Critical Review (1792)

Critical Review, 2nd Series 4 (1792), 213-32.

Cursory Remarks on an Enquiry into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship: Respectfully inscribed to G. Wakefield, B. A. By Eusebia. 8vo. 6d. Knott. 1792. 

    Rational religion appears with peculiar beauty in a female mind, for it is generally animated with a warmth of devotion, and rendered interesting by the feminine weakness, which requires support. Eusebia’s Remarks, independent of this recommendation, are truly judicious, and she has selected some passages which require Mr. Wakefield’s attentive consideration in the progress of this Enquiry. We shall only suggest, that the prayers mentioned were probably regulated by the Jewish ritual and customs. The following passage is expressed with peculiar beauty and force.

    ‘And though such devout aspirations can give no information to an Omniscient Being, nor alter his plans, originally designed for the greatest general and individual good; yet it is possible, that they may be links in the great chain of causes and effects, and by giving rise to pure and pious sentiments, be ultimately productive of consequences the most beneficial. Far as the world has advanced to maturity, and enlightened as is the present age, compared with former obscurity; yet are the generality of mankind by no means sufficiently spiritualized, as to be capable of rising into first principles, and regulating their practice from the reason and moral fitness of things; and where through inattention or incapacity, this is not to be expected, even a mechanical devotion, a mere performance of external duties (and private prayer may frequently be no more) may have a restraining effect upon the conduct; as it is a general observation, that youth, who have received a religious education, though the precepts may not have reached the heart; are yet incapable of rushing into vice and dissipation, with the same callous inconsideration as others, whose early associations have been of a different nature; when through the medium of the senses, repeated [232] impressions have been made on the brain, good or evil habits acquire an ascendancy not easily to be eradicated; words must first be taught, and ideas will afterwards cling to them. If, to avoid the appearance of a vain display, all outward acts and expressions of devotion are to be discouraged, piety will want the prevailing recommendation of example, or religion be reduced to a mere system of morals, which unassisted reason might have discovered, without needing a divine interference.’