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ON THE CHARACTER AND WRITINGS
Selections from the Writings of Fenelon ; with an Appendix, containing a
Memoir of his Life. By a Lady. Boston. Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins. 1829. 12mo. pp. 283.
We perform a very gratifying duty, in introducing and recommending to our readers the book which stands at the head of this article. An attractive and quickening work on practical religion we regard as a valuable accession to our literature. Indeed anything written with power on christian morals and theology is most welcome. It is too true, and a sad truth, that religious books are preeminently dull. If we wished to impoverish a man's intellect, we could devise few means more effectual, than to confine him to what is called a course of theological reading. The very subject, to which, above all others, the writer should bring his whole strength of thought and feeling, which allies itself to our noblest faculties, to which reason, imagination, taste, and genius should consecrate their noblest efforts, is of
all subjects treated most weakly, tamely, and with least attraction. Of course there are splendid exceptions, but we speak of the immense majority of theological books. It is wonderful how men can think and write upon religion to so little effect. That a theme so vast, so sublime as Christianity, embracing God and man, earth and heaven, time and eternity, connected intimately with all human history, deriving lights from all human experience, admitting application to the whole of human life, and proposing as its great end the everlasting progress of the soul—that such a subject should be treated so monotonously as to be proverbially dull, that its professed explorers should be able to plant their footsteps so exactly in the track of their predecessors, that the boundlessness of the field should so seldom tempt an adventurous spirit from the beaten way, is wonderful, and might seem a miracle to a man unacquainted with the vassalage which has broken down the mind in the department of religion. It is true, that those who write on this topic are accustomed to call it sublime ; but they make its sublimity cold and barren, like that of mountain tops wrapped in everlasting snows. We write this, not in severity, but in sorrow of heart ; for we despair of any great progress of the human character or of society, until the energies of the mind shall be bent, as they seldom have been, on those most important subjects and interests of the human mind, morals and religion.
As a striking proof of the poverty of religious literature, and of the general barrenness of the intellect when employed in this field, we may refer to the small amount of original and productive thought in the English church since the days of Barrow and Taylor. Could our voice