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these modes imply a substantive Being to which they belong.* _Now the main stay of the a priori argument is that Eternity and Immensity are modes and as we cannot rid ourselves of the conception of a stable existence in the modes, so neither therefore can we rid ourselves of the conception of an existent substance to which these modes belong. We repeat that we have no faith in the product of such excogitation as this—and should as little think of building upon it a system of Theism, as we should of subordinating the realities of History or Nature to the mere technology of Schoolmen.
10. However interesting, then, the modesty of Dr. Reid on the subject of the a priori argument, yet we cannot but regard the deliverance of the younger Metaphysician Thomas Brown as greatly the sounder of the two_although in it, perhaps, there is a certain air of confident temerity, especially as he only pronounces on the defects of the argument without expounding them. futile or inconclusive argument have been devised for the support of religion, it is a real service to discard it from the controversy altogether. It is detaching an element of weakness from the cause. A doctrine stands all the more firm when placed on a compact and homogeneous basis—instead of resting on a pedestal which like the feet of Nebu
And if any chadnezzar's image is partly of clay and partly of iron. Let us be assured that a weak or a wrong reason is not only not an accession but is a positive mischief to the interests of truth—a mischief indeed which Dr. Brown has well adverted to in the following sentences :—“ Still more superfluous must be all those reasonings with respect to the existence of the Deity, from the nature of certain conceptions of our mind, independent of the phenomena of design, which are commonly termed reasonings a priori, reasonings, that if strictly analyzed, are found to proceed on some assumption of the very truth for which they contend, and that, instead of throwing additional light on the argument for a Creator of the universe, have served only to throw on it a sort of darkness, by leading us to conceive that there must be some obscurity in truths, which could give an occasion to reasonings so obscure. God and the world which he has formed—these are our great objects. Every thing which we strive to place between these is nothing. We see the universe, and, seeing it, we believe in its Maker. It is the universe, therefore, which is our argument, and our only 'argument; and as it is powerful to convince us, God is, or is not, an object of our belief.”
* Sir Isaac Newton seems to have penned the following sentences of a Scholium Generale under some such conception as this:-“Deus non eternitas et infinitas, sed eternus et infinitus; non duratio vel spatium, sed durat et adest, et existendo semper et ubique durationem et spatium, eternitatem et infinitatem constituit,
And again “ The arguments commonly termed metaphysical, on this subject, I have always regarded, as absolutely void of force, unless in so far as they proceed on a tacit assumption of the physical argument, and, indeed, it seems to me no small corroborative proof of the force of this physical argument, that its remaining impression on our
mind has been sufficient to save us from any doubt, as to that existence, which the obscure and laboris ous reasonings, a priori, in support of it, would have led us to doubt, rather than to believe.”
11. We shall not go over the whole unsatisfactory metaphysics of that period—and whereof Dr. Clarke is far the ablest advocate and expounder. For the sake of our intellectual discipline, it is well, however, to familiarize ourselves with his celebrated demonstration, which though in effect vitiated by the one or two assumptions that we have specified, is nevertheless an admirable specimen of close and consecutive reasoning. It is not to be marvelled at, that possessed of such dialectic powers, he should have tinged with his own spirit almost all the authorship of natural theology at that period—till at length, in the impotent hands of his followers and imitators, it wrought itself out of all credit when unaccompanied by those redeeming qualities which buoyed up the performance of this great master, and has perpetuated its character as a standard and classical work, even to the present day. The whole of the Boyle lectureship, for example, was for many years deeply infused by it. Bentley, so able in other depart.. ments, presents us in his sermons on the subject, with what we should call, a perfect caricature of this a priori extravagance. It even deforms, at times, the pages of Foster, who is the most eloquent, and perhaps the best writer of that age on natural religion. As to Abernethy, we hold his book, in spite of the high character which was
Brown's Lectures, XCII. and XCIII.
affixed to it some half century ago, as so utterly meagre and insipid, that one cannot without the slackening of all his mental energies, accomplish the continuous perusal of it-and therefore it really matters not what quarter he gives, in his pages of cold and feeble rationality, to the a priori argument. It is of more consequence to be told that it is an argument patronised by Wollaston, who, in his “ Religion of Nature Delineated," imitates Clarke in making our ignorance of the Quomodo the foundation of a positive argument.
6 If matter,” he says, “ be self-existent, I do not see how it comes to be restrained to a place of certain capacity—how it comes to be limited in other respects—or why it should not exist in a manner that is in all respects perfect.” And just because he sees not how_therefore matter must derive its existence from some other being who causes it to be just what it is. Because we do not see the reason why matter should have been placed here and not there in immensity--because we cannot tell the specific cause of its various forms, and modifications, and movements_because of our inability to explore the hidden recesses of the past—and so to find out the necessary ground, if ought there is, for the being and the properties of every planet and of every particle are we therefore to infer, that there is no such ground, and for no better reason than that just by us it is undiscoverable ? The reasoning of Wollaston comes to this Be
we do not see how matter came to be restrained to a particular place therefore, it must not have been so restrained by an eternal necessity.
Our own inference would have been diametrically the opposite of this. Because we see not how, we should say not how. It is a strange argument to found, as Clarke and Wollaston have done, on the impotence and incapacity of the human mind, that its very ignorance should authorize it to sport such positive and peremptory dogmata as have been advanced by them on the high mysteries of primeval being and primeval causation.
12. Dr. Clarke's style of reasoning upon this subject, has now fallen into utter disesteem and desuetude. He himself disclaims the old scholastic methods of argumentation, while there is much of his own that now ranks with the impracticable subtleties of the middle ages. He deals in the categories of a higher region than that which is at all familiar to human experience and we fear that when he attempts to demonstrate the non-eternity. of matter, and that to spirit alone belong the attributes of primeval necessity and self-existence, he leaves behind him that world of sense and observation within which alone the human mind is yet able to expatiate. After the modest declaration of Dr. Reid, it may be presumptuous in us to pass upon this argument a summary and confident rejection.
But we may at least confess the total want of any impression which it has made upon our understanding—and that with all our partialities for the argumentum a posteriori, we hold it with Paley greatly more judicious, instead of groping for the evidence of a Divinity among the transcengental generalities of time, and space, and matter, and spirit, and the grounds of a necessary and