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persons of this habit of mind; for it requires a great genius to embellish the Morose. But the Genial adorns itself; and a man resolved to be useful is sure to accomplish his object.
We trust that these remarks occur somewhat in season; for we think we recognise in the rising generation of literary men a more wholesome and masculine frame of mind than that which characterised a large number of their immediate predecessors. And in proportion as the political constitution becomes more popular, genius of every description is, perhaps, insensibly compelled to become more social. One of the results of the Reform Bill was, that it threw men of letters, desirous of entering public life, at once upon the people,-familiarizing both the candidate and the crowd with the pretensions and qualities of either; and yet this audacity in a student was deemed so impossible by the advocates of the old system, that it was urged as one of the inestimable advantages of close boroughs, that through them, and through them alone, could men of literature and science be returned to Parliament; as if it were desirable to foster in them that fastidiousness and reserve which necessarily diminish their utility in active life. He who shrinks from the roar of the Hustings, will probably shrink no less from the eye of the Speaker. The advocates for the old system, under pretence of kindness to the character of the student, were nursing the very qualities that were to secure his failure. But the main advantages of an enlarged political circle, in connexion with the pursuits of the scholar, are less in alluring him from his closet to public life,
(for in that the public may lose as often as it may gain,). than in familiarizing his ear and his heart with the affairs of the actual world. The agitation, the stir, the ferment,-the lively, the unceasing, the general interest in political concerns, which it is the nature of popular governments to create, meet him in every circle; insensibly they force themselves on his meditations-they colour his studies-they transfuse their spirit into his compositions. This it was which so singularly characterised the literature of Athens; bringing in close contact the statesman and the student,-giving vitality to the dream of the poet, and philosophy to the harangues of the orator. And by a necessary reaction, the same causes which render the man of letters more interested in the affairs of men of action, interest the men of action in the aims and character of men of letters. The connexion is as serviceable to the world as to the scholar; it corrects the dreaminess of the last,-it refines the earthlier calculations of the first; and thus popular institutions insensibly become the medium of exchange, which barter and transfer from the most distant quarters, the most various commodities in the intellectual commerce of mankind.
ART. X.-Oaths; their Origin, Nature, and History. By JAMES E. TYLER, B.D. 8vo. London: 1834.
HE world must have been successful in clearing away public THE grievances and vulgar errors, if it has got down at present as low as Oaths in the natural progress of reform. Not thinking this to be the fact, the discussion is one we should not yet have volunteered; but the honest earnestness of Mr Tyler has betrayed us into it. In principle, indeed, we go beyond him; for, while he seems disposed to cut off something from the breadth of Quaker opinions on this question, we are ready to do battle for them in their unshorn latitude of brim, subject only to discrimination between things which are scripturally unlawful, and things which are practically inexpedient.
There is an important case in the background, to be determined by even graver considerations than respect for exaggerated scruples. But the difficulty of legislating for subtleties of conscience ought to make society cautious of needlessly provoking them. In the present instance, Parliament appears not to have always succeeded in understanding the nature of the qualms which it was intending to relieve. The main stress of Mr Tyler's personal dissatisfaction is directed against the imprecation embodied in the ordinary form of adjuration. The grounds of this particular scruple may be thought very unimportant. It is only the more absurd that an indulgence, which was extended during the last session to an almost imperceptible sect called Separatists, can be obtained by a respectable clergyman upon no other condition than that of formally abjuring the Church of England. Mr Tyler is a warm advocate of the prevalent opinion, that the interests of morality and religion have seriously suffered from the multiplicity of oaths, and from their unceremonious administration. With this view he urges their partial reduction, without prejudice, it appears, one way or the other, to the further question of their total abolition. Supposing the prevalent demand for a reduction in the sum-total of our national swearing to be well founded (and Parliament has been recently acting on it to a great extent), it is natural to ask, what criterion is to settle the boundary of the line, or the selection of the cases? If the moral and religious advocates of reduction-Sir Robert Inglis, for example-can produce no such criterion, we trust they may see reason to doubt, whether the cause of morality and religion can be at all concerned, on its own account, in the continuance of a single oath. The sects, with whom the refusal to swear is an
article of faith, are certainly not among the least religious of the members of the Christian world.
Our sincere respect for the spirit in which Mr Tyler writes, cannot prevent our feeling that he does not get to the bottom of his subject we suspect that he is not fully conscious of its depth. His work is almost exclusively that of a divine and scholar, and is more half-sermon, half-memoir, than a well-digested argument addressed to a specific end. There is nothing in it, or nothing beyond a few incidental observations, on the paramount question -whether oaths are of any, and what, use for the general purposes of civil society? Considering that our author comes forward as a reformer, and a reformer upon principle, his readers were entitled to expect that he should have laid his reasons somewhat more philosophically before them. The modifications, which he recommends, assume that oaths are to be retained in certain excepted cases. At the same time, not an exception can be justified upon his principles, but by a necessity of some kind or another, which the party requiring them must establish. We undertake to say, that if swearing is to be suspended till the Legislature has made out the existence of a separate necessity for each exception, few of us can expect to hear another oath. The only one of Mr Bentham's writings to which Mr Tyler alludes, is a Pasquinade against University Oaths, under the title, Swear 'not at all.' It is right that he should make himself acquainted with the Rationale of Evidence,' the most inaccessible, perhaps, but the most original of all Mr Bentham's works. It contains a correct and complete map, not less comprehensive than minute, of this particular subject. Among all the peremptory conclusions of the great dogmatist of modern jurisprudence, there is no point which he has ruled more absolutely than the inutility of oaths. In case Mr Tyler is really not aware of the legitimate extent of the argument, in which he has taken so creditable a part, Mr Bentham's logic is pretty certain of an intellectual convert in him. In case he has been only deterred from stating the whole truth by the belief, that half the truth was as much as the Church and the Public were prepared for at present, there is reason to hope that he may now take courage, and venture upon the remaining half. The movements of orthodoxy are so capricious, that it is not to be wondered at if glimpses of the crown of martyrdom stole into his study, and intercepted occasionally the light. Mr Tyler might think himself quite bold enough already; for his limited propositions are identical with those which were published, some seventy years ago, by a M. Herport, a venerable pastor of Berne, and which brought down upon their worthy author the thunder of his aristocratical little canton.
England was, however, even then sufficiently tolerant to visit a contemporary translation of M. Herport's Essay with no worse persecution than neglect. Our own times, it is to be hoped, have not lost in charity what they have gained in intelligence and zeal. Upon enquiry at the Duke of Richmond's committee, Mr Tyler, we believe, will learn, that at least one Bishop has declared himself in favour of the abolition of all oaths-judicial among the rest.
It is important that the right principle should be understood: leaving it to expediency, popular prejudice, and other legislative considerations to determine, at what seasons and with what limitations the principle may be applied. The fundamental_difficulties, which still remain unsettled in a system of ages, show the intractableness of the system, and the extent to which reason has been superseded in it by the mere force of custom and superstition. Contradictory definitions cover with doubt the first and preliminary point. Even now, with the millennium almost in sight, Doctors are disputing what words are essential to constitute an oath. The very object of the ceremony has been so differently construed at different periods of civilisation, that we can never be sure from age to age, much less from individual to individual, what is the principle and what the degree of security which the ceremony conveys. Its only rational object, and the form in which it is administered, are still more frequently at variance with each other. Legislators, scattering oaths over a few favourite subjects under a vague notion of protection, have never attempted to explain why the protection was so partially distributed, and why a single interest was left out. We no sooner read of the existence of the system, than we read complaints of its inefficiency. But the pious men who have, from time to time, come forward with such complaints, beginning with the comments of Hierocles on the golden verses of Pythagoras, and ending with the remonstrance of Mr Tyler, have confined their opposition to considerations, which could lead to no decisive results. Instead of sifting the subject from its first principles, they were satisfied all along with declaiming against the multiplicity of oaths, and with calling for nothing more than a relaxation of the usage. They never took the pains to distinguish where multiplicity begins; or to prove, in a single specific instance, that the maintenance of it by oath was of such importance, directly or indirectly, as to counterbalance the mischiefs which belong to the system, however accurately limited and discreetly superintended. The whole question appears, in short, to have been left a jungle, waiting for the first reformer, who would take up common sense, as a hatchet,-enter, and possess. It was just the case for Mr Bentham.
The question was in truth wonderfully open; although, on one hand, the language of scripture seems at first sight decisive against all oaths; while, on the other, the usage of almost all countries raises a potent presumption in their favour. The first difficulty (and it is no inconsiderable one) is to get over words so plain as Swear not at all' in the Sermon on the Mount. The Wickliffites, Anabaptists, and Quakers, were not the first partisans of literal interpretation. Till about the sixth century, the great majority of early Christians had considered the text a universal prohibition. However, the example of our Saviour, in his answer to the adjuration of the High Priest, is a satisfactory comment on his words;-to the extent at least of proving that, whether the supreme authority does right or wrong in demanding oaths, its subjects are justified in submitting to the demand. The celebrated texts on civil obedience are said to have left that duty where they found it. Not so the present passage. It evidently forbids something which was allowed to the Jews. Criticism has not been very successful in explaining what that something was. Mr Tyler is disappointed with Michaelis. Grotius, one of the most competent enquirers that ever lived, supposes that it only forbade promissory oaths; Mosheim imprecatory; whereas Calvin, Paley, and others, reasonably conceiving that oaths when they were required by public authority were not meant to be brought into dispute, understand the new restriction to be pointed at an evil habit into which the Jews had fallen, of evading the Commandment, and swearing by other names than that of the Creator. The let ter and spirit of the prohibition agree in treating the name or form of the adjuration as a subordinate consideration; and include under the censure of an oath all exaggerations of expression. Indeed all such exaggerations are necessarily marked with one of the most characteristic and mischievous qualities of an oath: which is the distinguishing between different degrees of truth, according to a difference in the terms, or vehemence of asseveration. If critics can make little that is positive one way or the other out of the language of Scripture, sensible persons will attribute still less authority to its examples. These instances can hardly be the foundation of positive conclusions, while imprecatory oaths (the subject in some quarters of so much serious reprehension) are supposed, by writers of the class of Beza and Sanderson, to have received the sanction of St Paul in his own person. Morality has in this, as in other cases, but little in common with the specialties of Jewish manners. Practices allowable under the old law (it is the very declaration of the text), are no longer to be allowable under the new. But supposing that the precedents of the Old Testament upon this point had not been expressly over