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of understanding with much which has been written on the side of Natural Religion. There appears for example to be nothing substantial or effective in that reasoning which is founded on the comparison between mind in the abstract and matter in the abstractor which, on the bare existence of matter apart from its collocations, would conclude the necessity of an antecedent Intelligence to originate it into being. The palpable argument for a God as grounded on the phenomena of visible nature lies, not in the existence of matter, but in the arrangement of its parts—a firmer stepping-stone to the conclusion—than the mere entity of that which is corporeal is to the previous entity of that which is spiritual. To us it marks far more intelligibly the voice of a God, to have called forth the beauteous and beneficent order of our world from the womb of chaos, than to have called forth the substance of our world from the chambers of nonentity. We know that the voice of God called forth both. But it is one of those voices which sounds so audibly and distinctly in Reason's ear. Of the other we have been told, and we think needed to be told by Revelation. .
6. The question to be resolved then is not whether the matter of the world, but whether the present order of the world had a commencement ?
7. Of the various reasons which might be alleged in favour of such a commencement, there are some that we would advance with much greater confidence than others. There is one by Dr. Paley which does not appear to us satisfactoryand in his statement of which, we think that for once he is metaphysically obscure. He, in his Natural Theology, brings it forward as a general position, that wherever we meet with an organic structure where there is the adaptation of complicated means to an end, the cause for its being must be found out of itself and apart from itself. This, at least, does not carry the instant assent of a proposition that announces at once its own evidence. Neither, although we think it a very impressive consideration, would we insist on the argument by which it is attempted to be proved, that although the existence of each organic being can be accounted for by derivation from a parent of its own likeness—yet we are not on that account to acquiesce in the imagination of an infinitude for the whole race, as if the line of successive generations reached backward to eternity. It does seem as irrational so to conclude, as to say of an iron chain which ascends perpendicularly from the surface of our earth, and at its higher extremity was too distant for vision, that each link was sustained by the one immediately above it, and that simply if the whole had no termination each would have a support of this kind and so the whole be supported. It seems as impossible that there should be an eternal race of men or animals, as that a chain rising infinitely upwards from our earth should hang upon nothing. If there be good reason for the belief, that there must be a suspending power for the whole chain at whatever height it may be conceived to go-there is at least the semblance of as good reason for the belief, that there must be a prime originating power for the
whole race, however remote the antiquity of its origin. But even this consideration we at present shall forego-thinking as we do that the non-eternity of our animal and vegetable races rests upon a basis of proof certainly as firm as this, and greatly more palpable.
8. This proof is of two kinds. The recency of the present order of things—the recency of the world, meaning by this term not the matter in respect to being, which forms its substratum; but the dispositions of matter, more especially as exemplified in the structures of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, which form its existing economy*_the commencement of the world in this sense of it may be learned, either from the evidence of history or the evidence of observation. If there have been a creation, it belongs to the order of historical events, and like any other such event might become the subject of an historical testimony—the authority of which might be tried by the rules and decided by the judgment of ordinary criticism. In this respect there is no difference between these two facts—the origin of a world and the origin of a kingdom. They are alike susceptible of being made known by competent and contemporaneous witnesses, and of being transmitted downward on a pathway of oral or written tradition—the continuity of which and the credibility of which are alike cognizable, by the versant in that species of erudition. This evidence is distinct from that of direct and scientific observation, just as the
• The proper and original meaning in fact both of the Greek noruos and the Latin mundus.
evidence of a record for some bygone event is distinct from that of our senses. We might have documentary information as to the precise year of the building of a house, or we might be satisfied by marks and appearances of which we have the immediate eyesight, that it was built within the last century. In like manner we might have evidence, if not for the precise year or century at which the present system of visible things was put together, at least for all that we are in quest of as connected with our present argument that it was put together at some time. The historical evidence for a commencement to the present order of the material world is all that we shall notice in this preliminary chapter-postponing our view of its observational evidence to the next book, when we treat of the proofs for the being of a God in the dispositions of matter.
9. There is one principle which should never be lost sight of, when investigating the Evidence of Religion, or indeed any evidence which relates to questions of fact. We mean the sound and sterling quality of that evidence which is either historical or experimental. The truth is, that the historical, when good and genuine, resolves itself into the experimental. The only difference is, that instead of our own observation, it substitutes the observation of others. We receive by our ears what we are assured by the diagnostics of credible testimony, that they have seen by their eyes. Historical evidence has thus the character; and, in proportion as it is substantiated, should have the effect of the observational. Originally, it is the evidence of sense-and no one can question the paramount authority of this evidence over all the plausibilities of speculation. It is a very obvious principle, although often forgotten in the pride and prejudice of controversy, that what has been seen by one pair of human eyes is of force to countervail all that has been reasoned or guessed at by a thousand human understandings. This is just the Baconian principle in science—and all we want is the scrupulous and faithful application of it to religion. In this we would have religion to make common cause with philosophy—and, in the formation of our creed, we should feel as little inclined as any of philosophy's most enlightened disciples to build an airy hypothesis on an unsubstantial foundation We no more want to devise or excogitate a system by any creative exercise of our own, than the most patient of those physical inquirers who question nature in their laboratories; and, upon a single adverse response, would dispost the theory of a whole millennium from its ascendancy over the schools. They seek for truth on the field of experiment alone; and, if not able to stand this ordeal, neither the beauty of an opinion nor the inveteracy of its long possession will save it from its overthrow. Such is the deference which they; and such also is the deference which we would render to the authority of observation. In every question of fact, it is all in all. It is so in the things of science—it is so in things of sacredness. We would look at both, not through the medium of imagination but of evidence—and that, whether we sit in judgment on a question of our own science,