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Victor Cousin's Historic Cycles.

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purpose, and saved us from formidable dangers, by keeping our eye steadily fixed on the facts of nature and experience, while others were tempted to wander after the ignis fatuus of metaphysical abstraction ; and the general result has been, à firm conviction of the validity and value of the evidence arising from final causes, as that evidence has been stated and illustrated by the sagacious Paley, the learned lectureship of Boyle, and the series of Bridgewater Essayists.

But some recent indications lead us to suspect that a portion, at least, of our divines, may have been more deeply infected than we had previously supposed, with the spirit of jealousy and suspicion against the Natural Evidence of Theology, which previous philosophical writings were fitted to inspire. It cannot be unseasonable, therefore, and we trust it may be interesting to cast our eye abroad over the state and tendencies of European thought, and to inquire in what direction the tide is likely to flow-what the dangers with which we may have to contend—what the means of defence which it may be wise and politic to prepare.

In his brilliant lectures on the History of Philosophy, VICTOR Cousin has exhibited a graphic sketch of the progress of human opinion, and lias attempted to show that it advances in a series of successive cycles, each cycle containing four concentric circles :—The first in order, is Sensationalism, or the system which ascribes all our knowledge to the information derived through our corporeal organs; the second, Idealism, which erects its lofty superstructure on the phenomena and laws of our mental consciousness; the third is SCEPTICISM, which springs up

; from the constant collision and controversy between the two former systems; and the fourth is Mysticism, which arises from the despair of reason, the religious instincts of nature, and the felt want of faith. In tracing the historical development of human thought, he thinks that it may be shown to have described this cycle of systems, in the same order, at each of the great eras in the past : and he illustrates his opinion by referring to the philosophy of India, the philosophy of Greece, the philosophy of the Middle Ages, and the philosophy of Modern Europe- each having commenced with sensationalism, then risen to idealism, then sunk into scepticism, and then sprung up into mysticism. Not content with exhibiting this panoramic view as a generalization from the lessons of history, he offers it as a necessary deduction from the fundamental laws of thought-a deduction not resting on historical data, although capable of being verified by means of them. There is much that is questionable in the deductive method which he adopts; but we cannot survey the series of tableaux vivans—the life-like pictures which pass so rapidly before us in his brilliant pages-without recognizing many features of historic truth, and of deep human interest, in his graphic delineations of successive systems of thought.

richest morsel remains :-", Messieurs ! qui a été le vainqueur-qui a été le vaincu -à Waterloo ? Messieurs, il n'y a pas eu de vaincus! (Applaudissemens.) Non, je proteste qu'il n'y en a pas eu : les seuls vainqueurs ont été la civilisation Européenne et la charte. (Applaudissemens unanimes et prolongés.)”—More recently, however, he has done amplo justice, (as in his Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy,) to the genius and character of the Scottish school ; and has taken occasion to pay a striking and well-merited tribute to the Presbyterian system, which has contributed so largely to develop our national thought.

If Cousin's theory be correct, it becomes an interesting question—in what position may we expect to find England, and Europe at large, in relation to the grandest subjects of human thought, and what may be presumed to be the present tendencies of philosophical speculation ? Our place in the chart is easily determined. The sensational school-originating not with Locke, as has been injuriously supposed, but with Hobbes, and his French and English followers-prevailed for a time till it was all but universal

, as the creed of philosophical Europe, (excepting always the Scottish school,) and reached its ultimate, and, perhaps, natural development in the gross materialism and bold infidelity of the Parisian Physiologists. Yet both in this country, and in France, the system seems to be worn out and effete and although Auguste Comte at Paris, and John Mill in London, have produced works of great power, in which the main principles of that system are maintained, there are undeniable symptoms of a decided reaction in favour of idealism, which may be ascribed partly to the growing influence of the Scottish philosophy, partly to the kindred but different speculations of Kant and his successors, and though last, not least, to the revived study of Butler under the auspices of Dr. Chalmers, as well as to his own powerful contributions to Ethics and Natural Theology. This reaction has brought before the mind of the public the claims of the two rival schools, and has given birth to a controversy which may be best studied in the philosophical writings of Mill and Whewell, and the historical works of Lewes and Morell. Now, if scepticism and mysticism be, according to Cousin's opinion, the twin-products of such an era--the one spring, ing from the doubt and dissatisfaction occasioned by conflict and controversy, the other from distrust of reason and desire of faith, we might naturally expect some manifestation of these tendencies in the present age; and accordingly, it is not a little remarkable, that both in France and England, there is a discernible tendency to call in question, on the one hand, the validity of the natural evidence for the Being of a God, and yet, a tendency on the other, to spring, as if in despair and by in


Present Tendencies-- Physical Science discouraged at Oxford. 13

stinct, from the depths of doubt, to the repose of faith, by resting solely either on the authority of Scripture, or on the infallibility of the Church.

In our own country this tendency has been exhibited by parties occupying the most opposite extremes of specnlative opinion on questions of philosophy. The late Dr. Ellis of Dublin, standing at the extreme point of sensationalism, and blaming Locke himself for having admitted reflection as one of the inlets of our knowledge, denied the possibility of religion without revelation, and questioned the sufficiency of the natural evidence for the being and perfections of God; and now, the Rev. Mr. Irons, of Queen's College, Oxford, from the opposite standing point at the extreme of idealism, gives forth a similar verdict, and represents the argument of Paley's Natural Theology as utterly inconclusive. Scepticism, in this partial form, is the less offensive to the popular mind, because it is allied to strong views of revealed truth, and seems to do the greater honour to Scripture, by removing every rival claim; and hence Morell regards it as the form in which it is most potent in England at the present day. A similar development of thought has often been witnessed, but one for which more intelligible reasons can be assigned, within the bosom of the Romish Church. It has been the policy of not a few of her writers to enlarge on the doubtfulness of human opinion, and the fallibility of private judgment, on purpose to reconcile men to the plan of taking their religion on trust, and submitting to the teaching of an infallible guide; and in the writings of Huet, * Lammennais, and, we regret to add, occasionally, also, in those of the profound and exalted Pascal, we find abundant traces of what we may venture to call the scepticodogmatic genius of the system.

We might not have thought it necessary to advert to this sign of the times," had there been no other indication of such a tendency than the appearance of the speculations of Mr. Irons. But we find frequent references, in recent works, to the existence of a state of opinion in regard to the natural evidence of theology, and the relation of science to sacred truth, as prevailing in some portions of the Church, and even at our most ancient and venerable seats of learning, which we cannot help deploring as an inauspicious omen of future evil. That the study of the physical sciences, instead of being encouraged and promoted, has been discountenanced and repressed at Oxford, and that some of

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Traité de la Foiblesse de l'Esprit humaine. Abbé Lammennais on Religious Indifference. See also Aljazel, referred to by Sir James Mackintosh, Dissertation, En. cy.lopædia Britannica, 426.



our ablest teachers there have, in consequence, been left to the weary task of lecturing to a mere handful of students, while the shelves of the Bodleian have been diligently ransacked for the musty records of Mediæval times, is a fact which has been loudly proclaimed, and never, so far as we have heard, satisfactorily explained. What a striking contrast between the blind policy which is thus pursued by the dignitaries of the Protestant Church, and the wakeful, far-seeing sagacity of the Popish Bishop, who, looking abroad over the face of Europe, and discerning well the tendencies of a restless and inquisitive spirit of inquiry, so far from seeking to check, would rather place himself at the head of the movement, so that he might be qualified to guide its onward progress, and interfere with effect when interference might be required. We know few things more instructive, or, with reference to the Church of England, more humiliating, than the contrast between the zeal for science displayed by the accomplished Wiseman, and the jealousy of it which is cherished at Oxford. Which is the wiser, futurity will speedily show. Meanwhile, let the Church be warned, that in such an age science cannot be neglected with impunity; it has often been leagued with infidelity; it seems now to be adopted by Popery. "I cannot here

: refrain,” says Bishop Wiseman, from expressing a wish that the study of geology may soon enter into the course of education, as completely as the other physical sciences.” “To those who know the better spirit which is now fermenting in the warm blood of many among the youth of France; who are apprized of the genial ardour of true patriotism which cheers them on in the holy desire to blot the stain from their country's 'scutcheon, and to raise her as much by the new glory she shall shed around the cause of religion, as she has been shamed by her former enmity to it; to those who are acquainted with the sacred league tacitly existing among many, to devote their various and superior accomplishments and abilities to the defence, the illustration, and the triumph of religion, under the secure guidance of the Church which they obey; to such as know these things, the authorities I have quoted are but small manifestations of a widely-extended feeling ; mere leaves rising to the surface of the waters, to show the rich and luxuriant growth of vegetation which their depths enclose. And surely it must be gratifying thus to see a science, formerly classed, and not perhaps unjustly, among the most pernicious to youth, once more become her handmaid ; to see her now, after so many years of wandering from theory to theory, or rather, from vision to vision, return once more to the home where she was born, and to the altar at which she made her first simple offerings; no longer, as she first went forth, a wilful, dreamy, empty-handed child, but with a natronly dignity, and a priest-like step, and a

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Sedgwick's and Powell's Complaints and Warnings. 15 boson full of well-earned gifts, to pile upon its' sacred hearth. For it was religion which gave geology birth, and to the sanctuary she hath once more returned.”

That very different views from these prevail at the English Universities, and that they threaten to affect injuriously not only the progress of physical inquiry, but the natural evidence of theology itself, appears from the frequent complaints and warnings which have been recently emitted by some of our most profound and accomplished writers. Thus Mr. Sedgwick, in his Discourse on the Studies of the University, refers to the prevalence of such views_" How any believer can deny the reality of a natural religion when he reads those passages in the Bible, where its power is so emphatically acknowledged, is more than Í can understand. Yet I have myself heard it asserted within these very walls, that there is no religion of nature, and that we have no knowledge of the attributes of God or even of his existence, independently of revelation. The assertion is, I think, mischievous, because I believe it untrue: and by truth only can a God of Truth be honoured, and the cause of true religion be served.” And so Professor Baden Powell of Oriel, addressing himself to this state of feeling, observes : " If there be those who feel a disposition to undervalue inductive inquiry,—who are inclined to disparage physical investigation, and declaim against the inferences of experience and analogy, and the presumption of reasonings grounded on the uniformity of natural causes : let such persons be persuaded to pause for a moment, and learn caution, from the consideration that, in any censure cast upon such trains of inquiry, and such principles of rational speculation, they are, in fact, casting censure on the very elements of the great argument of natural theology. Let them recollect how intimately the one is wound up in the very texture of the other; and avoid the reproach not less of inconsistency than of ignorance, not less of irreligion than of folly, which must attach to those who, under the plea of defending religion, would thus sap the very foundations of its evidences."

Similar testimonies might be quoted from the writings of Mill, Babbage, and others; but this is the less necessary, as Mr. Irons, himself a member of Queen's College, and a minister of the Church of England, has come forward with a frank and full exposition of his views on the whole Doctrine of Final Causes."

To this work Professor Powell refers, * as the most systematic statement of the views which have obtained currency at Oxford :

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* The Connexion of Natural and Divine Truth. By Rev. Baden Powell Pref. xi.

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