, and which it cannot, I think, be denied, that the writers of the New Testament had in some degree, and St. Paul and the author of this epistle had in no small degree adopted. And if so, why may we not suppose that something of a like proceeding may have been applied to some other passages of the Old Testament, which may seem to have been full as promising in their appear. ance and as proper for it, and of course a sense given to them more sublime, recondite, and spiritual, than might at first have been intended.'-To this should be added the author's remark that the Pharisees were much addicted to the Greek philosophy; with which therefore St. Paul, who had been so strictly and zealously united with that party, must have been well acquainted; and where (he asks) would be the wonder, if in such a mind, the principles of Christianity being received,

* Jortin's Sermons, vol. vii. p. 318, &c.


the ideas of a former system should still, in some degree, remain (conceiving of the matter in a human way only) and even gain at some times the ascendancy?'

These inquiries relative to the resurrection employ the six opening chapters of the volume; in the prosecution of which subject, most if not all of the scriptural passages relative to it are investi. gated. On the question whether the apostles and first Christians expected the coming of Christ before the end of the age in which they lived, this writer answers in the affirmative. He appears to apprehend that the coming of the Son of man in the destruction of Jerusalem, and what is farther termed the end of the world, are so blended together in the discourses of Jesus, that the early disciples mistook to such a degree as to explain each of one and the same period. When Mr. Amner places St. Paul in this number, we must confess that we hesitate ; even though he reminds us of the apostle's own acknowlegement that the treasure was in earthen vessels, and asks, 'where then would be the wonder, if it should have received from thence some tincture?"

For a farther view of these subjects, we must refer to the work; only remarking that the author is somewhat fastidious in his censure on Whitby and Doddridge, when he takes notice of the uncertain manner in which they have attempted an explication of 2 Cor. v. 1, and following: ' it may not (he says) be incurious to observe their needless, and almost wilful and blameable embarrassment;' to which he adds ;-'the true account of the matter seems to be, that neither of these two pious and popular persons could be willing, for whatever reasons they were averse from it, that the meaning of the place should be what it is, and have accordingly embarrassed both themselves and their readers. In all inquiries after truth, says a celebrated writer, it is almost every thing to be once in the right road. Of the truth of this, and infclicity of the contrary, have we not in these instances some little illustration ?

The difficult, and we may say delicate, subject of Inspiration is considered in the two next chapters. Mr. Amner attends to the facts, and then to the doctrines, recorded in the scriptures; and he asks whether that full and constant inspiration, for which divines have contended, was necessary ? he apprehends that it was not. Respecting the doctrine of Christ, he regards it as being not of that mysterious, difficult, and abstract nature, which would make this requisite. To illustrate this idea, he collects numerous summary passages of Christian truth, which clearly and fully, in his view, establish the point : prova ing that the instructions of the gospel are simple and plain, though practical and most important. According to this account, it may be asked, how shall we know what is or is not

the the word of God ?" To which it is replied, that, as we cannot always and with the precision which seems to be intended in the question, do this, so neither does it seem to be very necessary. Mr. A. proceeds farther to explain and apply this in a rational manner. Indeed, we might collect much from this part of the work that is worthy of the reader's careful notice: the few following lines afford some just notion of the writer's opinion : . I may conclude they, I suppose, that the looks now making up the volume, or canon, as it is sometimes called, of the Old and New Testament, which is confessedly the best and most curious single book in the worki, are not lowever all of them, nor any one of them, per. laps, in all its parts, of the same equal and unvaried excellentce, and of the same unitorm and high authority, however this notion of them may have in general prevailed, but may be reasonably read with something more of discrimination and tate, tlian the teachers and pastors of most churches have in general allowed; and would perhaps be more profitably read, and with greater cordiality and acceptance, if read under the influence of a less superstitious spirit, and with more attention paid to what we feel them to be in the reading, than to any such external characters and denominations of them, as may indeed silence, but do not always satisfy the reader.'

In the first of these chapters, is introduced a short extract from a letter written by Dr. Lardner, many years ago, in reply to this author's inquiry concerning the best Harmony. “I think (writes the Doctor) Le Clerc's the best; and Dr. Doddridge agrees with that in the main :-but I think the study of harmonies of little importance : indeed almost vain and fruitless : for every Christian can carry on our Saviour's history in the order of time, as to the main parts : and on dillicult and doubtful points the harmonies are seldom right, but wrong, and mislead men. Macknight is a good commentator: and would have been better, if he had not been an harmonizer: his har. mony is perplexed and intricate to the last degree.”

In the succeeding chapter, the writer returns to St. Paul, and endeavours to prove that his account of justification by faith is

the same substantially with our Saviour's doctrine of repentance and remission of sins, only reasoned on and stated in a more elaborate and systematic manner.' The conclusion drawn from the whole is

« That by far the larger part of those controversies by which Christian churches have suffered themselves to be divided, are of an interminable nature; the appeal, in many of them, being made to writers whose commission was limited, and did not perhaps extend so far; and who being in the possession, by divine vouchsaíement and revelation, of some few general and interesting ideas concerning the life, character, and resurrection of Christ, the necessity of repentance,


certainty of pardon, and of a future state and judgment, were left, unless in some very peculiar and extraordinary cases, as in those of Acts xth and xvth for instance, to speak of them and represent them, very much in their own way, and agreeable to their respective educations, relishes, and natural temperament and turns of mind; which seem in fact to have been very different.--And why then, if this may have been the case, pursue with so much zeal and earnestness some of the more minute and nicer questions in theology, and seek the " answer to them where, in all probability, it is not to be found, and from writers who might not perhaps, to cases of such a sort, be quite competent?'

Of the tract on the prophecies of Daniel, which here forms. ch. x. and is now, we apprehend, somewhat altered and abridged, we shall take no farther notice than by a reference to an ac. count which was given of it when it first appeared as a sepaTate work. (M. Rev. vol. lv. p. 113.) Nor shall we detain the reader long concerning the chapter which follows, on the Revelation. Mr. Amner seems to think it mistaken and even illiberal to explain some passages in this book, and that of Daniel, as relating to the Pope and the church of Rome ; in which sentiment we cannot concur with him. He plainly appears, indeed, to have considerable doubts as to the authenticity of the book of Daniel and of St. John's Revelation ; concerning the latter, he says, “I conclude that the writer of this book was certainly a Christian, and also a zealous Jewish Christian, who, feeling much for the sufferings of his brethren, has accordingly characterised, and even stigmatized, the two great authors of their sufferings, I mean the unbelieving jew's and idolatrous (meaning, heathen) Romans, by expressive and even bitter and sarcastic denotations of their respective head cities or residencies.'

It is impracticable for us to attend this writer in his Remarks on the Prophecies of Isaiah. He here proceeds with boldness of adventure, while he explains these predictions wholly of the Israelites and natioris connected with them, and according to his plan totally removes any regard to that great object of Jewish expectation, the advent of the Messiah : by doing which, some parts of his paraphrase will to many if not to most readers bear an uncouth, and not, perhaps, the most reasonable appearance. Be this as it will, having observed that Gro. tius explains the last three chapters as relating to the wars and victories of Judas Maccabæus, whom he supposes to be the person coming from Edom with dyed garments, Mr. Amner proceeds to say,

• While the two Lowths, and with them probably the more general stream of commentators, rather choose to suppose, that not only in these, but some of the preceding chapters, we are got wholly away,

as it were, from the affairs of the Jewish church, and into those of the Christian ; and even into matters which will only come to pass in the last days of the world, as they explain some of the passages. Concerning which notions I can only say, that as I have not yet seen any satisfactory and convincing evidence of them, so I shall not, I hope, have any criminal and wilful objection to it, if ever aught of this kind shall hereafter seem to disclose itself; and until which time, it is humbly hoped, that the remarks of a different sort, which have been proposed above, will not be denied a patient hearing. Making no pretensions to praise, they will not, it is hoped, incur censure.'

A few pages on Baptism finish the volume ; and in then we find some ingenious, sensible, and perhaps rather new remarks on the subject.-It is clear that Mr. Amner has been industrious in endeavouring to attain biblical knowlege, and in the search after truth. His work contains many instructive and useful remarks, though it may sometimes excite doubts which it does not sufficiently remove. His style often reminded us of Dr. Lardner's language and manner. Occasionally, he speaks too contemptuously of his fellow.labourers who have preceded him in this line of inquiry, but we think that he has now made a little abatement in respect to Mr. Mede.

Art. XI. Arthur Fitz-Albini, a Novel. 12mo. 2 Vols. 75. sewed.

White. 1798. The chief object of this well-written novel seems to be to

plead the cause of birth against fortune. It represents loftiness of sentiment, and disinterestedness of character, as exclusively allotted to the high-born ; and as sources of perpetual mortification and disappointment to the possessor. Both of these representations, as universal axioms, we think, are cona tradictory to experience: but the general morality of the work is unexceptionable. –The story is simple. Fitz-Albini, a poor and proud young man of family, rejects an opportunity of advantageous marriage with Miss Pickman, a city-heiress, in consequence of his love for the well-born Miss St. Leger ; whose pedigree at length produces her a great estate: but whose sensibility, irritated by an insolent protectress, carries her to the grave, on the eve of matrimony. Her distracted lover soon fol. lows her.

It will not be easy to extract a passage more calculated than the following to display the author's prose, poetry, and opinion :

Once more the time arrived at which Fitz-Albini found himself er. tricated from such troublesome society. As he mounted his horse, twi. light was coming on; and a drizzling rain hastened the close of the day. He walked, however, a foot-pace, and gave the full range again to

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »