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we said in the beginning, idealism is the legitimate and necessary consequence of the philosophy taught in these lectures. Admit its truth, and the existence of matter becomes a gratuitous hypothesis, indicated by nothing and explaining nothing,—the external world a mere metaphysical incumbrance, which, however difficult it may be to rid ourselves of it, we find no good reason for retaining. In fact, this is substantially admitted in the following passage. In quoting it, we take occasion to express our utter dissent from the doctrine contained in the first paragraph :
There can be no reasonable doubt, I think, that the sensations of an infant are not accompanied by what we call perception; that they are not referred by it to an external cause ; that they give it no information at first respecting outward realities, but are to it merely so many sources of pleasure or pain. By a gradual process, that is, by induction, finding that the sensations recur in a fixed order under given circumstances, that they are wholly independent of the will, that muscular exertion can sometimes be made without restraint, and at others is checked or resisted by · a foreign obstacle, the infant mind comes at last to a conception of outward things, or of existences foreign to itself.
Whether this induction is so complete that we can consider the independent existence of brute matter as proved by it, is another question. It does prove that there must be some cause of these sensations, which cause is foreign to our own minds; and this is enough to disprove the monstrous idealism of Fichte, that we create everything from ourselves, though the doctrine of Berkeley remains quite as plausible as the vulgar belief, and rests, perhaps, on a more philosophical basis. (Pp. 29, 30.)
Whether (matter) exists at all, according to the ordinary conception of it, is doubtful; and it is certain that we have no knowledge of it, that we cannot perceive it, that we cannot distinguish between the qualities properly belonging to it in itself, and those imposed upon it either by our own faculties of observation, or by an external power. (P. 123.)
Such by our author's own admission is the precarious and unsubstantial foundation upon which he rears the structure of the physical universe. Having adopted at the outset the hypothesis which refers all material phenomena to the immediate agency of Deity, we think it would have been more philosophical and in every respect better to have gone at once the whole length of idealism. In that case, whatever might have been thought of the truth of his system, he would at least have been able to preserve the virtue of consistency. Then he would not have been under the necessity of vibrating between the two great and opposite theories of matter which have for so many ages almost equally divided the suffrages of philosophers ; framing his language and accommodating his thought now to one, and now to the other ; speaking of matter sometimes as a real substance, something which can be
wrought and moulded, “ the crude material out of which worlds are fashioned,” and sometimes as a mere idea of the human mind, necessarily imposed upon it indeed by the perceptive faculties, but without any corresponding external reality; now maintaining that it is essentially inert, destitute of all power, wholly incapable of action, and from its very nature cannot be conceived to have any part in the production of the changes which are continually transpiring around us ; and now affirming that “we know nothing of it,” that “we cannot perceive it," and that, “whether it exist at all, according to the ordinary conception of it, is doubtful.”
But we have already commented at greater length upon Mr. Bowen's philosophical system than we intended. We hasten to a brief notice of its application to the evidences of religion. The importance which is attached to it in this connection, more particularly as offering the only conceivable and only possible ground of support to the cardinal doctrines of God's moral government and superintending providence, will be seen from the following passage. It is taken from the lecture on the characteristics of modern skepticism:
The next cause of infidelity in our own day, which I shall here notice, is the want of consistency, if not the apparent contradiction, between many persons' religious views and their scientific opinions, or their ideas of the course of nature and the operation of physical causes. There is a difficulty here in many minds, which is not the less real because it is seldom made the subject of reflection, or even recognized as an inconsistency that proves the existence of error on the one side or the other. I do not now refer to the crude and hastily formed hypotheses and generalizations in modern science, which come directly in conflict with the great truths of the being of a God and his agency in the physical universe, so far as these depend upon or are proved by material phenomena, and which have been framed, perhaps, with direct reference to such contradiction. These hypotheses have been sufficiently confuted by the progress of science itself; and the reception of them at any time being confined to a small number of persons, mostly those who are engaged in scientific pursuits, they are not to be ranked among the general causes of popular skepticism. I refer rather to the direct incompatibility between a belief in the moral government of God, and the necessary connection of physical causes with their effects. The doctrine of an immediately superintending Providence cannot be reconciled with the idea of a chain of events, each link of which is determined by an inherent necessity, growing out of its relations to those which precede and follow it in the succession. Even if the human will is admitted to be free, while everything else is guided by a secret and irresistible power, depending on the original constitution of things, man cannot be considered as the object of moral control, and all religious belief, properly so called, is mere delusion. (Pp. 210, 211.)
Religion requires us to consider ourselves as the objects of a Divine Providence, of an infinite superintending care, which orders all events for good. This doctrine is a necessary consequence of a belief in the benev
olence and justice of the Deity, and in his moral government of the world. A devout mind recognizes it almost instinctively as such, and considers all events, especially those which concern one's personal welfare or happiness, as dispensations which are required for his instruction or improvement. It discerns a moral purpose in all things, believing that they were specially designed to produce a certain effect on the character and heart. It subordinates the physical to the moral ; regarding the former as means, and the latter as an end. Life is a gift and a trust, to be exercised for certain purposes; death is a warning, and a token that in a particular case these purposes are accomplished. Every cause of affliction or rejoicing has an errand and a meaning, and it is our duty to consider it as such, to try to read its lesson, and apply it for the regulation of our hearts and lives. Resignation is always a virtue, for the very reason that repining is inconsistent with a belief in the infinite wisdom and mercy of God, and in his constant providence. Any enjoyment, success in any pursuit, is to be regarded as a cause of thankfulness, because his power placed it within our reach, and it is his will that it should redound to our spiritual benefit, as well as to our immediate happiness.
This is the view which the believer takes, in profession at least, of the affairs of this world, and of its moral government by the Almighty; it is the view which religion requires him to take, if it be not reduced to a mere speculative belief in the existence of a God, who is no further concerned with the lot of mankind than as he originally created them, endowed them with certain faculties, and placed them upon the earth to determine their destiny by their own wisdom and their observation of the workings of nature. But in practical life and the management of their daily concerns, most persons
act upon a theory which is the very opposite of this religious doctrine. They look upon the course of events as inevitably determined, from the beginning, by the inherent constitution of things and by the relations of objects and circumstances to each other, without reference to the merit or demerit of accountable beings, and without regard to any moral lesson or purpose whatsoever. (Pp. 211, 212.)
Do I exaggerate the inconsistency, then, between what may be called the religious and the practical view of life? Is it possible for the two to coexist in the same mind, without the individual becoming conscious at times that they are wholly irreconcilable with each other, so that he is reduced to the sad necessity of choosing between them? Either God governs the world, or the blind fatality of physical causes, operating through the powers inherent in every atom of brute matter, governs it; there is no other alternative. In his closet, or while listening to a sermon, or under the affliction caused by a recent bereavement, or in near view of approaching death, man accepts the former doctrine, and thinks that he believes it, though he has made no examination of the grounds on which it rests. But he goes out into the world, his mind, as he supposes, recovers its tone, he watches the course of events, judges of the future by the past, prepares to resist the force of circumstances or to yield to them, and acts altogether on the supposition that these events and circumstances depend on natural causes, which operate irresistibly, and were not designed or directed by a conscious being with any moral or spiritual purpose whatever. This, as it seems to me, is the chief reason why most persons' religious professions differ so widely from their practice, and is the most fruitful source of modern practical skepticism. Men do not believe in the moral government of God's universe, because they mistake the character and exaggerate the number of the influences that are at work in it. They not only believe in the efficiency of secondary causes, but extend the sphere of their operation till there is no room left for the agency of the First and Infinite Cause. (P. 214.)
We do not think the author is any more fortunate in apply. ing the fundamental dogma of his philosophy than he is successful in maintaining it. Through this whole passage there runs a vein of mingled truth and error, of just sentiment and false doctrine, which renders it equally difficult to approve or to condemn. While its spirit is right and its general aspect exceedingly plausible, it assumes, if we mistake not, on the part of his own hypothesis, a capacity for entering into explanations to which it is in no way adequate, and environs the opposite theory with difficulties which in no manner belong to it. In the view presented of Divine Providence it moreover takes for granted what we think is taught neither by natural nor by revealed religion.
The reference of all events in the natural world to the immediate power of God, instead of recognizing in their production the appointed ministry of created agents, so long as these events take place in a fixed order, does not alter their moral relations, or render them at all more available as a means of rewarding and punishing. Connected with one another by the unchanging law of antecedent and consequent, the successive links of the chain are as closely and as indissolubly united as if they were bound together by the relation of cause and effect. It is this invariable order of succession among physical events which is the cause of all that is stubborn and unpliant in their character, and which would seem to render them but inflexible instruments in the hands of God for carrying on his moral government; so that that government, instead of being, as Mr. Bowen supposes, in this life so nearly perfect as to afford no just ground for the expectation of another, is the mere commencement of such a government, the dim shadowing forth through aim and tendency of that glorious completion which it is destined to receive hereafter. And this order of succession, it is to be remembered, is the same on either hypothesis. It is a great fact resting upon the basis of universal experience. It is wholly independent of all theory, the office of that being simply to explain it.
Neither, on the other hand, does the reference of material phenomena to the operation of physical causes banish God from our world, or make him the less its moral governor. The production by his own direct agency of all the events transpiring in the physical universe, is not necessary to the idea of his presence in every part of that universe. Having formed our world for the accomplishment of certain great ends——to which ends it is unceasingly ministering—we should not expect that he would leave it to itself, and wholly withdraw his regards
from it. Still more, having made it to become the abode of intelligent and sensitive beings, and framed its several parts with special reference to the welfare of such beings, we should not expect that he would withdraw his regards from them. Although not creating by the direct exertion of his power the circumstances by which we are each moment surrounded, he understands those circumstances just as perfectly. He is just as present to sympathize with, as well as to guide and succor us. His ear is just as open to our prayers, and his hand is as ready to do for us. Neither does it alter at all our relations to him. The blessings which we daily experience, although provided for ages since, and coming to us through the most complex system of instrumentalities, are as really from him, are as much a proof of his beneficence, and place us under as great obligations to gratitude, love, and service, as if they were directly communicated. The father who by previous years of exertion has made ample provision for supplying the wants of his family, so that he is no longer under the necessity of laboring for their support, is as much entitled to their respect, obedience, and affection, is as truly their father, is as able to guide and counsel, and as ready to extend encouragement and sympathy, as if he were daily toiling for their daily bread.
All the great doctrines and duties of religion therefore remain unaltered, whichever of the two hypotheses we adopt. It makes no difference as to the question of a Divine Providence, or of the influence of prayer, whether we suppose God to be each moment evolving the changes of the universe in accordance with a preconceived plan and in subordination to pre-established laws, or whether we suppose him in the beginning to have so framed the constitution of things as to cause the spontaneous development of these changes in accordance with the same plan and in subordination to the same laws. In either case, the protection, aid, and succor promised in answer to our earnest and humble petitions, must be looked for through other channels besides those which are merely physical. And such there are open to us on every side. We recognize them in the innumerable relations which we hold to other beings like ourselves, as well as in that higher relation which we and they alike sustain to Him who is over all, and whose Spirit we are taught is continually operating upon the hearts of all. There is not one of the varied blessings of life which does not come to us moulded and shaped through human instrumentalities. There is not one of the diversified events of life which is not either modified in itself