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observation,' but is still, like its Master, in the day of his humiliation, a tender plant, a root out of a dry ground,'--not the result of human skill, power, attainment, or attractiveness--tending to the glory of God, and not of any man-making, and to make its progress by humble and obscure means, and not by such as those which dazzle and arrest universal attention in one day-the day of a novel's birth into the world from the pen of Sir Walter Scott.
Now, we must confess, this does appear to us a fastidious sort of piety; and we take the opportunity of remarking on it because it is a clerical pietism, peculiar, as we believe, to the excellent class of evangelical churchmen — excellent, notwithstandingwhich has a tendency rather to foster than remove the prejudices of many against real religion. Why we should not rejoice in the numerous instances, or wish their multiplication, of men of the noblest intellectual eminence, who have, or may yet consecrate their talents to the purpose of directly propagating the gospel, we cannot divine. Are we to interpret the language, *The kingdom of God cometh not with observation,' as meaning that it is to come either without means, or that those who aim to promote it are to eschew the best order of instrumentality, rather adhering to the worst. If there be any use in means at all, surely the most energetic, the most adapted, the most effective should be sought; and who will question that in these respects vigour is better than dullness, learning than illiteracy, skill than weakness? But we need not pursue the argument; we only indicate it, as a caution to other pious writers, lest they should furnish a weapon to the enemies of truth, who are ready enough to sneer at what they deem cant and irrationality, and what cannot sometimes be defended against the charge.
Art. VI. The Life and Correspondence of John Foster. Edited by J. E.
Ryland. With Notices of Mr. Foster as a preacher and a companion, by John Shepherd, author of Thoughts on Devotion, &c., &c. In 2 vols. pp. 468, 590. London: Jackson & Wal
ford. 1846. The effect of these volumes will be like 'life from the dead.' We mean it in reference not to the public mind, but to their subject. To many there would be a difficulty in realizing for Mr. Foster any actual personal existence at all. That the writer of the celebrated essays on 'Decision of Character,' and 'Popular Ignorance,' dwelt among men, had intimate social relationships, wept and rejoiced, will be something of the nature of a
surprise to not a few. And many more will receive from these volumes a fresh and solemn impression of the reflection, what a mass of awful thought and deep emotion are daily passing through individual souls, little cared for or suspected by the world! Had they not been published, the varied and interesting exercises of a great mind would have been unknown, even as facts, to but a small number of chosen friends, and how many other minds are now having the same searchings,' are being 'troubled about the same things,' and 'wearied with the greatness' of the same way,' without the sympathy or knowledge of the dwellers upon earth? Human life is a great mystery!
We quite agree with Mr. Ryland, that the plan' he has se. lected in executing the somewhat difficult and delicate task committed to his hands, will be found to gratify the readers of these volumes. The Memoir is chiefly compiled from Mr. Foster's Letters; so numerous, happily, are the references to himself and the subjects, in which he took the deepest interest, that little more than a proper selection and arrangement has been requisite, in order to form them into a continuous narrative. A biography drawn from such sources will be found, probably, to present a more vivid and truthful exhibition of character, than even a record by a self-observer, however faithfully intended, if composed after a lapse of years, when the events, and the emotions they called forth, have begun to fade upon the memory. Nothing could have been more judicious. The chief interest of any account of Mr. Foster must of necessity be found in the view presented of the workings of his mind, and their results. Events, there were few in his history. The real life was within, not without. Two hundred and thirty-nine letters written by such an one in the confidence and freedom of friendship, upon endlessly diversified occasions, private and public, joyful and sorrowful, secular and religious, may well be expected to supply many materials interesting to the Christian, the philosopher, and the man of general intelligence. Mr. Foster loved more than he was willing to acknowledge, and than his dilatoriness would lead one to suppose, this particular kind of literary occupation; and his letters are free from all those features which frequently take off from the value of great men's epistolary communications. They bear no traces of a determination or anxiety to preserve an intellectual fame. They are not the results of severe study. We have not detected any marks of their being composed 'with a view to publication.' They were not sent to the public 'favoured by the persons to whom they were immediately addressed. They contain more feeling, if less thought, than some readers would be prepared
Very little need be said about the editor's 'share in the work. We have expressed what we doubt 'not will be a universal approbation of his plan, in very briefly sketching the principal events of the several periods of Mr. Foster's life, and leaving his letters to say the rest. This plan he has executed with care and judgment. At the same time, it may be thought that a sounder discretion would have dictated the exclusion of some of the letters, or of passages in them. The earlier ones occasionally contain expressions of thought and feeling which, though perfectly intelligible to the parties addressed, and to readers in general, may yet convey an erroneous impression to some; and in the later ones, there is the frequent recurrence of the same sentiments on the same or similar occasions in communications intended for different persons, which has another, and not a desirable effect when they appear in the same volume. Some of the reflections on the experience of departed souls, occur several times in connexion with the deaths of Mrs. Foster and other relations and friends. Ignorant as we are of the materials from which the editor had to make a selection, we are unable to say whether for the portions that might have been advantageously omitted there could have been substituted others not open to the same objection. On general grounds, we should think there might; but the inference is discountenanced by other considerations. We confess to a surprise, that the correspondents of Mr. Foster, as appears from these volumes, should have been so few, and, for the most part, so unknown to fame. This very fact may, however, impart additional value to the letters. The 'Notices of Mr. Foster as a preacher and a companion, by Mr. Shepherd, are a valuable portion of the work. The writer's personal knowledge of his subject, with his discriminating mind and refined taste, fitted him to sketch the social and ministerial character of Mr. Foster. He has done lit with wisdom and love. One passage we must give, describing an interview of Mr. Shepherd with Mr. Foster, about five weeks before the death of the latter,. .
• He came down from his chamber to see me in the customary sitting room, and although his thin and pale looks indicated great debility, conversed in his usual manner. I think I noticed to him the blessing of having the intellectual powers so entirely unimpaired during illness; to which he answered, * It is a comfort even to understand what is read and heard.'
'I then referred to the melancholy mental decay of the late distinguished Southey; on which Mr. Foster remarked, “No doubt his mind was worn out by the toil of building up many books, as if there were a want, a famine of books.'.. 'So it is,' he added with a smile, there are men who even apologize for their errors and
haste, and for not delaying in order to greater correctness, as if the world were labouring under a dearth of the article. I replied, 1. Consider, dear, sir, you are speaking to one of the culprits ;' to - which he rejoined,, 'No, hardly that, yet,' I said to his daughter, ,who sat by, We all wish Mr Foster had been more a culprit.' He
then intimated, ‘Perbaps we may wish this at times, now that no:thing more can be done ;' adding, · Much has been omitted every way, partly from trifling. One feels that in the great concern of religion, much more might have been done.", I observed. All. "however, no doubt, is for the best.' To which our friend replied,
Yes, in the deep sense. These feelings of defect serve to humble Dus, and to show that in ourselves we are nothing. I said, “It is
happy, sir, that you have good daughters near you. Even a son - would not be able to afford such aid and solace.' He answered, 4Yes, indeed, they are very kind.' The following sentiment was
also uttered by him with peculiar seriousness : How dreary would Told age and illness be, without the great doctrine of the atonement!' 1.I left him, bearing with me a deep impression of that thought; but certainly not with the apprehension that in this world we should meet no more. It was, however, so appointed.'--yol. ii. pp. 514516. *John Foster was born Sept. 17, 1770, at Wadsworth Lanes in the parish of Halifax, of parents who united the occupations of farming and weaving. Of this worthy couple the following account is given by Mr. Ryland :
U* 16 Mr. Foster was a strong-minded man, and so addicted to reading Cand meditation, that on this account, principally, he deferred in-Volving himself in the cares of a family till upwards of forty. He
received his permanent convictions of Christian truth from that w model of apostolic zeal, Mr. Grimshaw, of Haworth ; but subse
quently joined a small Baptist church at Wainsgate. Though a person of retired habits,* and averse from mixing in society further than a sense of duty required,'he possessed great cheerfulness and enlarged views. I remember,' a valued correspondent observes,
seeing him in company with a dear relative at the time when the British and Foreign Bible Society was first formed, and it is impossible for me to forget the devout exhilaration of the venerable Christian as he conversed on the subject, and indulged in bright visions of hope, in reference to the world he was leaving. His acquaintance with theological writers was extensive. His conversation was generally full of instruction, and showed an acute and discriminating mind. In the society of which he was so valuable a member, he took a leading part; and, on the decease of their pastor, read at
A secluded spot at the bottom of a wood near Hebden-bridge, and 'adjoining the river Hebden, with a projecting rock, whither the good man
used to retire for prayer and meditation, is still known by the name of "John Foster's cave. ?
their meetings every alternate Sunday, 'Gurnal's Christian Armour." It is said, that when any passage struck him as peculiarly excellent, he would pause and express his approbation by exclaiming, · Author, I am of thy opinion. “That's sound divinity.' In Mrs. Foster he found a partner of congenial taste, and his counterpart in soundness of understanding, integrity, and piety. They both lived to a very advanced age, but suffered much from bodily affliction during the latter part of their course. The following characteristic inscription was placed on Mr. Foster's tomb-stone, by bis own desire :-' John Foster exchanged this life for a better, March 21, 1814, in the eighty-eighth year of his age, and the sixty-third after God had fully assured him that he was one of his sons.' Mrs. Foster survived her husband, nearly three years, and died December 19th, 1816.'-vol. i. pp. 1-3.
The circumstances of Foster's early life and lot were not favourable to the healthy training of his mind. Feeling, at twelve years old, 'a painful sense of an awkward but entire individuality,' and obtaining by the gravity of his ways and sentiments the appellation of old-fashioned,' he greatly needed the mellowing and knitting influences of kindly intercourse and generous confidence. These were to a great extent denied to him, and the sensibility, and tendency to isolation, that naturally belonged to him were strengthened instead of moderated. He recoiled from human beings into a cold interior retirement,' where he felt as if dissociated from the whole creation. He was marked by a timidity amounting to 'infinite shyness.'
• A very large proportion of his feelings were so much his own, that he either • felt precisely that they could not be communicated, or hè did not feel that they could. His early antipathies were strong, but
not malicious.' His associations were intensely vivid ; he had, for instance, an insuperable dislike to a book, during the reading of which he had done anything that strongly excited self-reproacb; or to whatever was connected with feelings of disgust and horror. For a number of years he would not sit on a stool which had belonged to a man who died in a sudden and strange way, and whose ghost was said to have appeared in a barn near his house. In short, his imagi. nation was imperious and tyrannical, and would often haunt him with a scene of Indian tortures, or the idea of a skeleton meeting bim each night in a room he had to pass through to bed. The time of going to bed was an awful season of each day.' He was excited to strong emotion by reading passages in favourite authors, such as “Young's Night Thoughts.' Even simple words (as chalcedony), or the names of ancient heroes, had a mighty fascination over him, simply from their sound ; and other words from their meaning, as hermit.- vol. 1,
"I had, when a child,' was his affecting confession to Mr. Hughes, 'the feelings of a foreigner in the place, and some of the earliest