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attach the charge of presumption to the speculations of natural science, it must be remembered they thereby attach the same accusation to the deductions of natural theology. If they condemn the conclusions of physical reasoning as arrogant and impious intrusions of human self-conceit into mysteries beyond the reach of the human faculties, so, by necessary consequence, they involve in the same condemnation the inferences which are dependent upon those researches, the belief in the infinite perfection, the unlimited immensity, power, and eternity of the Deity.
To some it is a peculiarly favourite topic, that the powers of the human mind are but limited ; that there are mysteries in nature which must for ever baffle the most acute research; and, not content with the assertion that there are such boundaries imposed on all human speculation, are prone to affirm that the boundary has been reached whenever they meet with an unexplained phenomenon. They seem to dwell with special satisfaction on the circumstance that here is an instance of some natural wonder, in the comprehension of which the greatest philosopher is as much at a loss as the ignorant peasant. Such instances they often hold out as instructive and salutary checks to the pride of science, and humiliating to the pretensions of intellectual superiority. In reality, however, instead of the lofty moral tone which they affect, these reflections but too clearly betray the mere invidious workings of narrow prejudice, in which self-satisfied ignorance consoles itself*.
But to those who rightly estimate at once the real powers of the human mind and the true character of the inductive method, it will be manifest how irrational such sentiments must be. So long as we follow diligently, and with becoming caution, the humble, but sure path of induction, we can never arrive at any bar to our inquiries except those which are imposed by the deficiency of facts; and we know by the testimony of all past experience, that the disclosure of new facts is daily advancing, and must perpetually accumulate. It is by the continual accession of fresh phenomena that new paths will be perpetually opening to judicious induction; and, by consequence, we may unhesitatingly anticipate perpetually new and extended manifestations of order and arrangement in nature, of Divine power, wisdom, and beneficence.
To indulge, then, in the low and absurd reflections just adverted to, is nothing else than to rejoice in the deficiency of proofs of the Divine perfections. It is to delight in blindness to the manifestations of Divine power and goodness; to prefer darkness to light, and to evince a disposition of congenial character. It is to refuse to recognise the proper and highest use for which our intellectual faculties are conferred upon us.
* Sce Note K.
Interposition :-Permanent Laws.
The notion of physical cause and effect being reduced to a bare “sequence," has been strongly objected to as injurious to the belief in the Divine agency in nature; and the supposition of an acting efficient cause in every natural phenomenon, has been emphatically insisted on as necessary for the support of that doctrine. But from the view we have here taken of the nature of physical causes, and their relation to moral, we see that, so far from supporting, the supposition of such direct perpetual intervention would, in fact, invalidate the evidence of a First Cause.
According to the view here supported of the nature of physical causes, it has sufficiently appeared that, in including in our idea the relation of the more particular to the more general fact, we have assigned the origin of our ideas of the closest and most inseparable union of cause and effect; and this relation is obviously dependent upon the degree in which we can generalize among the phenomena of nature; that is, upon the degree in which we can trace order and arrangement. Thus, the greater the extent to which we can trace physical causes, in this sense, the more surely founded is the inference of moral volition and all-powerful intelligence, derived from the contemplation of this order of causes.
And when we reflect upon the unbounded vastness
of nature, which expands under our examination, and which receives enlargement continually from every additional advance which the practical application of science confers on the perfection of our senses -when we find the same beauty and uniformity preserved throughout the utmost range of our observations, and when we add, that all this is but a small speck in the actual immensity of the universe
we surely derive the highest possible proofs and indications of recondite and perfect adjustment through the extent of the visible world: so that we can but by feeble and dim analogies, most imperfectly express our partial apprehension of a presiding and all-pervading Divine Intelligence. Again, if we turn from the consideration of space to that of time, it is only by deciphering the monuments of the immense periods of successive organization, up to the epoch of the first existence of animal life, that we learn the testimony of nature to the fact of creation, or rather succession of creations; and, in conformity with our limited conceptions, speak of the infinite wisdom and skill of the Divine Intelligence, the infinite power of the creating Deity.
Unless we consent to reason from the analogy of known causes to those which are unknown, from the present to the remotest epochs of the past, we must lose the whole argument from the continuance of order and arrangement; we must be deprived of our sublimest conclusions which result from the permanence of the indications of design and harmonious adaptation. If we could trace material action no further than to resolve every effect into the result of an immediate arbitrary intervention, the real evidences of Divine intelligence would be wanting.
We thus perceive the futility of such charges, as that by establishing the uniformity of second causes we impair the evidence of the Divine interposition; that by extending our researches into nature we encroach on the dominion of the Sovereign of nature; and that by enlarging the range of physical agency we detract from the majesty of the Divine power; whereas it is by these very researches that we establish and acknowledge His sovereignty, and find in that very agency nothing else than His delegated authority.
As reasonably should we construe the tranquillity of a well-ordered community into a proof of the defective energy of the sovereign power, because the daily immediate manifestation and interposition of that power was not necessary to carry on the government. As well might we consider it to detract from the perfection of a piece of machinery, that it did not require the perpetual interposition of the artificer to keep it in action*
In what has preceded, it is to be hoped we have sufficiently shown how harmoniously and universally
* See Note L.