Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

It has since been generally adopted, and now forms an important item in the New-School theology. It appears, however, that there have always been some who could not adopt it. There have always been men who saw that if election and reprobation impeach the goodness of God, the doctrine of free-will, as commonly explained, reflects still more severely upon his wisdom and his honor. To reconcile the absurdities of both creeds with truth, has indeed been a conflict of ages. I can readily conceive how believers in the old creeds, which recognize the eternity of evil as a foul blot upon the Creator's plan, should be willing to adopt almost any doctrine which would even seem to attribute the origin of such an evil to any other than the Great First Cause. But why Universalists,who have discarded such old absurdities, who look upon all evil as a means to an end, who believe that it will terminate in good, should have any sympathy with the doctrine of a free self-determining will, is more than I can understand. If Jehovah can say, “I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things,"-if without the least hesitancy we attribute all physical evil to him ; if we say God can and will overcome all moral evil, that it shall result in good; why should we hesitate to believe that it constitutes a part of his plan, and is now doing its appointed work? Does not Paul's argument favor this, when he says, “Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound ?"

And, in accordance with our view of the termination of evil, may we not exclaim, “ Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And, in regard to the subject of will, may we not adopt the language of the poet, when, reflecting upon the overruling hand of God, he exclaims :

“In all our ways we humbly own

Thy providential power;
Entrusting to thy care alone

The lot of every hour."

J. W. T.

ART. XIV.

Literary Notices.

year, must

1. The Elements of Intellectual Philosophy. By Francis Wayland, President of Brown University, and Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy. Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Company. &c. 1854.

. 12mo. pp. 426.

The distinguishing excellences of this work, in respect to its arrangement and the style of its execution, may be expressed in two words : clearness and ease. And these two qualities it appears to us to possess in an eminent degree. Perhaps they were gradually brought to the perfection in which we here find them, partly in consequence of the manner in which the work originated and grew up. It is in substance the course of Lectures which the author has annually delivered to the classes in Intellectual Philosophy in Brown University. The need of thorough perspicuity, as one of the very first requisites in Lectures which are to be mastered by young men, on an abstruse science, and mastered primarily in the act of hearing, could hardly fail to make itself felt throughout the process of preparing them. And then each repetition of them, year after have suggested such improvements as they were found to need in form, or expression, or thought. We have the results of such a preparation in this volume. Notwithstanding the abstruseness of its subject, it is very easy reading. Short, homely sentences, right to the point, and at the same time a continuous natural flow of thought, characterize its manner. Illustrations, always of the familiar kind,

. are frequently introduced, either to make the mental processes more distinctly understood, or to bring out the affinities between one such process and another. Practical directions are also given for cultivating the several intellectual powers in the most judicious way.

As the work was designed chiefly for a text-book to be used in the regular course of collegiate instruction, it aims only to lay out the general field of the science, and very properly abstains from an exhaustive discussion of particular points. On these, however, the student is referred to places in other standard works where they are more fully treated. Though neither new discoveries nor profound investigations will be looked for in an elementary treatise of this kind, it has throughout the air of originality in one sense : evidently, the author had made the matter his own, and wrote from his own perceptions of mental facts,—which is all that we can demand in such a case as the present. He has also availed himself of “the latest improvements” in the science, especially of Sir William Hamilton's valuable contributions. In the main he agrees with the great Scotch metaphysician, though he partially dissents from him on one or two points.

In a judicious apportioning of the instruction to the several topics respectively, in the ease with which the whole may be comprehended, in the clear good sense everywhere evinced, and in neatness of treatment, we think the work excels all other text-books that we have seen on Intellectual Philosophy. Were we to enter into a rigorous criticism of each section, we might query whether there is not a defect in the argument on p. 100, paragraph 4, for the validity of the testimony which Consciousness gives of external objects. In our abnormal states, as much as in our normal state, we have a consciousness that we perceive external objects truly. But in those conditions, our consciousness is often delusive in this respect, while it is still true as respects its testimony to the internal fact. Will it do, then, to rest the argument wholly on the validity of consciousness, or rather

upon

the ground that its external cognitions must be as infallible as its internal cognitions ? It is true, that its infallibility in the former respect is afterwards predicated exclusively of its normal condition. But this only shows that we can not reason with certainty from the truth simply of its internal cognitions to the truth of its external cognitions. We do not say that the general principle is not the true one; we only say that the statement of it needs to be cleared of an inconsequence. If we do not misremember, however, the same defect is also found in Sir William Hamilton's demonstration. Setting this one defect aside, we see little to be amended in the present work. Its positive excellences are so great as to make a solitary oversight, if oversight it be, the more noticeable.

2. Institutes of Metaphysic: the Theory of Knowing and Being. By James F. Ferrier, A. B. Oxon., Professor of Moral Philosophy and Political Economy, St. Andrews. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London. 1854. Small 8vo. pp. 530.

A copy, received through the politeness of the author, has greatly interested us. We find it to be a remarkable work, on several accounts. In one of its essential elements, it is original; and, as this essential element affects the treatment of the whole matter, we may say in general terms that the metaphysical problem of Knowing and of Being is here wrought out in a new way. The author explicitly avows the novelty of his positions, and demands for them, on this ground, the most searching criticism. The attitude which he takes is of the very boldest if not daring kind. He pronounces all the current systems of metaphysics to be abortions, and claims for his own that it is the only one worthy of the name. It surprises us to find that he seems very well to sustain this defiant challenge.

The present condition of the science he describes as follows : “ It

a

a

is a matter of general complaint that, although we have plenty of disputations and dissertations on philosophy, we have no philosophy itself. This is perfectly true. People write about it, and about it; but no one has grasped with an unflinching hand the very thing itself. The whole philosophical literature of the world is more like an unwieldy commentary on some text which has perished, or rather has never existed, than like what a philosophy itself should be. Our philosophical treatises are no more philosophy than Eustathius is Homer, or than Malone is Shakespeare. They are mere partial and desultory annotations on some text, on which unfortunately no man can lay his hands, because it nowhere exists. Hence the embroilment of speculation ; hence the dissatisfaction, even despair, of every inquiring mind which turns its attention to metaphysics. There is not now in existence even the shadow of a tribunal to which any point in litigation can be referred. There is not now in existence a single book which lays down with precision and impartiality the Institutes of all metaphysical opinion, and shows the seeds of all speculative controversies. Hence philosophy is not only a war, but it is a war in which none of the combatants understands the grounds either of his own opinion or of that of his adversary; or sees the roots of the side of the question which he is either attacking or defending. The springs by which these disputatious puppets are worked, lie deep out of their own sight. Every doctrine which is either embraced or rejected, is embraced or rejected blindly, and without any insight into its merits,” &c. pp. 5, 6.

On the other hand, he claims to have given a theory that is established by an unbroken chain of demonstration from its first word to its last. “The general character," says he, "of this system is, that it is a body of necessary truth. It starts from a single proposition which, it is conceived, is an essential axiom of all reason, and one which cannot be denied without running against a contradiction. The axiom may not be self-evident in an instant; but that, as has been remarked, is no criterion. A moderate degree of reflection, coupled with the observations by which the proposition is enforced, may satisfy any one that its nature is such as has been stated. From this single proposition the whole system is deduced in a series of demonstrations, each of which proposes to be as strict as any

demonstration in Euclid, while the whole of them taken together constitute one great demonstration. If this rigorous necessity is not their character to the very letter,—if there is a single weak point in the system,-if there be any one premise or any one conclusion which is not as certain as that two and two make four, the whole scheme falls to pieces, and must be given up, root and branch. Every thing is perilled on the pretension that the scheme is rigidly demonstrated throughout; for a philosophy is not entitled to exist, unless it can make good this claim." pp. 27, 28,

[ocr errors]

It would be great presumption in us to pronounce, at this early period, a definitive judgment on the merits of the system. A chain of propositions, with their scientific definitions and scientific demonstrations, running through some five hundred pages, and so depende ent on each other that the least flaw in any one link would spoil the whole, is not to be disposed of on a single examination, unless an obvious error shall unquestionably have been found. We have discovered no such error. So far as a first reading of the book has enabled us to perceive, the plan to which the author pledges himself is executed to the very letter. Each proposition seems to be cleared of all possible ambiguity, and then to be demonstrated as strictly as any in Euclid, while all of them taken together seem to constitute one entire demonstration. At the same time, the points from which erroneous divergences have started seem to be ascertained, and the grounds of each of these mistakes laid bare.

We had begun to make an abstract of the system; but a failure, which we might have anticipated at the outset, has induced us to abandon the attempt. The book itself contains little more than what was deemed necessary to the working out of the problem ; and how can we compress such a process into the narrow space of a literary notice? Let it suffice to state that the author claims to have dem. onstrated the reality of our knowledge even of the Absolute and of the Infinite.

Such as are at all used to metaphysical reading may be assured that there is no occasion for their being deterred from a perusal of the work by fear of difficulty in understanding it. They will find it not only intelligible, but incapable of being misapprehended, with a little care. Nor will they need to grope their way; they may go through it at nearly their natural reading gait. To many the subject itself can not fail of being dry; but it is enlivened by earnest argumentation, and frequently by sharp polemical contest. The style is very clear and spirited, though not so suggestive, not so rich in allusions, as that of Sir William Hamilton. Perhaps we might complain that it sometimes runs a little too near the declamatory, and that here and there a figure is followed too far. This, however, is but a matter of taste.

3. The Religions of the World and their Relations to Christianity, By Frederick Denison Maurice, M. A. From the Third Revised London Edition. Boston: Gould and Lincoln. 1854.

The author of the work above-named has become one of the most popular theological writers of the present time. With a mind of singular clearness and strength, he brings to his work also an earnest and devoted spirit, and an independence, too, which, if it do not commend him to the bigot or sectarian, will make him welcome to the candid inquirer after truth. He has spoken some very unwel

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »