Page images

sign are here! How clear the deduction that there is a Deity, “ wise in counsel and wonderful in working !"

Thus, matter and mind both disclose their innumerable examples of refined and complicated adaptation; and while philosophical science is collecting, arranging, and comparing these facts, and drawing conclusions which command the assent of all mankind; natural theology, with as firm a step, and as conclusive deductions, carries forward the work to a point incomparably more important and sublime,-the existence of the ALMIGHTY MAKER and GoVERNOR of all.

3. There is a third object of attention, to wit, the ultimate design of God in regard to man, as inferred from what we know of both. We have, however, but little space to devote to this most interesting portion of natural theology. The conclusions are not so distinct and clear in this as in the former particulars to which our attention has been turned. They are, however, as strictly logical. They fail in point of clearness, only because the facts from which they are deduced are more difficult of comprehension. God, and the soul of man, are more concealed and hidden in their nature, than the plain marks of design in the universe around us. But so far as any distinct conceptions of their natures or attributes can be possessed by the human mind, they furnish data for as perfect demonstrations. The sublimity, and in some respects mystery, which invest this subject, doubtless require that it be approached with much solemnity and humility. Says Lord Brougham, in relation to investigations of this nature:

• The argument requires to be handled in a humble and submissive spirit; but if so undertaken, there is nothing in it which can be charged with presumption, or deemed inconsistent with perfect though rational devotion. 'In truth all the investigations of natural theology are equally liable to such a charge ; for to trace the evidence of design in the works of nature, and inquire how far benevolence presides over their formation and maintenance,-in other words, to deduce from what we see of the existence of the Deity, and speculate upon his wisdom and goodness in the creation and government of the universe,is just as daring a thing, and exactly of the same kind of audacity, as to speculate upon his probable intentions with respect to the future destiny of man.' p. 81.

As before remarked, the traces of design in the universe around us, no more surely proclaim God's existence, than the nature and end of those designs disclose his attributes. It is impossible to trace these works of design through their tendencies to the results at which they aim, without feeling, that the mind wbich devised them is both supremely wise and good. Not one can be found, which does not evince a direct contrivance for a good end, as fully as it discloses wisdom in its adaptation to gain that end. No member or organ of the body can be found, whose manifest original desigo is to inflict pain and secure misery. No law of the universe applied to any of its materials, is direcily fitted to secure destruction. Even the claws of the lion, and the fang of the viper, are minutely contrived for the defense and preservation of their species. Evils, both natural and moral, are in the world; but their existence, wide as they prevail, can be accounted for with no impeachment of the divine benevolence. Man is a free agent, and responsible for his own acts; and no one can show that he could always be kept in holiness without an interference on the part of his Maker, which would be a violation of every principle of benevolence. But when moral evil has entered, which is the work of the creature and not the creator, jis tendency is to misery and ruin ; and it is right and good, for it is the property of its own nature, that it should possess this tendency. All the natural evil which follows is either disciplinary and corrective, and thus the result of pure benevolence; or punitive and judicial, which equally indicates a determination intent on the general good. Both from the original tendency of all the works of design in nature, which are manifestly to a good end, and from the seeming exceptions to this in the actual existence of inuch moral and natural evil in the system, when carefully examined, we feel persuaded, that the mind will be obliged to inser the wisdom and benevolence of its Author and Governor. We have time here but to glance at this evidence which we are sure a further examination will only serve to strengthen.

With this view of the character of God, we turn to a short consideration of the nature of the soul of man. As above, we can but just hint at the sources of proof in relation to the soul. That it is immaterial, may be argued from a variety of considerations. Suffice it to say, that as we can form no distinct conception of such a fact, so neither does any analogy from nature permit the assumption, that the soul is the result of a peculiar conformation of matter, or a specific modification or combination of its elements. We bave the nicely chiseled forms of an Apollo and a Venus, but it is the same cold marble still. There is another shape, but not a new eristence. We can combine an acid and an alkali and form a neutral salt, unlike to either ingredient. But there is nothing here analogous to the existence of a body, vivified by what has neither form, weight, nor color. Nothing in the universe of matter bas any thing analogous to thought, volition, or emotion. The very nature of the soul is one and simple. In consciousness, it separates itself from all that is material, and can have no knowledge of matter but by the deduction which it makes, that there is something external and independent of its own Vol. VIII.


every act of

existence. Indeed it may safely be said, that the distinction between matter and mind, is an ultimate fact, arising irresistibly from the very law of our nature. Such is the nature of our minds, that we cannot rest satisfied in any other opinion, and here the mind does rest secure, as on an immovable foundation. That the soul of man is immaterial, is therefore a probable ground for the conclusion, that it is immortal. So far as we know, it has no constituent parts, like the body, capable of division or dissolution. Nor is it exposed to annihilation, but by the act of its Maker; which is, to say the least, improbable.

The mind's independence of the body, is another fact from which the same deduction of its immortality would follow. The phenomena of dreams, however metaphysically explained, prove, that the mind is not dependent for its action, upon the state of the animal functions. The unequal development of the powers of body and mind also, and their unequal decay, go to the same fact. Although it may be supposed, that as a great general fact, body and mind mature and decay together, yet a moment's attention will show a difference so great as to prove the one independent of the other. It is certain that the body and all its functions arrive at maturity at twenty-five or thirty years of age, and that from thence it begins gradually to decline in agility, suppleness of muscle, and ability to endure fatigue; and that from sixty to seventy this decline of the bodily powers is most rapid and melancholy. The faculties of the mind however, as evidently enlarge in vigor, compass, clearness and energy, from thirty onward to fifty years of age; and can scarcely be said to have undergone much decay till sixty-five or seventy years. For at least thirty years the body has been going one way, and the mind another; nor are there wanting many instances where the body can hardly be said to live, in wbich the inind shines out like some brilliant sun set beneath the storm. But the clearest argument for the souls independence of the body, is found in the physical fact, that it does survive its repeated dissolutions. The body is in constant change, which though gradual, is none the less real. Probably as often as once in ten years, man puts off one mortal covering and assumes another. What was once bone, muscle and sinew, bas gone off into other combinations, and other elements have come in and taken their places. But through all this ceaseless change, and repeated entire transformation, the soul has held on to its identity, “the same yesterday, to-day”—and thus giving the opportunity to add the deduction and forerer." As really as when the dust of the body has mouldered in the sepulclier, and mingled with the elements of its shroud and its coffin, so surely has it repeatedly before our eyes been resolved into other combinations, while the soul has held the even tenor of her way onward to the shores of immortality.

When to all this, we bring the desires and hopes of the soul, and learn its quenchless longings after immortality, and view these as the endowments of a God of benevolence, we cannot reconcile it with the harmony of bis other works, or the goodness of his character, to suppose that they were given to end only in inevitable disappointment. Place before the soul a combination of all that can delight, and give it ages heaped on ages for enjoyment, but fix at last its limit, and you have insused the wormwood which embitters all the joy. The desires of the soul overleap all bounds, and roll along a vast eternity. What is not immortal cannot fill it. Did infinite benevolence awaken these desires only to quench them in endless night, after its dream of “three score years and ten?"-Add the noble qualities of the soul, its mental and its moral furniture, its tender affections, its high aspirings, its glowing imagination, its powers of intellect, and more than all, its moral sense, its capacity to know and love, and serve, and enjoy forever its Maker,--and if from any facts adapted to an end, and showing the traces of an intelligent design, we can inser what that design and end shall be; will there not from these data be at least an equally cogent deduction for man's immortality? What effect bis sin may produce upon him, in the course of righteous retribution, is another question; what his Maker designed him for, is to be read in the original elements of his nature ; and in characters deep and large, they hold up before the soul of man its IMMORTALITY.

One or two remarks will close this article. 1. Natural Theology deals only with undoubted facts.

Wherever real facts disclose design, there are legitimate materials for natural theology. But beyond this, nothing is safe. Ingenious speculations, and beautiful hypotheses may attract attention and excite admiration and delight, but until they have been proved, and thus become facts, natural theology has nothing to do with them. Whether electricity has two fluids, or different bodies are merely positively or negatively charged with one, whether the phenomena of light be explained upon the hypothesis of emission, or the vibrations of an elastic ether,-whether Geology shall maintain the agency of Neptune, or Pluto, or of both, —and which of the many different hypotheses of combustion shall be adopted,—all these and many others of a similar nature, are questions about which this science has no concern.

If either hypothesis seem to present the traces of design, yet it is no proper element in natural theology. The hypotheses itself, however specious, may fail, and with it goes its marks of design, and the argument built upon them. Though for a while these deductions might stand amid the solid columns of the temple, apparently as fair and strong as they, yet sooner or later they must fall. Another age will detect the fallacy, and scepticism enter at the very


door which had been designed to exclude it. Facts are all its materials. God's works, are the proof of God's existence. science enlarges the boundaries of human knowledge, and makes us acquainted with more facts which evince design, natural theology may “lengthen her cords and strengthen her stakes,” but the path must only be pursued where the clear light shineth.” Nor is there any need of these philosophical speculations. The humble peasant, who goes out to his daily labor, as the rising sun dispels the darkness, and spreads the landscape with life and beauty; or returns to his cottage as the shades of evening gather, and sees the rising moon, or shining stars as they show then selves in the soft blue sky, feels as firm a conviction of the existence, power, wisdom, and goodness of the Maker of them all, as that pbilosopher who can explain their laws and count their numbers. One may see more and nicer marks of adaptation than the other, and trace the process of his own mental operations the more minutely ; but the very nature of the peasani's mind obliges bim to conclude from what he can see, that so much power bespeaks a being who is powerful, so much wisdom a being who is wise, so much goodness a being who is good. One knows more facts than the other, but the multiplication of facts only varies, without rendering any more complete the demonstration. One may even perplex, and confound, and delude his mind by empty speculations, and his boasted philosophy serve no other purpose but to mislead and destroy, while the other soars to heights which pbilosophy never trod, and worships “ within the veil,” where philosophy never entered. On every hand are the traces and voices of the Deity, and like the ancient Roman, he is “never so little solitary as when alone.” While other studies may awaken curiosity, and lead the mind onward a few steps in the field of truth, they soon bring it to the limits of all science, and leave it at the confines of an unknown and trackless void ; but this, from simple facts and sound deductions, conducts at once to a sure and safe resting-place,—the existence of a wise, powerful, and benevolent Jehovab.

2. The true position of Natural Theology.

It is the substantial basis on which is laid the proof of divine revelation. By it we learn the fact of God's existence, unity, supremacy, and benevolence. We bring these facts and apply them to the holy scriptures, and prove conclusively, that God gave them,"that holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” And with this service performed, its chief work is accomplished. True, it unsolds many duties and responsibilities, and thus leaves man “ without excuse," where there is no revelation. But like the law, it is as “a school-master to bring us to Christ," which is its chief design; and then leave us at his feet to hear his

« EelmineJätka »