Freethinking and Plain Speaking. By Leslie Stephen. Pp. 362. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Price, $2.50.
This is an able vindication of what surely needs to be vindicated—the duty of plain speaking. The peril of it is chiefly maintained by those who are skeptical at the core about things to which they give a public adhesion. There has been a great advance in the liberty of plain speaking, and almost a corresponding advance in the liberality with which it is received. And, with this increasing toleration of it, plain speaking has grown more civil, and no longer means, as too often it used, violent and ill-tempered assaults on decent and cherished, though antiquated, theories of life here and hereafter. This book is itself an excellent example of the lesson it inculcates. The first essay is entitled "The Broad Church." It examines the position of those who adopt the formularies of the Church as being the expression of their deepest conviction, who repeat the creeds, who subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles as often as desired, but who at the same time express their desire to discover and follow the truth, and do actually hold rationalistic views. The various arguments by which this course is sustained are considered, and attention is given to the ingenious devices by which these gentlemen, who are given the fullest credit for honesty and sincerity, endeavor to reconcile the difficulties of their position. The conclusion is reached that the attitude is a perilous one, and that the efforts to maintain it are painful and humiliating. We have a good illustration of this in the recent discussion of eternal punishment.
In the excellent chapter on "Darwinism and Divinity" is shown, among other things, the utter fallacy of the notion that existing creeds are the sole bulwarks of morality. Of course, if it be admitted that God gave the Commandments directly to man; that he proclaimed from Sinai the existence of a heaven and a hell; and that these are the foundation, instead of the outgrowths, of our moral nature—then their overthrow might imperil morality. But this radical ground is seldom taken now, and, if it be conceded that beliefs are generated from within, the argument disappears. The virtuous instincts which have contributed the best which is in theology may safely be intrusted with the care of morality when theological dogmas have become obsolete.
The last essay, called "An Apology for Plain Speaking," is an appeal to those who agree with Mr. Stephen in his conclusions to state their agreement in plain terras, and meets the questions, "Why attack a system of beliefs which is crumbling away quite fast enough without your help?" "Why try to shake beliefs which, whether true or false, are infinitely consoling to the weaker brethren?" For the answer to these questions, we must refer the reader to the book itself, commending its closing passage: "Let us think freely and speak plainly, and we shall have the highest satisfaction man can enjoy—the consciousness that we have done what little lies in ourselves to do for the maintenance of the truths on which the moral improvement and the happiness of our race depend."
The Source of Muscular Power. Arguments and Conclusions drawn from Observations upon the Human Subject under Conditions of Rest and of Muscular Exercise. By Austin Flint, Jr., M. D. Pp. 103. D. Appleton & Co. Price, $1.
Dr. Flint here attacks one of the most interesting questions in physiology—one which has attracted much recent attention, and given rise to earnest controversy. The issue discussed in this volume was first brought prominently forward and closely investigated by Prof. Liebig nearly forty years ago. It received a new impulse in 1866 by the researches of Professors Fick and Wislicenus, and the views put forth by these savants have been brought under critical scrutiny in later observations upon the expenditure of force by celebrated pedestrians. Prof. Flint had a hand in this work, and, after the publication of Dr. Pavy's experiments upon Perkins and Weston in