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the creating cause. One philosopher tells us it is “ the empire of mechanical necessity;" another, that it is a system of things subject to the action of free powers, and permitting fortuities and contingencies. “The laws of nature" are now spoken of as rules imposed upon nature by an intelligence above nature; and then, as rules imposed by a mysterious, unconscious power upon the universe of being. Thus, by turns, nature is ideal and real; is lawgiver and subject; is effect and cause; is creature and creator.
It is surely high time we should seek to attain greater precision in the use of language. We shall never master a true philosophy until we come to use the terins “nature” and “natural” in a strict and definite sense.
The German philosophers and theologians, it is generally conceded, are more exact than ourselves in the use of language, and they employ the term "nature” in a very precise and uniform sense. "In the philosophy of Germany, natur,' and its correlatives, whether of Greek or Latin origin, are, in general, used to express the world of matter in contrast to the world of mind." * If otherwise used, it is only in a tropical or accommodated sense. This fixed and definite use of the term "nature” was first imported, and rendered current in English literature by S. T. Coleridge. In his " Aids to Reflection”
we have a note on page 152 to this effect : Whatever is comprised in the chain and mechanism of cause and effect, of course necessitated, and having its necessity in some other thing, antecedent or concurrent—this is said to be natural; and the aggregate and system of all such things is nature. It is,
* Hamilton's "Metaphysics," p. 40, vol. i, Eng. ed.
+ One or two examples of this consensus and use of the German writers may not be inappropriate. Here, then, are the words of Ullman: "This oue world. order unfolds itself in different spheres, first as an order of nature in which force reigns; second, as an order of moral life, where freedom reigns. . . . In the domain of nature, every thing that takes place is accomplished by a necessity in the things themselves. ... A law of nature is the operation of mechanical necessity.'' -"Sinlessness of Jesus,” p. 24. Of the same import are the words of the profound Jacobi : "Nature reveals only an indissoluble chain of causes and effects. ... To be in the middle of an (apparently] endless series is the characteristic of a thing of nature. . . . Man by bis intelligence rises above nature, and is conscious of himself as a power independent of nature.”—Von den Göttlichen Dingen, Werke, III, pp. 424–426. See Sir W. Hamilton's "Metaphysics,” vol. I, pp. 40, 41, Eng. ed.
therefore, a contradiction in terms to include in this the free-will, of which the verbal definition is—that which originates an act, or state, or being.- Works, vol. i.
And again, at page 263 :
I have attempted, then, to fix the proper meaning of the words nature and spirit, the one being the antithesis to the other : so that the most general and negative definition of nature is, whatever is not spirit; and vice versa of spirit, that which is not comprehended in nature; or, in the language of our elder divines, that which transcends nature. But nature is the term in which we comprehend all things which are representable in the forms of time and space, and subject to the relations of cause and effect; and the cause of the existence of which, therefore, is to be sought for perpetually in something antecedent. The word itself expresses this in the strongest manner possible : natura, that which is about to be born, that which is always becoming - Works, vol. i.
The suffrages of the most exact thinkers and the best philosophers, in England and America, are in favor of this rigidly exact definition, and in this sense alone it is now used by our best writers. The chief excellence of Sir W. Hamilton, as a writer, is the accuracy with which he expresses the sharpest distinctions of idea in the most adequate and definite phraseology; and with him “the empire of nature is the empire of mechanical necessity.” This is the sense in which it is used by Mansel, the editor and annotator of Hamilton's works.* And it is so employed by Bushnell,+ Heurtley,Martineau, Guizot,l and indeed the best writers of the day. Let this, then, be the sense in which we use the term “nature." Nature is the empire of mechanical necessity. It is the world of matter with its properties and laws, which laws simply express the relations of resemblance, co-existence, and succession. It is the system of things in which we have only continuity and uniformity.
Now if this be nature, where shall we place mind? What shall we say of a spiritual essence or entity? What shall we say of “the spirit in man,” of angelic spirits, of the Infinite Spirit? Shall we place these in nature or above nature; shall we say they are natural, or supernatural ? The Pantheist
* " Aids to Faith," p. 35. + "Nature and Supernatural," p. 36. $ "Replies to Essays and Reviews," p. 136. 8 “Essays," p. 126. | “L’Eglise et la Société Chretienne en 1861," ch. iv.
will, of course, include all these in his “idea of nature.” Nature is God, and God is nature. For him, therefore, there is nothing supernatural. The majority of our readers wil readily grant that the Infinite Spirit is supernatural. Angels are commonly regarded as supernatural beings. But when it is suggested that “the spirit in man" is a supernatural existence some are startled and surprised. Why startled and surprised? Surely it must be because they are imposed upon by venerable forms of speech, and misled by ancient
prepossessions and prejudices. Do we not teach that the mind of man is not material, and not governed by the laws to which matter is subject? Mind is an active power, and not a passive thing. It does not stand in the chain of cause and effect.* It has spontaneity. It is self-moved. It can originate its own states and acts. It is essentially free. And if nature be the empire of mechanical necessity, we cannot say of such a free power that it is a part of nature. It is something above nature. It is capable of acting upon nature, of resisting, controlling, and conquering nature. And there is no other word which can express its relation to nature but the word supernatural.
There are only two conceivable grounds upon which a supernatural character and essence can be denied to mind. The first is that of materialism, the second is that of philosophical necessity.
It is beyond our present design to discuss the hypothesis of materialism. If, however, we are successful in the attempt to show that mind does control and subjugate nature, and produce results which nature, by her own unaided operations, never has produced, and never can produce, we shall establish a strong presumption that the mind of man is not material. The antagonism between the propositions above presented and the
* When I speak of laws, and of their absolute necessity in relation to thought, you must not suppose that these laws are the same in the world of mind as in the world of matter. For free intelligences, a law is an ideal necessity given in the form of a precept which we ought to follow, but which we may also violate if we please ; whereas, for the existences which constitute the universe of nature, a law is only another name for the causes which operate blindly and universally in producing certain inevitable results. By a law of thought or logical necessity we do not, however, mean a physical law, such as a law of gravitation, but a general precept which we are able certainly to violate, but which if we do not obey, our whole process of thinking is suicidal, or absolutely null.-Hamilton's Logic, p. 56
doctrine of philosophic necessity was fully apprehended by Dr. Chalmers. He says: “Coleridge (who derived his views from the Germans) would certainly take from this doctrine its firmest support, if he could make good the affirmation that the events called volitions, or determinations of the will, are marked by this singularity, that they do not, like other events that we know of, lie within the category of cause and effect."*
• The author of the “Reign of Law" displays great confusion of thought in his chapter on “the Supernatural.” He represents the theological conception of "supernatural power" as "power independent of the use of means," and then endeavors to show that, even in creation, we have not an example of the exercise of power independent of the use of means. "There is nothing in religion incompatible with the belief that all the exercises of God's power, whether ordinary or extraordinary, are effected through the instrumentality of means that is to say, by the instrumentality of natural laws, brought out, as it were, and used for a divine purpose." P. 22. Of any divine power exercised prior to nature, or above natural law, he knows nothing. In this sense of the term, there is no such thing as "supernatural power.”
Is there, then, any thing supernatural—that is, anything super, above or beyond, nature ? any thing besides the uniformity of natural law? It is to be regretted that the writer has not favored us with a specific detinition of the word “supernatural.” Incidentally he has told us that the supernatural is the superhuman and supermaterial. P. 29. Here, again, the writer is involved in confusion. He quotes approvingly the words of Mansel, “The superhuman is the miraculous," that is, “it is the exercise of a power which transcends the limits of man's will.” P. 17. A thunder-storm, then, is a miracle, because it is brought about by means which are beyond human reach! Was there, then, no radical difference between the resurrection of Lazarus and the ordinary phenomena of nature ? Was Lazarus raised from the dead “ by the use of means," as a thunder-storm is produced by the use of means? If so, then a miracle is not a supernatural event, it is simply a natural occurrence.
The doctrine of the author seems to be, that “any special exertion of divine power for special purposes comes within the "domain of nature." P. 18. The "supernatural" is, therefore, inclosed within "nature;" more correctly, there is nothing supernatural; the super is superfluous. The supreme will is subject to natural law. The universal reign of a fixed and changeless order circumscribes the action of the Divine Omnipotence. All the operations of God in nature, in history, in religion, are natural. “No glimpse is ever given to us of any thing but freedom within the bounds of law. The will revealed to us in religion is not—any more than the will revealed to us in nature—a capricious will, (who ever said it was a capricious will ?] but one with which, in this respect, “there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.'” P. 48. The reign of law is universal in the realm of mind as well as in the realm of matter, and nothing, nowever wonderful, which happens according to natural law will be considered by any one as supernatural.” P. 5. The supernatural is cast out by the idea of natural law.
The vice of our author's system reveals itself more fully when he comes to treat of "the Reign of Law in the realm of Mind." “Here, too, there is a chain of
-Institutes, vol. ii, p. 293. Now, to our mind, the freedom of the will does not need any proof. It is settled by a simple dictum of consciousness. That faculty which certifies my existence assures me that I am free. And the attempt to prove that I am free, is only equaled in absurdity by the attempt of Descartes to prove “I exist." If, then, the testimony of consciousness is to be relied upon, its deliverances are direct, emphatic, and conclusive—the will is free! The central point of consciousness—that which makes each man what he is as distinguished from nature--that which constitutes personality —that which expresses the real, indivisible essence of the mind, apart from all regulative laws and formal processes—is the power of self-determination and voluntary choice. If this freedom and spontaneity be withdrawn, our existence sinks down into a mere link in the chain of cause and effect, by which the operations of nature are carried forward. Without will, man would flow back from the elevation which he now assumes to the level of mere nature; in a word, he would cease to be a power, and become a thing. Spontaneity, will, personality, self-hood, or similar words, express, as nearly as possible, the essence of the human mind, and this is certainly something above nature.* “Man," says Jacobi, “by his in
,. telligence rises above nature, and is conscious of himself as a power, not only independent of, but opposed to, nature, and capable of controlling, modifying, and governing nature.” - Von den Gottlichen Dingen, Werke, volume iii, pp. 426, 427.7
In the language of a sound philosophy "nature” will henceforth stand for matter, with its properties, phenomena, and laws; and the "supernatural” will stand for spirit, with its
cause and effect running throughout all events.” P. 295. There is the same order, the same uniformity, and consequently the same necessity as in the phenomena of matter. “If all antecedents to the volition were fully known, the volition itself could be predicted.” So that, as Dr. Whedon has shown, (Meth. Quart., Jan., 1869, p. 151,) the Duke of Argyll is a “strict necessitarian."
Clearly, there is no alternative ; if the will is not above nature—that is, supernatural-there is no supernatural power in the universe; and if creation is not a volitional act, there is no personal God.
* See Morell's “Philosophy of Religion," p. 3. Cousin's “ History of Philosophy," vol. i, p. 16.
+ Hamilton's "Metaphysics," vol. i, p. 41.