« AnteriorContinuar »
S I am writing in an enlightened age, very
little apology will be necessary for entering into the discussion of a subject of this kind, wherein every human being is so effentially interested, which has been so much debated by the learned men of all ages, and almost of all nations, and respecting which, in confequence of such debates, even the most civilized part of mankind are, to this day, so much divided in their opinions.
It would be vanity for me to suppose, that any thing I can say will be sufficient to alter the opinion of any person with respect to this matter; and therefore shall think myself fully rewarded for my pains, if I can throw any new lights upon this important subject, fo necessary to the happiness of all the human race, and which B
has lately been so much controverted by a set of men, who pretend to reason philosophically thereon, and thereby to develop all the operations of nature, as well as the attributes of her omnipotent Creator ; who pretend to know every thing, but prove nothing; who are affirmative, and dogmatic in their opinions; and whose greatest merit consists in the attempts which they make to turn the most sacred things into ridicule. They first doubt every thing, then dispute every thing; and at length not only disbelieve every thing, but endeavour to draw all the unwary and uninformed part of mankind into their way of thinking : and are fo charmed with their own sufficiency, that they suffer themselves to be led away by the warmth and activity of their imagination, and neglect the cool and Now dictates of their reason. It is no easy matter to meet with two of them who agree in the same opinion; and, by examining their reasoning, it will be found, that they are deceived even in the first principles of philosophy, and attribute to physical causes, what they should have imputed to moral.
WHEN we take a cursory furvey of all the syftems of the ancient and modern philosophers, of, the formation of the universe by chance, by necessity, and by I know not what force; of atoms of animated nature, of living matter, of materiality, and of a variety of other doctrines
of the different sects of the Grecian philosophers, no less contrary to the dictates of reason, than absurd in themselves, their presumption and folly must fill us with amazement, and shew us the insufficiency of the human understanding, to fathom the mysteries of the great Creator. Those philosophers would discover the first cause of every thing, when the human faculties are so limited, that we cannot comprehend the effects. Although they are ignorant of the motions of their own bodies, and even of those of the most simple insect which creeps upon the earth, they are so presumptuous as to imagine themselves capable of discovering the first cause of all things, and to develop the mysteries and attributes of the Supreme Being.-They are persuaded that they have a fund of real knowledge ; but when it is analyzed, it turns out to be only the wild Aights of their imagination :--they see themselves as so many atoms in the great system of nature, with the extent of which they are totally ignorant, and yet they are vain enough, not only to decide positively upon all its operations, but also for what purpose the great Creator formed every part thereof as we find it: they bewilder them. selves with general and abstracted ideas, and with the jargon of metaphysics, which have never yet discovered any one truth, which have filled true philosophy with absurdities, and which have been the cause of the greatest errors among mankind.
But that class of our modern philosophers, who would prove the materiality of the foul, have pushed their extravagances to such a degree, as to tell us that a human being does not think any more than a tree. They will not admit that there is any other order of beings in nature than sensitive beings; and all the difference between a man and a tree, is, that the man is a sensitive being which has sensations, and the tree a fenfitive being which has none. To confute their opinions, by a long chain of arguments, and thereby to prove that mere matter cannot think, would be foreign to my plan, and I think very unnecessary; because it requires only to know that matter is capable of extension, and of divisibility, to prove to a demonstration that it cannot think, and therefore, when any of these philosophers shall endeavour to convince mankind, that trees and rocks think, we muft regard all their subtile arguments as fophiftical and absurd in themselves; and their attempts to debase human nature, and to allow sensation to stones and trees rather than admit that a human being has a soul, as the effects of a distempered imagination. The more we reflect upon the. na. ture of the human mind, and upon our thinking quality, the more we are led to regard these, advocates for the materiality of the foul, as perfons deaf, and depraved in all their actions : they are deaf to the interior voice of nature and of reason, which cries aloud to them, but they