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notes to the several lectures will be found, nineteen in number, containing confirmatory extracts and additional remarks, for the further illustration of points stated in the Lectures to which they respectively refer.
Such are the subjects on which the Lecturer dwells in this truly valuable volume ; and when we say that he treats them in his own peculiar style, and in a manner not unworthy of the reputation which he has already acquired, we believe that we have said enough to induce such of our readers as may be forming a theological library, to place the work on their shelves, that having given it one good reading, they may subsequently refer to it, as we think they will often do, as inclination or duty may prompt them to such studies, or leisure afford opportunity for them. we do not mean to say that we agree in everything with the esteemed author : there are topics which the junior student will have to peruse with very cautious attention. Neither do we recommend to the junior Minister to make Dr. Hamilton's style his model. What in him is exuberance, from less activity of thought, and a mind less richly stored, would be a wearisome tautology. What from such a man is impressive and delightful, would, in the mere imitator, be repulsive and ridiculous. Still, taken as a whole, we have here a contribution to the stock of modern theological literature for which our best thanks are due, and are sincerely tendered to the author.
Having given this general account of the work, which would be sufficient, could we suppose that all our readers would procure it for themselves, we proceed to put on record, in our own pages, a few extracts and observations, affording further illustration of the character of these “ Lectures," chiefly designed for those into whose hands the volume may not come; only prefacing them with a compendium of the Lecturer's grand theme.
That man may properly be a subject of moral government, he must be, in the original constitution of his being, a moral agent. He must be capable of moral knowledge, and of moral obedience. Now, this last implies, not merely the capacity of receiving certain moral impressions, performing certain moral acts, and so sustaining a certain moral character; but a power of choosing to receive that knowledge, perform those acts, and sustain that character. The inferior animals are living agents, but they are not moral agents; they are incapable of possessing the ideas answerable to the expressions,
“This is right. This is not right. It is positively wrong. I ought to do the right. I ought not to do the wrong.” Such is the construction of man's nature, that of all this he is capable ; and whatever other distinctions exist between him and the inferior animals, this is the principal one. It is the great characteristic of his nature. He alone is made in “the image of God;" and as God is essentially, eternally, a moral being, man is so essentially, and throughout the whole extent of his existence. Energy merely physical, or merely vital, acts when the circumstances exist which call it forth, according to its nature, unavoidably, necessarily. Fire, applied to that which is combustible, burns. The hungry animal seeks for its prey, and devours it. The silkworm eats its mulberry-leaf, spins its covering, undergoes its metamorphoses. But man has the power of self-control, self-direction; of choosing the way in which he should walk, and of choosing it for moral reasons-of saying, “I will not do this ; for it is wrong, and I ought not to do wrong. I will do that ; for it is right, and I ought to do right.” In his nature there is the power of moral choice. Not, indeed, standing alone. It exists with the other properties with which he
is endowed, and is influenced by them, as all these properties mutually act upon each other. But this is known by him, and his character depends on the manner in which it proceeds. He is framed for self-government. And, thus framed, he is placed under law. He is commanded to exercise in a certain way the powers he possesses. He is commanded not to exercise his powers in certain other ways. The authoritative directions thus given to him are laws. God, as giving them, assumes to him the relation of Sovereign, and places him in the relation of subject. Right, thus enjoined, becomes duty; and wrong, thus forbidden, becomes sin. The full perfecţion of his being at first exists in him only as in germ. In vegetables, we see the seed, then the growth, then the perfect plant. All circumstances being favourable, that is, corresponding with the nature of the plant, these processes go on necessarily, and the result is unavoidably certain. Analogous to this is the condition of man. He does not at first exist in this state of full perfection. There are the elementary principles which are required for it : but these must be developed into that higher condition by proper exercise. To direct him in this, the law is given. It is his duty, knowingly, intentionally, willingly, to obey it. Obeying it, the process goes on, and, at the appointed period, the result is secured. Man, therefore, exists, first, in this state of obedient progress ; secondly, in this state of fully perfected being. But as the first state is that in which he is required, as matter of duty, so to govern and direct himself as to secure this progress, and as this, though obligatory, is voluntary, and may be refused, in which case the result comes not to pass, it is termed a state of probation. The law which commands him likewise threatens him. If he fail in securing the result, he not only loses the blessedness which it implies, but falls into a state of suffering and evil, which, as threatened, is the punishment inflicted on him, for his own rebellious refusal of obedience. While, in case of obedience, at the appointed close of the probation, he will be placed in circumstances suited to his perfected state of being, and confirmed in the full and perpetual possession and enjoyment both of that and of them. The directions of the law, therefore, in this state of probation, are connected with the promise of reward, and the threatening of punishment. And this state is limited. At the appointed period it issues in the final state, in which, according as the directions have been obeyed or neglected, reward is bestowed, or punishment inflicted. The probationary state ; the final and eternal state, either in reward or punishment: beside them, we know of no other.
Such is the general outline of man’s condition ; and to the elucidation and establishment of it, Dr. Hamilton devotes these “ Lectures.” More important ones cannot be brought before us. They concern us all, and that in matters of the highest conceivable concernment. It is no mere speculation, however just or elegant. "IT IS NO VAIN THING : IT IS YOUR LIFE.” Let no man say, “These matters are too high for me.” Whatever our earthly condition, we are here strangers and pilgrims, travelling towards eternity, our final and unchangeable home; and whatever else we know or know not, we all need to know how we may secure the blessing and escape the curse, with one of which our whole being shall be everlastingly filled.
Dr. Hamilton begins at the very beginning of this momentous subject. Taking man as he finds him to be, and all the facts which truly constitute the phenomena of the case, the visible appearances which are the certain indications of that which, though invisible, is really and inwardly existent, he inquires what this creature, so different from all the creatures that surround him, so wonderfully elevated above them, actually is: the result of the investigation being, that man's moral agency has its place assigned it among those most evident, those undeniable, Facts on which all true science must rest.
The Lecturer's own conviction of the importance of his theme, and his solemn determination to conduct the inquiry which he proposes as that importance deserves and demands, are unmistakeably shown in the few sentences of his opening address. Dr. Hamilton's audience would at once perceive that he was deeply in earnest ; that he was not going to amuse them with pretty trifles, elegant littlenesses, bon-bons for children of all ages, even though all poisonous material (which in the matter of sweetmeats is not always the case) had been carefully avoided ; that he was not going to conduct them by the clearly-connected steps of a series of metaphysical demonstrations, to the undeniable establishment of some abstract truth, however pleasing such a movement might be to those whose minds were disposed to it: it was plain from the first that the subject which was to occupy them in the lecture-room was by no means to be confined to it; that it concerned them not as scholars or as disputants, but as men ; men with eternity in full prospect before them; whose complete and everenduring happiness or misery was most intimately connected with the subjects he was called to discuss : so that mistake, either on his part or theirs, might be attended with the most fearful issues. All was calculated-if we may use a frequent, but incorrect, phrase-to solemnize the mind, to awaken a feeling that, we are bound to say, is more than sustained to the close. We could almost imagine we heard the text enunciated, “Doth not even nature itself teach you ?” and then, in sentences longer than those which the Doctor often employs, as though the weightiness of sentiment and feeling had pressed his thoughts into union, he goes on : (let the reader, though alone, read the extract aloud :)
Conclusions in science cannot fail stration. Studies of such moment must often to appear unreasonable, unless they be rigidly cautious, if we would reach be intelligibly and approvedly con- satisfactory results. The well-being ducted from their several first princi- of man is too implicitly involved in ples. They can only be shown generally them to warrant lightness and haste. reasonable when every step in their pro- For morals are not, in our idea and gress is clearly reasonable.
They are scheme either of philosophy or religion, but accumulations of individual ele- simple suggestions of reflection and exments, every one of which must be as perience,—not inere dictates of fitness, entire and convincing as themselves. not only calculations of utility,,but We are bound to trace these interme. they presuppose a Governor in the diate conditions in their arrangement Creator of mankind; not exclusively and correspondence, one to another, and the Contriver of the final causes which each to all. The link ought to be no we mark in material nature, but the less perfect than the chain : if it be not, Designer and the Master of that conthe coil is too loosely inserted and easily duct which shall lead us to our happi. broken. And stupendous facts and re
“ He hath showed thee, O man, condite truths—which seem unlikely and what is good!” indefensible at first-may thus be es- And therefore is it besought, at the tablished, redeemed from incredulity, threshold of the long and solemn arguand confirmed beyond doubt.
ment which the Lecturer now anxiously, Especially in morals, and in all tremblingly, attempts, that candid pabranches of inquiry connected with tience be exercised, that precipitate them, is it demanded that the investiga- decision be repressed ; that he be tion be most searching, and the synthe- suffered to clear space after space, sis be most complete. A fault of rea- to lay stone upon stone,mas honestly soning, a misstatement of facts, is as resolved to discard the vicious proof by fatal as a break in mathematical demon- which his argument may have been de
fended, as to meet fairly, point to point, rage and excite himself, that he but the most weighty objections by which it more secretly, certainly more painfully, has been oppugned.
promotes all the good which alone can The whole question is a problem of be found in truth, and which truth only truth,-truth, whatever it may be, wher- can secure. Vanity, error, and falseever it can be found, having any relation hood, are the necessary causes of misery to it. But truth is not sternly cold : and beacons of peril. There can be no majestically unbending from the claims worthy peace, no true: safety, in forge of its very nature, it is the only standard ting, evading, and opposing truth. of benevolence and source of sympathy. “ The light is the life of men.' He who is summoned to discourse of
(Page 3.) truth in its severest aspects, may encou
Would that these latter observations were more generally acknowledged ! that they could be brought to pervade society, and, as it were, with all the power of an original instinct, to govern all its operations. This is the great want of our day. To the thoughtful and far- and fore-seeing, it indicates our greatest danger. In days gone by, an unholy, and therefore only a pretended, regard to truth, produced the monster bigotry, whose iron hoof trod down into waste the fairest fields of the church, and whose insatiate appetite could only be gratified by devouring those who presented the genuine characteristics of Christ's sheep, hearing his voice, and following him. By the revival of truth itself, the great law of truth has been recovered. It is to be spoken in love. Charity is the only fitting medium of its expressions and developments. The horrid, mis-shapen, huge monster, for hatred of love deprived of all light, truth refuses to acknowledge as her servant, and dismisses to the train of that narrow-minded, obstinate self-will, who, usurping the prerogatives of royalty, stamp on mere personal opinion the image and superscription of truth, and pretending to do her homage, are all the while haughty idolaters of themselves. But, unhappily, the mind of man seems now only to move from curvature to curvature; to spring from curvature in one direction as by the force of rebound to curvature in the opposite direction, both being departures, equal to each other, from the true and straight line. Charity is now said to be the order of the day ; but it is a spurious charity, not less alien from the truth, and, if possible, more hostile to it, than the bigotry which it professes to have superseded. We
e say, professes to have superseded, for it is no more than profession. Equal bigotry is now shown in opposition to the truth, as formerly was shown in supporting it. And the more important the truth, the more virulent the opposition. One property of charity does it alone exhibit, “ Perfect love casteth out fear.” And wherever this charity is complete, even the fear which produces modesty is cast off, and there only remains a bold, unblushing hatred of the truth, a fearless, reckless antagonism to it. Go to unhappy France, or take those in our own country whom French charity has inoculated, and who have thoroughly taken the infection; and this is the chief symptom. The most threatening evil of the present day is found in its latitudinarianism. It is by this that the revival of exploded error is promoted. It leads to the elevation of Popery, that is, spiritual despotism, just as revolutionary licentiousness, or false liberty, conducts, through lawless anarchy, to military power and political despotism. Latitudinarianism is the surest ally of bigotry ; and whatever the ostensible grounds of the friendship between them, he is blind who sees not that the friendship exists. We would, therefore, echo and re-echo the warning voice of Dr. Hamilton : “Truth is the only standard of benevolence and source of sympathy.” “ He who discourses of truth in its severest aspects, promotes all the good which alone can be found in truth, and which truth alone can secure.” Let all pretensions to benevolence and sympathy be tried by this test. The value of a promissory note is to be estimated, not primarily by the figure impressed upon it, but by the ability of the issuer to make it good. We may rest assured of this, that “ vanity, error, and falsehood are the causes of misery, and beacons of peril.”
We cannot follow Dr. Hamilton through the entire argument of this first lecture : it will be sufficient to say, that he finds in human nature all the constituents which blend in the grand idea of moral agency. To some of the expressions occurring in the progress of the demonstration we should be inclined to demur; but we are the less inclined to argue the demurrer, because we agree in the general conclusion, and because, perhaps, the difference would be found to exist less in the precise point in the reasoning, than in the formal utterance which is given to it. For ascertaining what man is, undoubtedly man himself must be examined. But unhappily every individual subject brought to the dissecting board, viewed merely in reference to itself, only furnishes preparation for morbid anatomy. Many mental philosophers, overlooking this, have fallen into grievous errors. They have studied man as he is. We need the guidance of revelation here, to show us man as he was, and as he should be. We want to be enabled to distinguish the morbid from the sound, that which belongs to the fallen child of Adam, and that which belongs to the original divine image.
We shall give one or two detached passages. The one which refers to the awful grandeur of the human soul, Dr. Hamilton himself, with all the splendour and force which have characterized his former compositions, never surpassed. And it is as instructive as it is beautiful.
There is but one thing in the created ment, they fill the earth. But all hiuniverse essentially great, or worthy of therto is unconscious and unreasoning, infinite greatness.
Others are things of Until now there is nothing to observe space and time. They are not the full and appreciate. There is no power of conception of the Creator, but only prepa- intellectual sympathy. Matter does not ration for that which is.
They are the investigate matter. World does not hidings of his power. It is not light, admire world. Star does not confess the first-born of his omnific word. It the loveliness of star. There is yet is not life, teeming in its countless wanting a faculty which these do not structures and sensibilities. It is not include. Let this essence be created, harmony, floating from sphere to sphere. and all the marks and proofs of this It is not sun and planet, matter in any glory may be recognised. That which of its forms and conditions, whatever its is taught, is learnt. That which is reimmensity, or whatever its beauty : it vealed, is understood. That which is is not to be found in the furniture of impressed, is received. The Creator is mountains, mines, or seas. It has not acknowledged and adored. The orbs of sign in height or depth. What is this heaven, which always declared his glory mightiest production of boundless wis. and showed his handiwork, have now dom, power, and benignity ? It is found an ear on which to choir and an Mind, intelligent, reflective, account. eye on which to gleam, The volumes able, immortal mind ! The Self-Ex- of instruction, which could not peruse istent “ hath made us this soul!”
and meditate themselves, Mind is the only medium for the di- searched by that which best resembles vine glory. This glory consists of cer. their Author, by that which can intertain manifestations which Jehovah gives pret their meaning. of himself. He does skilfully, wonder- Mind is the only capacity for divine fully, benevolently. He imprints on enjoyment. Our Maker loves to commuevery side his signatures and character. nicate of his happiness. He blesses his istics. They are inscribed on the firma- inferior portion of creatures with no