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taphysical oracle of modern times seriously declares that he could disbelieve both.
We are, however, far from supposing that the spirit of scepticism is harmless, or that practical atheism is anything but a fearful and desolating impiety. The philosophic theorists, indeed, counteract each other, and they write mostly for the scientific world, among whom a large proportion are sincere Christians, and many more have at least too much good sense and too much respect for religion, to look favorably upon atheism, by whatever genius or talent it may be recommended. But we sometimes find atheism vulgarized, and as in the case of Socialism, divested of all pretensions to science, reduced to a naked dogma, for the simple purpose of relaxing the bonds of morality, and proclaiming with the ill-aped airs of philosophy a mere jubilee to animalism. It is this total renunciation of morality, this denial of all laws of conscience and responsibility, that has made Owenism popular with that portion of the lower class distinguished at once for ignorance, shrewdness, and vice. The atheism of the New Lanark Cottonspinner is not adapted nor designed for philosophers—but for the common people, and among them it has won its trophies and committed its devastations. It is scarcely conceivable that such a mass of nonsensical jargon could have prevailed to the extent this has, and certainly its fundamental principles never could have satisfied any man that thought or reflected, had it not been for two circumstances—the oracular self-complacency with which this dogmatic atheist propounds his opinions, and the adaptation of his principles to the depravity of human nature, and especially to that loathing of moral and social restraint which characterizes youthful depravity. It is evident that the stronghold of this system is sheer wickedness. It professes to found a new moral world, and it does so by denying all morality. It would give up all the old rules and principles, not for the sake of introducing any that should secure a higher and a purer morality, but simply for the sake of leaving human nature to the most unbridled and unchecked indulgence of all its appetencies.
But apart from the perfect bestiality which it sanctions and actually produces, we beg the patience of our readers for a few moments further while we present a specimen of its pretensions to reason and truth. Its first principle, assuming to be a grand universal law, and designed to demolish at a blow the doctrine of responsibility, is one of the shallowest, most illusory, and one-sided propositions ever attempted to be palmed upon the world for a complete and self-evident proposition. Man,' says the oracle of the Socialists, “is the creature of circum
stances.' The infernal motive of such a proposition is obvious -hence he is released from all responsibility for his actions
for he cannot help being what circumstances have made him. It is intended at once to set him free—and to encourage him to glory in throwing all the blame of his delinquencies, if he has any, on his circumstances. But the proposition itself is virtually an untruth, because it is only a part of the truth pertaining to man. What if it should be reversed, and stated thus-circumstances are the creatures of man-man can make, often does make, and always may make, a very considerable proportion of the circumstances--the things and conditions around him. The very author of this system acts upon this latter proposition, that circumstances are the creatures of man -by calling upon all to take themselves out of the control of old circumstances and place themselves in new ones. The effort to form a new moralworld necessarily implies that men can determine their own circumstances. The appeal made by this Monomaniac and all his satellites to the reason and free will of men, violates their first principle, and rests upon the one we have placed in opposition to it. If men are the creatures of circumstances, and not their creators, then the appeal to them to change their circumstances is an absurdity. But if there is any propriety in the appeal, it must be vindicated on the ground that they can change their circumstances at their pleasure, and inducements to do so are held out in abundance by the advocates of the system. Then it is evident that they contradict their own hypothesis—and, while preaching an untruth, they act, and call upon mankind to act, upon its contrary. They deceive the ear of the unwary by a lie that is pleasant to the corrupt heart, but avail themselves of the real facts and principles of human nature, in effecting the change which they seek. The fallacy of the proposition is not perceived by those who hanker for its licentiousness.
This wicked and silly nonsense would not have deserved notice but for the pestilence it has spread through many districts, and the injuries it has inflicted on the minds and hearts of many individuals. We believe it has been too much noticed, and brought into an injurious publicity, by the indiscreet attempts of his lordship of Exeter to put it down. The unfortunate and unhappy man who vaunts his discoveries with such childish and silly egotism, burnt his throat when a boy with a mess of scalding-hot porridge, and ever since has been subject to hallucinations about the circumstances of human life, which have induced him to suppose himself gifted to be a moral reformer. According to his own statement he has spent a handsome fortune in his efforts to introduce a new philosophy of atheism, at the ignorance and vulgarity of which the wise men of the world laugh, at the blasphemy and wickedness of which the good and pious shudder, while the dregs of society triumph in its licentiousness. It is a crude mass of carrion, which though it taints the air for a time, will corrupt and dissolve of itself.
In our brief review of the diverse and conflicting systems of theoretic atheism we found it difficult to leave this speculation unnoticed, but we now pass on to one or two general observations upon all the theories we have named, as well as many others not specified, which may be taken as modifications, and, therefore, as included under the general description.
It will be observed that we have in fact denied and disproved the fact of pure ideal atheism, in reference to these systems and their various modifications. However their authors have contested the existence of an intelligent and designing first cause, their attempt to supersede such a doctrine, by the substitution of another that should exclude all ideas of a Deity, has in all known instances completely failed. They have either left the mystery of life, organization, and mind, wholly unaccounted for, or they have introduced a cause, under other names, indeed, but with the very powers and properties attributed by theists to the Infinite Being. Even the very clumsiest and vulgarest of these speculators admits the existence of power as the cause of all things : whether he ever attempted to realize the idea of infinite power as an abstraction, he nowhere informs his disciples. An effort to do so might convince him that he had assumed an idea for a fact, and that after all this power must be attributed to a being. But our wish is to state, that though we have, we think, successfully shown that there is no such thing known as a real system of atheism, and, moreover, that all the systems before the world admit the very thing denied, yet we are far from wishing to extenuate the guilt either of the systems or their authors. If the continued effort to substitute other causes of creation in the place of the Deity, in contempt of that light which both reason and revelation have thrown upon the question, has after all, been abortive, still no thanks are due to the inventors and propagators of these theories. They have done their utmost to destroy the belief of a Deity. All their attempts may have been unsuccessful, in so far as the production of any real and self-consistent theory is concerned; but their intention is the same as if they had perfectly accomplished their object.
Moreover, we are far from thinking that the disastrous effect of these systems has not been much the same as would have resulted, if they had really been what they professed to be. They have probably had all the effects of a real atheism. Multitudes have thought them so, and adopted them as such, and have evinced in their character and conduct the genuine fruits of a practical denial of God. We view the systems, therefore, with just the same detestation, as if they had effectually taught the utter denial of a first cause; and in some respects they are even to be reprobated more seriously, because they are not honest in their reasonings, but flow from that impatience of moral government, and those other evil affections of the heart which are indications of depravity, rather than from a love of truth. The malignant hatred of a Deity is but ill disguised, when the reasoning powers lend themselves to maintain the most palpable untruths. Man must subdue his understanding, and suffer it to be led blindfold by his imagination, he must reverse all the dictates of his reason, and relinquish the testimony of his senses to the legerdemain of metaphysics, before he can bring himself to assert that there is no God.
The work which is named at the head of this article has suggested to us the propriety of prefacing our notice of it by some general remarks on the pernicious errors of atheism, and we now proceed to make our readers somewhat acquainted with this respectable and well written treatise on natural theology. The author explains the nature of his design in the following extract from his preface.
* From the title of these volumes the reader must not expect to find speculative dissertations upon the unexplored phenomena of nature, or discoveries to gratify the demands of curiosity, or didactic lessons in the arts and sciences. The author's aim is to deduce from the works of God evidences for his being and attributes; and by pressing the sciences into the service of his argument, to penetrate the recesses of nature, and bring from their hiding places those testimonies for a Supreme Being, which, if sought for, may be found on every hand.
In our investigations we have endeavored to abide by the rules of inductive philosophy—being willing to yield up every theory, if contradicted by well attested facts. The human mind thirsts for know. ledge, and, impatient of ignorance, is prone to construct systems, and to view with complacency its own ideal achievements. The process of inductive reasoning must indeed be humiliating, when it demolishes some pleasing course of systematizing or finely-wrought theory, round which were cast the imposing halos of antiquity. Yet we must submit, if we expect to study natural theology with profit, or to feast on the intellectual enjoyments which it affords. But while we witness ancient theories crumbling beneath the wand of Baconian philosophy, and the mystery which hung around them receding before the advance of science, their authors should never be named but with respect ; for, with indefatigable toil, they have paved the way for us. By their errors we are enabled to steer safely through rocks, shoals, and quicksands, where otherwise we might have shared no better than they; and these considerations should lead us to entertain humble views of our own acquirements, and warn us against dogmatizing upon systems, however confident we may be in established facts.'
After a Preliminary Proem, in which the author discourses upon the limitation of the light of nature, the excellence of the study of natural theology, the à priori argument, atheism, and several collateral subjects, he enters upon his first chapter, which treats of the antiquity of the earth, and commencement of the present order of things. The principal difficulties to the maintenance of the popular interpretation of Moses are upon the whole fairly and concisely stated, and the new expositions of the apparently conflicting passages (we mean conflicting with the discoveries of geology) are exhibited. The author has been at considerable pains in collecting what has been written on this important subject, though he does not appear to have made any use of the Lectures of Dr. Smith, which undoubtedly contain the most complete and satisfactory harmony of geology and revelation that has yet been presented to the public. We quote, however, the following as a specimen of Dr. Kerns's manner of treating the same question.
"It is said, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ;' by which we understand the earth, and all those suns and worlds, commonly called the heavenly bodies : for it is well known that among the Jews, the heavens implied the atmosphere, the starry heavens, and the heaven of heavens, or throne of God. It is also worthy of remark that after that period, when the heavens and the earth were created, we do not find any material substance called into existence; or in other words, all things are made from some portion of matter, which the Omnipotent first had previously caused to exist. have already endeavored to show that the indefinite antiquity ascribed to the earth was quite compatible with the Mosaic account of the creation. We may now be permitted to see how far we can with safety allow an equal antiquity to the sun, moon, and stars ; which appears necessary, unless we suppose the earth to have been not only the first of our system, but the only solitary world created previous to all the suns and systems of the universe. If the sacred record declared such was the fact, I would respectfully receive it; but in the absence of this, we think it is extremely improbable that our earth, a lesser world of perhaps a lesser system, should be first created; and then, to counteract such premature effect, a series of miracles should be performed : first, to counteract the gravitating force of the earth, previous to the existence of the sun, a miraculous interference was necessary, operating contrary to all the laws of matter; second, the production of light previous to the sun called forth a miraculous interference with the laws of nature, which would be unnecessary had the sun been created simultaneous with the earth, nor can anything we know of the nature and properties of matter lead us to a satisfactory explanation of this light, independent of the sun. Another miracle was necessary to give the interchange of day and night ; for if no sun existed, even though the earth should revolve upon its axis, no such effect would be produced. When we reflect upon this succession of miracles, consequent upon the earth being created before the sun, all which would be unnecessary upon the reverse supposition, what order of creation appears