Imatges de pÓgina

it discharges if it offer such a precognition as lays upon us the duty of farther entertaining it.

39. For, after having traversed the field of Natural Theology and come to the ulterior margin of it, it will be found that though ignorant of all which is before us in Christianity, there will still be the same moving force carrying us forward to its investigations, as that which now makes it morally imperative upon us to prosecute the inquiry after God. If it be morally incumbent on us now to follow out the faintest incipient notices of a Deity, it will be equally incumbent on us then to follow out the same notices of a profest, if at all a likely messenger from the sanctuary of His special dwellingplace. Now this is precisely what we shall come within sight of, after having finished the lessons of natural theism. There will then be offered to our observation a certain historical personage-bearing at least such a creditable aspect and such verisimilitude of a divine commission, that we cannot without violence to the ethical principles of the subject bid it away from our mind by an act of summary rejection. In the revealed, as well as in the natural religion, there is a prima facie evidence which, if not amounting to a claim on our belief, at least amounts to a claim on our attention. There stanter be put into our hands the materials of a valid proof, so as to challenge all at once from us a favourable verdict. But there will at least be put into our hands the materials of a valid precognition so as to challenge from us a fair trial. It may not announce itself; and what question whether in science or in history ever does so ?




may not in

-it may

not announce itself as worthy of our immediate conviction ; but it will announce itself as worthy of an immediate hearing. If there be not so much at the very first, of the certainty of truth as shall compel us to receive; there will at least be as much of the semblance of truth as should compel us to listen and to look after. And whether one looks to that expression of moral honesty which sits on the character and sayings of Jesus Christ, or cast a regard, however rapid and general, on the testimony and the sufferings and the apparent worth of those who followed in His train ; and after this forbears a closer inquiry—he incurs the same delinquency of spirit which we have already charged upon him who can step abroad with open eye among the glories of the creation, yet remain unmoved by any desire of gratitude or even of curiosity to the question of a Creator.

40. But there is one special advantage which we should not omit noticing in our study of the Natural prior to our study of the Christian argument. It may not prepare us for justly estimating the outward credentials of the embassy—but it will enable us to recognise other credentials in the very substance and contents of the embassy. After, in fact, that the theology of the schools has done its uttermost, it but lands us in certain desiderata which, if not met and not satisfied, leave nothing to humanity but the utmost destitution and despair. But if, on the other hand, these desiderata are met by the counterpart doctrines of Christianity-if the unresolved problems of the one theology do find their solution and their adjust

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ment in the revelations of the other theology, one cannot imagine a more inviting presumption in favour of Christianity—a presumption which may at length brighten into an overwhelming proof; and thus furnish conviction to a man who, though a perfect stranger to all erudition and history, may find enough of evidence struck out between his bible and his conscience to light him on his path. This is an internal evidence—the rudimental lessons of which we are in fact learning while we study the lessons of natural theology-a system which, with all its defects, performs a very high preliminary function,—seeing, that, by its dim and dawning probabilities, if not the obligation to believe, at least the obligation to inquire, is most rightfully laid upon us; and, that out of its very imperfections, an effective argument may be drawn in favour of that higher theology, in whose promises and truths every imperfection of nature meets with its appropriate and all-sufficient remedy.

41. Whether, then, at the commencement of the one inquiry or of the other, let us enter upon it in the spirit so admirably delineated by Seneca in the following sentence:-“Si introimus templa

. compositi, si ad sacrificia accessuri vultum submittimus, si in omne argumentum modestiæ fingimur; quanto hoc magis facere debemus, cum de sideribus, de stellis, de natura deorum disputamus, nequid temere, nequid impudenter, aut ignorantes affirmemus, aut scientes mentiamur."


Of the Metaphysics which have been resorted to on the side

of Theism.


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1. All have heard of the famous a priori argument of Dr. Clarke—an argument which Dr. Reid does homage to as the speculation of superior minds; but whether it be as solid as it is sublime, he professes himself wholly unable to determine.*

2. On this subject Dr. Thomas Brown is greatly more confident. “I conceive,” he tells us, “the abstract arguments which have been adduced to show that it is impossible for matter to have existed from eternity—by reasoning on what has been termed necessary existence, and the incompatibility of this necessary existence with the qualities of matter--to be relics of the mere verbal logic of the schools, as little capable of producing conviction as any of the wildest and most absurd of the technical scholastic reasonings, on the properties, or supposed properties, of entity and non-entity."

3. But let us not dismiss an argument, which so deeply infused what may be called the Theistical Literature of England for the first half of the last century, without some examination.

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*“ These,” says Dr. Reid, “ are the speculations of men of superior genius—but whether they be solid as they are sublime, or whether they be the wanderings of imagination into a region beyond the limits of the human understanding, I am unable to determine."


4. What then we hold to be the first question| able assumption in the reasonings of Dr. Clarke,

is that by which he appears to confound a physical with either a logical or mathematical necessity. We feel no difficulty in conceding to him the necessary existence of that which has existed from eternity-and that the necessity for its existence resides in itself and not in any thing apart from itself.

That which has been created by something else both came into being, and continues we may also admit to be, in virtue of a power that is without it; and it is to this power exoteric to itself that we have to look for the ground both of its first and its abiding existence.

But the thing which has existed for ever must also have some ground on which it continues to be, rather than that it should not be, or go to annihilation; and this ground on which at present it continues to be, must be the same with the ground on which it continued to be at any past moment. But if it never had a beginning this ground or principle of existence must have been from everlasting—the present ground in fact, on which it continues to exist, having abidden with it through the whole of its past eternity as the ground on which it exists at all. But as we are not to look for this ground in the fiat of another-it must be looked for in the necessity of its own nature—it contains within itself the necessity for its own existence.

5. Now what is the inference which Dr. Clarke has drawn from this necessity ?

The word is applied to speculative truths as well as to substantive things. The truth of a proposition is often neces

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