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Art. XVI. Essay on the Happiness of the Life to come. Small Svo. 3s. 6d. Crutwell, Bath ; Cadtll, London.
TT is with some degree of trepidation, that serious men take up a work upon a subject like the present, so difficult to handle judiciously, so dangerous to handle indisi reetly; so .Ikkely to be deformed by the touches of enthusiastic or licentious fancy; and so much better ltft untouched, than treated "with the^slightest impropriety; which, for one whom it persuades to any useful end, will give cause'for disgust, perhaps for mockery, to numbers. We are happy to jerceive that in the Work before us no apprehensions ot this kind are justified. The whole is rational and scriptural, and tends to exercise the thoughts of those who read it, in a manner no L fs profitable than delightful. As the original work of Monsieur de Villette, from which this essay is professedly extrafled, has not fallen into our hands, we cannot undertake the task of comparison; but if it be, as we suspect from the above-cited expression, much more bulky than its offspring, we cannot but commend the judgment with which a complete body, so fair and wellproportioned, has been composed out of dissected parts.
The only postulate assumed, as the foundation for this essay, is drawn chiefly from the evangelical doctrine of the resurrection of the body; from which, as well as from other intimations in the gospel, it is presumed, " that we shall possess in heaven our present faculties, and enjoy many of our present pleasures, though improved and refined beyond all human conception." Page iii. Such is the ground-work of th? essay, and its object is thus satisfactorily explained.
"To familiarize the joys of heaven to our imagination, without degrading them by too close a comparison with our present pleasures ;—to place them in such a point of view, as to warm the heart without dazzling the understanding ;—to represent our occupations in the celestial abodes, as holding such affinity with our earthly punsuits, that, in order to be admitted to the privileges of the former, we must observe the strictest rectitude in the objects of the latter;—r to direct our views in every event beyond the narrow bounds of time, to a happy eternity, where that which is in part shall be swallowed up in that which is perfect;—these are the views pf the Translator, as they evidently were those of the Author." Pref, p. vi,
1 The pleasures we are taught to look for in an heavenly state, are properly distributed under two general heads ; 1. The pleasures of knowledge, and 2. Those of sentiment. Under the first division are stated the impediments which in our present state obstruct our knowledge, and the imperfections which under der the most favourable circumstances still attend it, notwithstanding the desire of gaining it is one of the most active of our natural faculties. The superiority of the pleasures to arise tereafter from this source, is therefore easily explained by the mere removal of those known imperfections. All this is elegantly as well as clearly shown:
"Those who fail upon the ocean, some leagues from land, fee only the coasts. Those who have the clearest eyes, with the best instruments, diieern in this confused landscape only some objects, which are lost to others, and which strongly excite curiosity. Night comes cn and veil- the prospect from their sight. During tbeir fleep the vessel approaches the port, and at fun-rife casts anchor. The> land; a thousand beautiful and magnificent obj cts present themselves on every side, infinitely excelling all which the distant view had induced them to imagine.
"Thus we shall enjoy in heaven, to a degree beyond all conception, the pleasures of novtlty and surprise, of finding our curiosity satisfied, or at least ourselves provided with means to etiable ns to satisfy it: for if we weje to suppose that God would display to us at once, all which we hope to know through eternity, this would be, according to my ideas, to suppose that he would rob our knowledge of one oi rts greatest charms.
«? In proportion as the truths we are to learn shall become more iitEcuit to comprehend, we sha 1 doubtless acquire talents adapted to them; and thus we (hall go on from strengti to strength, with reT gard to the pleasure of acquiring and possessing knowledge, as in every respect we shall rise from glory to g'ory.
"The studies requisite to advance in this manner will not be oppressive labours. The assistance which may be necessary to us, an infinite number of beings more intelligent than ourielves, and full of celestial goodness, will be eager to offer. If they are now " minif> ** tering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who (hall be heirs of f salvation," will they not then rejoice to associate with us, when purified from the corruptions of mortal'ty, we (hall be " as the an«' gels which are in heaven?!' Our own efforts, provided they do not fatigue us, contribute much to our satisfaction. Our exertions being thus the source of our pleasure, nothing will discourage us; for can we fail to have a stedfast hope of success? Upon what could a fear of disappointment be founded? Whatever then may be the length of the attentions requisite to attain to a certain point, the hope, or rather affuranee of success, will support, animate, and fill us with joy.
"Our progress, always equal to our faculties, and not retarded by involuntary interruptions, will be great and rapid. In a world vvhere we (hall be freed from ali the cares which are here requisite for our subsistence, our clothing, cur lodging; where we (hall deep no more; where " there (hall be no more sorrow, nor crying, nor f pain;" where all, far from molesting us, or deranging our plans of study, will lavoqr them; it is evident that we mult have undisturbed Jeisure to execute them." P. 47.
. 4 Th*
'The second head of the Pleasures of Sentiment, affords more subject for discussion; and occupies the 2d, '3d, and 4th parts of the essay. Among these are numerated, gratitude and love to God ; the recollections of his past goodness to us; the retrospect of past evils, and the expectation of increasing good; the absence of all tormenting passions, and of all dangerous .temptations; the delight of seeing others happy ; and the happiness of being beloved and esteemed by multitudes, all amiable themselves, all estimable; the revival of ancient friendships, and the cultivation of new, by no means incompatible with •the general love prevailing in that happy state; the internal •sentiments of self-approbation, with the anticipation of its everlasting continuance ; the feeling of perfect security from all possibility of misfortune. These and other topics, inrimaiesj connected with them, are well arranged and sensibly handled, in a manner very animating, and very useful. The recapitulation of the whole in the conclusion, is executed so well, that we shall doubtless benefit, as well as gratify our readers, by giving it at large,
"In heaven, our glorified bodies will be no longer subject to infirmity or decay: all positive evil will cease. Our faculties, being perfected to a degree of which we can at present form no idea, will bring to the soul an endless variety of delightful emotions. In the enjoyment of eternal youth and health, endued perhaps with modes of perception, at present as incomprehensible to us as are the pleasures of vision to a man born blind, our fen/es will no longer be at variance with our reason: the corruptible body will no more press down the foul, but will be the instrument of its happiness. We shall enjoy the pleasure of acquiring and possessing knowledge, unallayed by any of those inconveniences which accompany them on earth. Our faculties, talents, and assistances, will always be equal to the studies in which we (hall employ them: a firm confidence of success in our enquiries and researches will make them so easy to us, that they will be productive of pleasure, unmixed with the flightest degree of fatigue; and being secure of an eternal duration, we shall not fear any impediment to our advancement in those sublime attainments, which will be the objects of our pursuit in the realms of immortality.
"The Supreme Being will always be the principal object of our meditations. Here below we fee him darkly ; but then we shall fee him face to face. The attributes of God, the wonders of creation, the conduct of Providence, the great designs of the Most High, and all those beautiful, sublime, and infinitely diversified objects, in the contemplation of which we feel every moment the weakness of our earthly faculties, will be displayed before us in all their lustre.
"At the fight of that immense store of pleasures, of which God will have given us possession, our boundless admiration will be accompanied with the sweetest emotions of gratitude and love. By the recollection of the past, those evils, which can exist no longer but in our
memory. memory, will be admirably instrumental in enhancing the valae of cur h ppiness, and procuring us a more exquisite enjoyment of it. During tuis dtlightfu! retrospect, we shall look up to that Being, who Is tb- author andfinijher bf our fairb, with transports of gratitude and lovt-, ot whicn wkh our most ardent sensations of piety on earth can give us but a famt idea. .•, '*
"From reflecting on the past, we shall naturally proceed to meditate on the fu.ure, and to enjoy the delightful anticipation of those 2egiees of glory and felicity which we shall not at first possess. Admitred into th» preftnee of God, honoured by his approbation, we shall ice in him, ar.d in every thing around us, the great system of universal felicity, a felicity for ever extending, and for ever increasing. Gob, who knows our hearts, will place objects before us to exercise our noblejt virtues, in all their variety, delicacy, and ardour. Happy in ourselves, and in the happiness of myriads of our fellowcreatures, exulting in the prospect of an eternal augmentation of excellence and felicity, we shall enjoy these inestimable blessings with a warmth, an energy of sentiment, which it is impossible to feel in this imperfect state.
"We shall be secure of finding, in each of the blessed, every disposition and affection towards us which can gratify our social feelings, and our natural desire to love and to be beloved. Strengthened by our progress in knowledge, in virtue, and in amiabie sentiments; animated by the presence of our heavenly Father; free from all impediments; secure from al! indifference; our affection for each individual of the blessed will be more ardent and tender, than that which we now feel for the most beloved friend: while we have the greatest reason to hope, that every tender and virtuous attachment formed on earth, if the object of it be realsy deserving of our esteem, will be renewed with augmented ardour, and be enjoyed for ever. No envy, no jealousy, can ever disturb our social happiness. Every one will be contented with his own lot, every one will sincerely rejoice in the superior exaltation of others j and thus we shall in some measure appropriate to ourselves all the happiness of heaven. At the first sight of a glorified spirit, we sliall feel a reciprocal attachment; and shall fof ever rejoice in the blessings of mutual love.
"When we shall reflect on the numerous temptations we have overcome, and the various afflictions we have endured, in our progress towards that felicity to which we have at length attained, we (hall enjoy the approbation of our own conscience, and that approbation which on earth had seldom been more than a consolation in adversity, will become in heaven a pure and delightful pleasure;—a pleasure which we shall anticipate in an everlasting futurity; for we shall be secure of preserving it inviolate, and of augmenting it continually, in the constant exercise of virtue.
"All these blessings will be accompanied with the certainty that they are ours for ever. In heaven, where pain and sorrow are no more, and death is swallowed up in victory, we shall seel a sweet security that every danger is past: while futurity presents an endless perspective, a boundless field for the exercise of the noblest virtues, and the enjoyment of constantly increasing happiness." P. 166.
In various parts of this delightful little work, we find cita* tlons from English authors, evidently and very honourably denoting the hand of the translator; they are chosen in general with taste, and introduced with judgement. The writings of Milton, Young, Thompson, Armstrong, Dr. Beattie, Miss H. More, and the author of the Pleasures of Memory, are the sources whence these pleasing ornaments are taken.
We are not inclined to object to any thing in a tract which has given us so much pleasure, nor indeed is there any thing material to which we could object if we had the disposition; but we think it right to hint to the author, male or female,* in case of a revision, that the expression here below is not so elegant in English, as ici has may be in French; and that it occurs rather too frequently in the latter part of the essay, in places where it might with ease be varied.
* We suspect the latter: and Miss Bowdler, of Bath, particularly falls under our suspicion.
Art. 17. The South Downs, a Poem. 8vo. zs. Symonds.
IN a short advertisement prefixed to this poem the author informs us, that it is " a maiden essay," and seems to expect censure from professional critics; but desires that it may not be "unaccompanied "by instruction." Our wish is always to give this tendency to our remarks; and where it is so particularly requested, we surely ought not to neglect it. In this spirit we shall give the author two articles of advice; one respecting his poetry, and the other on the subject of his temper. We give him credit for a poetical turn of mind, worthy of cultivation; but we think it necessary to suggest to him, that without care and study, nothing can be written that will be worthy to be read, much less to live. We inform him, therefore, that such lines as these, ,;
"And at each look discover something new."
"And all our wealth stie nearly calls her own."
• " Because, forsooth, she helps t'extend our trade."
With a prodigious number more, dispersed through this poem, are mere prose: that he ought not to offend against usage and grammar,