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REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
SCOTT's History of the Church of
(Concluded from p. 51.)
HAVING gone through the first general division of our remarks, which was to furnish such specimens of Mr. Scott's work as might convey a just impression of the period of the history under review, we shall now proceed to shew the manner in which the duties of an ecclesiastical historian have been performed by the author. With the main qualities required in an historian of the Church of Christ, Mr. Scott appears to us from this publication to be well endowed. He has brought to his difficult task a mind stored with evangelical knowledge, a calm and well-regulated judgment, a delight in his subject, a facility in writing, and some skill in disentangling perplexing questions. The work is composed very much in the spirit of his predecessors, the two Milners: we have the same general views of Christian doctrine; a similar soundness of judgment, a similar anxiety to distinguish real vital piety, wherever it may lie hid,
from its mere accidents and adjuncts, and the same direct aim to exhibit and to honour the grand fundamental doctrines of the Gospel of Christ. We observe no leaning towards the obliquities of party; but, on the contrary, an impartial, evenhanded simplicity, reposing in wellascertained truth, leaving secondary matters where facts place them, dealing out commendation and censure as each case seems to require, and rendering history the mild and dignified judge of human conduct. Mr. Scott occasionally throws out, in passing, a sententious and pointed observation, to expose a sophism, to silence cavils, or to display to his reader truth as respects some controverted topic. We give two or three specimens.
observation occurs respecting a letThe following mild but forcible ter of Melancthon, which was by far too favourable to the emperor's character.
written after the battle of Pavia, the cap"This is really too much to have been tivity of Francis, the sack of Rome, the imprisonment of the pope, &c. &c. It shews, however, how willing Melancthon and great men are, who do not purchase was to be pleased, and how unwise princes the esteem of mankind, when it may be often bought by them at so low a price as that of a little courtesy of manners and a few gracious words." p. 73.
is silenced thus briefly in their misA whole class of modern divines statements on the fundamental doctrine of justification. Having noticed the expression of the Apostle, Gal. v. 6," faith that worketh by love," which the Papists rendered, that it owed its power to justify to "faith formed by love;" meaning the love by which it was accompanied; he subjoins the following
little or nothing objectionable. He evi"In this Bishop Bull thinks there is dently attributes all the efficacy of faith, and even its very life,' to the love and good fruits which are associated with it: illustration, does not say, as a man withand, remarking that the Apostle, in his out a spirit is dead,' but, as a body without,' &c. he affirms, as a dead body is truly and properly a body, so a dead faith is truly and properly faith.' With this as a dead man is not a man.'" p. 280. compare our homily: It is not now faith,
Again, in his treatment of the misrepresentations of the Jesuit Maimbourg, we have such brief, but conclusive, rejoinders as the fol
lowing. The popish historian had been giving his own account of the progress of the Reformation in Brandenburg and Magdeburg. Mr. Scott turns upon him, and says, "This brief but striking statement tells important truths sorely contrary to the writer's wishes..... It furnishes an antidote to the misrepresentation of the sentences immediately preceding. There these changes in religion were attributed to the caprice of princes, to which the fickleness of the people was ever ready to conform itself: but here we find that the popular torrent in favour of reformation was so strong, and that not only among the lower orders, but even in the assembled 'states' of the provinces, that the most powerful and most zealous Catholic princes, ecclesiastical as well as civil, were obliged to give way to it!" pp. 257, 258.
In urging suitable practical reflections on the scenes which he describes, which is an important duty of a church historian, our continuator follows closely in the steps of his predecessors. The mercy and power of God, and not the wisdom or the courage of man, are referred to as the source of every good thing. The progress of vital and sanctifying truth in the hearts and lives of men, is ever kept in view; and the application of different incidents in history to the events of the present times is not forgotten, as in the following remarks on the great doctrine of justification by faith.
"This is the doctrine which, as Luther and his friends evermore so strikingly set forth,at once brings peace to the conscience, and holiness into the heart and life; gives liberty in the service of God, not, as some would insinuate, from that service: the doctrine which, blessed by the Spirit of God in the sixteenth century, overthrew the gainful, but corrupt and oppressive system of austerities, indulgences, purgatory, and priestly domination, that had for ages been growing up, and supplanting true religion and righteousness in the world. It is the doctrine which persons unacquainted, or but imperfectly acquainted, with Christian experience, and the operation of the Holy Ghost on the hearts of men, are ever ready to think big with a thousand dangers, and which therefore is ever liable to be tampered with, and to fall into disuse; but which has always been recovered again, to the establishment of peace in men's consciences, and righteousness in their lives, in proportion as God has poured his CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 302.
Spirit from on high' upon his church." PP. 41, 42.
We can only afford one illustration more of our author's practical reflections, which, however, are somewhat clumsily expressed.
"Alas! how much has even that consulting of their ministers, which is here spoken of, fallen into disuse even among the more religious part of their flocks! The intercourse between ministers and their people has become, too frequently, of that trite, general, and unprofitable, kind, which is almost all that passes between the people themselves. They have little to learn, little to ask of us; and they want confidence and earnestness of mind to ask even that little: and we ourselves, alas! unduly taken up with literature, or with news, or with business, have too little to bring forth, from the fulness of the heart,' for the edification of those with whom we converse. And this
is apt more especially to be the case where religion has become familiar, and the 'fervour of spirit,' with which it was at first both delivered and received, has gradually that this growing lukewarmness should worn off. May God, in his mercy, forbid after all become the bane of religion in our highly favoured country, and particuthe most abundant religious advantages! larly in those places which have enjoyed May we remember, in a truly impressive and efficacious manner, that many who are first shall be last!" May we 'repent and do our first works,' that our candle
may never be removed out of its place."" pp. 282, 283.
On another point, on which a reader would probably wish to be informed, our author's success in tations of popish or other historians, answering the general misrepresenour impression is, that he has to a very considerable degree succeeded. Maimbourg is followed, and detected with a sagacious fidelity, as we have already in one instance noticed. The defective. views, and occasional errors, of Robertson are exposed, and with such effect that the success of the refutation goes far to reconcile us to those extended quotations from that distinguished writer, for which our author feels it necessary to make an apology, or rather to assign his reasons, in the preface. In several particulars, Mr. Scott's judicious observations will greatly aid the young reader in forming a just judgment of that popular historian. The preO
judices of Beausobre, in his account of Luther, are also noticed; and the perversions of Bossuet meet with their due animadversion.
The public formularies which were produced at the famous diet of Augsburg, or prepared for other occasions, in the course of the sixteen years comprised in this volume, are another branch of our author's subject in which he has laboured with considerable success. There is no part of the volume which required more care and delicacy, and which has been more judiciously managed, than the review of the several parts of the Confession of Augsburg, and the comparison of them with our own Thirty-nine Articles. We can only make room for the following extract.
"The point, on which I should be inclined to judge the Confession most defective, is the work of the Holy Spirit; particularly that part of it which relates to the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will,' and not only working with us when we have' that good will. Of this I find no explicit mention: certainly, at least, it would seem to be of those things which are 'justo mollius prolata.'
"I notice this especially for the purpose of remarking, that the fashionable way of speaking of the grace of God as sisting our endeavours, and of branding every thing beyond this as fanatical, is a mere cover for practically excluding the grace of God altogether. When we speak of assisting a man's endeavours,' it implies that he is already willing and active himself: but is this the state of fallen man with respect to the service of God, previously to the influence of Divine grace upon his mind? Prevenient grace must go before, and work in us to will,' or assisting grace will find nothing with which to cooperate.-The language now frequently in use also implies, that any thing beyond assisting grace must be a compulsory influence. But it has been justly observed, that there is much said in Scripture, and in all our best divines, of an influence inclining the heart, though not forcing it; all which is thus overlooked.-Nothing can be further from my intention than to admit, that the Confession of Augsburg countenances any such system as this: it has merely omitted to guard against it so clearly and distinctly as our Articles have done." pp. 46, 47.
Such observations will convince our readers, that they may safely
follow our historian. They enter
In the decision of perplexing
denounce the first deviations from that unerring standard. This is a faculty which, we doubt not, will be more and more acquired by our author as he proceeds in his investigations. Further exercise will doubtless facilitate his task, and enable him to guide his readers, with less of hesitation, through the perplexing mazes of controverted occurrences, disputed motives, and dubious opinions. In adopting the mild and cautious tone of the present volume, we think Mr. Scott has erred, if he has erred at all, on the right side; and assuredly any appearance of assumption would have been quite misplaced. This first volume, if it fails, fails rather by defect than excess: it therefore allows of the author's assuming with advantage, in his future labours, a firmer voice of decision, both on controverted points, and on cases of practical conduct, as well as a more mellow tone of evangelical sentiment. These the writer will naturally acquire, and the reader as naturally be disposed to admit, in the succeeding volumes. To this end perhaps it might be desirable to limit more the mere citations from the original historians, and rather to incorporate their statements into his own mind, as the materials from which to weave his own narrative. Seckendorf and Sleidan and Father Paul have been possibly rather too much brought forward in their own persons, instead of being used generally as the elements of a new and independent composition. Nothing indeed can be more important than perpetual references in the margin to such authorities; occasional quotations also are far from being inappropriate. But, in the prosecution of his work, we should be inclined to think that its value would be greatly enhanced by first studying these writers attentively, and then pouring out from a well stored mind his own narration of events. Materials thus incorporated with a writer's reflections, and reproduced after their thorough appropriation, produce a
very different effect from mere abridgment. The first rises to the dignity and importance of history; the second partakes of the character of mere annals. The first leaves the author at liberty to give a just impression of the whole of a given portion of events; the second shackles him with the opinions of others. The one is an original effort, the other a mere copy.
By this more unfettered course, we conceive that Mr. Scott would insensibly acquire greater freedom and purity of style. The Milners were far from attaining to excellence in this respect. Still, in the portions of the work written by the Dean, there is a nervousness, a vivacity, and a clearness, which bear strongly the stamp of original thought, and frequently carry away the reader by the force of the author's own conceptions. The style is indeed far too diffuse; but the reader never mistakes the writer's meaning, or fails to receive a powerful impression of the subject which he urges; a point of prime importance in historical composition. We recommend it to Mr. Scott to keep this hint full in view. There are parts of his volume exceedingly well written, and the defects of those sentences which are so obscure as to require to be read a second time before their meaning is clearly perceived, probably arise from the haste and interruptions to which the composition of a long work, by an active parochial clergyman, must be exposed. It is a point not wholly unimportant, to pay some regard to the selection and just use of words: there are several scattered in this volume which, though admitted into common colloquial use, are misplaced in the more elevated style which becomes history.
We make these remarks, both on the independence of the composition and the character of the style, with the more freedom, because the volume demands, and will bear any suggestions which may conduce to the improvement of those that are
to follow. And yet, after all, we feel that the course pursued by our author is infinitely better than that style of philosophical speculation in writing history, which, idly contenting itself with a few prominent facts, proceeds to construct theories, and to assign motives at pleasure, almost converting history into romance; and where the writer, instead of reporting with faithfulness and impartiality the testimony of contemporary annals and authentic records, frames a narrative chiefly with a view to effect, or to some preconceived theory of his own; or, under the influence either of prejudice or of party feeling, enlarges, contracts, or distorts, as suits his purpose, the transactions he has undertaken to record. With such an author as Mr. Scott, we feel that we are at least on safe ground. We learn from him the true history of the events we are solicitous to become acquainted with; and though desirous that more of that purity and elevation of style, and that originality of composition, which distinguish the writings of some of our more secular historians, might be infused into the subsequent volumes, we should nevertheless strongly press upon him the duty of prosecuting, to its consummation, the work which he has so creditably commenced.
We have adverted to the manner in which Mr. Scott succeeds in the development of perplexed and difficult topics. The first which occurs, the grave question respecting the lawfulness of resistance to the emperor, is well argued, and we think safely determined. On the shameful event of the bigamy of the Landgrave of Hesse, we think it would have been better at once to have admitted that the reformers acted erroneously in giving any sanction, under any limitations, to so grossly criminal a proceeding.The admission or approbation of a direct sin, under the plausible ground of a comparative case only being submitted for judgment, is dangerous
and unwarrantable. The questions connected with the life of Erasmus, a name so great among the revivers of learning, and so little in the far more elevated rank of religious reformers, are judiciously settled: his dubious movements are well exposed, the tendency of his proposals of reconciliation detected, and his real character fairly estimated. Indeed, the views presented generally throughout the volume on the subject of the numerous conferences and attempts at concord between the Roman-Catholic and Protestant bodies, which uniformly failed of success, are amongst the best decisions of our author. We would willingly quote a specimen or two on this topic, if we were not reminded, by our contracting limits, that we must now confine ourselves to one or two citations, with which we shall conclude this second division of our subject. The two following are striking passages. The calm, acute, and conclusive reasoning of the first, and the unambitious elevation of the second, are both equally excellent.
After several pages of remarks on Beausobre's letter of Melancthon, and on the use made of that supposed letter by a modern RomanCatholic writer, Mr. Scott proceeds to refute a misrepresentation of Bossuet relating to Luther's imputed intercourse with the devil, and then advances some general observations full of sound sense on the drift of Bossuet's celebrated, but most unfair, work, directed against the Reformation, under the title of "The History of the Varieties, &c." He concludes with the following able passage:
"It has struck me, in reading the Bishop of Meaux's work, that a writer equally able, equally unflinching, and, in particular, acting under the influence of a misguided conscience, would find little difficulty in composing much such a book, drawn from the New Testament itself, and directed against Christianity, as he has composed professedly from the writings of the refor chapter of St. Matthew would be made to mers, against the Reformation. The 23d furnish specimens of the violent and un