Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

yet I have no hesitation in maintaining, that infidelity is highly favourable to the growth of vice, and can hardly fail of producing it, if the mind has not been well cultivated by education, and the passions are not restrained by the suggestions of prudence.

6. That Cicero (who must be allowed to have been a very competent judge of the real state of the heathen world) considered not only the absolute denial, but also degrading notions of the supreme being, as very unfavourable to morality, is evident; for in the second chapter of bis Treatise de natura Deorum, he has these words: “suint enim Philosophi et fuerunt, qui animo nullum habere censerunt humanarum rerum, procurationem Deos. Quorum si vera sententia est, quæ potest esse pietas? quæ sanctitas? que religio?--haud scio an pietate adversus, Deos sublata, fides etiam, et societas humani generis, et una excellentissima virtus justitia tollatur-and again in the fortieth chapter, addressing himself to Velleius, he says, Non arbitror, te Vel. lei, similem esse Epicurorum reliquorum ; (quos pudeat earum Epicuri vocum), quibus ille testatur, se non intelligere quidem ullum bonum, quod sit sejunctum a delicatis et obsconis voluptatibus; quas quidem non erubescens persequitur omnes nominatim."

7. Your correspondent Leucippus in proceeding, makes the following observation. “The Lecturer acknowledges the Deity to be quite incomprehensible but still insists that such · a being must be the creator of all things, and infers the existence of this being, to whom he ascribes unlimited perfections; from the appearances exbibited in the world." In reply to this observation, I would ask; what more natural, or Philosophical course can reason possibly pursue, than to infer the existence of a Creator from the works of nature; and from the general order and harmony of the universe, to conclude, that this Creator is absolutely perfect, although his real nature, and the mode of his existence, may be iucomprehensible to the very limited powers of the human understanding. Your correspondent can hardly be so absurd, as to maintain, that the objects around him, and even man himself, the proud Lord of the lower Creatiou, have sprung into existence spontaneously, by equivocal generation, or from a fortuitous concourse of Atoms: and bis own illustration, (I hope he will excuse the robbery) shall also be mine upon this point.

8. Take a watch--(I am sure it will suit my purposè, much better than it can answer his)-We infer says he, from its

structure and purpose, that it had a maker; experience tells us that its maker must have been an intelligent Being, whom we term Man.-We then find that man, is a much more complicated machine, than a watch ; and our next enquiry is, who made ioan? here experience deserts us.

9. True! but although experience deserts Leucippus in the last case, is that a sufficient ground for the desertion of his reason also ? He finds a watch, and he very rationally insers, that it must have had a maker-he finds a man, a far more complicated machine, and he most absurdly concludes, that be has had no maker. To say the man sprung from bis Father, and his Father from the Grandfather and so on, will not lessen the difficulty. There is the man! let his existence be accounted for as well as that of the watch--but, says this Atomic Philosopher, experience deserts us in the latter case; and so also in the former case, it deserted the savage; who finding a watch, called in the aid of his feeble reason, and very naturally concluded, that it was a living creature; and when it stopped, supposed that it was dead; but, although no Pbilosopher, be never dreamt of attributing its origin to chance or to an undirected congregation of Atoms; but although the earth is teeming with active and intelligent beings, yet, because they have never seen men actually created, the Atomic Philosophers seem very well prepared to believe, that they have sprung up from the Serpent's teeth, which Ovid says were sown by Cadmus; or from the stones, which he tells us, were thrown over her shoulder, by the wife of Deucalion ; but say these sages, every thing originates from matter and motion; i, e, matter, wbich is inert and passive; can mould itself into form ; and motion, which is a mere quality, communicated to matter by impulse; has the power of an independant principle; and the union of these two, cau produce intelligence! The , reasoning of the savage was quite Socratic when compared with this. And does experience prove, that matter and motion, can do such mighty things? If so, we migbt expect to behold new Creations, rising around us, every day. Newtons might spring up in crowds from our ploughed fields, or Idiots might creep out by sboals from our rivers ; in short this wonderful compound of causes and effects, would make such a jumble in the universe, that a man would stand a very good chance of coming into the world with a fishes tail, and a fish of swimming about with the head of a Philosopher fixed upon its body.- No Sir! experience demonstrates, that the great work of creation, was

[ocr errors]

pot such a harum-scarum business, and although the nature of the great first cause is to us incomparable, yet experience proves, that order, harmony, and beauty, pervade the universe; and analogy shews, that these must have been established by power, and directed by wisdom and benevolence. But because we have no actual experience of creative power, would reason lead us to conclude, that motion could exist without an impulse ; and then by its senseless vagaries among the particles of inert matter, produce the beautiful system which we behold ? before we could come to such a conclusion, surely not only experience but common sense also must desert us:-We bave never, it is true, been witnesses to the actual process of Creation; but the results of creative power may be seen by us every day. The Man of to-day, was a few years ago an Embryo, in the womb of one, who was herself a few years before, an Embryo in the womb of another. The oak of this century was the acorn of the last, and that again was the fruit of a former oak; and probably the earth itself which we now inbabit, was the wreck of a former world, whicb became the Nucleus of the present globe, and thus we may trace back the present appearances of the natural world, to a point, where human reason fails, and no experience can possibly afford us a guide ; but we may see demonstrative proofs of an uobroken chain of causes and effects, which could never have been the result of accident, or undirected power, but plainly indicates intelligence and design, and can only be rationally accounted for, by a belief in the existence of one great first cause; possessed of infinite power and wisdom.

10. But it is said, that matter and motion may produce all the effects of creative power; i. e. an inert substance, which possesses in itself, neither form nor activity, por intelligence, nor power; and a simple quality, which has no independant existence, and is only instrumental in the organization of insepsible matter, when it has been applied by power, could, without the operation, of such a power, have been the formers of a beautiful and harmonious universe, full of life, activity, intelligence, and happiness ; in wbich daily observation may prove to us, that they have acted, and are still acting, the part of only passive and insensible instruments; but if we could conceive of these, as active causes, we might rationally expect, that the clods of the valley would rise up in revolt against the husbandman; and remonstrate agafast his cruelty in cutting them. Yet we are, according to the doctride of the atomic school, to conceive of matler and motion as existing together from eterdity; pursuing their determined course throughout eternity ; arranging between them the events, and circumstances of eternal ages, and the order of a boundless universe ; uniting in themselves both causes and effects; both of them passive, yet both active, both insensible, yet both intelligent. Wbat à grand and comprehensible system of Philosophy! and yet such appears to be the experience and analogy, by which Leucippus intimates, that he and his friends are guided in their enquiries.

11. On the important subject of moral virtue, I most cordially agree with Leucippus ir bis premises, viz. “that it is a man's interest to be virtuous”-but I do not think that his conclusion necessarily follows, viz. that he who understands his interest best, is the most virtuous; because, although a man may be perfectly well acquainted with his best interest, yet, invariably to follow it, is a very different matter; and, therefore, the prospect of a future reward is a very important, if not absolutely necessary stimulus even to a virtuous mind; but your correspondent has rather conveniently, although I am inclined to believe unintentionally, interpolated the passage, in which he says I endeavoured to prove, that the consciousness of integrity, (to a well constituted mind) without the prospect of future reward, would be an insufficient stimulus to virtuous conduct. Now the few words thus accidentally thrown in, may appear to afford a little ground for the admission, which he says is implied by tbis passage, and I might therefore justly protest against such a version of the original text; but I will not dispute with him about a few words, and he shall bave the full benefit of them, if that will satisfy his craving sceptical appetite ; yet although I would behave as civilly as possible to him, I cannot allow him to put both his own words, and his own inferences, into my mouth. Taking then the passage as it stands, in the reply of Leucippus; I must beg leave remind bim, that there is a very essential difference, between requiring a stimulus to virtue, and being charmed with vice. If virtue and vice are both of a progressive nature, then virtue seems to require, and will undoubtedly be promoted, by a stimulant, and vice will be weakened, and at last subdued, by a sedative.

12. That virtue and knowledge are inseparable compan. jons, and that vice, only belongs to the illiterate, is a position which very few persons will venture gravely to maintain ; and experience proves, that to those who possess much knowledge, as well as to those wbo are possessed but of little ; and to those who have made considerable progress in virtue, as well as to those whose advancement has been but small; the hope and prospect, of a future reward, has been a stimulus of no mean power. But says your correspondent; the generality of believers, meet death, more with apprehension and fear, than with hope and joy. This is a very broad and bold assertion; but it is directly contrary. to history, to observation, and to fact; for even if the prospect of future reward, could by any sound reasoning, be proved to have been delusive; yet that thousands, and tens of thousands, have in a dying hour, triumphed in this prospect, is a fact, written as with the point of a diamond, and witnessed every day among the proppers of Christianity. Has Leucippus never beard of, or never read, the bistory of Christian Martyrs, and Confessors; or will he venture to maintain, in the face of the strongest evidence, that this is all a tissue of fables and falsehoods? He should have made a little more enquiry, respecting the nature and spirit of the Christian religion, before he dashed at such an incredible assertion; and if he could humble bis soaring Philosophy, to a nearer converse with the doctrines of the amiable Jesus, and his disinterested, intrepid disciples, he would find, that Love, not Fear, is proposed as the main spring, of Christian faith and practice. He might then have saved bimself all the pains which he has taken, to fasten the corrupt opinions, and wicked practices of bad men, upon Christianity, as belonging to, or resulting from those exalted doctrines, which breathe nothing but the purest love to God, and love to man; and he would have recoiled with sbame, when he was preparing to assert, that he had found mischievous precepts in the Christian System (a term, by which no one has ever intended to describe it as a methodically engrossed code of laws; which if it had been, Leucippus would without doubt have immediately cried out most lustily to his friends; beware of the Cloven Foot of Priestcraft.)

13. So much then, for the correctness of your /correspondent's notions of Christianity; and with respect to his argumeats drawn from the general state of the world, it really seems useless, and in fact alınost impossible, to reason with ope, who can see no beauty, por order, nor design, nor beneficial tendency, and but little of enjoyment and happiness either in the natural or in the moral world, and who in his

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »