« AnteriorContinuar »
able to avoid. Now, in our best estate, we feel Cautiousness disagreeably affected by perpetual alarms; then, it would receive entire gratification in the constant feeling of perfect security—the faculties of man, by its aid, being sufficient to provide for that security, under all possible circumstances.
But had there been no other object for Cautiousness in Paradise, an abundant explanation of the necessity of such a faculty would be afforded by the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, under the pain of death. Surely this command was specially addressed to Cautiousness. Unfortunately, in this particular case, the faculty was not sufficient to avert the danger. Into that point we need not enter. Enough has been said to answer the objection.
1. Objection to the Doctrine that Death was brought upon Man as the Punishment of sin, considered.
MR COMBE's objections to the Paradisaical state are contained in a few short sentences; but on the subject of death he has favoured us with a long dissertation. His object is to shew, that death is inseparable from the condition of man, as an organized being-that it is a benevolent and merciful institution, as it provides him with many enjoyments which he could not have otherwise possessed—and that, upon the whole, on natural grounds, having reference to this world alone, it is not to be regarded as an evil.
His views on the first of these points are thus stated:“I am aware that, theologically, death is regarded as the punishment of sin, and that the attempt to reconcile our minds to it is objected to, as at once futile and dangerous. But I beg leave to observe, that philosophers have established, by irrefragable evidence, that before man was created, death prevailed among the lower animals, not only by natural decay and the operation of physical forces, but by the express institution of carnivorous creatures destined to prey on living beings; that man himself is carnivorous, and obviously framed by the Creator for a scene of death; that his organic constitution, in its inherent qualities, implies death as its final termination; and that if these facts be admitted to be undeniable on the one hand, and we are prohibited on the other from attempting to discover, from the records of creation itself, the wise adaptation of the human feelings and intellect to such a state of things, neither the cause of revelation nor that of reason can be thereby benefited. The foregoing facts cannot be disputed or concealed; and the only effect of excluding the investigation on which I propose to enter, would be to close the path of reason, and to leave the constitution of the external world and of the human mind apparently in a state of contradiction to each other. Let us rather trust to the inherent consistency of all truths, and rely on all sound conclusions of reason being in accordance with every correct interpretation of Scripture."*
"The true view of death, therefore, is, that it is an essential part of the system of organization; that birth, growth, and arrival at maturity, as completely imply decay and death in old age, as morning and noon imply evening and night—as spring and summer imply harvest—or as the source of a river implies its termination. * Constitution of Man, p. 53, col. 1.
MR COMBE TRANSGRESSES THE LIMITS
Besides, organized beings are constituted by the Creator to be the. food of other organized beings, so that some must die that others may live. Man, for instance, cannot live on stones, or earth, or water, which are not organized, but must feed on vegetable and animal substances, so that death is as much and as essentially an inherent attribute of organization as life itself."*
"To prevent, however, all chances of being misapprehended, I repeat, that I do not at all allude to the state of the soul or mind after death, but merely to the dissolution of organized bodies.”†
Before proceeding to notice these statements, it is proper to observe, that Mr Combe takes a very imperfect view of the theological doctrine alluded to, if he regards death as comprehending merely the dissolution of the body. This, according to theologians, is but a part, and the least important part, of death, considered as the punishment of sin. They consider death in a threefold view, as spiritual, temporal, and eternal. Without going into any discussion on the point, I shall merely refer to the definition given of Death in Cruden's Concordance. "DEATH signifies, (1.) The separation of the soul from the body. Gen. xxv. 11. This is temporal death. (2.) A separation of soul and body from God's favour in this life, which is the state of all unregenerate and unrenewed persons, who are without the light of knowledge and the quickening power of grace. Luke, i. 79. This is spiritual death. (3.) The perpetual separation of the whole man from God's heavenly presence and glory, to be tormented for ever with the Devil and his angels. Rev. ii. 11. This is the second death, or eternal death. To all these kinds of death, Adam made himself and his posterity liable, by trans
* Constitution of Man, p. 56, col. 2.
gressing the commandment of God in eating the forbidden fruit. Gen. ii. 17.”
It would be entirely out of place here to insist farther upon a doctrine so peculiarly and strictly theological, and I only mention it at all to prevent its being supposed, that, in regarding death as the punishment of sin, theologians only refer to temporal death. Mr Combe confines his attention exclusively to the latter, which he merely considers as the dissolution of the body, and which theologians regard as the separation of the soul from the body; and as that is certainly held by them to be part of the punishment of sin, I shall proceed to consider the question as regarding it alone.
In the passages above quoted, Mr Combe commits the same offence against the proper rules of philosophical discussion, as I had occasion to complain of in the last chapter. He carefully and properly guards himself against being understood to allude to the state of the soul or mind after death, which he repeatedly states to belong to the province of revelation. He ought to have gone farther, and declared, that he refers to the subject merely in relation to man as he exists in the present world, and that he does not carry his conclusions to a state which existed before the present system of things, as to which we have no facts to guide us from natural science, and no information except what is furnished by ScripThe "records of creation" furnish no materials from which we can draw any inference as to the state of man in the period which intervened between his first introduction into the world, and his fall from innocence. This is equally within the province of revelation, and equally beyond the sphere of philosophical inquiry, as the state of the soul after death.
The whole transactions stated in the first three chapters of Genesis are evidently so different from any of
which we have experience at present, as to take them out of the category of those general laws which now govern the current of nature's operations. They all partake of the character of miracles so far, that they all imply a special interference of divine power. The creation of the world itself, a fact which is admitted by all, is equally miraculous, whether we consider it to have been accomplished at once, or by successive steps through a period of countless ages, or imagine the present world to have been erected on the ruins of one which preceded it. The creation of man was a new miracle, clearly distinguished from the formation of the lower animals, and his nature in some respects essentially different from theirs. Every thing which followed is miraculous: the planting of a garden in Eden for the habitation of man; the tree of life which grew in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge beside it; the intercourse which took place between God and man, which, though then it might appear natural, is to us miraculous; the creation of woman; the command not to eat of the forbidden fruit; the temptation; the fall; the curse, or sentence pronounced upon the tempter, the woman, the earth, and the man; and finally, the expulsion from Paradise, are all miraculous, or rather, they relate to a state of things when every thing, as compared with the present, was miraculous. Of these events, we have no information whatever but what we derive from Scripture.
It was not until after his expulsion from Paradise, that the state of man was fixed in the condition in which he now appears. It was not till then that the general laws which form the course of nature, were as to him finally arranged-nay, some of those laws were not entirely adjusted on their present footing till after the Deluge. It must, therefore, be unphilosophical and irrational to