« PreviousContinue »
Ecclesiastical Establishment, from doing justice to the Scriptures, and bound by the fetters of subscription and the oath of canonical obedience, are obliged to deliver that to the people as inspired truth, which they know to be a careless alteration, a superstitious perversion, or a wicked corruption of the Sacred Records *.” In this state of things, and being moreover informed that a new Edition of Griesbach's New Testament is in prepara. tiun, with additional defalcations, from the author's last corrections, it appears to us fairly questionable, whether promptitude in vindicating the received text from the injury which it had sus, tained by a specious attempt to rectify it from error, was not to be preferred before perfect execution. Mr. Nolan's INQUIRY, with all its imperfections upon its head, has accomplished this great object-it has given an effectual check to Socinian insolence
it has opened a question of great importance to Christianity which had too hastily been deemed decided to the great disparagement of the tradition of the Church, and it has so opened it as to afford the most solid grounds for anticipating the compleat establishment of the Church's fidelity as “ a witness and keeper of Holy Writ.”
For these reasons, we consider the incompleteness which might have been removed by a less hasty publication, a venial defect. But our commendation must be qualified with further exceptions against some positions which Mr. Nolan has advanced, as appears to us without sufficient warranty of historical testimony. As far as our information on the subject extends, they are all original, and though upon the supposition that they were substantiated, all the difficulties arising from three classes of the Text of the New Testament distinguished by characteristic varieties would be done away, and the authenticity of the Received Test set at rest for ever, yet the two charges against Eusebius, which form so important a part of Mr. Nolau's hypothesis, must not be admitted even in the qualified state in which he has left them, upon mere circumstantial evidence, without the further confirmation of positive testi. mony, or at least a greater accumulation of indirect support than is at present produced. Although unable therefore to explain or to account for the disappearance of certain important pas. sages from the text of the New Testament, subsequently to the critical labours of Eusebius, of which there are traces before his time, yet we cannot subscribe to what we can at present only designate our author's conjectural solution, as it has a tendency (as far as appears to his without sufficient grounds), to fix a charge of Arianism upon that eminent Father, and also involves in it an impeachment of his integrity, notwithstanding all that our
* Aspland's Plea, pp. 30, 33, 35, notes.
author author has so ingeniously advanced to ward off the imputa tions. Neither can we admit the solidity of his remarks upon the text of the Heavenly Witnesses, made with the view of accounting for the fact of its not having been appealed to by the orthodox; that the Sabellians, “by adhering to the very letter of the text, derived from it a stronger testimony in their favour than could easily have been fabricated.” What he says upon this subject in the text and notes from p. 538-543, we cannot but strongly recommend to his reconsideration.
But these are comparatively small imperfections not affecting the general result of the “INQUIRY,” by which, making his way good, in many nice points, with an ingenuity, ability, and judgment very highly to be applauded, Mr. Nolan has shewn that, in the RECEIVED TEXT, the Universal Church of Christ has, from the first age to the present time, been in possession of the genuine and authentic volume of the New Testament: and that the corrected, that is corrupted, Editions, have prevailed only partially, and for a time.
We trust that this Volume will command the attention of every scholar throughout the kingdom ; and that it will find its way into the foreign Universities, and be thoroughly scrutinized by the learned in them. To the Biblical inquirer, it will present not only a new and wide field of most curious and happy research, but a mine of the most valuable information : to the classical inquirer it will be a most interesting work, as it involves so many points, both with respect to manuscripts and editions, which to him must be highly important. Of a volume which displays so much labour in investigation, so much originality in deduction, and so much sound principle in design, we can in common justice say no less, than that whatever be the issue of the controversy which it has, we think very seasonably revived, it reflects honour on the age and nation in which it was produced.
Art. II. De la Littérature du midi de l'Europe. Par J.C.
L. Simonde de Sismondi, de l'Académie et de la Société des Arts de Genére, Correspondant de l'Académie royale des Sciences de Prusse, Membre honoraire de l'Université de Wilna, des Académies Italienne, des Georgofili, de Cagliari, de Pistoia, &c. 4 vols. 8vo. Paris. Treuttel and Würtz. 1813. THE author of the present volumes is already well known in the republic of letters. His production on the Italian Repub. lics very deservedly has acquired hini a reputation which we are sorry to own, the Littérature du midi de l'Europe is very far from sanctioning. This work, which ought to have been the
labour labour of years, both on account of the multiplicity and extent of its complicated subjects, betrays a hurry and a nonchalance, which could hardly be expected from such a man as our author. Extremely declamatory in his style M. Sismondi falls very short when a proper line is to be drawn between the literature of the different nations, and when the characteristic features of the ages, and the genius of the several writers is to be properly distinguished and expressed. On many occasions he talks of the first rate authors, and even speaks of, and classes their different productions, without having read them, and in general through. out the four volumes which now lie open before us, he displays a species of gêne and tameness, as if the very subject of his labour had no means to excite his enthusiasm, and sometimes even no allurements to awaken his interest. With feelings like these, it would have been wonderful indeed if M. Sismondi had been able to produce in his readers the interest he wants; and though occasionally we have found in the perusal of this work a burst of eloquence, which is certainly striking, very often in going through the details of the different subjects which he has imparted to his reader we have felt an apathy correspondent to that of his pen.
The fact is, that M. Sismondi is extremely deficient in point of reading on the subject he has been willing to treat. Consequently not being able to judge for bimself he has followed blindly the writers whom he has chosen for his guides, and has adopted all their sentiments, all their prejudices, and all their faults in analysing the different productions, of which he has been pleased to speak in his literature. For the same reason he very often, if not always, gives to his reader, not the reflexions he lias inade himself, for on many occasions he has not had an opportunity of making any at all, but he gives those which he knows to have been made by others: and for the very same reason in the whole course of his work we have not met with many ori. ginal thoughts which deserve to be mentioned with praise, though occasionally we have found some of an opposite nature.
It is true that the history of modern literature may be considered as a subject completely exhausted amongst the nations of Europe. They all possess in their own language classical works which will last with their very tongue; and to a writer, who undertakes to treat of them, very little more is left than to copy what has been written by Tiraboschi, Maffei, Muratori, Andres, Riccoboni, Ginguené, Arteaga, Walker, Warton, Les freres de St. Maure, Fontenelle, La Harpe, Schlegel, St. Palaye, without leaving out of the catalogue the Arabians, Alassa. kéri, and Moamad Aba Abdalla, the most ancient of them all. But in copying from all these historians a writer must avoid the faults which have been charged against all and each of them.
Hc He must speak of foreigners without prejudice, and of the writers of his own country without partiality; he must divest himself of all species of esprit du corps, in point of religion, or of politics. He must read and criticise what he reads without any undue regard to the nation, to the laws and religion of the writer whose works he peruses; and he must always direct his attention and his criticism to the main object of his research, the progressive developement of the human mind. When obliged to compare the manners and prejudices of past ages with the manners and opinions of our own, he ought to weigh well the merits of our manners and our opinions before he ventures to debase the one at the expence of the other. Though the philosophy of the vulgar, as a celebrated critic calls the preju. dices of a nation, should always be respected, a philosopher, (for a philosopher must he be who undertakes to follow the progress of human knowledge,) will know how to expose the prejudices of our ancestors without paying too great a deference to those of his age or of his nation.
It is thus alone that an author may hope to perform the great desideratum which still remains to be accomplished in regard to the history of the human mind, in which perhaps the only pro. duction which stands superior to all other productions of the same description is that of the Abbé Giovanni Audres, Dell origine progressi e stato attuale d'ogni letteratura, in seven quarto volumes. 1782.
In all these respects M. Sismondi has certainly failed. He has read very little, and has thought still less. He has raised in his mind a standard of perfection according to German rules and German prejudices, and according to this fantastic standard he weighs the merit of all the productions whether in poetry or prose, of which he has thought proper to speak in the work before us. Rather unfortunate in the choice of some of his guides, he has been still more so in leaving them often unconsulted just when they mostly deserved to be closely followed; and then instead of giving to his reader the result of his reading and of his thoughts, he has been pleased to favour the public with some unconnected, abstruse, and ill-timed theories. i It is true, that without a certain degree of enthusiasm, no man can pretend to success. The greatest masters of all ages, whose works form our admiration and delight, were all very par. tial to the subject of their studies, and some of them were so much so as to become unjust to others. Consequently wishing to inhance the value of their favorite pursuits, they drank deep, and laboured hard, and thus in endeavouring to persuade their reader to think as they did, they imparted to him a portion of that fire by which they themselves were animated. Indeed to
no other cause can we assign the success of the History of the Italian Republics, and the want of interest in la Littérature. M. Sismondi felt an interest in the former, and very little in this latter; and after all we should not bave the least hesitation to advise our author to lay aside, if not altogether, at least for a while, all thoughts of writing about the literature of inodern Europe, for which he seems very little calculated, and to give his attention to history, for which he certainly is highly qualified. The anpals of the different nations will point out to him several periods, which, like the Italian Republics, require the hand of a master, though, we own it with sorrow, the same reason perhaps which has till now prevented others from developing their events, may be found at this moment to act with the greatest force even against M. Sismondi, we mean the subjection of the press all over the Continent.
By these general reflexions we do not intend to deprive M. Sismondi of the credit which is still due to him, of having col.. lected under one point of view, with some few exceptions, the best criticisms and the greatest quantity of matter which laid scattered in many volumes and in many languages; of having joined together the liyks of the extensive chain, which apparently separate the productions of the different nations, but which in reality trace the progress of mankind towards civiliza. tion and learning; of having pointed out to his readers some of the best sources of information on the developement of the human mind, and all this in a clear and animated style, full of pathos and simplicity. On this account even the faults which M. Sismondi has committed, may be useful to his reader. They will excite his curiosity, and urge him to consult the classical productions which we have on this branch of modern literature; and for this reason we proceed to state the reflexions we have made in perusing the four volumes, de la Littérature du midi de l'Europe.
M. Sismondi has divided the whole literature of modern Europe in two classes. The first comprehends the literature of all nations who speak the Roman language, by which he means a language which has been formed by the corruption of the Latin, such as the French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, and the second embraces the literature of those nations who speak the Teutonic and the Sclavonian languages; that is, German, English, Poles and Russians. Of these latter he intends to give an account to the public at a future period. The present work, therefore, contains the history of the literature of the former nations, whom he has properly called, du midi de l'Europe. For the present we shall not press upon our readers any cri.