Page images
PDF
EPUB

tain quarters.

· But none of these things move us.' And instead of tendering a quaking recantation of aught we have said, we must needs crave a little further indulgence.

They now see as they were seen, while in the body, and know the nature of the feelings from which these honors flow. It is the gratitude of an enlightened nation to the noblest order of benefactors. It is the only glory worth the aspiration of a generous spirit.' p. 381. Yes, these venerated, and as we shall presently see, deified men, now (see as they were seen.' But O how must the dwellers in eternity, (if permitted to know what is passing here,) regard all this roaring of cannon, this extravagance of panegyric, this out-pouring of libations, this offering of incense ! A day is coming too, we believe, in which it will appear, that with all their high claims to the gratitude of mankind, the most illustrious statesmen and heroic champions of liberty, are not the

noblest order of benefactors.' Such men as Luther, and Calvin, and Knox, and Whitefield, and Edwards, to say nothing of Paul, and a host of others, of whom the world was not worthy,' have, we doubt not, in the sight of God, earned the pre-eminence. And is the glory, we ask, of which the eulogist so rapturously speaks, in the above extract,--the only glory worth the aspiration of a generous spirit?' What then shall we say of the "spirit,' and of the glowing aspiration of the great Apostle to the Gentiles ? God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Was Paul a deluded and raving fanatic? If he was not, then there is one kind of glory which is more worthy of the aspiration of a generous spirit,' than even the gratitude of a nation.

we ?

[ocr errors]

But we pass on--and what will our grave and puritancal readers think of such an encomiastic flight as this ? · Hitherto, fellow-citizens, the fourth of July has been celebrated among us only as the anniversary of our Independence, and its votaries have been merely human beings. But at the last recurrence, heaven itself mingled visibly in the celebration, and hallowed the day anew by a double apotheosis.' p. 425. A double apotheosis ! Adams and Jefferson added to the list of the gods, on the fourth day of last July, and heaven itself' coming down to assist in the rites of deification !! Where are

What is the religion of the country in which we live? We had thought that this was a Christian land, or that Washington was a Christian rather than a pagan city, and that this eulogy was delivered before a Christian audience. But we are carried back at once to heathen Rome, and to the age of Cæsars. When Augustus died, he was exalted at once to a seat among

the tutelar deities of the empire. So when Adams and Jefferson died, · heaven itself hallowed the day by a DOUBLE APOTHEOSIS!' Alas! to what lengths will not even great men sometimes yo, rather than suppress a bright thought, however hostile to Christianity, or leave out a fine classical allusion, however extravagant or heathenish the application. In the case before us the temptation was too strong to be resisted, and the stamp of paganism is indelibly fixed upon one of the brightest pages, of the most splendid eulogy in the volume before us. In vain will any one attempt to justify this bold experiment upon the moral sense of a Christian people, this more than double' hyperbole, by claiming for it the immunities of rhetorical license ; for the recognition of this claim would go to justify the bringing in of the whole system of heathen

mythology to give point and eclat to our patriotic celebrations. What effect this would have, in time, upon the minds of the people, and indeed, what effect has already been produced by the absurd mixtures of Paganism and Christianity in the popular orations of half a century, we cannot stop to inquire. But we shall not cease to protest, on every suitable occasion, against bringing in these heathen ornaments to embellish the temple of our liberties.

There is one other class of transgressions in this volume, which cannot escape

the

eye of the Christian reader, and which we feel bound to notice in this place. We refer to the improper use of scripture ; and we are the more solicitous to state our views on this point, because such transgressions are extremely common both in books and conversation. They abound in all the light and fashionable literature of the day. They are committed at the dinner party, at the bar, in the halls of legislation, and even sometimes in the social intercourse of Christian professors, and ministers of the gospel. But our present concern is with the selection before us, and against such quotations and allusions as the following, we strongly object. “As he has enabled the American eagle to soar aloft,' (how else could he soar?) with healing in his wings, may he give him strength to continue his flight through the heavens with unblemished majesty.' p. 54. What a perversion of sacred imagery! A passage in which the prophet foretels the coming of Christ, and the spiritual blessings which he will confer upon mankind, divested of its glorious import and identified with the militant emblem of our civil liberties ! Such handling of holy things must shock every pious mind. “They,' (Adams and Jefferson) passed indeed through the valley of the shadow of death, but it was lighted up by the brightness of their own day of Jubilee—their spirits rose upon the songs of joy and the prayers of gratitude of millions whom they had made free, and had the prophet but lent his chariot of fire' and his horses of fire' their ascent could hardly have been more glorious.' p. 152. This, according to a brother eulogist, is a most · felicitous allusion. But it strikes us, we must confess, very differently. The miracle of Elijah's translation could never have been recorded, to point a brilliant sentence in any such book as this. And after all, what resemblance is there between the sinking of grey hairs and decrepitude into the grave, and going up bodily in a chariot of fire to heaven?

Again : Well might they on that anniversary, which was so peculiarly marked both by religious and political feeling, unite in the pious ejaculation, 'Let now thy servants depart in peace, for our eyes have seen the salvation of our country. This is an accommodation of one of the most fervent ejaculations of scripture, which we cannot possibly approve. The occasion did not call for it. No proofs of extraordinary piety are adduced to justify it. And how is the ejaculation desecrated, by leaving out the divine object which prompted it, and substituting one that with all its importance dwindles into nothing in the comparison.

We shall quote only one more perversion of scripture ; but it is one which will shock and grieve the pious reader as much, perhaps, as anything we have quoted, since the • double apotheosis.' What profiteth it a nation if it gain the whole world and lose its own liberty !' p. 321. It is difficult to conceive how any man who believes in in the truth and inspiration of the gospel, can bring his feelings to trifle in this manner with one of the most alarming texts which it contains. What is even a nation's slavery to the eternal loss of an undying soul? And if it were possible to compare things temporal with things eternal, bow improper would it be, to divest a text of all its solemnity and sacredness by the mere conceit of accommodation.

These strictures will stand but little chance of ever meeting the eyes of the nineteen authors now before us, or any considerable number of them ; but our labor will not be lost, if any of our readers should feel themselves reproved for trifling and irreverent allusions to scripture, and should conscientiously guard against such improprieties.

We shall now invite the attention of our readers to some of the more vital principles of this splendid and popular volume. It is too late, we think, for anybody to question, that in the common acceptation of the term, Adams and Jefferson were great men. They were endowed by nature with uncommon intellectual strength, forecast, and penetration. They enjoyed the best advantages of education, which the country sixty years ago could afford; and they appear to have done themselves great justice, in the early improvement of their talents and opportunities. Mr. Adams was a deep thinker, an earnest, business-like speaker, and a nervous, philosophic writer. Mr. Jefferson was not only a philosopher, but a polite scholar; and they both came forward into public life, at a crisis most favorable to the developement and exercise of their uncommon powers. Of the merits, or demerits, the policy or impolicy, of their respective administrations we have nothing to say. Neither was absolutely perfect ; under both the country prospered. But of their patriotism and revolutionary services, we have no

« PreviousContinue »