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attempt to dive into the method by which they are to be carried into effect; and "thus out of all the good which there is in the revelation of creation and providence, it were easy to escape." Thus, for example, as it respects creation. It is stated in Scripture that God created man of the dust of the earth, and that he formed Eve of a rib from Adam's side. This, he justly remarks, as it stands in the divine word, is a sublime lesson of God's power and our humble origin, and of the common incorporate nature of man and woman; but if we come to task our powers of comprehension, we are punished for our presumption by the avid scepticism and barrenness of heart which comes over us. In like manner it happens, he shows, that out of the comforts of Providence, the wisest of men have been beguiled by the nicety and importunateness of their research.
"They have reasoned of the multitude of God's avocations throughout the peopled universe, in every star imagining the centre of some revolving system, in every system the dwelling place of various tribes of beings, until they had the Almighty so occupied as neither to have time nor care for our paltry earth. And with respect to the earth itself, they are overwhelmed by the consideration of the myriads who dwell therein, and their own insignificant place among so many; and thus they escape into a heartless indifference and a wreckless independence towards their Creator."
All this he truly observes,
"Ariseth from their subdividing, by active calculation, the great work which God hath to do, without, at the same time, multiplying the power of the Almighty, to discharge it all, untroubled and undisturbed."
And he adds,
"That equally fatal results are wrought by the same unrestrained appetite for speculation in the great work of redemption."
He treats next of the forms with which Judgment is presented to us in Scripture, riz.
"The ushering in of the solemn day, by the archangel and the trump of God; the white throne of judgment, with the Judge that sitteth there. on; the glorious company of angels; the opening of the books; in which stands recorded every man's account of good and ill; the solemn separation to the right and to the left, of the two great divisions of men, and their separate verdicts of blessing and cursing."
Of these, he says,
"They are no more to be understood by the letter, than others of the works of God, but to be taken as an image or device of the transactions, done with the best similitude that the earth contains. It were, therefore, he intimates, a vain thing to puzzle imagination, and perplex conception with the details thereof, with the array of a human assize, or the bustle of a judgment-seat, where all the world was to appear, and to be taken successively under cognizance of the judge; for, instantly, immensity overwhelms the thought, and stupifies the feeling, the crowd forms a shelter to the fears, and the company, the innumerable companions of our fate, gives a cheer to the misgiving heart. We throw ourselves loose, therefore, he says, from the details of the ritual, and aim at nothing but to preserve the spirit of the transaction; not but that these details are highly useful, and in the very best keeping with the majesty and terror of the scene, serving to convey ideas and imaginations of the great event, and to embody it to the mind."
He then gives his view of the Judgment in the following words;
"If I were to venture an opinion, it would be this: that the action will take place, not by a successive summons of each individual, and a successive inquisition of his case, but by an instantaneous separation of the classes, the one from the other. Nor do I fancy to myself the bodily presence of any judge, or the utterance by his lips of vocal sounds, although it be so written, any more than I fancy a loud voice to have been uttered by the Eternal for the light to come forth, or any other part of the material universe to arise into being. But I rather think it to be more congenial to the other works of God, when it is imagined that these souls, and the bodies created for their use, will be planted, without knowing how, each class in the abodes prepared for them; and that they will not be consulted about the equity of the measure. God will leave them to find out the rectitude of the proceeding, as he left us to find out the rectitude of his proceeding at the fall."
Now this is a mode of treating the plain statements of Scripture, to which we have a decided objection. We perceive no difficulty in conducting the last judgment on the precise plan laid down in the sacred volume, taking into account whose power is to be employed in that great transaction. If Mr. Irving be allowed to exercise his fancy on the events of the creation, and of the judgment, we see no reason why a similar liberty should not be granted with respect to the fall of our first parents, and the events with which it is connected. We have been accustomed, in common with those who regard the Bible as a book which is not to be trifled with, to reprobate that system which represents the account of Adam's transgression and its consequences, as a figure or allegory. But, if the account of creation, (connected as it is with that transgression,) and of judgment, (resulting as it does from that transgression,) be clothed in figure, we cannot understand how the idea of figure can be excluded from the fall. We have, besides this, another objection to Mr. Irving's mode of interpretation, grounded on a principle of his own. He regards the description of Judgment in the Scriptures, as a form of expression, used to meet the various faculties of human nature; as fancy, fear, hope, pain, or pleasure. Now this would be a good reason for leaving such form of expression just as we find it: but it is certainly a very bad reason for endeavouring to set it aside, or to detract from its force and meaning. Or Mr. Irving's own showing, Almighty God designed, by a certain form of speech, to convey to the human mind, and to impress deeply upon it, cer. tain truths which could not be so effectually imparted in any other way. Surely, then, he rather injures than serves the cause of religion, who would substitute his own glosses and conjectures, instead of that expressive language which it seemed best to the Divine wisdom to adopt.
Our author proceeds, in the next place, to remark, that there still remain two previous questions for examination; one, as to "God's ability to have in mind all that every creature has thought, said, and done, so as to divide destiny with such dexterous arbitration among them all;" (by the way, it is by no means from admiration of this phraseology, that we quote it,) the other, as to our satisfaction with, and acquiescence in, the verdict.
As to the first of these questions, that which respects God's ability, we are utterly at a loss how Mr. Irving could make any question about it; or think it necessary to enter into any explanation or proof of it. It is a thing involved in the very idea of God; so completely so, that omniscience has been uniformly regarded as an essential attribute of Deity, by all those who have acknowledged that there is "one living and true God." We cannot, therefore, but consider our author's disquisition on this point, as so many words thrown away, or as a mere trifling; but it becomes more than trifling, when he proceeds gravely to move the question, as to whether the Divine Being "can ever forget!!" Passing over, however, his elaborate proof that "God can never forget," we come to his second preliminary question, which he states thus;
"How we ourselves shall be conscious of the justice of the decision, which God hath the knowledge and the wisdom to discern?"
To this question we should, without hesitation, give the following plain and obvious answer: we should say, that when we enter into that state, where the mists of ignorance shall be cleared away, where interest, prejudice, and passion, shall no longer exert their darkening and perverting influence, where we shall "see even as we are seen, and know even as we are known," every thing will appear to us in its naked truth and reality. What we have done, what we have been, what we are, will all at once flash on our minds, with an overwhelming conviction. The excuses, palliations, pleas, and justifications, with which we now impose on each other, and, alas! too often on ourselves, will no longer be thought of, except as constituting a part of our guilt. Such is, we conceive, the rational, as well as scriptural answer to Mr. Irving's second preliminary question. His answer to it is of a very different kind. Before we proceed to examine it, we must apply ourselves to the following extraordinary principle which he lays down, in order to evince the importance of his question:
"It is of the essence of justice, that the various offences of which one is accused, should be brought home to his consciousness and conviction, before he can be fairly condemned."
We should be curious to know, from what "shrewd jurisconsult," Mr. Irving learned this notion, about "the essence of justice." Wherever he got it, we suspect its soundness; we doubt that it would work well; and we invite him to bring it to the test of the following matter of fact. It happened to us to have witnessed the last moments of a highly-talented,* and, in many respects, amiable young man; who, though gifted with various advantages of education, fortune, and station, engaged in treasonable practices, headed an insurrection, in which the murder of a high and venerated judicial character, and many other enormities, were perpetrated; and, in consequence, was arrested, tried, and, on the clearest evidence, convicted, and condemned to die. To the last moment (while he unfeignedly deplored the murder, which he represented as unpremedi
* A word of recent coinage, which might do very well for the flippant pages of Lady Morgan, or the fastian declamations of Mr. Phillips. Ö.0.
tated, and contingent,) he justified the treason, gloried in his principles and design, and, regarding himself a martyr in the cause of liberty, died with a mild composure and fortitude, which drew tears from many an eye. Now, according to our author's principle, this young man was neither more nor less than murdered; for, that which is of the essence of justice was wanting in his case: his crime was never brought home to his consciousness and conviction, and therefore he could not be fairly condemned. It matters not that every one else was satisfied of his guilt; that which is "of the essence of justice," was wanting in his case. Mr. Irving is possessed of less acuteness than we give him credit for, or, after trying his principle by some such test as the above, he will be disposed to give it back to the shrewd jurisconsult, from whom he learned it. We come now to our author's direct statements, in answer to this his second preliminary question.
"It is a nice question," he says, "requiring a nice solution;" and he adds, "Into this difficult inquiry I enter, not without hopes of casting light upon a subject hitherto dark and intricate, which will need no small investigation, and will reward it with most impressive results, most necessary to the understanding of the issues after death."
His first position is, that there must pass upon the soul when disembodied, various changes, of which it is not impossible, though difficult, to discern the nature and the effects; for, though none have returned to tell, we all suffer partial deaths, from the effect of which it is possible to reason as to the effect of dissolution itself.
"The first thing," he says, "I perceive in death, is the great change that it will make in enhancing the past and future over the present. I think it will go hard to annihilate the present altogether. In our present condition, things that are past are spoken of as dead or out of existence, and things that are to come are spoken of as unborn, and things present alone as being in real existence.-Present things hit the sense, and our senses carry such a weight in the empire of the mind, being its five great intelligencers with the outward world, that they have deluded her into the notion that they are the five elements of her existence. Now that she hath an existence independent of them, is manifested by her occupation in silence and solitude, when she will close her senses, and have a glad or gloomy season of active cogitation; nay, she will grow into such absorp tion with her inward being, as to lose the consciousness of things passing around; she will sit in bustling places, yet hear no noise: move along the crowded streets, yet behold no spectacles; consume her meals, yet taste no savours; and though you surround the body with discomforts, and sting the senses with acutest pain, the soul which hath past heroism or virtue to reflect on, or future triumphs to anticipate, will smile in the midst of torture, and grow insensible to torment.In all which cases, the life of the past and future, is triumphant over the life of the present."
Now we venture to affirm that much of this is quite new to our readWe question, for instance, whether any of them have happened to light upon the description of person for which this picture has been drawn; a gentleman in his "glad or gloomy season of active cogitation;" so lost to the consciousness of things passing around him, that he can sit in bustling places, the Stock Exchange, for example, but hear no noise; or moving along Cheapside, yet behold no spectacles; or eat
his dinner without tasting the savour of it.-In a word, so absorbed in heroism, virtue, and triumphs, as to continue quite insensible, though you were to give him a good horsewhipping, or duck him in a horse-pond. For our part, it has never been our good fortune to meet any one in such a" gay or glad season of active cogitation," with the single exception of one gentleman on his way to Bethlem hospital, and therefore we hope to be excused from building much on the theory which this description is adduced to support.
But our author presents us with still more curious matter about past, present, and future.
“In truth,” he says, "the present, both for its briefness, and the briefness of all its sentiments, is incomparably the least significant part of human existence, and it approximates a man to the lower animals according as his affections are set thereon. With a true man, the present is prizable only as it cometh out of the womb of past anticipation, bringing things hoped for to hand, and as it may be wrought up into the issue of our schemes for well developing the future. Seeing, therefore, that the present would fall altogether out of sight, were it not for this constant conversation which the soul is forced by the senses to maintain with outward things, and even by that necessity scarcely keeps its ground in wise and enlightened spirits; it is manifest that when that necessity ceaseth, as it doth at death, the past and the future will come to all in all to man. In proof of which, behold the existence of one who is immured in a solitary dungeon, and shut in from the invasion of the outward world—his present existence is nothing, his past is all; he goeth over and over the days of his life, the accidents and actions of which come forth as out of twilight. He remembers, and recalls, and recovers from the wastes of oblivion, until he wonders at the strength of his memory. Set open to him a hope of deliverance, and consuming the gloomy days and weary months between, he already lives with the future yet unborn. And the present is used only to consume his food, which he almost nauseated, and he notches upon his tally or makes upon the wall one solitary mark, its only memorial."
This also is new, and passing strange. We have been taught, and hitherto we have been simple enough to remember the lesson, that the present is, of all other periods, the most important. The past, we have been told, though it is gone for ever, has left behind its errors and its evils, the cure for which the present is to supply; and, as for the future, it is the present which is to give to it a form and a complexion, either of happiness or misery. Accordingly, " Carpe diem," is the maxim of a shrewd heathen poet, and "Redeeming the time," is the exhortation of an inspired apostle. Mr. Irving, on the contrary, tells us that "the present is incomparably the least significant part of human existence;" so much so, that "it scarcely keeps its ground in wise and enlightened spirits." And he has given us a proof or illustration of this. He has presented us with a prisoner, immured in a solitary dungeon. Unhappy mortal! some one is ready to exclaim,-In what slow and lingering wretchedness does he count the tedious moments as they pass! In the misery of the present, all that was joyous in the past is forgotten; while the future is overspread with blackness and night! Surely the iron bath entered into his soul! Stop, gentle reader, you are wasting your compassion. This solitary prisoner in his dungeon feels nothing of iron or