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onward in the path of inquiry. In the execution of these tasks we have occupied the first Book, having the title of Preliminary Views; and would now bespeak the indulgence of our readers for what some might deem the superfluous illustration of its two first, and others might feel to be the hopeless and impracticable obscurity of its two succeeding chapters. The latter complaint should be laid, we think, not on the Author, but on the necessities of his subject. To the former however he must plead guilty; for, even though at the expense of nauseating those of quick and powerful understanding; and whose taste is more for the profound than the palpable, however important the truth inculcated may be and however desirable to have the luminous conception and intense feeling of it—he should rejoice to be the instrument, and more particularly at the outset of their religious earnestness, of giving the most plain and intelligible notices of their way even unto babes.
We shall not be so liable to either of these extremes in the subsequent Books of which this treatise is composed—and the perusal of which indeed might be immediately entered on, although the first or preliminary Book were to receive the treatment that is often given to a long and wearisome preface, that is, passed over altogether. We must confess however our desire for the judgment of the more profound class of readers on the fourth chapter in this department of the work, and which treats of a peculiar argument by Hume on the side of Atheism. The truth is that we do not conceive the infidelity of this philosopher to have been adequately met, by any of his opponents ; whether as it respects the question of a God or the question of the truth of Christianity. In the management of both controversies, it has been thought necessary to conjure up a new principle for the purpose of refuting his especial sophistries ; and thus to make two gratuitous, and we think very questionable additions, to the mental philosophy—in the shape of two distinct and original laws of the human understanding, which, anterior to the date of his speculations, never had been heard of; and probably never would, but for the service which they were imagined to render in the battles of the faith. We hold ourselves independent of both these auxiliaries; and it is our attempt to show on the premises of the author himself, or at least with the help of no other principles than the universal and uniform faith of men in the lessons of experience, now of his atheistical, and afterwards of his deistical argument—the one grounded on the alleged singularity of the world as an effect, the other grounded on the alleged incompetency of human testimony to accredit the truth of a miracle we hope to show that there is a distinct fallacy in each, and at the same time a contradiction between the fallacies in itself destructive of both; and which must either have escaped the penetration, or been concealed by the art of this most subtle metaphysician and reasoner.
After having disposed in the first Book of all that is of a prefatory or general character, we in the second Book enter on the consideration of proofs for the being of a God in the dispositions of matter. The third Book is occupied with proofs, not for the being only, but for the being and character of God as displayed in the constitution of the mind_from which department it has been strangely affirmed of late, that little or no evidence has yet been collected for the defence or illustration of Natural Theology. The object of the fourth Book, is to exhibit additional evidence for a God in the adaptation of External Nature to the Mental Constitution of Man. And in the fifth, which is the last Book, we endeavour to estimate the amount as well as the dimness and deficiency of the light of nature in respect to its power of discovering either the character or still less the counsels and the ways of God. In this concluding part of the treatise, beside recording the efforts which Philosophy has made, and to what degree she has failed in resolving that most tremendous and appalling of all mysteries, the Origin of Evil, we attempt to
reconcile both the doctrine of a Special Providence and the efficacy of prayer with the constancy of visible nature. It is well to evince, not the success only, but the shortcomings of Natural Theology; and thus to make palpable at the same time both her helplessness and her usefulness_helpless if trusted to as a guide or an informer on the way to heaven; but most useful if, under a sense of her felt deficiency, we seek for a place of enlargement and are led onward to the higher manifestations of Christianity.
EDINBURGH, 15th Dec., 1835.