« PreviousContinue »
whole; whilst the judicious but unscientific hearers would reject the whole. Now, supposing that the relation had come to the ears of Archimedes, and that he had sent for the man, and interrogated him, and, from his unorderly and unscientific, but accurate specification of boilers, and cylinders, and pipes, and furnaces, and wheels, had drawn out the mechanical theory of the steam boat, he might have told his friends, The traveller may be a liar; but this is a truth. I have a stronger evidence for it than his testimony, or the testimony of any man: it is a truth in the nature of things. The effect which the man has described, is the legitimate and certain result of the apparatus which he has described. If he has fabricated this account, he must be a great philosopher. At all events, his narration is founded on an unquestionable general truth.'
In order to see the limitations with which the Author's fundamental principle should have been accompanied, nothing more is necessary than, with a change of terms, to make an application of it to the case he here adduces in illustration of his argument. For instance, we may suppose a sceptical philosophist to have said, If the effects ascribed to a mechanical apparatus are at variance with our ideas of the laws of chemical agency, or mathematical relations, we have no reason to believe that such an apparatus has ever actually been in operation. The reply to such an objector would be properly made by asking him, With whose ideas of chemical agency, or mathematical relations, is the description of this Chinese machine at variance? With your ideas. But this petulant rejection of the traveller's narrative, because it offends your system of philosophy, requires you to make out your pretension to an absolute knowledge of the whole world of nature, and of all possible mathematical relations. When you have done this, if the shadow of uncertainty shall still seem to rest upon a single point of the vast circle of your pretended omniscience, this machine may actually exist, although you deem it an absurdity. In that case, the real difference between you who reject the narrative, and the vulgar who give it a stupid credence, is this; that their credulous ignorance leaves them at least in passive possession of the truth, while your presumptuous ignorance ensures your continuance in error. The objector, however, would not have been so easily silenced: he would have pursued his jests and his demonstrations, alternately, until he had made the timid and the half-wise ashamed of being seen to listen to the traveller, and until he had barred the possible access of truth to his own mind, by some concise formula of incurable obstinacy, such as this; that, to believe the fable of the steam-boat, would be as absurd as to believe, that three are one, and that one is three.
But, if Archimedes is supposed to have come to a different conclusion on the subject, it would have been attributable, not
so much to his actual knowledge at the moment of commencing the inquiry, as to that habitual modesty which attends an enlightened consciousness of ignorance, and which renders comprehensive minds always accessible to new and strange ideas. In fact, Archimedes would have learned from the invention itself,* as described to him, those new principles of chemical and mechanical science, by which he would afterwards have perceived that the description, whether or not it were true in fact, was true in theory.
Thus, Christianity itself sheds the light by which it is judged. Upon the world at large, it has shed the light by which its more obvious excellencies are perceived and acknowledged; and it has even shed all the light which has gleamed from the weapons of its adversaries. But, to perceive the harmony of the Divine character and conduct, as developed in the actions ascribed to 'God' in the Christian system, it is necessary already to have received life and vision from its influence. It is true, that a general assent to the Divine authority of Christianity is ensured by the force and clearness of the appeal which it makes to the dictates of conscience. And, as a matter of fact, it can hardly be doubted, that the assent which is yielded to the truth of Christianity, whether it be more or less sincere and effective, is, in a hundred cases to one, actually produced, not by the external, or historical evidence, but by that internal, or moral evidence which the sacred writings contain within themselves. We imagine that the historical evidence is recurred to, or rested on, by very few persons, except those in whom the sophistications of literary habits, have impaired or destroyed the instinctive perspicacity of the mind, and rendered it little susceptible to the natural and just impression of moral evidence. In such instances, which are of frequent occurrence in the educated classes, even where the separate powers of the mind may be found in the highest state of culture and efficiency, the integral power or force of the mind is so far debilitated, that, with a painful appetite, it is perpetually seeking the stimulus of some irresistible proof. So far, then, as it regards the maintenance of the general authority of Revelation in the world, that internal or moral evidence which is appreciable by the mass of mankind, may safely be left to contend with all the sophisms of infidelity. But, if men are invited to judge of those principles or facts which are beyond the range of natural religion, and if they are called to determine, what actions may or may not be ascribed to God,' it must be remembered that both their ignorance of the Divine nature, and the perversion of their minds, render them utterly in
* In conformity with the acknowledged principle-artes inveniendi solidas et veras adolescere et incrementa sumere cum ipsis inventis.
competent to the task. They must first have learned, by a cordial reception of Christianity, the rudiments of the spiritual world, before they are fitted to perceive that harmony between the Divine character and conduct, upon which the force of the argument is here made to rest.
As we recommend this little volume to the perusal of our readers, we need not give a further account of its contents; but only add a single quotation.
'When a man has brought his judgement down to the level of his character, and has trained his reason to call evil good and good evil, he has gained a victory over conscience, and expelled remorse. If he could maintain this advantage through his whole existence, his conduct would admit of a most rational justification. But then, his peace is built solely on the darkness of his moral judgement; and therefore, all that is necessary in order to make him miserable, and to stir up a civil war within his breast, would be to throw such a strong and undubious light on the perfect character of goodness, as might extort from him an acknowledgment of its excellency, and force him to contrast it with his own past history and present condition. Whilst his mental eye is held in fascination by this glorious vision, he cannot but feel the anguish of remorse; he cannot but feel that he is at fearful strife with some mighty and mysterious being, whose power has com pelled even his own heart to execute vengeance on him; nor can he hide from himself the loathsomeness and pollution of that spiritual pestilence which has poisoned every organ of his moral constitution. He can hope to escape from this wretchedness, only by withdrawing his gaze from the appalling brightness; and in this world, such an attempt can generally be made with success. But suppose him to be placed in such circumstances that there should be no retreat— no diversity of objects which might divert or divide his attentionand that, wherever he turned, he was met and fairly confronted by this threatening Spirit of Goodness,-it is impossible that he could have any respite from misery, except in a respite from existence. If this should be the state of things in the next world, we may form some conception of the union there between vice and misery. Whilst we stand at a distance from a furnace, the effect of the heat on our bodies gives us little uneasiness; but, as we approach it, the natural opposition manifests itself, and the pain is increased by every step that we advance. The complicated system of this world's business and events, forms, as it were, a veil before our eyes, and interposes a kind of moral distance between us and our God, through which the radiance of his character shines but indistinctly, so that we can withhold our attention from it if we will: the opposition which exists between his perfect holiness and our corrupt propensities, does not force itself upon us at every step. His views and purposes may run contrary to ours; but, as they do not often meet us in the form of a direct and personal encounter, we contrive to ward off the conviction that we are at hostility with the Lord of the Universe, and think that we may enjoy ourselves in the intervals of these much dreaded visitations, without feeling the necessity of bringing our habits into
a perfect conformity with his. But when death removes this veil, by dissolving our connexion with this world and its works, we may be. brought into a closer and more perceptible contact with Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. In that spiritual world, wo may suppose, that each event, even the minutest part of the whole system of government, will bear such an unequivocal stamp of the Divine character, that an intelligent being of opposite views and feelings, will at every moment feel itself galled, and thwarted, and borne down by the direct and overwhelming encounter of this allpervading and almighty mind."
We need hardly add, that the Author's opinions are what are usually termed evangelical.
Art. XIV. Narrative of a Voyage to the Spanish Main, in the Ship "Two Friends ;" the Occupation of Amelia Island, by M'Gregor, &c. Sketches of the Province of East Florida; and Anecdotes illustrative of the Habits and Manners of the Seminole Indians with an Appendix, containg a Detail of the Seminole War, and the Execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister. 8vo. pp. 328. Price 9s. London. 1819.
HE wild speculations which have sent so many high and restless spirits to misery and a grave in the swamps and wastes of South America, seem, at the present time, to be chastised into a temperate estimate of the unprofitable sufferings inevitably attendant on their romantic wanderings. The chain of evidence is too extended and consistent to admit of any plausible doubt respecting the sanguinary dispositions with which the war of liberty, as it is called, is carried on, or the entire absence of moral and military principle in the modes of conducting this predatory and piratical contest. But, previously to the ascertainment of these disgraceful circumstances, there was much in the general aspect of the strife, to excite the ardent feeling of the army of martial adventurers thrown upon society in idleness and poverty by the cessation of hostilities in Europe. Eager to escape from the miseries of half-pay, and, in some instances, actuated by a generous sympathy with a cause apparently pure and glorious, numbers of these gallant, but unthinking men, listened to the attractive delusions held forth by interested and unprincipled individuals, and rushed headlong on a career of privation and disease, terminating in miserable death. Some of the few who have been fortunate enough to escape, have told their melancholy tale; and the salutary effect has been, to put an effectual stop to these infatuated proceedings. The Author of the present volume has added his confirmation to the mass of testimony already before the world; and it must be admitted, that he has given proof of ability in the management of his materials. He should, however, have been aware Vol. XVI. N.S.
that, in a story of desperate enterprise, romantic circumstanee, and hazardous deliverance, a distinct and direct authentication is indispensably requisite; and that, with every disposition to place confidence in the veracity of the Writer, a feeling of uncertainty will inevitably connect itself with the concealment of his name.
In 1817, a party of fine young men, deceived by the boundless promises of individuals styling themselves the accredited agents of the Republic of Venezuela, embarked, to the number of eighty, on board the Two Friends, with extravagant expectations, splendid uniforms, and a slender sea-stock. Their provisions were of the most unpalatable description; rancid salt meats purchased at the sales of condemned naval stores, mouldy biscuit, and transparent pigs, are enumerated among the delicacies provided for the consumption of these craving warriors. In this condition, they arrived at Madeira, where they succeeded in procuring more substantial fare; but their conduct on shore was so outrageous as to expose them to considerable hazard, and to render the condition of succeeding visiters much more unpleasant, owing to the strict regulations adopted in consequence. Their arrival at the island of St. Thomas, dissipated all their golden dreams of wealth and aggrandisement, by awakening them to the conviction that they had been made the dupes of a gross and infamous deception. They had been instructed to present themselves before the confidential agent of the Venezuelan Republic, and to await from him their further destination, receiving at the same time a stipulated sum in liquidation of the expenses of their outfit. It was soon found, that no such officer resided on the island, and that the representations of the flourishing state of affairs on the Spanish Main, were equally veracious with the other assurances which had been so liberally advanced in the entire absence of all substantial encouragement. Their situation was now wretched in the extreme: few of them had any pecuniary resources, and the charity of the Danish officers and merchants had been previously pressed upon most heavily by the assistance afforded to a previous debarkation of a similar kind. Their last hope lay in the claim that they had upon the captain of the Two Friends for a further conveyance to Angostura, the seat of the insurgent government; but even this was now taken from them by the clandestine departure of the ship, which sailed in the night without discharging the harbour dues, carrying with her the clothes and equipments of several of those who were left behind. In these disastrous circumstances, it was determined by the Writer of this volume and some of his comrades, to procure a passage to Amelia Island, with the view of enlisting under the banners of M'Gregor. This commander having quitted the service of Bolivar and the Republic of Venezuela, had obtained