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as well as our belief in the reality of external existences, in our own identity, and in the permanency of what are termed the laws of nature, are all derived from the same lofty source; and are essentially dependant on our inward feeling of the perpetual presence of a creating and sustaining God.
For the purpose of these disquisitions, the three friends are again represented as meeting, after another long separation; and when, the two elder of them at least, have had warnings, in the gradual progress of decay, that the period cannot be far distant when there must be an end, for this world, both of action and speculation—and when men of all habits and shades of opinion must, if not utterly reckless, "wait the great teacher, Death, and God adore." Both, however, retain their philosophical serenity, and even the distinctive traits of their several philosophiesCleanthes still proposing difficulties, and requiring precise proofs, though in an humbler tone and with less marked confidence in the grounds of his dissent; and Philo still luxuriating in his fine and imaginative speculations, with less reliance perhaps on the logical completeness of his arguments, but deeper conviction of the truth and importance of the conclusions to which they tend. There is but little in this tract on the doctrines or evidences of Revelation; though illustrations are constantly borrowed from its source; and the staple of the discussion may be said to be metaphysical ;—with a perpetual reference for the solution of all difficulties, or rather the explanation of all phenomena -to our secret and deep working consciousness-though often but indirectly and obscurely recognised of the will and agency of the Deity.
Of the merits of the work generally, it is not for the Editors to judge. Metaphysics, they fear, even when enlisted in the cause of religion, are not likely to find favour with the present generation of Englishmen-though, when they perceive that it has recently called for a Fourteenth Edition of Dr. Brown's admirable Lectures on Mental Philosophy, they cannot but hope that this distaste for what was once a favourite study of the nation, is at last about to disappear. They are sensible too, that the style is occasionally cumbrous; and that there are more frequent and more elaborate resumptions of the argument, than an impatient
reader may like to be stopped by. But they are greatly deceived, if any one, at all conversant with the subject, can rise from the perusal of the whole work, without a strong sense of the singular ingenuity of most of the speculations on which it is employed; not merely as expounding the true test and character of our perceptions and recollection of external objects, and the ultimate foundation of all our laws of thought; but more especially, as tracing to the source the nature of our General conceptionsthe limited function of Instinctive impulses in man—the relation of Cause and effect, and the proper notion and agency of volition -the true source of Sublimity and beauty-and the origin and criterion of all Moral_distinctions-as explained and illustrated in the concluding dialogues of this collection.
Even on these points, however, they may be misled, by their partialities for the subjects or for the writer. But they feel as if they could not be so misled, when they venture to predict, that, however this little book may be thought to testify for the Genius or Judgment of its Author,—it will be at once received, by all who care to become acquainted with it, as a faithful memorial of the earnest Piety and sweet Philanthropy of his
PAMPHILUS TO HERMIPPUS.
You have taken so lively an interest, my Hermippus, in the conversations of my philosophical friends, which I from time to time have transmitted to you, that I cannot deny myself the pleasure, tinged though it be with melancholy, of sending you one more, which I am well aware must in all likelihood be the last. There are men in this world whom it is hard to part with, even in advanced life, and when in the course of nature we have full warning that they cannot remain long with us. My two friends, Cleanthes and Philo, are now at no great distance from the necessary termination of their mortal career. On my return lately, after some years absence, to the paternal roof of the former, I was painfully impressed with the spectacle of the ravages which the intermediate time had made on his frame. His mind, indeed, was cheerful, and all its energies entire; he exerted them, in fact, frequently beyond his strength, his love of study, and his earnest enquiries after truth, seemed sometimes to leave him exhausted in the pursuit, and I could not but look forward with a sad presentiment to the sudden extinction of that light of intellectual and moral excellence from which my own spirit had derived its most beneficial illumination.
While I was sitting with him one morning, and, amidst the serene charms of his converse, somewhat pensively giving way to those dark apprehensions, a letter was handed to him from Philo, which seemed to throw a cloud over the habitual composure of his features. I am sorry to find from this letter, he said, that our friend has had a dan
gerous malady, from which he is but this moment recovering, and as he seems to be very uncertain what yet may be its issue, he is desirous, as he expresses it, to take me by the hand once more before he dies. I hope his prognostications may be of a more serious kind than the event will warrant, but when men attain the years which my friend and I have now reached, they cannot too readily renew occasions of intercourse which may be cut off, on one side or other, they know not how soon, though such an issue they know cannot be far off on either. I shall set out to-morrow, therefore, on a visit to my old friend, and, I suppose, Pamphilus, you will have no objection to be my compagnon de voyage.-Your reflection, Cleanthes, said I, applies to human life in general, not merely to old age. It is very possible that I may leave this world before either Philo or yourself,—and I am well assured that the turn of conversation which will arise between you, will be of that improving and impressive kind, which will serve as the best preparation either for the duties of life, or for a ready obedience to the summons which will sooner or later call us to quit our present existence, and all its pursuits and enjoyments.
On entering Philo's avenue,―reclined in a rustic chair, under one of the magnificent trees which compose it, the decayed form of our friend met our eyes. It was in that season of the spring of the year when the young foliage seemed to be starting out upon all the branches in its softest green, sufficiently advanced to afford a pleasing shade, but yet bearing all the indications of a creation not yet complete, though in rapid progress to its perfection. The contrast between the bloom of reviving nature, and the traces of age and sickness on the fading features of Philo, was striking and melancholy-but his eye retained its original expression of acuteness and vivacity, and the smile with which he indicated the delight with which our approach had inspired him, banished from our thoughts for the moment every image of gloom or depression.
This is very kind, my friends, said he, holding out both his hands, and seizing ours in his eager grasp. The sight of dear friends is like the renewal of health and youth, and even gives me more of that feeling in my present weakness and languor, than this lovely scene, and these refreshing breezes, which are yet so restorative to a worn