Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

The origin of an act is its source, and there inquiry as to its cause should terminate.

In all inquiries about the will, it is important to distinguish between what and why, a cause and a reason. What? is related to a cause; and why? is related to a reason. A cause originates, a reason persuades; a cause may, itself, be persuaded by reason. What originates, and is a cause of action, may have a reason why it acts. The influence of reason does not necessitate ; is not a cause, as it operates to the advantage or disadvantage of probationary beings.

President Edwards speaks of "the soul's being determined to exert such a volition, make such a choice.” “The soul's being determined.” What can this mean, but the soul's having a determination, or the soul's having a will ? And what can the whole sentence mean, but the soul's having a will to exert such a volition, and to make such a choice? By which it seems that, prior to choice, volition, or will, we must have a determination or will to exert choice, &c.; or, in other words, the soul must have a will before it has a will. Alas for inconsistency! Let us but consider that every act of will is itself a determining act, and the inquiry, “What determines the will ?” will vanish, and with it also many inconsistencies.

Is liberty, or freedom, an attribute of will, choice, or determination? I think not. Liberty is not in will, choice, or determination; but in him that performs these acts. Will is an effect, and not a cause. Liberty belongs to the cause of the will, and not to the will itself. Probationary man is free, and not his will. Liberty is predicable of agents, and not of their acts. Liberty is not after, or in action, but is in the agent before action. Before action, he is at liberty to act or not to act; but when he acts, with the existence of the act, liberty ceases. Liberty remains in the cause till it acts, and then expires.

The act then having made sure of existence, there can no longer remain liberty to act. But prior to the act, and till the time of the act, liberty may remain. Voluntary action is no more free than involuntary action; there is no kind of action free. Freedom is not in actions, but in agents; and not in agents after, or when they act, but before, and till the time of action. When a man acts one way, he cannot, at the same time, act another way; but before, and till the time of action, he has liberty, and can act either way. The power to act is expended in acting : after one act, power may remain to perform a like act; but not the same act. Man is free to will, (which is the kind of action intended,) but not free in willing. Free will is an impropriety of speech. We should talk about free agents, and not about free actions. The whole controversy about the freedom of the will ought to be annihilated ; and for it should be substituted the inquiry, Is accountable man free to will? Has he before, and till he will, liberty to will either the right, or the wrong? or, is he under absolute necessity to will and act as he does ? Bring the matter to this issue, and the truth will be the more easily discovered. C.

THOMĄS CARLYLE. Readers should be sometimes reminded of the great object to be kept in view in all reading. Here is a book, that is, a quantity of paper, on which a number of characters called letters have been impressed. Do we look on these merely to amuse ourselves, or pass away time; looking at the characters and seeing nothing but their form, and forgetting all about them when the book is laid down ? Certainly not. A man has been thinking. Instead of confining his thoughts to his own mind, or to those who could hear him utter them in speech, he causes them to be printed. When the book is before us, it is as though the man himself were there, multiplied into as many copies as are put into circulation. He who reads, comes, as it were, into the presence of the man, and they converse together. Taking up the book, we have invited the man to tell us his thoughts, that, if we approve them, they may become our own; be lodged in our mind as if they had been its original conceptions. We read, therefore, to know the thoughts of another, and to think ourselves. Or we read to obtain knowledge. The writer knows something that we do not, and here he has put it down. We read that we may know it too. We must always look for two things,-increased knowledge, and increased

correctness and power of thought. As to the first, we must remember that there is no real knowledge unless it refer to facts. If a book professed to explain the civil polity of the inhabitants of Georgium Sidus, a subject of which no one knows anything, in any respect, when we had read it, studied it, thoroughly acquainted ourselves with its contents, should we have any more knowledge than we had before? Undoubtedly not. How can we know anything of that which does not exist? To know, is to know something. To know that which has no existence is to know nothing; and to know nothing is to have no knowledge. Knowledge implies something to be known. We have knowledge when we know that which really is.

And as to the other object of reading, that we ourselves may be able to think more correctly, and more powerfully, this is secured when we think while we read, and not only perceive the thoughts of the author, but make them the objects of our own thought. Reading should be a silent conversation between the mind of the reader and the mind of the author. Here is what he thinks. What do I think about it? Or what other thoughts do these thoughts suggest? In reading, the mind is to be active, not passive. The mind, like the body, is all the healthier and stronger for exercise. There is a striking analogy. between reading and receiving food. Out of the food put into the stomach, the living powers of the body form nourishment: the food becomes chyle, the chyle blood, and the blood, carried to every minute part of the system, becomes, in different forms, one entire living body. We read, that our souls may thus be nourished with truth on every requisite or attainable subject. The bread, the meat, the fruits, are not carried into the arteries, but the blood ; and the food is made blood by digestion. Meditation is mental digestion. The book supplies the food : when we meditate on it, think it over again, and make all right thoughts our own, as if we had first thought them ourselves, then does this mental food become mental blood, supplying due nourishment to every part of our mental system.

Our object in our monthly Numbers is to bring our readers thus to think ; and thus to think on other subjects than those which can be included in our own pages. We should like to

Vol. XI. Second Series. H

assist in making them clear, correct, vigorous thinkers ; thinkers for themselves, clear-headed, independent, and original. We cannot help feeling that it would be a glorious thing to be successful ; to assist in training some thousands of youths whose true wisdom shall make them valuable members of society, religious, and civil, long after we are dead and forgotten; blessings to the church and the world. It is, at all events, worth aiming at, and we must encourage ourselves with that; though we do venture, sometimes, to hope that our contributions are not altogether useless; our labour not altogether in vain.

“Well, but," interrupts some young reader, “you have put the name of a living writer at the head of this paper: what has all this to do with him?" Very much. We have been stating principles that we design to illustrate by some references to him.

Of Mr. Carlyle we know nothing personally; nothing of his habitudes, his dwelling, age, and all such subjects. We only know him as the writer of certain books. These books are very peculiar in their character. His style is the oddest imaginable. It is a sort of Germanized English. Nor are we exactly sure that we know his opinions on some most important subjects. In reading his books we have thought that we saw great mistakes, mischievous errors. He is a writer who must be read with great care; the more so, because he evidently believes himself. He is sincere; and even error becomes plausible when stated by such a writer. But the principal feature of his productions is, that his words always express thoughts. Be they mistaken or correct, yet thoughts they are. Some writers furnish a vast quantity of words which have, as employed by them, scarcely any meaning at all. They are chaff, with here and there a solid grain. Not so Mr. Carlyle. You feel in reading his books that his mind and your mind are present to each other. If you will only think while you read, thought is present to thought. And his sentences are, in a very high degree, suggestive. When his thoughts are received into an active mind, they instantly suggest other thoughts, and the reader finds himself often obliged to pause, and reflect; and thus, when he lays the book on one side, he not only feels that his mind has been taking some healthy, pleasant exercise, but

that while doing so, he has enlarged his own stock, by gathering something by the way.

Our intention is, in the course of two or three Numbers, to furnish the reader with some specimens of this. We furnish them, not as pretty-looking curiosities, put on the chimneypiece for ornament, but to be placed in the mental cabinet. We have seen pieces of ore, stone, and spar, filling up a chimney-piece, all looking very pretty; but that was all. The possessor knew nothing about them, and only put them there to be looked at and admired. The same pieces in the hands of a mineralogical student would have been arranged in his cabinet, and each would have had an instructive history of its own. Courteous reader, take our advice. Have a mental cabinet of your own; and when you find a good specimen, pick it up, and place it there.

Speaking of a certain book, Mr. Carlyle calls it, “ A very sea of thought; neither calm nor clear, if you will; yet wherein the toughest pearl-diver may dive to his utmost depth, and return not only with sea-wrecks, but with true orients.” Describing a certain period of literature, he says of it, “ When puffery and quackery have reached a height unexampled in the annals of mankind; and even English editors, like Chinese shop-keepers, must write on their doorlintels, No cheating here."

By the way, in every book which he has written, he shows his vehement dislike to what he calls“ puffery and quackery;" hollow, though glittering pretensions; real emptiness, hidden by the gaudy trappings which cover it. One of his favourite maxims, (we shall furnish instances,) is, that sooner or later, all falsehood will fall, and that nothing will stand but what is true, and that what is true must stand.

Referring to the same book, he says, “ We admitted that the book had in a high degree excited us to self-activity, which is the best effect of any book ; that it had even operated changes in our way of thought ; nay, that it promised to prove, as it were, the opening of a new mine-shaft, wherein the whole world of speculation might henceforth dig to unknown depths.”

“Cast forth thy act, thy word, into the ever-living, evergrowing universe; it is a seed-grain that cannot die:

« НазадПродовжити »