Графични страници
PDF файл

(said an impartial reasoner, whose principles of religious bec lief had been shaken, but who afterwards was convinced of the truth of Christianity) that the New Testament was not a forgery; and when I had recourse to publications, which professed to satisfy my inquiries, I found adduced, as evidence, declarations of facts from the very book which I supposed not to be authentic. As if in a court of justice, when the judge objected to the testimony of a witness who was said to be perjured, the counsel should reply that he would bring the man's own declaration in proof that he was not."

Christianity does not require an unwarrantable concession of premises, in order to lead an impartial mind to acknowledge its truth. There are facts universally acknowledged, (except by that school who renounce the classics as the invention of the middle ages) upon which reasonings may be instituted, and irresistible conclusions drawn, in support of the religion of Jesus, abundantly sufficient to satisfy a fair and candid inquiry. Or if evidence be educed from the book whose character is 'the subject of dispute, it should be confined to the purity, the sublimity, and the suitableness of the doctrines and precepts, the peculiarities of the style, and such other arguments as carry weight in themselves independently of the consideration of authenticity or imposture.

The advocates of Christianity too often write, in the present day, as if they had Porphyry or Celsus to contend with, who, living near the Christian æra, and being unable to controvert the fact of the miracles on account of the recency of their occurrence, fully allowed them to be true. But they evaded the conclusion that therefore the religion which Jesus taught must be divine, by ascribing his miracles to the power of magic. And in the answers which were given to their objections by the fathers, no pains are taken to establish the truth of the miracles, but only to show the weakness and inadequacy of the causes to which they were ascribed. In the present illuminated age, the infidel would blush to mention the influence of magic, as a satisfactory solution of the miracles of Christ; and, unless an exception be taken to Mr. Hume, who, from his resemblance to Porphyry, would perhaps have adopted bis theourgic theory if pressed hard with the evidence in support of the miracles, we think, that unbelievers would, rather of the two, confess that Jesus was a divine charac:er, than a magician, on the supposition that he calmed the sea and raised the dead with a word. But the fact is, that inflels have changed their style with the times. They deny the miracles altogether, now that the distance of time at which they were performed, renders the proof of them more difficuit. They talk of the growing weakness of historical testimony ac

cording to its years; and as formerly the statements and assertions of antiquity were supposed to demand our reverence, like the venerable wrinkles and hoary hairs of age, they are now supposed to bear a stronger resemblance to its decrepitude, imbecility, and dotage. And lines and angles have been brought forward to demonstratę, most mathematically, the precise moment, when the historical testimony in favour of Christianity will die, and tell no more tales against the sceptics. The infidels speak also of the facility of fraud, and enlarge on the sublime discoveries of modern philosophy, both physical and metaphysical ; in a word, the ground which infidelity takes for the attack, is very different from what it was formerly, and we must therefore shift our batteries, or we shall exert ourselves to no purpose.

Having thus entered our protest against the common practice of assuming truths which ought to be proved, in 'defending Christianity; we are anxious to declare to our readers, what they will probably hear with surprize, after such remarks on a capital defect in this work, that we think it, notwithstanding, adapted to be highly useful to that class of persons who question the genuineness of the evangelical records. Mr. Cook has introduced arguments which do not depend for support on the positions which he has assumed. Indeed his data are not at all necessary for establishing the fact to which he has devoted the largest portion of his work, and which is deserving of the most serious attention. We allude to his illustration of the obstacles which existed among the Jews, on one side, and the Gentiles on the other, to the adoption of Christianity. This part of his task, Mr. C. has indeed executed with a master's hand, and fully atoned for the deficiency which we have pointed out. He presents the reader with a just, full, spirited, and elegant description of Gentile manners, so far as is necessary for his purpose. When he investigates the general principles of the human mind, it is with perspicacity and discrimination, and he applies his observations with admirable effect to the cause which he aims to support. The arguments which he assembles, are not loosely and inju. diciously hung together, so as to be useless or ruinous to each other; but are disposed and adjusted with so much logical nicety and skill, as to strike with united light and accumulated force upon the mind. We have not read a book for some time, in which we so easily perceived the meaning of the author, and apprehended the whole force and bearing of his are guments. The remarks he has introduced on antient wri. ters, which his subject in several places required, display an union of knowledge and critical discernment. He has placed "a celebrated passage of Tacitus in a new light, and we ens Vol. IV.



tirely agree with him in the propriety and importance of his interpretation. The passage is the following: "repressaque in præsens exitiabilis superstitio, rursus erumpebat," &c. The meaning has been supposed to be, that Christianity was checked by the persecutions of the Roman Emperors, but afterwards reappeared and spread itself with greater rapidity. Mr. C. considers the temporary repression to refer to the time immediately succeeding the death of Christ, and the subsequent revival to relate to the numerous conversions which took place when the apostles began their ministry in Jerusalem. And though he considers the work which bears the name of the Acts of Pilate to be spurious, yet he contends that “it is in the highest degree probable, both from the nature of the thing, and from the title of these forgeries, that as it must have been, or rather was, an established practice with the governors of provinces to send occasional dispatches, detailing the most remarkable incidents which affected their governments, so Pilate had conveyed ample information concerning Jesus. There is, I think, some ground for believing, that Tacitus derived from sources of this kind the information which he has transmitted respecting Christ.” p. 282.

The last part of this work forms an excellent sequel to Paley's Evidences of Christianity. As Dr. Paley deduces his argument, from the persecutions and martyrdom which the first preachers of Christianity underwent in support of their assertions, Mr. C. derives his evidence, in the part of the work to which we refer, from the fact of the Jews and Gentiles embracing the Christian Religion. Whatever power some may ascribe to the caprice and changeableness of the human mind, to imposture on the one hand, and credulity on the other, this volume contains abundant proof that Christianity could not have made progress, or gained footing, among the Jews or the Gentiles, unless it were divine. Art. III. Some Account of the Life and maritings of Lope Felix de Vega

Carpio. By Henry Richard Lord Holland, 8vo. pp. 300. Price 78. Longman and Co. 1806. THIS book deserved an earlier attention than we have had

the opportunity of giving it, and may perhaps be intitled to a more ample examination than we can now afford.. The public are so rarely benefited by the intellectual labours of the great, who in general are unainbitious of displaying any superiority except that which commands precedence at the Hörld's office, that when a solitary individual of high rank condescends to stray into the paths of literature, in quest of a wreathi more illustrious than a coronet, it is doubtless our

duty to manifest our sense of the great difference of quality which distinguishes him from us, by the earliness of our notice, and the liberality of our praise. Having failed in the

former tribute of respect, we will not be chargeable with neg·lecting the latter.

The subject of these memoirs, Lope Felix de Vega Carpio, if not the greatest of authors, was assuredly one of the most extraordinary ; for though in the quality of his writings be may have been excelled by many, in the quantity of them he has been equalled by none. And when we consider the fluency of his style, the ingenuity of his thoughts, the felicity of his language, and the luxuriance of his imagination, it must be acknowledged that he was not only one of the most singular, but one of the most “truly eminent poets;" that ever appeared in the world. Perhaps no grandeur of genius can be deemed more wonderful, or affect the mind with a stronger and sublimer sense of power, than the inconceivable rapidity of this man's composition, and the.. unexhausted fertility of his invention. The multitude of his productions has indeed been most fabulously exaggerated by, tradition; yet still their amount, as it has been authentically, or at least unanswerably ascertained, seems to extend beyond the limits of credibility:

This prodigious poet was born at Madrid, on the 25th of November, 1562. About the age of thirteen he was seized with so restless a desire to see the world, that he ran away from school; but his money being soon expended, he was compelled to relinquish this adventure. It appears that long before this time bis astonishing genius had begun to unfold itself; even « at two years of age it was perceptible in the brilliancy of his eyes !” We should guess it was perceptible still earlier : his mother no doubt discovered, as soon as he was born, that her child was the wittiest, the wisest, the most beautiful in the world. At five he could read Greek and Latin ; and before his hand had strength to write, he dictated verses, which he used to barter for play-things, thus early turning his talents to profit, and beginning a trade which never failed him afterwards. At twelve he had already composed several comedies, according to the followiig lines, which we give in Lord Holland's version, having no room to spare for the Spanish originals.

• Plays of three acts we owe to Virues' pen,
Which de'er had crawl'd but on all fours till then ;
An action suited to that helpless age,
The infancy of wit, the childhood of the stage.
Such did I write ere twelve years yet had run,
Plays on four sheets, an act on every one.' p. 9., .

As he advanced to mauhood he continued to write for the stage, and published also his " Arcidia," a rhapsodical species of composition, of which Sannazarius had given the first example in Italy. Lord Holland enters into an ingenous exaini. nation of this piebald production, in which prose ro mad, and verse become tame, contend with each other in extravagance and insipidity. We cannot follow his Lordship either in this or through any of his following disquisitions, on Lope's most eminent works, but we take the opportunity of staring that the principal value of this volume consists in these critical essays, which are distinguished by much acuteness of remark, and a peculiar urbanity of style. Even wc, formal and technical as we are, and equally jealous of rivalry and of innovation in our trade, are obliged to confess that “ Henry Richard Lord Holland” is a very exquisite Amateur-Critic. One amusing instance of Spanish fustian we must quote here, from Lope's Arcadia. It is the song of a giant, in honour of his Dulcinea; it is truly gigantic, far. nothing can be more monistrous.

• The song of the Giant to Chrisalda in the first book is the most singular instance of this conceit, (an accumulation of strained illustrations) but is much too long to be transcribed. It is divided into seven strophes or paragraphs, most of which are subdivided into seven stanzas of four lines; in each stanza the beauty of Chrisalda is illustrated by two comparisons; and the names of the things 10 which she is compared are enumerated in the last stanza of each strophe, and which alone consists of six lines, and which is not unlike a passage in the Propria qua maribus, being chiefly composed of nouns substantive without the intervention of a single verb. In the first strophe she is compared to fourteen different celestial objects; in the next to ten species of flowers ; in the third to as many metals and precious stones; in the fourth to eleven birds of different sorts; in the fifth to twelve trees of different names; in the sixth to as many quadrupeds; and in the last to the same number of marine productions. After having recapitulated each of these in their respective strophe, in a strain not unworthy of a vocabulary, he sums up the whole by observing with great truth,

Thus what contains or sea, or earth, or air,

I to thy form, if you approve, compare.' pp. 16–18. ;. We are surprised that Lord Holland should fall into the ivulgar fault of confounding the plural and singular pronouns, as he does in the second line of this couplet, and in the following passages :.i

• Much I applaud thy wisdom, much thy zeal,
• And now, to try thy courage, will reveal
• That which you covet so to learn.'--p. 146...
- You camè not here to-day

• The 'advocate to plead a traitor's cause, . . .'
• But to perform my will.

and why the culprit bleed • Matters not thee.'--p. 147.

« ПредишнаНапред »