Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

become a little more indulgent on this sub- tion of God, and humble us into the sentiject; that they gave up a portion of those ment, that a being of such mysterious eleancient and hereditary prepossessions, which vation is to us unfathomable, is to sit in go so far to cramp and enthral them; that judgment over him, ay, and to pronounce they would suffer theology to take that wide such a judgment as degrades him, and range of argument and of illustration which keeps him down to the standard of our belongs to her; and that, less sensitively | own paltry imagination. jealous of any desecration being brought | “We are introduced by modern science upon the Sabbath or the pulpit, they would to a multitude of other suns and of other suffer her freely to announce all those systems; and the perverse interpretations truths, which either serve to protect Chris we put upon the fact, that God can diffuse tianity from the contempt of science; or to the benefits of his power, and his goodness protect the teachers of Christianity from over such a variety of worlds, is, that he those invasions which are practised both on cannot, or will not, bestow so much goodthe sacredness of the office, and on the ness on one of those worlds, as professed solitude of its devotional and intellectual | revelation from heaven has announced to labours."

us. While we enlarge the provinces of The objection to revealed religion, drawn his empire, we tarnish all the glory of this from the plurality of worlds, is not only | enlargement, by saying, he has so much refuted in these discourses, but retorted to care for, that the care of every one prowith resistless force upon the presumptuous vince must be less complete, and less vigiinfidel, whose argument is demonstratively lant, and less effectual, than it would shewn to be injurious to the divine perfec otherwise have been. By the discoveries tion. On this point Dr. Chalmers says: of modern science, we multiply the places

“The more we know of the extent of of the creation; but along with this, we nature, should not we have the loftier con would impair the attributes of his eye ception of Him who sits in high authority being in every place to behold the evil over the concerns of so wide a universe ? and the good; and thus, while we magBut, is it not adding to the bright cata nify one of his perfections, we do it at the logue of his other attributes, to say, that expense of another; and to bring him while magnitude does not overpower him, within the grasp of our feeble capacity, we minuteness does not escape him, and would deface one of the glories of that variety cannot bewilder him; and that, at character, which it is our part to adore, as the very time while the mind of the Deity higher than all thought, and as greater than is abroad over the whole vastness of crea- all comprehension." tion, there is not one particle of matter, After ministering at the Tron Church there is not one individual principle of about three years, Dr. Chalmers was transrational or of animal existence, there is not ferred to the more extensive charge of St. one single world in that expanse which John's parish, in Glasgow, where he sucteems with them, that his eye does not cessfully introduced the system of Sabbath. discern as constantly, and his hand does school teaching, and also a plan for reliev. not guide as unerringly, and his Spirit does ing the poor by voluntary contributions, not watch and care for as vigilantly, as if it | instead of the offensive mode of compul. formed the one and exclusive object of his sory levies. These important subjects he attention.

brought under the consideration of the " The thing is inconceivable to us, whose general assembly, and with such powerful minds are so easily distracted by a num effect, that in a short time both improveber of objects, and this is the secret prin ments became general throughout Scotciple of the whole infidelity I am now land. alluding to. To bring God to the level of In 1820, Dr. Chalmers published eight our own comprehension, we would clothe discourses on “The application of Chrishim in the impotency of a man. We tianity to the commercial and ordinary would transfer to his wonderful mind all affairs of life.” the imperfections of our own faculties. After this, he began a quarterly publicaWhen we are taught by astronomy that he |tion on “The Christian and Civic Ecohas millions of worlds to look after, and nomy of Large Towns," which work was thus add in one direction to the glories of completed in two octavo volumes. The great his character; we take away from them in object of this work is to unite the efforts of another, by saying, that each of these civil and Christian philanthropy in one worlds must be looked after imperfectly. stream of effective and regular operation. As The use that we make of a discovery, they now act, they are too frequently fruita which should heighten our every concep- | less, the one for want of that spirit of

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

excitement which religious principle alone | dinary depth of thought, and a felicitous can give; and the other by neglecting the mode of rendering an abstract and scienordinary means of accomplishing great tific subject new and edifying to the most moral changes. Dr. Chalmers dwells simple understandings. strongly on the necessity of local instruc In conclusion, we cannot characterize tion within prescribed limits; for, as he this eminent divine better than in his own truly observes, the pastor who has the description of the learned Jonathan Edcharge of an extended population must wards : “ He affords, perhaps, the most unavoidably be ignorant of the spiritual wondrous example in modern times of state of his people, for want of that reci one richly gifted both in natural and in procal intercourse, without which mere spiritual discernment; and we know not preaching is of little abiding efficacy. It what most to admire in him, whether the is nearly the same in tuition, where the deep philosophy that issues from his pen, schools are conducted on so large a scale or the humble and child-like piety that as to preclude the possibility of individual issues from his pulpit; whether, when, as inspection. Dr. Chalmers therefore re- an author, he deals forth upon his readers commends such a division of pastoral and the subtleties of profoundest argument, or school instruction as may bring the minis- when, as a Christian minister, he deals ter more acquainted with his flock, and forth upon his hearers the simplicities of the tutor with his pupils, than is to be the gospel; whether it is, when we witfound on the present system in large towns' ness the impression that he has made, by and crowded cities. The subject of Church | his writings, on the schools and high seats patronage occupies a large space in these of literature, or the impression that he interesting volumes; and here, while the makes, by his unlaboured addresses, on author points out the defects in the legis- the plain consciences of a plain congrelative measure for the erection of new gation." places of Worship in England, he pays a handsome tribute of respect to the “ Ecclesiastical Establishment, which," he says,

AN ESSAY ON THE DOCTRINE OF A PAR“is a piece of goodly and effective me.

TICULAR PROVIDENCE, BY THE LATE chanism."

JOHN MASON GOOD, M.D. • Dr. Chalmers directs much of his atten This essay from the Life of Dr. Good, by tion to the evil of pauperism, and, in com Olinthus Gregory, LL.D., is introduced mon with many other economists, repro- with the following preliminary observations bates the compulsory system of parochial of his biographer : rates and poor-houses, as encouraging im. . Among the essays composed by Mr. prudence and idleness. We cannot fol-Good in the midst of these varied exerlow him in the discussion of this subject; tions, that which is devoted to the defence nor even enumerate the other productions of a particular providence, is, in my judgof his fertile and enterprising genius.

ment, one of the best. He does not seem, After labouring with the most beneficial however, to have attended to the discuseffect several years in Glasgow, he accepted sions relative to “the spring of action in the chair of moral philosophy in the Uni- | Deity," in which Balguy, Bayes, and versity of St. Andrew's, from whence he Grove, each defended a separate theory. was removed in 1828 to the professorship | Balguy, as many will recollect, refers all of divinity at Edinburgh.

the Divine actions to rectitude, Bayes The popularity of this eminent divine is to benevolence, and Grove to wisdom. not an ephemeral admiration, gained by Yet both Grove and Balguy acknowledged the art of an insinuating address, or the that the communication of happiness is so glare of a specious eloquence. It rests noble an end, that the Deity unquestionupon the solid basis of principle. At the ably keeps it always in view ; while the outset the hearer is rather displeased by wisdom adduced in Grove's theory differs harsh tones, an awkward manner, and a very little from the rectitude assumed as strong northern accent; but as the orator the basis of Balguy's. Had Mr. Good proceeds, all this is forgotten amidst a been acquainted with the different branches blaze of light, and a variety of arguments of this controversy, the commencement of upon subjects often handled before, and his own disquisition would probably have supposed to be too hackneyed for novelty of been somewhat modified: and if, instead illustration. In proof of this, we might of starting from a doubtful position, he have quoted largely from his discourse on had simply reasoned from a proposition in the use and abuse of wealth. His astrono- which all agree, viz. that God always does mical theology also displays an extraor- | that which is right and good, the gener

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

strain of his reasoning would have been contend with nearly equal propriety for the the same, while the exposure of Hume's existence of a providence.' sopbistry, would, I think, have been more «Such considerations, however, have complete.'

not been allowed their due weight and ESSAY ON PROVIDENCE.

importance by all philosophers. Some

have totally denied the existence of any “Whatever arguments may be adduced providence at all; while others, acknowin proof of the existence of a Deity, may ledging the existence of a general provilikewise be adduced in proof of the ex dence, have denied that it is in any inistence of a general and particular provi stance particular, or exerts any influence dence. If it be true, and no one, I be over individuals. lieve, will be disposed to doubt it, that “I know of but three objections that every power we meet with in the universe can be fairly urged either by the one side ought originally to be attributed to the or the other, in opposition to the doctrine great First Cause of all things, it 'follows in dispute. The first is, that the Deity is inevitably that this great First Cause must incapable of exercising such a power: the itself be all-active and all-powerful. And second, that it would be derogatory to if, again, it be true, as I have endeavoured him: the third, that its exertion must be to demonstrate on another occasion, that inconsistent with the liberty of moral electhe principal, not to say the only motive tion. by which the Deity could be excited in the “There is no author I am acquainted creation of any order of beings, was their with, who has advanced the first objection own individual happiness, it follows, more with so much success and authority as Mr. over, that the constant exertion of this Hume :* and it will be to his writings, power and activity must be employed in therefore, I shall direct myself more parthe promotion and continuance of that ticularly in my reply. The position he so happiness. It follows therefore, again, that much labours to demonstrate appears to the Creator must, of necessity, be employed be this: that even allowing a Deity, he in a course of general and uninterrupted does not seem to have been, and we have providence. But we cannot conceive, (as no reason to suppose he was, possessed of Dr. Price justly observes,) any reasons more than just that determinate quantity of that can influence the Deity to exercise any power which was requisite to produce the providence over the world, which are not, creation : the exertion of which obliged sikewise, reasons for extending it to all that him to sink into rest through mere debility, happens in the world. A providence that and leave his scarcely finished undertaking neglects or forsakes individuals is incom- to itself, and its own imperfect powers of plete, and inadmissible; because incom- mutual dependence. petent to the conception of a perfect being. “In support of this extraordinary propoThe providence, therefore, which is a sition, the arguments he adduces are the general, must, at the same time, be a par following. ticular one.

Causes are, at all times, proportioned “ Whether indeed the constant harmony to their consequent effects, and ought not and regularity observable in nature, with to be supposed to possess any qualities but all the various events that occur around what are exactly sufficient to produce them. us, be the effect of original appointment at A body of ten ounces raised in any scale the first formation of the universe ; fore- may serve as a proof that the counterseen, and predetermined; or the result of balancing weight exceeds ten ounces; but one continued energy incessantly protract can never afford a reason that it exceeds a ed-is not, perhaps, fully to be decided, hundred. The same rule holds true uniand is, moreover, totally irrelevant to our versally, whether the cause assigned be present purpose. Every individual cir brute unconscious matter, or a rational cumstance that has since accurred, both in intelligent being. No one, merely from a the moral and physical departments of cre sight of one of Zeuxis's, pictures, could ation, must, even on the first hypothesis, | know that he was also a statuary or archihave been clearly represented to a Being tect, and was an artist no less skilful in of universal prescience, and without ob- stone or marble than in colours. The taining his approbation could never have talents and taste displayed in the particular taken effect. However, therefore, philo work before us, these, and only these, we sophers may differ in their ideas on this may safely conclude the workman to be subject; and though the doctrine of inces- possessed of. sant interposition must, on many accounts,

• Vide Sect. 11. On a Particular Providence and appear the most plausible; yet each may I a Future State.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

. "The chief or sole argument for a divine he must be therefore certain there must be existence is derived from the general order something uncreated and eternal. That. of nature; which is an argument drawn which is uncreated and eternal must, again, from effects to causes. Every argument, possess all the powers, and that in an infinite therefore, deduced from, causes to effects degree, as being devoid of opposition or must be a gross sophism, since it is impos- obstruction, which can possibly be traced sible to know any thing of the cause, but in the being that is finite and created. It what has been antecedently, not only in- must be, therefore, omnipotent, and all-, ferred, but discovered to the full in the intelligent. From the possession of which effect.-On the same account, we cannot, intelligence it is easy to deduce every other according to the rules of just reasoning, attribute, whether moral or physical. The ascend from the effect to the cause, and argument à priori must, at all times, be at thence return back from that cause with least equal to that deduced from effects to any new inference; or, making any addi- causes. tion to the effect as we find it, establish "But, according to the position, that all any new principles of conduct and be our arguments for a divine existence are haviour.

derived from the general order of nature, - "Though, from a knowledge of the and the display of objects around us; and actions and sentiments of the human spe- that this general order and display of obcies, we may, with propriety, infer more jects is the effect, and the Deity himself than the simple appearance of objects pre- the cause; it is far from being a necessary sented to us would otherwise give us a conclusion, and by no means invariable, right to infer: as, for instance, from a half- that the cause in this instance is adjusted finished edifice, and the materials for precisely to the effect exhibited, and posbuilding scattered around it, we might pre- sesses no power or property whatsoever sume that such an edifice would soon be but what is therein displayed. completed, and receive all the further im- “In brute unconscious matter, it is true, provements which art could bestow upon the experienced train of events shews us it; yet we are not allowed the same liberty there is a constant proportion observed be. of ascending from the effect to the cause, tween the cause and the effect, however, and thence descending from the same cause varied: but it is an obvious error to con. to infer other effects, in any of our arguments tend that the same law obtains among respecting the Deity; since the Deity is rational and intelligent beings; and it is only known to us by his actual produce an error proceeding from the belief of a tions, and since we are ignorant of the doctrine we have before animadverted upon motives by which he is actuated, and the -the doctrine, I mean, that maintains the sentiments by which he is governed.'* same species of absolute necessity to sub

1. “It is not strictly true, however, in the sist among moral as among physical agents. first place, that the sole or even the chief | HERCULES did not, on all occasions, put argument in proof of the existence of a forth the utmost quantity of his strength; Divine Being is derived from the general nor CICERO nor DEMOSTHENES exert the order of nature. The existence of man whole of their eloquence. They found alone is sufficient to prove the existence of themselves at full liberty, and not suba Deity, and to demonstrate his perfec- jected to the same inflexible laws that actions.". And this simple fact, without any tuate mere incogitative atoms. It is acaddition whatsoever, has been successfully knowledged that no one, merely from the selected by Mr. Locke for this very pur- sight of a picture of Zeuxis in ancient posé; and been, made the means of de- times, or of SALVATOR Rosa in more ducing a proof of such an existence, equal, modern, could determine that the former as he himself ; expresses it, to that of was also a statuary and an architect, and mathematical certainty.'t Wherever a the latter a poet and musician, whose human being exists, if in the possession of satires and harmonic compositions fell but his reason, he must have an undoubted little short of his skill in the art of colourperception and certainty of his existence; ing. But what is the reason that we are he must, moreover, be certain that nothing here incapable of determining?. Plainly could possibly proceed from nothing, and this: that there is no necessary connexion

“Since he is a Being, as Mr. H. continues, I have been under the necessity of contracting and who discovers himself only by some faint traces condensing thein from the original, I am not conor outlines, beyond which we have no authority to scious of having injured their strength; and I ascribe to bim any attribute or perfection; and a have used Mr. Hume's own expressions as often Being respecting whom what we imagine to be a as I could possibly introduce them. superior perfection may really be a defect." .. Essay on Human Understanding, b, i. ch. 10.

on of these arguments, though Il 127,- VOL. XI.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

between these different arts and sciences the former of this portion of the universe whatsoever. They may be conjoined in on which we reside, the Creator of the the same subject; but they may subsist by universe at large ? the same motives must themselves: and he who is the best music actuate him, and a conduct not inconsiscian may be the worst painter, and the | tent be exhibited. That he may possess best poet may be the worst statuary. qualities and energies with which we are

“The case is very different with respect totally unacquainted, will readily be grantto the perfections of intelligent beings, and ed; yet this must for ever remain mere especially the perfections of the Deity; hypothesis, since we have no data on which through the whole of which there is a to found our judgment of them. Yet be natural link subsisting so obviously, that, they what they may, they cannot be inconfrom the demonstration of one or two, the gruous with those which are developed to rest seem to follow of inevitable necessity. our notice in the present world : much less The Being, who is eternal and all-power- can any of them which he has exhibited, ful, must be all-intelligent: he who is all- and which reason has taught one class of powerful and all-intelligent, must be infi intelligent beings to deem perfections, be nitely happy: he who is infinitely happy ever regarded by another as defects. in himself, can only be actuated in what “To confine therefore our ideas of the he does by motives of benevolence.

Deity by the general appearance of objects “Yet how are we capable of determin. and events in the present world, or any ing at all on the Deity which is the cause, part of that section of the universe, the if we can only reason respecting him from mere threshold of creation, with which we a full knowledge of the creation, which is are acquainted; or to bound those attri. the effect? This creation is extended butes we cannot but allow him by deducaround us on every side: let us confine tions drawn from so- limited a sceneis ourselves alone to the proofs of power it both inconsistent and unphilosophical : inexhibits. Are we acquainted with its un- consistent, because we have no reason to fathomable dimensions? Have we pene- conceive that an active intelligent Being trated into the whole system of laws by should at all times exert himself to the which it is regulated? Can we develop utmost of his power; unphilosophical, bethe causes of gravitation, magnetism, or cause we have the clearest reasons for muscular motion? Is nothing obscure, believing that a scene so limited bears not nothing mysterious, concealed from our the proportion to the general system of the view? If to inquiries like these 'we can universe that a grain of sand does to the return a satisfactory reply-then, but not Pyrenees, or a drop of water to the ocean. till then, let us think of determining our And we may, therefore, with the strictest idea of the great original Cause by the propriety, suppose the Divine Being poseffect alone which he has thus exhibited. sessed of a greater degree of perfections in But if this we cannot domif, here we are all his various attributes, than the present obliged to acknowledge our ignorance and situation of things will immediately deincapacity, does it not evince the grossest monstrate to the view : and this without presumption to set bounds to the power of advancing from the effect to the cause, a Being who has thus magnificently mani- and thence descending to infer other effects fested himself! a power that defies the which are totally unconnected with their calculations of science, and overwhelms the original. The reason being, that the conceptions of the most daring?

limited capacities of the human species are « Yet if we are not adequate to the com- not adequate to a comprehension of the prehension of his power, why should we effects themselves; and if they cannot fully attempt to fix bounds to any other attri- comprehend the effect, how is it possible bute or perfection of which the Deity may they should be able fully to comprehend be possessed ? That the exertion of power the cause ? in the works of creation surpasses the limits "I cannot, however, forbear to notice in of human conjecture, is what the most this place, that the ascending from van hesitating sceptic must allow. As far, effect to a cause, and thence descending however, as we have been able to discover, from the same cause to infer other effects an order and disposition, uniform and simi. which we were ignorant of before, is a lar, prevail throughout the whole. But liberty which is often taken by philosoorder and disposition must be the result of phers. And that not only in researches intelligence. Is the display of power then which refer to man, or any other animal illimited and incomprehensible? so is that with which they are intimately acquainted, of wisdom and intelligence. Is the same but which refer to the works of the Deity all-powerful and intelligent Being, who is himself. And it is a liberty, indeed, with

« PreviousContinue »