Page images

In opposition to the Edinburgh Review, the Quarterly was established in London, in 1809, and Blackwood's Magazine in Edinburgh, in 1817. Since these periods, have appeared journals devoted to the interests of every party and sect, whether of Progressives or Conservatives, that can be found in the kingdom, by far the greater portion of which are employed in the dissemination of liberal sentiments. Indeed, the entire literature of England is becoming penetrated with them, and a book that should now express the political and social doctrines which were in vogue fifty years ago, would find little favor with the great mass of the reading public. In these closing chapters of his work, Mr. Stanton mentions the names and the leading services of many of the men of letters, who, either through the periodical press or in independent works, have written in behalf of popular improvement. Their names make an illustrious catalogue, and comprise many of the brightest and worthiest which are connected with contemporary literature. It is perfectly clear that the sympathies of men of letters are constantly becoming stronger for the masses of the people. The philosopher comes forth from the retreat of his meditation or the laboratory of his experiments, to lecture for their instruction. The novelist searches for his most thrilling pictures of human life among the scenes of their simple joys and hopes, or of their toils and sorrows and wrongs; and the poet, turning away from the castle hall and the saloon of fashion and

pride, chants the triumphs which are won for the common people, and gilds with glory the humble homes in which their lot is cast. A fellow-feeling with the race has thus become an essential element of literary genius, and without it, an author can have but a poor chance of being widely read or gratefully remembered. This is as it ought to be, and it constitutes one of the best and most precious of the reforms which the century has witnessed. The literature which long ago was written for the few, has given place to a literature which is designed for the many; and the author who once addressed himself only to a single class, and depended on the patronage of royalty or wealth to keep himself from starvation, now offers himself with generous confidence as a candidate for the favor of the million, and in turn receives from them a reward such as regal patronage could never bestow. Thus is literature through all its departments, both in England and America, more than at any preceding period, now performing its true office in promoting the improvement of mankind. It is addressing itself to the common sentiments of humanity; it is uniting all classes of society by the ties of interest in a common destiny, and is scattering abroad with a liberal hand the influences of useful knowledge and of moral truth, which are fitted to exalt and bless every condition of social life.



Lowell Lectures, on the Application of Metaphysical and Ethi

cal Science to the Evidences of Religion ; delivered before the Lowell Institute in Boston, in the winters of 1848–49. By FRANCIS BOWEN. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown. 1849.

One of the most striking characteristics of the present age, and especially of our own people, is the spirit of utilitarianism. It is seen everywhere and in everything. It not only pervades all the departments of active, business life, which has hitherto been regarded as its only legitimate and proper sphere, but entering the ideal world, it would fain extend its influence to thought and speculation, and bring under its

sway the reason, imagination, and taste. Passing from the common schools, its acknowledged and rightful province, it is already making its appearance in our higher seats of learning, and each art, each science, each study, each pursuit, each of the adornments and each of the solaces of life is summoned before its dread tribunal, to stand or fall according as it is or is not able to undergo the decisive ordeal of the cui bono interrogation. Nay, more: we find this spirit-so aggressive is its character-intruding itself into the realms of philosophy, and the still more sacred domain of religion. Truth is not loved or sought so much for itself as for its uses. Creeds are looked at chiefly through their practical tendencies. The most profound exposition of nature's laws, the clearest unfolding of the intimate constitution as well as the general character of the physical universe, would be regarded with comparative indifference unless it could be made in some way subservient to the material or spiritual interests of man. A revelation by God himself, of all the sublime mysteries of our holy religion, would hardly be considered as a cause for gratitude, if it lent support to none of the “isms” of the day, if it furnished no additional means of combating what was believed to be practical error, no new guides or new incentives to the actual duties of life. Nor does this utilitarian spirit stop here. It goes still further. It not only leads us to set too light a value upon truth for its own sake, but too often makes us tolerant of error, provided it be engaged in an apparently good service. Even when we enter the sanctuary and listen to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ from the sacred desk, the question which we most frequently ask is not, whether the doctrines inculcated are in conformity with the principles of that gospel and with nature and truth, but, whether their tendency be good, whether the views presented be interesting, whether they are adapted to quicken the imagination, arouse the conscience, and warm the heart; whether they are fitted to inspire a stronger hatred of sin and a more earnest desire to lead a “godly, righteous, and sober life.” Indeed, if we mistake not, the teachers of our religion themselves too often look at their office of ministering the Word from the same point of view. Thinking mainly of the impression to be made, of the effect to be produced, they are not sufficiently careful in regard to the character of the means employed for making that impression and producing that effect. The claims of reason and revelation, of consistency and of truth, are thus made to give place to a miserable and short-sighted expediency; they forgetting apparently that as uncommon beauty, are applied to the solution of the most important and interesting problems that can occupy the human mind. The literary execution of the work is also in harmony with its general plan and purpose. To a style of rare excellence are united a vigor of thought and justness of sentiment, a graceful propriety of illustration and a richness of classical allusion and poetic adornment, which render it one of the most pleasing as well as instructive books which we have ever read. For the class of works to which it belongs, we predict for it a very wide circulation.


But while we regard these lectures as a proud monument of the extensive acquisition and literary power of the author, we do not think they bear so strong testimony to either his character or his ability as a philosopher. If we mistake not, in framing his system he has unconsciously allowed himself to be too mnch influenced by the accommodating utilitarian spirit of which we have spoken. Seeking to provide in it an adequate foundation for the leading truths of religion, more especially the great doctrines of God's moral government and superintending providence, he has constructed its several parts with a view to the support of these truths, rather than under the guidance of that profound regard to the actual constitution of things which is alone worthy of the true philosopher, and from which alone we can hope for any real and permanent aid to the interests of piety.

The theory of the universe unfolded in the volume before us is essentially idealistic ; although not formally rejecting the supposition of material existences, it renders that supposition entirely unnecessary by referring the phenomena connected with such existences to the immediate power of God. The events of the outward world, according to this theory, are connected with one another by no physical ties. They observe, it is true, a definite order of succession ; but that order is not dependent upon any relations subsisting between them. It is determined by the direct influence of the will of the Deity. There is no such thing as physical causation. The idea of material agency, of the ministry of the elements in the production of the phenomena of external nature, is wholly illusory—a mere figment of the imagination. Each one of the innumerable changes which are continually transpiring throughout every part of the material universe is separately and independently evolved by a special exertion of the Divine power. That we may not be supposed to mistake this fundamental doctrine of Mr. Bowen's metaphysical system, we will give it in his own language. VOL. XV.-NO. LIX.


« PreviousContinue »