« ZurückWeiter »
advocates of divine efficiency, when they predicate power of the mind. If they mean by it any nature, property or quality of the mind, on which mental changes causally depend, or by which mental acts are originated, then they mean active power, and thus confound their own distinction between active and passive power. Besides, if this be their meaning, then they deny their own oft-repeated assertions, that God by his creative agency, is the sole efficient author of mental acts. The only possible idea or conception therefore, wbich our brethren can express by the word power, -the only idea which the human mind can form of that which they call power, when predicated of the human mind, is merely, the idea of the abstract possibility above defined. This idea is as truly predicable of matter, and even of non-entity, viewed in relation to divine efficiency, as it is of the human mind. There was no effectual resistance previous to creation in that nothing from wbich all things were created, and no contradiction in supposing, that Almighty power should create something out of nothing. It is true indeed, ihat from the existence of a substance, a possibility may result of its being the subject of changes of a certain kind, of wbich it is impossible that non-entity should be the subject. From the existence of a body results a possibility that it should be the subject of motion, of which it is impossible, that non-entity should be the subject. But then this possibility, instead of resuliing from any property or quality in the body which can be called power to move, is nothing but the opposite of the impossibility, that a thing should be and not be at the same time. So the possibility, that something should be created out of nothing, is merely a possibility as opposed to an impossibility, that it should be. The possibilities therefore in the two cases are exactly of the same kind, though they respect events of different kinds. In either case, it is a mere possibility, as opposed to that impossibility which involves a contradiction. If our brethren should still insist, that there must be some peculiar nature or property of mind, qualifying il to be the subject of volition, as the product of divine efficiency; we answer, that this peculiar property is either active power or it is not, - either that, which involves some degree of efficiency or does not,-either that, on which the existence of volition in some degree depends or does not. If they say the former is true, then God is not the sole efficient, nor is the power wholly passive power. If they say the latter, then it is not necessary to the existence of volition.
We can then make nothing more, in any possible conception which we can form of this power, when predicated of the human mind by those who maintain God to be the sole efficient cause of all volitions. Is this indeed the power which is essential to constitute man a free moral agent? There is a niind, a something, of which the possibility of being the subject in which exercises are literally created is predicable, and which exercises are in no other sense man's exercises, than as the container or subject of them.
The only criterion by which to decide to what being, agent, or thing, any acts belong, is, that his active power or efficiency is directly and proximately concerned in the existence of those acis. Accordingly, if we conceive the acts in question to be the direct and proximate result of the active powers of man, then they are man's acts, and his acts in the highest conceivable sense. If we conceive of these acts as the direct and proximate result of divine power or efficiency, then they are God's acts, and not man's. We ask for any other criterion of this question, What is the fact which determines certain acts to be the acts of one being, and not of another? What is the fact which determines the act of creation to be God's act, and not man's ? Is it that God is the mere subject of the act, as the effect of some cause extrinsic to himself? or is it, that the act is the direct and proximate result of God's power to act ? Can such acts be any other than the acts of God? Can they be the acts of any other living being ? Let any one make the attempt to form such conceptions.-Can he conceive that events, or things which God creates or brings to pass exclusively by his own efficiency, are or can be the acts of the human mind ?-that man is an agent in respect to those events which are produced solely by the efficiency of God? Does a being act, when the whole iruth is, that he is merely acted upon? Is that an act of a being or thing who does not act? Can God cause a being to act, who has not power to act ? Can he cause non-entity to act ? Can he be the sole agent in an act, and man be an agent in the same act? Plainly, to suppose such things to exist, is impossible to any mind. The reason is, that the necessary conception of an ACT OF A BEING, involves in itself, as an essential element, the conception of active power in that being.
In conclusion, we ask our divine-efficiency brethren, if they do mean to assert, that man really originates, as an agent, bis own volitions ? Not that every act is determined by some other act ; for we cannot suppose any candid person will charge us with this absurd notion of the self-determining power of the will. But has the mind active power,-power to act? Is it true, as Dr. Dwight expresses it, that man is possessed of the full power to originate any and every moral action”? If they will answer these questions in the affirmative, and thus admit the active and not merely passive power of the mind, which in our view is no power at all, we will confess our mistake. But if they will predicate power of the mind, and yet mean nothing more by it than the abstract possibility of change,-a non-entily:-while God is proclaimed the sole efficient cause of all volition, can they complain of us for saying, that, with fatalists, they deny " the intrinsic power of every moral agent to be really and truly the author of his own moral actions"?
VOLUME VITI.-NUMBER II.
Art. I.-BROUGHAM'S NATURAL THEOLOGY.
A Discourse of Natural Theology, showing the nature of the evidence and the ad.
Dantage of the study. By HERRY LORD BROUGHAM, F .R. S., and Member of the National Institute of Fraoce. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard. 1835.
NATURAL THEOLOGY is the basis on which the proof of revealed religion must rest. The bible declares the will of God more fully, and in many respects, more distinctly than his works; but the fact of the existence of one supreme benevolent Jehovah, must be learned from the volume of nature; and this fact must be admitted, before we can arrive at the conclusive evidence of the divine authority of revelation. It is not the peculiar glory of the bible, that it discloses the existence and perfections of God; “for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” Its peculiar glory lies in the grand scheme of man's redemption, through the vicarious sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ: “ bringing life and immortality to light.” Connected with this scheme, collaterally or consequentially, are the doctrines of the trinity, the special agency of the Holy Spirit, regeneration, and in short all those leading truths called the doctrines of grace. These are purely matters of revelation. The light of nature would never have disclosed them, and could therefore never have enforced the peculiar duties which spring from them. But it is froin the facts which natural theology teaches, that we prove the divine origin and authority of the holy scriptures, which unfold these peculiar obligations.
To establish the authority of a revelation, it must be shown, that its author is one and supreme, and that he possesses infinite Vol. VIII.
natural and moral perfection. With the bible only as the source of evidence, though there might be an approach to probability, there could not be the complete proof, that these attributes belonged to the being who gave it. The whole system of its doctrines and declarations, is indeed consistent and harmonious with itsell; not one principle can be found in conflict with another, and thus the stamp of unity of design is set upon every one of its pages. This shows, that if there was more than one author, there was at least concert of action; and might go far, perhaps, to prove, that it had its origin from one mind, and that mind intent upon one great object. But this would not prove, that there were not other minds equal or greater than itself, and consequently could not establish its own supremacy but by its declarations. It could not prove, that the author of the bible had a right to say:
“ Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.". If, also, the barmony of the principles and duties of the bible, with the nature and the wants of man, together with all the kindness and sympatby which are conspicuous in its declarations, might seem to evince benevolence, and go far to prove for its author the exercise of good will towards our race, and thus furnish evidence which might strongly preponderate in favor of trusting it; yet could there not thus be found the conclusive proof, that it was an unshaken “rock of safety.” If its author be not the supreme Lord of the universe, all these promises are delusive, and all this apparent kindness deceptive. They may be the offspring of malevolence, designed to end in disappointment; or, at most, kind expressions of regard, from one who has no power to put them in execution, and who cannot therefore be safely trusted ?
Is it said, that the miracles and predictions with which this revelation is connected, prove its divine origin? In connection with the facts of natural theology, they do prove it beyond all question. But no reasoning from miracles or prophecy can be conclusive without presupposing the supremacy and benevolence of their author, the complete proof of which is to be found only in the facts of natural theology. Admit, that miracles were wrought, and predictions uttered, which have been fulólled thousands of years after their enunciation, and what is the amount of proof that we can derive from such an adınission ? May not all this power and knowledge be possessed by one who is not himself supreme? Yet were he supreme, this power would not prove him benevolent. The argument from miracles and prophecy, is but of the same nature,-ihat a God of benevolence would not exert, nor permit any other being to exert, this power in such a manner as must deceive his creatures. But this argument presupposes both supremacy and benevolence, and the bare existence of the miracle does not conclusively prove either. There is astonishing power,
altogether beyond human comprehension, but it does not prove supreme power in the immediate agent, nor that it has been exerted for a benevolent purpose.
The internal evidences of revelation accord with, and corroborate the proof from natural theology, but taken alone they can rise no bigher than strong probability. We need a broader field, a wider region of facts and evidence, than the simple book alone affords, to prove its binding authority over the conscience. But when we look abroad over the universe, and “ from the things that are made” learn "the power and Godhead" of their autbor, and thus establish the supremacy and unity of the Deity,--his benevolence and omnipotence,-we have safe ground on which to rest unshaken the proof that the bible is bis book, and that it is safe to trust it. If he gave it, he has power to sustain it and fulfil its promises. That he did give it, both his power and benevolence assure us; for they would forever prevent any other being from making our race the necessary victims of what were else so dreadful a delusion.
Natural theology, therefore, is not to be considered merely as the handmaid of revealed religion. It lays the only substantial foundation on which we can rest the proof of the divine authority of the bible, which is henceforth to be the only rule of faith and practice. Nor is ibis any disparagement of the bible. Its proof is as conclusive, and the elements which compose it lie open as fully to observation, and come as directly from God, as if they had been gathered from its own internal evidence. God has joined his works and his word together, and both illustrate and confirm each other. Every ibing, therefore, which brings out the facts of the book of nature more distinctly, and applies them to the great objects about which natural theology is conversant, is of direct and important bearing upon all the religious hopes and interests of a lost world. Any attempt to divorce the works from the word of God, and through fear of disparaging, or under pretense of exalting divine revelation, to cut it off from all connection with natural theology, is doing thereby the greatest injury to the cause which it pretends to subserve. Says Mr. Locke: « He that takes away reason to make way for revelation, puts out the light of both, and does much about the same as if he would persuade a man to put out bis eyes, the better to receive the remote light of an invisible star by a telescope."
With these views, we cheerfully record our grateful remembrance of many venerable names, whose labors have cultivated and enriched this field of inquiry. Ray, Derham, Bentley, Clarke, Paley, Dick, and others, have applied their vigorous minds to the subject of natural theology, with much benefit to the cause of divine truth, and lasting fame to themselves. “The Analogy