« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
with him; be it ours to hope and to prepare, under a firm and settled persuasion, that, living and dying, we are his; that life is passed in his constant presence, that death resigns us to his merciful disposal*.
We envy not the feelings of any one, who can conclude this very admirable work, without admiration of the talents it displays and conviction of the truth it illustrates.
The plan which Paley laid down for his own guidance, in the construction of this work, was, like that which distinguishes all his other great productions, remarkable for its force and for its simplicity. He propounded one great principle, "that a contrivance must have a contriver;" and throughout his work, he has laboured to defend and illustrate his position with equal talent and success.
In this simplicity of plan consisted one great merit of Paley: he never wandered, without design, from the position he was maintaining; was seldom deceived in his authorities, and never confused. His illustrations, too, are never more than the subject requires; and he is therefore never, like some of the authors whose works he has employed, led so far away from his first position, by digressions and endless quotations, that his readers forget the point from which they originally diverged.
Paley seemed to be conscious that this work was naturally the first of the series. "It is a step," says he, when near its conclusion, "to have it proved, that there must be something in the world more than what we see. It is a farther step to know, that among the invisible things of nature, there must be an intelligent Mind, concerned in its production, order, and support. These points being assured to us by Natural Theology, we may well leave to Revelation the disclosure of many particulars which our researches cannot reach, respecting either the nature of this Being, as the original cause of all things, or his character and designs, as a moral governor; and not only so, but the more full confirmation of other particulars, of which, although they do not lie altogether beyond
our reasonings and our probabilitics, the certainty is by no means equal to their importance."
It has been sometimes said, that Paley has, in his Natural Theology, omitted one great and primary question, that which regards a living principle in organic matter, distinct from matter itself. This is not, however, a valid objection; for Paley did not, in this work, write to prove the existence of a soul in man, but the existence of an omnipotent Creator; which, when once he had unanswerably established, he then naturally felt, that to limit the powers of such a Being, was absurd because impossible; and, as a natural consequence, he deemed it quite unnecessary to enter into the proof of the existence of matter purely spiritual; not but that, during the progress of this work, he has, with a different immediate motive, alluded to certain facts, which clearly demonstrate the existence, in organic substances, of a principle totally distinct from the matter of which those substances are composed. Such, for instance, is the well known fact that the gastric juice of animals will dissolve dead but not living animal matters; will corrode the very dead stomach, which, when living, has held it for years.
Again; the mental powers of man have, clearly, no necessary connection with his bodily; the one, beginning perceptibly to decay after a certain age, while the other as evidently continue to improve in energy and strength for years. And of this we have many unanswerable instances.
Paley would have dwelt upon such facts more at length, had the immediate object of his work required him to have employed them; but such was not his object: for he felt very justly, that that Being who could create a world out of nothing, could just as readily form and continue a soul in the same manner.
EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY;
IN THREE PARTS.
PART I.-OF THE DIRECT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE OF CHRISTIANITY, AND WHEREIN IT
IS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE EVIDENCE ALLEGED FOR OTHER MIRACLES.
II. OF THE AUXILIARY EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
III-A BRIEF CONSIDERATION OF SOME POPULAR OBJECTIONS.
THE HONOURABLE AND RIGHT REVEREND
JAMES YORKE, D. D.
LORD BISHOP OF ELY*.
WHEN, five years ago, an important station in the University of Cambridge awaited your Lordship's disposal, you were pleased to offer it to me. The circumstances under which this offer was made, demand a public acknowledgment. I had never seen your Lordship; I possessed no connexion which could possibly recommend me to your favour; I was known to you, only by my endeavours, in common with many others, to discharge my duty as a tutor in the University; and by some very imperfect, but certainly well-intended, and, as you thought, useful publications since. In an age by no means wanting in examples of honourable patronage, although this deserve not to be mentioned in respect of the object of your Lordship's choice, it is inferior to none in the purity and disinterestedness of the motives which suggested it.
How the following work may be received, I pretend not to foretell. My first prayer concerning it is, that it may do good to any: my second hope, that it may assist, what it hath always been my earnest wish to promote, the religious part of an academical education. If in this latter view it might seem, in any degree, to excuse your Lordship's judgment of its author, I shall be gratified by the reflection, that to a kindness flowing from public principles, I have made the best public return in my power.
In the mean time, and in every event, I rejoice in the opportunity here afforded me, of testifying the sense I entertain of your Lordship's conduct, and of a notice which I regard as the most flattering distinction of my life.
With sentiments of gratitude and respect,
And most obliged servant,
This enlightened bishop, who so honourably endeavoured to serve, at the same time, Paley, and Jesus' College, Cambridge, by proffering to him its mastership, did not long survive the object of his regard and admiration he died in 1808, three years after Paley, having then been twenty-seven years bishop of Ely.
He was born in 1730; the youngest of the four sons of the great Lord Chancellor Hardwicke. Educated at Cambridge, he rose rapidly in the Church; became bishop of St. David's, in 1774; was translated to Gloucester five
years afterwards; and succeeded to Ely in 1781, on the death of Dr. Keene.
He was an excellent and amiable prelate; who, without being endowed with brilliant talents, zealously endeavoured to fulfil the duties of his station; and he will go down to posterity distinguished for at least one great and good action-an earnest endeavour to promote Paley, who was then almost friendless, and personally unknown to him. Gent. Mag., 1808, p. 856. Ann. Reg.-Chron., 158.
EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
I DEEM it unnecessary to prove that mankind stood in need of a revelation, because I have met with no serious person who thinks that, even under the Christian revelation, we have too much light, or any degree of assurance which is superfluous. I desire moreover, that, in judging of Christianity, it may be remembered, that the question lies between this religion and none: for, if the Christian religion be not credible, no one, with whom we have to do, will support the pretensions of any other.
• The "Evidences of Christianity" were first published in 1794, in three volumes, 12mo.; they were speedily reprinted in two volumes, 8vo.; and have since appeared in various forms. The success of the work was immediate, and very great. It was admirably adapted to encounter the torrent of irreligion and blasphemy, which then was rushing on to demonstrate, in the then rapidly approaching days of the French Revolution, their melancholy yet their legitimate fruits. Doubt was then thought puerile in politics, but philosophic in religion: an appearance of scepticism, therefore, was fashionable with the learned, and imitated, as a matter of course, by the smatterers and the vulgar.
While Paley was busy collecting his proofs, and arranging his materials, a talented body of infidels were actively employed, openly as well as secretly, in attacking the outworks, nay, the very citadel of the Christian religion. Hume had been not many years in his grave, and Voltaire still fewer, when Paley published this work. Tom Paine was in the ascendant among his dazzled and shallow sect, and was profiting by his popularity at the time of its publication; whilst Gibbon, the sarcastic historian of Rome, descended into his grave the very year of its appearance.
The value of the pilot is known best in the storm; and the lovers therefore of Christianity, the humble, the anxious, and the devout, were, in consequence, delighted, at such a period, with this splendid, this unanswerable work. Blasphemy and irreligion were confounded if not abashed; not an infidel could be found hardy enough to attempt to produce an answer. Scepticism began from that day to be no longer generally fashionable; for Paley had shewn, in plain and popular language, that so far from being reasonable, it was not even plausible. The learned, therefore, and the men of science, no longer generally patronised infidelity; it ceased to be thought an evidence of genius to be an infidel; and the professors of it have never since made head in England. The " Age of Reason," and the natural fruits of it, in the French revo lutionary philosophy, helped to give a finishing blow to the once fashionable taste, since it practically convinced all reasonable men of the truth of Paley's assertions, that
infidelity was neither so liberal as Christianity, nor so friendly to the propagation of either liberty or virtue.
The good men, of all sects, rejoiced at the opportune appearance of this great work; for they felt that a blow had been struck at infidelity, which all the Gibbons, all the Humes, and all the false philosophy of the age, could not return. The work was read by all classes; the king carried it with him in his carriage; Cambridge made it a text book for her students; and its author was enabled to partake of the general exultation, by the noble conduct of the prelates of England, who caressed and immediately promoted him to some of the best preferments in their power to bestow upon him.
Viewed as a link in the chain of his works, it naturally follows his "Theology;" since, having in that work proved the existence of a Creator, the next effort he had to make, as a Christian minister, was to prove that that Supreme Being had, in a former age of the world, made a revelation to his creatures. How well he has performed the task, his readers will judge by their own religious feelings; but of the excellence of the mode he employed in the investigation, there can be no doubt. How well, in his Natural Theology, he had laid the ground-work for his Evidences of Christianity, he seemed himself conscious, when he happily observed, "It is a step to have it proved, that there must be something in this world more than what we see; it is a farther step to know, that among the invisible things of nature, there must be an intelligent Mind concerned in its production, order, and support," &c.
The foundation on which he builds his Evidences of Christianity, however excellent and successful, of necessity differs widely from that employed in his Natural Theology. In the latter, he takes his stand upon the proof of the contrivances discernible in the works of nature; but in the work now before us, he rests his chief proofs upon human testimony; in the management of either, he is equally excellent; displaying, in the one, the minute, yet profound knowledge of the philosopher; in the other, in the arrangement and illustration of his proofs, all the skill of the accomplished advocate.