« AnteriorContinuar »
for the particular manner in which this part of the work is executed, we must refer our Readers to the essay itself.
We could have wilhed, that Mr. Aikia had devoted a few pages to the examination of Thomson's versification and language. Though it be a subject on which the critics are divided, we do not know that it has been, hitherto, critically diffcussed,
As a school book, there is, perhaps, no poem that can standi in competition with Thomson's seasons. While the richness and luxuriance of his imagery captivate the imagination, the i warmth and fidelity with which he copies from truth and nature, imperceptibly infuse a love of nature and truth into his readers : The variety of learning that he displays, at the same time that it informs, awakens curiofity : And the precepts, both moral and religious, with which his poem fupereminently abounds, and which are set off with all the allurements of poetry, cannot fail to have great influence on the heart. On every account, therefore, this poem is excellently calculated for the study of youth. To such Readers, whofe taste is not yet directed and informed, the present Essay will be of considerable use.
Should this elegant edition be reprinted, we would recom,
late Lord Bilhop of Rochester. Published from the original
both as a divine and a general scholar, hath been too fully established by his various excellent publications, to require any free encomiums. His editions of Longinus, Cicero de Orao fore, and Cicero de Officiis, have clearly proved, that he was a found and judicious critic. His observations on Milton have manifested, that he was not unequal to the talk of repreffing the temerity of a Bentley. His vindication of some of our Saviour's Miracles, in answer to Woolfton, have thewn, that he was a masterly supporter of christianity against the attacks of infidelity. And his Commentary and Notes on the Four Evangelists,
and the Acts of the Apoftles, with the Tracts annexed, have ranked him with those capital illustrators of scripture, whose names and works will be transmitted, with peculiar honour, to pofterity.
Such being the esteem which Dr. Pearce had so juftly acquired by his writings, it was reasonable to expect that his fermons would not be totally with-held from the public. Accordingly, a selection of them is here made; in doing which, it hath been the design of the Editor, to arrange a competent num. ber of such as treat of the principal objects of a Protestant-chrise tian's faith and practice. Of the Sermons now printed, fome were intended by the Author himself for publication ; particularly, a Series of Discourses on natural and revealed Religion, in the first volume, and those on Popery in the fourth. In the Discourses on natural and revealed Religion, the Bishop ftates, with great perspicuity, the evidences in favour of both; and removes, in an able manner, the objections of unbelievers. It is, however, with concern, that we find so judicious a divine, as Dr. Pearce, ranking the opinion of eternal punishments (by which he means an eternal existence in misery) among the doctrines of christianity. Being persuaded that this doctrine is true, our good: Prelate endeavours to solve the difficulty arising from it, in the following manner :
*I proceed now to the second objection, which I mentioned as having been made by some against the divine authority of our holy religion, vim. that eferral punishments are in the New Testament represented as the wages of fin: whereas the objectors think, that there would have been more of grace and of truth too in the Christian scheme, if these had been wholly left out of it.
• But it bath been usual with the enemies of Christianity to deny, that an eternity of punishments is revealed in the New Testament. They would explain the word eternal to mean only a long space of time; and they will not allow, that it is ever to be necessarily underfood in the strict and proper sense of the word, when applied to punishments in the scriptures. Why then should they make this objection, which they affirm to have no foundation in the word of God? The objection might be made more confiftently, though not more truly by a profesifed Christian, who, though he would be mistaken in this point, would yet go upon a right supposal, that the scrip:ures contain a divine reyelation. But the doctrine of eternal punishments, to be inficted upon impenitent sinners, çannot be at the same time no part of the gospel, and yet an objection against the grace and benefit of the gospel.
But the obje&tion ought to be answered more dire&tly, as it is of great importance to religiony that the marter Mhould be rightly unsi derstood; for in proportion as men's fears of what may befal them hereafter are leffened, their vices, and corruptions will improve: and when we fee, that. a full-bel ef of an eternity of punjshments is not able to restrain some men, we may be sure that the world would be
infinitely worse if this bridle was taken off from their passions and appetites, I hope therefore to be able to shew you in the clearest manner, that (suppofing this doctrine to be true, as I am persuaded it is,) the revelation of the gospel through our blesfed Saviour ought not to be thought, on this account, deficient in kindness and advantage to mankind. For
This, if true at all, was true before the gospel revealed it; and therefore is not to be laid to the charge of the gospel. The New Teftament hath more fully and more forceably explained it, but it hath not made it to be the finner's portion. Under natural religion, as well as under the Christian, the wages of all fin was deatb, spiritual death, or the death of the soul, that is punithment of equal duration with the soul which is immortal. This the heathens, who Jived before Christ came into the flesh, and who had only the light of nature to guide their steps, appear to have had a belief of, though the truth was not so clear and vigible to them, as it is to us Chriftians, who are taught by that man, whom God hath appointed to be the judge at the last day, that the wicked scall go away into everlasting punishment t. And many passages might be produced both from their poets and philosophers, in which they taught the same doctrine, and allowed no period or change of sufferings to impenitent finners of the blackett dye and the most heinous guilt I.
• Christianity therefore is not to be charged with being the author of that punishment, which it is only the proclaimer of: for surely to forewarn any man of a danger, is not the same as to bring that danger upon him. He that gives his neighbour notice of his house's being on fire, may as well be charged with being the incendiary, as the New Testament with being the cause of eternal misery to finners because it reveals to them in express words, that there is such a panishment reserved for the impenitent.
• Again, let it be considered, in answer to this obje&ion, that, upon the whole view of the matter, it appears to be so far from not being a grace, that it is one strong proof of its being a grace and favour to mankind, that God hath in this world declared himself fo fully on this important head.
• If the punishment is to be eternal, the truth of which I am not endeavouring to prove at present, though it may be proved to be very probable from reason, and very certain from scripture; but now I argue only upon a supposition, that it is true : and the consequence will be, that it is very happy for mankind, that they have clear and solemn warning given them. For this terrour of the Lord, thus forceably applied, has made many a man stop short in the ways.
• Itaque ut aliqua in vitâ formido improbis effet pofita, apud jnferos ejusmoai quædam illi antiqui fupplicia impiis conttituta ese, volgerant; quòd videlicet intelligebant, his remotis, non effe mortem ipfam pertimefcendam. Cir. Or, in Catal. iv. 4. + Matth. XXV. 46.
1.-Jedit, eternumque fedebit
Infelix Tbefeus. Virg. En. vi. 617. See Warburton's Div. Leg. vol. i. p.'171, and 204: ift edition. See Histoire de la Philosophie Payenne, vol. i. 'p: -209, &c,
of fin, and turn out of the path, which leads to bell and deftruatione Many a man, thus awfully forewarned, hath repented betimes and changed his behaviour: and thus changed he hath steered his course towards heaven, where he would never have arrived, if the found of everlasting misery had not reached his ears, and worked upon his Stubborn heart. Such a one then will have great reason, when he is a saint in happiness, to cry out, that all those terrors were mercies, that Chriftianity is as teader-bearted in its threatnings, as in its promises; and, in a word, that the grace wbicb came by Jesus Chrift, would not have displayed itself so effe&tually, if it had not driver as by our fears, as well as allured us by our hopes.
• It hath been asyal indeed with those, who declaim again an eternity of punishment, to call in the arts of infinuation to their aid, and to represent the maintainers of the true doctrine, as men of no bowels and compassion; of minds too rigid and severe: as if, when we pleaded for what we see so plainly revealed in the scriptures, we were mixing our own temper with o’r inftructions ; and as if fome degree of ill-nature in the teacher contributed to the leffon which he was delivering. But surely no one can think, when hç thinks coolly of the matter, that it is owing to morofenel or ille nature, that any man teaches that for a doctrine, the confequences of which he fo frequently warns men of, and earnestly endeavours to derer them from.
• For fu good an effect, as a finner's amendment, which the denouncing of eternal misery aims at, seems to be one of the beli, patured ends that the wit of man can conceive. If not only the goodness of God, but his vengeance thus declared before hand, means to load us to repentance, and by that wholsome change of the heart to lead us to eternal happiness, welcome, may a wise man say, welcome any doctrine which has a tendency so much to our advantage ; and wel. come, Christianity, which, by revealing the wrath of God from béke ver against all ungodliness and unrighteoujnefs of men, bath taught us to five soberly and righteoufly in this present world, looking forwards 20wards the bigb prize of our calling, which is in Cbrif Jefus our Lord.
• These are the reflections, my brethren, which will help us to answer the objection, chat fcme men have made to Christianity, as if it was no gracious inftitution, because it fo often mentions, and lays so much firess upon eternal punishments.'
Allowing that what is advanced above, by the Bishop, is in, genious, and even, in some measure, new, we can by no means confider it as façisfactory. The doctrine of eternal torments militates with every rational idea of the divine perfections. It is as contrary to the justice as it is to the mercy of God : for there is no manner of proportion between crimes and punishments, if mifery for ever is to be adjudged to offences which, though highly inexcusable and heinous, must neceflarily be tem. porary and limited. This notion, as well as the horrid abfurdities of rigid Calvinism, would long fince have been exploded by moderate divines, if men had not been afraid of thinking freely upon it, and of calling it in question. While it is so
contrary to every dictate of reason, and every sentiment of the human heart, we are persuaded, that it hath no foundation in the sacred writings. The strongest expressions of scripture, upon the subject, amount to no more than this, that such as are finally and incorrigibly wicked shall, at length, be punished with everlasting destruction. The wages of fin is death; while eternal life shall be the portion of the upright.
The fermons against Popery, in the fourth volume, which are thirteen in number, contain a very judicious display and rea futation of the principal tenets of the church of Rome, and may be deemed particularly feasonable at the present juncture. In the last of these sermons, Dr. Pearce considers that description given by St. Paul, of a heretic, in his Epistle to Titus (Tit. iii. 10, 11.), which hath occasioned so much controversy among divines, and the explication of which hath been found so difficult. As our Right Reverend Author seems to have been singularly happy in explaining who the heretic meant by the Apostle was, and how such a heretic might be said to be condemned of himself, we shall lay that part of the Sermon before our readers :
• To begin then with the first of these heads, and to thew you what St. Paul most probably meant by an beretick in this place.
. And for doing this we must look back to the words immediately preceding the text, which, we may fairly suppose, led the Apostle to give this direction to Titus. His words are these, Avoid foolish, questions and genealogies, and contentions, and Arivings about the law: for they are unprofitable and vain *. From whence we may gather, that the persons who are charged as introducing into the Church of Chrift these fooliso questions and Arivings about the law, were some of the Jewish converts to Christianity; no others, but these, having any such zeal for the law of Moses, here called the law. And this we find confirmed by what St. Paul says in his Epiftle to Titus; where he expressly warns him, not to give heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men ibat turn from the truth + : and farther says, that i here were then many unruly and vair talkers, and deceivers, especially ibey of the circumcision 1.
From all which laid together, it seems highly probable, that the man, whom St. Paul in the text distinguishes by the name of Heretick, was one of those Judaizing Christians, whp living in communion with the church of Christ, taught such things for duties under the gospel, as had no warrant from the doctrine of the gospel : partiscularly, that some of the Mosaic laws and ceremonies were necessary to be observed and practised by all Christians.
* Every one who reads St. Paul's Epifles with any attention, will find, that fome of those Jewish converts infifted upon it as a necessary duty, that the Gentile converts Ahould be circumcised, that they should keep the frafts of the herw moons, and should observe the Mofaical diftinction of meats : And he will there fee, with what zeal and
Titus iii. 9.
+ Ibid. i. 14.
| Ibid. 10.