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prisons, and advocate the rights of their inmates in and out of doors: who do what in them lies to lighten the temporal burdens of the poorer classes, and above all, give them moral light, and strength to discern and pursue their best interests. Many of the best men in France are using their new liberties with a view to these objects. Germany has set about the same work with the wisdom, and is pursuing it with the vigor and perseverance, which might be expected from the usual character of her enterprises. America is still so far before all other conntries in this branch of her legislation as well as her executive, that we must iong consider it a sufficient praise to be seen to follow in her steps. She is not unwilling, we believe, to have her penal system made the test of her political state. Great Britain must make haste to get rid of the shame which would arise from having a similar test applied in her case. Since we cannot allow it to be a fair one, let us frankly admit our penal system to be an anomaly; and by a diligent and perpetual renovation, bring it at length into an accordance with the best of our social institutions."
Systems of theology are as much the dread of some devout Christians, as they are the delight of others. Some hold it to be profane, others to be a matter of religious obligation, to compare and adjust the scattered facts and reasonings of Scripture by the assistance of our divinely-bestowed faculties; to reduce to a parallel truths which appear to be divergent; to bring to light hidden relations; to display the mutual influences of the greater and lesser lights of the spiritual world. Some, in all humility, read and receive, grateful for what they can understand, submissive under difficulties, and undisturbed by apparent contradictions ; while others not only believe that revelation is conducted on a plan, but that if the revelation can be understood, so may the purpose for which it was given, and the arrangement in which it is offered. The first class is, at present, incalculably the most numerous; yet there is a sufficient diversity among the system-makers and system-finders to show that Christianity is but little understood as a whole, and that the rational faculty cannot, in more than a few instances, have been efficiently directed towards this point. It is surprising that between the watchfulness against speculation of the many, and the eager curiosity of the few, the systems of foreign theologians should have attracted so little notice as has been bestowed on them in this country; and especially that the system proposed by Lessing, which is in various respects remarkable, should have failed to alarm and to interest the timid and the inquiring.
The Hundred Thoughts, in which are condensed the results of Lessing's inquiries into the scheme of revelation, were presented to the readers of the Monthly Repository in a faithful translation, so long ago as 1806. It does not appear that they attracted the attention which their originality, if not their truth, deserves; and it may therefore effect some good purpose to bring them forward again, not in the form of a reprint, which is rendered unnecessary by the reference I have made, but as the occasion of some remarks on the design and arrangement of that revelation which I examine with unhesitating confidence and surpassing interest, because I believe it to be divine. The propositions of Lessing form the ground-work of the observations which follow. My design is rather to engage the interest of the reader in an inquiry of
extraordinary importance, than to advocate propositions which, individually or collectively, must stand or fall by their own strength or weakness.
The system is grounded on the conviction that the object of the Divine Government is to secure the ultimate perfection of all mankind. The evidence in favor of this design is the same by which the attributes of Deity are ascertained; and it therefore forms no part of the present inquiry, which relates solely to the means used to secure this object. The rational faculty is the appointed instrument of human perfection. It is the endowment by which the race is distinguished from all inferior orders of beings; the sole faculty to which all events bear a relation, to which all circumstances are subservient, through which the dispensations of Providence are rendered important, by which Providence itself is recognised. The cultivation of this faculty is therefore the chief object of the Divine care; the improvement of this endowment the most blessed effect of the Divine benignity.
In the constitution of nature, as its laws are ordinarily administered, provision is made for the gradual development of reason in individuals; and through them, in successive generations. As no two individuals are exposed to the operation of precisely similar influences, the improvement of individual minds is the sole means of the advancement of the race, according to what are called the natural methods of the Divine Government: and the progress towards persection must therefore be extremely gradual. The object of a revelation is to quicken the progress, and not, as is usually supposed, to change or supersede it. As, by a beneficent ordination of Providence, the perception of every new truth invigorates the perceptive power, the exhibition of facts which it would have required ages to establish by inference, must assist, in an incalculable degree, the development of reason; and this assistance is
rendered yet more valuable by its extension to masses of people; by its equal adaptation to a multitude of minds. Lessing calls this assistance Education. “Revelation," he says, “is to the whole race of mankind what education is to the individual.” " Education is a revelation made to a single man; and revelation is the education of the whole race of mankind which has taken place, and still continues to take place.” To serve the purpose of an analogy, this mode of expression may be allowed; but it is not sufficiently accurate to be brought forward as an aphorism. Education does not consist in the exhibition of facts, nor chiefly in the inculcation of principles, but in the formation and strengthening of those powers by which facts are to be ascertained and principles deduced. Regarding education generally, however, as a means of improvement, the analogy is sufficiently close; and revelation, in its comparison with reason, may be described as a special, superadded to a general, system of education of the the human race.
The first object to be attained by a special system of this kind was to antedate men's perception of a divine moral government. A few individuals might, by natural means, and after a great length of time, have formed some conception of such a Providence; but the necessary operations of the mind are complicated, and such as presuppose a considerable degree of intellectual advancement: and even when clearly established in the minds of a few, such a conception could not be easily or speedily imparted to the many. The work was effected by the Judaical revelation; and how was the method suited to the object ?
As the great truth which was the object of this revelation was to be recognised by mankind at large, the object would have been lost if the special mode had been employed on every nation. If a separate revelation had been made to each people, each would have been occupied with the man
ifestations granted to itself, and the Universal Father would have been regarded by each as a national God.
No one nation could have compared the various dispensations, and ascertained the point to which they were severally made to tend. The experiment would have been too vast. For any practical purpose, the world at large is too undefined a spectacle to the world at large. A revelation to individuals would still less have answered the purpose. Such a diversity of experiences would have created perplexity in the minds of those who might be disposed to observation and inquiry; while the careless would have failed to recognise any common object among dispensations so various. Nothing remarkable and interesting to the race could have speedily arisen from the separate convictions of insulated minds. The mode of human education would in this case have been too diversified, as in the other too vast. These imperfections might be avoided by the selection of a single people, who, by being educated apart, might be an object of attention to the entire race, while they afforded an unquestionable instance of the allotment of prosperity in reward of obedience,- of the accommodation of condition to character. Such was the method adopted.
The time, the place, the circumstances, were all suited to the object in view. The Jewish people was surrounded by nations capable of observing, and disposed to observe, its peculiarities, their origin and consequences. Placed in the midst of these nations, enduring through their vicissitudes, or undergoing changes as peculiar as its internal institutions, changes whose commencement was never unforeseen, and whose results were ever remarkable, the Jewish nation could not but be a conspicuous object, and human reason could not resist the conviction which was pressed upon it, that, as obedience to a certain law was always followed by national prosperity, and disobedience by national affliction, the giver of that law must be a Moral Governor.