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Art. XV. Tie Duties ofReligion and Morality, as inculcated in tie Holy Scripture*; with preliminary and occasional Observations. Ey Henry Tuke, 8vo pp. 2.1. price 2s. 6d. bds. York, Blanchard; W. Phillips, &c. 1807.
'THE intention and tendency of this production deserve our cordial praise. The Aut' or is a Member of the Society of Friends, for whose use especially he designs it; but it is not exclusively adapted to that community by any pe^ulian ies of religious opinion: Ke excuses himself on sufficient groundsj.we think, for adding another book to this numerous class, lhe characteristic principle of his performance is " to collect the principal pasgages in the Scriptures, on the leading duties of Religion and Morality; and to intersperse a few remarks and observations, tending to illustrate and enforce tie precepts which are taught, and make them read connectedly." In the execution of this laudable design, Mr. Tuke professes to have derived assistance from Gastrell's Christian Institutes, and appears to have studied plainness and brevity. He divides the work into three parts. 1. Preliminary Observations on Religion, the Deity, and the Scriptures. II. Religious Duties, as Faith, Love, Fear, &c< HI. Moral' Duties, general, 2nd relative. From the Miscellaneous and Concluding Observations we selec* a few remarks on the evils, which every hour exemplifies, of improper company and books:
"Solomon delivers some excellent cautions on this subject. 'My ton, if sinners entice thee, consent tho'u not. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.—He that walketh with wise men, shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.'— To these exhortations and observations, we may add the following, from the first Epistle to the Corinthians : ' I have written unto you not to keep company: if any man that is called a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner ; with such a one, no not to eat. Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners." - 'I-" _.. .1, llLl..
"Intimately connected with the company which we keep, are the books that we read; and all the good or evil consequences resulting from the former are applicable to the latter. When we consider the profusion with which books, are now circulated; and how they meet us in almost every situation; it requires great care that our selection "of them be such, as is not likely to impede, but will rather promote, our progress in religion and virtue." pp. 201, 202. ,
Art. XVI.' Travelling Rccredtiom. By William Parsons, Esq. ■ .„..., 2 vols. 1807. ,,;'";■
TX) warn the public against the misfortune into which this treacherous title has betrayed us, is our only motive, for stooping so low as to ttigmatize the work. It is a work which no man of sense needs wish to see, and which no modest man will-see twice. It displays some reading with a surprising overcharge of conceit and pedantry, some knowledge of life with the affectation of a coxcomb i it exhibits a most nauseous and mournful substitution of puns for wit, indecency for humour, puerility for elegance, and the flames of licentious passion ((pKoyfafwr, wo T»is ymms) for the fire of poetic genius. Happily the literary taste of the age is more delicate than the moral; and the licentiousness of this work will struggle in vain for celebrity, against the dulness that must infallibly sink it into contempt and oblivion.
. For APRIL, 1808.
Art. I. The Parafihrase of an anonymous Greek Writer, (hitherto published under the Name of Andronicus Rhodlus) on the Nicomachcan Ethics of Aristotle. Translated from the Greek, by William Bridgman, F. L S. royal 4to. pp. 478. Price 1/. 11/. 6d. Boards. Payne, White, &c. 1807.
HTHE time has been, when the potent name of Aristotle could sanctify the most glaring absurdities in science, and silence the rational inquiries of the most enterprising spirit. His assertions were considered as the dictates of oracular wisdom. Men seemed agreed in believing, that he was acquainted with everj secret of nature which lay within the scope of the human faculties; anil to think of unfolding a mystery which had baffled the Stagyrite, argued the highest vanity, presumption, and folly. It' the constantly accumulating experience of the world had forced, upon their notice, truths which were not to be directly found in the pages of Aristotle; they were at least deduciblebv inference from some part or other of his works. If an error sometimes presented itself, so manifest that the most bigoted prejudice could not refuse to see and acknowledge it, nothing could be more natural than to ascribe this alien blemish to the carelessness of the copyist or the injury of time. If a question was discussed, too obscure for the intellectual powers in their most vigorous and cultivated maturity to solve, it was not Aristotle who attempted to explain a difficulty which transcended the human (acuities, but the reader who could not follow him in his profound and unerring speculations. If a passage was unmeaning or incomprehensible, it was not Aristotle who wrote nonsense, but the reader who could not perceive a connexion too wide for the gia-pof his mind In short, amidst the variety of causes which conspire to produce d.illness, incoherence, or nonsense in a work, the fallibility of the author seems never to have been thought of. Our humble and unassuming forefathers took all the blame upon themselves. They were even more good natured or respectful to Aristotle, Vol. IV. Z
than to Homer himself^ The author of the Iliad was now and then found nodding, but the spirit of infallibility did not forsake the Stagyrite for a moment.
During the long and undisturbed reign of this philosophical dictator, it would have been high treason publicly to question the propriety of his edicts. Had we been born under his government, we should no doubt have felt the same loyal attachment to his sway, as others. Like dutiful vassals we should have owned allegiance and done intellectual homage. At such a time, the translation of the Paraphrase ascribed to Andronicus would have produced an examination of a very different nature from the present. Allowing the high importance and utility .of facilitating the study of the Nicomachean Ethics, we should have confined our remarks to the manner in which the task was performed. But Aristotelian despotism being now no more, we shall avail ourselves of this emancipation as well to question the expediency of the present translation, as to offer a few observations on the performance.
The avowed object of the translator is to encourage and facilitate the attainment of moral science. With entire approbation of so noble an aim, we must be allowed to state our opinion that the translator has chosen a most unlikely method for accomplishing his purpose. The Nicomachean Ethics are totally unconnected with religious considerations. Now it appears clear to us, that, since the promulgation of Christianity, the separation of morals from religion is grossly absurd. Even if we restrict our notion of morality within the bounds of personal and social duties, and call our obligations to the Divine Being (though we know not why) by another name, still, in a Christian code of ethics, the authority which imposes duties, and the motives which impel to virtue, must be of a religious kind. The disciple of Aristotle is taught not to look beyond the present state; the only motive or inducement which is proposed to him, is the temporal happiness which an attention to his rules will procure; and such a code of morals it drawn up, as, in the opinion of the writer, is best adapted to secure the largest portion of present enjoyment. The avowed design of this elaborate work is to discover the chief good, or the greatest happiness, of which man is capable in this life, and to point out the readiest way to acquire it. But the Christian morality is designed for beings placed on earth, not chiefly to enjoy pleasure, but as on an awful scene of preparation for ano-1 ther state of far more solemn importance; for beings destined to be the immortal inhabitants of a celestial world. The rules of conduct adapted to characters of so different views and expectations, must of course be widely different. On the one *tand, men are taught to consider the present world as of little or no importance: on the other, they regard the events and circumstances of this life as all in all, and every thing must he sacrificed to present pleasure. In consistency with the narrow and limited aim of the Aristotelian molality, worldly wisdom, or that sort of practical discretion which marks the conjunctures in our lives that may be turned to present, account, and allows no circumstance to escape nnimproved which may be favourable to our views of secular advancement, is described with most careful minuteness, enforced with peculiar earnestness, and exalted into a virtue of the first magnitude. On the same principle, riches, beauty, high birth, numerous friends, dutiful children, and all that goes to constitute worldly prosperity, are regarded as component parts of the chief good, which is the only spring of action, and the ultimate object of pursuit. This sanction of moral obligation is the weakest andmost inef- -jficacious that was ever offered to mankind. The promised re-' ward is in a high degree trifling and precarious. Nothing could be more evident to the most cursory observer, than that temporal happiness is distributed with an unequal and undistinguishing hand, and that in the most prosperous characters it is much alloyed with a mixture of sorrow. Is that man's virtue likely to be secured in the midst of difficulty, and the turbulence of strong passion, whose only inducement for exercising resolution^ abandoning immediate enjoyment,is the future prospect of some temporal advantage to which his present prudence may possibly lead ? The principle of self approbation, or rather self adoration, the darling doctrine of the Porch, was far better adapted than this to ensure regard to the duties of morality.
How much more sublime and efficacious are the motives to action proposed in the New Testament! A Being of infinite perfection, who beholds us with parental regard, from whom we have received every enjoyment, and on whom we depend for future happiness, appeals to our reverence, gratitude, and love. The present comfort and eternal welfare of men, which an observance of Christian rules of conduct will promote, appeal to all our social principles. The endless woe which is threatened against the disobedient, and the glorious reward which is promised to the good, form an appeal to that invincible regard which we feel for our own individual happiness. It is only such sanctions as these, that in every rank of men can stem the torrent of human passions, gird the mind with that inflexible resolution which is necessary for carrying us through difficult duties, and endue it with that strength of fortitude which can bear up under the heavy pressure of human affliction.
The Christian morality lies chiefly in the dispositions and practice ; the exercise of the understanding is unquestionably required, but principally for the purpose of discovering wjiafc duties ought to be performed, and what sentiments ought to be cherished.' In the present work the observation must be reversed. According to Aristotle, no virtue is so sublime and elevated, none so intimately allied to the chief good, as philosophical speculation; none so exalts the human soul and assimilates it to a divine nature. We are solemnly told that the Deity is incapable of morality, and that his ineffable bliss arises from the contemplation of the innumerable truths which are ever manifest in his view. This principle is carried so far, that skill in the various arts and sciences, because they require mental ability, and contribute to present pleasure, is elevated into the dignity of v Tirtue. By this rule some of the most flagitious of the human race, as'they are deemed on common notions of morality, may put in their claim for the praise of moral excellence, and complain of an ignorant and barbarous world which has done so much injustice to their memories. The monstrous Talleyrand, the drunken Morland, the malignant and profligate Churchill, must be enrolled in the list of the virtuous; because the first is known to be highly exemplary in practising the virtue of political prudence, the second was eminently virtuous in painting, and the third maintained the estimable character of a poignant and irresistible satirist. One hardly knows how to blame the Grecian philosopher for broaching such principles as these, when it is considered how highly intellectual endowments were prized and even idolized by his ostentatious countrymen. It is hot much to be wondered at, that he should imagine the possession of knowledge to be the noblest virtue, and if not the only, yet the best attribute of the divine nature. But that men, who profess to credit a volume that describes the Divinity as just in enforcing the observance of those relations which subsist between him and his creatures, as faithful in the performance of promises, as benevolent in accomplishing plans of happiness for his servants; and farther informs us, that reverence for the divine authority and obedience to the divine commands is the essence of virtue—should represent the Aristotelian system of ethics as the most perfect ever devised by the human mind: nay that Divinity Professors, and Houses of Convocation in religious universities, should make it an indispensable branch of Christian education, and exact for it whole days and nights of study and contemplation, to the exclusion of a heaven-descended morality, is a matter of the utmost astonishment. It is a reproach to their moral feelings, a disgrace to their understandings, and an impeachment of their religious faith.