Billeder på siden

the same advanced state, as a perpetual memorial of this happy deliverance. A third reason has been given for this strange custom, which was first advanced by John Bernoulli. This celebrated mathematician discovered, that the choir of the cathedral of Basil declines somewhat from the eastern direction, and that the sun dial, which was placed upon the outside of the choir, by which the town clock was always regulated, partook of the same declination; a circumstance which occasioned a variation, from the true time, of above forty-five minutes.'

Whatever were the blemishes of the former government in Switzerland, the author affirms that the inhabitants in all of the cantons, even in those which were the most tyrannical, enjoyed a greater share of real liberty and happiness than was ever experienced under the government of any republic, either in antient or modern times. He attributes the late change in the government and manners of that once happy nation to the five following causes: 1. The revolution of Geneva in 1782. 2. The establishment of a number of societies for the purpose of diffusing literary knowlege. 3. The conduct of the government of Berne towards the inhabitants of the Pays de Vaud in 1791. 4. Dissensions between the Catholic and Protestant cantons. 5. The want of a proper military establishment in Switzerland, and the change of government in the neighbouring states; the terror of whose arms alone preserved the internal tranquillity of the Swiss cantons.

*Several years previous (says Mr. Wood) to the French revo lution, a number of societies were established in different parts of Switzerland for the laudable purpose of disseminating the knowledge of science and literature. Of these the most distinguished were at Berne, Lausanne, Basil, Zuric, and Lucerne. They were composed principally of the clergy and the sons of the patricians, and had in no respect any similarity to those meetings in Germany called. Illuminati; the latter being entirely unknown in Switzerland. They resembled more the reading societies in Britain, as each member paid an annual subscription for the use of a library, the public gazettes, and periodical publications; to which strangers were admitted gratis.

The French revolution, however, produced a quick change upon the useful and benevolent purposes of these institutions. The study of politics naturally succeeded to that of morality and physics. New schemes of liberty gradually came to engage the attention, and occupy the conversation of the members. Science and learning were blended with the metaphysical jargon of the Rights of Man; and the social harmony of the meetings was disturbed with the fanaticism and extravagance of the ignorant, the designing, and the ambitious, who abused mankind by means of their new principles, and courted perfections out of the order of nature,'

X 2



ART. X. Letters to William Wilberforce, Esq. M. P. on the Doctrine of Hereditary Depravity. By a Layman. 8vo. pp. 172. 39. sewed. Johnson. 1799.



HE position on which Mr. Wilberforce bottoms his "Practical View," viz. the Hereditary Depravity and complete moral inability of man, appeared to us not only so unscriptural, but so strange as preceding lamentations over vice and exhortations to virtue that we could not wonder if it should be attacked from various quarters*. Such a doctrine, if it could be established, must annihilate the notion of moral turpitude, and render ridiculous all declamations on the prevalence of irreligion. Indeed, Mr. Wilberforce's hypothesis, like the prominent doctrine of the antient sceptics, completely defeats itself. If man be "naturally incapable of thinking or doing what is right," the probability is that Mr. Wilberforce is wrong in thinking as he does; and thinking at all is pregnant with error, if not with danger. How strange it is that, because vice exists in the human character, it should be depicted by a man of genius, ta lents, and amiability, as one entire mass of vice," even to the very core!" and that he should not discriminate between the mixed human character and the absolute demon! When the time shall come, in which he will candidly and ingenuously review this doctrine with which his mind (as well as ours) was imbued in early youth, he will put it away, as we have done, with the childish things that are no longer entitled to estimation.

The Lay-author of the present well-written and well argued pamphlet is of this opinion. He flatters himself with the hope of convincing Mr. Wilberforce of his error; and, if accurate statements, clear views of scripture, and sound unsophisticated argument, be capable of producing this effect, we may venture to predict his success. We hope that not only Mr. W., but every person disposed to cherish his sentiments on the subject in question, will give this pamphlet an attentive perusal. In a moral and religious view, it is of infinite importance that the point should be settled. The doctrine, as expressed in the Assembly's Catechism, which Mr. W. may have learnt when a child, is shocking in the extreme; and its legitimate inferences it would be almost blasphemy to record. It represents the Great and Adorable Fountain of Love as unamiable; it must prevent in the great mass of mankind, when they reflect, all sentiments of religious gratitude; and it makes our Blessed Saviour's general addresses, such as "come unto me all ye that labour," &c. vain and fruitless declamation.

*An account of Mr. Wilberforce's work cccurs in our xxind vol. N. S. p. 241.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A person,' he says, unacquainted with artificial theology, without wishing to palliate the frailties and imperfection of human nature, will remind you, that there is a large space between absolute perfection of character, and radical depravity; and that a large diversity of mixed characters may be formed within that space : and he will again demand, what proofs have you that it is inconsistent with the divine perfections to create beings capable of this diversity? If you say that every thing which comes from God must be perfect, he will require an explanation. He will ask, do you mean to preclude the Deity from the creation of any beings, who are not perfect in knowlege, disposition, and felicity?-without which there must be occasional crimes of ignorance, of depraved wills, and some share of misery; if so, you presume to limit his creative powers to beings perfect, like himself. If this position be disavowed, it will necessarily follow, that there must be some kind and degree of imperfection in the creation of God. And this being admitted, he will again ask, how can you prove that the degree of imperfection and depravity observable in human nature, exceeds that which it is within the limits of the divine attributes to admit? He will further suggest the possibility, that, in the wide empire of the universe, an infinite diversity of methods may, in the plenitude of infinite wisdom, be rendered conducive to the same issue; the promotion of all possible happiness. He may suppose it to be the divine plan, in our system, to -- form beings that shall be placed at a great distance from complete felicity, but with endowments that shall render felicity attainable; to create in ignorance, but to furnish with powers and means of acquiring knowlege; in weakness, both individually and collectively, but with the capacity of acquiring personal and combined strength:

[ocr errors]

By the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, man is represented as a being prone indeed to vice, but capable of virtue; as labouring under some moral disease, but susceptible of a cure. On this ground, the system of mercy for his amelioration is worthy of God, and ought to be a subject of grati tude for man; on this ground, there is something rational in Mr. W.'s practical exhortations: but on that of natural and hereditary depravity, it is not only improper to invite man to religion, and unreasonable to expect it of him, but the "Judge of all the Earth could not do right," (which we are assured he will do,) were he to punish man for the want of it.

[ocr errors]

So pressed and surrounded is this doctrine by heavy and insuperable objections, that it is absolutely impossible for it to maintain any hold on an enlightened mind, seriously bent on the contemplation of it. The Layman' has in various ways, we may say, demonstrated it to be an untenable position. We have not space for fully analyzing his Letters, and for quoting those passages which we marked during perusal as meriting selection: but the following will evince his clear and powerful mode of reasoning, and will shew that our praise is not unmerited:

to implant a principle of self-love, which though innocent in its na. ture, may prove inordinate and pernicious, unless it be under the controul of higher principles, with which our natures are likewise en dowed to inflict sufferings, but to give them a salutary tendency, so that they may be productive of greater good than could have been promoted without them. He will admit that such a plan may not Correspond with our wishes; and that our impatience to enjoy happiness, will induce us to imagine that it is not the best possible: but you will surely admit, Sir, that it is infinitely more consonant with our ideas of a wise and perfect Governor, than plunging a whole race into endless misery at once, without crimes of their own, without means of reforming their native depravity, or hopes of escape!

Que singular advantage attends the above hypothesis: it is not necessary that it should be true, in order to invalidate yours. If there be no proofs that it is contrary to Scripture, that it is irrational, or that it is peculiarly derogatory to the divine perfections, it has infinitely the advantage. It may be false, and yet confute your bold assertion- that there is no other way of explaining the phænomena of human depravity, than the one you have adopted: it may be false, and yet afford a more pertinent and more honourable solution of the difficulty, until the discovery of a better shall produce still greater satisfaction to the impatient mind.

If the adoption of this should commit too great a violence upon prejudices and habits that have been long formed, there is another hypothesis which approaches nearer to your own, and ought to have a decided preference: and that is the antient doctrine of Manes, from which yours is manifestly derived, and of which it may be justly deemed a corruption. The Manechean system completely exculpates Deity from being the author of evil, and the intentional cause of misery. The Creator is deprived by it of no other attribute than that of infinite power, which is no impeachment of his moral character. Since his designs and plans may yet be just, wise, and good, the grand respectability of character still remains, and the incessant exertions of his power, to the destruction of misery which he did not voluntarily permit, still demand the universal tribute of love and gratitude. Their doctrine further administers this consolation: it admits that the good Being will finally become triumphant over the malignant Spirit; and that order, virtue, happiness, shall, at some future period, be diffused through the universe. Who, Sir, that has it in his choice, would not prefer reposing his mind upon an error which promises such a desirable issue, rather than suffer it to be tossed, like the fallen angels in Milton, upon the waves and surges of eternal misery, to which your system incessantly directs our thoughts.'

Having thus reasoned with you to the utmost extent of the subjeet, we might justly extol our courtesy in condescending to argue with persons whose hypothesis deprives them of the right. For what evidence can those produce, that they are qualified to argue upon the subject, whose leading principle it is that the fall of Adam has impaired our intellects, and blinded our judgements, to such a degree, that we are not able in any one instance, to think or to act aright? How can they who maintain the depravity of human reason convince


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

us that every thing they urge in defence of their system does not proceed from that very perversion of intellect which they confess to have seized the whole human race??

At the conclusion of this pamphlet, the writer says:

It is well known that many of our public teachers laugh in their sleeves, and some of these sleeves, they say, are of lawn,-at those doctrines which they inculcate from the pulpit with a pretended earpestness.'

On a subject of such importance, we cannot approve of sarcastic insinuations and unsupported accusations. It is to be hoped that such hypocrisy does not prevail: but, if it does, it is earnestly to be desired that it should be exposed and reprobated. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh" but the mouth should not speak when the heart doth not abound.

ART. XI. Dr. Hunter's Translation of Sonnini's Travels in Egypt, [Art. concluded from p. 128.]


HE third volume of this work contains an account of the author's journey into Upper Egypt; or that part which lies south of Cairo. It was his original intention to penetrate into Abyssinia; and to emulate the successful attempt of our countryman Bruce to explore that immense tract, which yet remains the most unknown of the habitable globe. The delays and difficulties which threatened the design of passing to Abyssinia by the route of Suez, the Red Sea, and Ethiopia, determined M. Sonnini to prefer the way of Upper Egypt; though the contest betweet Ismael Bey and Mourat, not being yet finally extinguished in the remote parts of the country, left even this road exposed to many dangers. Being arrived at Sicut, an opportunity of reaching Abyssinia occurred, of which he endeavoured to profit. A caravan of negroes was about to depart for Sennaar the capital of Nubia, whence it would have been easy to reach Abyssinia. In this caravan, therefore, he designed to travel; and his dispositions for the journey had been made, when the discovery of a plot to rob and massacre him and his party compelled him, for that time, to renounce his resolution. A subsequent attempt to reach the coasts of the Red Sea was equally unsuccessful, and from the same cause, viz.. the treachery of those with whom he was to travel; which was fortunately discovered in sufficient time to prevent its execution. These repeated miscarriages obliged him finally to abandon the idea of penetrating beyond the limits of Upper Egypt; and in fact he went no higher than Luxor, the seat of X 4



« ForrigeFortsæt »