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NOTICES OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS.
Theory of Morals: An Inquiry concerning the Law of Moral Distinctions, and the Variations and Contradictions of Ethical Codes. By RICHARD HILDRETH. Boston Little & Brown. 1844. 12mo. pp. 272.
This work is the fruit of considerable reading and reflection, and bears the marks on almost every page of a becoming aversion to disguise or subterfuge. Here our commendation must stop. As its author does not hesitate to stigmatize the theories of morals in the highest repute as worthless or worse than worthless, and comes before the public, moreover, in the attitude of a denier, if not of a reviler, of those things which ninety-nine in a hundred of this public account most sacred, he must not wonder or complain if he does not receive a very hearty, or a very gracious welcome. For ourselves, after having bestowed as much attention on this treatise as we think it deserves or requires, we must say, that, in our judgment, its author greatly overrates the clearness of his views, and no less so, his ability to carry them out. The order of topics is not such as to make his course clear, and when he comes to details he often so mixes up what others have held, and what is still permitted by the world, with his own teachings, as to leave us in some doubt what he means to lay down as right.
His system agrees substantially with that of those who resolve all virtue into benevolence, or into doing good to others from a benevolent principle; and if he had contented himself with maintaining, that this system ought to be established and applied, without entanglement with theology, the friends of religion would have had no just ground of offence. But, instead of this, he takes every opportunity to ascribe the errors and inconsistencies of moralists to the prevalence of religious ideas, and thus to become the assailant, either directly or by implication, not merely of the abuses and corruptions of religion, not merely of what is incidental to religion, the clergy and the church, and indeed not merely of the Scriptures, and of Christianity considered as one form of religion, but also of what constitutes the foundation of religion under every form, we mean, belief in the existence of "a personal God." This belief in a personal God, and the ethical theories built upon it, he denominates mystical; a word which we thought at first might be a misprint for mythical, the latter term expressing much better, as it seems to us, what is here meant. Usage determines, for the most part, the significa
tion of words; but certainly it is not according to usage to apply the term mystical to views, which, whether true or false, admit so readily of sensible representation. Mystical, however, is the word, and among the " mystics who regard the universe as the handiwork of a personal deity, which deity they frame for themselves after their own image," (p. 31) he includes Spinoza, (p. 112.)
The second part contains the author's "Solution of Moral Problems," and his way of solving some of them will not be, we think, generally satisfactory. Thus, he would have suicide regarded as indifferent, as wrong, as meritorious, as a duty," (p. 145) according to the different causes or motives from which it springs. Again, duelling and Lynch law are permissible, if we understand him, being regarded "as supplementary to the laws, as the avengers of crimes which the laws cannot, or do not, reach." (p. 149.) The whole chapter, "Of the unequal burden of duty imposed on women, and herein of chastity," if we take the author's drift, is still more offensive. He comes forward as the champion of the much abused female sex ; but they will hardly thank him for the explanation he gives of one of their virtues. He tells us that the reason why women are everywhere much more prompt and zealous than man, in administering to the necessities of poverty and sickness" is, that they "naturally have the desire of superiority as strongly as men; but they have much fewer opportunities of gratifying it, and must make the most of such as they have." (p. 225.)
On the whole, we are not converts to this writer's plan of substituting what he calls "forensic" systems of morals, for the morals taught in the New Testament.
The History of the Puritans, or Protestant Non-conformists; from the Reformation in 1517, to the Revolution in 1688; comprising an account of their Principles; their attempts for a further Reformation in the Church; their Sufferings; and the Lives and Characters of their most considerable Divines. By DANIEL NEAL, M. A. Reprinted from the Text of Dr. Toulmin's Edition: with his Life of the Author and account of his Writings. Revised, corrected, and enlarged, with additional Notes by JOHN O. CHOULES, M. A. With nine Portraits on Steel. In two volumes. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1844. Svo. pp. 534, 564.
The title of this republication, of which we have given an exact copy from the first volume, with the punctuation unaltered, -the title of the second volume being the same, with the exception of having a comma placed after the word "Notes," is somewhat deceptive. The fact is, that the whole title down
to the word "enlarged" inclusively, is a copy of the title-page of the recent English reprint of Toulmin's edition of Neal, except only that the words, "new edition in three volumes," are omitted. The volumes thus turn out to be a reprint of an already "reprinted "--"revised, corrected, and enlarged" (English) edition from the text of Dr. Toulmin. We do not say that the title was designed to mislead; it may have been the effect of mere awkwardness.
But let us proceed to the "additional Notes." Mr. Choules does not tell us (at least we can find nothing on the subject,) by what marks he designates his additions. We suppose, however, that he intends that the notes with the signature of "C" shall be considered as his. Yet on comparing the American edition with the English reprint of Toulmin's edition, in 1837, we find ourselves somewhat perplexed in regard to a portion of these notes, for some of the notes found without signature in the English edition, have received additions in the American reprint, and the whole bears the signature of "C," there being no break between the parts, and nothing to indicate that the whole note does not belong to Mr. Choules. Still further, in one instance at least, which has fallen under our eye, (P. iv. c. 3. p. 655, of vol. ii. of the English edition, and p. 160, vol. ii. of the American,) Mr. Choules has suppressed the signature of the English note, "W. J," and substituted his own initial. The signature "ED." in the English edition, we suppose designates Toulmin. This Mr. Choules usually retains, though occasionally, we observe, he adds after it, in a parenthesis, "Toulmin," in cases, it would seem, in which he would not have it understood that the sentiment of the note, or some remarks contained in it were his own. Was he willing in other cases that the notes with the mark of "En." should be considered as belonging to the American editor?
One further charge, of a somewhat graver character, may be brought against the reprint. It relates to a process of mutilation, which was begun and carried on through several of the earlier chapters of the work, and then was suddenly in a great measure discontinued, as if the editor's conscience had at length waked up, or his hand had been arrested by a detection of the fraud. If we were at liberty to suppose the latter, all mystery attending the subject would disappear. Detection is very apt to check a process of fraud. The suppressed parts belonged to Toulmin's notes. At the conclusion of the table of contents to the second volume, the editor gives four of these passages under the head of "errata." Errata indeed! He acquits the publishers of all blame in the matter. He says that the "mistake is wholly his own," and that the "omission was "occasioned" by his "absence from the city, when the first number was pass
ing through the press." The peculiarity of the suppressed passages in the notes, three of them at least, is, that they favor Unitarianism, and the other objects to one of the alleged proofs (not drawn from editorial labors) of the "corruption of human nature." Now these mutilations as the work was going through the press could not, of course, have been the effect of accident, nor, we should suppose, of any innate repugnance of the metallic types to be arranged in sentences containing supposed heretical sentiments. The editor, indeed, as we have seen, takes the whole blame in the case to himself. Yet the two parts of his apology, consisting of two short sentences, seem to us not very coherent. He first says, that "his absence from the city" occasioned the omissions, as if they were made without his knowledge and against his will, — and then, in the next sentence, that the "mistake is wholly his own." A mistake it most certainly is, if nothing worse, for an editor to send out a professed reprint in a mutilated or garbled form. Such a "mistake," detected, destroys public confidence at once.
That our readers may be able to judge for themselves of the character of the omitted notes, or parts of notes, we will give two of them.
The first belongs to page fifty-three, vol. i. of the American Edition.
"Mr. Neal, in his review of the transactions of this year, has also omitted to inform his readers that the doctrines established by the Reformers by no means met with an implicit reception from all. The doctrine of the Trinity was denied by many, and Unitarian sentiments were so plainly avowed, and spread so fast, that the leading churchmen were alarmed at it, and feared their generally prevailing. Mr. Strype's words are 'Arianism now showed itself so openly, and was in such danger of spreading further, that it was thought necessary to suppress it, by using more rugged methods than seemed agreeable to the merciful principles of the profession of the Gospel!' Lindsey's Historical View of the state of the Unitarian Doctrine and Worship, p. 84.- ED."
The following was cut off from one of Toulmin's notes on page 138 of the American reprint. Did Mr. Choules fear to circulate it among his Baptist brethren ?
"It should be added that one ground of the odium which fell on those who were called Anabaptists, was their deviation from the established creed, in their ideas concerning the person of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, which shows at how early a period of the Reformation Unitarian sentiments arose among the more thoughtful and inquisitive, but the hand of power was lifted up to suppress their growth and spread. - ED."
Very slight mutilations of notes appear afterwards, under circumstances which would lead one to suppose, that the omission was made to prevent the necessity of carrying a line or two
No doubt a trifling expense of paper
over upon the next page. may be saved in this way.
The edition is not free from typographical errors. For the rest, it is in a convenient form for reference, and Mr. Choules's notes, which consist mostly of extracts, add to the value of the work, if the extracts are correctly given.
Consolatory Views of Death: addressed to a Friend under Bereavement to which are added, some Prayers in Affliction. By HENRY COLMAN. Boston: A. D. Phelps. 1844. 12mo. pp. 53.
Without offering any views absolutely novel, though, as the author says in his preface, "different from those which are generally received," this little manual for the afflicted, suggests trains of thought which may be profitably pursued and which will afford support under the loss of friends. The writer does not regard death as a "curse," but as a "law of our being, and consequently as a divine appointment," and this view disarms it of its terrors and should reconcile our minds to it, whether it fall on ourselves or on those we love. The prayers at the close are founded on Christian ideas of suffering, and will be found suited to minds which turn to religion for consolation and peace.
Library of American Biography. Conducted by JARED SPARKS. Second Series. Vol. iii. Boston: Little & Brown. 1844. 12mo. pp. 432.
This volume relates mostly to the Colonial history of our country. It opens with the Life of General John Sullivan, by Mr. O. W. B. Peabody. Next follows what is called a Chapter on American History," by Mr. C. F. Hoffman, being an account of the "Administration of Jacob Leisler," who was executed as a "rebel" in 1691, and was the "first and only political martyr," says Mr. Hoffman, "who ever stained the soil of New York with his blood." A little earlier than this occurred what is called "Bacon's Rebellion," in Virginia, and a "Memoir of Nathaniel Bacon," the leader in it, by Rev. William Ware, forms the third article of biography in the volume. The fourth is by Rev. G. E. Ellis, and consists of a "Life of John Mason of Connecticut," well known from his connection with the Pequot war. It is unnecessary to say anything in commendation of a volume on such subjects by such writers.