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were divided into two parties. The one preferred the Episcopalian form of Church government, together with the liturgy, rites, and ceremonies of what is now denominated the Church of England. And the other adopted a more simple mode of discipline and worship, which they apprehended to be most agreeable to the nature of the Christian dispensation, and the practice of the early ages, and which had been introduced for a considerable time in the reformed churches in Switzerland.
“In 1559, Queen Elizabeth having declared in favour of the former, it became the established religion. Hence arose the distinction between the Episcopalians and the Dissenters. And the name of Puritans, by which the Dissenters were at that time generally known and distinguished, though sometimes applied to them by way of reproach, derived its origin from their holy and exemplary lives. After the restoration of Charles II. and in the year 1662, the Act of Uniformity was passed, which required all officiating ministers to subscribe articles of faith, and to declare their unfeigned assent and consent to every thing therein contained. On this occasion, more than two thousand conscientious clergymen, who scrupled to comply with this requisition, resigned their livings, and formed a large and respectable acquisition to the general body of Dissenters, founding, also, in many places, new and flourishing societies. Honourable testimonies were borne to their virtues by several dignitaries of the National Church. Bishop Burnet remarks, that many of them were distinguished by their abilities and their zeal. And the great Mr. Locke, speaking of the ministers ejected in 1662, observes, Bartholomew-day was fatal to our Church and religion, in throwing out a great many worthy, learned, pious, and orthodox divines, who could not comply with some things in the Act of Uniformity.' A number of the present Non-conformists are descended from families of great respectability of character; and most of them can boast of some ancestors, who were eminent examples, and, perhaps, distinguished patrons of religion in the day in which they lived"-(p. 132, 133).
Comparative state of religion among the Dissenters of the former, and of the present age. "Limited as the sphere of our observation is, I think we may justly remark, that some individuals may be found, in all respects equal to the Puritans, and who would act as they did, in similar circumstances.
"It may also be observed, that many, in the present day, entertain juster views of religion than their ancestors, the original text of Scripture having, since their time, been more minutely investigated, more fully illustrated, and better understood; and that, in some instances, the modern Dissenters excel them in candour towards persons of different sentiments, and in the support of benevolent institutions for the instruction of the young and ignorant, and for the retreat of indigence and affliction. But whether the general body of Non-conformists do not fall short of the devotional spirit of their ancestors in some very important respects, deserves our serious consideration" (p. 136, 137).
(To be Continued.)
The Course of Time: a Poem, in Ten Books. By Robert Pollock, A. M.-Eighth Edition.-p. 394.*
THE work before us, is a religious poem, founded on the popular system of religion; a kind of imitation of Milton's Paradise Lost, but possessing little of its beauty and sublimity. The poet commences, by invoking the "Eternal Spirit"-the "God of truth," to "inspire his song" and "unscale his eye." Yet, it is certain, that, after all, he writes from imagination, as all poets, that are not prophets, do. We fancy he describes himself in the following lines; and we cannot forbear adding, that, in one particular, the description is but too accurate:
"The youth of great religious soul who sat,
In reverie extravagant now wrapped,
With mighty energy, not uninspired.”—(p. 242.)
Now, we very much doubt, whether the hallowed subjects of religion ought to be made the ground of a poem of imagination, much less of reverie extravagant. For the Sacred Scriptures were not given us for the exercise
* This Review was written under the impression, that no other on the same work had appeared in any of the Unitarian Periodicals. the reader will find one, containing a fine eulogium on the poem, in the Monthly Repository for 1828, New Series, Vol. ii. p. 380-383.
of the flights of fancy, but that "the man of God might be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works," and made "wise unto salvation." The simplicity of the Gospel, ought by all means to be preserved; and poetical imagery, however rich and grand, can never atone for the loss of it. And for this reason, it may be questionable, whether Milton's Paradise Lost, beautiful as it is, has not done more harm in the Christian world, than it has done good. As an instance, take the popular doctrine of the existence of the Devil, and compare it with Paradise Lost, and the account of the fall in Genesis. For our own parts, we have no hesitation in saying, that the prevalence of its belief may be more easily traced to the poem, than to the Sacred History. We would not be thought to be dead to poetical harmony, or insensible to the impression of poetical beauty; but we have so great a veneration for the Scriptures, and prize so highly the charter of our immortal hopes, that we would not, for all the pleasure that poetry can inspire, have the imagination sport with the things belonging to our everlasting peace. It may be said, that "the prophets were poets, and, therefore, poetical writing is not injurious to the interests of religious truth." When poets are prophets again, they may be allowed, and allowed with safety, to give expression to their holy musings, in the beautiful and sublime language of poetical imagery; but not till then. Moreover, the sincere Christian, who would " prove all things, that he may hold fast that which is good," and who would have his mind illumined with the true light of the Gospel, will be careful, in his perusal of works of imagination, that he be not "beguiled from the simplicity that is in Christ;" and that he distinguish, as accurately as possible, between the sober truths of Christianity, and the fanciful creations of " extravagant reverie."
The plan of the poem, if we have rightly understood it, is soon told. An inhabitant of earth is summoned from this sublunary scene. In his devious flight from this "vale of tears," he stops by the way at the infernal regions, which he enters, not to suffer the pains of purgatory, but to behold the horrors of those dismal abodes; at least (judging from his subsequent relation) there is no other apparent object that we can divine in such a visit. After satisfying his curiosity with scenes of misery (too horrible to be described), he proceeds onward to his destination.
When arrived at the haven of eternal rest, he is welcomed as "The New-arrived," and is introduced to the bard of the celestial regions, who strikes his lyre, and unfolds to him "The Course of Time."
The new-arrived gets to heaven, but is entirely ignorant of the Gospel. The reason, we are led to conclude, is, that "he comes from the arctic regions" (p. 27), where, we suppose (for we are not informed), the sound of the Gospel never reached his ears. Nevertheless, " having not the law, he was a law unto himself;" and obeying this "law written in the heart," "virtue in him was rife;" and fully equipped" "for heaven" (p. 9), he entered its blessed abodes amidst the greetings of the celestial inhabitants. We are glad to see this liberal and truly Christian doctrine, thus freely admitted: though we know not how any one, at all acquainted with the Scriptures, could deny it for a moment.
We have perused the work with mingled emotions of pleasure and pain. Our eye has passed over many beautiful passages; but it has also often shrunk with dread, from the gloomy representations which are given of the Divine Being. Oh in what terrific colours is the Almighty portrayed! It is impossible to love such a Being; for it is impossible to love vindictiveness. As we have proceeded, we have repeatedly asked ourselves, "Where is that gracious Father, whom the Saviour taught in those gentle accents which fell from his lips?" But we have asked in vain; for this benignant Parent is no where to be found in "The Course of Time." And we have again been confirmed in our long, deliberately settled opinion, that what is popularly called Orthodoxy, is utterly inconsistent with the Fatherly character of God. And on this account, we deeply regret, that a work like the present, which blazons forth a vindictive God, should have been so generally and so welcomely received, as to arrive at the eighth edition. We say, we deeply regret this; but we have consolation with our regret. For we can safely leave the truth of God, to the care of God; and we feel firmly persuaded, that it will finally emerge from the corruptions by which it is now surrounded, and present itself to the world pure as that holy Being, from whom it originally emanated. We look forward to this glorious period with confidence-with joy, which nothing can suppress, In the meantime, we will use our diligence to accelerate
its approach, and will lift up our voice against any work, that shall come under our observation, which shall ascribe vindictiveness to the universal Father. This charge we bring against the work before us; and in the course of our quotations, we shall establish it by the most abundant proof. Speaking of the Divine Record of the deeds of men, the poet says,
"As if engraven with pen of iron grain,
And laid in flinty rock, they stand unchanged,
If bad, in letters of vindictive fire;
God may forgive, but cannot blot them out"-(p. 149, 150). We read these lines with a kind of shuddering horror. For the wicked, there is nothing in reserve but vindictive punishment; and for the righteous penitent, there is not complete forgiveness; for God, even God himself, cannot blot out their sins. Every evil deed they commit, says our author, "for ever" remains
Unnatural, and loathly moral spot"-(p. 151).
We know it is but too common an expression with frail and erring mortals, "I can forgive, but I can never forget it." And this is the sentiment of our poet, in the above passage this is the character that he would ascribe to our heavenly Father! We prefer to our author's doctrine, the following declarations, from a Book which we hold in much greater veneration than "The Course of Time."
"Why will ye die? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God." Ezek. xviii. 31, 32. "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins." Isa. xliv. 22. pent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." Acts iii. 19.
The betrayer of innocence, at the last great day, "pierced with perdition," reads
"His sentence burning with vindictive fire”—(p. 292). And describing the punishment of Satan, our author
"and, now and then, the bolts
Of Zion's King, vindictive, smote his soul
With fiery wo, to blast his proud designs"-(p. 355, 356). There is a predilection in the writer, to dwell on terrific subjects; and frequently have we been compelled to