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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is even tins the sinful occupation that religious people often assume, for the laws of Nature are the laws of God, and no man can be more reverently occupied than in investigating their operations. The laws of God, we venture to think, do not shrink from any thoroughness of verification, and those who conceive themselves insulted by the application of the balance or the spectroscope, geometry or arithmetic, to any of the physical operations of the world, must entertain a very narrow and morbid view of the divine government. It would seem that the old religious prejudice against the study of Nature, as a profane occupation of the human mind, in contrast with the sacredness of theological studies, still survives, and that the old conflict is yet very far from having died out. If it be said that the doctrine of answer to prayer, by immediate and miraculous suspension of the course of natural changes, has passed away, and has been replaced by the doctrine that the answer comes through the operation of natural laws, we reply, that the proof of this position is wanting. We hazard little in the assertion that, if the question were submitted to the suffrage of Christendom, those who hold to this interpretation of prayer would not only be in a paltry minority, but would be voted as infidels and apostates from the faith. The fact cannot be escaped that multitudes of devout people still strenuously hold to immediate divine intervention in the course of natural things, in response to human supplication. A periodical before US, representing the faith of half the Christian world, says: "Suppose, then, that a whole city full of people should testify to the resurrection of a dead man from the grave; would we be justified in rejecting the testimony on the sole ground of the physical impossibility of the occurrence? ... History abounds in instances of the Sort, in recitals of sudden cures witnessed by thousands, of conflagrations suddenly checked, of plagues disappearing in a moment." That such beliefs were universal in past times is notorious; that they have been dissipated from many minds is purely owing to what is called the encroachment of science. But the mass of people are still very far from having so clear, and settled, and strong a conviction of the physical order of Nature, that they will not lend a willing ear to the most preposterous stories of its violation. What is the lesson of the gross ghostology of modern spiritualism, before which even educated people will throw up gravity, and all the laws of physics, at the first puzzle of a juggling exhibitor, unless it be that the scientific doctrine of the government of the world by inviolable law is yet far from being firmly rooted in the general mind. Those who entertain such loose views of the constitution of Nature will almost necessarily take to the superstitious side of religion, and resent all attempts to submit their beliefs, even where they involve physical effects, to the test of science.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

The Life and Growth of Language: An Outline of Linguistic Science. By William Dwight Whitney. Pp. 326. New York: Appletons (International Scientific Series, Volume XVI.). Price, 1.50.

Ever since the fifteenth century the study of languages, particularly of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, has formed the basis of a "liberal education;" and yet it was not till our own day that such a thing as a science of language was thought possible. Generation after generation trod the beaten path of grammar, loading the memory with formulas of accidence and syntax, learning by heart whole books of the "Iliad" and the "Æneid;" a few, and only a few, getting an insight into the habits of thought of the great poets, philosophers, orators, and historians of antiquity. For the few the study of the classics was an inestimable benefit, it undoubtedly did serve to broaden and lib-