Imágenes de páginas

might be perfect, and thoroughly finished to every good work : trained up to the full assurance of faith, and made meet to be a partaker of those glories which are still to be revealed.

There is, besides the suitableness and authority of all this, an unity of purpose, of means, and of experience, which must be highly satisfactory and convincing to the reasonable mind. Here we find the means, the end, the effects, universally the same. The mind of our God fixed and immutable; His word constant and unvarying; its instructions standing ever on the same grounds; proposing the same means, obedience and faith ; the same Redeemer, the Lamb slain ; the same end, to reconcile God and man, and to insure every blessing of which the human soul stands in need. Here, too, we have nothing subtle, far-fetched, partial, or deceptive. Obedience to precepts intelligible and plain, is peremptorily demanded of all; and the promise of that which is as valuable as it is necessary and durable, made sure to every heir of the family of faith. In Christ Jesus, the poor man can find a friend, an adviser, a brother, and a judge; the rich, a counsellor and an example ; and all, a Prophet, Priest, and King; a Redeemer, and an atonement for the sins that are past, and a Mediator with the Father, touched with the feelings of our infirmities, who has promised to provide us with all the blessings to come. With these things before us, both reason and faith demand, that we “ gird up the loins of our mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”— “ That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ : whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you.” Heaven and earth cannot conspire to give you better laws, brighter promises, stronger assurances : God and man can scarcely afford you any thing more easy of comprehension, more suitable or more encouraging, than are the precepts and the promises, which originally grew out of the mercy, and which finally conspire to advance the glory, of the man Christ Jesus. By whom indeed all things were created and made; and to whom be ascribed, as is most due, all glory, honour, might, majesty, and praise.






In order to meet the rationalists of the German school, as well as to investigate the grounds of doubt often met with among our own free-thinkers (for the principle is in each case one and the same), it is my intention first to consider the office of right reason generally, and then to shew, that notwithstanding the professions of this school as to the progress of science, the exercise of reason, and that their creed alone can be reconciled therewith, right reason is, in truth, on the side of what has been termed the ancient and orthodox faith. In this inquiry I shall have nothing to do with the honesty or dishonesty of this or that individual,—nothing to advance or prove on the extent to which rationalism may have spread itself in Germany or elsewhere,nor any thing to recommend or to condemn, as to the human means whereby this may be effectually controlled, or under which it may have assumed its present shape and character. These questions I leave in the hands of Mr. Rose, who is fully competent to discuss them. It will be my business to examine the system, both in principle and detail, which he has not professedly done; and to propose and recommend, as far as I may be able, what I conceive to be principles which have reason and fact for their foundation, and which are, therefore, the most likely to further the cause of truth.

To commence, then, with the very beginning of our inquiry, let us suppose a book lately to have been dis


covered professing to contain matter of the highest possible moment, both in a religious and moral point of view; and, if we also suppose ourselves to be tolerably well acquainted with the language in which it happens to be written, our first question will be, In what way ought we to conduct the inquiry which is to ascertain the real value of this document? We will not, in the commencement of this inquiry, suppose ourselves to be entirely destitute of either morality or science ; but, on the contrary, and in order to give every advantage to our opponents, we will allow morality, together with every human science, to have arrived at that state in which we now find them. It will, however, be important here to determine what we mean by the terms morality and science ; otherwise misunderstandings may arise, which may greatly retard and embarrass our question.

By morality then we mean, The knowledge of those fundamental truths relating to human conduct, which experience has shewn to be advantageous to society, or, in other words, of those laws both public and private, which have either been positively enacted, ratified, and published, or have otherwise obtained currency by common consent, for the purpose of regulating the conduct of individuals in every possible relation of life.

By science we mean, The knowledge of those truths which are capable of demonstration, and which have been confirmed by an appeal to experiment. To nothing short of this last can we allow the name of science; because, in nothing else can we possess that which truly deserves the name of knowledge. In other cases, probabilities may run so high as to command an implicit confidence; but still they are probabilities and nothing more ;-they can never amount to knowledge, and, according to our notions, cannot lay claim to the name of science. It must be observed, however, that innumerable questions may arise, in which only one or other of these can be brought to bear with any prospect of suc

Upon some, science can exert no useful influence; and such are those which are generally termed moral: and, on the other hand, those which belong purely to science can never be judged of by the doctrines of right and wrong, as taught by morality. No one in his senses would, I presume, attempt to calculate an eclipse of the sun by any


moral postulate or law whatever ; nor, on the other hand, would any one venture to judge of the justness or not of any moral conclusion, by the formulæ framed for the purpose of calculating an eclipse : for this reason — the questions themselves rest on grounds altogether at variance with each other, and are essentially different. If, therefore, we would in any case insure a satisfactory conclusion, we must be guided in our investigations by methods suited to its particular character. In other words, we must, in questions relating to morality, be content with probabilities only; not because we would fix our standard any lower than the nature of the case will bear, but because it is impossible here to have demonstration : and when this is the fact (and it is so in every question relating to morality), we must not expect knowledge,--probability is all that can be had. But when this runs high, or so high as not to admit of a reasonable doubt to the contrary, we are as much bound to receive it, as we are to admit the clearest demonstration to be found in the purest science.

We have hitherto spoken of pure science only, or what is sometimes termed the pure mathematics. Now, if we proceed one step farther in science (and this we must do in order to reduce it to the purposes of life), we shall find that its results can claim a character no higher than that of bability, and in which an appeal to experiment alone can justify their adoption. In mechanics, for example, the imperfection of machinery is such as to render every thing like mathematical precision an object quite out of nature; and the same may be said of optics. In hydrostatics, the primary laws of resistance, as far as yet ascertained, do not amount to any thing much better than conjecture; and the consequence is, the mean, out of a considerable number of experiments, is the only result that can be relied on with any degree of confidence: this is also the case in mechanics and optics ; and therefore all we can say of the results arrived at, either in astronomy, projectiles, or, indeed, in any other branch of mixed science, will amount to nothing better than probabilities. It is not meant to be asserted that these probabilities will be weak or unconvincing, but only that they can be recommended to adoption with no degree of confidence, unless arrived at with the greatest care, and


« AnteriorContinuar »