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views, on all themes of moral and political interest, and the ardent, yet not intemperate patriotism, which still binds the exile to the beautiful land of his birth. His volumes cannot be commended, indeed, as an elementary text-book for the young beginner. But to those who have made some advance in Italian literature, and to cultivated minds generally, they will suggest much food for meditation, melancholy though it be, on the singular destinies of a nation, which, endowed with the fatal gift of beauty, seems doomed to contend in vain against circumstances, — in the eloquent language of her poet,
“Per servir sempre, o vincitrice, o vinta.”
ART. V. - On Natural Theology. By Thomas CHAL
MERS, D. D. and LL. D., Professor of Theology in the University of Edinburgh, and Corresponding Member of the Royal Institute of France. New York : Robert Carter. 1840. 2 vols. 12mo. pp. 404 and 420.
DR. CHALMERS was one of the persons appointed, under the will of the late Earl of Bridgewater, to write a treatise 6. On the Wisdom, Power, and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation.” This general subject being divided into eight branches, the portion of it allotted to our author was “ The Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Condition of Man." The work which Dr. Chalmers published, in compliance with this call, has been for some years before the public, and we have had occasion in this Journal to express, incidentally, our opinion of its merits. The volumes now before us contain a republication of the Bridgewater Treatise, with some additional chapters on the argument for the being of a God, and on a few other subjects, designed so far to fill out the deficiences of the former publication, as to entitle the entire work to be called an exposition of the whole science of Natural Theology. These supplementary portions of the book are all that require present notice, and very few words may suffice for a consideration of their merits and defects.
Dr. Chalmers does not appear qualified in an eminent degree, either by the peculiarities of his style, or his habits of study and thought, to become a scientific writer. With a great command of words, considerable power of amplifying a subject, and, at times, of expressing himself with much force and earnestness, he lacks precision of statement and definiteness of views. His style is often incorrect, and almost always verbose and tumid, and, amidst a wilderness of words, the reader is sometimes at a loss how to find any meaning whatever. Such a style may be very effective in the pulpit, where familiar thoughts are to be handled, to be amplified and set forth under every variety of aspect. The constant repetitions will enable the hearer to comprehend the general drift of the argument, and the swell and copiousness of language will fasten it upon his memory. But the inaccuracy and vagueness of such a manner are serious objections in a scientific treatise. One is often puzzled by contradictory statements, and loses sight of the chief object of inquiry, while the author is expatiating at great length on some incidental topic.
But these defects might be pardoned, if they did not proceed from much confusion of thought, and a hasty manner of prosecuting an abstract inquiry. Dr.' Chalmers elaborates nothing, but gives out the first draft of his arguments and speculations, pretty much in the order in which they first occurred to him. Consequently, there is no proportion between the parts, but a crude mass of materials is presented, which, if duly worked over, might be found to contain many sound remarks, and some trains of reasoning and reflection, followed out with considerable success. The subject of bis Bridgewater Treatise, forms but a small fraction of the whole science of Natural Theology. But, desirous of publishing something, that should appear to cover the whole ground, without revising or retrenching to any extent the original work, he annexes to it a few introductory chapters, interpolates one or two more in the body of the book, and then sends it forth as a new and complete treatise.
Dr. Chalmers is not a learned writer ; at least, not in this department of science. Of many important contributions to Natural Theology, he makes no mention whatever, and thus many arguments and objections pass unnoticed by him, a full consideration of which is essential to any effective treatment of the subject at the present day. Dr. Thomas Brown is VOL. LIV. - No. 115.
about the only philosophical writer, with whose works he appears to be fully acquainted, though neither the general reputation, nor the completeness of this author's speculations, make him a very safe guide in abstruse and difficult inquiries. Dr. Chalmers does not in himself possess sufficient acuteness and skill in treating metaphysical questions to make up for this lack of information, and the chapters in which he hazards any attempt at subtile and refined reasoning, as, for instance, in answering the objections of Hume, are among the least satisfactory portions of the book.
In spite of these defects, there is some valuable matter in these volumes. Dr. Chalmers has a full perception of the true nature of the question, and a clear insight into the principles on which it must be resolved. If he has not added much to the argument for the being of a God, he has not perplexed it with any extraneous matter. Good sense and a vigorous mind may be discerned through the cloudy envel. ope of words, in which his remarks are enclosed. The spirit in which he has conducted the inquiry, and the general tenor of his reasoning, may be inferred from the following remark.
“We hold it with Paley greatly more judicious, instead of groping for the evidence of a Divinity among the transcendental generalities of time, and space, and matter, and spirit, and the grounds of a necessary and eternal existence for the one, while nought but modifications and contingency can be observed of the other, — we hold it more judicious, simply to open our eyes on the actual and peopled world around us, – or to explore the wondrous economy of our own spirits, and try if we can read, as in a book of palpable and illuminated characters, the traces or the forth-goings of a creative mind anterior to, or at least, distinct from matter, and which both arranged it in its present order and continues to overrule its processes.” – Vol. 1. p. 113. .
The expression here is a fair sample of that wordy manner, of which we have complained ; but the opinions, which are stated, respecting the proper character of the reasoning to be employed in Natural Theology, appear sound and judicious. They agree substantially with the views, which we attempted, in a very imperfect manner, to set forward and defend in the last number of this Journal. * As we propose
to resume the subject, with a view to correct some possible misconceptions of those views, and to consider more at length the inevitable consequences of encumbering the science of Natural Theology with metaphysical speculations, it may be worth while, for the benefit of those who have not perused the former article, to restate, in a very succinct manner, the ground which was therein taken.
We endeavoured to show, that the great doctrine of Natural Theology does not belong to that class of abstract and mathematical truths, to which alone demonstrative reasoning is applicable ; – that the being of a God is a reality, and his existence a fact, to be proved like any other fact in natural science, by arguments of the same kind, though superior in number and force. An examination of all the forms of the a priori argument was intended to prove, not only that the reasoning itself was entirely inconclusive, but that it was founded on a misconception of the nature of the question at issue ; – that the proposers of it, by overlooking the distinction just mentioned between two classes of truth, wbich are wholly unlike, had fallen into the grave error of representing the Divine Being as a mere abstraction, and thereby, though unintentionally, had played into the hands of a set of metaphysical atheists of our day, who would fain pull down the Eternal from his throne in the hearts of men, and substitute in his place a principle, — an idea, - a nothing, — without consciousness, personality, or intelligence. We sought to point out the true character of the argument a posteriori, or the proof from design, and to show its completeness and sufficiency ; – to prove, that the only objections to it were of a metaphysical character, and proceeded from the misconception noticed above ; — that, by exhibiting the unfitness and inapplicability of such abstract reasoning in this case, not only would the science of Natural Theology be freed from the rotten supports and profitless speculations, by which it had been encumbered, but also the only sound argument for the vital doctrine at issue would be relieved from all the cavils and objections, by which it has been attacked, and be placed on its true basis, alike unassailed and unassailable. A comparison between the truths which the theist seeks to establish, and the doctrines of all the inductive sciences was meant to prove, that they must stand or fall together ; — that the reasoning which invalidates the one would be equally conclusive against the others; — and that the reasoner had accomplished enough both for faith and practice, when he had shown, that the great fact of religion can be attacked only by arguments, which would subvert the whole fabric of human knowledge, and render all belief and action alike impossible.
These views were very inadequately explained in the short space to which the limits of a single article confined us ; and much might now be said to elucidate and support them. But we do not intend to go over the same ground again, except for the sake of correcting some misconceptions, and of exarining more fully a cognate subject, -- the propriety of mingling the science of metaphysics with that of theology, or rather of uniting the two in a close and indissoluble union. A full and fair consideration of this question might be serviceable at any time and under all circumstances; but the discussion of it appears particularly seasonable at the present day, when abstract speculation has taken a wider field and a bolder license, than it ever assumed before.
And here it may be remarked, once for all, that we are dealing with opinions, and not with persons. This is neither the time nor the place for impugning the motives of individuals, for throwing doubts upon the purity of their faith, or of charging upon them the consequences, that are fairly deducible from their opinions. All abstract speculations may be considered as published anonymously ; there is a better chance of weighing them with candor and correctness, when the personal character of their authors or supporters is not allowed to bias the decision. It is possible to expose and reprobate in the plainest terms the sophistical character of an argument, or the degrading and pernicious effects of certain doctrines, and yet not “bate a jot” of the high respect due to men who may have used such reasoning, or entertained such sentiments, without examining with due care their purport and tendency. In showing that the a priori proof leads by necessary consequence to a doctrine, that can hardly be distinguished froin atheism, we are not using an argument ad invidiam, nor attempting to cast a reproach on the reputation or the principles of those who adopt and defend such reasoning. The name of the great champion of this argument stands too high in the English church to be tarnished by the slightest breath of suspicion or calumny. But the liability to gross abuse is in itself a consideration of weight against the