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much at fault: the leprosy cleaves principally to the poets, who, therefore, require the greater vigilance. Of the poets, however, the more vicious, with the exception of Ovid, are not read in our great schools. The batteries of heathenism are masked. The history, the epic poetry, the ethics, and the biography of the ancients, which have too generally been thought safe territory, are full of peril, and most to be feared, as the sources of a spirit wholly anti-Christian. It is well known that Homer was the Bible of Alexander. Day and night the blood-stained pages of the Iliad lay open before him; and that ignorant, obstinate madman, Charles XII., was, in turn, intoxicated with the history of Alexander ; while the principal human butchers, of more modern times, in addition to Homer, are known to have made manuals of the martial rhapsodies of Ossian, and the elegant Commentaries of Cæsar.
These are the sources from which the hearts of heroes have been filled with infernal fire! Even at this late period of the Christian era, the spirit of European courts and senates is emphatically the spirit of Greece and Rome. The spirit of the mass of modern literature is the same. It is far more allied to the Classics than to the Prophets and Apostles. It is, in truth, the atheistic, the idolatrous, the unchanged, and- unless by Christianity—the unchangeable spirit of the ancients, clothed in the attire of other tongues. It is the fierce flame which has prevailed in colleges; and which, unextinguished by the “ waters of life,” in passing through our Halls of Theology, has found its way into nearly all the pulpits of Christendom ; which, with few exceptions, have been for centuries enlisted in the service of human slaughter!
Great divines have aspired to the honour of being editors and expositors of Homer, the poet of the mammoths of murder! Yes, and even the gentlest spirits of our race, men whose sensibility has been such that they have
renounced the friendship of a man who could needlessly “trample upon a worm,” have devoted the finest talents, and the best portion of life, to the translation of the Iliad! Surely the conduct of the amiable Cowper, in this matter, was one of the greatest anomalies of letters. Nothing, perhaps, so strikingly exemplifies the intoxicating and infatuating and bewildering character of the Homeric poetry. A full half of the Iliad is devoted to the description of battles. Battles, then, were the spectacles on which the Bard of Olney, the poet of Truth, Hope, and Charity, delighted to dwell ! How strange, that the soul of this trembling type of all that was sweet, gentle, and humane, could exult with rapture at such feats as the following !
“ The fierce coursers, as the chariot rolls,
Tread down whole ranks, and crush out heroes' souls !
Poor Cowper, at once the poet of pity, and the object of it, in the elaborate preface to his translation, utters not a word in reprobation of war, not a breath of regret that the powers of the mighty Greek were not bestowed on a worthier theme! It thus concludes : “ I purposely decline all declamation on the merits of Homer. He has been the wonder of all countries that his works have ever reached,—even deified by the greatest names of antiquity,--and in some places actually worshipped! And, to say truth, were it possible that mere man could entitle himself, by pre-emninence of any kind, to divine honours, Homer's astonishing powers seem to have given him the best pretensions. And now I have only to regret that my pleasant work is ended. To the illustrious Greek I owe the smooth
and easy flight of many thousand hours. He has been my companion at home and abroad, in the study, in the garden, and in the field ; and no measure of success, let my labours succeed as they may, will ever compensate to me the loss of the innocent luxury that I have enjoyed, as a translator of Homer.”—Such a tribute from such a man supplies a proof, which it were difficult to strengthen, of the overwhelming, bewitching fascination of this great poet.
If Cowper was thus subdued by the mighty spell, is it a marvel that the whole world should have fallen before it ?
If such, then, is the power of the adversary, and such the peril of intellectual prostration, it surely becomes us to inquire into the best means of resistance. This question has occupied the minds of some of our ablest writers. Our public-spirited and gifted friend, Dr. Thomson, of Coldstream, has done excellent service to the church of Christ by his very judicious remarks in his “ Comparative View of the English and Scotch Dissenters." He suggests that every purpose might be answered by selections from the Latin and Greek classics. John Foster, in his immortal “ Essay on the Aversion of Men of Taste to Evangelical Religion," has given expression to a multitude of profound, accurate, and valuable conceptions conce
cerning the spirit and character of classic literature, concerning the perils attendant on the comprehensive and ardent study of it, setting forth, at the same time, what he considers to be the only method of counteracting its direful tendencies to engender a spirit diametrically opposite to the spirit of Christ.
“ With respect,” says he, “to religious parents and preceptors, whose children and pupils are to receive that liberal education which must inevitably include the study of these great works, it will be for them to accompany the youthful readers throughout with an effort to show them, in the most pointed manner, the inconsistency of many of the
sentiments, both with moral rectitude in general, and with the special dictates of Christianity. And in order to give the requisite force to these dictates, it will be an important duty to illustrate to them the amiable tendency, and to prove the awful authority, of this dispensation of religion. This careful effort will often but very partially prevent the mischief ; but it seems to be all that can be done.”
The existence of the passage just cited had entirely slipped from my memory or escaped my notice, till my own views, in the present letter, had been thought out ; and it was with not a little satisfaction, that, on turning to Mr. Foster for another object, I stumbled upon it, and found my general principle supported by so great an authority. Dr. Thomson's view
bene. ficially carried out, to a great extent, in elementary tuition ; but it is incompatible with that profound and general scholarship, to which the study of the great classical works, without abridgment, is indispensable. Four things deserve consideration as preventive mea
First, the course suggested by Mr. Foster on the part of parents and preceptors. In this way, I think, much might be attempted, and much accomplished. Classic studies might thus be conducted so as to minister equally to delight and to utility. It might, in competent hands, be rendered in the highest degree conducive to the interests of instruction, of edification, and even of devotion. This plan might be easily adopted in all courses of elementary tuition, whether in private or in public schools. The only difficulty to be apprehended is, that which would arise from the moral and intellectual incapacities of many of the parties on whom the success would depend.
Second, a compact, elaborate, and evangelical treatise upon the question, to be used in all the upper forms of classical schools, is a desideratum in education. In
this way the antidote would be administered contemporaneously with the poison.
Third, appropriate college exercises in the Latin and Greek classes, both junior and senior. This would open up a wide field of remark, inquiry, and discussion. To those tutors and professors who will adventure on this unexplored ocean, a region richer than that which was opened up by De Gama will present itself; a world more extended and glorious than that which rewarded the toils and perils of Columbus will at length appear.
These exercises would embrace the entire theology and ethics of the learned tongues—they would embrace examinations of the moral characters both of authors and of their works—they would exhibit comparative views of the morality of the great subjects both of heathen poetry and history—and they would consist occasionally in deinonstrations, that great heroes were not great men. They would very largely consist in comparisons of the classic and scriptural accounts of the Godhead, of human nature, of Providence, of prophecy, of sacrifice, of redemption, of philosophic virtue, and Christian holiness--of patriotism and philanthropy, of true glory and a future state. The inquiry and effort necessary in the preparation of such exercises, the reading and discussion of them, after the customary manner, in the class rooms, and the remarks and criticisms issuing from the professors' chairs, would tend to fix deeply and indelibly upon the inind both the importance and the principles of the subject, and to produce results at once beneficial and lasting.
Fourth, the Latin and Greek professors might prepare a course of monthly lectures, based upon the great authors in their respective tongues. These lectures would forin the proper basis of written exercises, as well as of viva voce examinations. This subject might also with great propriety form one of the annual prize