« PoprzedniaDalej »
opening of a discussion, which we trust will be resumed on our pages, by some other hand, at no distant day.-Sr. Ed.
tionerely the dark attainment. For history of the
A Review of Edwards Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will.
By Henry Phillip Tappan. New-York: John S. Taylor.
1839. The Doctrine of the Will determined by an appeal to Consciousness. By Henry P. Tappan. New-York: Wiley and Put
nam. 1840. The Doctrine of the Will applied to Moral Agency and Res
ponsibility. By Henry P. Tappan. New-York: Wiley and Putnam. 1841.
The History of Philosophy is in truth a history of the love of wisdom, but not of its attainment. For the most part it describes merely the dark struggles either of minds unassisted by revelation, or of minds disregarding the light while surrounded by it, and continuing their speculations in the preferred darkness of old unenlightened nature. Of these two classes of intela lects, the first have made the greatest advances in investigation, and the nearest approximations to the truth. The last have done little more than to fall back, by the light of Christianity, within the circle of the speculations of the former, and there continue to grope after phantasms. At the same time, in the grammar of metaphysical science, or the analysis and classification of the human faculties, and the observance of their operations, much advancement has been made, and method established; and thus metaphysics has come to wear the aspect of a regular and definite science, while as yet the speculations of many of its professors, instead of exhibiting the clearness of scientific knowledge, are full of darkness and incertitude. Assuming a superiority to Plato, and all the philosophical world of antiquity, and disregarding the light of Christianity, as inferior, on this subject, to that of reason, they have fallen behind both, and are travelling in a region, which has neither the obscure magnificence of the Platonic, nor the solidity and clearness of the Christian. Meantime the appearance of certainty and definiteness in what might be called the grammar of metaphysics, a grammar without books for the study of the language, has perhaps prevented advancement in the science by fostering a false satisfaction in the apparent determinateness and excellence of discoveries already made.
At all events, metaphysical science has advanced slowly in comparison with the physical sciences; and systems of gross absurdity and infidelity have been broached, that in physical things would not have been endured for a moment. What they can touch, taste, handle, men are certain of; but all things that relate to the spiritual being, and to man's inward, real existence, are a terra incognita, and a mystery. The life of the soul is much sooner denied than that of the senses. The yvoli teavrov has well been called a heaven-descended maxim; but how universally neglected !
We know ourselves least; mere outward shows
Our minds do store,
DONNE. Nevertheless, we will not be discouraged. There is, after all, a better tendency. The polar inclination of the world towards cold and darkness has reached its extreme, and we are now verging to the culmination of warmth, light, and loveliness. Nature, by and by, will be beauty, and the laws and logic of the beautiful will be investigated by the soul. A change in the elements is taking place; its signs are not indistinguishable. The rays of the rising sun shoot above the horizon. We shall see the clouds rolled away, and the blue heavens shining. We shall see a light over all departments of the human intellect glorious to behold. It is high time for such advancement. With what amazing rapidity do men move forward in the sensible sciences! We shall soon be found studying the very entomology of the moon, while the wondrous recesses of our own spiritual being are almost as undiscovered as the solar systems of the milky way. “When will man learn,” exclaims Mr. Dana, in one of the finest passages of his poetry,
- When will man learn
These glorious visions, and the inward eyes to look at them, are reluctantly acknowledged, reluctantly exercised. Men sleep, dream, somnambulize in philosophic matters, but they do not work with their inward senses, in spiritual things, as they do with their outward senses in external things.
When we were schoolboys, we used to busy ourselves with rolling snowballs, and building snow-houses. There is a great deal of this in philosophy; but these snow-houses are not practicable to live in. Nevertheless, a man of genius sets his ball in motion, and by and by it gets large, and other shoulders are put to it, and it takes up great layers of earth and sticks from the ground, as well as layers of snow; and when it can be rolled no farther, but rests, men make a wonder of it, and speculate about it, and historicise its composition, and dignify and magnify its importance; then warm weather comes, and it melts, and the residuum is nothing but plain mud. Every generation has its philosophic snowballs.
Now if men's speculations, besides being as bootless, were as innocuous as boy's play, the forming of philosophic systems would be a harmless recreation for the intellect. But this business is like delving in quicksilver mines, and a man's soul grows lean and pale on the poison. “I tell you, a fellow that speculates is like a brute driven in a circle on a barren heath by an evil spirit, whilst fair green meadow lies everywhere around.” It was hardly just in Goethe to put this admirable sentiment into the mouth of his sarcastic devil; it should have been the breath of serious, earnest feeling. Indeed, according to Milton, Mephistopheles did speak thus from experience, by having gotten so often involved in painful, thorny speculations in hell. There they reasoned high
of providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,
We hardly know whether it be easier or more common to speculate the heart out of one's religion, or the religion out of one's heart. Both may be done with great ease, and both will be done, if a man fond of speculation be not very careful. The well known aphorism of Burke, that nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred metaphysician, has some ground in truth, even in a wider sense than that in which he applied it. Metaphysics does certainly tend to the petrification of a man's piety. The heart gets rust-eaten, about in proportion as the mind is sharpened. The fair green meadow is forsaken ;-forsaken are the still waters and green pastures of God's simple word, and the sweet childlike life of faith, and gloomily the soul spins on, in that everlasting circle on the barren heath, driven by an evil spirit. If there are some wonderful exceptions to this habit, like the deep simplicity of feeling, seraphic ardor, and sharp subtlety mixed in the character of Baxter, they render the rule more striking.
Now it is a melancholy pity, when a man's philosophy, instead of being the angel that steps down into the Bethesda of his speculations to trouble its waters for his cure, only perplexes the depth of his being, and turns up mire and dirt. It is still worse, when a man's philosophy, having puzzled his own mind and distorted his vision, turns the crystal water of the running stream of God's word into a muddy current, so that every cup he drinks makes him a spiritual dyspeptic. Not that an erroneous philosophy can really mingle with divine truth, but a man may dip into the one through the medium of the other, and so spoil the medicine. Human philosophy and divine truth are like the confluence of the waters of the Arve from the mountains of Switzerland, with the clear arrowy Rhone, as it issues from the azure depths of the lake of Geneva; they flow on together, but refuse to mingle, and so there is the transparent medium like a blue atmosphere on one side, and the mud on the other. Now according to the margin on which you stand you will see the mud or the sweet blue water, or you may command a position, on the overhanging cliffs above, where you can see distinctly the contrast between them, the very dividing line, with all its whirls and eddies. So it is with philosophy separated from the Scriptures. If you stand on one side, it is all mud ; if on the other, you know nothing about the mud, and can see only the crystal water, and your own image revealed to you in the silent depths of its truthful, holy mirror. Some men think it very important to know all about this mud of philosophy, and to analyze it; and some men drink of the two streams only from that side. But as long as philosophy plays at blind-man's buff with the consciousness, and goes in masquerade to the common sense, a man may safely say to it, Stand apart from my Bible. It can do the mind no harm to remain in great ignorance of a false philosophy, or to view it only through the medium of God's word.
It is a singular consequence and proof of our depravity that that which is spiritual and beyond the senses, or, in the Apostle's words, that which is unseen and eternal, seems less real than that which is seen and temporal. This dreadful influence of man's fall has been carried into all the movements of his soul, and especially has sat like an incubus,
“Heavy as frost, and deep, almost, as life,"-
over all his philosophical speculations. This is the reason why an inward and spiritual philosophy is regarded as opposed to common sense and reality. The world's mind has been saturated with the mists of a scheme in league with men's natural, grovelling earthliness; and men seem to themselves much more evidently to be moving amidst tangible realities in this dripping mist, that wets and chills the frame to the bones, than in a clear, bright, bracing atmosphere. The earth rocks to a man just returned from a long sea-voyage; the deck of a rolling ship itself seems to him more steady than the land, so long has he been accustomed to the unstable element of ocean. He has walked so long upon his sea-legs, that on terra firma he staggers like a drunken man. Just so, that which is unreal, unstable, and transitory, is deemed more solid, because we are accustomed to it, and have been living by sight instead of faith, than that which is spiritual and eternal. It is we upon our sealegs that rock, and not the terra firma of a true philosophy.
A man accustomed to a sensuous philosophy feels as if he were making a balloon ascension the moment you draw him out of it; beyond the experience of the senses he is in darkness, though then only in the true world of light. He asks to be brought back to realities, and treated with something safe, tangible, and intelligible, just as a man imprisoned for forty years in the cells of the Bastile finds himself blind in the sunlight, and begs to be restored to his dungeon. There is an