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PRINCIPIA: a Series of Essays on the Principles of Evil manifesting themselves in these last times, in Religion, Philosophy, and Politics. By S. R. BOSANQUET, Esq. London: Burns. 1843.
WE will not "to party give up what was meant for mankind." We will not slight or depreciate a book merely because its author is of the Tractarian school. Alarmed and grieved we may be, at the progress of these fearful and soul-destroying errors; but yet we must not, and we will not say that no disciple of Newman and Pusey can do a right thing, or advocate (apart from Tractarian views) a right cause. We have seen, in our own day, a Martin Boos living and dying a priest of the Romish church, and an Edward Irving sacrificing himself in the promulgation of a dreadful heresy; and how shall we, remembering them, judge or anathematize any man merely on the score of the party to which he appears to be attached; or refuse to be instructed by truth from whatever lips it may fall.
Let us distinguish, however, among things that differ. theological subjects, it would be a wise and a safe rule, for the generality of Christians, not even to open a book emanating from one of the Tractarian school. Poison is not a thing to be trifled with; and after the two public rebukes, unexampled in our day, which Messrs. Newman and Pusey have received, even in an University of which they were regarded as the brightest ornaments, who shall doubt the deleterious character of their theology? But the book now before us, while it is written by a Tractarian, is not a Tractarian book. The author is at no pains to conceal his predilections, but his business is with other topics than those of Tradition or the Sacraments. He quotes, again and again, the Tracts for the Times, and Mr. Newman's other writings; but he does it to establish points involving no error,-points on which all may agree with him. Consequently, while we may justly regret that so able and upright a man should openly avow his adherence to a heresy, we cannot, on this sole ground, refuse to do him justice, when we find him, in a most careful and elaborate work, asserting great and essential principles of Christian philanthropy.
This book, indeed, has its faults; but they are not the characteristic faults of the party to which he belongs. He most strangely and even grotesquely misinterprets prophecy: but so do many other able and excellent men. He also, perhaps, in his eagerness to dispel a delusion, goes to an extreme in his condemnation of
English avarice and infidelity. Yet it is but an exaggeration of a truth which is too often entirely disregarded. We can pardon these errors, in consideration of the vast mass of important facts, and solid reasoning, which Mr. Bosanquet has brought together.
The titles of his Essays are as follows:-I. Introductory. II. The Force of Fashion. III. Failure of the Present System. IV. Decline of Religion in England. V. England the least religious country. VI. There is no faith. VII. Need of a more perfect Christianity. VIII. The Image of the Beast. IX. Consummation of the Final Apostacy. X.-XII. False Principles of Philosophy-of Politics-and of Trade. XIII. England sowing the Principles of Evil. XIV. The Commercial Empire. XV. Prophetic History of Commerce. XVI. The Noisome and Grievous Sore. XVII. The Tree of Knowledge. XVIII. The Number of the Beast. We have already indicated what we conceive to be the two most prominent faults of the book,-namely, the author's grotesque misapplications of prophecy; and his rather one-sided view of the state and prospects of England. The latter is, indeed, the chief drawback of the whole performance. Nevertheless, the picture he presents is a true and forcible exhibition of one most important view of our country's condition. Sometimes, too, he so fairly balances the account as scarcely to leave anything to be desired. Take an instance, from the opening chapter:
"The general morals are improved ;-but drunkenness is so increased that 30,000 persons are estimated to die annually from intemperance. The general manners are softened; but crime continually increases; and a new police force is required, both in town and country, to repress the increasing crime and turbulence of the population. The riots and alarm consequent upon public meetings have increased the demands for the military force.' And as Lord John Russell goes on to say, in moving (July, 1839) for the rural police, Many districts have in the present time become peopled with a manufacturing and mining population, and in one of them the want of a police force has been so much felt, in consequence of the great increase in the number of crimes and depredations, and in the lawless habits of the disorderly part of the community, that, after two or three years' complaints, two bills have been introduced into parliament during the present session, with the view of meeting the evil.'
The wealth of the nation is increasing vastly ;-but the revenue is hardly collected; the public debt increases in time of peace; and the country is more and more pauperized annually and hourly. Trade is more active and extensive, and shops are more splendid;-but profits are everywhere lowered; the difficulties of trade are greater; and bankruptcies are multiplied. Luxuries and comforts are more in number in houses and dress;-but rents are lower; and every one has greater difficulty in living, and maintaining himself in his own station. The poorest persons have shoes and stockings, and the labouring classes have comfortable and even elegant clothing;-but labourers' wages are reduced from the value of twenty-four loaves to that of twelve and fifteen, in a period of a hundred and fifty years. Where once was sociable and merry England, we have care and caution in the countenance of the rich man, in the working man discontent, in the poor man misery and JUNE, 1843.
depression. Hospitality is well nigh forgotten. Education is extended, and political knowledge;-but classes are more separated and distinct from one another; men are more solitary, selfish, and individualized; and chartists and socialists and pantheists rise up to deny the principles of society and humanity; and the only excuse we have for it is, that we must go through great struggles and evils before we can arrive at the happy consummation. The struggles continue, but the end does not appear in sight.”—(pp. 6, 7.) "The activity of the Church is greater than it was;-but so is that of popery, dissent, and unitarianism. Many new churches are being erected;but the population increases faster than the churches increase. Fresh attention is given to the poor by visiting societies; and inquiry is made into the condition of the children in factories; but are any of these adequate to the growth of the evil, or are all of these things more than the necessities arising out of a very bad state and system? or are they proofs of progress and soundness, any more than the use of doctors and strong medicines is the evidence of health? Where two spring up in the place of each one, the cutting off one or more of the hydra's heads is no evidence of his destruction.
"The Sabbath is more strictly observed by some few; but Sunday travelling has very greatly increased. A few country towns have refused to receive letters on Sunday;-it is because the government proposed to transmit letters through London on that day, The tithe question is settled by a commutation; it is because the very name of tithes is hated; and people were more ready to pay tithes even to the absentee lay-rector than to the resident clergyman. Pledges of temperance are taken, and of total abstinence; but they are strong and artificial medicines, proving the aggravation of the disease.
"Our missions of Christianity are extended everywhere; but the curses of our commercial spirit always attend them, and are so great, that the monarchs of China and Sandwich are forced to prohibit on pain of death the gin and opium which the propagators of Christianity introduce; and contact between European and barbarous manners is not productive of civilization, but extermination."-(pp. 8-10.)
The second chapter, On the Force of Fashion, is perhaps one of the weakest in the book; hence we shall pass on to the next, on "The Failure of the present system in the pursuit of wealth.” Here is a passage full of mournful truth :—
"All our luxuries and comforts are growing more and more into the nature of necessaries, and current expenditure; so that, though comfort and luxury and magnificence are incomparably greater at this time, in comparison with any other former time in England or any other country, yet the proportion and amount which in each rank and station any person can call his own, and use at any given moment according to his discretion and as it pleases him, is daily diminishing. There never was a time when greater indisposition was shown to pay tithes and taxes and rates and public imposts. The revenue is most difficult to raise, and, even in the time of peace, is by no means equal to the expenditure. We are getting deeper into debt. Rich folks cannot afford to be liberal and hospitable; the current expenses and style of living, and their establishment, is too great to bear it. We cannot provide sufficiently for our poor. The clergy are very inadequately paid; and yet their endowments are called enormous, and are grudged to them. There never was a time when liberality could less be attributed, as giving a name and character to the age or habits of the nation. Economy is the national ensign and watchword and characteristic. Anything that tends to economy in expenditure, that is, not to the moderation of expenses, but to the attaining of the greatest possible amount and quantity of luxury at a given cost, that is, at the full extent of our incomes,-is accepted and hailed as wise and
admirable. Luxury and economy, namely, the producing of the greatest possible amount of magnificence and comfort, of envied appearance and style, and personal enjoyment, at the least possible expense, is the great problem for solution, the great aim and object in private life. And in public life and government,-whatever is free and liberal, and self-denying and moderate, is shunned and avoided and out-reasoned, and is not found consistent with sound policy, and modern enlightenment, and the wisdom of the age, and the general good of mankind, and political economy. How can a country and age be enjoying its riches, in which economy is almost the only thing valued and vaunted, and is of absolute necessity?"-(pp. 22, 23.)
"The riches and luxuries of the country are increased about one-fifth perhaps in ten years, the taxes in the same time are diminished:-yet retrenchment is the one thing called for, and the sufficient answer when any good thing is required to be done,-as to build and endow churches; the collection of the revenue is so difficult as to be the ground of many demoralising provisions, such as the spirit-duties and beer-shops, to support it, and many grievous fetters upon trade and manufactures; the toil and uncertainty of getting a fair subsistence by trade and labour is increased and increasing, -so that agriculture and manufactures are alike calling out for protection and extension, lest they should be ruined; and the hours of rest and religion, and the season of youth and growth, must be trenched upon, and not too much protected by the legislature, lest the making a sufficient gain and profit should become impossible. Is it not strange, that in these advanced times, this march of civilization, riches, and wisdom, we should not be able to sacrifice anything to happiness or duty, but must be struggling for existence!
"The one prevailing character of the men of the present day, is a credulous belief in systems, and a sceptical blindness towards facts. Thus, it is proved upon system, that machinery must create employment for a greater number of workmen; must bring more leisure to those employed, by giving greater effect to their labour; must create a demand more than proportioned to the increased supply; and render profits easier. And we are by no means shaken in this theory, by seeing that wages are constantly becoming lower and lower; that the means of living are more difficult; that more and more work-people are out of employment; that men have less leisure than ever for religious duties, for good offices to the public and the poor, and for amusement; that machines glut the markets,-being subject to no control or limit, and bring loss upon the whole trade, which agriculture never can do; that improvements are so rapid, that each new invention overtakes the last, before the profits have fairly paid the prices of the old machines.
Reforms and revolutions are projected and carried out, for the sake of promising theories; people are enamoured of them-of experiment and change. The machine of society is convulsed and shattered. Oh! we have a great deal to go through first, before the new order of things can be settled, and the blessings of it be made apparent. Another new reform is again projected and insisted upon; old things are passed away, and the new ones have not yet obtained for themselves the respect of time; and the new theory and experiment is carried into effect. The machine is again convulsed and dislocated. Oh! we have still a great deal to go through, it is said again, before a complete regeneration. The promise and fancy of future blessings obtains multitudes of worshippers, with an implicit and zealous credulity:-the experience of a reign of terror, the mutual malice and butcheries of a civil war, the organization of armed conspiracies and insurrections, the present miseries, discontent, hatred, fear, contempt of law and government, all that is seen and felt, and all realities and present effects, are disregarded as proofs, and held to be deceptive; but the expectations of theory, however long delayed, are held certain."-(pp. 24-26.)
We now come to some deeply impressive and weighty observations. One chapter is entitled, "There is no faith," and the
next, "Need of a more perfect Christianity." Here are one or two passages taken from them :—
"The Bible is denied in every particular. Men do not believe that we are really to be Christians; that we are to imitate our Lord. They do not believe that the world could possibly go on, if all men were to act upon pure Christian motives, and up to a perfect Christian rule ;-if they were to forgive and forget injuries; if they were not to resent an affront; if they were to give to people because they asked them; if they were to lend money without looking for interest; if we were all to give up luxuries, and style, and costly furniture and equipage; if we, our cattle and servants, were strictly to observe the day of rest. How many are they among us who believe, that the 'tree of knowledge' is not an absolute good? or, that we ought to receive the gospel with the simplicity of little children? Who believes that we ought to honour our father and mother, and our sovereign? Who is there that acts up to the precept, that we ought not to judge others in their character? How many are there who appear to believe that it is not right to be anxious about the future; that riches are not a good thing; that the entrance into heaven is easier to the poor man; that slavery is not unfavourable to the knowledge and dispositions becoming a Christian; that we ought to return a tenth to God; that it would bring a blessing, to give freely and largely to the poor; that children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord, and that the man is happy who has his quiver full of them? It is evident that in all these points the Bible is disbelieved, and is practically denied; and does not control or guide us in our habits and principles of life and society.
"Still less do we believe that the public measures, the laws and government of the state, and the intercourse with other nations, ought to be, or can be, carried on and conducted upon Christian principles. What number or classes of persons believe that righteousness exalteth a nation? that we are punished according to the national sins of the people, and for the sins of the rulers? and that if wicked and irreligious men preside over our councils we shall as a nation suffer the penalties of it? for that the conscience of the government is the conscience of the people, and that our rulers are bound to take the first care for the pure religion and morals of the country, and that if they so do, their righteousness will bring down a blessing upon the nation.
66 To come again to more direct practice, and to our own habits of life. Who is there who thinks first what is right, and according to the pattern of Christ, and after the will of God, in what he is about to do; and not what is wise and expedient? Who seeks first the kingdom of God, and God's rule of righteousness, and trusts that all temporal good consequences will follow upon it? Who is there who thinks and abides only by the rule of what is right and commanded? We may almost answer in the words of Scripture, 'There is none righteous, no, not one.' Who believes in and trusts to the assistance and suggestions of the Spirit in his designs and undertakings, and believes and acts and writes and thinks as believing, that the most useful and important and influential suggestions of our thoughts and invention, come to our mind by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, more than by our own clever. ness and exertion and memory; and prays for Divine help upon commenc ing every task, or writing, or undertaking, accordingly? Who forbears strictly, and endeavours to expel at once all thought, and every suggestion of the mind in worldly matters on a Sunday, with confidence and faith that the same and more useful thoughts will be supplied on the succeeding week days; and that the unqualified dedication and sanctification of the Lord's Day will make the labour of the six days more effectual and fruitful than would be that of the seven? Who would believe now that a Sabbatical year would not necessarily be impracticable and ruinous; or that a populous country could exist under such a rule; or that it would not produce a debasing and demoralizing idleness?"-(pp. 57-60.)