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as enibracing a more extensive view than Paley's Natural Theology. The series being intended to comprise original works, the propriety of beginning with one of that description, was also suggested and urged. For these reasons he has yielded, but chiefly influenced by the consideration, that Paley's Natural Theology is well known, has passed through several editions, and is already in almost every library of any extent. With that admirable work he has interfered as little as possible. The publication of the Bridgewater Treatises, occasioned some hesitation about the necessity or propriety of submitting any thing of a similar kind. No one will think of coping with the known talents and gigantic strength of at least some of the learned gentlemen to whom the subjects of these Treatises have been committed. The date of the composition of the Essay, however, will exculpate the author from having acted on this presumptuous idea. Then the number and expense of the Treatises, may prevent the discussion of the several subjects from becoming generally useful. The present tendency to changes, too, in whatever light we may view it, taken in connexion with that knowledge of the scepticism of certain eminent philosophers, which the ordinary classes of society can scarcely fail to acquire, in consequence of the great and on many accounts most desirable diffusion of science, seem to justify every proper attempt to uphold Religion, by clearly establishing its first principles. Finally, the author consents the more cheerfully to the publication of the Essay, because he finds, in reviewing and revising it, that it contains a more full discussion of difficulties, than either of the prize Essays above referred to, particularly on the subject of the Origin and Permanent Existence of Moral Evil, to which as the main difficulty his attention was chiefly directed.
As for the execution of the work, the kind of treatise expected, at the time when it was prepared, ne
cessarily prevents it from having so popular a cast as might have been desirable. The “Christian Philosopher” by Dr. Dick, richly stored with able illustrations, both of the doctrines and defects of Natural Theology, and the beautiful and interesting work of the Rev. Mr. Fergus, are much better suited to ordinary readers, as are also the well-known works of Ray and Derham. The whole process of metaphysical reasoning the author would gladly have omitted, his own conviction resting chiefly on the Proofs of Design ; those who dislike the former had better pass at once to the latter, and thence to the solution of difficulties,—which may be useful to any reader, though completely established in the faith of Christi anity. The sphere of metaphysical argument, how. ever, (which is not precisely what is styled reasoning a priori, but closely connected with facts), has been thought worthy of occupation by such masters as Bentley, Clarke, Stapfer, Buddæus, Vitringa, and even Sir Isaac Newton. It was therefore deemed proper to attempt an exhibition of what appeared to be forcible, or incontrovertible, in this department. And since metaphysical reasoning has been resorted to by sceptics, --since, indeed, this species of reasoning is most frequently the source of doubt, the
very thing which has blinded many to the evidence of facts, though continually pressing upon them in all their investigations of Nature, it becomes absolutely necessary to encounter it. We must study the tactics of scepticism, trace its most secret operations, and grapple with it in all its forms, otherwise we shall not be able to dislodge it from every refuge, or expose its irrationality in the various and often singularly insidious aspects it assumes. By simply surveying the various departments of Nature, and pointing out the manifestations of divine power, wisdom, and goodness, a more pleasing work, like those already mentioned, might have been produced. But
the purpose for which the theme was prescribed seemed to require a different arrangement, and the most rigid accuracy of argumentation. Though this has occasioned repeated recurrence to the same departments of Nature, and sometimes to the same facts, yet it will be found they are recurred to on different grounds, and in new aspects or relations.
But let apologizing be dropt. The work may serve to confirm the believer, and to fortify the inquirer against error and seduction. As for those who occasion the discussion, or call for the demon. stration, there is but little ground to hope that they will be reclaimed by any such works. When we think of some of the ablest astronomers, anatomists, chemists, and other scrutinizers of nature, continuing unconvinced, or failing to shew their recognisance of a Deity, amidst all their contemplations and discoveries, it is not likely that scepticism, and the want of religion, with which it is necessarily connected, will ever be removed, otherwise than by the indelible idea of the true dignity of man as a rational being, and the invincible sense of responsibility connected with this, rousing them to think seriously of present criminality and future retribution, and making them feel the insufficiency of all natural science to afford them either consolation or hope. A supernatural power, which they refuse to acknowledge, is able to shake, as it has shaken, the firmest determin. ation to disregard divine authority, to contemn as superstitious all popular belief, to brave consequences, and combat even the natural principle of fear in the most rational direction it can possibly take. They can, in fact, be reclaimed only by conscience impelling them under the influence of this supernatural power, first to look around for the relief suited to fallen beings, then to examine the credi
, bility of those books which profess to be the records of a Revelation calculated to afford it, and ultimately
to submit to the dictates of that Revelation. They must just be converted as other men are. And by their conversion to Christianity and the faith of the Gospel, they will find they are no more required to surrender any thing valuable in natural science, than Boyle, Newton, Pascal, Cuvier, Bonnet, and other illustrious philosophers, while their pleasure is greatly augmented in contemplating the works of nature, and they themselves are fitted for rendering the due tribute of honour and homage to the Most High. May the necessity of recourse to Revelation for the solution of difficulties, as evinced in this and similar treatises, be felt by all who are induced to peruse them; and if unhappily entangled in either atheistical or infidel scepticism, may it conciliate them to a candid perusal of the Scriptures, and ultimately lead them to join with the Christian in gratitude to God “the Father of lights,” for the measure of satisfaction he has been pleased to afford. " What we know not now, we shall know hereafter."
“ The work such as it is,” to borrow the language of the elegant Jortin, “ is dedicated to the service of Truth, by one who would gladly attend her triumphs, -as her soldier, if he has had the honour to fight successfully under her banner,—or as a captive tied to her chariot-wheels, if he has, though undesignedly, offended against her.”