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Eternal spirit, matter stands indebted as well for its existence and its laws, as for its numerous collccations of use and of convenience. We hold that without a Revealed Theology we should not have known of the creation of matter out of nothing, but that by dint of a Natural Theology alone we might have inferred a God from the useful disposition of its parts. It is good to know what be the strong positions of an argument and to keep by them—taking up our intrenchments there--and willing to relinquish all that is untenable. It is not the way to advance but really to discredit the cause of Natural Theology, when set forward by its injudicious defenders to an enterprise above its strength. Nothing satisfactory can be made of those obscure and scholastic generalities by which matter is argued to be incongruous with Eternity; and that therefore, itself originated from nothing, it must have a creative mind for the antecedent not of its harmonies and adaptations alone but of its substantive Being. We should like a firmer stepping-stone than this by which to arrive at the conclusion of a God. For this purpose we would dissever the argument founded on the phenomenon of the mere existence of matter, from the argument founded on the phenomenon of the relations between its parts. The one impresses the understanding just as differently from the other, as a stone of random form lying upon the ground impresses the observer differently from a watch. The mere existence of matter, in itself, indicates nothing. They are its forms and its combinations and its organic structures which alone speak to us of a Divinity—just as it is not the clay but the shape into which it has been moulded that announces the impress of a Designer's hand. The metaphysical argument which we should like to discard from this controversy wants altogether to our mind the character of obviousness." We can afford to give it up. It is truly a dead weight upon the cause. It is like seeking for the indications of an artist's hand in the rude and raw material upon which he operates—when we might behold them at once in the finished work of those exquisite fabrications which hold forth irresistibly the marks of contrivance and so of a contriver. *
16. In combating an argument for a doctrine, we are not therefore combating the doctrine itself. Dr. Clarke has failed, we think in his attempt to demonstrate the non-eternity of matter—but it follows not that because we have attempted to expose this failure, we advocate the eternity of matter. It is well that our belief in the truths of religion does not stand or fall with the success or the failure of any human expounder. We happen to think that on the abstract question of the creation of matter out of nothing, there is a want of clear and decisive manifestation by the light of nature ; and that for the establishment of what we hold to be the right and orthodox position upon this question, there is an incompetency not in the a priori argiment alone, but in every argument which the unaided reason of man can devise. We wonder not for example, that Aristotle, unblest and unvisited as he was by any communication from Heaven, admitted both an eternal matter and an eternal mind into his creed—for in truth the brightest and most convincing evidences for the one might for aught we know, consist with the aboriginal and everlasting occupancy of the other in our universe. These evidences as we shall afterwards see, are grounded not on the existence of matter, but on the order and disposition of its parts—and point to the conclusion, not that there must have been an intelligent spirit that willed the matter into being, but that there must have been an intelligent spirit who willed it into all those beauteous and beneficial arrangements which we every where behold. It is revelation alone we apprehend which has completely fixed and ascertained the proposition, that God not only fashioned our universe into its present mechanism and form; but that he also created the materials from which it is composed. He not only moulded the clay; but he made it, and made it out of nothing. Nature perhaps cannot pronounce decisively on the making ; but of the exquisite moulding, of the goodly dispositions and structures that bespeak contrivance and a contriver, it taketh ample cognizance—so that it cannot look with intelligence to any department of observation or of science without a powerful impression that the hand of a divinity has been there.
* Let us here present the following short and judicious extract from Dr. Fiddes' work entitled “ Theologia Speculativa or a Body of Divinity.” “But to discover the weakness of any argiument in particular which may be brought to prove a fundamental article of religion is not, as some pious men have supposed, to do religion disservice_but only shows it does not stand in need of any artitices and has nothing to fear from a fair ingenuous and free examination.”
Of the Metaphysics which have been resorted to on the side
(MR. HUME'S OBJECTION TO THE A POSTERIORI ARGUMENT, GROUNDED ON THE ASSERTION THAT THE WORLD IS A SINGULAR EFFECT.)
1. The doctrine of innate ideas in the mind, is wholly different from the doctrine of innate tendencies in the mind—which tendencies may lie undeveloped till the excitement of some occasion have manifested or brought them forth. In a newly formed mind, there is no idea of nature or of a single object in nature—yet no sooner is an object presented, or is an event observed to happen, than there is elicited the tendency of the mind to presume on the constancy of nature. At least as far back as our observation extends, this law of the mind is in full operation. Let an infant for the first time in its life, strike on the table with a spoon; and, pleased with the noise, it will repeat that stroke with every appearance of a confident anticipation that the noise will be repeated also. It counts on the invariableness wherewith the same consequent will follow the same antecedent. In the language of Dr. Thomas Brown, these two terms make up a sequence and there seems to exist in the spirit of man, not an anderived, but an aboriginal faith, in the uniformity of nature's sequences.
2. This instinctive expectation of a constancy in the succession of events is not the fruit of experience; but is anterior to it. The truth is that experience, so far from strengthening this instinct of the understanding as it has been called, seems rather to modify and restrain it. The child who elicited a noise which it likes from the collision of its spoon with the table would, in the first instance, expect the same result from a like collision with any material surface spread out before it-as if placed for example, on the smooth and level sand of a sea-shore. Here the effect of experience would be to correct its first strong and unbridled anticipations so that in time it would not look for the wished for noise in the infliction of a stroke upon sand or clay or the surface of a fluid, but upon wood or stone or metal. The office of experience here is not to strengthen our faith in the uniformity of nature's sequences, but to ascertain what the sequences actually are. The effect of the experience is not to give the faith, but to the faith to add knowledge.' At the outset of its experience a child's confidence in the uniformity of nature is unbounded—and it is in the progress of its experience, that it meets with that which serves to limit the confidence and to qualify it. It goes forth upon external nature furnished beforehand with the expectation of the invariableness which obtains between nature's antecedents and her consequents—but it often falls into mistakes in estimating what the proper antecedents and consequents are. To ascertain this is the great use of experience. The great object of repetition in experiments