Page images

on Natural Theology, published in the year 1829; so that he is clearly to be ranked amongst the modern writers, whose unaccountable silence Lord Brougham has styled “an extraordinary omission." (P. 54.) Will our readers believe that this very topic of psychological investigation, for the very purpose of proving the existence of an intelligent first cause, is most elaborately and minutely handled in all its detailed minutiæ by Dr. Crombie ? Such indeed is the fact! And what greatly adds to our astonishment at the unfounded claims of our author, is the marvellous truth that this treatise of the Rev. Alexander Crombie was subjected to a lengthened analysis in the Edinburgh Review, some two years after its appearance from the press.* From the pages of that Journal, we venture to make the following extract, being assured that Lord Brougham will be the last man to question the wisdom of that Northern Light.

“ Our natural instincts, and our intellectual constitution, comprehending our perceptive, rational, and active powers, whether viewed in detail, or as constituting a whole, by which man is sustained, and by which he arrives at Science and Philosophy, afford evidence, if not so obvious and striking as that which his organization presents, yet, certainly not less conclusive, of a designing cause. This branch of the argument is supported in a manner at once clear and forcible.”

Where now is Lord Brougham's vaunting claim to originality in this psychological application of his argument? What now becomes of his vain assertions? Will he now tell us that this branch of natural theology " has been unaccountably neglected by philosophers and theologians ?" (P. 59.) Reid and Crombie shall rise up in judgment and condemn him! Nor is Dr. Crombie's notice of this topic cursory and superficial. It is elaborate, minute, and exact. Nay, more than this; there is precisely that identical line of proof, that very adduction of particulars, in Dr. Crombie's psychological hypothesis, as might well be supposed to have furnished Brougham with his materials, though we by no means accuse the noble peer of the high crime and misdemeanour of plagiarism. That be far from us! It does so happen, however, that we can trace an extraordinary similarity between these writers, when teaching us that the same sort of reasoning which lead men to “ deny that the eye could be made without skill in optics," must equally lead them to deny “ that the mind could be fashioned and endowed without the most exquisite of all skill, or could proceed from any but an intellect of infinite power." (P. 71.)

We subjoin a list of the mental faculties and properties insisted upon by each of these learned writers, as a singular illustration of the adage, that " Great wits jump.”

Edinburgh Review, Sept. 1831.









Hope and Fear.

Hope and Fear.

Social affections.

Sympathy. We may safely leave the verdict upon Lord Brougham's claim, so ostentatiously put forth, and so feebly supported, to the untutored decision of our readers. Ere we pass to another section of Lord Brougham's discourse, we must introduce a quotation from it, which, we doubt not, will be perused with no common gratification, when it is found that it embraces the familiar topic of Extempore Speaking, and that from the pen of him, who is, perhaps, the readiest orator of the day. He has been alluding to the performances of the Italian Improvisatori, and then adds,

But the power of extempore speaking is not less singular, though more frequently displayed, at least in this country. A practised orator will declaim in measured and in various periods—will weave his discourse into one texture-form parenthesis within parenthesis-excite the passions, or move to laughter--take a turn in his discourse from an accidental interruption, making it the topic of his rhetoric for five minutes to come, and pursuing in like manner the new illustrations to which it gives rise-mould his diction with a view to attain or to shun an epigrammatic point, or an alliteration, or a discord; and all this with so much assured reliance on his own powers, and with such perfect ease to himself, that he shall even plan the next sentence while he is pronouncing off-hand the one he is engaged with, adapting each to the other, and shall look forward to the topic which is to follow and fit in the close of the one he is handling to be its introducer ; nor shall any auditor be able to discover the least difference between all this and the portion of his speech which he has got by heart, or tell the transition from the one to the other.-Pp. 63, 64.

Our author seems to allow reason to animals, and touches upon their instincts with peculiar force. If Paley be correct in his definition of instinct, viz. that“ it is a propensity prior to experience, and independent of instruction,"* the docility of animals must be accounted for upon some principle different from instinct.

Allowing, (writes our noble author,) that the brutes exercise but very rarely, and in a limited extent, the reasoning powers, it seems impossible to distinguish from the operations of reason those instances of sagacity which some dogs exhibit in obeying the directions of their master, and indeed generally the docility shown by them and other animals; not to mention the ingenuity of birds in breaking hard substances by letting them drop from a height, and in bringing the water of a deep pitcher nearer their beaks by throwing in pebbles. These

• Paley's Natural Theology, c. 18.

are different from the operations of instinct, because they are acts which vary with circumstances novel and unexpectedly varying; they imply therefore the adaptation of means to an end, and the power of varying those means when obstacles arise : we can have no evidence of design, that is of reason, in other men, which is not similar to the proof of reason in animals afforded by such facts as these.—Pp. 74, 75.

In the summary of his argument our author contends that the inferences drawn from an examination of psychological phenomena, are drawn according to the strict rules of inductive science. To this statement he subjoins the following remark :

Such is the process of reasoning by which we infer the existence of design in the natural and moral world. To this abstract argument an addition of great importance remains to be made. The whole reasoning proceeds necessarily upon the assumption that there exists a being or thing separate from, and independent of, matter, and conscious of its own existence, which we call mind.... The agency which we infer from this reasoning is therefore a spiritual and immaterial agency-the working of something like our own mind, an intelligence like our own, though incomparably more powerful and more skilful. .... But his being such is only inferred, because we set out with assuming the separate existence of our own mind, independently of matter. Without that we never could conclude that superior intelligence existed or acted. The belief that mind exists is essential to the whole argument by which we infer that the Deity exists. ... It is the foundation of Natural Theology in all its branches, &c. &c.—Pp. 78, 79.

It is in reference to this point that Lord Brougham charges Paley with neglecting the argument upon which the inference of design (" that design which is the subject of his whole book,") of necessity rests; and hence he infers his distaste or incapacity for metaphysics. We have already ventured to suggest an honourable defence of Paley from his contumelious aspersion ; but, whilst we are generous to Dr. Paley, let us not be unjust to Lord Brougham, to whose transcendent excellencies we would gladly offer our incense of sincere admiration ; so singularly delighted are we with that beautiful portion of his discourse, which crushes the hypothesis of the materialist into atoms, and erects upon their ruins, with a master's hand, the immortal supremacy of the soul. He is beyond comparison the most able antagonist who has encountered the mischievous subtilties of the school of Hume ; and if the disciples of that ingenious historian be not silenced by our author's attack, they must have heads inaccessible to argument, and minds incapable of conviction. Lord Brougham's refutation of " the argument à priori,” deserves especial regard. The learned peer shall speak for himself.

The first thing that strikes us on this subject is the consequence which must inevitably follow from admitting the possibility of discerning the existence of the Deity and his attributes à priori, or wholly independent of facts. It would follow that this is a necessary, not a contingent truth, and that it is not only as impossible for the Deity not to exist, as for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, but that it is equally impossible for his attributes to be other than the argument is supposed to prove they are. Thus the reasoners in question show, by the argument à priori, that he is a being of perfect wisdom, and perfect

benevolence. Dr. Clarke is as clear of this as he is clear that his existence is proved by the same argument. Now, first, it is impossible that any such truths can be necessary; for their contraries are not things wholly inconceivable, inasmuch as there is nothing at all inconceivable in the Maker of the universe existing as a being of limited power and of mixed goodness, nay of malevolence. We never, before all experience, could pronounce it mathematically iinpossible that such a being should exist, and should have created the universe. But next, the facts, when we came to examine them, might disprove the conclusions drawn à priori. The universe might by possibility be so constructed that every contrivance might fail to produce the desired effect—the eye might be chromatic and give indistinct images—the joints might be so unhinged as to impede motion -every smell, as Paley has it, might be a stink, and every touch a sting. Indeed, we know that, perfect as the frame of things actually is, a few apparent exceptions to the general beauty of the system have made many disbelieve the perfect power and perfect goodness of the Deity, and invent Manichean theories to account for the existence of evil. Nothing can more clearly show the absurdity of those arguments by which it is attempted to demonstrate the truths of this science as mathematical or necessary, and cognizable à priori. Pp. 81–83.

Our author refutes at great length the positions of Dr. Clarke, and displays much ingenuity in his lucubrations concerning time and space, for which we lament that we possess neither the one nor the other. He displays an intimate acquaintance with the writings of Cudworth, Locke, Reid, and Stewart. In concluding his remarks upon the argument à priori, he reminds his readers that it is of great use in two particulars.

First, it illustrates, if it does not indeed prove, the possibility of an Infinite Being existing beyond and independent of us and of all visible things; and, secondly, the fact of those ideas of immensity and eternity, forcing themselves, as Mr. Stewart expresses it, upon our belief, seems to furnish an additional argument for the existence of an Immense and Eternal Being. At least we must admit that excellent person's remark to be well founded, that after we have, by the argument à posteriori (I should rather say the other parts of the argument à posteriori), satisfied ourselves of the existence of an intelligent cause, we naturally connect with this cause those impressions which we have derived from the contemplation of infinite space and endless duration, and hence we clothe with the attributes of immensity and eternity the awful Being whose existence has been proved by a more rigorous process of investigation.—Pp. 96, 97.

To this statement is appended the following note :

Lord Spencer, who has deeply studied these abstruse subjects, communicated to me, before he was aware of my opinion, that he had arrived at nearly the same conclusion upon the merits of the argument à priori.—P. 97.

We have alluded in terms of unqualified panegyric to our author's refutation of the hypothesis of materialism. We would not have our readers pin their faith on our unsupported dictum, nor be deprived of an opportunity of judging for themselves. We, therefore, submit the following passage as a fair specimen of our author's mode of treating this interesting subject.

The truth is, that we believe in the existence of Matter, because we cannot help it. The inferences of our reason from our sensations impel us to this conclusion, and the steps are few and short by which we reach it. But the steps are fewer and shorter, and of the self-same nature, which lead us to believe in the existence of Mind; for of that we have the evidence within ourselves, and wholly independent of our senses. Nor can we ever draw the inference in any one instance of the existence of matter without at the same time exhibiting a proof of the existence of mind; for we are, by the supposition, reasoning, inferring, drawing a conclusion, forming a belief; therefore there exists somebody, or something, to reason, to infer, to conclude, to believe ; that is, we-not any fraction of matter, but a reasoning, inferring, believing being---in other words, a Mind. In this sense the celebrated argument of Descartes-cogito, ergo sum—had a correct and a profound meaning: If, then, scepticism can have any place in our system, assuredly it relates to the existence of Matter far more than of Mind; yet the Système de la Nature is entirely founded upon the existence of Matter being a self-evident truth, admitting of no proof, and standing in need of none.-P.241,

We have said that our author is one of the most successful antagonists of Hume. To prove the truth of our assertion, we would willingly transcribe the whole of his excellent note on Hume's sceptical writings, and his argument respecting providence, and especially on his celebrated essays on a future state, and on miracles. How admirable is the following observation !

The argument of Tillotson against the doctrine of the Real Presence is stated to have suggested that against the truth, or rather the possibility of Miracles ; but there is this most material difference between the two questions that they who assert the Real Presence drive us to admit a proposition contrary to the evidence of our senses, upon a subject respecting which the senses alone can decide, and to admit it by the force of reasonings ultimately drawn from the senses-reasonings far more likely to deceive than they, because applicable to a matter not so well fitted for argument as for perception, but reasonings at any rate incapable of exceeding the evidence the senses give. Nothing, therefore, can be more conclusive than Tillotson's argument--that against the Real Presence we have of necessity every argument, and of the self-same kind with those which it purports to rest upon, and a good deal more besides; for if we must not believe our senses when they tell us that a piece of bread is merely bread, what right have we to believe those same senses, when they convey to us the words in which the arguments of the Fathers are couched, or the quotations from Scripture itself, to make us suppose the bread is not bread, but flesh? And as ultimately even the testimony of a witness who should tell us that he had heard an apostle or the Deity himself affirm the Real Presence, must resolve itself into the evidence of that witness's senses, what possible ground can we have for believing that he heard the divine affirmation, stronger than the evidence which our own senses plainly give us to the contrary ?-Pp. 248, 249.

Will the arch agitator of Ireland "laugh this to scorn as a piece of tom-foolery?" We respectfully call his attention to this point, and dare him to refute the argument of our ex-chancellor, whom again we quote with peculiar delight.

The belief of a miracle is, and ought to be, most difficult to bring about; but at least, it is not like the belief in the Real Presence: it does not at one and the same time assume the accuracy of the indications given by our senses, and set that accuracy at nought;—it does not at once desire us implicitly to trust, and entirely to disregard the evidence of testimony, as the doctrine of Transubstantiation calls upon us at once to trust and disregard the evidence of our senses. -Pp. 249, 250.

Pursuing his refutation of Hume's argument against miracles, Lord Brougham tells us that there are two answers to which his doctrine is



3 R

« PreviousContinue »