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It is fortunate that our own land, to which Ritter always referred as the future seat of human power, rapidly gaining ascendency, has become the home, at once the study and the lecture-room of one who was trained by the great geographer of Berlin, and was always referred to by him as his devoted friend. We need hardly say that we allude to Professor Guyot, once of Neufchatel and now of Princeton. Imbued with the spirit of Humboldt and Ritter, he has presented in his work on the “Earth and Man,” the most important of their conclusions in respect to the structure of this world and its adaptation to mankind, together with his own profound reflections on this subject, the result of protracted and varied studies in science and in history. We well remember the high terms in which Ritter was accustomed to speak of this work, and no one is a better judge than he. Prof. Agassiz, also, in speaking of the lectures which form the basis of this volume, referred in the strongest terms to the “brilliant generalizations" of this author, supplementary to those of Humboldt and Ritter, and urged their wide diffusion.
If there are any of our readers who desire to understand the New Geography, and who are not already acquainted with the character of this unpretending volume, we assure them that in it they will find a profound exhibition of important principles, presented with clearness of style, richness and beauty of illustration, and power of argument which will amply reward the inost careful study. By his accurate measurements of all the higher peaks in the mountains of the eastern portion of this continent, Prof. Guyot has made an important contribution to the knowledge of the new world, and by his elaborate tables for meteorological and other physical calculations, he has rendered an incalculable service to all observers of natural phenomena. By his lectures in the Normal Schools and before the Teachers’ Institutes of various States, to say nothing of his collegiate instruction and his other public lectures, he has awakened a widely and deeply felt interest in a department of knowledge which was almost unknown in this country before his arrival in it. But there is yet one service which we hope he will speedily render, the preparation of a series of textbooks illustrated with physical maps, and adapted to different periods of instruction. The tedious study which is now called geography in our schools, would then give way to a more satisfactory and more useful contemplation of the world in which we dwell.
Even now, in the higher institutions of learning, much could be done for the diffusion of philosophical notions of the structure of the earth in its relations to man. The study of natural science in all its departments is at once interesting and important; not less valuable and instructive is the history of different epochs and countries; but to show the relation between the world and its inhabitants, between the powers of nature and of mind, between the structure of a continent and the races or nations which possess it, is to illustrate on the grandest scale the designs of the Creator in planning this complex globe to be the home, the school, and the judgmenthall of man.
ARTICLE II.—THE POWER OF CONTRARY CHOICE.
The question whether the soul has the “power of contrary choice” is one of the utmost importance in its bearings upon theology, and all moral science. It is high time that the subject was thoroughly understood. The orthodox faith has lost much by its dullness of apprehension and its incompleteness here, and entirely failed of that “vantage ground" which it would have held but for its unwillingness to concede what is intuitionally true at this point, and what the common sense of men concedes in all the relations of life. Happy the day, for the cause of truth generally, and for the power and spread of the gospel, when our metaphysics on this and other subjects shall agree with the acknowledged principles of common sense, and be but the philosophic and comprehensive statement of them! Ask any man of a thousand you may meet, whether he thinks he could have done right yesterday when he did wrong, and he will say “ Yes.” It is the sentiment of common life, and of humanity, for all time, everywhere. Not whether he acted freely and with consent of will in doing wrong. That of course. But whether situated as he then was, he could have refrained from the wrong and done the right, and he will still say “Yes," if his conscience is tender, and bad theology does not come in his way. And he will sustain his position by asking further, “If I could not, how then was I responsible for my sin ? If it was inevitable,' situated as I was, how am I answerable for it? If the temptations to it took away my power to the contrary, I feel absolved for what I could not help;' and the conscience of mankind will go with him in this, philosophize about it as we may.
It is not to be expected that a great mind of any given age should see all sides of all subjects, for all time. The error of the colossal “ Treatise on the Will," is just at the point under review. No man has proved that choice is always as is the greatest apparent good, and it is not an intuitional idea. Edwards found it in the dialectics of previous periods, and accepted it without special investigation, we may hope. It was, too, a link in a chain and scheme of doctrine. It was not investigated on its intrinsic merits as a psychological question. It stood in the light of a consequence, and was for its sake. It was deemed needful to Divine government, though without good reason. The argument was, that God could not be supreme, or secure results, unless he had sovereignty of all volitions and made them but modifications of the infinite cause. But there never can be more than the “petitio principii” here. You can only beg the question. Who knows that I always do what I think is best? It seems to me far otherwise. The sense of the inquiry is not altered if I add the phrase, what I think at the time is best. All volition is in the present tense. The statement, however expressed, must be tantamount to this, that all men always act from the conviction of what is the greatest good. And can this be said of all the foolishness, and lust, and wickedness of earth and hell? The expression is a misnomer. It does not characterize the act. It has credence for the sake of an end to be gained by it, and yet that end, when thus reached, falsifies a moral government and ignores the distinction between nature and the supernatural.
If motives govern choice, with no power to the contrary, then “the is” is the exponent of the can be.” Then the past could be only as it has been; the present cannot be otherwise than as it is, or the future than as it will be. The forces are all “ ab extra.” We have no power to alter them, or their effects. The stream is from the beginning downward and onward, and we have no power to change its course. All is a Divine programme, and must be fulfilled in this way or the reins are taken out of the hands of God, and he has no way left to be supreme. It is an outside pressure on us, or one “ab extra” to ourselves, which is only to be yielded to, and which can only be yielded to freely, you may say. But even that you get not from the doctrine, or the scheme it serves,
but in spite of, and in exception to, them. These would be complete, with this element left out. The whole subject is viewed theologically, and for a theological result. It is a mere matter of cause and effect, to enable God to govern mind and secure results in the moral, as he does in the physical world. That the mind is free in the process, at the point of contact with it, is intuitionally learned indeed, but it does not belong to the scheme or the object of it, and does not make one hair white or black, in the matter of results. All is from God, and resistless as the lightning, and all a Divine method to gain a Divine end. And in gaining that end, the mind is no real factor. It has no discretion, no power of resistance, no sovereignty over the issue. At any given point of wrong it could not hold up, for it has no power to the contrary. It goes as it is led, and because it is led. You say freely, “Yes," as the wheel on its axle, or the joint in its socket, or the door on its hinges, and by subsidizing this foreign element to your doctrine you relieve thus empirically the unutterable repulsions of it. But in all this you do not describe the conscious intuitions of the mind in its free acts. The view is not authentic. More is wanting to it. It lacks vitality. It does not give object or character to the freedom it admits. There is in it no discretion, no power of discrimination, no election as to what the act shall be in the given cir. cumstances. You have not got up into the region of personal cause. There is no self-origination of conduct, or character, or destiny. You have not risen into the region of the “supernatural.” You have not stept from the tread-mill policy of mere physics into the appropriate sphere of the will. The man as yet is but a mere tool in the hands of another—a thing acting as it is acted on-a means, worked by another for the sake of something beyond itself. And the picture is unmeaning. The view is lame and inadequate. It fails integrally to complete the intimations of consciousness in our free acts, and tantalizes us with the name of freedom, while it takes its gist and import, aye, its real life away, and makes it at once without significance or value.
We never did wrong without the conviction that, at the VOL. XVIII.