Obrázky na stránke

neral laws.” “ I am not now," says he, "contending for the doctrine of moral necessity; but I do affirm, that the moral government of God is by general laws, and that it is our bounden duty to study those laws, and, as far as we can, to turn them to our account.” (Pp. 5, 9.)

He classes the studies of Cambridge, as far as they relate to mere human learning, under three heads :- 1st, The study of the laws of nature, comprehending all parts of inductive philo. sophy; 2d, The study of ancient literature; and, 3d, The study of ourselves, considered as individuals and as social beings. Under the third head are included ethics and metaphysics, moral and political philosophy, and some other kindred subjects of great complexity

Under the first head, the author introduces some excellent observations. “ By the discoveries of a new science," says he, “ (the very name of which has been but a few years engrafted on our language), we learn that the manifestations of God's power on the earth have not been limited to the few thousand years of man's existence. The geologist tells us by the clearest interpretation of the phenomena which his labours have brought to light, that our globe has been subject to vast physical revolutions. He counts his time not by celestial cycles, but by an index he has found in the solid framework of the globe itself. He sees a long succession of monuments, each of which may have required a thousand ages for its elaboration. He arranges them in chronological order, observes on them the marks of skill and wisdom, and finds within them the tombs of the ancient inhabitants of the earth. He finds strange and unlooked for changes in the forms and fashions of organic life, during each of the long periods he thus contemplates; he traces these changes backwards through each successive era, till he reaches a time when the monuments lose all symmetry, and the types of organic life are no longer seen. He has then entered on the dark age of nature's history, and he closes the old chapter of her records. This account has so much of what is exactly true, that it hardly deserves the name of figurative description.

Geology, like every other science when well interpreted, lends its aid to natural religion. It tells us out of its own records, that man has been but a few years a dweller on the earth ; for the traces of himself, and of his works, are confined to the last monuments of its history. Independently of every written testimony, we therefore believe that man, with all his powers and appetencies, his marvellous structure, and his fitness for the world around him, was called into being within a few thousand years of the days in which we live--not by a transmutation of species (a theory no better than a phrensied dream), but by a provident contriving power. And thus we at once remove a stumblingblock, thrown in our way by those who would rid

themselves of a prescient first cause, by trying to resolve all phenomena into a succession of constant material actions, ascending into an eternity of past time.

“ But this is not the only way in which geology gives its aid to natural religion. It proves that a pervading intelligent principle has manifested its power during times long anterior to the records of our existence. It adds to the great cumulative argument derived from the forms of animated nature, by shewing us new and unlooked for instances of organic structure adjusted to an end, and that end accomplished. It tells us that God has not created the world and left it to itself, remaining ever after a quiescent spectator of his own work; for it puts before our eyes the certain proofs, that during successive periods there have been, not only great changes in the external conditions of the earth, but corresponding changes in organic life; and that in every such instance of change, the new organs, as far as we can comprehend their use, were exactly suited to the functions of the beings they were given to. It shews intelligent power not only contriving means adapted to an end, but at many successive times contriving a change of mechanism adapted to a change of external conditions; and thus affords a proof, peculiarly its own, that the great first cause continues a provident and active intelligence." (Pp. 25, 26, 27.)

Our readers are aware that we have repeatedly and earnestly dwelt upon geological facts as of great importance in forming a correct estimate of the true position of man on earth. We have here one of the first living authorities certifying boldly the great facts-which, indeed, physical evidence renders absolutely indisputable—that organic beings lived and died before man appeared on earth, and that there were “ not only great changes in the external condition of the earth, but corresponding changes in organic life; and that in every such instance of change, the new organs, as far as we can comprehend their use, were exactly suited to the functions of the beings they were given to.”

Another point, the importance of which we have frequently advocated, is also discussed by Mr Sedgwick. “ Not only," says

” he, “ is every portion of matter governed by its own laws, but its powers of action on other material things are governed also by laws subordinate to those by which its parts are held together; so that, in the countless changes of material things, and their countless actions on each other, we find no effect which jars with the mechanism of nature, but all are the harmonious results of dominant laws." " What are the laws of nature but the manifestations of the wisdom of God? What are material actions, but manifestations of his power ? Indications of his wisdom and his power co-exist with every portion of the universe." “Yet I have myself heard it asserted, within these very walls,

that there is no religion of nature, and that we have no knowledge of the attributes of God, or even of his existence, independently of revelation. The assertion is, I think, mischievous, because I believe it untrue: and by truth only can a God of truth be honoured, and the cause of true religion be served."

The single-minded writers of the New Testament, having their souls filled with other truths, thought little of the laws of nature: but they tell us of the immutable perfections of our heavenly Father, and describe him as a being in whom is no variableness or shadow of turning. The religion of nature and the religion of the Bible are therefore in beautiful accordance; and the indications of the Godhead, offered by the one, are well fitted to give us a livelier belief in the promises of the other.” (Pp. 15, 16, 18, 19.)

It is moreover a favourite doctrine with a large class of phreno. logists, that man cannot advance in the improvementof his nature, except by studying his own constitution and that of external objects, and acting in conformity with the laws which the Creator has impressed on both ; and that this is natural religion. The same view is eloquently enforced by Mr Sedgwick. “ As all parts of matter," says he, “are bound together by fixed and immutable laws; so all parts of organic nature are bound to the rest of the universe, by the relations of their organs to the world without them. If the beautiful structure of organic bodies prove design, still more impressive is the proof, when we mark the adaptation of their organs to the condition of the material world. By this adaptation, we link together all nature, animate and inanimate, and prove it to be one harmonious whole, produced by one dominant intelligence.” (P. 24.)

“Under no form of government is man to be maintained in a condition of personal happiness and social dignity, without the sanction of religion. As all material laws, and all material organs, throughout animated nature, are wisely fitted together, so that nothing, of which we comprehend the use, is created in vain ; and as the moral and intellectual powers of man, working together according to the laws of his being, make him what he is-teach him to comprehend the past and

almost to realize the future-and rule over his social destiny ; we may surely conclude, as a fair induction of natural reason, that this religious nature (so essential to his social happiness) was not given to him only to deceive him; but was wisely implanted in him, to guide him in the way of truth, and to direct his soul to the highest objects of his creation. And thus we reach (though by steps somewhat different), the same end to which I endeavoured to point the way in the former division of this discourse." (P. 45.)

Under the second head, Mr Sedgwick makes the following observations regarding the study of classical literature. “ think it incontestably true, that for the last fifty years our classical studies (with much to demand our undivided praise), have been too critical and formal; and that we have sometimes been taught, while straining after an accuracy beyond our reach, to value the husk more than the fruit of ancient learning: and if of late years our younger members have sometimes written prose Greek almost with the purity of Xenophon, or composed Iambics in the finished diction of the Attic poets, we may well doubt whether time suffices for such perfection-whether the imagination and the taste might not be more wisely cultivated than by a long sacrifice to what, after all, ends but in verbal imitations—in short, whether such acquisitions, however beautiful in themselves, are not gained at the expense of something better.” (P. 37.). These are precisely the views which we have for a considerable time been urging on the public, and it is gratifying to see them propounded by a Professor of distinguished reputation in such a stronghold of antiquated customs as the University of Cambridge.

Under the third branch of studies—those relating to human nature,--he informs us, that “ Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding," and " Paley's Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy," have long formed such prominent subjects of instruction in the University of Cambridge, that he confines his remarks almost to these two works. His criticisms on both authors are bold, just, and discriminative. Locke's Essay he considers to be defective in may important particulars, especially in its omission of the faculties of moral judgment. He bestows the highest commendation on Locke's love of truth, vigour of intellect, and generosity of sentiment; but maintains that his system of psychology is extremely defective from the omission alluded to. Mr Sedgwick contends eloquently for the innate existence of moral faculties in man. “ The greatest fault in Locke's system," says he,“ is the contracted view he takes of the capacities of man,-allowing him, indeed, the faculty of reflecting and following out trains of thought according to the rules of abstract reasoning; but depriving him both of his powers of imagination and of his moral sense. Hence it produced, I think, a chilling effect on the philosophic writings of the last century." “ It is to the entire domination his" Essay' had once established in our University, that we may perhaps attribute all that is faulty in the Moral Philosophy of Paley.

Ample commendation is bestowed on Paley also: “ His homely strength and clearness of style,” says Mr Sedgwick, “ and his unrivalled skill in stating and following out his argument, must ever make his writings popular;” but “ he commences by denying the sanction and authority of the moral sense.” • Amidst all the ruin that is within us,” continues Mr S., “ there are still the elements of what is good; and were there left in the natural heart no kindly affections and moral senti

[ocr errors]

ments, man would be no longer responsible for his sins; and every instance of persuasion against the impulse of bad passion, and of conversion from evil unto good, would be nothing less than a moral miracle. On such a view of human nature, the Apostles of our religion might as well have wasted their breath on the stones of the wilderness as on the hearts of their fellow men in the cities of the heathen." (P. 59.)

These views have often appeared in the pages of this Journal, and in the standard phrenological works; and we are much gratified to find them so ably expounded and advocated by Mr Sedgwick. Yet he never even alludes to Phrenology. Being so much disposed to commend, we are loath to be under the necessity of condemning any part of Mr Sedgwick's conduct; but the great interests of truth compel us to speak our mind. Has Mr Sedgwick heard of Phrenologyor has he not? We know positively that he is not ignorant of its existence; but he appears not to have esteemed it worthy of his consideration. He has a profound perception of the power and wisdom of God displayed in the works of creation ; and it is our duty to tell him, that, in despising Phrenology, he is deliberately shutting his eyes against one of the most wonderful and important revelations of divine power and wisdom that has ever been made to the human understanding. It is perverse to assume that Phrenology is the invention of Drs Gall and Spurzheim, in the absence of all evidence to this effect, and in opposition to the most positive asseverations of themselves and their followers that it is a mere announcement of natural institutions. The founders of Phrenology have no more created the functions of the brain and the relations of these to external objects, than Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton, created the planetary system. Mr Sedgwick laments the grave errors of Locke and Paley in omitting the faculties of imagination and the moral sense, in their schemes of the philosophy of man ; but we desire to ask him by what means the existence of these and other faculties omitted by the metaphysical and moral philosophers, can be proved with half the force of evidence that is afforded by Phrenology ? Mr Combe, in his System of Phrenology, enumerates the discordant opinions concerning the moral sense, entertained by ten philosophers of the highest reputation, and adds: “I have introduced this sketch of conflicting theories, to convey some idea of the boon which Phrenology would confer upon moral science, if it could fix, on a firm basis, this single point in the philosophy of mind, That a power or faculty exists, the object of which is to produce the sentiment of justice or the feeling of moral duty and obligation, independently of selfishness, hope of reward, fear of punishment, or any extrinsic motive; a faculty, in short, the natural language of which is · Fiat justitia, ruat cælum.' Phrenology does this by a demonstration founded on numerous ob

[ocr errors]
« PredošláPokračovať »