Imatges de pàgina


Of the Metaphysics which have been resorted to on the side

of Theism.



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1. The doctrine of innate ideas in the mind, is wholly different from the doctrine of innate tendencies in the mind—which tendencies may lie undeveloped till the excitement of some occasion have manifested or brought them forth. newly formed mind, there is no idea of nature or of a single object in nature—yet no sooner is an object presented, or is an event observed to happen, than there is elicited the tendency of the mind to presume on the constancy of nature. At least as far back as our observation extends, this law of the mind is in full operation. Let an infant for the first time in its life, strike on the table with a spoon; and, pleased with the noise, it will repeat that stroke with every appearance of a confident anticipation that the noise will be repeated also. It counts on the invariableness wherewith the same consequent will follow the same antecedent. In the language of Dr. Thomas Brown, these two terms make up a sequence

and there seems to exist in the spirit of man, not an underived, but an aboriginal faith, in the uniformity of nature's sequences.


2. This instinctive expectation of a constancy in the succession of events is not the fruit of experience; but is anterior to it. The truth is that experience, so far from strengthening this instinct of the understanding as it has been called, seems rather to modify and restrain it. The child who elicited a noise which it likes from the collision of its spoon with the table would, in the first instance, expect the same result from a like collision with any material surface spread out before it-as if placed for example, on the smooth and level sand of a sea-shore. Here the effect of experience would be to correct its first strong and unbridled anticipations—so that in time it would not look for the wished for noise in the infliction of a stroke upon sand or clay or the surface of a fluid, but upon

wood or stone or metal. The office of experience here is not to strengthen our faith in the uniformity of nature's sequences, but to ascertain what the sequences actually are. The effect of the experience is not to give the faith, but to the faith to add knowledge. At the outset of its experience a child's confidence in the uniformity of nature is unbounded and it is in the progress of its experience, that it meets with that which serves to limit the confidence and to qualify it. forth upon external nature furnished beforehand with the expectation of the invariableness which obtains between nature's antecedents and her consequents but it often falls into mistakes in estimating what the proper antecedents and consequents

To ascertain this is the great use of experience. The great object of repetition in experiments

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is not to strengthen our confidence in the constancy of nature's sequences--but to ascertain what be the real and precise terms of each sequence. It is for this purpose that experiments are so varied --for in that assemblage of contemporaneous things amid which a given result takes place, it is often not known at the first which of the things is the strict and proper antecedent--and it is to determine this, that sometimes certain of the old circumstances are detached from the


and oertain new ones added, till the discrimination has been precisely made between what is essential and what is merely accessary in the process.

3. This predisposition to count on the uniformity of nature is an original law of the mind, and is not the fruit of our observation of that uniformity. It has been well stated by Dr. Brown that there is no more of logical dependence between the propositions, that a stone has a thousand times fallen to the earth and a stone will always fall to the earth, than there is between the propositions that a stone has once fallen to the earth and a stone will always fall to the earth. " At whatever link of the chain we begin,” he says, “we must always meet with the same difficulty, the conversion of the past into the future. If it be absurd to make this conversion at one stage of inquiry, it is just as absurd to make it at any other stage; and, as far as our memory extends, there never was a time at which we did not make the instant conversion.” The truth is, that experience teaches the past only-not the future. It tells us what has happened before the present moment—and to mfer


from this what will happen afterwards, requires the aid of a distinct principle—the instinctive principle of belief, in short, whose reality we are now contending for.

4. The constancy of nature and man's faith in that constancy do not stand related to each other like the terms of a logical proposition, or in the way of cause and consequence.

There is a most beneficent harmony between the material and the mental law-but it is altogether a contingent harmony; and the adaptation of the one to the other is perhaps the most precious evidence within the compass of our own unborrowed light, for a presiding intelligence in the formation or arrangements of the universe. The argument unfolded by Dr. Paley with such marvellous felicity and power, is founded chiefly on the fitnesses that meet together in man's coporeal economy, and on the adjustments of its parts to external nature. It is true that our mental economy offers nothing so complex or so palpable on which to raise a similar argument ; and yet can we instance a more wonderful adjustment, or one more prolific of good to our species, than that which obtains between the unexcepted uniformity of nature's processes, and the prior independent disposition which resides in the heart of man to count upon that uniformity, and to proceed on the unfaltering faith of it? Were it not for this, man should for ever remain a lost and bewildered creature among

around him-and no experience of his could in the least help to unravel the confusion. The regularity of nature up to the present moment would be of no

the appearances


avail, without his faith in the continuance of that regularity—and it is only by the force of this instinctive anticipation, that the memorials of the past serve him as indices by which to guide his way through the futurity that lies before him. The striking accordancy is, that there should be such an expectation deposited in every bosom; and that from every department of the accessible creation there should be to this expectation the response or the echo of one wide and unexcepted fulfilment. It is like a whisper to the heart of man of a universal promise, which can only be executed by a hand of universal agency--and as if the same Being who infused the hope by an energy within, did, by a diffusive energy abroad, cause the response of an unfailing accomplishment to arise from all the amplitudes of creation and providence. This intuitive faith is not the acquisition of experience; but is given as if by the touch of inspiration for the purpose of stamping on experience all its value not gathered by man from his observation of outward nature; but forming an original part of his own nature, and yet in such glorious harmony with all that is around him throughout the innumerable host of nature's sequences, that he never once by trusting in her constancy is disappointed or deceived. Such is the steadfastness of her manifold processes that nature never misgives from her constancy. Such is the strength of his mental instinct that man never misgives from his confidence. Had it not been for the union of these two man had been incapable of wisdom, The

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