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cular exertion, came at last in accumulated measure. The laws of nature had not been obeyed. The penalty was inflicted with unsparing severity. No allowance was made for purity of motives, for useful station, or for brilliant prospecis.
Nature enforced her laws with unpitying sternness. Indeed the result could scarcely have been otherwise without a miracle. Mr. Homer assumed the laborious toils of professional life at a time when his physical powers needed rest and renovation after the confinement of several years to a student's room. Neither himself nor his friends knew how unprepared was his debilitated frame to endure the labors of the ministry.
It is easy to censure past proceedings when the result shows that they were not wisely adopted, and it requires no stretch of sagacity to show, when it is too late, how preferable a different course would have been. Guided by the sad results of the experiment made when Mr. Homer was ordained to the pastoral office, we can now see that his physical energies were not adequate to the task. His mind could work with intense energy, but this fervid action only brought on the approaching crisis more rapidly. His last efforts were not made without a degree of exhaustion and mental suffering which are well remembered by those who knew his more private history. There is, we fear, in the causes of Mr. Homer's death, some resemblance to those which cut off a kindred spirit in the early bloom of his life—we refer to Henry Kirk White. What Southey has not disclosed on this subject, is made known by an anonymous author, who claims to know the circumstances, and who writes as follows. “The academical life of Kirk White, even when viewed through the affectionate narrative of his biographer, was only a prolonged preparation for a sacrifice. The Death’s Head is always visible under the mask. . . We read of dreadful palpitations, of nights of sleeplessness, so that he went from one acquaintance to another, imploring society, even as a starving beggar entreats for food." : . . In another leiter he says, “While I am here, I am wretched; the slightest application makes me faint.” And again—“I am not an invalid: my mind preys upon itself.” But throughout this season of mental torture, the mistaken kindness of friends was urging him forward; the worn-out energies were stimulated into a moSECOND SERIES, VOL. VIII. NO. I.
mentary and unnatural brightness; the fire was blown into a vivid but quickly dying flame.”
“ Melancholy, alas ! as was the issue of his unhappy career, it would have been incalculably more wretched, if he had survived. The intellect was perfectly exhausted, the very waters of mental life were dried up, and this creature of lofty impulses, of rare and poetical genius, of the tenderest sensibilities, of the most disinterested piety, would have dragged out an existence of dreary barrenness—a tree in its early May, dead at the top !"*
Let the student beware how he neglects the laws of his nature. The system
does not extend its remedial functions to the wrongs sustained by our physical organization. It matters not whether the evil come as the result of design or of neglect, the result is the same. Even devotion to the Redeemer's service will be no shield against the penalty.
We lay down the volume with many thanks to the biographer for the service he has conferred on the public, by giving a permanent form to productions that would otherwise have been preserved only in the memories of those who were Mr. Homer's hearers. And we cannot omit to mention that the publishers have contributed their share to the usefulness of the book by the aid of handsome type and good paper.
* Conversations at Cambridge, Lond. 1836. pp. 48, 49.
By the Rev. Noah Porter, Jr., Pastor of the Cong. Church, New Milford, Conn.
What is Transcendentalism? This question is often asked by intelligent men, and sometimes with great earnestness. As the movement indicated by the word is without doubt extensively to prevail, the question is constantly becoming a question of greater interest, and will force itself upon the
attion of thinking men throughout our country.
We make no apology, therefore, for attempting to answer the question-which we shall aim to do with all possible honesty and truth, and in a direct and business-like manner.
The word Transcendentalism, as used at the present day, has two applications, one of which is popular and indefinite, the other, philosophical and precise. In the former sense it describes men, rather than opinions, since it is freely extended to those who hold opinions, not only diverse from each other, but directly opposed, not only in their statements, but in their bearings upon the most important interests of man. In its precise and strictly appropriate application, it denotes a class of philosophical opinions, concerning the principles of human knowledge, or the grounds of our faith in the world of sense, and also in those higher truths which make us capable of science and of religion, those truths which impart to our being, as men, all its dignity, and to our hopes and fears for the future, their interest. Our first concern will be with the term in its looser and more general sense, or rather with the men, who, in current phrase, are called Transcendentalists. Aud here it will doubtless be asked, how can such a term be applied to them at all, and especially with what propriety can it be used in respect to those who differ so widely in their intellectual and moral position and influence? To this we answer, that while we cannot feel ourselves bound to defend, or even to explain the popular use of every epithet, which may originate only in ignorance or confusion of thought, it is yet more frequently true, that such use is owing to a sufficient reason, which it is not difficult to detect and state. In the
present instance this reason is obvious. Those called transcendentalists, while on the one hand they are Pantheists or social Reformers, receivers or rejectors of Christianity, unitarian or evangelical in their views of Christian truth, and in these respects, strangely unlike, are yet, in other points, as strikingly similar. These points are their intellectual and moral predispositions, their favorite philosophical and literary authors, and of consequence, their general cultivation and literary sympathies, with a strong family likeness in their modes of thought and expression. These striking and strong affinities make them of one school, and secure to it its peculiar name, while within that school, are heard the voices of many discordant and contending teachers.
Among these we mention the Pantheistic variety, with whom the name of Mr. Emerson is too intimately connected, to require that it should be concealed. This school, though not claiming to be learnedly or profoundly metaphysical, and apparently despising the logical processes, the acute criticism, and the scientific research of a Kant or Cousin,
and in many respects, not to say in most, very unlike to Plato, do yet follow in their train and call themselves by their name. Seizing upon a fragment of the Platonic or Transcendental formula, that the ideas which the reason reveals to man are objectively the laws by which the universe subsists and proceeds, they boldly and dogmatically affirm that these forces constitute ihe supreme Reason, that besides these there is no Deity ; that the Deity is no living person, no Eternal Jehovah. These eternal and unchanging laws, both physical and moral, thus revealing themselves to man and regulating his happiness here and deciding his destiny hereafter, are the only God whom their philosophy acknowledges or their religion adores. This doctrine they propound, rather than prove. They utter it forth with the sage solemnity, the authoritative wisdom, and the affected phrase of the mysterious oracle or the inspired prophet. When ridiculed, they will not condescend to retort, for it would be inconsistent with their dignity as prophets. When questioned, they will not give a reason, but emit other mysterious utterances, which, according to the mood of the listener, are received either as the voice of divinest wisdom, or the ravings of men inspired by no other afflatus than that of their own self-complacency.
Other peculiarities they have which are innocent, or rather
which almost makes them innocent, in the ancient sense of the word. They remove themselves from the stirring enterprises and the active benevolence of a bustling age, and can find in its science, its literature, and its religion, but little that suits their taste, or is worthy their notice. The transcendentalist, says their master and oracle, is content to wait in silence and seclusion for an age which shall be worthy of himself. From the past, also, he severs himself, by rejecting the record of its facts, when these facts contradict his philosophy, especially by denying the historic truth of the Christian revelation, by accounting for its miracles, by transmuting them into mythi, arising out of occurrences not in the least supernatural, and by making Christianity itself but the highest of all symbols of the higher and purer Pantheistic Truth. Indeed, all past ages and all by-gone enterprises, all the prayers and praises, the high aspirations, the deeds of overcoming faith and daring heroism which had distinguished the great men of other times—all these are worthy of consideration only as they faintly shadow forth the age which is to come, the times of “the restitution of all things," on the true foundations of Pantheism in Theology, of mysterious enigmas in science, and of unnatural energy and affected phrase in literature. With all these vagaries, there are intermingled, in their writings, many just and many striking sayings concerning man, many most worthy and noble principles in relation to the aims of life and follies of artificial society, expressed oftentimes with a delightful freshness of language. These give to their writings a high interest to ardent and youthful minds, and to the writers an influence that has no connection with the truth or error of their opinions. When this is termed the Pantheistic variety of the Transcendental school, it would be unjust, were the impression to be conveyed to our readers, that the dogma concerning the Deity, holds a conspicuous place in their writings. It is not properly a school in philosophy, as it is a school in literature. Its inspiring genius is rather Carlyle in his criticism on books and men, than Straus in his mythical exegesis, or Hegel in his philosophical chaotics. And yet Carlyle has a system in science, theology and exegesis, which, even if he has not dared to utter it to his own thoughts, or to propound it to his readers, does yet exist in its elements and principles, and which gives to his writings their spirit, their meaning, and,