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Oh, who can tell, what trains of richest thought
Nature has endless charms the heart to fill,
Oh, many a scene of after days has left But feeble traces of its former sway, And, though not wholly of all power bereft, Yet, like forgotten dream, has passed away ; But can I e'er forget that veral day, When first I wandered from the noisy town, With one of temper formed for mirth and play, Yet not on serious thoughts disposed to frown, For much he loved the hills, and e'en the moorlands brown.
Those hills, at distance seen from earliest youth,
Not frequent is the heart so deeply moved,
Ye nearer hills ! that overlook the wold,
Oft have I climb'd your steeps-oft trod your glen,
Whether from verdant clift I stretched my ken,
Seat of proud Arthur !when, we need not say ;
No dell—no rock-no upward sloping steep
But never did the sense of beauty fall
A fellow feeling there the bosom bares
Exposition of the Gospel according to St. Luke. By James Thomson, D.D.,
Minister of the Parish of Eccles. Edinburgh: A. & C. Black. 1849.
Few things bave had a more deadening influence on the religious feelings of the community than the common sorts of religious publications. Religion being a subject on which every one can talk and write in a certain way, and there being a large body of men whose professional business it is to write and speak on it continually, it has naturally come to pass that the world is deluged with books, the influence of which has been to frustrate the very purposes which their authors must, in charity, be supposed to have had in view in composing and publishing them. Crude, diffuse, common-place, feeble in argument, strong in dogmatism ; successfully obscuring what before was plain, and weakening, by an elaborate verboseness, what the writers of the New Testament had exhibited in that strength which results from compression and simplicity ; such publications, multiplied almost beyond computation, have associated Christianity in the minds of thousands, with mental and moral qualities which are most alien from its true character, and have taught them indifference, if nothing worse—to that which they must have highly esteemed, if it had been exhibited in its true light. The most discerning minds are those on which such influences act most ; they who think for themselves soonest feel disgust at others presuming to teach who have evidently never thought. A clever youth has no greater temptation to religious indifference, or even to infidelity, than his hearing the sermons of an illinformed, weak, illogical preacher. It is impossible to count the instances of men who have, under this discipline, contracted a babit of scepticism, which clung to them with more or less closeness, all their lives. The same malign influence is exerted by the class of religious books just spoken of their intellectual qualities disgust those who have any appreciation of reason, truth, beauty ; and who, in turning away from them, are in danger of spurning also that sacred doctrine which has, indeed, been desecrated by such presumptious advocacy. Men generally appear but little to feel how grave a responsibility they take upon them when they stand forth as the public expounders of Christianity. It seems to be commonly supposed, that because in the pages of the New Testament, the Christian system is so delineated that the honest enquirer can hardly miss of those great truths which shall guide his faith and conduct-therefore any one may, with equal confidence, presume that he is qualified to teach that doctrine ;-as if there were no distinction between an indifferent scholar and an accomplished teacher.
The work before us has suggested these reflections by the striking contrast which it affords to all those bad qualities. The production of an acute, reflective, and independent mind, enlarged by reading, and deepened by a lengthened experience, this book is highly honour. able to the venerable author, and a credit to the Church of which he is one of the oldest ministers; and we hail it as an important addition to our best class of religious books, uniting excellencies which are, with difficulty, combined the originality and profoundness from which the ripest theologian may derive profit, with a plainness and simplicity of exposition which even children may comprehend. We are, indeed, not without suspicions, that the extreme simplicity of the style, and the transparency of the statements and reasonings, may mislead some persons so far as to blind them to the originality, and freshness, and often the depth of the thoughts, thus lucidly and unpretendingly set forth. Never was there less of the wisdom of words; but the attentive reader will find an abundance of that wisdom which is higherwhich the New Testament contains, and which its diligent and humble students learn from its sacred pages.
The Author is a disciple of George Campbell of Aberdeen, or rather he belongs to a class of divines of which Campbell was an illustrious type ; who are distinguished for their love of truth, and their independent search after it; who insist strongly on the great Protestant principle, and put a wide difference between the word of God and all works of uninspired men, whatever claims to authority they may be supposed to possess ; and who strongly urge men to seek their religion in the pages of the New Testament, and to accept it as there expounded, rather than as it is refracted by passing through the systems which theologians have constructed ; whose names have often given their opinions an authority to which the sentiments of no uninspired man are entitled, and which virtually negatives the Protestant principle. This momentous truth is set forth with a clearness and power which cannot but refresh the minds of all genuine Protestants.
The reader of these discourses, which are thirty-eight in number, and extend as far as the middle of the ninth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, will find them singularly lucid, satisfactory and complete discussions of the subjects to which they relate-truly edifying and evangelical—in the proper acceptation of that much abused epithet-and wanting totally that bombast, mysticism, prolixity, and dulness, which have rendered theological reading so generally unpalatable. On the contrary, the solidity of the materials, and the conciseness and animation of the style, conspire to render this volume one of the most enter. taining works on a grave subject, which we remember to have met with. These qualities recommend it particularly as a book for family reading on Sunday evenings. The clear exhibition which it presents of the facts of the Gospel history, and the admirable commentary with which these are accompanied, render this one of the best books we know for the instruction of young people. Here they will learn no dogmatism ; they will imbibe no bigotry or uncharitableness ; but they will everywhere meet with lessons of solid wisdom and sober piety -of that piety which makes faith the beginning, and love the end of the commandment. We earnestly recommend this volume to heads of families in this view. They will find that their young people will listen to it; and we feel confident that no judicious reader will deny that such instruction should be listened to both by young and old.
Let us not mislead our readers. They must not imagine that the discourses we are commending to their attention, possess that kind of merit which has been so long in high repute among crowds of people. They are not high flown, rhapsodical, bombastic declamations; rhodomontade and mysticism they have none. The Author has evidently not even studied to be eloquent, or sublime, or sentimental. He has laboured to set forth the truth in simplicity, and soberness: and to our taste his labours have been eminently successful.
There are several of these discourses which might be instanced as models of religious writing—of theological discussion—such as those on “ Miracles”—“ Christ's Manner of Teaching”—on “ Fasting," and many others; where the subject is not exhausted to the dregs, but is so comprehensively sketched, and so lucidly exhibited, that one knows not whether to admire most the admirable ease of the manner, or the mastery and grasp of the subject. Many of these Lectures may be understood by a child ; and yet they will afford matter for reflection and will suggest new views to the most accomplished divine. That parish was highly favoured which enjoyed so long the privilege of listening to such preaching. We hope they had understanding enough to appreciate it, and grace to improve it.
That part of the present publication which is likely to attract the greatest notice is, the “Introduction to the Study of the New Testament," and the Appendix to Lecture X., “ on the Character of our Saviour's Miracles.” Both those treatises are so conspicuous for intellectual vigour, for originality, candour, and love of truth; they contain so much that is new, either in itself, or in the manner of its exhibition, that we cannot conceive that any one should peruse those treatises without conviction and profit. We quote the following passage as affording a specimen :
“In attempting to give an exposition of the Gospels, there are some cautions which demand our attention, because they will tend to guard us against hurtful mistakes.
“ I. First then, we ought to be careful not to confound Divine revelation with human opinions. There is too often a loose mode of interpreting the Scriptures, which would not be tolerated on any other occasion. Yet, when we consider the Divine origin, and truth, and supreme importance of the Scriptures, we should unavoidably expect that every Protestant would read them with veneration, and with a sincere desire to know their genuine meaning, and would be very careful not to mistake it, much more that he would be frightened at the thought of misrepresenting or perverting it. But is it not true that few get their knowledge of Christianity directly from the Scriptures? Each sect teaches the young its own leading peculiarities as the most correct and important views of Christianity, and afterwards the Scriptures are appealed to for confirmation. The consequence is, as