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OBSERVATIONS ON MEN, BOOKS, AND THINGS. THE WORKS OF LEONARD Woods, D. D. - The first volume, to be followed by four others, has just appeared, beautifully printed in the best style of the celebrated Andover press. We rejoice to receive the first instalment of this important publication, which will at once take the place of a standard work in theology, exerting great influence at home and abroad. Ministers must have it, of course; and very numerous laymen who take delight in such studies, will also possess it. The characteristics of Dr. Woods's theology are, decided orthodoxy, carefully stated so as to forestall each conceivable objection, and then sustained with reliable arguments. His lectures acquired this character from the circumstances under which they were delivered. They used to be thoroughly debated in his classes, where, surrounded by twenty or thirty educated young men, keeneyed and inquisitive, some aspiring to the triumph of catching the Doctor in a contradiction, or detecting a broken link in his reasoning,- and others more nobly ambitious to make sure of the whole truth, and nothing else,- the wary professor had to guard his positions with the greatest care. The course of lectures, thus sharply scrutinized by thirty or forty successive classes, must, at last, bare been very completely sifted out, and there is little likelihood that any important defect will be detected in what is now given to the world. These lectures will also have their historical value, shewing hereafter," as the venerable author says, “ what was the theology taught and maintained in the Andover seminary for the first thirty-eight years after its establishment, under the eye of the Founders while they lived, and in conformity with the creed by them appointed, and under the eye of the Visitors and Trustees, during the time of his continuance in office, and with their approbation."
It is to be hoped, that the author may long be spared to defend his positions if any should assail them. Or rather, may he dwell peaceful within his massive walls, secure from the spoiler.
“ Calm may he sit beneath the wide-spread tree
Of his old age,” enjoying life's serenest evening-sky, and the repose of soul which belongs to him whose allotted task is nobly done.
SHAKSPEARE. The flood of modern literature cannot undermine the ancient monuments of the human mind. The great English dramatist still holds his unrivalled eminence as the portrait-painter of all sorts of human natures. The press is as busy with him as ever. Phillips, Sampson, and Company are publishing an edition, with introductions and valuable notes, executed in the highest style of typographic art. It will beautifully fill the place on every book-shelf, where a copy of Shakspeare should stand. Though his vanquished rival, Ben Jonson, so long the literary dictator of his time, was an old offender in the same line, he has judiciously pointed out the blemishes that mar the pages of the bard of Avon. “I remember," he says,
" the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakspeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, Would that he had blotted out a thousand ! Which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted ; and to justify mine own candor: for I loved the man, and do honor his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature ; had an excellent fantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions; wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary be should be stopped.” It may be doubted whether “old Ben Jonson” would have made the best brakeman to regulate the velocity of the Shakspearean train. It is natural to wish that the indelicacies which pollute the pages of the dramatist could be forever expunged ; yet he was purity itself, compared with most of his contemporaries, or even as contrasted with the grossness of the "yellowpaper literature," which disgraces this present age of boasted improvement and refinement. Singular as the fact may seem, despite his condescensions to the
vulgar taste, the ethics of Shakspeare are of an elevated stamp. A British missionary at Benares reports, that there is an English college there, supported by the East India Company, from which all Christian books are carefully excluded. And yet one of the pupils boasted to him, that he had learned the doctrine of the atonement, and other prominent teachings of the gospel, out of the plays of Shakspeare. The theatre-going people affect to lament, that the “ legitimate dramas” of their great master cannot keep their place upon the stage. The reason is obvious ; — they are too exalted to suit the fancy of the “pit and galleries;” and if they were not, they are far more adapted to be read than enacted. Alas, that they are not adapted to be read in the family circle !
HUME's History of ENGLAND. A new edition of this standard work, issued by Phillips, Sampson, and Company, seems to be called forth by the recent publication, by the same firm, of a neat edition of Macaulay, uniform with this of Hume. This is rather a singular relation of the two histories ; for though Macaulay continues the history of England from the point where Hume leaves off, the latter is a stiff tory and infidel, while the other is a staunch whig and statechurch Christian. They have nothing in common, but their eloquence; and this is of a different character in the two. It is certainly noticeable, that the popularity of Hume should still continue, notwithstanding the great change of public sentiment as to the character of political parties in England during the seventeenth century. On the restoration of the Stuarts, in 1660, it became impossible to tell the truth about the Puritans. If any historian had attempted it, it would have been no better than thrusting his neck into a halter. Cringing court-writers flattering for a pension, and insolent cavaliers railing for revenge, had the telling of the story of Cromwell and the Puritans. And when the final expulsion of the Stuarts, in 1688, might have allowed the truth to speak freely once more, nearly all who had known and revered the heroes of the Commonwealth were dead; and
new political excitements of the most intense character long absorbed the public attention. Thus the fame of the Puritans continued to be dimmed by the clouds of prejudice and calumny; till now, within a very few years, those mists have been swept away by the strong btreah of liberal inquiry; and the reputation of Cromwell and his fellows shines all the brighter for that unrighteous obscuration.
On the whole, it is somewhat surprising that Hume, with his blind and bitter antipathy to Puritanism, - the highest style" of that
“ Christianity he hated, — should have accorded to it the exalted merits he has mingled with his ridicule; and that he should acknowledge that “the precious spark of liberty had been kindled by the Puritans alone,” and that it is to them that the English owe the whole freedom of their constitution.” It is easy to see why he jeers at them as sour and precise. He once remarked, “ that he never knew a devout man, who was not a gloomy man.” On hearing of this saying, good bishop Horne observed, “ that Mr. Hume doubtless stated his own experience correctly ; for it was enough, at any time, to make a devout man feel gloomy, to fall into the company of such a blasphemer."
THE BUCKMINSTER3. - Joseph Buckminster, D. D., was a sound and orthodox divine, a right holy man, who was pastor of the church in Portsmouth, N. H., where he died in 1812. Joseph Stevens Buckminster, his son, was a young minister of the rarest and most engaging qualities; but who was far gone in defection from the pure faith of his fathers. He died also in 1812, one day before his father. Their memoirs have recently been published by one of the family, Mrs. Lee, whose sympathies are altogether with her brother Joseph, rather than with her father, the Doctor. It appears that the heart of the pious father was well-nigh broken by the preferences of his darling son for Unitarianism, and that he earnestly dissuaded the wayward and talented youth from entering the ministry with the views he held. And when he, with sad misgiving, preached at the ordination of his son, over the Brattle Street Church in Boston, in 1805, he did not fail to remind that son, that “ he had presented him at the baptismal font, and washed him in the name of the sacred Trinity.”
This ordination took place at the time when Unitarianism was working in concealment, at Boston and Cambridge, sowing its tares while men slept. This course, so contrary to the frankness and sincerity of Christianity, so opposite to the boldness and integrity of apostles and martyrs, is a deep and lasting stigma upon the early reputation of American Unitarianism. The charge, indeed, is repelled with great acrimony by the apologists for Unitarianism ; but it is amply substantiated by the testimony of their own writers. Nay, sometimes the charge is proved in the very publication that repudiates it with indignation. Thus the last Christian Examiner, in a review of the Memoirs of the Buckministers, speaks of this dishonorable charge, of intentional concealment of religious opinions on the part of the earlier Unitarian clergymen, as a “ railing accusation," destitute of justice and decency. And yet, in a postcript to that review, from the pen of the celebrated Unitarian champion, Mr. Andrews Norton, he fully substantiates that same railing accusation.
Speaking of the controversy excited by that outrage against honesty and justice, the election of Dr. Ware to the Hollis professorship of divinity, in 1805, Mr. Norton says, that “the controversy which followed was not managed with extraordinary ability by the liberal party. Through the influence of many causes which rendered the fact natural and excusable, members of that party were not sufficiently erplicit in the avowal of their opinions ; there was a tendency among them to represent themselves as not essentially disagreeing with their opponents.” To shew that he is not talking at random, this Mr. Norton says: “ The prestige of Orthodoxy continued very powerful, and there were many whose own opinions would have borne no severe test, who yet shrunk from any direct opposition to it. I cannot fix the precise date, but it was after 1805, that I was informed by a young minister, that, on his professing his disbelief of the Trinity, he was told by one of the most distinguished clergymen of Boston, and a most liberal-minded man, that he had better not publicly avow it.” In 1812, Mr. Norton commenced the publication of the General Repository, in which he openly assailed the doctrines of Orthodoxy. He says: "The publication of the Repository soon failed for want of support. It was too bold for the proper prudence, or the worldly caution, or for the actual convictions, of a large portion of the liberal party.” When, the next year, a recommendation of it was published, it bore only the names of laymen. “It was not thought advisable that any clergyman should sign it."
After this, it would seem useless for Unitarians to attempt to absolve the patriarchs of their sect from the ignominy attached to a want of moral courage, and to an excess of duplicity, in the early propagation of their doctrines. Let this conduct be palliated and extenuated to the utmost possible extent; and it will still remain a deep stain upon their names and memories.
The Second CHURCA IN Boston. The splendid edifice so lately erected for this ancient congregation, once sound and strong in the faith, has, through the decay of that society, been sold for debt. It has been purchased by the Methodists, who occupy it for their worship. The decay of the original church is, doubtless, to be ascribed to its sad spiritual declension from the faith of the Puritan founders, both as to form and spirit. Is not this result a practical repetition and accomplishment of our Saviour's words ?.
“ Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” May the present occupants of that costly temple ever remember the lesson to be learned from the fate of their predecessors, lest the Lord should yet again “ let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons."
ANDOVER SEMINARY. The warmest friends of this noble institution could scarce ask for any thing beyond what was afforded them, at its recent anniversary. Criticisin was well nigh cheated out of its chance to complain ; and had little to find fault with, but the want of faults. The orthodoxy and oratory were quite unexceptionable; and the efforts of the speakers gave promise that they would be able ministers of the New Testament. Occasional visiters to such a scene cannot but be deeply impressed with the importance of cherishing ardent piety among those who are pursuing their studies with a view to the ministry of reconciliation. Without this fervency of spirit, all that they acquire may prove a curse, rather than a blessing, to themselves and to the church of God. There is much force in the caution given by Mr. Bayne to Dr. Ames, when that much-suffering Puritan was flying into Holland : “ Beware of a strong brain and a cold heart !” Such ill-omened conjunctions forebode notbing but disaster. There is need of the most diligent use of the means for stirring up the fading coals of religious affection ; for men's hearts, " by nature cold in goodness, will burn no longer than they are blown.”
MEETING OF THE AMERICAN BOARD. The lovely village of Pittsfield, which, as a well-watered garden of the Lord, shews even more of moral beauty than of natural, has been the seat of one of the most delightful convocations that the people of God have known for many years. This is the more worthy to be noticed, because there was an expectation abroad, that the occasion would be disturbed by strong debates on " agitating questions." Very many stayed away, under the influence of this apprehension. But the clouds, which from afar looked so dark and threatening, were all at once dispersed; and the Sun of righteousness shone forth with mellowing fervor, and with healing beams. It was worderful to see the heavens, which had so long been gathering blackness, become so calm and clear. We cannot explain the happy change on any supposition, except that it was in answer to prayer. We believe it to be the conviction of the multitudes who took sweet counsel together over the cause of missions, that they had never witnessed a more delightful meeting of the Board.
Aug. 15. Mr. Garland, Bethel, Me.
* Mr. C. M. Cordley, Hopkinton, N. H.
Aug. 16. Rev. J. C. Thacher, Middleboro, Four Corners, Mass.
22. Rev. John Storrs, Winchendon, Mass.
“ Rev. Chauncey Goodrich, Watertown, Con.
28. Rev. Wm. T. Savage, Franklin, N. H. Sept. 7. Rev. Alfred E. Ives, Deerfield, Mass.
DEATII OF MINISTER,
Aug. 29. Rev. Ethan Smith, Boylston, Mass., a. 86.