« הקודםהמשך »
because each has its own specific use, and the one use is distinct from the other---but adaptation for an end. It is on the strength of this similarity that we can carry the inference of a designing cause from the seen to the unseen in specimens of human handiwork; and, by a stepping-stone in every way as sure, from the seen handiwork of man to the unseen handiwork of God. In each we behold not subserviency to the same end, but subserviency to an end—and on this generality in the consequent of each, we infer for each an antecedent of like generality—a mind of commensurate wisdom to devise, and of commensurate power to execute, either of the structures that are placed before our eyes. It is not brute matter in lumpish and misshapen masses that indicates a deity. It is matter in a state of orderly arrangement as in the great apparatus of the heavens; or matter more finely and completely organized, as in the exquisite structures of the animal and vegetable kingdom, It is true we never saw such pieces of workmanship made—but we have seen other pieces made dissimilar to these only in the end of their fabrication, yet like unto these in subserviency to an end - dissimilar therefore in that which is not essential to our argument, but similar in that which is fully sufficient for our argument. It is precisely in the oversight of this distinction that the fallacy of the atheistical reasoning lies. The singularity that has been charged upon the world belongs to certain circumstantial things which have really no place in the premises of our argument, and are therefore not indispensable to the conclusion. In
the essential premises there is no singularity. The formation of the whole world is like to nothing that we have ever witnessed_but in the formation of all that in the world holds out to us the lesson of a Divinity, there is likeness to that which we have often witnessed. We have, times and ways without number, had experience of both terms in the adaptation of parts to an end. It is on this experience, the experience of a completed sequence, that reason founds her conclusions. We never with the eye of sense have perceived the actual emanation of a creature from the fiat of its Creator. But we have often seen the succession between the working of a mind, and its workmanship, in a piece of fashioned and adjusted materialism. And therefore it is that the thousand goodly complications which be on the face of our world the trees, and the flowers, and the insects, and the feathered birds, and the quadrupeds that browse upon the earth, and the fishes of the sea whose peculiar habitudes fit them for peopling that else desolate waste of mighty waters; and lastly, amidst this general fulness both of animal and vegetable life, erect and intelligent man, curiously furnished in body and in mind, with aptitudes to all the objects of external nature, and which turn into a theatre of busy interest and enjoyment the crowded and the glowing scene over which he expatiatestherefore it is, we say, that all bears so legibly the impress of a governing spirit, that all speaks in reason's ear so loudly of a God.
31. By this reasoning we avoid the necessity of recurring to a new principle in order to repel or ward off an assault of infidelity—an expedient, which, unless the principle be very obvious in itself, gives an exceeding frailty to the argument, and causes it to be received with distrust. Perhaps the tendency both of Reid and Stuart, was to an excessive multiplication of the original laws in our mental constitution, which they all the more readily indulged, as it savoured so much of that unshrinking Baconian philosophy, from the application of which to the science of mind, they augured so sanguinely—and in virtue of which, unseduced by the love of simplicity, they would take their lesson as to the number of ultimate facts whether in the world of mind or matter from observation alone. Now it is well to acquiesce in every phenomenon, like that of magnetism, as if it were a distinct and ultimate principle of which no further account can meanwhile be given—so long as it withstands all the attempts of analysis to resolve it into another phenomenon of a more general and comprehensive quality. But this is very different from a gratuitous multiplication of first principles, and more especially from the confident affirmation of one before unheard of till framed for the accomplishment of a special service. It appears to be a resting of the theistical argument on a very precarious foundation, when the inference of design from its effects, is made a principle sui generis_instead of making it what it really is one case out of the many, where by a principle more comprehensive, we, on the recurrence of the same consequent as before, infer the same antecedent as before. We deprecate the introduction of such an auxiliary as calculated to give a mystical and arbitrary character to the Philosophy of Religion; and hold it a far better offering to the cause, when it is palpably made to rest on no other principles than those which are recognised and read of all men.
CHAPTER V. .
On the Hypothesis that the World is Eternal.
1. But after all it may be asked, Is the world an effect ? May it not have lasted for ever-and might not the whole train of its present sequences have gone on in perpetual and unvaried order from all eternity ? In our reasoning upon antecedents and consequents, we have presumed that the world is a consequent. Could we be sure of this, it may be thought—then on the principle of our last chapter, let the adaptation of its parts to so many thousand desirable objects be referred, and on the basis of a multiplied experience too, to a designing cause as its strict and proper antecedent. But how do we know the world to be a consequent at all ? Is there any greater absurdity in supposing it to have existed as it now is, at any specified point of time throughout the millions of ages that are past, than that it should so exist at this moment? Does what we suppose might have been then, imply any greater absurdity, than what we actually see to be at present ? Now might not the same question he carried back to any point or period of duration however remote_or, in other words, might not we dispense with a beginning for the world altogether ? Such a consequent as our world, if consequent it really be, would require, it might be admitted, a designing cause or its antecedent. But why recur to the imagination of its being a consequent at all? Why not take for granted the eternity of its being, instead of supposing it the product of another, and then taking for granted the eternity of his being ? And, after ail, it may be thought, that the eternity of our world is but one gratuitous imagination instead of two—and, as to the difficulty of conceiving, this is a difficulty which we are not freed from by the theory of a God. Can we any more comprehend His past eternity, than we can the past eternity of matter—the everlasting processes of thought any more than the everlasting processes of a material economy—a circulation of feeling and sentiment and purpose and effect that never had commencement in an aboriginal mind; than a circulation of planets, or that orb of revolution which is described by water through the elements of air and earth and ocean, or finally the series of animal and vegetable generations, never having had commencement in an aboriginal mundane system. At this rate, the supposition of an intelligent Creator may only be a shifting of the difficulty, from an eternal Nature to an eternal Author of Nature. If Nature is clearly made out to be a consequent, then it might be admitted, that the adaptations which abound in it point to an intelligent and