Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

that of the subsequent actions; but that all occur independently, by a sort of pre-established harmony, where, we ask, is the principle of moral merit or demerit, in this hypothesis, any more than in that of the fastest fatalism? But we have passed due proportion on this point. It was all important, however, that the force, both of the arguments and objections for the freedom of the will, should not be left liable to misapprehension from the insufficient, not to say biased, account of them by Mr. Mill. More we cannot do here. But we can tell the reader where to find an ample supplement to Mr. Mill's representation; we refer to the admirable “Edward Search"*—the deepest and most diligent searcher, we do not hesitate to affirm, that has entered, since the days of Pelagius, this most gloomy and intricate of metaphysical labyrinths.

For the rest, it is not to be denied that Mr. Mill has made good his own case. He has shown, by the common sentiment of mankind, supported besides by the analogy of all nature, that human actions, volitions, and their external antecedents, constitute a chain of invariable succession, of constant causation. And if he has not adequately reconciled human liberty and morality with this fact, it is, doubtless, that he did not write as a theologian or a metaphysician; his view being merely logical, his object scientific. The result of his discussion seems to be recapitulated with sufficient accuracy, as well as with brevity, in the following passage, which we will, perhaps, be pardoned for quoting from a slight notice of Mr. Mill's work, which appeared, on its original publication, in one of the Magazines of this city. “That every effect has a cause, every (voluntary) action a motive, both the parties will agree. That every motive is, in turn, the effect of some cause, must, if but by consequence, be also admitted. That the will is free to choose the motive it will act upon, though not to act without a motive, neither logic nor consciousness will allow to be denied. How, then, stands the question ? As regards the motive, the will, or more accurately

* Tucker's Light of Nature. Chapter, On the Will.

| Regard to truth alone (the writer's identity being unconcerned) induces the avowal here of several material inaccuracies in the notice alluded to; some, by the writer, and not a few, as may be easily observed, by the intelligent proofreader or editor, who assumed the supervision of the press. It was written hastily, from a cursory glance through the book, and moreover, with exclusive reference to the legal profession. For all this, he does not regret its appearance ; having the satisfaction to know, that by its humble means the great work of Mr. Mill has been introduced already to much of the proper attention in this country. If it has also conduced to the present republication, the writer will claim "to have deserved well of the republic."

the volition, is free; the consequent action is 'necessary'-but NECESSARY, as importing simply a fact of succession, a certainty of conjunction; not at all implying the compulsion of an extraneous agency. But it is the motive, not the act, that makes the morality of conduct. Thus, then, the will, or volition, may be morally

free,' while the actions and the motives (which are effects, too, as well as causes) are philosophically necessary."

The law of causation among the mental phenomena established, the author examines, in the two subsequent chapters, whether the laws of the phenomena themselves are ascertainable; in other words, whether the science of mind be not merely possible, but also practicable. He comes to an affirmative conclusion, after discussing with the usual ability, and discarding, the physiological or "materialist” theories of Hartley, Cabanis, and others; which go to place mind and its operations among the physical sciences. The proper object of the mental science he thinks to be the formation of character; or as he terms it, (after M. Comte,) ethology. The method applicable to it, (as we demonstrated in the observations prefatory to this Book, a few pages back,) he shows, from the nature of the subject, to be by possibility no other than the deductive—"setting out from general laws, and verifying their consequences by specific experience.” To the double process he gives the name of the concrete deductive method. It will be remarked that the exact reverse of this is the method, or rather usage, in vogue with the herd of political and historical writers. The "specific experience"-which they call facts-is with them everything. The “general laws' are invoked at all only to color a cause or round a system. To this Mr. Mill gives the name of the chemical or experimental method. Far too respectable, we think. The practitioners themselves would be proud, probably, to name it the “practical" method. Empirical were more appropriate than either—that is, vulgarly, quack. May we expect that this description of our own politicians--we address ourselves to them as an “undoubted majority”—will meditate on this portion, at least, of “The System of Logic !"

The error just characterized is that of the pettifoggers of politics. There is, also, an error peculiar to the erudite and speculative, who, by a like analogy, might, in certain particulars, be called the pedants. These gentlemen disdain to seek political knowledge by any other road than the "high priori;” in like manner as the practicals would think as soon of seeking it by the Milky-way, as by this, or indeed any other, course than the intricate purlieus and dirty lanes of party. The learned method Mr. Mill terms the geometrical, and exemplifies by the political systems of Plato, Hobbes, and the “Bentham school”-in which his own father holds a pre-eminent place.

Having first ascertained the laws of mind as manifested in the isolated, purely natural individual, and in the next step pursued them through the modifications to which they should be submitted in the formation of character, (which is the science of education,) the third, and final, task is to examine and to systematize their varied phenomena as exhibited in the multiplied relations of social life. This is the science of society, which Mr. Mill denominates sociology. This term, too, is borrowed from M. Comte; a philosopher to whom Mr. Mill (as he has himself repeatedly acknowledged) is indebted for things as well as terms, and whom we are happy to consider with our author to be-irreligion, of course, excepted-at once the most profound and practical living thinker of Europe. This Book, and the work, closes with a particularly instructive chapter on the Logic of Practice and Art generally, including those of morals and politics.

Looking back upon what we have written, it is, in some sort, painful to perceive its disproportion to the treasures we have been obliged to leave unindicated by notice, or even name. But the design was not to retail to our readers, in a necessarily mutilated condition, what they will find (as we trust they will hasten to seek) in the work itself. The desire was rather to prepare them to discover its merits themselves ; to present a connected and comprehensive view not merely of the book, but of its subject also; to provide them the map of a region so vast in extent, so obstructed with difficulties, and so unfamiliar, we fear, to most readers in this country. For it is, we believe, a fact that there is not in the world another people, with one half our general information, so deficient in either the scientific knowledge, or the practical observance, of logic and method. This is visible—ad nauseam-in our political writings and public documents. Those executive “messages,” we see“ long drawn out” (though neither "sweet” nor“ linked”) to an octavo volume, might, with a little method, be presented, and in a more comprehensible and effective shape, in general in one tenth the compass, their impertinences even inclusive: impertinences, it is to be observed, which spring from the same ignorance of logical order, without which the writer can have no distinct conception of either the principle of the subject, or the pertinences of the object, or the proprieties of the occasion. Here is also the cause of that diluted jumble of common-places which compose our parliamentary speeches. Such speakers have no determinate beginning; and as to coming to any end, they can hardly be said to be “ free agents." Their exordium and peroration might interchange places indiffer-.

VOL. VI.-23

a

ently. The reality of their rhodomontade transcends the imagination of the poet, who gave his monster a head and tail, though but that of a horse and of a fish; whereas a Congress speech has neither head nor tail, of any sort whatever.

It is time these wholesome truths were told: it is time these defects should look for remedy. In such circumstances, we fondly regard the present publication as destined, sooner or later, to have a most salutary effect upon the intellectual condition of our people. “A good logic,” says a great master of the subject, Condillac, “may be slow in effecting a revolution in the general mind, and time alone may be able to evince the extent of its utility.”

0.

a

ART. II.-Memoir of the late Rev. Alexander Proudfit, D.D.

With Selections from his Diary and Correspondence, and Recollections of his Life, f-c., by his Son. By John FORSYTH, D.D., Minister of Union Church, Newburgh. New-York: Harper & Brothers. 1846.

It is not unfrequently said, that the life of a village pastor can afford but few, if any, materials for interesting biography. Hence, but little more than a brief obituary notice has been taken of many men, who might have labored through scores of years for the cause of God !-as if it were a trivial work to which they devoted themselves unto death; or an ordinary circumstance for men to gain the mastery over the pride and ambition of our fallen nature, and to deny themselves for the sake of perishing souls; or, as if there were not as weighty lessons to be gathered from the recorded exercises of a mind in its deep longings after God, and in its irrepressible desires for the deliverance of other minds from the bondof

error and sin, as from the adventures of a traveler, or the exploits of a hero.

Here is the secret of that indifference with which the life of a clergyman is too often regarded. Few, it may be, have any idea of interest, save that which is attached to outward events and spiritstirring scenes. Indeed, the general mind has been conversant solely with military achievements, political movements, or the operations of successful trade---perhaps, with the scenic representations of the drama, or the fictitious characters of the novel ; while, either from educational biases or worldly inclinations, it has no sympathy with mental pursuits and enjoyments; much less with the ex

age

ercises of a soul smitten with the love of doing and receiving goodwith the longings of a soul to discover and communicate saving truth.

None but minds of kindred aspirations can enter with zest into the life of a man of letters; and to such, no biography, however replete with thrilling incidents or brilliant actions, affords such materials for thought, or such incentives to studious retirement; and the interest is enhanced by the absence of all those things which serve to constitute vulgar greatness. We want to know the mode of mental discipline to which this man of genius, whose philosophy elevates or whose poetry refines our nature, was subjected in early life; what circumstances attended the incipient development of his faculties; what authors quickened his slumbering energies, enlarged his vision, or modified his views; what suggestions, or processes of thought, contributed to the grand result.

And so in relation to the life of a minister of the gospel : be it that he lived remote from the din and smoke of crowded cities; or, that few outward circumstances relieved the even tenor of his everyday walk; if he were a man of earnest thought and action, of active beneficence, and consistent piety, true to the great ends of the Christian ministry, we must turn to the pages of his biography with feelings of more than curious interest, if so be that we ourselves have any sentiments in unison with the "truth as it is in Jesus," or would secure that benefit which may result froin a serious comparison of our own views and experiences with those of others. Hence it is, that the biography of a Christian minister should refer more especially to the nature of his first convictions of truth and duty, to the manner in which he was brought to take the step which decided his future course, to the views and feelings with which he entered the ministry, to his mental as well as spiritual preparation for that high office, to his subsequent course of study and effort, to whatever spiritual conflicts he may have sustained, whatever doubts and fears may have at times environed his faith ; whatever special communications of light, and love, and peace, he may have enjoyed; what peculiar views may have shaped his thoughts; what features characterized his words and actions; what difficulties and discouragements he may have labored under; what obstacles he may have overcome which thwarted the path of known duty; what sacrifices he may have made to principle; what were the teachings of his life as well as of his lips; and what the influence of his ministry on the cause of sound learning as well as of true religion; and in such things, no matter how retired his field, or obscure his apparent lot, though his church might not have been thronged by the

a

« PreviousContinue »