Page images
PDF
EPUB

all-important matter of verifying his facts; of his disappointments, and, we may imagine, heart-sickness, when extreme toil and patience, exercised to their utmost, yet brought him nothing positive as the reward of his diligence; and the lack of courage which broken health brings upon the naturally most vigorous will. Had the volume never appeared, the circumstance would have occasioned us no surprise. It is therefore a satisfaction indeed peculiar-growing out of considerations other than what pertains to the intrinsic merit of the work (great as this certainly is) — with which we announce the appearance of the first volume of The Modern History of Universalism. We heartily congratulate the author, on the publication of a book which will give him his best literary fame; the denomination, on the final publication of a record of facts vital to its interest; and the literary public in general, on the appearance of a work which makes a permanent contribution to historical literature.

The first volume is devoted wholly to Universalism in Europe. A small part of the second volume will be given to the English portion of the history, and the bulk to the doctrine and denomination in America. May the strength be given requisite to the completion and authentic publica-. tion of the entire work.

We presume that few historical writers have had more serious difficulties to contend with, than the authors of the Ancient and Modern Histories of Universalism. In the first place, the history of a doctrine is ten-fold more difficult to trace than that of a people. The writer knows at once where to look for the annals of a people; however obscure or meagre they may be, he usually knows where he may find them. And the facts will have a chronological connection ; each item is a clue to another; the historical vein once hit, may be pursued with constantly decreasing difficulty. But as respects a doctrine, the case is widely different. As respects this, the important fact may be wholly isolated - indicating neither antecedent nor consequent; may be in the middle of a folio, may be a parenthetic statement in some obscure note; and neither title-page, table of contents, nor index, may give any clue to its whereabouts or even presence in the volume! In this slow, unpromising, laborious way, have many of the most vital details of the two histories of Universalism been ferreted out. The au

, thors have in all this evinced a patience and performed a task which but few of their readers will be likely to appreciate.

Again, the historians to whom we refer have been pioneers as well as compilers — have had to discover as well as arrange their materials - have not only dressed the field, but cleared the wilderness. Hume had his Bede and Rymer; Macaulay his Pepys and Burnett; Grote and Arnold their Niebuhr, Müller and Bunsen. Nothing like this had the author of the volume before us. However arduous may have been the composing of the work, the preliminary work of searching out and verifying its subjectmatter, has been, we make no doubt, a hundred-fold more arduous. It seems to us but simple justice that those who read and enjoy the book, should have some appreciation of the hardship by which the pages, which now read so easily, have been spread before them.

Of the contents of the volume we shall speak briefly, taking the occasion to refer the reader to the work itself. Under a geographical division, we should say, that volume is devoted wholly to Europe ; and that it gives the history of Universalism from the time of the Reformation — with which great epoch the doctrine is shown to have had psychological as well as chronological connection,-in Germany, England, Holland, Switzerland, France, Prussia, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, and Denmark. In our own country, the doctrine has had an ecclesiastical, organized recognition; but in the communities named above, the case has been very different. As a general thing, believers were isolated, had no denominational sympathies and affiliations, and seldom thought of formal and systematic efforts for the dissemination of the doctrine. The name Universalist seldom appears; and the intensity and clearness of conviction differed widely with different persons and communities. Sometimes the doctrine appears as a suggestion, sometimes as a trust or aspiration, sometimes as a probability, sometimes as a metaphysical speculation, and often, indeed, as an unequivocal fact distinctly revealed. It was, in some form and degree, in nearly every sect. It seemed to crop out of every Protestant communion. It had its roots in the hearts of Protestant Christians; and wherever free thought and speech were encouraged or tolerated, was sure to spring into the light, and send out its heavenly fragrance.

Like oases in the desert, indeed, are the occasional appearances of the blessed faith which are scattered over the religious history of Europe. Many readers will be surprised at the names of eminent thinkers, divines and philosophers, poets and statesmen, who have given their testimony to the truth of the doctrine of a final restoration of all souls. Our present purpose and limits alike forbid that we particularize in this connection. We propose a few words under a very different head.

What are the uses of this book ? To what classes in the community will it prove a benefit ? In what particulars does it meet the wants of the reading public ?

1. A word of its value in its general character as a history. We never imagined that Neal's History of the Puritans was written only for, or read only by, Calvinists. As a part of general history, it has a value to every person who cares to know the modern history of Europe. A history of heresy, of crime even, is of value, and must be read by every one who would know the character of a people as a whole. We say, then, that in its general character as a history, Mr. Whittemore's volume has a claim upon every general reader of history. He may think what he pleases of the doctrine itself; may honestly view it as the most fatal of delusions ; but he will not claim to have a scholarly acquaintance with the course of modern thought and religious experience, without knowing what part Universalism has had in the general movements of opinions and creeds. As a phase of general history, then, we congratulate the public on the appearance of a volume which makes a substantially new contribution to historical literature.

2. Notwithstanding the maxim that truth is not determined by majorities, we suspect that every person is strengthened in his faith when he learns that other persons share it with him. We have an instinct that more than one person will have a glimpse of truth. The notion that Universalism is a new doctrine, that it was not heard of before the present century, that the wisdom, piety, and learning of near two thousand years failed to discover what was so clear to Hosea Ballou, - this notion has been most prejudicial to the spread of Universalism. The volume before us sufficiently disposes of whatever force such a notion may have naturally had. The reader will see that Universalism is not a new

doctrine; that it is, in fact, as old as Christian history; and that among its believers and advocates were men renowned for piety, intellect, and influence. In this respect, the great benefit of the book is palpable.

3. Finally, the Universalist will learn much from Mr. Whittemore's history with respect to the natural and historical development of his faith. He will see that no mind, unaided and uninfluenced, comes at the truth at once; how gradual and experimental are the successive steps in the career of conviction ; how greatly error, false evidence, illogical reasoning, and misapplied Scripture interpretation, may distort the perception of truth when really perceived ; how arduous, how earnest, how self-sacrificing must be the career of industry, which finally comes to completer views and wider applications of the great truths of Christianity. Few of us would hold Universalism in the form presented by the persons named in this book; few would now defend it by the same arguments. We have the benefit of their experience.

We will only add, that Mr. Whittemore has done a great work well. Fairness and candor characterize all his statements. No attempts are made to prove more than the simple facts assert. The reader is put into the position of of an eye-witness, and left to draw his own conclusions. The style of the book is excellent - happily arranged in its matter, concise in statement, clear and forcible. It is not a book for to-day only. Let it go into the library as a standard work of reference. No Universalist minister can well dispense with it.

G. H. E.

ART. XXII.

Literary Notices.

1. Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's Mission to China and Japan in the years 1857, '58,'59. By Laurence Oliphant, Esq., Private Secretary to Lord Elgin. New York: Harper & Brothers. Boston: A. Williams & Company. 1860. 8vo. pp. 645.

The comparatively trivial affair of the “Arror case”-the seizure of a vessel sailing under the British flag by the Chinese authorities, the particulars of which event were familiar to most readers of the secular press at the time—must now, in the light of Lord Elgin's mission, be deemed an example illustrative of that course of Providence which often makes momentous events depend upon slight occasions. Through the results it occasioned, the insult offered the British flag, at the time referred to, has taken a conspicuous place in history. To it we owe the fact of partial revolution in the commercial policy of China,-a revolution fraught with important results as bearing upon the commercial interests of the western nations. Incidental to these leading interests, we have greatly enlarged facilities for social intercourse with the people of that world of mystery, the “ Celestial Empire;" and more particularly under the latter head, we have the very important contribution to the world's literature named at the head of this notice. It sometimes happens that men highly gifted to observe and to describe, fail to secure the opportunity necessary to bring their faculty into requisition; and sometimes it happens that men placed in a position specially contrived, it would almost seem, to enable one to see and report facts of great worth to the race, are unfortunately lacking in both the faculty to see and to tell. In Mr. Oliphant the opportunity found its fitting person, and the person his great opportunity. The result is the handsomely-issued volume before us, giving the details, special and incidental, of Lord Elgin's Mission to China and Japan. A former work, by the same author, the “ Russian Shores of the Black Sea,”—a book which appeared during the Crimean war, and which did much to put its readers into a position to appreciate the local bearings of that struggle-established his fitness to act the journalist as incidental to his special work as Lord Elgin's secretary. The present volume is the result of Mr. Oliphant's very great opportunity to observe the customs, forms of government, ethical and theological notions, and general social practices in China and Japan. It therefore contains, on all these inter

« PreviousContinue »