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THE PHILOSOPHY OF PROGRESS
IN HUMAN AFFAIRS.
THE DOMINION OF LAW.
Sociology, or Social Science, was necessarily a late growth of the human mind, and could not exist until the various sciences that branch into it had received a considerable development. Its object is to trace the laws that regulate the varied and complex phenomena of social life, which it seeks to elucidate by the method of observation and experiment, and especially of deduction from principles that the human mind when applied to these subjects is led to recognize as true.
The idea of law, method, order, or unchanging continuity of Divine will, has entered more or less into the philosophy of all times. Without it, sociology could not have arisen within the horizon of human thought, and in that science this idea receives its most pervading and comprehensive form.
The earliest scientific conception of law seems to have been connected with astronomy; and tradition refers it to those antique shepherds who watched the regulated movements of the bright hosts of heaven in the thoughtful solitudes of the Chaldean plains. The beautiful conception of the Greeks, that the universe was a cosmos, or great harmoniously constructed whole, the Pythagorean idea of numbers, the lofty speculations of Plato, and the scientific labours of Aristotle, all contributed to the ultimate belief that the events of the physical world, whether stupendous in their magnitude or microscopic in their minuteness, were under the dominion of
pervading and unchanging law; and not less so the more wonderful and mysterious movements of human passion and human thought.
The growth of positive science was, however, exceedingly slow; and only within the last few years has the conception of the order of the universe, method of Divine government, or by whatever other name it may be called, been materially strengthened and enlarged. A great advance was made when Dalton produced his atomic theory of chemical combination, which led to a rapid proof and popularization of the fact that chemical union -unlike mechanical mixture, that may be made in any proportion of the several ingredients can
only take place in definite proportions, and that when substances unite with each other in more than one proportion, all the higher proportions are simple multiples of the first or lowest proportion in which the combination occurs. These discoveries have been productive of immense results in pure and applied science, nor is their contribution to general philosophy less important. It is something to know, from examination of existing specimens, that metals and gases, earths; alkalies, and acids, unite in precisely the same proportions, and build up under similar circumstances precisely the same substances, now, in our nineteenth century, when man has subdued and replenished the earth, as they did myriads of ages ago, when our globe performed its annual journey with precisely the same velocity, but bearing upon its bosom only the lower forms of vegetable or of animal life. Man loves thus to view nature in the light of eternity, and takes pleasure in listening to harmonies whose first notes sounded in a beginning, that imagination may picture, but which science can never reach.
Next to chemistry comes geology in the order of those sciences that have extended the conception of pervading law; and this too, is a growth of our own times, for it is not many years since all the