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countries exposed to drought, when the drying up of the ca. nals and rivulets which dispersed fertility through the smaller valleys, drives the people to the banks of the great rivers ? Have not large capitals gone on to increase long after a decline has commenced in the population and power of the state? And has not this increased bulk of the metropolis been in some cases the result, first of the impoverishment, and at length of the depopulation of distant districts ? This is strikingly the case with regard to Constantinople at the present moment; and ancient history supplies us with similar lessons. We are not alarmists. We not only say with the Poet,
England, with all thy faults, I love thee still,'— but we hope the best, as regards the permanent greatness of the country which we love. Still, we cannot suppress a melancholy feeling at contemplating the splendid improvements and immense extension of the metropolis. We fear that it is not a sign of political health ; that all is not right at the extremities ;--that England is, if we may be allowed the expression, resolving itself too much into cities and large communities, the formation of which is, indeed, a first step in civilization, but there is a point at which their increase seems unfavourable to morals and happiness, and the advantages of the citizen over the pagan are outweighed or lost. We fear, that we shall have, as a political community, to tread back a step or two, at the cost of much individual suffering, to regain that state of general prosperity which we have overshot."
Art. VIII. Letters on the Moral and Religious State of Souh Ane
rica, written during a Residence of nearly Seven Years in Buenos Aires, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. By James Thomson, 12mo.
pp. 296. Price 5s. London. 1827. MR. THOMSON'S name must be well known to our
VI readers ; and extracts from some of these Letters have already found their way to the public through the medium of the reports of different religious societies. The whole series will be extremely acceptable, and their publication in this cheap form is much to be commended. We cannot doubt that the volume will obtain a very wide circulation. It contains more information with regard to the internal condition of the South American States, than is to be obtained from any other work,
The Writer appears to be most singularly fitted for the arduous and delicate mission to which he has devoted himself.
Cautious, yet enterprising, conciliating but firm, zealous but without bigotry, and unwearied in perseverance, he combines all the requisites for success; and he has been remarkably successful. The following passage, in a letter dated Nov. 9, 1822, describes the sentiments and feelings with which he had embarked in the noble enterprise of promoting the formation of schools and the circulation of the Scriptures within the almost unknown provinces of Peru. . Since my leaving my native country, I have experienced much of the gracious goodness of our heavenly Father, in directing my steps, in making darkness light before me, and crooked things straight. The encouragements I have met with in my endeavours to forward the Lord's cause in South America, have been much greater than could have been expected before the trial was made. I think a door has been opened here, which will never be shut, but which will, I trust, from one year to another, open wider and wider, until it be come, in the Apostle's language, “ great and effectual.” Should I say, there are no adversaries, and that all goes on prosperously, with. out any difficulty or discouragement from any quarter,--should I say this, it would be nearly the same as telling you, that a great miracle had taken place here, and had changed the nature of man. You, of course, expect no such wonderful accounts. At the same time, it is a gratifying thing to be able to state, that far less opposition has been met with than was expected. Difficulties, I believe, of whatever kind, will grow fewer and weaker as Time runs on, bearing in his hand the torch of heavenly light; whilst, on the other hand, means and opportunities of doing good will greatly increase. It is surely a gratifying sight, to see darkness fleeing away, and the light of heaven breaking forth. You know there is no fellowship, in any sense, bee tween light and darkness ; the one must give place to the other. Wherever, tlien, darkness prevails, let the people of God look to Him who said, “ Let there be light, and there was light;" and let them use those means which he has appointed, under the full assurance, that midnight shall give place to the dawning light, and that again to noon day. That a great and happy change is about to take place in our hitherto unfortunate, unhappy world, the Scriptures predict; and the days in which we live, say, “ Lift up your heads, for this happy period draweth nigh.” You who live in the land of Israel, whence the word of the Lord is sounding out on all sides, see these things better than I can do in this far distant country. From every corner of the earth, messengers are daily landing on your happy shores with tidings of joy. One says, Babylon is fallen; another cries, the gods of the heathen arc famished; whilst a third shouts aloud, Satan falls like lightning to the ground. I almost envy this felicity of yours; yet I would not exchange conditions with you. Solitary and alone as I am here, I would not wish myself elsewhere, because I believe I am placed where God would have me to be; and, I trust, his work, in one shape or another, is all my concern. I do, how: ever, wish myself otherwise circumstanced. I should be glad to
have with me one or more, with whom I could always communicate in the ways and work of the Lord, and whose counsels and labours might prove a blessing to me and to many. You, my dear brother, who dwell in Mount Zion, have never experienced the disadvantage of being thus alone. Should I come into your thoughts when you bow your knees unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I beg you to pray that grace, and mercy, and peace may be multiplied unto me, and that the Lord's work may prosper in South America.' pp. 49–52.
Of Mr. Thomson's tact in dealing with the Romanists, the following detail of a conversation with a distinguished ecclesiastic, at Lima, will afford a very pleasing illustration. We make no apology for the length of the extract.
• The gentleman with whom I had the conversation, is a man of superior education and abilities, and holds an important situation in one of our colleges. We bave been acquainted with each other ever since I arrived in this city. We have visited each other occasionally during that time, and have talked upon religious subjects, but almost always upon those things in which we were agreed. A few days ago, I had a visit from him, and we entered almost immediately into a close conversation or controversy upon some of the points of the Catholic religion. I had lying on the table one of the Pope's bulls, which a young man had brought me a day or two before, as I had expressed to him a desire to see it. I enquired of my friend, where I could obtain a set of these bulls, as I wished to see each of them, in order to ascertain their nature, and what it was they promised to those who should purchase them. After he had informed me where this article was to be found, I told him that I understood that those who purchased one of these bulls at a certain price, namely, eight dollars and a half, were assured that they would get out of purgatory in two or three days after death. He said it was so as I had stated, Do you then really believe, said I, that the Pope can thus pardon the sins of men, and that men can obtain the pardon of their sids by means of expending such a sum of money in the purchase of this bull.He said, he believed the forgiveness of sins could be obtained in the way mentioned, and that the Pope had such authority in virtue of being the successor of the prince of the apostles, to whom Jesus Christ had granted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and power to remit or to retain the sins of men. It is to be supposed, however, continued he, that confession of sins is to be made in order to this forgiveness. And in confession, to whom can the penitent go but to the minister of Christ, in order that he may instruct him in the nature of repentance? To prevent him from deceiving himself, and believing he has repented when he has not, it is necessary to show him what are the signs of a sincere repentance; and when the priest finds the penitent as he ought to be, then, in virtue of the power given by Christ to his ministers, they absolve him from his sins.
• In answer to what he said, I told him, that I considered it to be
the duty of man to confess his sins unto God, as it is with him alone we have to do, and not with one another; and that the Scripture assures us, that if we humbly and sincerely confess our sins unto him, and beg forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall obtain the mercy we ask for. I then said, that none could forgive sins but God only; and that as to the power given to the apostle Peter, and also to the other apostles, to forgive the sins of men or to retain them, I conceived it to be a power of doing this only in a certain way, namely, in the way corresponding to the instructions which they had received from their divine Master. I illustrated this by the case of an ambassador sent by his sovereign with terms of peace to a neighbouring prince. The Ambassador, I said, is authorized to make peace between the two nations, that is, to put an end to the war or continue it. He is not, however, at liberty to do this in any way he chooses, but only in that way which the instructions of his sovereign authorize. So was it, I continued, with the ambassadors whom the Lord Jesus sent into the world ; they were sent to proclaim and to celebrate a peace between God and man, but they were to do so only in one way, that is, in the way prescribed to them. pp. 131—3.
Mr. Thomson then proceeded to explain the sense in which Protestants contend that the keys were committed to the Apostle Peter, and that he exercised the honourable commission peculiarly entrusted to him ; remarking, in the sequel, that the * Apostles have made their own writings their successors, and
that through them they still continue to speak to mankind. The ecclesiastic, in reply, maintained, that, with regard to all such explanations of Scripture, the best and surest plan is, to bave recourse to the uniform explanation and judgement of • the church.' Upon this position, that the church has never failed or varied as an expositor of truth, hinges the whole controversy. How then do you prove to me,' Mr. Thomson asked in reply, that the church has never varied in her doctrines ?' . I prove, said he, the constancy and stability of the church by the uniform voice of ecclesiastical writers, from the days of the Apostles until now. No sooner did any pastor or bishop broach any new doctrine, than his own flock, and the whole body of Christians, every where raised the cry against him. Errors now and then arose, continued he, and errors too of great consequence, but in this manner they were publicly reprobated, and the individuals who had erred were thereby brought to repentance, or else expelled the church, As I wished to drive this subject to its proper issue, and to fix upon the very point upon which we differed, and which point it was necessary to settle before we could proceed further with any advantage, I put this question to him: Do you maintain that the writers upon ecclesiastical affairs, from the days of the Apostles downward, have all held the same opinions regarding the interpretation of Scripture ? Not exactly so, said he, for there have been differences among them regarding the interpretation of several passages of Scripture ; and he Vol. XXVII. N.S.
here instanced several opinions of St. Augustine, St. Cyprian, &c. But so far, continued he, as respects what are strictly and properly called the doctrines of the church, I maintain that there is no difference among them, although in points of discipline they are not all agreed. You hold then, said I, do you, that so far as the docirines of the Roman Catholic Church are concerned, the writers we speak of do not vary? I expected he would here give an answer at once in the affirmative, but he withdrew a little farther, and said, that he would not affirm to the question I had put, as to all that these writers had sáid; but, so far only as they had given their testimony to the doc. trines in question as existing among them, he wished to speak, and not as to their own opinions of these doctrines. He bere stated some opinions of the fathers, and said, that so far as they acted as witnesses to what existed among them, and in the ages previous to their time, thus far and no farther were their writings to be considered respecting the argument in hand. I here reminded him by the way, of what I had before urged, but which he did not concede, namely, that there were a great variety of opinions among the Catholics as well as among the Protestants. I stated, at the same time, that I did not urge this particularly as an objection to their system, but merely as a counterpart to his objection to the Protestants, arising from their differences. I then put the question : Do you maintain then, that so far as eccle. siastical writers have given testimony to the doctrines of the church, they do not vary, nor can vary ?-Yes, said he, I do maintain that position. I then replied, I am glad we have come at length to this one definite point, and I am glad, also, that you have excluded the opinions of the writers on these subjects, and that you rest solely on them as witnesses. I now see the point you maintain, and here we 'will come to issue. My answer, for the present, shall be short. This position which you maintain, is a position which I believe to be insupportable, and which, in consequence, I deny. Here, then, let the subject for the present rest; we have got a great length in seeing the very line which divides us, and we have now the matter free of mys. tery. It is reduced to a mere historical question. We shall, there. fore, decide it as such on some future occasion, when I shall take in hand to prove that the church has varied.
We have now seen, said I, the very point in which we differ; let us also see wherein we agree. I believe, said I, that all mankind are sinners, and stand in need of a Saviour. I believe that God pitied our race, and sent his only begotten Son to seek and to save the lost. I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the true Mediator and Saviour of mankind, and that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. I do sincerely believe, I continued, in the Lord Jesus Christ as iny Lord and my Redeemer; and, I trust also, that I desire to know all his precepts and instructions, and to conform my thoughts, and words, and actions thereunto.- then said to him, is not this exactly what you believe ?-He said, it was so. Well, then, I replied, may not we look upon each other as fellow disciples ? and may not we each expect, if we hold on, that the Lord will give unto us both, that crown of righteousness which he hath promised to them that love