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design is, to illustrate the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, as manifested in the creation. This has been done with great ability by Mr. Whewell, in the department assigned to him; but it will be remembered that it is one thing to illustrate the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, supposing his existence to be already proved; and quite another, to prove bis existence from such indications as nature exhibits. The difference between a treatise on some branch of natural philosophy or natural history, and one on natural theology, seems to be that in the latter, physical and efficient causes are considered only so far as is necessary to illustrate the final causes or uses of things, and that then these final causes are made premises from which to infer the existence and attributes of God. This is the mode of argument adopted in the work before us.
It is our purpose, before noticing this work, to make some observations on the plan which the argument from design, as exhibited in external nature, holds in producing the belief of a God in mankind at large; and also on the real import and logical validity of that argument.
It by no means follows, because the argument from design is generally stated as the formal proof of the being of a God, that it is therefore the real ground of our belief; for it often happens that we are ourselves fully convinced of a truth, and yet, when we would convince others, we are obliged to adduce arguments, and invent media of proof, entirely different from those on which our own conviction rests. Thus, a man may have such a sense of the excellence of the Scriptures, and of their applicability to his own case, as to be perfectly satisfied on this ground alone, that they are authentic and inspired, and yet, if he would prove this to another, he must resort to arguments entirely distinct from this—he must go to what are called the external evidences.
In the infancy of society, and many nations are yet in their infancy, before science has made her researches, nothing can be more obscure and perplexing than the operations of nature. Design itself is often concealed, is often but obscurely perceived, and unity of design is not perceived at all; and yet we find mankind holding on to their belief in a God, with a strength altogether disproportioned to the clearness with which design can possibly be discovered. If we consider too, the great importance io the race of a belief in a God, and the analogy of nature in regard to the mode in
which essential ideas are furnished, we may perhaps think it probable that this great idea was not intended to be entirely dependent on the varying process of induction from premises without. It may appear probable that religion, to which the idea of God is fundamental, which is afterwards to shoot higher and spread wider in its influence than any other power, should have its roots in the very foundation and elements of the soul of man. It is only on the supposition of something of this kind in the original constitution of man, that the common definition of him as a religious animal can be sustained.
Influenced by these, and similar considerations, several philosophers have asserted that the idea of God is innate; by which we suppose them to mean, that it is elementary to the human mind, and necessarily arises from the developement of its faculties and in the circumstances in which it is placed. This is certainly the case with a number of primary truths, the proof of which, just in proportion as they are elementary, is at the same time difficult and superfluous. Take for instance that of personal identity. No one doubts this, yet there are few who would not be puzzled to prove it. We may invent arguments concerning it, we may seem to be convinced by them, they may be in fact conclusive, and yet we are in the end no more certain of the thing itself than we were before.
That the idea and belief of a God are in some such relation to us, arising with more or less distinctness from the developement of our faculties, seems probable, as hinted above, from the very general agreement of mankind on this subject. No other instance can be adduced of such general agreement on any subject, the ground of which is to be found in reasoning from premises that are without. Except in mathematical truths, mankind differ in every thing that is derived from deduction, and nothing can be more diverse than their opinions. But in regard to their belief in a God, however different and futile may have been the reasons by which they proved it to themselves, yet they seem, in general, to have been equally certain of the thing; showing that they rather sought arguments for what they believed before on grounds so elementary that they found it difficult to give an account of them, than that their belief was the consequence of their arguments.
If our limits would permit, we should like to enter upon the question of the reality and legitimacy of such an idea. This, however, is not our intention. If we suppose it to exist, it is still desirable to have a form of proof corresponding to that of the external evidence for the Scriptures. It is desirable that we should be able to state distinctly such data as shall be assented to by those who deny the existence or authority of first impressions, to divest our proof of the obscurity, which, to many minds, hangs around our spontaneous and elementary ideas, and to bring the argument within the province of our reflective and logical powers. There is no man who does not find his convictions strengthened, when his original and obscure impressions are thus confirmed by a logical process of the understanding. But if we do not suppose such an elementary belief in a God, then is it doubly important that we should state our argument from other sources in the best manner we may, since it is only from its connection with him that human nature finds either dignity or hope.
An argument, the want of which is thus indicated, is supposed by many to be found in the order and harmony of the external universe. This argument has been adduced from the earliest times, and either from its coinciding with previous opinions, or from its intrinsic weight, has been generally thought conclusive. Still there have always been those who contested its validity. The ground anciently assumed by those who denied the force of this argument, was entirely different from that which is taken in modern times. The mechanism of the heavens was then undisclosed ; nothing comparatively was known of the structure of animals or vegetables, or of the processes by which life is sustained. Nothing was known of chemistry, or electricity, or magnetism, or of the weight of the atmosphere, or of the properties of light. Hypothesis assumed the place of observation, and so long as men endeavored, from preconceived notions, to prescribe the mode in which God ought to act, rather than to observe how he did act, it is clear that the figments of the human imagination must have been taken as the standard and measure of the wisdom of God. Accordingly, the question then was, not whether perfect, or at least extended order and harmony would prove the existence of God, but whether there was such order and harmony in nature. It was the sensible reply of one of the Byzantine emperors, when a priest endeavored to illustrate to him the wisdom of God from the mechanism of the heavens as then understood, that he thought he could
construct them better himself. But the progress of modern science has put this question forever at rest. Every new discovery has added force to the conviction of design as involved in the production and maintenance of the present system of things, and no man at all acquainted with any department of nature, would now say that he thought he could arrange it better himself. So far indeed have investigations of this kind been carried, and so full is nature of design and purpose, from the blade of grass to the sun in the heavens, that she now seems to stand as
one great transparency, through which the workings of a designing agent may be
And not only so, but apparent discrepancies have been so reconciled, particular events have been so traced to general laws, and such a convergency and principle of unity has been traced in the laws themselves, as to force upon the scientific inquirer, the conviction that this designing agent, whatever its nature or attributes in other respects may be, must be one.
But while science advanced, and the evidence of design was indicated, the ground of controversy was changed, and speculative atheism increased. That great feature of nature, ascertained by the inductive logic, that she works by general laws, which are universal and unswerving under all circumstances, began to stand out more and more prominently. From some circumstances which we shall point out presently, connected with this invariable operation of the laws of nature, men began to rest in the laws themselves as a sufficient account of the events which took place according to them, or at most, to attribute their existence and efficacy to the workings of some unreflective, unconscious, adaptive energy, like the plastic nature of Cudworth, or what has been called the " soul of the world.”
This is doubtless the strong hold of modern atheism. We call it atheism, because, though it admits, as it must, an energy in nature, it denies the moral character of God; it destroys accountability, and puts in the place of our Father who is in heaven, a blind and remorseless destiny. It is not however, atheists alone, who, since the revelations of modern science, have thought that the existence of a being at all corresponding to our idea of God, could not be proved from the light of nature. The religious and philosophical Pascal, was of this opinion; and recently the same opinion has been common among the German philosophers. It has also been
embraced by some in England and in this country.* Our inquiry, then, is, why this argument has not been more universally convincing; and whether design, manifested according to fixed laws, is so encumbered and obscured as to render less imperative the logical conviction of a divine and free superintendence.
The question, it will be remembered, is not whether some power exists, for that is conceded, not whether that power can contrive, for its resources in that way are evidently indefinitely great; but whether that power is a distinct, free, personal agent. If this be not true, then have we no resations to God which our moral nature can recognise, and his existence is not worth the trouble of proof.
It may be difficult to define exactly in what personality consists; but our idea of it is distinct, and is implied in alınost every action of our lives. No one can fail to perceive how wide is the gulf which separates him from a thing, or from a brute, which is, so far as law and right are concerned, a thing; and no one can believe that any addition, in kind, to the powers of the brute, can make it approximate to an equality with himself. Man is of a different nature. The transition from the brutes to man, in the ascending series of creation, was like that from inanimate to animate being; and when nature made it, she passed a chaos across which no bridge can ever be thrown. There is a vast difference between a spire of grass and the oak that shades it; still that spire possesses every thing in kind that belongs to the tree, and is equally removed from the largest mass of unorganized matter. As the difference between that spire and mere matter, so is that between man and the brutes; as the difference between the same spire and the oak above it, so is that between man and the seraphim and cherubim above. The chief distinctive characteristics of man and the elements of personality, seem to be reason, by which we mean here, the power of distinguishing the necessary and the universal ; reflection, sometimes termed self-consciousness, by which we become at the same time the subject and the object of thought; free-will, and the power of perceiving general relations, which last is by some supposed to belong to reason. Whether each of these implies all the others, we need not now inquire ; but so far as we can observe, no one of them
* See Coleridge's Aids to Reflection, p. 119, with the note by president Marsh.