Page images

If there were a channel through the isthmus of Suez, we should think it a strange caprice of authority that should require us to double the Cape of Good Hope, especially if the latter involved a probability of some parts of the cargo being spoiled. But it is not caprice in the case before us; there is a reason very distinctly assigned, namely, that it will be difficult to find translators all of whom shall be unbiassed by any heretical or sectarian notions; and therefore a synod of the clergy, the orthodox clergy, (beware therefore of any of your Warwickshire Grecians) a synod which will be infallibly certain, of course, that every interpretation and gloss of sectarian and heretical critics must be erroneous, is in a great measure to supplant the less safe and less obsequious originals, by prescribing definitively, in English, a bible that shall in future ages, all over the regions of Asia, take scrupulous care to sanction every point, if we rightly understand Mr. W., of a certain ecclesiastical creed and institution established by law in a remote island of the earth. But this expedient of substitution and prescription will probably prove inadequate to the purpose, even in its immediate operation; for if the Colebrookes and the Careys,' who are to translate, should unfortunately happen to be a little heretical or sectarian, they will be just as able, after the expedient, as before, to infuse the erroneous tincture into their oriental versions,-unless either, first, they can be made to take a solemn oath never to cast one look toward the deposed Greek and Hebrew authorities, which are so likely to tempt them to swerve from their allegiance to the usurping English codex; or, secondly, the proposed synod, or at least some of its members, will take the trouble to learn Sanscrit, Bengalee, Orissa, &c. &c., in order to be judges of the fidelity of the performances.

We feel it an ungracious thing, especially in remarking on a discourse of Mr. Wrangham, whose spirit in general we very highly respect and admire, to have the task (absolutely incumbent on us who maintain a principle of neutrality) of animadverting on this assuming esprit du corps, this propensity to claim infallibility, which would so unceremoniously settle every thing its own way as to forbid the bible itself to pass into the languages of Hindostan, Tartary, and China, except through the medium and the check of a version first carefully adjusted, in every phrase and word, to accord in every point with a local ecclesiastical institution, by a synod composed exclusively of persons devoted to its interests.

. We will quote Mr. W.'s proposal of the specific measures requisite for completing a corrected English text; and, provided there were something more liberal in the principle of

the proposed appointment, and something less despotic in the mode of its application to the eastern versions, we heartily wish (for reasons pretty largely stated in our last number, p. 24 et seq.) that the time were come for such a proposal to be carried into effect.

Let a national synod then, appointed from the Universities of the united kingdom, and the whole of the British clergy, assign to each of its constituent members certain portions of Scripture-for the purposes of incorporating such readings, as are sanctioned by a satisfactory majority of manuscripts; of adopting such interpretations as the cultivated state of Hebrew criticism imperiously suggests; of restoring or rectifying such allusions, as have been discovered or explained by our enlarged acquaintance with the writings and inhabitants of the East; finally, in a humbler view of the subject, of adjusting any accidental dislocations of particular passages, distributing each book into systematic sections and subdivisions; and re-infusing the fire and spirit which may occasionally have been lowered to the cooler temperature of Europe. Let these separate labours subsequently undergo the careful revisal, and receive the solemn approbation, of the entire body; and they will thus constitute a standard text, not only for all the versions now projected, but also, (whenever circumstances shall appear, to legitimate judges, to demand or to fa vour the measure) for the domestic use of Great Britain.' p. 29.

[ocr errors]


'But how to find talents, intellectual or pecuniary,' says Mr. W. for these arduous and expensive translations?' He answers • Mæcenases will ever create Maros.' But then how to create Mæcenases? He cites the princely writer on dæmonology,' who accomplished so much by a single rescript, and then adds, Consecrate but the stream of royal patronage to this holy purpose, and guard it sacredly from the open absorption of the great, and the base mining of the little, from the lip of the supple and of the noisy worshipper of power; and modern Hebraists will not shrink from a comparison with those who, under the influence of contemporary prejudices, trembled at a spell.' p. 30. But to whom is the injunction directed? Which of us is to consecrate that royal stream to this holy purpose? He next appeals with more propriety to the generous part of the public at large; and finally concludes with a strenuous exhortation to the noblest atchievement that our nation ever performed or attempted in foreign lands.-A good share of entertainment and information is subjoined in the form of notes.

After the preceding remarks, a very few words will suffice for a closing estimate of this sermon. It contains many forcible observations, ingenious allusions, and brilliant images. Sometimes there is too much watching and art apparent in surprising these images, and the objects of these allusions, and bringing them in a little against their good will; and now and then they come in with rather too much appearance of an


unfair preconcert and collusion with the author. The happiest thing for an orator is to happen to meet with these sparkling wanderers as he is actively going right forward, when neither he nor they were at all thinking of each other, but are both equally delighted with the casual rencounter. We hint this fault, however, only with respect to the smaller number of Mr. W.'s figures; and we will only notice one as violating essential laws, that of the Jordan flowing into the Thames. As a discussion, the composition is carried on with vigour, and by means of a little more care and labour would have been carried on with somewhat more strictness and consecutive.. ness, through the series of topics; it would have moved, if we may be allowed the phrase, more in a straight line, with less of that quick bounding and starting in many directions, which in this sermon does undoubtedly trace, alternately, the waving line of beauty, and that keen and fiery zig-zag in which the lightening is usually delineated, but certainly revolts a little too much from regularity. The electrical animation which pervades the whole, is not at all diminished by the excess of learned words, and the too frequent approach to rhetorical pomp; nor does the flourish of the orator prevent us from feeling strongly the cordial energy of the man and the Christian.

On reading a few pages of Mr. Dudley's sermon, our attention was forcibly arrested by an unexpected and unaccountable strain of eulogium on the political and moral state of the ancient people of India, and on the moral character of its present inhabitants. Citing the testimony of Greeks who visited that country in the time of Alexander, confirmed by historical indications found in some of the newly-disco. vered Sanscrit records, that the whole of modern Hindostan was, in the earliest ages, divided into a variety of powerful states, some monarchical, and others republican, he proceeds,

The constitutions of all these states seem to have been founded on free principles. Arrian expressly writes "the Indians are all free;" and it may be safely affirmed that they enjoyed nearly the same degree of liberty as the states of ancient Greece and Italy. Upon the same authorities we are enabled to conclude, that these states were ruled by salutary laws and wholesome ordinances; that arts and sciences flourished within their cities; that the people were not only civilized but refined; and that the various cities and provinces within the dominions of each were occupied by a numerous and happy population. The history of nations sufficiently proves that virtue alone can produce such prosperity; and hence we must draw conclusions decidedly favourable to the general character of the nations of ancient India.'

With respect to ancient Indian freedom, even supposing

we had not the means of knowing that their religious economy was utterly mortal to any such thing, it would require far more precise evidences than any we have happened to see, to satisfy us that such a people could know any thing about what a modern political philosopher ought to mean by the term free constitution. But this is a question of little importance here; the latter part of the passage is what we meant to remark on. When maintaining that the ancient Hindoo population were virtuous and happy, we presume Mr. D. necessarily means and asserts that they were so under the prevalence of the Brahminical system, the system indeed which has prevailed with supreme authority from the earliest ages of which we have any historica! notices of Hindostan, only with a partial and temporary suspension by the conquests of Buddha. Now it is too well known to need repeating here, that the Brahminical system of religion (as we are trying to learn to call it, in conformity with the pious complaisance of the times) comprehended every thing, without exception, in the life and concerns of its believers; it constituted the morals, the economics, and the politics, as well as the theology of the nation; and Mr. Dudley very pointedly insists, and repeats, that the character of the Indians has always been most wonderfully conformed to their religion, insomuch that whatever they were and are, they were and are in obedient devotion to its principles and institutions. The grand repository of those principles and appointments is the Institutes of Menu. Now then let a sober man read this book, keeping in mind throughout that he is reading the comprehensive, the sacred, and sovereign, institution of the people. Our preacher has read this famous work himself, and should know what he has seen in it. To say that he has seen there a set of false and silly dogmas and fancies about Deity, though combined indeed with one or two ideas that appear like the traces and relics of a true theology that had once been known, but had long since vanished, may not seem directly to the purpose; though it may be assumed as unquestionable, that a false religion is absolutely incompatible with the existence of a pure morality in the community entertaining such religion, and that as matter of fact there is not, nor ever was, a nation in which they have existed together. But he has seen there the actual economy of prace tice, exhibited at great extent in the moral, civil, and ceremonial institutions. He has seen that the most prominent thing in the whole system is that infernal contrivance of castes, which would be the death of all feelings, and all right conceptions, of justice and benevolence, even if the distinctions were less flagrantly iniquitous than they are, and


were brought into operation in a hundred times fewer modes and instances. He has seen, in the definitions and classification of virtues and crimes, and the punishments appointed to the latter, a greater accumulation of absurdities by far, and a more complete abjuration of all just moral principles, than in the institutions of any other pagan nation, or of all the pagan nations taken together. He has seen in that work so vast a catalogue of ridiculous and often nauseous ceremonial prescriptions, as could have left no room in the thoughts, no rectitude or independence in the understanding, and very little space in life, for the study or the exercises of true morality. And finally, he has seen the priest and the king conjoining themselves in a relentless unlimited despotism. All this our preacher has seen in the Institutes of Menu; the system exhibited in these Institutes was practically in operation in the early ages to which he refers; it is his own assertion that the character of the people accorded, even to a wonderful degree, with their religions institutions; and he will have it, notwithstanding, that such a people were virtuous and happy. A more desperate absurdity, we imagine, was never advanced from pulpit or press, since preaching or printing began. The reports of the adventurers who returned from Alexander's expedition to tell just what stories they pleased in Greece; the vague assertion of Arrian, or the traces of ancient history found in Sanscrit writings, are all not worth a straw as opposed to the evidence resulting from the records of the religious institutions. We know what was the system, both in the general principles and the detail, which not only was arranged in a book, but did actually and imperiously tyrannise over the population of ancient India; and we know that that system was of a nature incomparably more deadly to freedom, virtue, and happiness, than any system that ever cursed the human race.

In adverting to the theological and moral doctrines of the ancient philosophers of India, our preacher falls into the error, in which many writers have preceded him without his good intentions; the error of taking a few lofty speculative ideas, and a few good moral prescriptions, which have been detected here and there in the writings of those sages, as proof that their philosophy was sublime in its views and excellent in its precepts: as if a system, of which perhaps a fiftieth part is true in theory and useful in practical application, might claim to be held in high veneration because it has failed, because it really has just failed, as the very worst systems must do, of being all false and all pernicious. Why will not the writers, who do not advert with an irre

« PreviousContinue »