Page images
PDF
EPUB

historical evidence for the limited duration of the world ; but is not altogether so complete as the argumentation of the preceding chapters, the subject requiring to be handled again, in another portion of the work.

In the second book, consisting of proofs for the being of a God in the dispositions of matter, there are three chapters, the first of which treats of “the distinction between the laws of matter and the dispositions of matter.". The design of this distinction is to clear the evidence of Theism from every pos. sible difficulty; and it is convincingly shown, that, without disproving the eternity of matter, or taking into account the laws of matter, its dispositions are enough to prove the existence of a presiding intelligence. If it can only be shown that things were not always as they now are, particularly in the animal kingdom, an intelligent mind must be admitted to account for their present arrangements. The use of this distinction is to clear the argument of all doubtful and obscure metaphysics. The second chapter treats “ on the commencement of the world," and enters, at some length, into the evidence furnished by Geology, at the same time meeting the objections that have been drawn from this quarter. And the third consists of a recapitulation of the evidences for a God, from the phenomena of visible and external nature ; setting forth the strong points in the argument, and presenting them together, to make them tell upon the understanding.

The subject of the third book is the proofs for the being and character of God, in the constitution of the human mind.” And, after a chapter consisting of general observations on the evidence arising from this source, there are three others, severally treating of the supremacy of conscience, the pleasure of the virtuous and misery of the vicious affectious, and the power and operation of babit. These topics are treated most philosophically and satisfactorily. The amount of evidence turnished by them is thus expressed by the author, in a few words:

“ The voice of authority within, bidding us to virtue; and the im nediate delights attendant op obedience, certainly, speak strongly for the moral character of that administration under which we are placed. But, by looking to posterior and permanent results, we have the advantage of viewing the system of that administration in progress. Instead of the insulated acts, we are led to regard the abiding and the accumulating con. sequences; anil, by stretching forward' vur observation through larger intervals

, and to more distant points in the moral history of men, we are in likelier circumstances for obtaining a glimpse of their final destination anet so of seizing on this mighty and mysterious secret, -the reigning pu

[ocr errors]

licy of the divine government, whence we might collect the character of Him who hatb ordained it.”—P. 396, Vol. I.

man.'

The fourth book treats of the 6 evidences for a God in the adaptation of external nature to the mental constitution of And here, after a chapter on the general adaptation of nature to the moral constitution of man, viewed in the three-fold light previously expounded, as a being under the controul of conscience, as the subject of happiness or misery, and as governed by the power of habit, particular exemplifications are condescended upon; and, throughout the three succeeding chapters, these are described with a beauty of illustration and a power of reasoning altogether captivating and irresistible. The examples are taken from anger, shame, the family relation, the national compact, the love of property, sympathy, and compassion ; while, in the discussion of these topics, many subjects of the greatest practical interest are introduced in their proper place, and treated with an immediate reference to the princi. ples of our mental constitution. Such are the English Tithe system, Poor Laws, Capital, Population, Trade, and the doctrine of utility, as represented to constitute virtue.

This is a most instrụctive and useful department of the work. In the fifth chapter of this book, the author condescends upon a great variety of "adaptations of the material world to the mental constitution.” And the book is closed by a sixth, in which he illustrates the “capacities of the world for making a virtuous species happy," deducing hence clear and conclusive evidence for the righteousness of its author.

· The fifth book is of the whole treatise, the most popular and practical. Its title is," the inscrutability of the divine counsels and ways; and on Natural Theology, viewed as an imper. fect system, and as a precursor to the Christian theology.” It contains four chapters,--the first treating of man's partial and limited knowledge of divine things, and strikingly showing the accordance of spirit between the true philosopher and the sound divine. The great practical lesson inculcated by the subject, is concisely expressed as follows :

“We trust it will then become palpable, that the same sound phil. osophy which directs an entire and unqualified submission to the lessons of experience in studying the Volume of Nature, directs the like entireness of submission to the lessons of criticism in studying the Volume of Revelation ; and that just as we should defer, though it be with the sacrifice of all our preconceptions, to the actual phenomena of Nature,-so should we, defer, though at the expense of as large a sacrifice, to the actual sayings of Scripture. We think it will then be easy to demonstrate the perfect

ideatity of those mental babitudes in an inquirer, which lead in the one instance to a sound philosophy, and in the other instance to a sound faith, -and that what experimental knowledge is in science, Biblical knowledge is in divinity.”—P. 264, Vol. II.

The second chapter is on " the use of hypothesis in theology;" and this is illustrated with reference to Leibnitz’ Theory of the Origin of Evil. That is expounded; and, while it is shown that with all the ingenuity of the theory it is destitute of any certain proof, yet is it, at the same time, made apparent that it cannot be disproved, and leaves the sceptic, if not convinced, at least, silenced. A just tribute of praise is rendered to the piety and memory of Leibnitz, and a reproof not less just, to the would-be philosophy of the present age, in the following passage :

“We cannot take leave of this subject without adverting, for one moment, to the writings of Leibnitz; and to a certain peculiar interest and charm which they possess in relation to Theology. There is, io some of his pbil. osophic speculations, an extravagance which we very much regret, because of the general discredit wbich it has laid on him, and which extends even to his sounder and better views. It has been said of Thomson, that be looked at every thing with the eye of a poet. We would say of Leibnitz, that he looked at every thing with the eye of a lofty academic, and in virtue of which he presents us, not with a substantially different orthodoxy from the Fathers of the Reformation --but he recommends it to minds of a certain cast, presented as it is by him in the complexion, and couched in the phraseology of general science. We know nothing more delightful than the respectful notices, made by this distinguished Savant, of the Augs. burgh confession, of Luther and Calvin, and even our own Samuel Rutherford. There is a refreshing contrast here, with the whole tone and spirit of more recent philosophy ; and, in this age of little men, who look to our Theology as altogether an ignoble speculation, we feel an abundant recompense for their contempt, when we behold the homage that was rendered to it by the colossal intellects of other days.”-P. 313, Vol. II.

The same subject of Hypothesis in Theology is continued in. the third chapter, and applied to the doctrine of a special Providence, and the efficacy of prayer. The objection to prayer, on the ground of its opposition to the constancy of nature, is met in a manner the most philosophical, sound, and convincing, and it is utterly set aside. The whole work is closed by a chapter on 6 the defects and the uses of the Natural The. ology.” And, as this is a subject of easy apprehension to all our readers, and of great practical importance, we shall present them with a few extracts upon it:

“ The true apprehension seems to be, that Natural Theology, 'however little to be trusted as an informer, yet as inquirer, or rather as a promapter

to inquiry, is of inestimable service. i It is a high function that she discharges ; for though not able to satisfy the search, he impels to ihe search. We are apt to undervalue, if not to set ber aside altogether, when we compare her obscure and imperfect notices with the lustre and the fulness of revelation. But this is because we overlook the virtue that lies in the probabilities of a subject,-a virtue, either, on the one hand, to fasten the attention ; or, on the other hand, to condemn the want of it. This we bold to be the precise office of Natural Theology; and an office, too, which she performs, not merely as the theology of science among those who listen to her demonstrations in the academic ball, but which she also performs with powerful and practical effect, as the theology of conscience, throughout all the classes of our general population. It is this initial work which makes her useful,—we should say so indispensable, as a preliminary to the Gospel. Natural Theology is quite overrated by those who would represent it as the foundation of the edifice. It is not that, but rather the taper by which we must grope our way to the edifice. The stability of a fabric is not greater than the stability of that upon which it rests; and it were ascribing a general infirmity to revelation, to set it forth, as leaning upon Natural Theism, in the way that a mathematical doctrine leans, upon the axioms or first principles of the science. Christianity rests on its own proper evidence; and if, instead of this, she be made to rest on an antecedent patural religion, she becomes weak throughout, because weak radically. It is true that in theology the natural goes before the revealed, even as the cry, of weakness or distress goes before the relief to which it aspires, and which it is prompted to seek after. It goes before, not synthetically in the order of demonstration, but historically in the mind of the inquirer. It is not that Natural Religion is the premises, and Christianity the conclusion ; but it is that Natural Religion creates an appetite which it cannot quell; and he who is urged thereby, seeks for a rest and a satisfaction which he can only ubtain in the fulness of the gospel. Natural Theology has been called the basis of Christianity. It would accord better with our own views of the place which it occupies, and of the high pur. pose which it undoubtedly serves, if it were called the basis of Cbris. tianization."'-P. 398, Vol. II.

“Now the great error of our academic theism, as commonly treated, is, that it expresses no want ; that it reposes in its own fancied sufficiency; and that all its landing-places are within itself, and along the uttermost limits of its own territory. It is no reproach against our philosophical moralists, that they have not stepped beyond the threshold of that peculium, which is strictly and appropriately theirs; or not made incursion into another department than their own. The legitimate complaint is, that, on taking leave of their disciples, they ward them not of their being only yet at the outset, or in the prosecution of a journey, instead of baviog reached the termination of it. They, in fact, take leave of them in the middle of an unprotected highway, when they should have reared a finger-post of direction to the places which lie beyond. • Along the confines of its do. main, there should be raised, in every quarter, the floating signals of distress ; that its scholars, instead of being lulled into the imagination, that now they may repose as in so many secure and splendid dwelinge places, should be taught to regard them only as towers of observation, whence they have to look for their ulterior guidance and their ulterior supplies, to the region of a conterminous theology.”—P. 407, Vol. II.

From this outline of Dr. Chalmers' work on Natural Theology, it will be plain to all who are acquainted with his “Bridgewater” Treatise, that it is entirely embraced in the present work. . The arrangement is, in some instances, altered and improved; but the entire of that treatise is introduced, besides much original and excellent matter. Nor can we take leave of this work without adverting to some of the peculiar advantages of all the writings of Dr. Chalmers, and of this production particularly.

One of his peculiarities is the apt and useful introduction of illustrations from all the sciences. He is familiarly versant with them all, and makes his readers so too. Nor is it that he merely instructs them thus, but his illustrations are so borrowed from them, as greatly to recommend the study of the sciences. He stirs a spirit of enthusiasm within the breast, to know and admire them. And thus, wbile imbuing the mind of his reader with the knowledge and admiration of his own peculiar department, he is advancing the cause of literature generally, and elevating the mind to all the departments of science.

Another peculiarity, more important than this, is the constant introduction of true religion, and the unfeigned deference that is paid to it. He is never ashamed to own the Gospel of Christ, and himself its disciple. When treating upon prayer,

he

says :

“Not all the visions of philosophy, however beauteous, could tempt us to such a freedom with the literalities of Scripture, as to rationalize and explain away prayer, so as to reduce it, in fact, to a thiny of nought. But while in such a cause we should resist the seductions of philosophy, it is also our duty, as far as in us lies, to soften and if possible do away its prejudices." --P. 324, Vol. II.

It is truly grievous to see the shrinking of some of our literary men from the most distant approach of any subject strictly religious. They seem alarmed by its remotest appearance, and can treat their science not merely as a theme altogether dis tinct from it, but as one which they seem to think would be endangered or ruined by its contact. Not so Chalmers. He shows that true religion and genuine literature are twin-sisters, handmaids in ministering to the tuition of the human mind;and he never separates them, for it is God who has joined them together. The God of nature is the God of grace.

Nor can we overlook the true spirit of philosophy that runs through all his investigations. T'he objects he ever pursues

« PreviousContinue »