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or on a question of geology—whether we investigate the past history and present state of the divine administration, or investigate the past physical history and actual state of our globe. In either, we should deem the real findings of one man to be of more value than the splendid fancies of a thousand men.
10. For example_in the latter science, we may have one doctrine on the degradation of the hills, and another on the encroachment or regress of the sea, and another on the relation between the position of the strata and the character of the fossil remains to be found in them. Of the last of these it is evident, that the results of theory must give way to the results of observation, should they stand opposed to each other; and in reference to the two first it is obvious, that there might be an evidence of history which should overbear the speculation. For instance had we the authentic memorials of a trigonometrical survey taken two thousand years back, and with the same securities for its correctness that we have in the surveys of the present day, who would not prefer the informations of such a document to all the plausibilities of all the speculatists? It were in the very spirit of our modern science to learn of the height of our mountains and the line and locality of our shores, from the men who had then measured rather than from the men who were now arguing them—and it is just a recognition of the great principle that all the philosophy of actual being in the universe, to be solidly established, must rest on the basis of facts when we affirm that the doctrines of science want an indispensable prop, if they are not found to quadrate with the sure depositions of history.
11. It is thus, we think, that in the strict philosophy of the question, the geological speculations of our day should come under the tribunal, or be brought to the touchstone of authentic history. At a time when those physical characters are so confidently spoken of, which have been sculptured on rock, as it were, by the finger of nature, and wherewith she hath recorded the antiquity and revolutions of the globe; we are not to overlook those characters which have been transmitted to us from past ages on the vehicle of human testimony, deponing perhaps to the recency of our present world. We mean to affirm that if some credible and authentic memorial of history stands in the way of any theory, there is violence done to the philosophy of observation—when such an element is not disposed of, and perhaps not so much as adverted to. It is not a comprehensive view which is taken of the question, by those who run waywardly and unbridled on some track of speculation, and who blink any of the evidence that legitimately bears upon it. In questions of fact, history, when marked with the usual signatures of truth, is not only a competent, but in most instances is the best voucher that can be appealed to. If the Baconian logic require that one's own observation should give the law to his own fancy, it equally requires that the observation or the findings of one man should give law to the fancy of another. Now history is the vehicle on which are brought to us the observations of other men, whether the path
over which it has travelled be a distance in space or a distance in time—that is, whether they whose observations it bears to us are the men of other countries, or of by-gone ages. History if not direct is at least derivative observation; and if rightly derived is only observation at a distance instead of observation on the spot. There is an end of all solid philosophy, if such evidence is set aside and that, to make room for the mere wantonness of the human spirit, that would fain substitute its own creations in the place of all which observation distinctly points out, or which history audibly tells of the creation by God. At this rate the fair domain of science is again laid open, as in the days of the schoolmen, to the misrule, the wild vagaries of unchastened imagination.
12. Hence it is that in the exceeding dimness of reason or of nature's light, we do feel the utmost value for all those historical notices, which serve to indicate that the world had a beginning. Among the ambiguities of natural theism, and between the plausibilities which can be alleged on either side of this question—between an eternal universe whose laws and processes are now as they have ever been, and an eternal God who hath ordained these laws and still overrules these processes—there is no evidence that we should more desiderate than what may be called the observational. We should like the question to be rescued from the obscurity of metaphysique—and that the clear experimental light of authentic and credible history were shed over it. If from the documents and vestiges of other times, there could be collected even so much as the bare
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fact, that, somehow or other the world had a beginning, this would make room for the argument of its having begun in the devices of a mind that had an aim and a purpose in the formation of it. Let it in this way be made out that the world really is a consequent—and then from what we observe of this consequent we might reason to an antecedent—from the adaptations which abound in it to objects that are palpable, might we reason to a mind which designed such adaptations because it desired such objects—from the beauties and the benefits of its most orderly arrangement, might we reason to an Intelligent Being who had the Taste to conceive what is lovely, and the Benevolence to institute what is useful, and both the Power and the Wisdom to frame a mechanism which moved in such exquisite harmony, and wrought off so abundant a happiness to that host of sentient creatures who are on the surface of our Earth. Let there only be evidence, whether in nature or in history, by which to get quit of the hypothesis that this world with all its present laws and harmonies must be eternal—and then, on the stepping-stone of a world so beauteously ordered and so bountifully filled, might we rise to the sound hypothesis of an Eternal Mind from whom this universe is an emanation. This would give full introduction to the reasonings a posterioricarrying us at once from the indications of design to a primary designer. All that is needed is satisfactory evidence that these indications are not from Eternity—that the curious mechanism, for example, of our bodies hath not always existed,
and been transmitted downwards from one generation to another by a law which hath been everlastingly in operation—in a word that things have not continued to be as they are at present, we shall not say from the beginning of the Creation, for the fact of a Creation is that which we are now in quest of—but that they have not so been from Eternity.
13. But ere proceeding farther, there is still another principle which we would here interpose, in the shape of a lemma, on the general doctrine of the Evidences. Whatever strength there may be in the argument for the theology of revelation, it makes a clear addition to the argument for certain propositions in the theology of naturesuch as the being of a God, and the immortality of the soul. Now, there is a certain habit or order of conception among the advocates of religion, which serves to throw a disguise over the real strength of the cause. We often, in the first place, read of Christianity as being based upon natural religion, as if it was on the preliminary establishment of the one that the other was founded. But, in the second place, it is held preposterous and illogical, to discuss the theism of nature on any other reasons than those which are furnished by the light of nature. Now, this habit of viewing the one as the foundation and the other as the superstructure and at the same time of treating their evidences as wholly distinct and independent of each other, has had the effect, we should say, of unnecessarily weakening the defences of religion. What we contend for is, that it is logically a com