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Editor's Table, March 1852
The disposition which is so natural, and in many respects so useful to an author to magnify his theme, is strongly manifested by Mr. Taylor in this work. He regards the period and events which he has chosen for his subject as the great points in the religious history of the last century. This is extravagant. The great religious event of that period we have supposed to be the complete triumph, after a long and dreadful struggle, of the Protestant faith. We are speaking of Religion in England. This struggle fairly commenced before the Revolution of 1688, but did not terminate till one third of the last century had elapsed. And it was purely an English triumph, achieved by efforts inspired by opinions and convictions which were seated in the very heart of the English country people.
Again, it is not being strictly true to the statements of well-established history to give such exclusive prominence to the ministry of Wesley, Whitfleld and Fletcher, while in the same century, before them, even such men as Tillotson and Howe, and, after them the strongholds of Socinianism -- and rational heresy were utterly demolished by such men as Hawley, Lowth and Butler.
With the cautions suggested by these remarks, we cannot but regard the reading of this book as a means of great religious improvement, and especially as a means of impressing most deeply and distinctly on our minds the universal adaptedness of Gospel truth. We do not mean to imply that the Gospel was first carried to the masses of men by the Methodist preacher, but that to him was given in unusual measure, to understand the mode, and if you please, to invent the instrumentality, by which these masses are to be reached.
We wish that we had room to quote a few passages, in which the boldness, originality and justness of the author's thoughts are so perfectly harmonized with his abrupt yet lucid and impressive diction. The following extract, we think, presents a very just and striking description of Whitfield's eloquence.
"The basis of Whitfield's mind, or that power upon which his singular gifts as a speaker worked, was the conceptive faculty, as related to those objects that are purely spiritual; both abstract and concrete; and with him this faculty had a compass; adaptation, and an intensity of sensitiveness, never perhaps equaled. So it was, that while he spoke, the visible world seemed to melt away into thin mist, and the eternal world, -- the real world -- to come out from among shadows and stand forth in awful demonstration."
Man and his Migrations, by R. G. Latham, M. D., F. R. S., New York, Charles B. Norton, 1852. -- This book treats of subjects of great interest and importance. Its dimensions are rather too small, to allow of any thing more than a glance at the various topics comprehended under its title. While we commend the book, as an excellent introduction to the study of Anthropology and the Natural History of Man, it may not be amiss to advert briefly to the important uses to which the Science and its branches and subdivisions are subservient.
Palaeontology and Ethnology may be regarded as branches of Anthropology, and carry with them something of the same interest which belongs to Comparative Anatomy, which from a few fragments, or even from a single fragment of a bone, deduce an accurate description of the animal to which it once belonged. The Comparative Anatomists, for example, can easily determine from a small portion of the bone of the foot of an animal, the nature of the food on which it subsisted. He would soon make up the whole foot. From it he would pass to the mouth the whole conformation of which could be deduced from what is known of the foot. Thence he would pass to the stomach, intestines, size and even its habitation. It is thus that the natural history of the mastodden, of which but some parts of the bones are extant, is written with no less confidence and detail than is that of the lion or the elephant.
Now, certainly, the most interesting of all histories is that of our own race, and every object which may serve to extend our knowledge of it, is to be valued as treasure. Palaeontology and Ethnology undertake to collect such objects, and to learn from them such lessons as they are fitted to teach. The former gathers and studies antiquities of whatever kind, and deduces from them the character of ancient periods and even of ancient opinions. Ethnology confines its enquiries to such monuments, ruins and traditions as indicate the ancient character of Nations, whose history is unwritten or is lost.
Of the value of such materials an estimate may be formed from an illustration which corresponds with the case which we have selected from Comparative Anatomy.
On some remote and deserted island, I discern an object which seems to be the ruin of some vast building. I clear away the trees, shrubs and rubbish by which it is almost concealed, and soon exhume forms and decorations which I cannot but regard as indications or symbols of great, solemn, and holy ideas. Every door, window and pinnacle that remains points upward towards Heaven. No doubt can be entertained that this was once a religious temple. I continue my explorations until I discover the precise form of the church. It is that of a cross. The religion celebrated in this temple was therefore the Christian religion. -- All over the building I find a peculiar combination of things into three. What remains of a great window is triple. A portion of the roof is standing, and its divisions plainly discover a nave and two side aisles. There are three entrances, and every where there appears the tre-foil with its significant and awful meaning. This, therefore, was not only a temple, and a Christian temple, but also a temple in which was owned and worshipped the mysterious and ever-blessed Trinity.