« AnteriorContinuar »
and to dispel the belief of any immortality. With respect to the ' human animal,' these philosophers ' deny that any traces of such an agent' are to be discoverable in the phenomena of life; and having traced the functional powers to certain elementary formations, which they term tissues, and being wholly unable to carry these investigations farther, they consider these tissues as the elements of their science, exactly as the chemists consider certain substances elementary, subject to the correction of ulterior discoveries. And thus, as similar opinions have been long since ex* pounded in the quaint verses of More the Platonist, these philosophers have proved, that
. . . . 'our soul can nothing be but blood,
It is not necessary, in this place, to enter into a minute detail of the doctrines which the French philosophers and their English disciples have promulgated under the name of physiology. Consistent in their avowed object, they are uniform in their prime intent and meaning.
Do we ask whence the breath of life is given to usf—the Savant will answer that he doubts whether it will be possible to remove the veil of nature completely; yet he thinks that it will be in our power to begin to clear up the difficulties which 'preju»dices and charlatanism/ arising out of ' certain opinions,' have endeavoured to multiply. His mode of dispelling these prejudices is by advocating the old doctrines of equivocal generation.
'Experience teaches us that there is no known vegetable substance which, being placed under proper circumstances, will not give birth to peculiar animalcuhe, into which mere moisture is sufficient to transform it, and that almost instantaneously. Here we have full proof of that nature which is usually called inanimate,, being connected by an uninterrupted chain with animated nature. We see unorganized elements combine themselves, in order to produce different organized bodies. And life and feeling arise from the products of vegetables. Therefore, unless we suppose that life is dispersed every where, and only disguised by the exterior circumstances of bodies (which would be equally contrary to the hypothesis) we must necessarily confess that—nioyennant certaines conditions—inanimate matter is capable of organizing itself—of living and of feeling.'
The above may be received as specimens of the modes of belief denominated ' materialism.' We appeal to them with confidence, because it is with confidence that they have recently been adorned, adapted, copied, repeated, and retailed as the means of assailing the 'religious opinions of the dominant caste.' The term of ' scepticism' which has been applied to the propagators of these doctrines is incorrect: surely they are not sceptics; they hesitate not for want of belief in their own creed. Is it not even difficult to defend them from the charge of ' superstition?' Are not such 'philosophers' somewhat more ready to admit the marvellous, than is consistent with their cautious ' philosophy?' Implicit faith is well exemplified in the pages of those who demonstrate the progress of the monad evolving itself by ils own will and energy, until the speck floating in the pool became necessarily fish, bird, beast, and man. The share of credulity possessed by any necromancer, who imagined that he could raise the ghost of the departed, is not perhaps much more yielding than that of the sectators of the Savant Cabanis, who rests his main argument respecting the materiality of life, upon the belief, that the buokbiuder makes the booknorm .'*
In making these observations upon the doctrines of ' materialism,' it is by no means our intention to discuss them, or to make any observation upon their tendency. We must content ourselves with remarking that, as now promulgated, their teachers do not seem likely to perform their promises. It is to be feared that they will not accomplish any speedy emancipation of the human race from the accompaniments of superstition; from fanaticism, intolerance, and bigotry. The Savant may be in the right; but no Pontiff ever expected a more implicit obedience from his hearers, or required a more unbounded confidence in his assertions: his intentions may be liberal and kind; but no inquisitor ever hated more intensely, or persecuted with more bitterness: his doctrines may be true; but they cannot be received, without
• In qrder thai we may not be accused of misrepresentation in quoting this stupendous assertion, we add the passage in its original language.—' Or niaintenant, quclles sont ces conditions? Sans doute, nous les cunuoissons encore tres luaJ. Mais sontelles, en etfet, de nature a rcster toujours inconnues? II est difficile de le penser, lorsqu'on voit que I'art peut creer des races parriculieres d'animaux: e'est-a-dire, par des alterations detcrminees qu'il fait subir a certains corps, v developper de nou▼eaux principes de vitalite et faire naitrc, en quelque sone a plaisir, des etres qui n'ont point dans la nalure d'analogic conn ue —Parexemple, les anguillesdu vinaigre, t>s vers qui rodent Us cailotisct les retiurn dc /irr«, 6iC. &c. toutes especes qui se torment exclusivement dans les matures, produites elles-memes par les seules combimiisous des arts.'—If we had space we would extract a few more of the marvels of belief exhibited in the various authors from whence the true philosophy of' life is to be derived. Due observance being made for the tone of the times, thev would form a perfect parallel to the magical wonders on which we have treated.
the the utter prostration of the human intellect. They who tremble before ' all that the nurse and all ihe priest has taught,' do not believe more than is required by the superstition of' materialism.'
Anobligation is thus imposed upon us of giving only a qualified assent to the loud and triumphant assertions of the Philosophers respecting the ' knowledge' of our ' enlightened age,' or of the destruction of' prejudices' and' false opinions.' Rapid as the progress of science has been, and with every probability of its continuing to •proceed with accelerated speed, the universal- law of compensation will continue to balance the improvement of the human understanding by some equivalent failing. Whatever advance may be made by the human mind, its faculty of comprehension will always remain fixed by tire same limits. Whenever it labours to pass its narrow boundaries its powers are reduced to nought; and no light afforded by our unassisted wisdom can dispel the clouds which press around us. 'Mystery,' as it has been well observed, * is only •imperfect knowledge: and if we are ever tempted to imagine that we display our wisdom by rejecting those mysteries for which th<s world affords no testimony, let it be recollected, that no creed presents such bewildering mysteries as the book of nature. But in the same manner as lie who stands by the side of a precipice, seems strangely urged to cast himself into the depth below—so does every human discussion of the inscrutable difficulties offered by the mere fact of existence too often tempt us to seek those dark and dangerous inquiries, in whose dreary and unfathomable void intellect is confounded, and happiness lost for ever.
Art. VIII.— 1. Substance of the Debute in the House of Common*
- on 15th May, ,1823, on a Motion for the * Mitigation and Gra
\ dual Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Dominions;' with a Preface and Appendices containing Facts and Reason
i ings illustrative of Colonial Bondage. 8vo. pp. 284. London.
,■2. An Appeal to the Religion, Justice, and Humanitu of the Inhabitants of the British Empire in behalf if the Negro
.- Slaves in the IVest Indies. By William Wilberforce, Esq. M, P. 8yo. pp. 77. Loudon.
3. Negro Slavery; or a View of some of the more promir nent Features of that State of Society as it exists in the
,! United States of America and in the Colonies of the West Ituiies, especially in Jamaica. 8vo. pp. 118. London.
. 4- Declaration of the Objects of the Liverpool Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery. 25th March, 1823. London.
„ ,vo*. xxix. No. Lviii. li'.' 5. A Review