Critical Review (1793)

Critical Review, 2nd Series, 8 (August 1793), 433-35. 

This lady is a disciple of the Priestleian school, and seems well acquainted with the present state of the arguments in controversial divinity and metaphysics. Her religion however, is of a liberal and philanthropic complexion, and her morality pure and free from affectation. She is likewise a disciple and professed admirer of the ingenious author of the rights of women, and strongly exhorts her country-women, in pursuance of those rights, to the assiduous cultivation of their understandings. So we cheerfully go along with her; but when she throws out a sort of a sneer against notable women, and even mentions with disrespect Mrs. Glasse's Art of Cookery, we confess ourselves touched in a tender point; for though women, who are more like angels, may be above these low gratification, men are not; and we freely acknowledge that the delicacies with which our good ladies have occasionally regaled us, have given us a great respect for the said Mrs. Glasse, and as, unfortunately, we are not possessed of the skill to make ourselves the various good things they treat to we do hereby enter out protest against her treatise being left out of the library of any female, be she Unitarian, Trinitarian, Arian, or supra lapsarian -- To be serious, we do not think that a neglect of literary cultivation is [a] prevailing fault in the present mode of educating your women, and we might allege as a proof of it, the frequent occasions on which it becomes our duty to mention their names with honor. That there are ignorant women is very certain; but there are ignorant men too, and those men must have suitable companions. 

     This work consists partly of moral stories, and partly of essays, with a few poems. The tendency of the whole is in favor of virtue; and if the style is not brilliant, neither is it deceptive. The author seems aware that the different topics which are brought together, some of them of a very abstruse nature, render the work too miscellaneous; the variety, however, may engage some to read on subjects which they would not have looked for in other books. Of the stories, we were best pleased with No. 8 because it is calculated to repress the indulgence of too great a sensibility, though on the most justifiable occasions; a fault not often checked by those who address the fancy; but as it is too long to quote, we shall give the author's sentiments on the doctrine of final and universal salvation, a doctrine so cheering to the heart of man, and so honorable to his Creator, that we cannot but hope it will in time take place, as it is certainly gaining ground of the gloomy and heart-withering terrors of Calvinism.

     It has been objected, that the doctrine of final restitution is contrary to the express declarations of Scripture, and that could it be demonstrated, it might have a tendency to relax the morals, by mitigating the fear of an eternal duration of future punishment. In reply to the first objection, -- I grant that many particular passages in the New Testament, speak of the misery of the wicked in a future state, as endless and unlimited. But at the same time, the general tendency of the scriptures militate against this idea, by representing the Deity as a kind Parent, willing that all should come to repentance, and having no pleasure in the death of a sinner, inflicting punishment only with a view to correct and amend. It may also be observed, that the language of scripture is always plain and popular, adapted not merely to the discerning few, but to the understanding of the bulk of mankind; nor could it have been so generally useful, had not this been the case. It may speak of future punishment in an unlimited and unconditional manner, in order to produce a stronger effect; as God by Jonah threatened the destruction of the people of Ninevah, without giving them room to hope that their repentance might avert the impending judgment. It is also thought by commentators, -- that the words translated everlasting and eternal, are not always to be understood as strictly meaning infinite, or without end; though certainly intended to convey and idea of a duration so long, as to appear to us inconceivable, and almost indefinite. Many detached passages of scripture when taken abstractedly, seem to contradict each other; which is unavoidable from the necessity of its being written in a style appealing to the senses, the only style which could have been generally understood: for instance -- the Supreme Being is sometimes represented with the passions and parts of a man, as being angry, grieved, appeased, repenting, etc. as having hands, arms, eyes, and ears; at others -- as a spirit, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways. Reason is to judge, and reconcile these apparent contrarieties. The safest, and properest method of forming just opinions on these subjects is to lay little comparative stress on mere words, often symbolical, and highly figurative or accommodated to local circumstances; but to rise into ideas that harmonize best with the general tenor of revelation, and are analogous to nature and right reason. And these teach us (as I before observed) that a being of infinite power and boundless benevolence could not have created intelligent creatures, without intending their ultimate benefit; and though, on account of their limited capacities in this first of their existence, they are liable to much evil and woe, yet these very sufferings may have [a] rectifying tendency, that will eventually terminate in the highest felicity; and this arises out [of] our frame and nature, and could not have been otherwise, unless God had at once formed us perfect, that is [to] say, had multiplied himself.