Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

concerns of Eternity to Chance.-VI. On Virtue, unconnected withi Piety.–VII. On Splendid Virtue, unconnected with Piety.-VIII. On Benevolence, unconnected with Piety.-IX. On Devotion merely external.—X. On a mere Assent to the Articles of the Christian Faith.-XI. On Professing Repentance at the close of Life.-XII. On external Reformation. - XIII. On Occasional and Transient Professions of Piety.--XIV. On Artificial Substitutes for Piety. -XV. On Pretensions to Piety, unconnected with Virtue.—XVI. On the different degrees of Wickedness.—XVII. On Infidelity.—XVIII. On the Culpability of Error in Religion.--XIX. On the Nature of True Piety.-XX. On the Imperfections of the truly Pious.--XXI. On the Peculiar Disadvantages under which some labour with regard to Piety.—XXII. On the Difficulties attending the Study of the Scriptures. --XXIII. On the Religious Differences among the truly Pious. -XXIV. On the Number of the Irreligious. -XXV. On the Influence of Fashion in Religion.-XXVI. On the Compatibleness of Piety with Intellectual Improvement.-XXVII. On the Compatibleness of Piety with active Life.-XXVIII. On the Compatibleness of Piety with Pleasure.-XXIX. On the Compatibleness of Piety with different Circumstances and Ranks in Life --XXX. On the different Kinds and Degrees of Piety.—XXXI. On the Peculiar Circumstances and Number of the Pious.--XXXII. On the Peculiar Happiness of the Pious.'

Vol. II. Essay XXXIII.--On the Mode and Means of becoming Pious.-XXXIV. On the Difficulties attending the Commencement of Piety.--XXXV. On the Evidence of true Piety in ourselves.XXXVI. On the Evidence of real Piety in others.--XXXVII. On the ordinary Sources of Temptation.-XXXVIII. On the Temptations of Evil Spirits.--XXXIX. On the Uses of Temptation.-XL. On the Guilt of Yielding to Temptation.-XLI. On the

Means of Overcoming Temptation.--XLII. On the Declension and Revival of Piety.

-XLIII. On the Preservation and Improvement of Piety-XLIV. On Presumption in Religion.-XLV. On Religious Despondency. XLVL On Improvement in the Worship and Service of the Deity.XLVII. On Improvement in Christian Principles.-XLVIII. On Improvement in Christian Obedience.-XLIX. On Religious Conversation.-L. On Austerity.-LI. On Frivolity and the Love of the World.-LII. On the Testimony of a Good Conscience.-LIII. On Reputation.-LIV. On Bigotry.-LV, On Liberality of Sentiment.-LVI. On Efforts for Promoting Benevolence and Piety.-LVII. On the Connexion between Piety and Patriotism.-LVIII. On Religious Abstraction.-LIX. On Weariness of Life.-LX. On the Dread of Death.APPENDIX. On the Importance of Learning to the Christian Ministry.'

The Author's particular design, which he shall explain for himself, has led him, in abstaining from certain vulgarized termos and modes of expression, to adopt a peripbrastic dialect which will give his less discriminating reader occasion to call him (as we have already hinted) an abstruse writer. And this impression will, perbaps, be strengthened by a rather cumbrous involution

and prolixity of style, and by a retrospective relation of sentences in a paragraph, at a greater remove from each other than is agreeable to the intellectual habits of ordinary readers. But, while we grant that Mr. Burnside is not always perspicuous, we can assure such readers, that they will find, upon exercising a closer attention, that he is never chargeable with the obscurity which results either from a want of meaning, or from the affectation of depth. Indeed, we may safely atlirm, that he is abso-' lutely free from every kind of pretence or affectation. And as to bis abstruseness, it is an abstruseness of the most soluble kind ; being, for the most part, nothing more than a little mannerism in the phraseology, and such as rarely belongs to the thought itself.

• It is my design to prove the reasonableness and importance of true piety, from the principles most generally acknowledged by mankind, and which have usually the strongest influence on the human mind and conduct. I propose to show, that the same maxims which govern men, for the most part, in the affairs of this life, will, on a further application, infallibly lead them to acknowledge the propriety of that disposition and conduct relative to the life to come, for which I contend.' On this account, though the Scriptures are frequently referred to in the course of the work, yet it is more for the purpose of confirming the dictates of reason, than of prescribing to it; and sometimes, merely with a view to ascertain sentiments and facts recorded by certain writers whom all must allow to be very ancient, and whose authority ought at least to have weight with all who admit that they were divinely inspired. I have brought forward scarcely any of the assertions peculiar to that most extraordinary book, without appealing to reason on the subject; and though in some cases the truih of the facts necessarily rests entirely on the authority of the Bible, yet the introduction and application of them will not be considered as a deviation from my plan, when it is recollected, that the arguments for receiving the Scriptures themselves as a divine revelation, are glanced at in the course of this performance. I confess, however, not only freely, but with joy and gratitude to their Glorious Author, that to them I am indebted for the far greater part of those important ideas, which seem to flow entirely from reason.'

• The first four are preliminary; for without the establishment of the positions which they contain, religion could have neither importance nor even existence. In a considerable nnmber of those that follow, my object is to explode the false ideas of piety, which are too prevalent in the world. The next class of them contains a reply to the many plausible excuses that are made for the want of personal religion. Afterwards, directions and encouragements are given to those who are solicitous concerning their eternal welfare. The concluding ones are addressed to the truly pious, according to the various relations and circumstances in which they may be placed.' The elevated purity of intention which is every where apparent

in these volumes, is well announced in the concluding paragraph of the Introduction.

• Brethren of mankind ! however inferior I feel myself to multitudes of you in a variety of important respects, I am in one respect, at least, your equal—as a fellow-traveller with you to eternity. Since my discourse will only relate to the right road, and to the momentous issue of the journey, I hope I shall not be deemed impertinent, if I sometimes speak to those who are near me, and sometimes call to those at a distance, whether behind or before. When I contemplate the glories of that Being on whom their fates as well as my own depend, as also the glories of his Son, emphatically styled “ the Desire of all nations,” as being the grand and only medium of ultimate safety and felicity to man, I feel particularly anxious to forget every circumstance attending my companions in the way, except such as relate to the present design. If the Divine Spirit does but graciously vouchsafe to make me a partaker of that religion which I am recommending to my fellow mortals, to assist me in recommending it, and to render that recommendation effectual with those who may happen to be my readers, I shall then indeed have the greatest reason for joy and thankfulness, as having, under God, accomplished the grand object of my exertions and my prayers.'

Mr. Burnside imperceptibly wins the attention of his reader in treating the most hackneyed topics, by an air of originality, resulting, as it seems to us, from the abstracted simplicity of his own character: in passages where nothing either new or profound can be traced, the reader finds that the whisper of modest wisdom has smitten the ear with the impression of novelty. The Author's tranquil tone seems to charm the hurry of the thoughts ; and his moderated and contemplative air inspires a wish to be counselled by the humble sage, with whom, evidently, are no harsh rebukes; who, if austere in bis habits, is indulgent in his opinions, and who pretends to reveal no other mysteries than those which transpire when the immortal spirit consents to commune with herself

. In truth, baving ourselves no personal knowledge of the Author, he has perpetually presented himself to our imagination in the character of the mild hermit, to whose cell the prodigal bends his steps in the sober hour when conscience prevails against passion. It is, however, sufficiently apparent, that the Author, though probably himself but lightly entangled with worldly ties, bas long lived among men,- that he is no novice, or purblind contemplatist: he writes for those with whom he has actually conversed; and it is the folly, the perversity, the infatuation which he has seen, and studied, and reproved, that he now seeks to convict and reform.

In the first four Essays, Mr. Burnside seems at home amid the objects which bave imparted its most characteristic colouring to his own miod. He aims in these preliminary Essays to introduce, as it were afresh, into his reader's thoughts, the bound

was

[ocr errors]

less ideas of a future life. The object of the first Essay is to demand the attention of the inconsiderate reader.

· The idea of never losing life in one respect, and of recovering it in another, the proofs of which we have been collecting and stating, cannot in itself be otherwise than uncommonly pleasing. Who that has once tasted the sweets of life, and experienced its advantages, unless incapable of reflection, can avoid rejoicing, that when he ceases to live in this world, he will exercise the vital functions in another ? Annihilation is indeed abhorred by every one who has not reason to dread something worse than the mere loss of being, and who is not reconciled to the loss of life by its preferableness to the endurance of misery. The brute is not made unhappy during life, because it cannot reflect on the loss it will sustain at death: it is reduced to a state of nonexistence without the pain of foreseeing it. But we know the value of the good we enjoy, and having the loss of it in prospect also, should, in ordinary circumstances, certainly feel our present enjoyments imbittered, without the consolatory fact we have been prov, ing-provided we had nothing to apprehend in the life to come that

worse than nonexistence itself. It is delightful to think, that death is not the termination, but the introduction to a different state of being-where, with powers differently modified, the stranger will find himself in a different world, amidst objècts and incidents entirely different. The prospect of a situation so completely novel may well be supposed to wind up human curiosity to the highest pitch-es.., pecially if there is a hope that the future condition will not only not be worse than the present, but that it will be greatly improved, and that not only successive years, but successive ages, will never bring any one, after his arrival, nearer to death a second time, than he was when he first entered that wonderful state, much less to an utter ex• tinction of being.'

• The points to which our attention should be directed are evidently these: Is there evil as well as good in the world to come? If any, of what kind? To what extent? And whether, if any one of the human race, on his arrival, should have the tremendous misfortune to endure it, he stands any chance of ever being delivered from it ? What is the nature, as well as the extent and duration, of the good that exists there? Is it such as will be agreeable to the stranger? Should it strike him as disagreeable to his present taste, and there be no choice allowed him of any other, are there or are there not any means by which his taste may be rendered conformable? Should he be so unhappy as to be at variance with the government there, and should he be exposed, on his coming thither, to imprisonment and to torture, is there any expedient by which that difference may be compromised, before he leaves the present world?

• This is not the place for answering the inquiries just enumerated, Of their infinite moment, there can be no doubt, and as little, I should think, of the importance of an early, serious, and patient investigation, till the mind is able to come to a satisfactory conclusion. They include propositions, the truth or falsehood of which cannot be dis.

[ocr errors]

cerned by intuition. As they are not beyond the capacity of the most ignorant and illiterate to examine, so neither are they so obvious as not to claim the most diligent study of the greatest scholar, and the most profound philosopher. They are of equal consequence to both sexes, and to all people, whatever may be their age, their birth, quality, or circumstances, and in whatsoever part of the world they may happen to live. In forming his decision, no one can derive se. curity from the number and quality of his associates, nor suffer detriment from the number and quality of his opponents. This is a business in which no relation, however near, no friend, however dear, can interfere with effect. The minister of religion cannot answer for his congregation, nor the magistrate, the legislature, or the sovereign himself, for the people. The children of men often appear to die singly; but even should they enter the other world in groups, their cases will be considered separately. “ Every one of us shall give account of himself unto God."

• What a mean and wretched figure does he make in the view of his own mind, who, to avoid alarm and difficulty, will not look his situation in the face! How precarious must be his peace-how tremen. dous must be his end! Is it thus, then, that the prospect of renew, ed, of endless being, in itself the noblest basis of human hope and joy, becomes to mortals the principal cause of gloom, of terror, and distress? Who can but lament the strong, the extensive prevalence of folly and wickedness? Happily it is not universal. There are not a few of different ages, countries, and denominations, who with reason look forward to the future life as the chief good, and to whom it is the great purifier and gladner of the present. Vol. I. pp. 11-19.

We are not in the present case attempting a regular analysis, but shall merely present such detached passages as seem the most fairly characteristic of the Author's manner.

• I proceed to a particular on the sublime topic under discussion, the (nature of the heavenly state,) in which no one can feel interested, except a person of real piety, but which every one of this description must view as the principal ingredient in celestial felicity. According to the Scriptures, the Deity, in the heavenly world, is not, as here, beheld through the circuitous, obscure, and unsatisfactory medium of

faith, but by something analogous to what we call “ sight," and “ face to face.” What an addition must thence arise to the pleasure and improvement afforded by devotion! The spirit of religion, too, is now no longer counteracted by inferior or criminal affections, so as to mar enjoyment, if not to produce shame and fear in divine worship. The apprehensions, griefs, and desires, which agitated the mind in this world, having given way to perfect security and fulness of joy,” petitions are converted into thanksgivings, and complaints into praises. How can the happy spirit feel otherwise than affected in the strongest manner by admiration, gratitude, and joy, when he possesses a bright and enlarged view of what he once had only a glimpse-the divine glory! when the afflictive dispensations of Provi. dence on earth are accounted for to his satisfaction, and when all be

« НазадПродовжити »