« VorigeDoorgaan »
The existence and character of the Deity, is, in every view, the most interesting of all human speculations. In none, however, is it more so, than as it facilitates the belief of the fundamental articles of Revelation. It is a step to have it proved, that there must be something in the world more than what we see: It is a farther step to know, that, amongst the invisible things of nature, there must be an intelligent mind, concerned in its production, order, and support. These points being assured to us by Natural Theology, we may well leave to Revelation the disclosure of many particulars, which our researches cannot reach, respecting either the nature of this Being as the original cause of all things, or his character and designs as a moral governor; and not only so, but the more full confirmation of other particulars, of which, though they do not lie altogether beyond our reasonings and our probabilities, the certainty is by no means equal to the importance. The true theist will be the first to listen to any credible commu. nication of Divine knowledge. Nothing which he has learnt from Natural Theology, will diminish his desire of farther instruction, or his disposition to receive it with humility and thankfulness. He wishes for light: he rejoices in light. His inward veneration of this great Being, will incline him to attend with the utmost seriousness, not only to all that can be discovered concerning him by researches into nature, but to all that is taught by a revelation, which gives reasonable proof of having proceeded from him.
But, above every other article of revealed religion, does the anterior belief of a Deity bear with the strongest force upon that grand point, which gives indeed interest and importance to all the rest,—the resurrection of the human dead. The thing might appear hopeless, did we not see a power at work adequate to
the effect, a power under the guidance of an intelligent will, and a power penetrating the inmost recesses of all substance, I am far from justifying the opinion of those, who “ thought it a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead :" but I admit, that it is first necessary to be persuaded, that there is a God, to do so. This being thoroughly settled in our minds, there seems to be nothing in this process (concealed as we confess it to be) which need to shock our belief. They who have taken up the opinion, that the acts of the human mind depend upon organisation, that the mind itself indeed consists in organisation, are supposed to find a greater difficulty than others do, in admitting a transition by death to a new state of sentient existence, because the old organisation is apparently dissolved. But I do not see that any impracticability need be apprehended even by these; or that the change, even upon
ir hypothesis, is far removed from the analogy of some other operations, which we know with certainty that the Deity is carrying on. In the ordinary derivation of plants and animals, from one another, a particle, in many cases, minuter than all assignable, all conceiv. able dimension ; an aura, an effluvium, an infinitesimal; determines the organisation of a future body: does no less than fix, whether that which is about to be produced, shall be a vegetable, a merely sentient, or à rational being; an oak, a frog, or a philosopher; makes all these differences; gives to the future body its qualities, and Kature, and species. And this particle, from which springs, and by which is determined, a whole future nature, itself proceeds from, and owes its constitution to, a prior body: nevertheless, which is seen in plants most decisively, the incepted organisation, though formed within, and through, and by, a preceding organisation, is not corrupted by its corruption,
or destroyed by its dissolution : but, on the contrary, to sometimes extricated and developed by those very causes ; survives and comes into action, when the pure pose, for which it was prepared, requires its use. Now an oeconomy which nature has adopted, when the purpose was to transfer an organisation from one individual to another, may have something analogous to it, when the purpose is to transmit an organisation from one state of being to another state: and they who found thought in organisation, may see something in this analogy applicable to their difficulties ; for, whatever can transmit a similarity of organisation will answer their purpose, because, according even to their own theory, it may be the vehicle of consciousness, and because consciousness carries identity and individuality along with it through all changes of form or of visible qualities. In the most general case, that, as we have said, of the derivation of plants and animals from one another, t. latent organisation is either itself similar to the old organisation, or has the power of communicating to new matter the old organic form. But it is not restricted to this rule. There are other cases, especially in the progress of inšect life, in which the dormant organisation does not much resemble that which encloses it, and still less suits with the situation in which the enclosing body is placed, but suits with a different situation to which it is destined. In the larva of the libellula, which lives constantly, and has still long to live under water, are descried the wings of a ty, which two years afterwards is to mount into the air. Is there nothing in this analogy? It serves at least to shew, that even in the observable course of nature, organisations are formed one beneath another; and, amongst a thousand other instances, it shows completely, that the Deity can mould and fashion the parts of material na
ture, so as to fulfil any purpose whatever which he ia pleased to appoint.
They who refer the operations of mind to a substance totally and essentially different from matter (as most certainly these operations, though affected by material causes,
little affinity to any properties of matter with which we are acquainted), adopt perhaps a juster reasoning and a better philosophy: and by these the considerations above suggested are not wanted, at least in the same degree. But to such as find, which some persons do find, an insuperable difficulty in shaking off an adherence to those analogies, which the corporeal world is continually suggesting to their thoaghts; to such, I say, every consideration will be a relief, which manifests the extent of that intelli. gent power which is acting in nature, the fruitfulness of its resources, the variety, and aptness, and success of its means; most especially every consideration, which tends to show that, in the translation of a conscious existence, there is not, even in their own way of regarding it, any thing greatly beyond, or totally unlike, what takes place in such parts (probably small parts) of the order of nature, as are accessible to our observation.
Again; if there be those who think, that the contractedness and debility of the human faculties in our present state, seem ill to accord with the high destinies which the expectations of religion point out to us; I would only ask them, whether any one, who saw a child two hours after its birth, could suppose that it would ever come to understand fluxions* ; or who then shall say, whát farther amplification of intellectual powers, what accession of knowledge, what advance and improvement, the rational faculty, be its constitu.
tion what it will, may not admit of, when placed amidst new objects, and endowed with a sensorium adapted, as it undoubtedly will be, and as our present senses are, to the perception of those substances, and of those properties of things, with which our concern
Upon the whole; in every thing which respects this awful, but, as we trust, glorious change, we have a wise and powerful Being (the author, in nature, of infinitely various expedients for infinitely various ends), upon whom to rely for the choice and appointment of means adequate to the execution of any plan which his goodness or his justice may have formed, for the moral and accountable part of his terrestrial creation. That great office rests with him ; be it ours to hope and to prepare, under a firm and settled persuasion, that, living and dying, we are his; that life is passed in his constant presence, that death resigns us to his merciful disposal.
F INI S.