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his inferiors in mental power surpassed him in the readiness with which they performed the prescribed lessons."

Having spent three years at Brearley Hall, he entered the Baptist College at Bristol. Here he formed an intimate acquaintance and warm friendship with Robert Hall, and his talented and pious associate, Joseph Hughes, one of the founders of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

At the age of twenty-two, Mr. Foster entered the ministry, and preached first at Newcastle-on-Tyne, and afterwards at Chichester, Dublin, Downend near Bristol, and Frome. He is said, on account of the depth of his matter, the stiffness and coldness of his delivery, and his low and husky voice, to have absolutely emptied the chapels in which he preached. But of his career as a minister, we shall have occasion hereafter to speak.

It was as an essayist, that Mr. Foster first became generally known, and although his reputation as a writer has mainly rested upon his essays, yet we cannot but regard many of his contributions to the Eclectic Review as evincing as much genius, and keen discernment, as any other of his writings. His aim as an author, at the outset, was to avoid the beaten track and common place views of his cotemporaries, and examine his subject in its elements, its occult laws, and least obvious relations. He brought to his work a mind disciplined to severe and patient thinking; a mind satisfied with nothing short of the most thorough examination, and complete mastery, of the topic under consideration.

His style has been complained of as being cumbrous, elaborate, and, in some instances, obscure. While we wish that a portion of his language had been less involved, and more suited to the taste of the general reader, we cannot but admit that it is well adapted to his mode of thinking, and is more justly entitled to praise than For comprehension and condensation, for the happiest selection of words to convey his meaning, for force and beauty of illustration, and for real power in its suggestive influence, Mr. Foster's style can hardly be surpassed.


Some persons are under the impression, that the writer of long sentences must necessarily be diffuse; and that compact thought can alone be expressed in short sentences. But we often find in a single sentence of Foster more valuable thought and rich imagery, than can be found in whole pages of many other writers. When we pass from one sentence to another, instead of finding the

same idea presented in a new form, or slightly modified, we discover new ideas, and oftentimes an assemblage of them, sparkling with fresh beauties, and radiant with the genius of the author. We are wearied with no needless repetition, imposed upon by no array of pompous words and " showy sameness; " but we have the strong, solid, useful thoughts of a strong, earnest, colossal writer. We are listening to a man who writes because he has something to say, and not because he wishes to say something. It is true, that Mr. Foster bestowed upon his essays an enormous amount of toil, and that with "labor dire and weary woe," he wrought out his productions, struggling as with almost death-throes, to give his ideas their appropriate form. Yet if, while laboring to overcome his natural indolence, and aversion to literary effort, he accomplished so much, and did his work so well, instead of quarrelling with the labor, as some reviewers have been disposed to do, we should be the more grateful for the results.

Mr Foster published his essays at a time, when evangelical religion found but little sympathy with those who claimed to be most conversant with the philosophy and literature of the day; and yet, without writing directly upon religious topics, he succeeded in introducing divine truths, clothed in language which could not fail to make an impression upon the higher classes of society. Although he discarded the set phrases in which it was customary to present the truths of the gospel, for which we cannot blame him; and although he entertained some errors, for which he was without excuse, still his aim seems to have been to be useful, and to vindicate the claims of Christianity, and enforce them upon the attention of those who boasted of their indifference, and their scepticism.

As a critic, the highest rank must be assigned to Mr. Foster. Although he does not develop such vast and rich stores of general knowledge as constitute the charm of the writings of Burke and Macaulay, nor produce such brilliant flashes of genius as Carlyle, yet his reviews interest and instruct us by their truthfulness and depth, and the power of nice discrimination and keen satire which they exhibit. While reading them, we feel that his criticisms and views are just; that there is truth,— honest, palpable, indisputable truth, in what he is uttering; and we are gratified at his able and uniform defence of Christianity against the assaults of its proud and wily adversaries.

In his review of Chalmers's Astronomical Discourses, we have some of the most sublime views and reflections upon the science of modern astronomy, and the most triumphant arguments against that class of sceptics, who have employed this and other sciences, as engines with which to attempt to batter down Christianity. We would by no means undervalue the able discourses of the eminent Scotch divine; but it is often refreshing to go from the tedious amplification, and rhetorical pomp of the doctor's style, to the simple, condensed, and muscular language of Mr. Foster. Did our limits allow, we should be glad to bring forward, side by side, passages from each, to illustrate the justness of this remark. Dr. Chalmers once replied, when asked what John Foster was now about, that "he was thinking as hard as ever, at the rate of a sentence a week." At this reply, we are not disposed to smile; for we prefer to receive even but a sentence a week, if crowded with thought and mental nourishment, rather than a thousand in the perusal of which no other feeling is experienced than that of vexation at the waste of time and attention, which they have occasioned. If any one gives us bread, even by the sweat of his brow, it is preferable to the chaff which is produced by slight and hasty effort.

Mr. Foster devoted, particularly during the latter part of his life, considerable attention to politics, and was the uniform and firm friend of civil and ecclesiastical freedom. He had no partiality for kings or prelates; but felt most keenly the wrongs and oppressions, which the people suffered from the British crown, and the established church. Tyranny and injustice, in all their forms, were the objects of his deep abhorrence, and most poignant indignation; nor was he backward in the expression of his views upon the legalized wickedness, and ecclesiastical corruptions, which came under his observation. In tracing the history of the established clergy down to the present time, he brings against them the most serious and well established charges; convicting them of open hostility to evangelical truth, of uniform opposition to "an improved education of the common people," and of exerting a blighting influence upon the interests of the Protestant faith, as professed in the British empire. But we are mainly concerned with Mr. Foster's theological opinions. These we gather from his correspondence, in which he seems to express his views and feelings, upon all subjects, with the utmost freedom. With entire unreserve

he communicates the inmost emotions, desires and aspirations of his heart, as well as his views and opinions; and, at the same time, with studied precision, he selects the language, and constructs the sentences, of his most familiar epistles. From the commencement of his public career, Mr. Foster appears to have had very imperfect views of the gospel ministry, as to its duties, responsibilities, and the preparation requisite to its successful prosecution. His studies and reflections were not mainly directed towards this object; but had too much reference to his literary pursuits. Hence, as a preacher, he signally failed; and with the exception of a few highly cultivated auditors, who were entertained by his display of intellectual skill and logical power, he found no sympathy with his audience, and felt that he possessed no power over their consciences or hearts. Besides the infelicities of his style, and the awkwardness of his manner, his own mind was not settled in regard to some of the fundamental doctrines of our faith. A few years after he commenced preaching, in writing to Mr. Hughes, he said: "I have discarded, for instance, the doctrine of eternal punishment. I can avow no opinion on the peculiar points of Calvinism, for I have none, nor see the possibility of forming a satisfactory one. I am no Socinian; but I am in doubt between the Orthodox and Arian doctrines, not without some inclination to the latter."

While thus vacillating between truth and error, and entering the pulpit ignorant of the message which his Master would have him deliver, and feeling but little confidence in the power of the gospel to subdue the depraved will and turn the current of the affections, it is not surprising, that, with all his genius and logical acumen, he should have produced so much dissatisfaction among his hearers. Had his repeated failures resulted from the peculiarities of his style, or his habits of thinking, or that " painful sense of an awkward but entire individuality," which when not twelve years old he was conscious of, we might feel a sympathy for him in his want of success as a preacher. But when we find him wavering between Orthodoxy and Arianism, and discarding one of the plainest and most important doctrines of Scripture, and while admitting and deploring his "total want of all knowledge of intellectual philosophy, and of all metaphysical reading,* yet taking no pains


Life and Correspondence, Vol. i. P. 203.

to remedy this evil, or to investigate the foundations and evidences of the truth, we feel no disposition to apologize for him; but rather regard him as recreant to the high trust committed to an ambassador of Christ.

The most prominent of Mr. Foster's theological errors, was his denial of the doctrine of eternal punishment. His views on this point are fully expressed in a letter addressed to a young minister, dated September 24, 1841, and opening with the following declaration: "If you could have been apprized how much less research I have made into what has been written on the subject of your letter than you appear to have done, you would have had little expectation of assistance in deciding your judgment. I have, perhaps, been too content to let an opinion, (or impression,) admitted in early life, dispense with protracted inquiry and various reading." Is it right for one whose vocation it is to stand up in defence of the doctrines of Christianity, and instruct his fellowmen in the things that pertain to their everlasting peace, to be " content to let an opinion or impression, admitted in early life, dispense with protracted inquiry, and various reading," when that opinion or impression relates to the most vital interests of the human family? If such a course is justifiable in one, it is so in all; and to whom can we confidently look for sound and mature opinions, and for the defence of "the faith once delivered to the saints?" And is it fair, that a reputation gained in one department, that of general literature, should be used to sanction opinions in another department, when those opinions have never been the subject of thorough investigation.


Mr. Foster, in his letter, admits that, "the general, not very far short of universal, judgment of divines in affirmation of the doctrine of eternal punishment, must be acknowledged a weighty consideration. It is a very fair question. Is it likely that so many thousands of able, learned, benevolent, and pious men should all have been in error? And the language of Scripture is formidably strong; so strong that it must be an argument of extreme cogency that would authorize a limited interpretation."

Without, however, examining the question, Whether it is "likely that so many thousands of able, learned, benevolent and pious men should all have been in error," and without bringing forward those "arguments of extreme cogency," which would authorize a limited interpretation of those passages of Scripture,

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