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eternal existence for the one, while nought but modifications and contingency can be observed of the other—we hold it more judicious simply to open our eyes on the actual and peopled world around us—or to explore the wondrous economy of our own spirits, and try if we can read, as in a book of palpable and illuminated characters, the traces or the forth-goings of a creative mind anterior to, or at least distinct from matter, and which both arranged it in its present order and continues to overrule its processes.
13. Nevertheless, let us again recommend the perusal of Clarke's Demonstration. One feels himself as if placed by it on the border of certain transcendental conceptions, the species of an ideal world, which men of another conformation may fancy, and perhaps even see to be realities. And certain it is, that the very existence of such high thoughts in the mind of man may be regarded as the presentiment or promise of a high destination. So that however unable to follow out the reasonings of Clarke or Newton, when they convert our ideas of infinity and eternity into the elements of such a demonstration as they have bequeathed to the world—nothing, we apprehend, can be more just or beautiful than the following sentences of Dugald Stewart, when he views these ideas as the earnests of our coming immortality :-“ Important use may also be made of these conceptions of immensity and eternity, in stating the argument for the future existence of the soul. For why was the mind of man rendered capable of extending his views in point of time, beyond the limit of human
transactions; and, in point of space, beyond the limits of the visible universe—if all our prospects are to terminate here; or why was the glimpse of . so magnificent a scene disclosed to a being, the period of whose animal existence bears so small a proportion to the vastness of his desires ? Surely this conception of the necessary existence of space and time, of immensity and eternity, was not forced continually upon the thoughts of man for no purpose whatever? And to what purpose can we suppose it to be subservient, but to remind those who make a proper use of their reason of the trifling value of some of those objects we at present pursue, when compared with the scenes on which we may afterwards enter; and to animate us in the pursuit of wisdom and virtue, by affording us the prospect of an indefinite progression ?"*
14. Before leaving this subject, we would remark on what may be called a certain subordinate application of the a priori argument—not for the demonstration of the being, but for the demonstration of the attributes of God. Dr. Clarke himself admits the impossibility of proving the divine intelligence in this way—though, with this exception, he attempts an a priori proof for the other natural attributes of the Godhead—and the argument certainly becomes more lucid and convincing as he carries it forward from these to the other attributes. The goodness, the truth, the justice of the Divinity, for example, may not only be inferred by an ascending process of discovery from the works
* Stewart's Philosophy of the Moral and Active Powers. Vol. I. p. 336.
and the ways of God—but they are also inferred by a process of derivation from the power, and the unity, and the wisdom. From the amplitude of His natural, they infer the equal amplitude of His moral characteristics,-judging Him superior to falsehood, because He is exempted from the temptations to weakness; and to malignity because exempted from the temptations to rivalship; and to caprice because in the perfection of his wisdom there is the full guarantee for his doing always what is best. We give these merely as specimens of a style of reasoning which we shall not stop to appreciate—and instead of attempting any further to excogitate a Deity in this way; let us now search if there be any reflection of Him from the mirror of that universe which he has formed. It may be a lowlier—but we deem it a safer enterprise_instead of groping our way among the incomprehensibles of the a priori region, to keep by the certainties which are spread out before us on the region of sense and observation—to look at the actual economy of things, and thence gather as we may, such traces of a handiwork as might announce a designer's hand-to travel up and down on that living scene which can be traversed by human footsteps, and gazed at with human eyes—and search for the impress, if any there be, of the intelligent power that either called it into being, or that arranged the materials which compose it.
15. But our examination of the a priori reasoning will not be thrown away—if it guide our attempts to separate the weak from the strong parts of the Theistical argument. More especially it should help us to discriminate between the inference that is grounded on the true existence of matter, the inference that is grounded on the orderly arrangements of matter. The argument for the being of a God drawn from the former consideration, tinged as it is throughout with the a priori spirit we hold to be altogether mystical and meaningless_insomuch that for the doctrine of an original creation of matter we hold it essential that the light of revelation should be superadded to the dull and glimmering light, or rather perhaps to the impenetrable darkness of nature. We agree with Dr. Brown in thinking “that matter as an unformed mass, existing without relation of parts, would not of itself have suggested the notion of a Creator-since in every hypothesis something material or mental must have existed uncaused, and since existence, therefore, is not necessarily a mark of previous causation, unless we take for granted an infinite series of causes.” In the mere existence of an unshapen or unorganized mass, we see nothing that indicates its non-eternity or its derivation from an antecedent mind-while on the other hand, even though nature should incline us to the thought that the matter of this earth and these heavens from everlasting, there might be enough in the goodly distribution of its parts to warrant the conclusion that Mind has been at work with this primeval matter, and at least fetched from it materials for the structure of many a wise and beneficent mechanism. It is well that Revelation has resolved for us the else impracticable mystery, and given us distinctly to understand, that to the fiat of great
Eternal spirit, matter stands indebted as well for its existence and its laws, as for its numerous collocations 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