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118

CHAPTER IV.

Materialism-Mr. Lawrence's Arguments laid down and considered-Atheism-Existence of God.

THE next important step which is usually made by the sectaries of irreligion, is the adoption of the doctrine of materialism; and this is accordingly interwoven with the ideas of the Fatalist, as we have already seen in the pages of Mirabaud. It would be still more unfair, however, to limit our enquiries on this point, than it would have been in the former case, to the ideas which he has been able to bring forward. The discoveries of science that have arisen subsequent to the time at which that book was composed, have furnished many fresh arguments on both sides, and given an entirely new turn to the views of the advocates of this system. In order to obtain a fair insight of the question, we will therefore have recourse to a work of certainly great ability and erudition, (whatever may be the objections to which it is liable on

other grounds,) namely, the physiological and zoological lectures of Mr. Lawrence.

The materialist professes to believe, that there is nothing of any, sort or kind existing in the universe, but is material in its nature, and of course follows the laws of matter.

It is objected in opposition to this, that the soul or thinking power, or the mind or spirit, (for all these terms may be considered as synonimous.) is something essentially different from matter: and this is presumed to be so because its known properties differ from the known properties of matter.

If the former idea be admitted, atheism follows; or at least we may say, that the existence of a God is on no account required. Matter is eternal and indestructible in its nature, say these advocates of the system: the various changes and combinations which we see taking place around us, and all that have occurred in times past, have their origin merely in the necessary action and re-action of the several parts of the material system on one another; they are produced by means of their chemical or mechanical powers, or other affections of matter,

such in short, as we have seen and known by experience do exist in a visible and tangible shape we find therefore, argues the materialist, no need to haye recourse to the idea of the existence of any other superior power for direction or controul, past, present, or fu

ture.

If, on the latter supposition, the separate existence of spirit be admitted as the thinking power; it follows, that we look up to that spirit in its most perfect state, as the supreme intelligence, and the first cause of all created things as that by whose contrivance they appear to have been arranged, and their several relations devised one towards another. Secondly, as the gift of that same spirit, or as an emanation from it, we recognise that mysterious power of the mind residing within ourselves, which seems so much to embarrass the argument of the materialists.

This power of which we speak, certainly does not exist in a visible or tangible shape, to our present organs of external sense; but we argue its existence from its distinct and well-known effects. We confess the imper

fection of our knowledge in this respect, as well as many others, but think we see sufficient reason why it is so ordained; and we do not find that we stand alone in such belief, for the idea is as old as Aristotle and Plato, and seems confessed by some of the best philosophers of every age and nation.

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That thou hast a soul is of all knowledge the most certain, of all truths the most plain unto thee; be meek, be grateful for it, seek not to know it perfectly; it is inscrutable.'

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Thought, understanding, reason, will; call not these thy soul! they are its actions, not its essence.'-Economy of Human Life, xi. 3.

The whole question may be considered as regarding the support which our faith in revealed religion has been accustomed to draw from the inferences of human reason, and as examining generally, whether that assistance is justly granted or otherwise. It is not uncommon to hear it said in the world, that Mr. Lawrence has written a book, proving, that the soul or mind is of a material nature. Now, it should be premised, that he has done no such thing: no demonstration can possibly be obtained on such

a subject, either for or against the supposition; and certainly, nothing like it is even pretended by Mr. Lawrence: he only claims the right of bandying the arguments and probabilities on his side of the question against the arguments and probabilities on the other; presuming that those whose hypothesis (for this is really all) presents fewest difficulties, will finally have greatest weight in the public estimation. So far indeed from presuming any proof, he speaks of this subject as the region of imagination and conjecture; talks of our quickly reaching the boundaries of our knowledge,' confesses himself placed under those feelings of restriction that obviously attach to humanity. The very nature indeed of those efforts, that with all his acuteness he has been able to make in defence of this his favorite idea, tend to bring us to a stronger sense of the real insufficiency of all human capacity fully to develope such mysteries.

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The outline of Mr. Lawrence's theory taken from his own words as impartially and as justly as our limits will admit, is briefly as follows. He states that the mind is wholly dependent

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