Слике страница
PDF
ePub

Natural and Revealed Religion to the order of Nature,” by bishop Butler, taking the ground, that the soundest reasoning for the truth of revelation, presupposes the facts of natural theology, is one of the most able and rigidly argumentative works in our language. We rejoice also to see this number increasing by the addition of recent names. The munificent bequest of the late earl of Bridgewater, has called out some of the highest talent of both England and Scotland on this subject. The assignment of different parts, covering a wide region of investigation, to different learned men, has produced many new and interesting facts, and applied them with great effect to the demonstrations of patural theology. As it regards unity of style and method, the great work considered as a whole, has been doubtless injured by this division ; yet in relation to the multiplicity of facts, and thus to the number of separate independent arguments for the existence of one supreme, intelligent, first cause, the evil, probably, has been more than counterbalanced by the appropriation. It might seem, that little was left for subsequent investigation, in the direct line of gathering facts from the material world, which evince design, and thus afford the deduction of the existence of the great Designer. But an examination of the basis upon which the whole reasoning proceeds, and the entire superstructure of natural theology rests, is of great importance. The nature of the evidence, the foundation of the whole science, has been too much overlooked; while many minds of no ordinary discernment and influence, discard the whole subject, and pretend to feel no conviction from its labored demonstrations.

On this account we rejoiced to learn, that one who is in many respects among the most gifted minds of the age, had taken up this subject for examination and discussion in this precise point of view. No man has drawn upon himself the fixed gaze of the civilized world more universally, or more intently, than Lord Brougham. From the time when he stood before the British nation as the legal adviser and advocate of the late queen in her unhappy trial and onward, as member of Parliament, lord-high chancellor, and speaker of the house of lords, taking the highest seat in the kingdom to which a citizen can aspire, he has been connected with the most important events of his country's history, and filled a most prominent position in the view of the world. His political enemies of the titled aristocracy, and the writers of the London Quarterly, have affected to hold in contempt his talent and learning, and maintained, that with all his readiness, and activity, and success, there was in his mind nothing solid and of sterling value ; that with all his quickness of perception, and dexterity in seizing upon every advantageous point, his mind was neither original, well-disciplined, nor selfbalanced. But we are far from setting so low an estimate upon his talents; nor do we see how it can reflect other than a very equivocal sort of credit upon those who thus depreciate his intellect, since by the force of it alone, he has taken his place over their heads. The whole history of Lord Brougham discloses a mind with distinct conception of its object, quick decision, rapid development of resources, and prompt execution ; nor has any man of his generation kept the world in greater astonishment at the diversified application of genius and talent. While he held the great seal of England, and sustained all the cares incident to that office, and even when as leader in the cabinet, amid the dangers of reform and the side winds of aristocracy and radicalism, the helm of the nation was in his band, he found leisure to give his attention to a variety of other pursuits and engagements. Contributions of political, literary, or scientific character, to the principal journals, were made from his pen; and in his connection with the society for the diffusion of useful knowledge,” his mind was a constant source of direct and varied instruction to all those who read its successive publications. No one has done more to bring the elements of useful knowledge within the reach of the laboring population of England, or contributed more effectually to the elevation of that lower strata of mind in European society, where it might feel the genial sun and dew of heaven, and be made to sinile beneath the band of moral and intellectual cultivation. We doubt not, that his mind is better adapted to the exercise of logical discussion and debate, and rapid despatch in the details of official business, than to patient, careful, philosophical investigation. Nor can it be denied, that amid such a diversity of application, many erroneous opinions, superficial views, and perhaps some gross misconceptions, and entire failures, may justly have been alledged against bim.

Some things in the work at the head of this article, give full opportunity for certain of these charges, notwithstanding its general force and clearness. Yet to say, that this is a proof that Lord Brougham is destitute of sound talent, and much science, is to fly in the face of a thousand opposing evidences. Would there were half the evidence for bis evangelical piety, that there is for his talent; and that the serious and earnest spirit pervading “the Discourse," characterized the man as clearly as the learning which it discloses; we should then feel far better satisfied as to his title to the hope of the christian. What is to be the issue of his present reverse of royal, and, in some degree at least, of popular favor; what are his present plans, or hopes, or employments ; or whether the half uttered whispers, questioning the sobriety of his habits, are well or ill founded, we have no certain means of information. We turn our attention from the man more particularly to the work itself, which is before us.

[graphic]

Its object is not so much to prove the existence of an intelligent first cause, from the many marks of design in the universe around us, as to show that the study which does this is properly “an inductive science."

• This discourse is not a treatise of natural theology! It has not for its design an exposition of the doctrines whereof natural theology consists. But its object is, first, to explain the nature of the evidence upon which it rests,-to show that it is a science, ihe truths of which are discorered by induction, like the truths of natural and moral philosophy,—that it is a branch of science partaking of the nature of each of those great divisions of human knowledge, and not merely closely allied to them both. Secondly, the object of the discourse is to explain the advantages attending this study.' Introd. p. 10.

The reasons for undertaking ibis work, are thus stated, in the dedication to John Charles, Earl Spencer:

• The composition of this discourse was undertaken in consequence of an observation which I had often made, that scientific men were apt to regard the study of natural religion as little connected with philosophical pursuits. Many of the persons to whom I allude, were men of religious habits of thinking ; others were free from any disposition towards scepticism, rather because they had not so much discussed the subject, than because they had formed fixed opinions upon it after inquiry. But the bulk of them relied little upon natural theology, which they seemed to regard as a speculation built rather on fancy than on argument: or, at any rate, as a kind of knowledge quite different from either physical or moral science. It therefore appeared to me desirable to define more precisely, than had yet been done, the place and the claims of natural theology among the various branches of human knowledge.' pp. v. vi.

With this object,---" to show that natural tbeology is a science, the truths of which are discovered by induction, like the truths of natural and moral philosophy,”—and these motives to undertake it, Lord Brougham proceeds to adduce a variety of examples designed as proofs of his position.

1. Our first object will be, to state the nature of the argument from design; and thus correct an error into which his lordship has fallen, as it regards what is meant by inductive science. Throughout the “ Discourse," he has applied the term induction" to cases to which in strict accuracy it is inapplicable. He makes the name cover all cases, where individual facts are adduced, and inferences are derived from them. But it has reference only to a peculiar manner, and a distinct object in the use of particular facts. Induction brings together facts of the same class, noting their agreement, and rejecting all, however similar in appearance, that are not in fact alike, and from the union of the

whole, deduces some general principle or rule respecting the nature, properties or relations of the things thus included. Its object is to advance from particulars to generals, and from less to more general; and thus, by careful steps, arrive at the most general notions, which Lord Bacon calls " forms," or "formal cau

For this purpose, those particulars only in which there is an agreement can be brought together. We include under one general term, all fowls which have webbed feet, and put them within the order of ANSERES. We have a more general name for all that have wings and feathers, and call the whole class BIRDS. We can become still more general, and include all creatures which have life and voluntary motion, under the comprehensive name of ANIMAL. But in each case, we must bring only those individuals that are alike under these classifications. The general name would be wrongly applied to any that disagreed in the distinctive marks of the class in which they were to be included. So we apply heat to water, and find it enlarges its bulk. We go on with the same thing, and apply it to all liquids,-to all metals,--to all substances; and we find the same results in all, and thus make the general deduction : " Heat expands all bodies.” By an indefinite number of the same facts, we have gained a general rule. In proportion to the number of particulars embraced in the induction, is the probable correctness of the rule; but if any subsequent examination finds one fact in direct opposition, the rule is effectually subverted. Hasty conclusions have thus often been sormed, which further examination proved unwarranted. For a long time after the investigations of geologists had discovered numerous organic remains in the different strata of rock formations, do relics of human skeletons bad been found except amid the sand and gravel of post-diluvial origin. In their baste to sustain a theory, they jumped to the conclusion, that there were no stratified fossil human bones ; and from this made the further deduction, that the race of man could not have been contemporary with these forinations, and the living existence of the organic remains entombed within them. Later examination, it would seem, has proved the falsehood of this general conclusion.* Here was inductive reasoning, the bringing together of many facts of the same kind, --but because the examination had been too partial, the general deduction was overthrown by later observation; if the facts mentioned are so.

ses."

** Donati found buman bones in the breccias of the Dalmatian mountains, which has since been confirmed by the repeated examination of Gerinar. Canobio found them in a calcareous tufa near Genoa. Bulletin Univers. 1826. p. 22. Boue saw them in the year 1823, behind the lake of Baden; and Count Razoumouski, in Lower Austria, mixed with quadrupeds partly extinct. Count Breuner found them near Krems, in Lower Austria. M. Sterberg met with them at Kostritz, in Saxony; others have been seen among the Karaibs and the inhabitants of Chili. Bull. Univ. 1830. pp. 296, 162. În France, human bones were found a short time since in two caverns, in the departments of Gard at Poudre, and of Jouvigoarque, mixed with mamalia ones; others were found at Bize, in a black mud, mixed with those of lost animals. Bull. Univ. 1829. p. 237. M.

Induction, therefore, is the bringing together of many particulars of the same class, and from them deducing a general law. But that is not inductive reasoning which adduces different things for the same particular purpose; as when a variety of different things are brought together, to prove the particular facts of what a person did, or where he was, at a given time. Lord Brougham has used the term, as if it were inclusive of all cases, where facts are collected and deductions made from them. To call natural theology, therefore, “ an inductive science,” is not strictly correct. If it be admitted, that the order and barmony which allows so many things to be classed under a general rule, is evidence of design, and may therefore be used as such in the proofs of God's existence ; yet it is but a poor compliment to natural theology, to labor the point, that it has a right to these comparatively limited and far-fetched traces of design, when the whole universe of adap'tation and contrivance is before it. Still less to its credit is this claim, when we consider, that if it be placed upon the ground of inductive reasoning, it can never challenge for itself any thing higher than strong probability; for no finite induction of agreeing particulars can make it certain, that the very next fact examined shall not overthrow the whole former process.

Natural theology has a much broader and surer basis than any induction of particulars can give. The universe is before it, and wherever in heaven above or in the earth beneath the traces of design, and adaptation of means to an end, are found, there are the legitimate elements of its demonstrations. This, it is evident from all bis examples, is the broad ground on which Lord Brougham meant to place the subject. His error lies in mistaking the Jegitimate province of inductive reasoning. He begins by laying down the proposition, that natural theology is strictly an inductive science; but when he comes to the proof, he takes his examples from that which has no connection with inductive reasoning, and thus, by an inconsistency very fortunate for his subject, he proves its right to a much higher and stronger position than the language of his thesis had led him to demand.

While the whole universe of adaptation and design is thus

Renaux saw human bones, in 1820, in a grotto of Jura limestone, at Dufort. lb. 1830. p. 30. M. Bernardi found them with the bones of the hippopotami, in a grotto at Mount Giffon, near Palermo. Gior. Offic. de Palermo. Apr. 1830. A human skeleton was found in travestio, in Auvergne; and a fossil human head in the travestins of St. Alise at Cleremont, by Le Coq. [TRAVESTIN, I take to be a kind of white spongy stone.] More facts of the like nature may be seen in Bull. Univ. 1830. p. 346." Bib. Repos. No. XXI. p. 97.

« ПретходнаНастави »