Page images
PDF
EPUB

the cross,

eth in bim ; and that he is not his own. It is from St Paul, however, that we have the finest confirmation of what we advanced concerning the ignorance of man of the operation of his own faculties. “ What man,” says St Paul, 1 Cor. ii. 11, “ knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of God which is in him ? even so," adds the apostle, “ the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God." - So far from God being regardless of man, the scriptures on the contrary tell us, that he * who numbereth all the stars, and calleth every one of them by its name, + hath even the hairs of our heads all numbered; and that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground, without the notice of the Father of life. From the Bible we learn that man bas indeed a soul; but of the nature of that soul it does not instruct us, save that it has no existence independent of God -- there being none else than the almighty I Am. Our Saviour expressly gives us to know, that man shall live after death, when he tells the thief upon

To-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” And God saith to Moses, “ I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;" and our Saviour, alluding to this very declaration, observes, that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living ; plainly intimating to us, that at the time when the above declaration was made by the Almighty to Moses, and when the bodies of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were mingling with the dust of the earth, these patriarchs were still living in heaven. Accordingly we are informed by St Matthew, that Moses appeared alongst with Elias when our Saviour was transfigured on the Mount before the three apostles. Such express declarations on the part of Jesus Christ, need leave no doubt in the mind of the faithful Christian of the existence of the elect of God immediately after death. Of the state of the wicked between death and the resurrection, however, we are informed only in the parable of Lazarus and Dives, as far as we at present remember.

But though we are left in ignorance of the nature of man after death, yet there are not wanting reasons which may lead us to suspect, that the Almighty may inform some new and more subtile condition of matter with that portion of his spirit--that particula aure divine, which informed the body of man here below. The expression of our Saviour to Nicodemus the ruler of the Jews, “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” affords some countenance to this ; for Christ compares a man born of the spirit, to wind that Alitteth by unseen, -a comparison which certainly cannot apply to a man regenerated in his affections towards God. In farther corroboration of what has been above advanced, our Saviour adds the remarkable expression, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the son of man which is in heaven;" from which we may perhaps gather--that the spirit of man returns to God, of which it was a portion ; that nothing ascends to heaven but God; and that man is born again of the spirit in heaven. But what being “ born of the spirit” means, it is impossible for us to know. This we know, however, that when the dead--the living dead, revisited the glimpse of the inhabitants of the earth, they were seen in the ordinary manner. The light which surrounded the bodies of our Saviour, and Moses, and Elias, was probably nothing else than material light; and these resplendent personages, it is likely, were absolutely pictured on the nerve of sight at the bottom of the eyes of each of the three apostles who saw them on the mount of transfiguration ; at least we are not told that the transfiguration was seen in a vision ; or that the apostles, on that occasion; were in the spirit like the evangelist St John, when he saw the glorious vision of our Saviour, which he describes in the first chapter of the Revelations. An idle and groundless imagination seems to have got into the heads of many, that the exalted creatures of God are but a mere extension of space - in fact, nothing at all. There is nothing in divine revelation to countenance such a belief; which is derived from a narrow and incomprehensive notion of the meaning of the word “ matter.” In a comprehensively philosophical sense, this word must be taken to signify whatsoever is palpable to the perceptive organs of any of God's creatures, however high in the scale of life they may be: different orders of created intellect being perhaps gifted with different additional new organs of perception, to take cognizance of other more subtile conditions of the material world. There is a goodly difference between the clod of the valley and the quick-speeding light; yet each is matter, only under a different condition. And just as man is flesh and blood, — solid matter, with fluid circulating through it, animated by the Spirit of God; is it not possible for the Almighty to create another mode of animal life from the material world, of fluid matter carrying in its conduits an aerial or gaseous fluid ; or might he not even inform a very air, carrying a pabulum or blood of a more subtile nature still ? Even here upon earth we have an instance of a something produced from the material world utterly impalpable to the senses of man, whose progress, notwithstanding, through its conductors can be mechanically arrested : we mean the nervous fluid secreted from the blood in the brain of man and other terrestrial animals. To which of the senses of man is a small volume of quiescent atmospherical air palpable? yet who will deny it to be material? The fact is, that we must always be careful to distinguish between the bodies of God's creatures, and the Spirit of God which animates them. What the Almighty is, it will surpass created intellect ever to know. “ The things of God," saith St Paul, “ knoweth no man, but the spirit of God.” God is the only intelligence. He is, as it were, the soul of matter,—the All in All: and if the animal world were utterly extinct, God and matter would exist in the universe themselves alone ; the latter, perhaps, being only a creation of the infinite conception of the former, according to the sublime idea of Bishop Berkeley of Cloyne. The connection, however, between God and matter is higher than heaven, what can we know? it is deeper than hell, and what can we understand ?

* Isaiah, xl. 26–“ Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number : he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth."

† Matthew, x. 29, 30—“ Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing ? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbercd."

From the imperfect sketch which we have thus laid before the reader, he will see, that divine revelation and true philosophy, instead of being at drawn daggers, are walking hand in hand together, illustrating and adorning, and unfolding fresh beauties in each other. To amuse the Christian reader, we shall attempt to exhibit them in joint council upon one metaphysical dogma, in order that he may see how baseless as the fabric of a vision is that superstructure of philosophy, which is founded upon any thing else than observation of the material world, and which, at the same time, refuses any accession to its stability from the chief corner-stone of truth. It was Des Cartes who made the consciousness of the power of thinking an argument of his own independent existence ; for such his inference implies. Cogito, ergo sum, was the dogma upon which he laboured to rear his system of philosophy. But we trust that we have already sufficiently shewn that Des Cartes, of his own power and knowledge, could not think. The being who can think, without the operation in him of an intelligence foreign to and higher than his own, may indeed claim the title of independent existence implied by the word sum ; but that being certainly was not Des Cartes. The simple truth is, that the dogma of the metaphysician, or its converse, belongs to God Almighty alone; who, only, has life in himself," and whose powers operate by his own infinite intelligence. Accordingly, we find that God claims to himself the supreme title of I AM, when he says, “ I am, and there is none beside me:" that is, that in and through him every living thing in the universe of animal life exists. To shew still farther the instability of this dogma of Des Cartes as the foundation of any system of philosophy whatsoever, let us suppose, for the sake of illustration, that the metaphysician had lain under water for the space of about ten minutes ; that he was then dragged out in a state of complete asphyxia, from which,

however, he was, by the use of appropriate means, restored to life. Then conceive some plain-thinking man, who knew the philosopher's dogma, and had seen him dragged from the waters, and lying seemingly without life upon the ground, to ask him, after his recovery

“ Pray, sir, when you were lying apparently dead a few minutes ago, were you conscious either of perception or of thought?” The metaphysician would of course tell the truth, and answer, No: for in a state of asphyxia man is conscious of nothing ; the universe of intellect and matter has then to him no existence. “ Then your cogito was fled,” the man of common sense would reply; “ but surely, sir, you will not affirm that you were not all there; the mind, or soul, or spirit, had not forsaken her tenement; though cogito had taken wing, yet your sum remained in all its former reality.” The plain fact is this—it is not upon such dogmas as this of Des Cartes that the temple of science can be securely founded. The faculties of man operate through material organs ; and if man would extend his knowledge of them beyond the mere arrangement of them according to the effects of their operations, he can do it only by examining the structure of the organs through which they act, and by observing the laws which regtlate their actions, under the different circumstances to which their material organs may be either naturally or artificially subjected, just as the student of physics endeavours to ascertain the laws of gravity or heat, by carefully observing the material phenomena to which these powers give rise, either naturally, or under artificial arrangements contrived for a certain end. This is the mode of philosophising respectively pointed out and followed by two of the greatest men that have appeared upon this earth, the ornaments alike of Christianity and true philosophy. The reader will at once understand that we here allude to Lord Bacon and Sir Isaac Newton: the former of whom did not think it beneath his genius to point out the inethod of studying prophecy, as well as physics ; the latter engaged in the one task, as well as the other. And we would recommend him who will withhold his belief from the creed to which such intellects as these have subscribed, and who will disdain to enrich his philosophy from the revelations of the Bible, if he would extend his knowledge beyond the mere classification of the human faculties, to consult the writings of the French and English physiologists, and to study man, as he ought to be studied, through his material organs. It is as unphilosophical in him who will not believe in divine revelation, to ascribe the faculties of man to the operation of a soul or mind within him, as it is to ascribe the action of the power of gravity to the operation of an ether. In ascending the chain which connects every phenomenon in nature with its final cause, we must stop at the first link which eludes our perceptions : it is vain to talk of another still higher, and give it the name of a power also.

We have shewn divine revelation and true philosophy in joint deliberation upon one metaphysical dogma ; there is another, however, upon which we would take the counsel of the latter only. It is a device of the enemy, which, we believe, has been instrumental in misleading many a youthful mind. We allude to the dogma of human experience being a test of the actual occurrence of eartbly phenomena ; on the principle, that it is much more probable that a number of men, who report a phenomenon at variance with the known laws of nature, should be deceived by their perceptive organs, than that such a phenomenon should be true. We had always thought that this had been an unqualified dogma of Mr David Hume's. We find, however, on looking into his essays, that he applies it only to the miracles which are reported for the establishment of a new religion, --for example, the Christian. Now, this restriction can be made in reference to the Christian religion, only on the supposition that its miracles are made part and parcel of the natural history of the world by the disciples of Jesus Christ alone, who, either from fanaticism or self-interest, have combined together to tell a lie for the propagation of that religion, to which they had devoted themselves. But this supposition will not hold; for the miracles of Christianity are recorded by others than those. It is a very strong circumstance in favour of our Saviour's miracles,"

C

But even

says Bishop Porteus, in one of his lectures upon St Mattbew, “ that they were related by contemporary historians; by those who were eyewitnesses of them, and were afterwards acknowledged to be true by those who lived nearest to the times in which they were wronght; and what is still more to the point, by many who were hostile to the Christian religion. Even the Emperor Julian himself, that most bitter adversary of Christianity, who had openly apostatized from it, who professed the most implacable hatred to it, who employed all his ingenuity, all his acuteness and learning, which were considerable, in combating the truth of it, in displaying in the strongest colours every object he could raise up against it; even he did not deny the reality of our Lord's miracles. He admitted that Jesus wrought them, but contended that he wrought them by the power of magic.” “ Celsus, also,” says the Bishop in a note, “ acknowledged the truth of the gospel miracles in general, but ascribed them to the assistance of demons. • The Christians,' says he, seem to prevail by virtue of the names and the invocations of certain demons.' (Origen contra Celsum, ed. Cantab. I. i. p. 7.)” — The only conclusion, then, that the sceptic must come to, who denies the actual occurrence of the miracles recorded in the New Testament, must be, that the people who witnessed them must have been deceived by their perceptive organs, which, at the time, must have been in a disordered state. this subterfuge will not avail ; for any aberrations of perception, leading in each of a great number of men to the same train of ideas, is as great a miracle, and as contradictory of human experience or observation, as any miracle recorded in the New Testament: and we will venture to affirm, that it never yet happened to a hundred men, when their fears and fancies were not wrought upon and perverted — which we do not hear that they were in the case of the Christian miracles

- to see and to hear the same things, from any hallucinations of the perceptions of sight and bearing, when no physical impressions were made upon their

eyes and ears, to produce the same train of images and sounds in each. No : the air-drawn dagger that marshals the murderer the way that he is going, “ the 'aiery tongues that syllable men's names to the listening ear of disturbed fancy, are 'peculiar to the possessors of the disordered organs in the brain, from which such phantasies arise. Strictly speaking, however, one should certainly be somewhat tardy in believing any very extraordinary phenomenon on the testimony of one man, even although we were sure that he was incapable of uttering a falsehood : for it might so happen, that at the time of such a phenomenon being present to his consciousness, his organs of perception might be in a disordered state ; and more especially if the phenomenon reported was the object of one perception only : for the chance of a phenomenon being really derived from the material world at the time it is perceived, is increased according to the number of perceptive organs that recognise it. Sight is perhaps oftenest made the fool of the other perceptions ; touch being the soberest of judgment among all his colleagues : for example, the chance of hallucination is much diminished, if the object is both seen and heard

« PreviousContinue »