« PreviousContinue »
jungentur jam gryphes equis !” He may rest assured that all such projects are "a fond thing." And we urge these considerations the more earnestly, to check, if we can, that cowardly spirit of false liberality and illegitimate concession, which would counsel us to surrender our just privileges, and to betray the rights of the Church, with the view of strengthening her cause by the accession of dissenters to her pale. It is, we repeat, impossible! Let us, then, abandon such attempts, and keep what we have whilst we can! God and justice are on our side, and we “ will not fear what man can do unto us." Let us be true to ourselves, and that arm shall protect us which is promised as the shield of the Church "until the end of the world.” · We would crave the privilege of another word to prevent misapprehension. Whilst, then, we would uphold the Establishment in her full predominance and integrity, and whilst we deprecate every endeavour to touch even the hem of her garment to conciliate her boasting enemies, we are sensible that she has some imperfections that need removal. To a cautious reform of our Church, upon conservative principles, we are altogether friendly. Her discipline is confessedly ineffective. Covetóus patrons have, in some instances, abused their trust to purposes of scandalous nepotism. These, and similar defects, we would remove ; but the ruthless hammers and axes of infidels and schismatics we would rescue from their rapacious hands; and so repair the time-sprung breaches of the walls of our Zion, as to fortify her bulwarks, and afford a lasting security to her foundations!
In these zealous effusions we may seem to have forgotten our author, of whose volume we have, as yet, given an analysis of the two first sections only, meaning to pursue the critique in the next number of our Magazine, since our limits forbid us to proceed with his pages in our present Review.
Art. II.— The Sacred History of the World, attempted to be philoso
phically considered, in a Series of Letters to a Son. By SHARON TURNER, F.S.A. & R.A.S.L. Vol. II. Pp. xvi. 583. London:
Longman & Co. · The many fanciful theories with which modern geologists have mystified the plain narrative of the creation, as delivered by Moses ; the attempt to circumscribe, as it were, the operations of the Divine mind, and draw a parallel between the philosophy of man, and the wisdom of God; have, perhaps, tended more to shake the faith of the timid and wavering believer, than the avowed and daring blasphemies of infidelity. It is, therefore, with no small degree of satisfaction, that we find a manual, in the work of Mr. Sharon Turner, calculated to stem that almost profane spirit of penetrating within the vail, which characterises the writings of too many of our contemporaries, and makes
“ Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread."
We had the greatest pleasure, on the appearance of the first volume of this admirable work, in recommending it to the universal attention of the public,—we pointed out, what we considered to be its most prominent and useful design-we showed that its general circulation would advance the general good-and we prophesied a succession of editions, and an ample harvest of fame and remuneration to the venerable and indefatigable author. Our predictions, we rejoice to say, have been amply verified by the result. Six !! editions of Volume 1. have already appeared, and a second edition of the present volume is loudly called for. And it is with pleasure we add, that that excellent and distinguished patriot, Sir Robert Peel, during his short but brilliant career in office, placed Mr. Turner on the pension list; thus securing to him the enjoyment of that “otium cum dignitate," without which the mind, especially when approaching the grand climacteric, is liable to be harassed by the petty cares and vexations of life, and rendered incapable of maintaining its pristine dignity, and of continuing to labour for the glory of God, and the benefit of man.
Entertaining these opinions of the character and writings of Mr. Turner, it may at first appear that we have been guilty of neglect in allowing a work of such acknowledged merit to remain so long unnoticed in our pages, especially as a review of the book was promised some months since. We can assure the author, however, and our friends generally, that neglect of, or indifference to, this opus magnum, was very far from our intention. The fact was, that it abounded with so much novel and interesting matter-contained such an accumulation of facts—such a mass of hitherto scattered information, condensed into a single volume—that a second and a third perusal became necessary.
It must be obvious that a subject of such magnitude and importance as the “Sacred History of the World" cannot be adequately discussed in a brief review. Much perseverance and unremitted exertion is required, before the intellect can effectually ascertain what it tries to explore, and diversity of opinion must, therefore, be anticipated and submitted to, and on no subject of mental inquiry more decidedly than on the present; for the immensity of the theme alone will preclude its efficient and satisfactory discussion ; or, at least, however sound and incontrovertible an ex cathedrá opinion may be delivered, cavillers and doubters will be found to canvass the merits of the argument, and the justness of the conclusion.
The study of divine philosophy is recommended by Mr. Sharon Turner, in addition to the cultivation of the natural sciences, and upon
VOL. XVII. NO. VII.
the same plan on which they are pursued; and he confidently argues that the difficulties attending it may be gradually surmounted. Of this, indeed, there can be little doubt, for, although there may be knots too intricate for our puny hands to untie, the progress of science, and the advancement of knowledge, in things directly appertaining to the government of the universe by the hand of the Omnipotent, are daily becoming more apparent; and man seems inclined, at least the better portion of the race, to apply themselves with greater earnestness to the study, the nature, and attributes of their God, as developed in the mighty works of creation.
The erroneous opinions of the various sects of philosophers in the ancient world, respecting the origin of man and the nature of things, and of the Deity, are discussed in the volume before us with considerable judgment; and the fanciful theories of the chief visionaries, from Sanchoniathon to Cicero, are briefly alluded to. We strongly recommend the following extract on these most interesting and important points ; calculated as it is to assure us that there must be a sacred history attached to man's existence, and that his race has been always living under the development and conduct of it.
But altho the cultivated mind of the present day, at least in our own enlightened country, and indeed very generally in others, where knowlege is pursued, tho with some exceptions, which we must lament, infers and maintains that our earth and its system have been the creations of a reasoning and Omnipotent Deity; yet this truth could be known to be such by our primeval ancestors, only from a revelation and assurance of the fact by the Divine Architect, or on his authority. No human being witnessed the operation; nor could the first man, at his emerging into existence, ignorant of the very nature of being and power, and causation and effect, have then understood it, even if he had been framed before the other parts of his world, and had beheld these arising simultaneously, or successively around him. He would have only seen vast movements, as unintelligible as universal; mighty masses in conflicting agitations; figures starting up with endless diversity; and innumerable changes and phenomena of scenes and substances, that would have confused his eyesight and baffled his comprehension. He would have been terrified, rather than instructed, and have sought his shelter in the nearest cavity or penetrable forest, instead of contemplating, in order to comprehend, what would be too grand even for his vision to survey, and too alarming for him to have any wish to witness.
The first idea of a creating Deity, and that the visible world was his production, must have originated in the human mind from his express communication. It is too sublime an impression to have been self-formed within us; altho as soon as it was suggested, many a heart has delighted to cherish it, as most congenial with its best feelings and intellect; and in proportion as mind has increased in knowledge, it has been active and eager to trace the marks and confirmations of it, in the fabric and beauties and beneficences of surrounding nature. Yet, tho millions have felt with the Hebrew sovereign, that “the heavens declare the glory of God," and that the starry hosts display the special operation of his formning power, the deduction is not likely to have been made without the revelation that conducts us to it. Many ages at least must have first elapsed, however easy it is now to reason on it, for want of that long and patient observation of natural things, which will alone give due knowlege of them; and of that practised discernment of their several relations and conpected effects, which enable so many acute thinkers in our age to support the sublime conclusion with such philosophical certainty and such great precision.
That the momentous communication was made to man of the divine origin of himself and of his abode, at the beginning of his existence, the Mosaic history narrates, and there is every reason to believe the declaration. No intelligent Creator would have concealed such a circumstance from the intellectual creature, by whom he wished to be known, and whose affection and obedience he condescended to desire. It is only surprising that the noble truth should have ever been depreciated or disregarded by any portion of mankind ; and yet we find from history that it was so slighted or perverted in the most ancient times by many, that it became obsolete or forgotten by soine nations; and that other theories of the origin of things, altho as fantastic as ignorance or folly could make them, were substituted instead. Tho some few minds at all times seem to have withstood the stream of popular extravagance, yet they could not arrest the mental deterioration on this subject. -- Pp. 38-40.
We shall not pretend to follow Mr. Turner seriatim through this volume, but merely direct attention to those peculiar passages which come more immediately within the legitimate scope of our labours. The divine origin and operation of the laws of nature; the ancient suppositions of necessity and fate, in contradistinction to creation and providence ; attributable to the absence of all certain knowledge of a creating power, and the subjects collaterally bearing upon these several points, find their appropriate places in the book. The peculiarities which distinguish man from every other order of known beings, and his special composition of a soul and body, are discussed with sound and philosophic reasoning, and the two letters on the state of Adam and Eve before and after the Fall cannot fail to be read with intense interest. But we pass on with satisfaction to Letter XV. “on the Causes and Objects of the General Deluge, and on the State of our Historical Information concerning it.” Here the objections of the sciolists in geology to the Mosaic history are proved utterly fallacious and untenable, and the daring spirit, which sneers at revelation, is severely rebuked.
It is not indeed within the capacity of every geologist, nor perhaps of any one in the present imperfect state of the almost new made science, to discern amid the phenomena, which the rocks and remains of the earth present to his observing judgment, what were the operations and changes which attended the commotions of the deluge. But we should not repeat the common error of depreciating what we fail to understand, or dismiss that from our consideration which we cannot satisfactorily explain. The true is true, at all times, whether we comprehend or like it, or not; it is therefore a hasty act of mind, and not sound judgment, to reject the admission of a deluge because it does not suit our pre-adopted theories. It is wiser to mistrust them, than to disbelieve what has been so authoritatively recorded. But such conduct will only be a stimulus to new minds, to take up the subject with calmer impartiality, and to endeavour to form happier suppositions, to make juster inferences, and to exercise a penetrating sagacity, superior to their predecessors. These results will in time take place. Most of the last series of geologists, and sone of the present, have thought proper to discredit the interposition of the deluge, and have treated the idea of it, and its supporters, with mingled animosity and contempt. This is to be regretted, and will not deter the friends of intellectual religion from still desiring to see it in friendly harmony and coalition with real scientific knowledge : nothing is done well by their disunion. The more you study geology, the more you will be convinced, that the opponents of the Mosaic deluge have not advanced one single step in accounting for the appearances and present state of things without it, nor will any degree of talent or labor be more successful that may chuse to disregard it. For as it is an event which has really occurred, it will be as impossible to form a true theory of the earth without it, as it would be to write an authentic history of England, and yet discredit or omit the Roman and Anglo-Saxon or Danish invasions. Pp. 306, 307.
It has always appeared to us that the sceptic, who could venture to doubt the fact of a general deluge, and maintain that the Mosaic account of the event was contrary to the laws and regulations by which the Creator regulates the universe, has but a step farther to progress, before he becomes a confirmed infidel. And as we must contemplate such an event with the deepest grief, it is by no means the least valuable portion of Mr. Turner's work, in our eyes, that he has successfully devoted two entire letters to this single point. The ancient traditions of the deluge in Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Phenicia, Syria, Armenia, and Persia, form the subject of the former, whilst the latter is confined to similar traditions in China-in the Parsee booksin the Sanscrit-in Arabia and Turkey-in Africa-and various nations of South America ; also in North America and the South Sea isles. The universal belief in such an event is a strong prima facie evidence of it having occurred ; and the very circumstance, that many and irreconcilable differences exist in the relations of the details is rather a confirmation of the fact than otherwise. Nearly six thousand years have elapsed since God in his wisdom destroyed the human race, with the exception of eight souls. The descendants of those highly favoured individuals have, since that period, spread themselves over almost every part of the habitable globe. Different degrees of civilization, influenced by a variety of events, respecting which we cannot form a just opinion, have generated different trains of thought; and amongst the least cultivated, the wildest and most terrific notions of God prevail. It is easy to conceive that in the absence of a written tongue, the account of any event would depend much upon the imagination and talent of the traditional narrator ; who, if a shrewd man, would not fail to embellish his story with all the ornaments of language, and such (in the first instance possibly) innocent additions, as he thought calculated to fix the attention of his auditors; whilst designing characters would not hesitate to convert the superstitious credulity of their neighbours into a source of profit. Grant this, and we have a key at once to the various figments, not only in respect to the deluge, but which relate to idol worship among the heathen, and relic worship ainong the papists. The subtle priests in both cases prey upon the