תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

structure and purpose, that it had a maker; experience tells us that its maker must have been an intelligent Being, wbom we term Man.- We then find that man, is a much more complicated machine, than a watch ; and our next enquiry is, who made man ? here experience deserts us.

9. True! but although experience deserts Leucippus in the last case, is that a sufficient ground for the desertion of his reason also? He finds a watch, and he very rationally infers, that it must bave had a maker- he finds a man, a far more complicated machine, and he most absurdly concludes, that be has had no maker. To say the man sprung from his Fatber, and his Father from the Grandfather and so on, will not lessen the difficulty.-- There is the man ! let his existence be accounted for as well as that of the watch-but, says this Atomic Pbilosopber, experience deserts us in the latter case; and so also in the former case, it deserted the savage; who finding a watch, called in the aid of his feeble reason, and very naturally concluded, that it was a living creature; and when it stopped, supposed that it was dead; but, although no Pbilosopber, be never dreamt of attributing its origin to chance or to an undirected congregation of Atoms; but although the earth is teeming with active and intelligent beings, yet, because they have never seen men actually created, the Atomic Philosophers seem very well prepared to believe, tbat they have sprung up from the Serpent's teeth, which Ovid says were sown by Cadmus; or from the stones, which he tells us, were thrown over her sboulder, by the wife of Deucalion ; but say these sages, every thing originates from matter and motion ; i, e, matter, wbich is jpert and passive; can mould itself into form ; and motion, wbich is a mere quality, communicated to matter by impulse ; bas the power of an independant principle; and the union of these two, can produce intelligence! The reasoning of the savage was quite Socratic when compared with this. And does experience prove, that matter and motion, can do such mighty things? If so, we might expect to bebold new Creations, rising around us, every day. Newtons might spring up in crowds from our plougbed fields, or Idiots might creep out by shoals from our rivers ; in short this wonderful compound of causes and effects, would make such a jumble in the universe, that a man would stand a very good chance of coming into the world with a fishes tail, and a fish of swimming about with the head of a Philosopher fixed upon its body. —No Sir! experience demonstrates, ibat the great work of creation, was

. pot such a harum-scarum business, apd altbough the nature of the great first cause is to us incomparable, yet experience proves, that order, barmony, and beauty, pervade the universe ; and analogy shews, that these must have been establisbed by power, and directed by wisdom and benevolence. But because we have no actual experience of creative power, would reason lead us to conclude, that motion could exist without an impulse ; agd then by its senseless vagaries among the particles of inert matter, produce the beautiful system wbich we behold ? before we could come to sucb a conclusion, surely not only experience but common sense also must desert us:- We have never, it is true, been witnesses to the actual process of Creation ; but the results of creative power may be seen by us every day. The Man of to-day, was a lew years ago an Embryo, in the womb of one, who was herself a few years before, an Embryo in the womb of another. The oak of this century was the acorn of the last, and that again was the fruit of a former oak; and probably the earth itself which we now inbabit, was the wreck of a former world, which became the Nucleus of the present globe, and thus we may trace back the present appearances of the natural world, to a point, wbere human reason fails, and no experience can possibly afford us a guide ; but we may see demonstrative proofs of an uobroken chain of causes and effects, which could never bave been the result of accident, or undirected power, but plainly indicates intelligence and design, and can only be rationally accounted for, by a belief in the existence of ope great first cause ; possessed of infinite power and wisdom.

10. But it is said, that matler and motion may produce all the effects of creative power ; i. e. an inert substance, which possesses in itself, neither form nor activity, nor intelligence, por power; and a simple quality, which has no independant existence, and is only instrumental in the organization of insensible matter, when it bas been applied by power, could, witbout the operation, of such a power, have been the formers of a beautiful and harmonious universe, full of life, activity, intelligence, and happiness ; in which daily observation may prove to us, that they have acted, and are still acting, the part of only passive and insensible instruments; but if we could conceive of these, as active causes, we might rationally expect, that the clods of the valley would rise up in revolt against the husbandman ; and remonstrate against his cruelty in cuttiog them. Yet we

[ocr errors]

uiries.

are, according to the doctrine of the atomic school, to conceive of matter and motion as existing together from eterpi-, ty; pursuing their determined course throughout eternity ; arranging between them the events, and circumstances of eternal ages, and the order of a boundless universe ; uniting in themselves both causes and effects; both of them passive, yet both active, both insensible, yet both intelligent. What a grand and comprehensible system of Philosophy! and yet such appears to be the experience and analogy, by which Leucippus intimates, that he and his friends are guided in their enquiries.

11. On the important subject of moral virtue, I most cordially agree with Leucippus in his premises, viz. “that it is a man's interest to be virtuous”-but I do not think that his conclusion necessarily follows, viz. that he who understands his interest best, is the most virtuous; because, although a man may be perfectly. well acquainted with bis best inte· rest, yet, invariably to follow it, is a very different matter; and, therefore, the prospect of a future reward is a very important, if not absolutely necessary stimulus even to a virtuous mind; but your correspondent has rather conveniently, although I am inclined to believe uniutentionally, interpolated the passage, in which he says I endeavoured to prove, that the consciousness of integrity, (to a well constituted mind) without the prospect of future reward, would be an insufficient stimulus to virtuous conduct. Now the few words thus accidentally thrown in, may appear to afford a little ground for the admission, which he says is implied by tbis passage, and I might therefore justly protest against such a version of the original text; but I will not dispute with him about a few words, and he shall have the full benefit of them, if that will satisfy his craving sceptical appetite ; yet although I would behave as civilly as possible to him, I cannot allow him to put both his own words, and his own inferences, into my mouth. Taking then the passage as it stands, in the reply of Leucippus; I must beg leave remind him, that there is a very essential difference, between requiring a stimulus to virtue, and being charmed with vice. If virtue and vice are both of a progressive nature, then virtue seems to require, and will undoubtedly be promoted, by a stimulant, and vice will be weakened, and at last subdued, by a sedative.

12. That virtue and knowledge are inseparable companions, and that vice, only belongs to the illiterate, is a posia tion which very few persons will venture gravely to main

tain; and experience proves, that to those who possess mueb knowledge, as well as to those wbo are possessed but of little ; and to those wbo have made considerable progress in virtue, as well as to those whose advancement has been but small; the hope and prospect, of a future reward, has been a stimulus of no mean power. But says your correspondent; the generality of believers, meet death, more with apprehension and fear, than with hope and joy. This is a very broad and bold assertion; but it is directly contrary to history, to observation, and to fact; for even if the prospect of future reward, could by any sound reasoniog, be proved to have been delusive; yet that thousands, and tens of thousands, have in a dying hour, triumphed in this prospect, is a fact, written as with the point of a diamond, and witnessed every day among the proppers of Christianity. Has Leucippus never beard of, or never read, the history of Christian Martyrs, and Confessors; or will he venture to maintain, in the face of the strongest evidence, that this is all a tissue of fables and falsehoods? He should have made a little more enquiry, respecting the nature and spirit of the Christian religion, before he dashed at such an incredible assertion; and if he could humble bis soaring Philosophy, to a nearer couverse with the doctrines of the amiable Jesus, and his disinterested, intrepid disciples, he would find, that Love, not Fear, is proposed as the main spring, of Christian faith and practice. He might then have saved himself all the pains wbich he has taken, to fasten the corrupt opinions, and wicked practices of bad men, upon Christianity, as belonging to, or resulting from those exalted doctrives, which breathe nothing but the purest love to God, and love to man; and he would have recoiled with shame, when he was preparing to assert, that be bad found mischievous precepts in the Christian System (a term, by which no one has ever intended to describe it as a methodically engrossed code of laws; which if it had been, Leucippus would without doubt have immediately cried out most lustily to his friends; beware of the Cloven Foot of Priestcraft.)

13. So much then, for the correctness of your correspondent's notions of Christianity; and with respect to bis argumeats drawn from the general state of the world, it really seems useless, and in fact almost impossible, to reason with one, who can see no beauty, nor order, nor design, nor beneficial tendency, and but little of enjoyment and happiness either in the natural or in the moral world, and who in his view of the state of society, and the works of nature, almost invariably, confounds general laws, with especial provisions; makes the exception not the rule, the governing principle. He thinks, that the establishment of checks, and counterpoises, to the operation of general laws; wbich might otherwise, in some particular cases, prove overwbelming, is so far from indicating wisdom, and design, that it argues imbecility, and imperfection ; and proves, that the world is so formed, as tbat, if left to itself, it has a tendency to pothing but disorder, and ruin, and he says, that a Clock-maker, would be ashamed, if such a charge could be made against bis work. Now he could not well have fixed upon an illustration, worse adapted to bis porpose, than this is - I will therefore again, take bim on his own ground, and ask him, whether a Clock is not a piece of machinery, governed by general Laws, but regulated by checks and counterpoises what is the pendilum, but a counterpoise to the overwhelming power of the weights, or the main spring ?-What are the clicks, the ratchet wheels, and the balance wheels, but counteracting checks to the general principle? Take also for an example, that most wonderful production of human genius, the Steam Engine, and who would ever dare to approach it, or how could its movements be governed, if its tremendous power, were not restrained and regulated, by the safety valve ? Do these provj. sions indicate imbecility, and ignorance, in the contriver.

14. But let us now asiend higher, and contemplate a vast machinery, which in its nature, and effects, infinitely surpasses, all human power and wisdom-In the solar system, we see that our own earth; and other still larger globes, are continually revolving; by an udvarying law, round the sun as the centre of their orbits. —Now wild motion(one of the atomic Deities) would if unrestrained, necessarily hurry them all into the boundless regions of space, but by the wonderful appointment, of an exact equilibrium, between the Centripetal, and centrifugal Forces each of these vast globes, moves on steadily, and uniformly, in its course ; aad the puny efforts of human genius, sbriok into nothing, when compared with this stupendous system: which yet notwithstanding its magnificence, the discoveries of astronomy, have taught us to believe, is only as one small point in the vast and unbounded range of the universe. But when your correspondent Leucippus, bas asserted, that a clock-maker would be ashamed of introducing checks and counterpoises to bis macbiuery, he very cavalierly adds, I feel here no ne

« הקודםהמשך »