« السابقةمتابعة »
gospel as an instrument of reformation, achieving, in brief spaces, the most notable and beneficent changes, does not arrest their attention. It does not. Truth and honesty compel us to record the declaration, that the mass of great minds in the world neglect the gospel of Christ, they disregard the “ great salvation." But there are exceptions-bright spots and verdant, on a vast tract of desert and darkness. God shows the power of the gospel in its mastery of some of the mightiest minds. Hall is an instance. In him Christianity bad a rich and noble trophy. In him she signally illustrated her efficiency over rebellious and gigantic talent. Hall was naturally confident, haughty, self-willed. He had a pride of intellect and impetuosity of feeling, which often impelled him on rapidly and recklessly. He seemed to delight in audacity of range and speculation. He loved to tread where others trembled. And many trembled for him. It was the prayer of the discerning Andrew Fuller, “The Lord keep that young man.” Again: “I feel much for him, the Lord keep him in the path of truth and righteousness.” The Lord did keep him. His gospel and Spirit were mighty to save him. He was curbed, and bowed submissive and docile at the feet of Jesus. Constitutionally bold, vehement, impatient of contradiction as he was, Christianity availed to allay the fiery element of bis temper, and soften him to gentleness. It is easy to see that his deep mind might have been a volcano, in its angry workings, preparing and sending out torrents of blasting sentiment and passion. But the Spirit of Jesus touched that mighty intensity, and it became the intensity of love, that ardor became the ardor of benevolencethat power, a power to bless. Hall sought not his own. He exhibited his greatness in not reaching after great things for himself. He was willing to be unknown, and move in a small sphere, though he had a mind that could speak to a world. He shunned ostentation, he dreaded display~he could endure no lifting up to be seen of men. The attempt harrowed and tortured his sensibilities; and here we have the test and the evidence of true benevolencemit is a willingness to do obscure good-on a small scale—in the little circle where Providence has placed us. True the field is the world; but he who cultivates not the lesser field, assuredly does nothing for the greater and sublimer field. Hall did both. He spake, and the humble cottager heard and was instructed. He wrote, and the two hemispheres were reached and blessed.
-in accomp Never does endobles.
When we speak of Christianity as availing to restrain the extravagance, and to bring down the proud loftiness of talent—as mellowing, moulding and guiding to a beneficent operation, we wish not to be understood to say or to suppose, that the gospel ‘in accomplishing this in the least depresses or demeans the intellect. Never does it this, but powerfully the opposite. It exalts, enlarges and ennobles. The career and elevation of Hall remind us of this influence, by illustrating its reality and strength. He felt it, and was blessed by it. As an intellectual being, he owed much to Christianity. He was a greater man, mightier in mind, than he would have been if he had not been a believer in the simple and majestic elements of the gospel. He loved that system of moral grandeur and glory. He admired it; he studied it, he fed upon it, and incorporated its light and power into the very essence and attributes of his own soul. The gospel, more than any thing else, nurtured and raised him to that towering stature. He delighted to look out upon the illimitable field of its disclosure, and gaze upon the awful sublimities of its revelation, and kindle and glow with a sympathetic expansion. Rendering praise to the Author of all that is truly excellent in the attainments of our nature, we place upon the noble character of Robert Hall the crown of à Christian faith and practice. We leave him with this glory, an honor that will live and be rising in brightness and worth, when all the records and monuments of a mere worldly fame shall have turned to dust, and passed to an irrecoverable oblivion.
Inquiries concerning the Intellectual Powers and the Inves
tigation of Truth. By John Abercrombie, &c. New
York : J. & J. Harper. The Philosophy of the Moral Feelings. By J. Abercrombie. J. & J. Harper.
Shall we conclude that metaphysical inquiry is destined to end in nothingness, because some philosophers have labored to convince themselves that their belief in the existence of body and soul was a delusion? Or shall we believe that the study of man and his thoughts has a skeptical tendency, because some inquirers have rejected faith and demanded demonstration at the outset of their studies, and have therefore closed them in unbelief? Is there no difference, that requires a distinction, between questioning truth for the sake of hearing her testimony from her own mouth, and calling upon her to substantiate her veracity by other testimony ? Must our search after knowledge in this department of science, be forever fruitless ?
These queries have been suggested by the view which many philosophers of recent date have given of the object of metaphysical inquiry. They seem to regard it as little less than an axiom, that the classification of particular facts so as to form general facts, is the whole business of philosophy. Warned by the mistakes of some of their predecessors who assumed their premises instead of finding them in facts, they have thought it the most philosophical, as well as the most safe, to confine their attention within the circle of phenomena. The former launched forth on the ocean of speculation without chart or compass, and suffered shipwreck The latter have supplied themselves again and again with all the necessary instruments, but they are content not to make the voyage. They affirm that the whole art of navigation consists in ship-building, the laying in of stores, and the procuring of map, chart and compass.
The popular author whose works are placed at the head of this article, is one of that class of philosophers to whom we have alluded. He holds that “the province of human knowledge, is merely to observe facts and trace what their relations or sequences are." p. 19. According to him, “ general facts,” (or the statement of what is true in regard to a class of phenomena,) are “general principles.” p. 88. He does say indeed that “we have a conviction which appears to be original and instinctive of the general uniformity of the relations” of facts ; " and in this consists our confidence in the regularity of all the operations of nature. But,” he remarks, " the powers or principles on which the relations depend, are entirely hidden from us in our present state of being." p. 19. He also says that “we infer the existence of a God from our intuitive belief of causation in nature; but our knowledge of causation as he thinks, is nothing more than a uniform connection of antecedents and consequents." p. 22.
It is no unusual thing to hear writers and speakers on the subjects of politics and theology disclaiming all use and all knowledge of metaphysics. And it were certainly better not to use, than to abuse them. But it appears to us not a little incongruous that those whose object it is to investigate the laws of mind, and to inquire into the grounds of belief, should confine themselves wholly to physiology. If metaphysical science be not a dream, and the word metaphysics an unmeaning sound, this is a narrow and illiberal view of the object of mental philosophy. The use of language, where language has not been abused by perverse speculations, is generally a very correct index of truth. If the word metaphysics is the “ sign of an idea,” which is not denoted by physics, or the “physiology” of Brown, we have an argument in the word itself for the doctrine that metaphysical inquiry is not confined to the observation and classification of facts.
But we have other reasons, which will be thought to have more weight than this one founded on the use of language, for our opinion that Abercrombie has given a partial and inadequate statement of the object of metaphysical inquiry. The philosopher who should confine his attention to the observation of facts, would differ from the mere child in' nothing but a more extensive and a more accurate experience. He would have seen more facts, he would have made the
observation of facts a more special object of attention, he would have noticed more carefully the uniform connection of antecedents and consequents. He would thus have more control over nature. Experience would have taught him how to set in train by art a course of events similar to those which had occurred without the exertion of any voluntary power in men to produce them. We would give to empiricism all the praise that is justly her due. And it would be thought by many that we have already ascribed to her the power to do every thing which philosophy could wish. But how great is that power ? The utmost that it can accomplish is to teach us the uniform succession of events. It can inform us what facts have been unisormly connected in time. Empiricism can show us that a given fact has always been preceded by another fact ; but it cannot assure us that the same relation will exist hereafter. We may guess that it will : and having guessed right many times, we may guess that we shall always continue to guess right. But we can have none of that certainty which arises from the least particle of knowledge. True science must be something more and other than an acquaintance with a dead succession of antecedents and consequents. There must be some efficiency running through the chain of successive events, distinct from the events, and imperishable. If we cannot discover such a force in nature, the unity of operation in the natural world is broken for us ; to-morrow may present to us phenomena altogether new for aught that we can know ; and the succeeding day may be surprised by a succession of events entirely different from those of to-morrow; or, in other words, there may be a new world every twenty-four hours. But if empiricism be the true philosophy, there is no such efficiency within the sphere of our knowledge. Dr. Brown was a consistent empiric—so far as it is possible for one to be consistent who undertakes to defend a system which makes no distinction between life and death. He maintains that “immediate invariable antecedence is power, the immediate invariable antecedent in any sequence is a cause,—the immediate invariable consequent is the correlative effect.” What is there in this notion of power, (which is all that empiricism can give us,) that an atheist would object to ? How can we know that there is a God, if mere antecedence is power? If the power of God does not differ from the . power of any one of the material things in a series of ante