Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

with admiration, Psal. civ. 24. O Lord, how manifold are thy works ; in wisdom hast thou made them all! When we see let.

nothing is effected by lengthening the series. There is no difference as to the point in question, (whatever there may be us to many points) between one series and another; between a series which is finite, and a series which is infinite. A chain composed of an infinite number of links, can no more support itself, than a chain composed of a finite number of links. And of this we are assured, (though we never can have tried the experiment, because, by increasing the number of links, from ten for instance to a hundred, from a hundred to a thousand, &c. we make not the smallest approach, we observe not the smallest tendency, towards self-support. There is no difference in this respect (yet there may be a great difference in several respects) between a chain of a greater or less length, between one chain and another, between one that is finite and one that is indefinite. This very much resembles the case before us. The machine, which we are inspecting, demonstrates, by its construction, contrivance and design, Contrivance must have had a contriver; design, a designer; whether the machine immediately proceed. ed from another machine, or not. That circumstance alters not the case. That

other inachine may, in like manner, have proceeded from a former machine: nor ", does that alter the case : contrivance must have had a contriver. That former one

from one preceding it: no alteration still: a contriver is still necessary. No tendency is perceived, no approach towards a diminution of this necessity. It is the same with any and every succession of these machines; a succession of ten, of a hundred, of a thousand, with one series as with another; a series which is finite, as with a series which is infinite. In whatever other respects they may differ, in this they do not. In all equally, contrivance and design are unaccounted for.

The question is not simply, How came the first watch into existence? which question, it may be pretended, is done away by supposing the series of watches thus produced from one another to have been infinite, and consequently to have had no such first, for which it was necessary to provide a cause. This, perhaps, would have been nearly the state of the question, if nothing had been before us but an unorganized unmechanised substance, without mark or indication of contrivance. It might be difficult to shew that such substance could not have existed from eternity, either in succession (if it were possible, which I think it is not, for unorganized bodies to spring from one another,) or by individual perpetuity. But that is not the question now. To suppose it to be so, is to suppose that it made no difference whether we had found a watch or a stone. As it is, the metaphysics of that question have no place; for, in the watch which we are examining, are seen contrivance, design; an end, a purpose ; means for the end, adaptation to the purpose. And the question, which irresistibly presses upon our thoughts, is, whence this contrivance and design? The thing required is the intending mind, the adapting hand, the intelligence by which that hand was directed. This question, this demand, is not shaken off, by increasing a number or succession of substances, destitute of these properties ; nor the more, by increasing that number to infinity. If it be said, that, apon the supposition of one watch being produced from another in the course of that other's movements, and by means of the mechanism within it, we have a cause for the watch in my hand, viz. the watch from which it proceeded, I deny, that for the design, the contrivance, the suitableness of means to an end, the adaptation of instruments to an use (all which we discover in the watch,) we have any cause whatever. It is in vain, therefore to assign a series of such causes, or to allege that a series may be carried back to infinity; for I do not admit that we have yet any cause at aú of the phænomena, still less any series of causes either finite or infinite. Here is contrivance, but no contriver'; proofs of design, but no designer.

V. Our observer would further also reflect, that the maker of the watch before him, was, in truth and reality, the maker of every watch produced from it; there being no difference (except that the latter manifests a more exquisite skill) between the making of another watch with his own hands by the inediation of files, laths, chisels, &c. and the disposing, fixing, and inserting, of these instru.

ters put together, which make words or sentences, and these a book, containing the greatest sense, and the ideas joined together in the most beautiful order, should we not conclude that some man, equal to this work, had put them together? Even so the wisdom that shines forth in all the parts of the creation, proves that there is a God. This appears,

In the exact harmony and subserviency of one part of the creation to another, Hos. ii. 21, 22. I will hear, saith the Lord; I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth. And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel. One part of this frame of nature ministers to another. Thus the sun, and other heavenly bodies, give light to the world, which would be no better than a cave or dungeon without them; and afford life and influence to plants and trees; and maintain the life of all living creatures. The clouds send down rain that moistens the earth, and makes it fruitful; and this is not poured forth by whole oceans together, but by small drops, Job xxxvi. 27. He maketh small the drops of water; they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof; and these are not perpetual, for that would tend to its destruction. The moist places of the earth, and the sea supply the clouds with Water, that they may have a sufficient store to return again to it. The air fans and refreshes the earth, and is necessary for the growth of all things, and the maintaining the life and health of those that dwell therein. This subserviency of one thing to another is without their own design or contrivance ; for they are not endowed with understanding or will; neither doth this depend on the will of the creature. The sun doth not enlighten or give warmth to the world, or the clouds or air refresh the earth at our pleasure; and therefore all this is subject to the order and direction of one who is the God of nature, who commands the sun, and it shineth, and the clouds to give rain at his

ments, or of others equivalent to them, in the body of the watch already made, in such a manner, as to form a new watch in the course of the movements which be had given to the old one. It is only working by one set of tools, instead of another.

The conclusion which the first examination of the watch, of its works, construction, and movement suggested, was, that it must have had, for the cause and anthor of that construction, an artificer, who understood its mechanism, and designed its use. This conclusion is invincible. A second examination presents us with a new discovery. The watch is found in the course of its movement to produce another watch similar to itself: and not only so, but we perceive in it a sys. tem of organization, separately calculated for that purpose. What effect would this discovery have, or ought it to have, upon our former inference? What, as hath already been said, but to increase, beyond measure, our admiration of the skill, which bad been employed in the formation of such a machine? Or shall it, instead of this, all at once turn us round to an opposite conclusion, viz. that no art or skill whatever has been concerned in the business, although all other evi. dences of art and skill remain as they were, and this last and supreme piece of art be now added to the rest? Can this be maintained without absurdity? Yet this is atheism." ;

PALBY.

pleasure. It is he that gave the regular motion to the heavenly bodies, and, by his wisdom, fixed and continues the various seasons of the year, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, day and night, and every thing that tends to the beauty and harmony of nature ; therefore these curious, and never-enough to be admired, works, plainly declare that there is a God. This is described with unparalleled elegancy of style, Job xxxvii. 9, &c. Out of the south cometh the whirlwind; and cold out of the north. By the breath of God, frost is given; and the breadth of the waters is straitened. Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud; he scattereth his bright cloud. Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge? How thy garments are warm when he quieteth the earth by the south-wind? (3)

(8) “The works of nature want only to be contemplated. When contemplated, they have every thing in them which can astonish by their greatness; for, of the vast scale of operation, through which our discoveries carry us, at one end we see an intelligent Power arranging planetary systems, fixing, for instance, the trajectory of Saturn, or constructing a ring of a hundred thousand miles diameter, to surround his body, and be suspended like a magnificent arch over the heads of his inhabitants; and, at the other, bending a hooked tooth, concerting and providing an appropriate mechanism, for the clasping and reclasping of the filaments of the feather of a humming-bird. We have proof, not only of both these works proceeding from an intelligent agent, but of their proceeding from the same agent: for, in the first place, we can trace an identity of plan, a connexion of

system, from Saturn to our own globe; and when arrived upon our own globe, we can, in the second place, pursue the connexion through all the organized, especially the animated, bodies, which it supports. We can observe marks of a com. mon relation, as well to one another, as to the elements of which their habitation is composed. Therefore one mind hath planned, or at least hath prescribed a general plan for, all these productions. One being has been concerned in all,

Under this stupendous Being we live. Our happiness, our existence, is in his hands. All we expect must come from him. Nor ought we to feel our situation insecure. In every nature, and in every portion of nature, which we can descry, we find attention bestowed upon even the minutest parts. The hinges in the wings of an earrig, and the joints of its antennæ, are as highly wrought, as if the Creator had had nothing else to finish. We see no signs of diminution of care by multiplicity of objects, or of distraction of thought by variety. We have no reason to fear therefore, our being forgotten, or overlooked, or neglected.

The existence and character of the Deity, is, in every view, the most interest ing of all human speculations. In none, however, is it more so, than as it facili. tates the belief of the fundamental articles of Revelation. It is a step to have it proved, that there must be something in the world more than what we see. It is a further step to know, that, amongst the invisible things of nature, there must be an intelligent mind, concerned in its production, order, and support. These points being assured to us by Natural Theology, we may well leave to Re. velation the disclosure of many particulars, which our researches cannot reach, respecting either the nature of this Bemg as the original cause of all things, or his character and designs as a moral governor; and not only so, but the more full confirmation of other particulars, of which, though they do not lie altogether be yond our reasonings and our probabilities, the certainty is by no means equal to the importance. The true Theist will be the first to listen to any credible communication of divine knowledge. Nothing which he has learnt from Natural Theology, will diminish his desire of further instruction, or his disposition to receive it with humility and thankfulness. He wishes for light: he rejoices in

But that we may farther evince this truth, we shall lay down the following arguments to prove the being of a God, which appears,

light. His inward veneration of this great Being, will incline him to attend with the utmost seriousness, not only to all that can be discovered concerning him by researches into nature, but to all that is taught by a revelation, which gives reasonable proof of having proceeded from him.

But, above every other article of revealed religion, does the anterior belief of a Deity, bear with the strongest force, upon that grand point, which gives indeed interest and importance to all the rest--the resurrection of the human dead. The thing might appear hopeless, did we not see a power under the guidance of an intelligent will, and a power penetrating the inmost recesses of all substance. I am far from justifying the opinion of those, who “ thought it a thing incredible that God should raise the dead;" but I admit that it is first necessary to be persuaded, that there is a God to do so. This being thoroughly settled in our minds, there seems to be nothing in this process (concealed and mysterious as we confess it to be,) which need to shock our belief. They who have taken up the opi. nion, that the acts of the human mind depend upon organization, that the mind itself indeed consists in organization, are supposed to find a greater difficulty than others do, in admitting a transition by death to a new state of sentient existence, because the old organization is apparently dissolved. But I do not see that any impracticability need be apprehended even by these ; or that the change, even upon their hypothesis, is far removed from the analogy of some other operations, which we know with certainty that the deity is carrying on. In the ordinary derivation of plants and animals from one another, a particle, in many cases, minuter than all assignable, all conceivable dimension; an aura, an effluvium, an infinitesimal; determines the organization of a future body: does no less than fix, wbether that which is about to be produced, shall be a vegetable, a merely sentient, or a rational being; an oak, a frog, or a philosopher; makes all these differences ; gives to the future body its qualities, and nature, and species. And this particle, from which springs, and by which is determined a whole future nature, itself proceeds from, and owes its constitution to, a prior body: nevertheless, which is seen in plants most decisively, the incepted organization, though formed within, and through, and by a preceding organization, is not corrupted by its corruption, or destroyed by its dissolution; but, on the contrary, is sometimes extricated and developed by those very causes; survives and comes into action, when the purpose, for which it was prepared, requires its use.- Now an economy which nature has adopted, when the purpose was to transfer an organi. zation from one individual to another, may have something analogous to it, when the purpose is to transmit an organization from one state of being to another state: and they who found thought in organization, may see something in this analogy applicable to their difficulties; for, whatever can transmit a similarity of organization will answer their purpose, because, according even to their own theory, it may be the vehicle of consciousness, and because consciousness, without doubt, carries identity and individuality along with it through all changes of form or of visible qualities. In the most general case, that, as we have said, of the derivation of plants and animals from one another, the latent organization is either itself similar to the old organization, or has the power of communicating to new matter the old organic form. But it is not restricted to this rule. There are other cases, especially in the progress of insect life, in which the dormant organization does not much resemble that which incloses it, and still less suits with the situation in which the inclosing body is placed, but suits with a different sitnation to which it is destined. In the larva of the libellula, which lives constantly, and has still long to live, under water, are descried the wings of a fly, which two years afterwards is to mount into the air. Is there nothing in this analogy? It serves at least to shew, that, even in the observable course of nature, organizations are formed one beneath another; and, amongst a thousand other instances, it shows completely,

1. From those creatures that are endowed with a lower kind of life than man.

1. No creature can produce a fly or the least insect, but according to the fixed laws of nature ; and that which we call life, or the principle of their respective motion and actions, none but a God can give; so that his being is plainly proved, from all living creatures below man, which are subservient, many of them, to one another, and all to man, and that not by our ordering; therefore this is done by the hand of him who is the God of nature.

2. The natural instinct of living creatures, every one acting according to its kind; and some of the smallest creatures producing things that no human art can imitate, plainly proves a God. Thus the bird in building its nest; the spider in framing its web; the bee in providing store-houses for its honey; and the ant in those provisions which it lays up in summer against

that the Deity can mould and fashion the parts of material nature, so as to fulfil * any purpose whatever which he is pleased to appoint.

They who refer the operations of mind to a substance totally and essentially different from matter, as, most certainly, these operations, though affected by material causes, hold very little affinity to any properties of matter with which we are acquainted, adopt, perhaps, a juster reasoning and a better philosophy; and by these the considerations above suggested are not wanted, at least in the same degree. But to such as find, which some persons do find, an insuperable difficulty in shaking off an adherence to those analogies, which the corporeal world is continually suggesting to their thoughts;

to such, I say, every consideration will be a relief, which manifests the extent of that intelligent power which • is acting in nature, the fruitfulness of its resources, the variety, and aptness, and

success of its means; most especially every consideration, which tends to shew, that, in the translation of a conscious existence, there is not, even in their own way of regarding it, any thing greatly beyond, or totally unlike, what takes place in such parts (probably small parts) of the order of nature, as are accessible to our observation.

Again; if there be those who think, that the contractedness and debility of the human faculties in our present state, seem ill to accord with the high destinies which the expectations of religion point out to us, I would only ask them, whether any one, who saw a child two hours after its birth, could suppose that it would ever come to understand frurions;* or who then shall say, what further amplification of intellectual powers, what accession of knowledge, what advance and improvement, the rational faculty, be its constitution what it will

, may not admit of

, when placed amidst new objects, and endowed with a sensorium, adapted, as it undoubtedly will be, and as our present senses are, to the perception of those substances, and of those properties of things, with which our concern may

Upon the whole ; in every thing which respects this awful, but, as we trust, glorious change, we have a wise and powerful Being, (the author, in nature, of infinitely various expedients for infinitely various ends,) upon whom to rely for the choice and appointment of means, adequate to the execution of any plan which bis goodness or his justice may have formed, for the moral and accountable part of his terrestrial creation. That great office rests with him: be it ours to hope and prepare ; under a firm and settled persuasion, that, living and dying, we are his; that life is passed in his constant presence, that death resigns us to his mereiful disposal.”

PALEY. * See Search's Light of Nature, passim.

lie.

« ZurückWeiter »