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List of those who voted in the Majority on the same
Ministers of Edinburgh.
Whether the Reverend Gentlemen whose names are contained in the first of these Lists, or those mentioned in the second, are the soundest Divines, according to the standards of the Church of Scotland, is a question upon which it does not belong to me to offer an opinion. The former have certainly shown themselves, in the speculative argument connected with Mr. Leslie's Note, by far the soundest philosophers.
To another praise, of a much higher kind, they have been eminently entitled, in all the proceedings relative to this unfortunate contest; the praise of a genuine and truly Christian moderation, reflecting credit on themselves and on their order.t
* Dr. Moodie, Professor of Hebrew, and one of the Ministers of Edinburgh, was not present (if I am rightly informed) at the meeting of Presbytery ; but he spoke afterwards in the Synod, in favor of the Reference to the General Assembly. Dr. Meiklejohn, Professor of Church History, (a Member of the Presbytery of Linlithgow,) voted in the Synod for the same measure.
t Mr. Fleming of Čollington was Moderator of the Presbytery at this Meeting. His sentiments are known to have coincided with those of the Minority.
SINCE the foregoing pages were printed, I have been informed, that some offence has also been taken at the following passage in Mr. Leslie's Note. What is the specific objection to it I have not learned, nor can I easily conceive. I can therefore at present, do nothing more than to transcribe the paragraph, and to place in contrast with it a speculation of Dr. Reid's, to which it appears to me in its principal features to bear a very strong resemblance.
“But in conceiving the relation that subsists between cause and effect, do we not feel something more than the mere invariable succession of events? I will admit the fact; but I maintain, that, like many other sponta
I neous impressions, it is a fallacious sentiment, which experience and reflection gradually correct, yet never entirely eradicate. It is a vestige of that extended sympathy which connects us with the material world : It is the shade of that propensity of our nature to bestow life and action on all the objects around us; to clothe them with our own passions and habits, and to discover the image of ourselves reflected from every side. This disposition is very conspicuous in children; nor is it even wholly effaced by the progress of age. Hence the true foundation of what is called figurative language. Vivid imagery always implies a real, though transient belief. Personification is the most familiar either to those not accustomed to repress the spontaneous emotions, or to those who have cultivated the power of recalling the passions in all their native glow. A choleric man, who happens to strike his foot against a stone, vents his rage on that obstacle, because, for the moment at least, he actually believes it to be animated like himself, The efforts of the poet and those of the philosopher are diametrically opposite. The one endeavours to subdue the passions, and to correct our early and false impressions; the other seeks to renew our infant visions, and to expand the warm and illusive creation of untamed fancy. Yet, after a severe exercise of reason, the mind finds grateful relief in that magical and fantastic coloring which tricks external objects, and diffuses life and sentiment throughout nature. Pomp of language-smoothness and harmony of verse—are only the accessory decorations; fervid animation constitues the soul of descriptive poetry. It is hence that mythology, the religion of the vulgar, has ever been a favorite subject with the poets.”—Leslie on Heat, p. 525.
“When we turn our attention to external objects, and begin to exercise our rational faculties about them, we find, that there are some motions and changes in them, which we have power to produce, and that they have many
which must have some other cause. Either the objects must have life and active power, as we have, or they must be moved or changed by something that has life and active power, as external objects are moved by
pose a soul.'
“Our first thoughts seem to be, That the objects in which we perceive such motion have understanding and active
power as we have." • Savages, says the Abbé Raynal, wherever they see motion which they cannot account for, there they sup
“All men may be considered as savages in this respect, until they are capable of instruction, and of using their faculties in a more perfect manner than savages do.
“ The rational conversations of birds and beasts in Æsop's Fables do not shock the belief of children. They have that probability in them which we require in an epic poem. Poets give us a great deal of pleasure, by clothing every object with intellectual and moral attributes, in metaphor and in other figures. May not the pleasure which we take in this poetical language, arise, in part, from its correspondence with our earliest sentiments ?
“ However this may be, the Abbé Raynal's observation is sufficiently confirmed, both from fact, and from the structure of all languages.
“Rude nations do really believe sun, moon, and stars, earth, sea, and air, fountains and lakes, to have understanding and active power. To pay homage to them, and implore their favor, is a kind of idolatry natural to savages.
“ All languages carry in their structure the marks of their being formed when this belief prevailed. The distinction of verbs and participles into active and
passive, which is found in all languages, must have been originally intended to distinguish what is really active from what is merely passive; and, in all languages, we find active verbs applied to those objects, in which, according to the Abbé Raynal's observation, savages sup
pose a soul.
“ Thus we say the sun rises and sets, and comes to the meridian, the moon changes, the sea ebbs and flows, the winds blow. Languages were formed by men who believed these objects to have life and active power in themselves. It was therefore proper and natural to express their motions and changes by active verbs.
“ There is no surer way of tracing the sentiments of nations before they have records, than by the structure of their language, which, notwithstanding the changes produced in it by time, will always retain some signatures of the thoughts of those by whom it was invented. When we find the same sentiments indicated in the structure of all languages, those sentiments must have been common to the human species when languages were invented.
“When a few of superior intellectual abilities find leisure for speculation, they begin to philosophize, and soon discover, that many of those objects which, at first, they believed to be intelligent and active, are really lifeless and passive. This is a very important discovery. It elevates the mind, emancipates from many vulgar superstitions, and invites to farther discoveries of the same kind.
“As philosophy advances, life and activity in natural objects retires, and leaves them dead and inactive. Instead of moving voluntarily, we find them to be moved necessarily; instead of acting, we find them to be acted upon; and nature appears as one great machine, where one wheel is turned by another, that by a third ; and how far this necessary succession may reach, the philosopher does not know.
« The weakness of human reason makes men prone, when thy leave one extreme, to rush into the opposite; and thus philosophy, even in its infancy, may lead men from idolatry and polytheism into atheism, and from ascribing active power to inanimate beings, to conclude all things to be carried on by necessity." *
Although the following paper (which has already ap
peared in print under the authority of the University of linburgh,) may not seem, at first view, to have any immediate relation to the subject of the foregoing pages, it will not be considered as altogether out of place in this publication, by those who had an opportunity of observing the rise and progress of the ecclesiastical proceedings which have taken place here, subsequent to the late vacancy in the Mathematical Professorship.
At the College of Edinburgh, the 15th day of March 1805: Which day the Senatus Academicus, in a very full meeting, had a letter laid before them by the principal, subscribed by Dr. Greive, and written by authority of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, the tenor of which follows:
“REVEREND SIR, “ As convener of a committe of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, I am directed to acquaint you, in their name,
, for the information of the Senatus Academicus of the University, that in a meeting of said Presbytery upon Wednesday, the 27th day of February last, the following resolution was moved and adopted :—Whereas for many years past the members of the University of Edinburgh have not been in the use of complying with those Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, by which they
* Essays on the Active Powers, p. 281 et seq. 4to Edit.