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tinct will, whose agents and ministers these laws were. Such an event would be a miracle, an event in its moral relations of the most amazing import. Such attestations of his being, we believe God has given, and given, too, in reference to this very feeling of indefiniteness, of generality, of want of personality in the supreme power, which the operation of general laws, necessarily confounding all moral distinctions, has a tendency to produce. But if such events have happened, they are not a part of nature, it is not nature that tells us of them, and it is only with her that we are at present concerned.
Whatever may be thought of these views, as bearing upon the argument from design, they will not be without their uses if they indicate more clearly than has sometimes been done, those peculiarities of design as manifested through general laws, by which, so far as it is unconnected with the heart, an atheistic impression is produced. To illustrate these, in connection with the argument from design, still farther, we shall make a few observations of somewhat wider compass.
There are two properties commonly ascribed to the works of nature, which if they can be proved from her own light, would seem to imply personality in the agent. These are wisdom and goodness.
Objections to the wisdom of nature, are derived from two sources. The first is the independent mode in which her laws act with reference to each other, the result of which is , an apparent want of consistency, or of mutual understanding between her several departments. A wise man does not destroy with one hand what he has been at much pains to construct with the other. The tendency of animals to devour each other, may perhaps, when opposed to the instinct of self-preservation, be considered as a case of this kind. True it is that life is preserved and perpetuated, but it is only on the condition of death. “ Life," it is true, "seats herself upon the sepulchre,” but then she digs the sepulchre upon which she sits; and nature, so far as she is carnivorous, seems as it were an animal that lives only by preying upon itself. But instances are more striking when taken from provinces of nature more distinct from each other. In one of her departments, we see innumerable blossoms put forth and elaborated with the nicest care, containing, to an indefinite extent, the germs of future fruitfulness; in another department, we see the frost come, and, without remorse, cut them off in a mo
ment. In the man falling from a precipice, we see nature, with one hand carrying on, with her wonted assiduity, the processes of life, while with the other, she is dashing him to destruction. The conflagration and tempest proceed with equal fury, whether they war with the laws of life or spend themselves upon inanimate matter. But the chief difficulty in discovering wisdom from the works of nature, arises from the fact that the real and ultiinate end of her works is not discoverable by her light alone. Wisdom and knowledge are by no means identical. Wisdom is judged of from the end pursued; knowledge, from the means taken in pursuing it. Man is always a knowing, but not often a wise being. His contrivances are fitted to his ends, but his ends are folly. In inquiring, then, after the wisdom of nature, we must observe, not the means which she employs, not any subordinate end, but whether we can discover any ultimate end, and if so, what that is.
In looking for an ultimate end of nature, we should doubtless expect to find it, if any where, in man, since he is the epitome and crown of all that we behold. But when we observe the uncertainty and brevity of his life, heat and cold, hunger and thirst, poverty and disease, pressing upon him in that little space, when we see how all his faculties, and life itself, are, as it were, sported with, when we see the grinning idiot and the moody or raving maniac, when we see the pestilence sweep him suddenly into the grave, regardless of bis aims or bis hopes, when we see him in no way more respected in any of nature's operations than the meanest insect, we cannot suppose that the end of all this mighty scheme is to be found in him. This conviction is especially strengthened when we consider the disorder of the passions, all the oppressions that are done under the sun," and in general, how the events in the moral world, whether man has to do with nature that brings all things alike to all, or whether he has to do with his fellow-men, conflict with our natural sense of order and of right. But if this end cannot be found in man, much less can it in the inferior animals, or in any thing unconscious, however beautifully organized. The instant indeed that this world is viewed as a preparatory dispensation, the whole face of things is changed. The instant we regard this visible and material structure as a temporary staging which is to stand only till the completion of the true building, which is moral, spiritual, perfect, eternal,
that instant do we discover an end worthy of this amazing scene of things, that instant do we discover wisdom. But this idea, nature and the works of nature do not give. To whatever extent it has existed in the minds of men, it has existed there, not from a philosophical examination of the works of nature, but from tradition, and from reflecting upon the operations and forebodings of their own minds. If we suppose, as believers in revelation do, that the ultimate end of the present system is the establishment of such a moral and permanent government, then, to suppose that we can discover wisdom in it, without a knowledge of that end, is much the same as to suppose that we could discover wisdom in the contrivances for picking and carding cotton without knowing that cloth was to be made of it. Show us the cloth, the ultimate end, and then we are willing to admit that there is wisdom in the arrangements, though we may not understand them all; but no elaborateness of contrivance for a nugatory end, or for no end at all, can discover wisdom. What we would say, then, is that the true end of the works of nature being out of, and beyond then selves, is not discoverable from them; and that without some knowledge of what the end is in any work, we cannot tell whether there is wisdom displayed in it or not. It
may be true, that to a mind of great compass, like that of bishop Butler, certain general tendencies are discoverable in nature, towards a great moral result, and these, when discovered, go strongly to confirm the direct evidence for that result; but they are not obvious to the mass of mankind, and when taken by themselves, are so obscure as to leave the greatest and best minds in distressing perplexity.
Several of the remarks made in regard to wisdom, apply equally to the subject of goodness as discoverable from the works of nature. If wisdom be not discoverable, then goodness cannot be, since goodness is a part of wisdom. How can it be known of any thing whether it be good, if the end or purpose of it be not known? Particular subordinate ends may be known, but heathen nations were entirely uncertain of the ultimate end of the present state of things. Certain it is, as Butler remarks, that many of the wisest among them considered this world as a place of punishment for the delinquencies of some former state of being. It would seem probable that the opinions of mankind on this subject might vary, as they were situated in different regions or in different circumstances.
“Don't you suppose, said a brahmin to an American missionary, pointing to a bearer who was toiling in the sun, " that that man is in hell ?” The Greenlander amidst his snows, the slave toiling all his life long under the lash, with no knowledge of a futurity, can hardly feel that the present world is greatly good to them. So discrepant have been the appearances of nature, the principles of good and evil have been so blended together, that many nations have imagined the existence of two beings to whom they have imputed the origin of all things, the one benevolent, the other malevolent. Between these, they have fancied a continual struggle, and not seldom have they chiefly worshipped and endeavored to propitiate the malevolent being. They knew of the sunshine and the breezes, of the flowers and the fruits ; but they knew, also, of the volcano and the earthquake, of the tempest and the pestilence. In estimating any scheme, we judge of it, not so much by particular parts, as by the manner in which it works. However it may come to pass, it is matter of experience that unmixed happiness is not to be found, and that there has been and still is an appalling amount of misery on this earth. Judging then from nature only, from the result, must not the conclusion be, that there must have been a deficiency either of power or of goodness, in that which was the origin of all things, whatever it may have been?
But if we reason with perfect strictness, we shall see that these beneficent contrivances may not have been the result of goodness. In order to this, we must make a distinction between beneficence and goodness. The sun is beneficent ; God is good. Goodness is the intentional production of happiness, but there may be beneficence or usefulness without this. The parent animal does many things which conduce to the comfort of its young, but no one supposes it to have goodness in the proper sense of the term.
If there be an adaptive, necessitated, impersonal being, such as atheists mean by nature, its adaptations must tend to something, and why not to happiness as well as to any thing else? How can we know that these contrivances arise from any thing higher than that which causes the parent bird to build its nest and line it with soft feathers for its young? Nature the mother of all may be a beneficent instinct, and there exist no personal and good being.
We admit that when we follow the developement of contrivance in nature, and observe the infinity of her resources, when we observe the simplicity of her plan, and the diversity of her operations, how perfectly she descends to the minute, and how easily she wields the vast, it would be natural to connect with the power working all this, the highest attributes of intelligence with which we are acquainted. To do this would be the eager aspiration of every heart rightly affected, but if what has been said be correct, logical accuracy does not compel the deduction, and the argument from design falls short of being a strict proof of the existence of a personal God. Contrivance manifested, no doubt proves a contriver, but this is by no means sufficient to furnish us with the elements of his character wliom we adore as Lord of all.
The inquiry then naturally arises, whether we have such a formal proof as bas been sought for in the argument from design. We think we have, ihough it seems to have been generally overlooked by writers on this subject. To attain this, neglecting the particular argument from design, we must press the more general one from cause to effect; we must carry it upward, not merely midway in the series of effects, but must make it comprise the highest and noblest of all known effects.
In doing this we remark, that as the eye beholds all things else, but is invisible to itself, so the mind wbichi apprehends other things, too often overlooks and fails to consider itself as a part of that creation which it contemplates. In looking for the evidence of a creative mind, where should we expect to find it but in mind created? As Akenside says of beauty and sublimity,
“ Mind, mind alone, bear witness earth and heaven,
The living fountain in itself contains
so we say, that in created mind alone, do we find the highest and true evidence of mind uncreated. If mind be any thing distinct from matter, it is evident that it can be known only by itself; that the exercise of the faculties of mind is the only condition on which a knowledge of the attributes of mind can be obtained, the only condition on which mind can be conceived of or recognized, and that, consequently, if we have any knowledge of God as a mind, it must be derived, not from any thing ab extra, but from the conscious operation of our own minds. The fallacy by which we seem to