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trines, and in asserting the validity of the | certain sacrifices must be made, and some argument which is founded upon that rea- of the most urgent propensities of the mind sonableness. It would save a vast deal of put under severe restraint and regulation. controversy, if it could be proved that all The human mind feels restless and dissatisthis is superfluous and uncalled for; that fied under the anxieties of ignorance. It upon the authority of the proofs already longs for the repose of conviction; and to insisted on, the New Testament must be re-gain this repose, it will often rather preceived as a revelation from heaven; and cipitate its conclusions, than wait for the that, instead of sitting in judgment over it, tardy lights of observation and experiment. nothing remains on our part but an act of There is such a thing, too, as the love of unreserved submission to all the doctrine simplicity and system-a prejudice of the and information which it offers to us. It is understanding, which disposes it to include conceived, that in this way the general ar- all the phenomena of nature under a few gument might be made to assume a more sweeping generalities-an indolence, which powerful and impressive aspect; and the loves to repose on the beauties of a theory, defence of Christianity be more accommo- rather than encounter the fatiguing detail dated to the spirit and philosophy of the of its evidences-a painful reluctance to the admission of facts, which, however true, break upon the majestic simplicity that we would fain ascribe to the laws and operations of the universe.
Since the spirit of Lord Bacon's philosophy began to be rightly understood, the science of external nature has advanced with a rapidity unexampled in the history of all former ages. The great axiom of his philosophy is so simple in its nature, and so undeniable in its evidence, that it is astonishing how philosophers were so late in acknowledging it, or in being directed by its authority. It is more than two thousand years since the phenomena of external nature were objects of liberal curiosity to speculative and intelligent men. Yet two centuries have scarcely elapsed since the true path of investigation has been rightly pursued, and steadily persevered in; since the evidence of experience has been received as paramount to every other evidence, or, in other words, since philosophers have agreed that the only way to learn the magnitude of an object is to measure it, the only way to learn its tangible properties is to touch it, and the only way to learn its visible properties is to look at it.
Nothing can be more safe or more infallible than the procedure of the inductive philosophy as applied to the phenomena of external nature. It is the eye, or the earwitness of every thing which it records. It is at liberty to classify appearances, but then in the work of classifying, it must be directed only by observation. It may group phenomena according to their resemblances. It may express these resemblances in words, and announce them to the world in the form of general laws. Yet such is the hardihood of the inductive philosophy, that though a single well-attested fact should overturn a whole system, that fact must be admitted. A single experiment is often made to cut short the finest process of generalization, however painful and humiliating the sacrifice; and though a theory, the most simple and magnificent that ever charmed the eye of an enthusiast, was on the eve of emerging from it.
In submitting, then, to the rules of the inductive philosophy, we do not deny that G
Now, it is the glory of Lord Bacon's philosophy, to have achieved a victory over all these delusions; to have disciplined the minds of its votaries into an entire submission to evidence; to have trained them up in a kind of steady coldness to all the splendour and magnificence of theory, and taught them to follow, with unfaultering step, wherever the sure though humble path of experiment may lead them.
To justify the cautious procedure of the inductive philosophy, nothing more is necessary than to take a view of the actual powers and circumstances of humanity; of the entire ignorance of man when he comes into the world, and of the steps by which that ignorance is enlightened; of the numerous errors into which he is misled the moment he ceases to observe, and begins to presume or to excogitate; of the actual history of science; its miserable progress, so long as categories and principles retained their ascendency in the schools; and the splendour and rapidity of its triumphs, so soon as man understood that he was nothing more than the disciple of Nature, and must take his lesson as Nature offers it to him.
What is true of the science of external nature, holds equally true of the science and phenomena of mind. On this subject, too, the presumptuous ambition of man carried him far from the sober path of experimental inquiry. He conceived that his business was not to observe, but to speculate; to construct systems rather than consult his own experience and the experience of others; to collect the materials of his theory, not from the history of observed facts, but from a set of assumed and excogitated principles. Now the same observations apply to this department of inquiry. We must admit to be true, not what we presume, but what we find to be so. We must restrain the enterprises of fancy. A law of the human mind must be only a
impiety; we speak of it as an offence against We do not speak of this feeling as an the principles of just speculation. We do not speak of it as it allures the heart from the influence of religion; we speak of it as it allures the understanding from the influence of evidence and truth. In a word, we are not preaching against it; we reason against it. We contend that it is a transgression against the rules of the inductive philosophy. All that we want is, the application of Lord Bacon's principles to the investigation before us; and as the influence of prejudice and disgust is banished from every other department of inquiry, we conceive it fair that it should be banished from theology also, and that our subject should have the common advantage of a hearing,-where no partiality of the heart
series of well-authenticated facts, reduced to | investigation, theology is the only subject one general description, or grouped together that is suffered to remain the victim of preunder some general points of resemblance. judice, and of a contempt the most unjust, The business of the moral as well as of the and the most unphilosophical. natural philosopher is not to assert what he excogitates, but to record what he observes; not to amuse himself with the speculations of fancy, but to describe phenomena as he sees or as he feels them. This is the business of the moral as well as of the natural inquirer. We must extend the application of Lord Bacon's principles to moral and metaphysical subjects. It was long before this application was recognized, or acted upon by philosophers. Many of the continental speculations are still infected with the presumptuous a priori spirit of the old schools; though the writings of Reid and Stewart have contributed much to chase away this spirit from the metaphysics of our own country, and to bring the science of mind, as well as matter, under the entire dominion of the inductive philosophy. These general observations we conceive or fancy is admitted, and no other influto be a most direct and applicable introduc-ence acknowledged than the influence of tion to that part of the subject which is evidence over the convictions of the underbefore us. In discussing the evidence of standing. Christianity, all that we ask of our reader is to bring along with him the same sober and inductive spirit, that is now deemed so necessary in the prosecution of the other sciences; to abandon every system of theology, that is not supported by evidence, however much it may gratify his taste, or regale his imagination, and to admit any system of theology, that is supported by evidence, however repugnant to his feelings or his prejudices; to make conviction, in fact, paramount to inclination, or to fancy; and to maintain, through the whole process of the investigation, that strength and intrepidity of character, which will follow wherever the light of argument may conduct him, though it should land him in conclusions the most nauseous and unpalatable. We have no time to enter into causes; but the fact is undeniable. Many philosophers of the present day are disposed to nauseate every thing connected with theology. They associate something low and ignoble with the prosecution of it. They regard it, as not a fit subject for liberal inquiry. They turn away from it with disgust, as one of the humblest departments of literary exertion. We do not say that they reject its evidences, but they evade the investigation of them. They feel no conviction; not because they have established the fallacy of a single argument, but because they entertain a general dislike at the subject, and will not attend to it. They love to expatiate in the more kindred fields of science or elegant literature; and while the most respectful caution, and humility, and steadiness, are seen to preside over every department of moral and physical
success and felicity with which Lord Ba-
every thing antecedent to observation; and
sciences where the objects of inquiry are
the most familiar and the most accessible. I fluence of every authority, but the authority Before the right method of philosophising of experience. We see that the beauty of was acted upon, how grossly did philoso- the old system had no power to charm him phers misinterpret the phenomena of ex- from that process of investigation by which ternal nature, when a steady perseverance he destroyed it. We see him sitting upon in the path of observation could have led its merits with the severity of a judge, unthem to infallible certainty! How misled moved by all those graces of simplicity and in their conception of every thing around magnificence which the sublime genius of them, when, instead of making use of their its inventor had thrown around it. senses, they delivered themselves up to the exercises of a solitary abstraction, and thought to explain every thing by the fantastic play of unmeaning terms, and imaginary principles! And, when at last set on the right path of discovery, how totally different were the results of actual observation, from those systems which antiquity had rendered venerable, and the authority of great names had recommended to the acquiescence of many centuries! This proves that even in the most familiar subjects, man knows every thing by observation, and is ignorant of every thing without it; and that he cannot advance a single footstep in the acquirement of truth, till he bid adieu to the delusions of theory, and sternly refuse indulgence to its fondest anticipations.
Thus, there is both a humility and a hardihood in the philosophical temper. They are the same in principle, though different in display. The first is founded on a sense of ignorance, and disposes the mind of the philosopher to pay the most respectful attention to every thing that is offered in the shape of evidence. The second consists in a determined purpose to reject and to sacrifice every thing that offers to oppose the influence of evidence, or to set itself up against its legitimate and well-established conclusions. In the ethereal whirlpools of Des Cartes, we see a transgression against the humility of the philosophical character. It is the presumption of knowledge on a subject, where the total want of observation should have confined him to the modesty of ignorance. In the Newtonian system of the world, we see both humility and hardihood. Sir Isaac commences his investigation with all the modesty of a respectful inquirer. His is the docility of a scholar, who is sensible that he has all to learn. He takes his lesson as experience offers it to him, and yields a passive obedience to the authority of this great schoolmaster. It is in his obstinate adherence to the truth which his master has given him, that the hardihood of the philosophical character begins to appear. We see him announce, with entire confidence, both the fact and its legitimate consequences. We see him not deterred by the singularity of his conclusions, and quite unmindful of that host of antipathies which the reigning taste and philosophy of the times mustered up to oppose him. We see him resisting the in
We look upon these two constituents of the philosophical temper, as forming the best preparation for finally terminating in the decided Christian. In appreciating the pretensions of Christianity, there is a call both upon the humility and the hardihood of every inquirer; the humility which feels its own ignorance, and submits without reserve to whatever comes before it in the shape of authentic and well-established evidence; and the hardihood, which sacrifices every taste and every prejudice at the shrine of conviction, which defies the scorn of a pretended philosophy, which is not ashamed of a profession that some conceive to be degraded by the homage of the superstitious vulgar, which can bring down its mind to the homeliness of the Gospel, and renounce, without a sigh, all that is elegant, and splendid, and fascinating, in the speculations of moralists. In attending to the complexion of the Christian argument, we are widely mistaken, if it is not precisely that kind of argument which will be most readily admitted by those whose minds have been trained to the soundest habits of philosophical investigation; and if that spirit of cautious and sober-minded inquiry to which modern science stands indebted for all her triumphs, is not the very identical spirit which leads us to "cast down all our lofty imaginations, and to bring every thought into the captivity of the obedience of Christ."
On entering into any department of inquiry, the best preparation is that docility of mind which is founded on a sense of our total ignorance of the subject: and nothing is looked upon as more unphilosophical than the temerity of that a priori spirit, which disposes many to presume before they investigate. But if we admit the total ignorance of man antecedent to observation, even in those sciences where the objects of inquiry are the nearest and the most familiar, we will be more ready to admit his total ignorance of those subjects which are more remote and more inaccessible. If caution and modesty be esteemed so philosophical, even when employed in that little field of investigation which comes within the range of our senses; why should they not be esteemed philosophical when employed on a subject so vast, so awful, so remote from direct and personal observation, as the government of God? There can be nothing so completely above us, and
nomena which can be collected from the narratives of antiquity. We seize with avidity every record of the manifestations of Providence, every fact which can enlighten the ways of God to man; and we would esteem it a deviation from the right spirit and temper of philosophical investigation, were we to suffer the crude or fanciful speculations of our own limited experience to take a precedency over the authentic informations of history.
beyond us, as the plans of the Infinite Mind, | which extend to all time, and embrace all worlds. There is no subject to which the cautious and humble spirit of Lord Bacon's philosophy is more applicable; nor can we conceive a more glaring rebellion against the authority of his maxims, than for the beings of a day to sit in judgment upon the Eternal, and apply their paltry experience to the counsels of his high and unfathoma- | ble wisdom. We do not speak of it as impious; we speak of it as unphilosophical. We are not bringing the decrees of the orthodox to bear against it; we are bringing the principles of our modern and enlightened schools. We are applying the very same principles to a system of theism, that we would do to a system of geology. Both may regale the fancy with the grandeur of their contemplations; both may receive embellishment from the genius and imagination of their inventors; both may carry us along with the powers of a captivating eloquence. But all this is not enough to satisfy the severe and scrupulous spirit of the modern philosophy. Give us facts. Give us appearances. Show us how, from the experience of a life or a century, you can draw a legitimate conclusion so boundless in its extent, and by which you propose to fix down both the processes of a remote antiquity, and the endless progressions either of nature or of providence in future ages. Are there any historical documents? Any memorials of the experience of past times? On a question of such magnitude, we would esteem the recorded observations of some remote age to be peculiarly valuable, and worth all the ingenuity and eloquence which a philosopher could bestow on the limited experience of one or two generations. A process of geology may take millions of years before it reaches its accomplishment. It is impossible that we can collect the law or the character of this process from the experience of a single century, which does not furnish us one single step in this vast and immeasurable progression. We look as far as we can into a distant antiquity, and take hold with avidity of any authentic document, by which we can ascertain a single fact to guide and to enlighten us in this interesting excluded, that the whole may be reduced speculation. The same caution is necessary to a matter of abstract and unfeeling intelliin the subject before us. The administra- gence. The question under consideration tion of the Supreme Being is coeval with is, How far the experience of man can lead the first purposes of his uncreated mind, and him to any certain conclusions, as to the it points to eternity. The life of man is but character of the divine administration; if it a point in that progress, to which we see does lead him to some certain conclusions, no end, and can assign no beginning. We then in the spirit of the Baconian philosoare not able to collect the law or the cha-phy, he will apply these conclusions to the racter of this administration from an expe- information derived from other sources; rience so momentary. We therefore cast and they will of course affect, or destroy, an eye on the history of past times. We or confirm the credibility of that informaexamine every document which comes be- tion. If, on the other hand, it appears fore us. We compare all the moral phe- that experience gives no light, no direc
It is impossible not to mingle the moral impressions of piety with such a contemplation. But suppose these impressions to be
But this is not all. Our experience is not only limited in point of time; it is also limited in point of extent. To assign the character of the divine administration from the little that offers itself to the notice of our own personal experience, would be far more absurd than to infer the history and character of the kingdom from the history and character of our own family. Vain is the attempt to convey in language what the nost powerful imagination sinks under; how small the globe, and "all which it inherits," is in the immensity of creation! How humble a corner in the immeasurable ' fields of nature and of providence! If the whole visible creation were to be swept away, we think of the dark and awful solitude which it would leave behind it in the unpeopled regions of space. But to a mind that could take in the whole, and throw a wide survey over the innumerable worlds which roll beyond the ken of the human eye, the would be no blank, and the universe of God would appear a scene as goodly and majestic as ever. Now it is the administration of this God that we sit in judgment upon; the counsels of Him, whose wisdom and energy are of a kind so inexplicable; whom no magnitude can overpower, whom no littleness can escape, whom no variety can bewilder; who gives vegetation to every blade of grass, and moves every particle of blood which circulates through the veins of the minutest animal; and all this by the same omnipotent arm that is abroad upon the universe, and presides in high authority over the destiny of all worlds.
tion on the subject, then, in the very same upon the weight, or the nature of human spirit, he will submit his mind as a blank testimony, that they venture to pronounce surface to all the positive information on the credibility of the Christian revelawhich comes to it from any other quar- tion. It is on the character of that revelater. We take our lesson as it comes to tion itself. It is on what they conceive to us, provided we are satisfied beforehand, be the absurdity of its doctrines. It is bethat it comes from a source which is au- cause they see something in the nature or thentic. We set up no presumptions of our dispensation of Christianity, which they own against the authority of the unques- think disparaging to the attributes of God, tionable evidence that we have met with, and not agreeable to that line of proceeding and reject all the suggestions which our de- which the Almighty should observe in the fective experience can furnish, as the follies government of his creatures. Rousseau exof a rash and fanciful speculation. presses his astonishment at the strength of the historical testimony; so strong, that the inventor of the narrative appeared to him to be more miraculous than the hero. But the absurdities of this said revelation are
Now, let it be observed, that the great strength of the Christian argument lies in the historical evidence for the truth of the Gospel narrative. In discussing the light of this evidence, we walk by the light of ex-sufficient in his mind to bear down the perience. We assign the degree of weight whole weight of its direct and external evithat is due to the testimony of the first dences. There was something in the docChristians upon the observed principles of trines of the New Testament repulsive to human nature. We do not step beyond the taste and the imagination, and perhaps the cautious procedure of Lord Bacon's even to the convictions of this interesting philosophy. We keep within the safe and enthusiast. He could not reconcile them certain limits of experimental truth. We with his pre-established conceptions of the believe the testimony of the apostles, be- divine character and mode of operation. cause, from what we know of the human To submit to these doctrines, he behoved to character, it is impossible that men in their surrender that theism, which the powers of circumstances could have persevered as his ardent mind had wrought up into a they did in the assertion of a falsehood; it most beautiful and delicious speculation. is impossible that they could have imposed Such a sacrifice was not to be made. It this falsehood upon such a multitude of fol- was too painful. It would have taken away lowers; it is impossible that they could from him, what every mind of genius and have escaped detection, surrounded as they sensibility esteems to be the highest of all were by a host of enemies, so eager and so luxuries. It would destroy a system, which determined in their resentments. On this had all that is fair and magnificent to rekind of argument we are quite at home. commend it, and mar the gracefulness of There is no theory, no assumption. We that fine intellectual picture, on which this feel every inch of the ground we are tread- wonderful man had bestowed all the eming upon. The degree of credit that should bellishments of feeling, and fancy, and elobe annexed to the testimony of the apostles, quence. is altogether a question of experience. Every principle which we apply towards the de-conduct of man in given circumstances, we cision of this question is founded upon ma- would pass a favourable sentence upon the terials which lie before us, and are every testimony of the apostles. But, says the day within the reach of observation. Our Deist, I judge of the conduct of God; and belief in the testimony of the apostles, is what the apostles tell me of him is so oppofounded upon our experience of human na- site to that judgment, that I discredit their ture and human affairs. In the whole process testimony. The question at issue between of the inquiry, we never wander from that us is, shall we admit the testimony of the sure, though humble path, which has been apostles, upon the application of principles pointed out to us by the great master of founded on observation, and as certain as is philosophising. We never cast off the au- our experience of human affairs? Or, shall thority of those maxims which have been we reject that testimony upon the applicafound in every other department of know- tion of principles that are altogether beyond ledge to be sound and infallible. We never the range of observation, and as doubtful suffer assumption to take the precedency and imperfect in their nature, as is our exof observation, or abandon that safe and perience of the counsels of heaven? In the certain mode of investigation, which is the first argument there is no assumption. We only one suited to the real mediocrity of are competent to judge of the behaviour of our powers. man in given circumstances. This is a subject completely accessible to observation. The second argument is founded upon assumption entirely. We are not competent to judge of the conduct of the Almighty in given circumstances. Here we are pre
In as far, then, as we can judge of the
It appears to us, that the disciples of the infidel philosophy have reversed this process. They take a loftier flight. You seldom find them upon the ground of the historical evidence. It is not in general,