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But we cannot follow M. Renan any further, for want of space. We can never concede that the religion which has banished the superstitions of the world is itself only a finer superstition ; that the miracles which have driven false marvels and lying wonders to such an extent out of the human mind are themselves impostures and delusions ; that the Fountain-head of moral truth in history was himself a partial accomplice of deceivers ; that the apostolic saints of the ages have been distinguished as much by intellectual weakness as by moral elevation; that God comes to us through starvation and sickly brains; that sense and faith are natural enemies, science and revelation deadly foes, and the solid foundations of our historical faith rest upon the dreams of Syrian lazzaroni and the vigils of fasting fanatics.
H. W. B.
It must often have struck those who have gone along in the main assentingly with Mr. Mill's clear and beautiful analysis, that behind the philosophy which is consciously adopted something is unconsciously assumed. It is right to analyze the facts of consciousness, till we have arrived at their last elements : only it is human consciousness, after all; and how much that implies ! The actual genealogy of moral emotions and ideas may be traced till they seem lost in some vivid experience of personal and real benefit ; but, after all, it is moral emotions and ideas with which we have to deal. Laws of physical order and growth, laws of “succession and similitude,” may seem to give us a complete theory of the universe ; but no man, we take it, seriously thinks, that, given a “homogeneous ” chaos, an organic and intelligent existence will be “differentiated” out of it, without some presiding Intelligence, some controlling Plan. And, while the favorite philosophy of the day busies itself with making its analysis as exhausting, and its physical theory as complete, as possible, it is a higher service when a mind of perspicuity and vigor scarce inferior, and of imagination and sympathies far wider in their range, enters its protest in behalf of the human, the religious, the distinctively ethical and spiritual. “ There is, doubtless," says Mr. Martineau, “ a different reading of the world present to the mind of the man of science, and to the soul of the poet and the prophet, - the one spelling out the order of its phenomena; the other, the meaning of its beauty, the mystery of its sorrow, the sanctity of its Cause.”
This difference lies often between men's conscious philosophy and what they unconsciously and necessarily assume as soon as they come to speak of any of the higher topics of character, destiny, and duty. And we confess a particular indebtedness to one, who, discerning the difference, aims to bring the “ spiritual” into as clear philosophic consciousness as the “natural.”
This is the precise service which Mr. Martineau has rendered in the Essays just republished.* In external style, they are companionvolumes on the shelf with the handsome series of Mr. Mill's “ Dissertations ;” in substance, they are their needed philosophical antithesis. In only one of this series of papers that on “ Personal Influences in our Present Theology” – is this purpose even momentarily obscured, though most prominently put forward, perhaps, in the magnificent essay on
Science, Nescience, and Faith.” The writer does himself and his theme the honor of grappling with the ablest and most famous defenders of the philosophy he opposes, - Comte, Mill, Spencer, Mansel, Bain. He sets himself to oppose, not only the theory which appears to deny facts of the spiritual order, but, with a special zeal, that which denies our power to know those facts. Mansel's philosophic scepticism he assails with even a keener relish than Comte's naturalism or Mill's curiously consistent idealism. † He disdains that a “practical reason " should fill the void which a “critique of pure reason” has just made. He “ objects to being drowned in the sea of speculation, just that the Humane Society of practical principles may rub us into life again.” He holds, and vindicates with a fervor refreshing to witness, the reality of a personal inspiration, and a first-hand knowledge of divine things. His method is less that of development than that of vindication. His book is a protest, emphatic for the very constancy and fervor of repetition. It is a book of testimony, gathering weight as it proceeds. He works his subject
* Essays, Philosophical and Theological. By James MARTINEAU. Boston: William V. Spencer. pp. 424.
† Thus, Mr. Mill says of his own definition of Matter as “a Permanent Possibility of Sensation,” not only (as he has a perfect right to say) that this is all of Matter which science has to deal with, but that it is all which the general sense of mankind requires. Mr. Martineau had not the advantage of having this formal definition before him; but he has divined it in the drift of Mr. Mill's psychology, and given it an effective answer (pp. 83–89). Nature herself compels Mr. Mill to use the phrase, “Cause of Sensation,” after all (note, p. 89). VOL. LXXX. - NEW SERIES, VOL. II. NO. I.
over and over, like a painter; keeping the same outlines, but deepening the color, refining the proportions, and enhancing the life.
The reader of this volume is struck, most of all, by its avowed and consistent Dualism. Mr. Martineau, we believe, was educated in the Necessarian school of the older English Unitarianism, the school which he recognizes so intelligently in what he says of Hartley, of Priestley, and of Coleridge. But, as his religious convictions matured, he seems to have seen clearly that every form of Monism must lead, at last, to Fatalism, and to have distinctly accepted the alternative. His very remarkable discourse on Moral Evil, in the “Liverpool Lectures,"contains the finest exposition we know of the religious doctrine of Necessity, - that which his sister maintained so earnestly as the latest phase of her religious faith. But, in this discourse, it is only the preface to the acceptance of an Eternal Principle distinct from, if not hostile to, the Eternal God. Morally, the recognition of Evil in se compels such an avowal; and, philosophically, it is no harder to assume two ultimate principles in the universe than one.
Mr. Martineau seems to us vague and weak where, as in the present volume (p. 163), he attempts to justify this view by suggesting the independent existence of Matter having only "primary qualities," and no specific properties. Comte's maxim is truer, – that “dead matter” is a contradiction in terms. But he is strong where he exposes the fallacy of those who would develop a living universe by the mere operation of cosmical laws.* He is strong where he argues that Personality is the only intelligible embodiment of Force, and that we know nothing of Cause, except from the act of an intelligent Will. And his service is equally timely and able when he protests against that subtile Materialism which assimilates the mind and character of men to the natural play of forces in inorganic things,
In not a few of the progressionists, the weak illusion is unmistakable, that, with time enough, you may get every thing out of next-to-nothing. Grant us, they seem to say, any tiniest granule of power, so close upon zero that it is not worth begrudging; allow it some trifling tendency to infinitesimal increment, and we will show you how this little stock became the Kosmos, without ever taking a step worth thinking of, much less constituting a case for design. The argument is a mere appeal to an incompetency in the human imagination, in virtue of which magnitudes evading conception are treated as out of existence; and an aggregate of inappreciable increments is simultaneously equated, in its cause, to nothing, in its effect to the whole of things. . . . Surely it is a mean device for a philosopher thus to crib causation by hairs-breadths, to put it out at compound interest through all time, and then disown the debt ” (pp. 141-2).
and when he restores to the philosophic contemplation the truth we assume, in all moments of religious aspiration, of “the glorious liberty of the sons of God.”
It was implied, in the nature of the present task, that Mr. Martineau's vindication should be polemic and controversial, rather than simply affirmative. The polemic temper strikes us sometimes as carried rather to an excess, as where he dwells on the senile infirmities of Comte, or pushes IIerbert Spencer so hotly to his logical results. But this is also a help in giving precision and relief to a cast of thought apt to be declamatory, vague, and dim. Mr. Martineau's style of thought is somewhat abstract; his intellect is fastidious and refined; his diction, technical, scholastic, and hard. But for the zest of a visible encounter, the fine play of thought would dazzle and perplex. We are greatly obliged to him for dealing with antagonists of flesh and blood.
We find help in his argument, too, from the free play of a half-poetic fancy that multiplies images, - sometimes with pure, artistic beauty or human tenderness, sometimes with a touch of the grotesque, enough to stir the sense of humor; for instance, in the exceeding relish of his reply to Mansel :
“ The danger of such a comprehensive refutation always is, lest it should inadvertently include yourself. It is difficult to set so large an appetite to work, and stand yourself out of reach of its voracity. And we have serious fears that Dr. Mansel must, sooner or later, fall a victim to the hunger of his own logic" (p. 223). “Where the receptive power is at fault, it is vain to multiply and intensify communication : as well might you hang a blindasylum with mirrors, and expect, that, though the daylight was useless, the brilliancy at night would tell. ... Our author's logic in mowing down its thistle-field inconsiderately mows off its own legs. . . . He cleverly pursues and breaks the track of many a system of erratic metaphysics ; but, fascinated with the hunt of delusion and incompetency, he pushes the rout too far, rides over the brink of the solid world, and falls into the abysses” (pp. 232–3). “What, after all, is the amount of this terrible nescience, victoriously established by such a flourish of double-edged abstractions? Let not the dazzled observer be alarmed: with all their swift dexterities, these metaphysical whifflers draw no blood ; if they do more than beat the air, they cleave only ghostly foes that need no healing, and are immortal” (p. 187).
J. H. A.
HISTORY AND POLITICS.
WE alluded, upon a former occasion, to Herr von Sybel's history of the revolutionary period from 1789 to 1795, and are glad to record that its worth has been recognized in England, by a translation published in London. The “ Historische Zeitschrift,” which he edits with so much ability, we have also called attention to, as a singularly valuable review of all contemporary historical research, - a review which (we cannot omit the opportunity to repeat) is absolutely indispensable to an intelligent understanding of the present condition of historical science.
The work undernoted * is made up of several short essays, all of them marked by the same vigor of thought and clearness of expression which characterize his elaborate writings. The political and social condition of the early Christians; the Germans, upon their appearance in history; Eugene of Savoy; Catharine II. of Russia; De Maistre; the uprising of Europe against Bonaparte; the polity of the early Christian Germans; the second Crusade; Edmund Burke and Ireland ; the devel. opment of absolutism in Prussia, — such are the subjects he discusses, and brings into clearer relief. If we should single out any one essay for especial commendation, it would be that in which he explains the career of Catharine II., and reconciles so many of the difficulties which arise in the study of her character. But there is, besides the papers we have enumerated, another upon the present condition, or rather function, of German historical writing, which we cannot suffer to pass without a word of objection.
There can be no doubt, that, within a couple of generations, immense progress has been made in all departments of learning; and though it may be somewhat extravagant to ascribe the beginning of modern historical writing in Germany to what is known as the regeneration of the nation in the wars with France, yet it is certain that the extraordinary upheaval which followed upon the footsteps of Bonaparte all over Europe was nowhere so marked as in its effects upon Germany: rending asunder the bonds of feudalism, and developing the sentiment of nationality which had almost died out under the suffocating pressure
* Kleine Historische Schriften von Heinrich von Sybel. München: Literarisch-artistische Anstalt der J. G. Cotta'schen Buchhandlung. 1863.