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view, and teach himself the great truths he had been taught by others, or which had spontaneously sprung up in his mind as essential to his being. He examines the grounds of his belief, not merely as matter of curious speculation, but as the basis of his strongest hopes and fears. He ventures to ask himself if this is an orphan universe, and whether, when the body is struck by tiine, the mind is exhaled and dispersed like the odor of a flower that is crushed. The mere assumption of a doubt for the purpose of the inquiry, is painful to him, for it presents to his mind illimitable space, dark, desolate and blank; void of the benignity, the almightiness and the perfect intelligence of the Supreme, and his own existence as a transient fame, and his moral constitution and sense of obligation and duty merely as machinery vainly to regulate his actions to which there are to be no corresponding consequences.
He must imagine his being as withered, its beauty departed, and the universe a vain spectacle shorn of its glory. The very dreariness of such a view frightens thousands at once from its contemplation, and is of itself a sufficient argument forever to establish their faith in a God, their own immortality, and a moral retribution ; while others though not satisfied, are yet predisposed to believe. All men above the stupidity of the beasts, — excepting a few who studiously brutify their own minds, to the loss of the perception of all that is not physical and grossly material, out of a poor conceit of their own wisdom, cling to their moral and immortal affinity to the Deity.
The teacher of Natural Theology then has, for the most part, a willing audience, desirous to give their assent to his doctrines; but his task is not therefore easy. The inquiry leads far away from experience and accustomed speculation into the regions of abstract conceptions and metaphysical subtilties, difficult to be seized by the understanding, and apt to elude the power of language.
Lord Brougham gives the following reasons for writing his treatise.
“ The composition of this Discourse was undertaken in consequence of an observation which I had often made, that scientific men were apt to regard the study of Natural Religion as little connected with philosophical pursuits. Many of the persons to whom I allude, were men of religious habits of thinking; others were free from any disposition towards skepticism, rather because they had not much discussed the subject, than because they had formed fixed opinions upon it after inquiry. But the bulk of them relied little upon Natural Theology, which they seemed to regard as a speculation built rather on fancy than on argument; or, at any rate, as a kind of knowledge quite different from either physical or moral science. It therefore appeared to me desirable to define, more precisely than had yet been done, the place and the claims of Natural Theology among the various branches of human knowledge."-pp. 5, 6.
He accordingly undertakes to show that Natural Theology is a science resting on inductive reasoning, on which a number of other sciences and a greater part of what we call knowledge depends. The work, therefore, does not profess to be a mere exposition of the doctrines of Natural Theology, and the evidence by which they are established, but is, rather a learned commentary upon both, somewhat after the model of Sir James Mackintosh's " Progress of Ethical Science." It is a logical criticism ; a species of philosophizing upon philosophy. It may rightly be called the metaphysics of Natural Theology. It is an arduous department of speculation, of precarious success ; for although the sciences of logic and metaphysics are, when pursued in the usual method, highly interesting and instructive, a writer runs great hazard of being tedious, who undertakes to go through a series of connected arguments, classifying them, according to their species, and weighing and measuring their force. It requires great felicity of style, and address in the conduct of the inquiry, as well as great sagacity and learning, to secure and reward the reader's attention. It seems to be an unpromising task to instruct the reader how demonstrative or satisfactory a given course of reasoning may be, for he has already felt its full force, if he understands it ; and if the argument is not intelligible to him or does not lead him to the intended conclusion, he will profit little by the information that this is inductive reasoning, this being precisely what his teacher has already told him at school. We do not mean to say that very elegant and pleasing essays of this kind, replete with instruction, may not be written, and a more opportune occasion could not be chosen in respect to Natural Theology, than just on the publication of the Bridgewater Treatises; we mean merely that, to be successful, such essays must be written with consummate skill, from abundant stores of learning, and must abound in striking reflections.
A review of such a speculative commentary is liable to be
less interesting and less instructive than the commentary itself. To lighten the labor then of following Lord Brougham in bis difficult attempt, and, with the hope of being more useful to general readers, we purpose to give, in connexion with our remarks upon his book, an outline of what we understand to be the main links of the argument for Natural Theology, which is the foundation of ethical science; and this involves moral obligation arising out of the constitution of man, his relation to the Creator, to men and to the system of things. This we are the more disposed to, since a speculative air has been given to this science by the very learned and curious inquiries which have been introduced into the discussion, since the publication of the work of Denhain, in which, as Lord Brougham justly remarks, all Dr. Paley's grounds of argument are pre-occupied, so that the latter, without any expense of thinking, bad only to put the materials, ready furnished to his hands, into a new form, or rather into a new and more popular style ; for the form and plan of the works of both are substantially the same. A no less learned and scientific air has been given to these speculations in the Bridgewater Treatises, which are highly meritorious works, that may be read with great profit by every body, being full of instruction not only in Natural Theology but also in other sciences, from which illustrations of design in creation are particularly drawn. But still the general reader needs first to connect the leading steps in the reasoning, by having them brought near together, or else he may go through with the whole of these beautiful speculations and still doubt what is the precise force of the reasoning, and he may even be bewildered in the infinitude of the subject as thus treated, and think as Lord Brougham suggests, that the whole argument is more fanciful than logical.'
The first step in Natural Theology is to adopt a theory of the existence of the world. We have a choice of two different theories, 1. That matter is from eternity, and that all the species of animals and vegetables have been evolved from its essential properties, and have been coeval and eternal with it. 2. That matter itself, and all its forms, animal, vegetable, and mineral, have been created, that is, that there is a God.
We see, then, that whichever hypothesis is adopted, we must suppose something to have existed without a cause and without beginning. This is intelligible, the meaning is plain; but the proposition is an exception to all our other knowledge and belief. Though we cannot comprehend how it can be so, we are necessarily reduced to the admission. Neither the theist, the atheist, or, which is the same, the pantheist, undertakes to solve the enigma of the universe. Each must in the outset confess and believe in a mystery. He must admit something unfathomable and incomprehensible to the human mind; that is, the existence of some thing or some being without beginning. This is the common predicament of the professors of all systems of philosophy and religion, or irreligion. The proposition is common to thein all, that the origin of things can be traced back only into the obscurity of a fathomless, incomprehensible past.
This familiar fundamental position in the theory of the origin of things renders reasonings and modes of expression, that are applicable on other subjects, totally inapplicable to this. We say, for instance, in all speculations, in regard to all other subjects wbatsoever, that every thing that is, must have a cause; but in discussivg the origin of things, we cannot say so, for whether we assume that matter was eternal, or that all living forms are only the present links in a chain that had no first links, or that all was formed by an intelligent cause without a beginning, that is by the omnipotent and eternal Deity, still we assume equally, in either case, either that matter was not caused, or the chain of beings was originally not caused, or that the Deity was not caused. If, therefore, in regard to this science, we use the common maxim, that whatever is, is determined to be what it is by a cause, we utter an inapplicable proposition.
We have not named among the hypotheses from which a choice may be made, that of the eternal existence of mere inorganic matter, or primordial atoms, because it explains nothing and accounts for nothing. A forming, creative power is still wanted to account for the origin of the species of animals and plants. It is true, the Epicureans and Stoics undertook from this postulate only of primordial atoms of various forms · and properties, to explain the origin of the vegetable and animal species, and taught that the earth, before it had become sterile by age, and wbile it was yet in the genial period of its freshness and vigor, after the first specimens of the vegetable species had germinated from her fruitful bosom, became literally the mother of the animal races, giving birth to all sorts of forms, some perfeci, others mixed and monstrous, the perfect only
being capable of nourishment, and surviving to continue their respective races, through the series of their descendants, when their common parent, should lose her prolific powers by senility and decay. This is all sung in beautiful verse by Lucretius, and is indeed a fit subject for poetry only, for we have no knowledge or ground of conjecture that a new species can originate in the powers and properties of matter. Except for the purposes of poetry, the hypothesis of the eternity of mere matter is sterile and useless.
We are, accordingly, reduced to a choice of one of the two hypotheses already mentioned, namely, that the series of the present races of animals and vegetables bad no beginning, or ibat there is a Creator ; and these are we believe the only two hypotheses seriously proposed.
What then is there to recommend the theory of an eternal series of living things? Whether we choose this, or the theory of an intelligent Creator, we assent equally to what is mysterious and incomprehensible. The existence from eternity of an intelligent creative power is in itself as probable as, or no more improbable than, that of an infinite anterior series of any one species of animals. Suppose a species of insects to be the only known living things, we might as probably at least, suppose them to have been formed by an intelligent power at the beginning, as to suppose the series to have been without beginning. Why then should those who affect to be pbilosophers; rational, sceptical, and circumspect of belief, and fearful of being too credulous ; choose the harder faith, and believe that not one merely, but myriads, of species, have existed without a beginning. Why should they choose to believe millions of times more than is necessary. These, of all men, can certainly have no right to reproach others with credulity. They gratuitously adopt into their creed millions of mysteries, instead of a single one, which they themselves cannot say is more objectionable in itself than any one of the millions, which they profess to believe in, — we say in itself, for if we look at the constitution of the world; and examine the structure of animals and plants, we shall find abundant positive evidence of an intelligent First Cause, as we shall soon notice. But, independently of that evidence, the hypothesis of such a cause, is, it seems to us, incomparably more philosophical.
A decisive objection to the arduous faith of the atheist, if made out, is to be met with as early as Lucretius, who asserted