« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
than the sphere of our knowledge ; and therefore, when I deny that the Infinite can by us be known, I amn far from denying that by us it is, must, and ought to be; believed.”
We turn now to the writer in the North British Review.
In examining the question, “whether we are always consciously active," Hamilton refers to somnambulism, in which state there must be, he says, “consciousness, and an exalted consciousness," and yet, on coming out of this condition, we have no remembrance of anything that occurred in it. We do not remember that of which we were conscious. Hence, says the critic, "consciousness is possible without memory;" yet, Hamilton's doctrine is, that “memory itself presupposes consciousness." But it is not denied that the act of consciousness in the state of somnambulism is accompanied by memory as really as in the state of wakefulness. The assertion is, that the whole process, the act of consciousness with every thing connected with it, is forgotten.
Following upon this doctrine of the unbroken conscious activity of mind, is the apparently contradictory doctrine, that mind “exerts energies, and is the subject of modifications of neither of which is it conscious." But mental activity, of which we are conscious, does not exclude the possibility of energies and activities of which we are not conscious. But if not thus contradictory, the doctrine, according to the critic, is inconsistent with another and leading principle of Hamilton's philosophy; namely, “ that consciousness comprehends all the modifications—all the phenomena, of the thinking subject.” This inconsistency on the surface of it is so patent that we may be sure a solution of the difficulty is not far to be sought. We are conscious of mental states viewed as mere phenomena. In case these states are about objects standing in immediate relation to the mind and in actual existence, we are also conscious of these objects. In case they are about objects removed in any way from the sphere of consciousness, we cannot be conscious of the objects themselves, but only of the belief that they exist. Now, in regard to mental energies and states which do not come into consciousness, but which for any reason we may believe to exist, we may use the same language; we are not conscious of them as objects of belief, though we are of the belief itself. In other words, there are mental states out of the sphere of consciousness as really as within it, and we have only to suppose that in referring to the phenomena of consciousness, Hamilton did not think it necessary to point out this very obvious distinction. Whether his doctrine of latent states and agencies is true or not, is another question ; it certainly is not inconsistent with his other teachings.
We have only a remark more. The writer in the North British Review says, “Were his pages adorned with the eloquence of Cousin, or even the brilliancy of inferior philosophers, there would be little to desire,”—that is, in point of style. The admirable precision of the French philosophical style may perhaps endure the eloquence of Cousin, and brilliancy may make up for an inferior philosophy in the view of those who care little for philosophy, but how any one who is capable of being benefited by such a philosophy as Hamilton has unfolded, should be dissatisfied with the absence of “eloqnence and brilliancy” from these lectures, is, to us, very remarkable. When we consider the vigorous and manly style in which they are written, and the choice passages which a varied scholarship has brought together from the greatest thinkers and writers of the world, we have hardly patience with the suggestion that they need to be adorned with the ornaments of a brilliant rhetoric.
ARTICLE VIII. PROFESSOR HUNTINGTON'S NEW VOLUME OF
Christian Believing and Living. SERMONS by F. D. Hunt
INGTON, D. D. Boston: Crosby, Nichols & Co. 1860. pp. 528.
The Christian public have already heard with pleasure of this second volume of Sermons from the pen of the University Preacher in Harvard College. Our readers, whether they have seen it as yet or not, are prepared to welcome it, and anticipate our commendations. It is a book which, as it falls from the press, falls into hands outstretched to receive it, and which will be sought for with avidity by diverse classes, and through communions the most unlike. It has a two-fold claim upon our attention. It belongs to that class of Sermons, which have done so much to redeem this department of literature from the contempt into which it had fallen, and we are constrained to add, deservedly. Instead of being abstract discussions, the outgrowth of artificial modes of thinking, addressed to tastes as artificial, sermons bearing no marks of human authorship, and as suited to the ninth as to the nineteenth century, “without father, without mother, without descent," they are, what all popular sermons are, and what we hold a Christian sermon ought to be, earnest utterances of the thought of the time, phases of life, discourses inseparable from the man who speaks, the people who hear, and the epoch in the unfolding kingdom of Christian truth, when just such thoughts and experiences mark the stage of human progress.
A true sermon is a fact, not a speculation; the preacher himself believes and therefore speaks, and speaks what other men need and wait for, or in their blindness deny; and the sermon consequently has an historic meaning and place. The History of the Christian Religion and Church might be traced back to the Apostles and the person of our Lord himself, by means of such facts, had they been preserved to us; not an event, essential to an understanding of the development of the kingdom
of God on earth, but would have a witness for itself in these utterances; they are the breathings of that life, which the Spirit of God has conducted through human hearts, and they have grown emphatic and eloquent by the attempt to suppress or control them. There is little matter of surprise, therefore, in the present popularity and permanent value of a good sermon; not that all popular sermons are good, any more than all notoriety is fame, not that we reverence the maxim“ vox populi, vou dei," as vulgarly interpreted; still we are disposed to acquiesce in the fate of sermons that fell still-born from the press ; they did not so much die, as failed to be. The type of many an old fashioned New England sermon, is an abstract and often metaphysical discussion of some universal proposition, prefaced by just enough of exegesis to connect it with the text by way of inference or suggestion, similitude or contrast, and followed by applications so generic and vague, as to suggest the suspicion that the preacher spoke before duelists watching for personalities, or in fear of being served with process for libel. Whoever will take the pains to look through the old Election Sermons, in which the clergy of New England discoursed before the law makers, will observe in regard to most of them how little they contain of historic matter, or even allusion, how, with some marked exceptions, the preachers touched their hearers, or their times, at scarcely a single point of sensibility, even though they were speaking at the most interesting and important junctures of our colonial history, when were sown the seeds which are still bearing fruit in church and state, when legislatures and the people were alike occnpied with discussing some organic principle of civil right or ecclesiastical order, and a living utterance from the pulpit would have been to us in our times, if not to them in theirs, like “ a light shining in a dark place.” South's sermons are not less interesting and full of life to-day, than they were when spoken two centuries ago ; and as historical monuments they are increasingly valuable. The contrast between them and many sermons of that date, preached in New England, is most striking, even more so in respect of matter, than of style, and in the last respect it is hard to realize that the men spoke the same mother English, and were formed by the same authors. We are far froin holding up South as a model in temper, or impartiality; we believe that our Puritan fathers, on both sides of the waters, were infinitely his superiors in Christian integrity and self-denying faithfulness to God and posterity. But as a sermonizer, he is to be honored even by those whom he misrepresented and who differ from him the most, for he preached as a living man to' living men; his sermons need no prefixes of date, for they are inseparable from the times, with whose history they are identified. While South was preaching thus, and therefore preaches still, the New England minister was busying himself about Israel of old, and Egypt and the Wilderness of Sin, and applying the lessons of God's eternal truth so obscurely to the Israel whom he led forth out of another house of bondage, and settled in a new land of promise, that for us at this distance it is impossible to glean from those discourses when, or for what the preacher spoke, and dead as they are now in their antiquarian sleep, we can scarcely believe they are any more so than when spoken. It was not so with the first generation of Puritan preachers; they were practical and home-thrusting men, history. makers, studying the word of God and proclaiming it for the express purpose of laying foundations in church and state. When Cotton, in the First Church, Boston, established any great truth out of the word of God, so earnest was his ministry, and so earnest the founders of that Christian commonwealth, that the truth, thus established, at once made its appearance in the legislation of the infant colony. But the intense life, in which New England began, was quickly followed by formalism and death; no one can study our early annals without being struck with the differences between the first planters and the second generation, in culture, liberality, freedom from prejudice, and thorough sincerity; the difference to say the least was equally great between the ministers. A dead scholasticism came in the place of a living ministry, and it has had a long reign; but it is, we trust, passing away, although we are not ignorant of the hold it still has upon our pulpits. There are many barrels of sermons now, well filled, nay, and turned over, from all of which it would be impossible to learn