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has attempted to explain the mechanism of the heavens upon principles of physical force, altogether independent of the agency of a Supreme Mind, and of the prime Mover of the system. But this has been shewn to be as much at variance with the demonstrations of science, and the known capabilities of nature, as with the dictates of moral and revealed truth. After such an example as this of the perversion of transcendent powers applied to the sublimest of all the physical sciences, it is refreshing to find the unrivalled philosopher of our own country, declaring at the close of his account of that part of the material universe to which our world belongs, that "this most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being," and asserting, that "to discourse of him from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to natural philosophy *."
From the phenomena of the heavens, however, we may descend to those of earth; and we shall find many of the sciences more immediately connected with our own abode, capable, when properly investigated and applied, of throwing the most striking and satisfactory light upon the principles of morality and religion. Nor is there any one of these sciences, the facts of which are not explicable, so far as they are capable of being explained at all, in entire accordance with the generally recognized truths of the volume of Divine inspiration. That which has given rise to the largest amount of sceptical opinions in the course of the last few years is perhaps the science of physiology. These opinions seem to have principally originated with a few distinguished writers of the continent,
propagated by one or two scientific lecturers of our own country. Of all the sceptical theories, however, which have been advanced both in ancient and modern times, with a view of disproving the existence of a principle of life and consciousness distinct from the material frame, I know of none, whether they be those of harmony, vibration, or of the varied forms of organization, which afford even a plausible account of the phenomena. Those of Bichat, Blumenbach, and others of the same school, have been triumphantly refuted and exposed by the late eminent Dr. Barclay; and the extravagant, and in many instances absurd, hypotheses which they urged, have been shewn to be as much opposed to the principles of reason and sound philosophy, as to the dictates of revealed truth.
The human body indeed, considered simply as an engine, to be worked by a superior agent; as a system of combined and organized matter, to be actuated and controlled by a living spirit; is a most wonderful instance of creative power and plastic skill. It may be considered as a world in miniature, as an epitome of all the sciences, as an abridgment of the great book of nature. To whatever part of it we direct our attention, we discover a most perfect and accurate exemplification of the general laws of physics. In its optics, as expressive of the functions of the eye, we have mathematics of the highest order. In the formation of the bones, and in the arrangement of its various joints and ligaments, we have the principles of mechanics most strikingly exhibited to our view. In the circulation of its fluids, the heart, the arteries, and the veins, may be regarded as an hydraulic apparatus. The process of respiration is an example of pneumatic action. In the gradual formation of its general substance, in the precipitation of the various elements which constitute its specific parts, we have chemistry in all its pre
cision. Over and above all these subordinate agencies however, there is a master principle; there is life, the grand chemist, the mighty engineer, who superintends and regulates the whole. And although he is invisible to the keenest eye, and baffles the strongest microscope, the effects which he works are too palpable to admit a rational doubt of his separate and distinct existence, and the very obscurity of his retreat tends only to raise our admiration of his character, or rather our admiration of the power and wisdom of that Being, by whom he was originally created, and by whose will he has been attached to our frame. Truly, then, may we say, in the view of this mysterious union of body and soul, of matter and spirit, in the present condition of our nature," that we are fearfully This, and wonderfully made." therefore, is doubtless the just and legitimate method of studying the science of physiology, to regard it as exhibiting throughout a most remarkable illustration of "the manifold wisdom of God." So forcibly was the celebrated heathen philosopher and physician Galen struck with this fact, that he remarked that, if there were no other proof of it, the examination of the human eye alone was sufficient to Sudemonstrate the existence of preme Being.
There is one other branch of physical science to which it may be well to devote a few observations, as it stands related to the statements of Divine Revelation. This is the recent and now popular science of geology. Of this department of knowledge, so far as it is worthy of the name, many pious persons are exceedingly jealous and apprehesive, as if it were a system utterly inconsistent with the plainest declarations of Scripture; and there is no doubt that many rash theories, apparently at variance with those declarations, have been broached, which are founded upon no adequate proofs, and are utterly
unsupported by duly authenticated
to its base. There is no doubt that the science of geology, as well as other branches of natural philosophy in the earlier stages of their progress, has in too many instances assumed an aspect of hostility to the simple and unsophisticated announcements of Divine inspiration. Some have doubtless investigated its phenomena with the desire of finding some plausible ground for the rejection of the Mosaic history of the creation. When, however, the declarations of Scripture, interpreted upon sound and enlightened principles, and the accredited facts of geology, disencumbered of the fanciful and arbitrary assumptions that have been attached to them, are brought in contact with each other, there is not, as indeed there cannot be, any real difference between them.
The leading phenomena of the structure of the globe are these: That so far as the researches of man have penetrated the superficial crust of the earth, it is formed of successive layers of rock, arranged upon each other in uniform order; that animal remains are found in these several strata, bearing a peculiar and specific character, and that in the lower departments of these formations no traces of human beings are to be observed, but only such relics, as by the aid of comparative anatomy, are proved to belong to genera or species of animals which are now extinct. The inferences which appear naturally to arise from these facts, are, That these successive superpositions of rock must have been deposited from a liquid, which previously held their materials in solution, and that the animals found imbedded in them lived upon the earth at the time that the catastrophe which gave occasion to their formation took place. But what duration of time such depositions may have required, and how far the effects were miraculous, or in accordance with the present laws of nature, must be in a great measure matter of conjecture, or at least be supported by very remote
analogies. In truth, the principal theories of the earth, from the beautiful romance of Burnet, to the later and somewhat more scientific system of Baron Cuvier, have been in a considerable degree formed of such conjectures. It is a striking proof of the uncertainty of mere geological hypotheses, that two leading systems of this science, those of Hutton and Werner, are literally as much opposed to each other as fire and water; these respective compounds being maintained by those philosophers as the main agents in the formation of the present structure of the globe.
These discrepancies, however, do not affect the real truth and importance of the science when soberly, patiently, and modestly pursued. Nor does the history of Moses, when interpreted with the latitude necessary to so brief and compressed an account, contain any thing which is irreconcileable with its ascertained and authenticated facts. one great event recorded in the Mosaic narrative, geology, as Professor Buckland has well explained, bears a very striking testimony: namely, that the present form of many parts of the earth affords a clear and decisive evidence of the sweeping torrents and devastations of the universal deluge. And doubtless the more the subject is investigated in the spirit of a cau tious, sound, and enlightened philosophy, it will be found still to confirm and illustrate that volume, the truth of which is fixed upon a rock firmer than the mountains of granite, more permanent than the everlasting hills.
As illustrative of the character and attributes of the Supreme Disposer of the universe, there is one other point which the pursuits of science and philosophy can hardly fail to suggest to the mind of the considerate observer-how wonderfully the mighty powers of nature are kept in secure and salutary check by the most exact combination and arrangement of its varied elements.
Think, for example, of the power of heat, existing in a latent state, whether as a distinct elemental being usually denominated caloric, or as a modification of motion, in all bodies whatever. When we reflect upon the readiness with which this physical quality develops itself, the rapidity with which it spreads, and the disastrous effects which it is capable of producing, it is impossible not to admire the wisdom and goodness of that sovereign appointment by which it lies dormant in every object with which we are surrounded, until it is roused out of its slumbers for the purpose of contributing to our wants, and of seasonably ministering to our comfort. The same remark is applicable to that mysterious and invisible force diffused over all known substances, to which we give the name of electricity. Whatever may be the real nature of this subtil principle, there can be no doubt that its existence as an appendage or quality of matter is widely, perhaps universally, diffused; that its power is great; and its operation rapid,-it may be, beyond all parallel. We may, indeed, consider the whole globe as one vast machine charged with this terrific energy; and yet it is in general balanced with such precision, as that its presence, for the most part, is unfelt and unobserved, and its development is very rarely attended with injurious consequences; and it may be essential to the maintenance of the very principle of animal life in our frame.
In the chemical constitution of the atmosphere, we have a most remarkable example of power and wisdom in so combining different elements, as that the separate effect of each is neutralized and controuled, and the most salutary result is produced. By far the largest of the principal parts of atmospheric air is a substance not only unfit for respi. ration, but fatal to animal life. If, therefore, this deadly element should by any possible cause accumulate beyond the original and
healthy proportion, universal death would be the inevitable consequence. Another of these parts is in itself of a nature highly inflammable; and if by any modification or subtraction of the opposite principle this should gain any undue preponderance in the compound substance, that immense ocean of elastic fluid in which the earth now seems to float as it is borne along through the abyss of space, would become one wide and deep inclosure of gaseous matter; which, on coming in contact with the element of fire, would burst in one terrific explosion around the whole compass of the globe. And some have supposed that this, or something similar, will be the very process by which the last awful conflagration will take place. Of this, at least, we are certain, that in the present order of nature there are powers which only require to be let loose, to accomplish any catastrophe to which Scripture may have taught us to look forward.
These appear to be some of the leading aspects under which the genius of scientific inquiry is bound habitually to contemplate the various phenomena of nature. It should view them in immediate connexion with the attributes and perfections of that Sovereign Mind by which they were originally called into existence, and are still regulated and controlled and as illustrative of the infallible truth of that revelation which emanated from the same source. Pursued and investigated upon these principles, the science of nature becomes indeed a hymn of praise to its Author; and in vindication of the sacredness and sublimity of its character, we are ready to exclaim—
"How charming is Divine philosophy! Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools
servient to the promotion of the paramount interests of true morality, and exemplify, in the conduct of its professors, the purifying effects of a refined and cultivated mind. It is the more necessary to insist upon this department of the subject, because there have been so many notorious, I will not call them illustrious, delinquents upon this head; and a very considerable laxity of sentiment still appears to prevail upon it. In a late number of a very popular journal*, the immoralities of a celebrated poet and man of genius are sheltered from the severity of censure, under the plea that the estimate of his deviation from the right path ought to be regulated, not by a consideration of what it is simply and absolutely so in itself, but with reference to the diameter of that wide circle which circumscribed the range of his mind; and that, consequently, what in less endowed mortals would be marked as a most palpable and reprehensible aberration, dwindled in him into a scarcely observable deflection. I know not whether the absurdity or the degrading tendency of this mechanical and most inappropriate analogy, be the greater. If there be any one thing more calculated than another to relax the bonds of moral obligation, and to bring down virtue from that lofty sphere in which it is associated with all that is ardent, wise, and great, it is to persuade men that in proportion to the extent of their mental endowments their delinquencies are extenuated; and that their conduct is to be judged, not by its obliquity as compared with an unerring rule of rectitude, but by its relation to a species of great circle which it describes around the intellectual world. Thus what in a nine or twelve inch mind would be gross and revolting vice, when spread over the dimensions of a genius of a larger compass, becomes almost sublimated into virtue. Upon this
Ed. Rev., Art. Burns.
principle the angels, those ethereal beings whose glowing conceptions we are generally accustomed to regard as surpassing in their intensity and amplitude those of the noblest minds cast in human mould, must be a most highly privileged class of intelligences. The range of their ideas must surely be large enough to absorb all ordinary deviations; and in proportion as they rise in the scale of endowment the law of their nature, as binding them to obedience, must become more lax and indulgent.
Such is the genuine tendency of the notion supported by the analogy to which I have just adverted. But we ought, on the contrary, to regard the obligations of morality and virtue as firm and fixed; as a straight, and not a circular line; and if, indeed, there were any excuse at all for deviation, it would rather be for ignorance and weakness than knowledge and genius. Milton, indeed, speaks of the fallen archangel as for a while "stupidly good;" but in his brighter moments he proved himself very capable of being ingeniously wicked. We have no intimation, however, that the splendour of his genius has been deemed as any alleviation whatever of the enormity of his offence. The statement which the poet puts into his mouth is, that the preeminence of his talents only gave him a title to a preeminence in punishment, as a consequence of his more heinous guilt.
Upon various important grounds, then, the man of genius is bound by peculiar obligations to be a friend and follower of virtue. He wields a power, he commands an influence, which invest him with more than ordinary responsibilities. By the acuteness of his reasoning he can render truth more convincing, or make error more subtle and imposing. By the fascination of his eloquence he can lead the multitude captive at his will, and can either conduct to paths of security, or impel them to scenes of danger.