C‎ > ‎Chalmers, Thomas - 1780-1847‎ > ‎Volume 1‎ > ‎

Bk. 3. - Proofs for the being and Character of God in the Constitution of the Human Mind - Chap. 1. - "General Considerations on the Evidence afforded by the Phenomena and Constitution of the Human Mind for the Being of a God."


There are many respects in which the evidence for a God, given forth by the constitution of the human body, differs from the evidence given forth by the constitution of the human spirit. It is with the latter evidence that we have now more peculiarly to deal; but at present we shall only advert to a few of its distinct and special characteristics. The subject will at length open into greater detail, and development — yet a brief preliminary exposition may be useful at the outset, should it only convey some notion of the difficulties and particularities of this branch of the argument.


A leading distinction between the material and the mental fabrications is, the far greater complexity of the former, at least greater to all human observation. Into that system of means which has been formed for the object of seeing, there enter at least twenty separate contingencies, the absence of any one of which would either {Page No. 281.} derange the proper function of the eye, or altogether destroy it. We have no access to aught like the observation of a mental structure; and all of which our consciousness informs us is a succession of mental phenomena. Now in these we are sensible of nothing but a very simple antecedent followed vip, and that generally on the instant, by a like simple consequent. We have the feeling and still more the purpose of benevolence, followed up by complacency. We have the feeling or purpose, and still more the execution of malignity, or rather the recollection of that execution, followed up by remorse. However manifold the apparatus may be which enables us to see an external object — when the sight itself, instead of the consequent in a material succession, becomes the antecedent in a mental one; or, in other words, when it passes from a material to a purely mental process; then, as soon, does it pass from the complex into the simple; and, accordingly, the sight of distress is followed up, without the intervention of any curiously elaborated mechanism that we are at all conscious of, by an immediate feeling of compassion. These examples will, at least, suffice to mark a strong distinction between the two inquiries, and to show that the several arguments drawn from each must at least be formed of very different materials.


There are two distinct ways in which the mind can be viewed, and which constitute different modes of conception, rather than diversities of substantial and scientific doctrine. The mind may either be regarded as a congeries of different {Page No. 282.} faculties; or as a simple and indivisible substance, with the susceptibility of passing into different states. By the former mode of viewing it, the memory, and the judgment, and the conscience, and the will, are conceived of as so many distinct but co-existent parts of mind, which is thus represented to us somewhat in the light of an organic structure, having separate members, each for the discharge of its own appropriate mental function or exercise. By the latter, which we deem also the more felicitous mode of viewing it, these distinct mental acts, instead of being referred to distinct parts of the mind, are conceived of as distinct acts of the whole mind, — insomuch that the whole mind remembers, or the whole mind judges, or the whole mind wills, or, in short, the whole mind passes into various intellectual states or states of emotion, according to the circumstances by which at the time it is beset, or to the present nature of its employment. We might thus either regard the study of mind as a study in contemporaneous nature; and we should then, in the delineation of its various parts, be assigning to it a natural history, — or we might regard the study of mind as a study in successive nature; and we should then, in the description of its various states, be assigning to it a natural philosophy. When such a phrase as the anatomy of the human mind is employed by philosophers, we may safely guess that the former is the conception which they are inclined to form of it. When such a phrase again {Page No. 283.} as the physiology of the human mind is made use of, the latter is the conception by which, in all probability, it has been suggested. It is thus that Dr. Thomas Brown designates the science of mind as mental physiology. With him, in fact, it is altogether a science of sequences, his very analysis being the analysis of results, and not of compounds.


Now, in either view of our mental constitution there is the same strength of evidence for a GodIt matters not for this, whether the mind be regarded as consisting of so many useful parts, or as endowed with as many useful properties. It is the number, whether the one or other, of these — out of which the product is formed of evidence for a designing cause. The only reason why the useful dispositions of matter are so greatly more prolific of this evidence than the useful laws of matter, is, that the former so greatly outnumber the latter. Of the twenty independent circumstances which enter into beneficial concurrence in the formation of an eye, that each of them should be found in a situation of optimism, and none of them occupying either an indifferent or a hurtful position — it is this which speaks so emphatically against the hypothesis of a random distribution, and for the hypothesis of an intelligent order. Yet this is but one out of the many like specimens, wherewith the animal economy thickens and teems in such marvellous profusion. By the doctrine of probabilities, the mathematical evidence, in this question between the two suppositions of intelligence or chance, will be found, even on many a single organ of the human framework, to preponderate vastly more {Page No. 284.} than a million-fold on the side of the former. We do not affirm of the human mind that it is so destitute of all complication and variety, as to be deficient altogether in this sort of evidence. Let there be but six laws or ultimate facts in the mental constitution, with the circumstance of each of them being beneficial; and this of itself would yield no inconsiderable amount of precise and calculable proof, for our mental economy being a formation of contrivance, rather than one that is fortuitous or of blind necessity. It will at once be seen, however, why mind, just from its greater simplicity than matter, should contribute so much less to the support of natural theism, of that definite and mathematical evidence which is founded on combination.


But, although in the mental department of creation, the argument for a God that is gathered out of such materials, is not so strong as in the other great department — yet it does furnish a peculiar argument of its own, which, though not grounded on mathematical data, and not derived from a lengthened and logical process of reasoning, is of a highly effective and practical character notwithstanding. It has not less in it of the substance, though it may have greatly less in it of the semblance of demonstration, that it consists of but one step between the premises and the conclusion. It is briefly, but cannot be more clearly and emphatically expressed than in the following sentence — “He that formed the eye, shall he not see ? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear ? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know?”

{Page No. 285.}That the parent cause of intelligent beings shall be itself intelligent is an aphorism, which, if not demonstrable in the forms of logic, carries in the very announcement of it a challenging power over the acquiescence of almost all spirits. It is a thing of instant conviction, as if seen in the light of its own evidence, more than a thing of lengthened and laborious proof. It may be stigmatized as a mere impression — nevertheless the most of intellects go as readily along with it, as they would from one contiguous step to another of many a stately argumentation. If it cannot be exhibited as the conclusion of a syllogism, it is because of its own inherent right to be admitted there as the major proposition. To proscribe every such truth, or to disown it from being truth, merely because incapable of deduction, would be to cast away the first principles of all reasoning. It would banish the authority of intuition, and so reduce all philosophy and knowledge to a state of universal scepticism — for what is the first departure of every argument but an intuition, and what but a series of intuitions are its successive stepping-stones ? We should soon involve ourselves m helpless perplexity and darkness, did we insist on every tiling being proved and on nothing being assumed — for valid assumptions are the materials of truth, and the only office of argument is to weave them together into so many pieces of instruction for the bettering or enlightening of the species.


We are not to estimate the strength or clearness of that Natural Theology which obtains throughout the mass of our population, by the impression of our scientific arguments upon their {Page No. 286.} understandings — whether these be metaphysical, or drawn from the study of external nature. Whether they comprehend the reasoning that is grounded on the arrangements of the material world or not, they are in immediate contact with other phenomena, which far more promptly suggest and far more powerfully convince them of a God. With all the defect and inferiority which have been ascribed to the department of mind, as being less fertile of evidence for a God than the department of matter, it is really in the former where the most influential of that evidence is to be found. There may be a greater difficulty in evolving the mental than the material proofs; but they are not on that account the less effective on the popular understanding — when, without the formality of an inferential process, the most illiterate of the species recognise a presiding Deity in the felt workings of their own spirit, and more especially the felt supremacy of conscience within them. There seems but one step from the consciousness of the mind that is felt, to the conviction of the mind that originated — for that blind and unconscious matter cannot, by any of her combinations, evolve the phenomena of mind, is a proposition seen in its own immediate light, and felt to be true with all the speed and certainty of an axiom. It is to such truth, as being of instant and almost universal consent, that, more than to any other, we owe the existence of a natural theology among men: yet, because of the occult mysticism wherewith it is charged, it is well that ours is a cause of such rich and various argument; that in her service we can build up syllogisms, and {Page No. 287.} expatiate over wide fields of induction, and amass stores of evidence, and, on the useful dispositions of matter alone, can ground such large computations of probability in favour of an intelligent cause or maker for all things, as might silence and satisfy the reasoners.


Still both with philosophers and with the common people, the belief of a God may be altogether a thing of inference, and not of direct intuition — and perhaps it were safer, did we confine ourselves to this idea. Yet let us advert though but briefly and incidentally to the notion, that among all men there is a certain immediate and irresistible sense of God. We are by no means sure but there may. We at least conceive that with but one fact within the hold and the intimate conviction of all, and but one step of an inferential process therefrom, we come to the most powerful and practical impression which nature gives of a Deity. This fact is the felt supremacy of conscience within us — and the conclusion is the actual supremacy of a living Judge and Ruler over us. We shall not pretend to say whether there may not be a quicker discernment than this — nay even the instantaneous view of a God in the light of a still more direct manifestation. We should feel as if liable to the charge of mysticism, did we make any confident averment of such an intuition. But we may at least say of all innate thoughts and impressions of the Divinity, that, if they do exist, it is no mysticism to affirm of them, that they will be of great practical effect in religion — even though we should not be able to ascertain them. They {Page No. 288.} are not the less influential, though unseen — morally of powerful operation, though metaphysically never analyzed or beyond the reach of analysis. Even if they suggest but the imagination of a God they are not without their importance in Theology — laying man under a most direct obligation to entertain the subject, and fastening a great moral delinquency upon his irreligious neglect of it.


And there is one inquiry in Natural Theology, which the constitution of the mind, and the adaptation of that constitution to the external world, are pre-eminently fitted to illustrate — we mean the character of the Deity. We hold that the material universe affords decisive attestation to His natural perfections, but that it leaves the question of His moral perfections involved in profoundest mystery. The machinery of a serpent’s tooth, for the obvious infliction of pain and death upon its victims, may speak as distinctly for the power and intelligence of its Maker as the machinery of those teeth which, formed and inserted for simple mastication, subserve the purposes of a bland and beneficent economy. An apparatus of suffering and torture might furnish as clear an indication of design, though a design of cruelty, as does an apparatus for the ministration of enjoyment furnish the indication also of design, but a design of benevolence. Did we confine our study to the material constitution of things, we should meet with the enigma of many perplexing and contradictory appearances. We hope to make it manifest, that in the study of the mental constitution, this enigma is greatly alleviated, if not wholly done {Page No. 289.} away; and, at all events, that within this peculiar department of evidence there lie the most full and unambiguous demonstrations, which nature hath any where given to us, both of the benevolence and the righteousness of God.


If, in some respects, the phenomena of mind tell us less decisively than the phenomena of matter, of the existence of God, they tell us far more distinctly and decisively of His attributes. We have already said that, from the simplicity of the mental system, we met with less there of that evidence for design which is founded on combination, or on that right adjustment and adaptation of the numerous particulars, which enter into a complex assemblage of things, and which are essential to some desirable fulfillment. It is not, therefore, through the medium of this particular evidence — the evidence which lies in combination; that the phenomena and processes of mind are the best for telling us of the Divine existence. But if otherwise, or previously told of this, we hold them to be the best throughout all nature for telling us of the Divine character. For if once convinced, on distinct grounds, that God is, it matters not how simple the antecedents or the consequents of any particular succession may be. It is enough that we know what the terms of the succession are, or M hat the effect is wherewith God wills any given thing to be followed up. The character of the ordination, and so the character of the ordainer, depends on the terms of the succession; and not on the nature of that intervention or agency, whether more or less complex, by which it {Page No. 290.} brought about. And should either term of the succession, either the antecedent or consequent, be some moral feeling, or characteristic of the mind, then the inference comes to be a very distinct and decisive one. That the sight of distress, for example, should be followed up by compassion, is an obvious provision of benevolence, and not of cruelty, on the part of Him who ordained our mental constitution. Again, that a feeling of kindness in the heart should be followed up by a feeling of complacency in the heart, that in every virtuous affection of the soul there should be so much to gladden and harmonize it, that there should always be peace within when there is conscious purity or rectitude within; and, on the other hand, that malignity and licentiousness, and the sense of any moral transgression whatever, should always have the effect of discomforting, and sometimes even of agonizing the spirit of man — that such should be the actual workmanship and working of our nature, speaks most distinctly, we apprehend, for the general righteousness of Him who constructed its machinery and established its laws. An omnipotent patron of vice would have given another make, and a moral system with other and opposite tendencies to the creatures whom he had formed. He would have established different sequences; and, instead of that oil of gladness which now distills, as if from a secret spring of satisfaction, upon the upright; and, instead of that bitterness and disquietude which are now the obvious attendants on every species of delinquency, we should have had the reverse phenomena of a reversely {Page No. 291.} constituted species, whose minds were in their state of wildest disorder when kindling with the resolves of highest excellence; or were in their best and happiest, and most harmonious mood, when brooding over the purposes of dishonesty, or frenzied with the passions of hatred and revenge.


In this special track of observation, we have at least the means or data for construction; a far more satisfactory demonstration of the divine attributes, than can possibly be gathered, we think, from the ambiguous phenomena of the external world. In other words, it will be found that the mental phenomena speak more distinctly and decisively for the character of God than do the material phenomena of creation. And it should not be forgotten that whatever serves to indicate the character, serves also to confirm the existence of the Divine Being. For this character, whose signatures are impressed on nature, Ls not an abstraction, but must have residence on a concrete and substantive Being, who hath communicated a transcript of Himself to the workmanship of His own hands. It is thus, that, although in this special department there is greater poverty of evidence for a God, in as far as that evidence is grounded on a skilful disposition of parts, — yet, in respect of another kind of evidence, there is no such poverty; for, greatly more replete as we hold it to be with the unequivocal tokens of a moral character, mo, by that simple but strong ligament of proof which connects a character with an existence, can, in the study of mind alone, find a firm stepping-stone to the existence of a God.

{Page No. 292.}Our universe is sometimes termed the mirror of Him who made it. But the optical reflection, whatever it may be, must be held as indicating the reality which gave it birth; and, whether we discern there the expression of a reigning benevolence, or a reigning justice, these must not be dealt with as the aerial or the fanciful personifications of qualities alone, but as the substantial evidences of a just and benevolent, and, withal, a living God. So that after all, if the constitution of our moral nature bear upon it decisive indications of the character of God, it must furnish at the same time strong indications of his Being. The discovery of a character implies the discovery of an existence. We cannot separate qualities of any description from the proper substance in which they reside; and, if told of an absolute goodness and rightness in the economy of the universe, we cannot dissever our observation of such attributes as these from our belief of a good, and righteous, and withal a living Governor by whom they are realised.


But beside this peculiar evidence afforded by mind for the being of a God, we shall, in connexion with the study of its phenomena and its laws meet with much of that evidence, which lies in the manifold, and, withal, happy conjunction of many individual things, by the meeting together of which, some distinctly beneficial end is accomplished, brought about in that one way and in no other. For it ought further to be recollected, that, simple as the constitution of the human mind is, and proportionally unfruitful, therefore, as it may be of that argument for a God, which is {Page No. 293.} founded on the right assortment and disposition of many parts, or even of many principles; yet, on reflection will it be found that the materials even of this peculiar argument lie abundantly within the province of this contemplation. For beside the mental constitution of man, we can view the adaptation of that constitution to external nature. We might demonstrate, not only that the mind is rightly constituted in itself, but that the mind is rightly placed in a befitting theatre for the exercise of its powers. We might prove of the world and its various objects that they are suited to the various capacities of this inhabitant — this moral and intelligent creature, of whom it is palpable that the things which are around him bear a fit relation to the laws or the properties which are within him. There is ample room here for the evidence of collocation. Yet there remains this distinction between the mental and coporeal economy of man, that whereas the evidence arising from collocation is more rich and manifold in the bodily structure itself, than even in its complex and numerous adaptations to the outer world; the like evidence in the mental department, is meagre, as afforded by the subjective mind, when compared with the evidence of its various adjustments and fitnesses to the objective universe around it, whether of man’s moral constitution to the state of human society, or of his intellectual to the various objects of physical investigation. 
{Page No. 294.} 


The great object of philosophy is to ascertain the simple or ultimate principles, into which all the phenomena of nature may by analysis be resolved. But it often happens that in this attempt she stops short at a secondary law, which might be demonstrated by further analysis to be itself a complex derivative of the primitive or elementary laws. Until this work of analysis be completed, we shall often mistake what is compound for what is simple, both in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of matter — being frequently exposed to intractable substances or intractable phenomena in both, which long withstand every effort that science makes for their decomposition. It is thus that the time is not yet come, and may never come, when we shall fully understand what be all the simple elements or simple laws of matter; and what be all the distinct elementary laws, or, as they have sometimes been termed, the ultimate facts in the constitution of the human mind. But we do not need to wait for this communication, ere we can trace, in either department, the wisdom and beneficence of a Deity — for many are both the material and mental processes which might be recognised as pregnant with utility, and so, pregnant with evidence for a God, long before the processes themselves are analyzed. The truth is, that a secondary law, if it do not exhibit any additional proof of design in a distinct useful principle, exhibits that proof in a distinct and useful disposition of parts — for, generally speaking, a secondary law is the result of an operation by some primitive law, in peculiar and new circumstances. For example, the law of the tides {Page No. 295.} is a secondary law, resolvable into one more general and elementary — even the law of gravitation. But we might imagine a state of things, in which the discovery of this connexion would have been impossible, — as a sky perpetually mantled with a cloudy envelopment, which, while it did not intercept the light either of the sun or moon, still hid these bodies from our direct observation. In these circumstances, the law of the tides and the law of gravitation, though identical in themselves, could not have been identified by us; and so, we might have ascribed this wholesome agitation of the sea and of the atmosphere to a distinct power or principle in nature — affording the distinct indication of both a kind and intelligent Creator. Now this inference is not annihilated — it is not even enfeebled by the discovery in question; for although the good arising from tides in the ocean and tides in the air, is not referable to a peculiar law — it is at least referable to a peculiar collocation. And this holds of all the useful secondary laws in the material world. If they cannot be alleged in evidence for the number of beneficial principles in nature — they can at least be alleged in evidence for the number of nature’s beneficial arrangements. If they do not attest the multitude of useful properties, they at least attest the multitude of useful parts in nature; and the skill guided by benevolence which has been put forth in the distribution of them. So that long ere the philosophy of matter is perfected, or all its phenomena and its secondary laws have been resolved into their original and constituent principles — may we, in their obvious and immediate {Page No. 296.} utility alone, detect as many separate evidences in nature as there are separate facts in nature, for a wise and benevolent Deity. 


And the same will be found true of the secondary laws in the mental world, which, if not as many distinct beneficial principles in the constitution of the mind, are the effect of as many distinct and beneficial arrangements in the objects or circumstances by which it is surrounded. We have not to wait the completion of its still more subtle and difficult analysis, ere we come within sight of those varied indications of benevolent design which are so abundantly to be met with, both in the constitution of the mind itself, and in the adaptation thereto of external nature. Some there are, for example, who contend that the laws of taste are not primitive but secondary; that our admiration of beauty in material objects is resolvable into other and original emotions, and, more especially, by means of the associating principle, into our admiration of moral excellence. Let the justness of this doctrine be admitted; and its only effect on our peculiar argument is, that the benevolence of God in thus multiplying our enjoyments, instead of being indicated by a distinct law for suiting the human mind to the objects which surround it, is indicated both by the distribution of these objects and by their investment with such qualities as suit them to the previous constitution of the mind — that He hath pencilled them with the very colours, or moulded them into the very shapes which suggest either the graceful or the noble of human character; that He hath imparted to the {Page No. 297.} violet its hue of modesty, and clothed the lily in its robe of purest innocence, and given to the trees of the forest their respective attitudes of strength or delicacy, and made the whole face of nature one bright reflection of those virtues which the mind and character of man had originally radiated. If it be not by the implantation of a peculiar law in mind, it is at least by a peculiar disposition of tints and forms in external nature, that He hath spread so diversified a loveliness over the panorama of visible things; and thrown so many walks of enchantment around us; and turned the sights and the sounds of rural scenery into the ministers of so much and such exquisite enjoyment; and caused the outer world of matter to image forth in such profusion those various qualities, which at first had pleased or powerfully affected us in the inner world of consciousness and thought. It is by the modifying operation of circumstances that a primary is transmuted into a secondary law; and if the blessings which we enjoy under it cannot be ascribed to the insertion of a distinct principle in the nature of man, they can at least be ascribed to a useful disposition of circumstances in the theatre around him. 


In like manner there are some who would resolve our sense of property into an original instinct, an ultimate fact in the mental constitution; and then quote it as the distinct instance of a wise and beneficial ordination — connecting with it, as we have a right to do, all the advantages which accrue to society from the desire of property and from the respect for it which exists among men. Others {Page No. 298.} again think they can reduce this appropriating tendency in the mind to a simpler and more primitive law; yet they do not thereby annihilate the evidence for design — for, if not a distinct principle in human nature, it is at least a distinct effect or development of that nature placed in circumstances which call forth this peculiar affection — to the obvious good of whole communities, in the stimulus given to industry, in the order and security attendant on a distribution which is the object of general acquiescence. The same observation applies to the relative affections, which may either be regarded as peculiar instincts of our nature, or as modifications of a simpler nature in peculiar circumstances. On either supposition we might still recognise the wisdom of a God, if not in the establishment of certain additional laws, in having implanted so many distinct and original feelings within the human breast — at least in the establishment of certain dispositions, in having arranged the human species into so many distinct families. 


It is thus that philosophical discovery, which is felt by many to enfeeble the argument for a God, when it reduces two or more subordinate to simpler and anterior laws, does in fact leave that argument as entire as before — for if, by analysis, it diminish the number of beneficial properties whether in matter or mind, it replaces the injury which it may be supposed to have done in this way to the cause of theism, by presenting us with as great an additional number of beneficial arrangements in nature. And further, it may not be out of place to observe, {Page No. 299.} that there appear to be two distinct ways by which an artificer might make manifest the wisdom of his contrivances. He may either be conceived of, as forming a substance and endowing it with the fit properties; or as finding a substance with certain given properties, and arranging it into fit dispositions for the accomplishment of some desirable end. Both the former and the latter of these we ascribe to the Divine Artificer — of whom we imagine, that He is the Creator as well as the Disposer of all things. It is only the latter that we can ascribe to the human artificer, who creates no substance, and ordains no property; but finds the substance with all its properties ready made and put into his hands, as the raw material out of which he fashions his implements and rears his structures of various design and workmanship. Now it is a commonly received, and has indeed been raised into a sort of universal maxim, that the highest property of wisdom is to achieve the most desirable end, or the greatest amount of good, by the fewest possible means, or by the simplest machinery. When this test is applied to the laws of nature — then we esteem it, as enhancing the manifestation of intelligence, that one single law, as gravitation, should, as from a central and commanding eminence, subordinate to itself a whole host of most important phenomena; or that from one great and parent property, so vast a family of beneficial consequences should spring. And when the same test is applied to the dispositions, whether of nature or art — then it enhances the manifestation of wisdom, when some great end is brought about with a less {Page No. 300.} complex or cumbersome instrumentality, as often takes place in the simplification of machines, when, by the device of some ingenious ligament or wheel, the apparatus is made equally, perhaps more effective, whilst less unwieldy or less intricate than before. Yet there is one way in which, along with an exceeding complication in the mechanism, there might be given the impression, of the very highest skill and capacity having been put forth on the contrivance of it. It is when, by means of a very operose and complex instrumentality, the triumph of art has been made all the more conspicuous, by a very marvellous result having been obtained out of very unpromising materials. It is true, that, in this case too, a still higher impression of skill would be given, if the same or a more striking result were arrived at, even after the intricacy of the machine had been reduced, by some happy device, in virtue of which certain of its parts or circumvolutions had been superseded; and thus, without injury to the final effect, so much of the complication had been dispensed with. Still, however, the substance, whether of the machine or the manufacture, may be conceived so very intractable as to put an absolute limit on any further simplification, or as to create an absolute necessity for all the manifold contrivance which had been expended on it. When this idea predominates in the mind — then all the complexity which we may behold, does not reduce our admiration of the artist, but rather deepens the sense that we have, both of the reconditeness of his wisdom, and of the wondrous vastness and variety of his {Page No. 301.} resources. It is the extreme wideness of the contrast, between the sluggishness of matter, and the fineness of the results in physiology, which so enhances our veneration for the great Architect of Nature, when we behold the exquisite organizations of the animal and vegetable kingdoms. The two exhibitions are wholly distinct from each other — yet each of them may be perfect in its own way. The first is held forth to us, when one law of pervading generality is found to scatter a myriad of beneficent consequences in its traui. The second is held forth, when, by an indefinite complexity of means, a countless variety of expedients with their multiform combinations, some one design, such as the upholding of life in plants or animals is accomplished. Creation presents us in marvellous profusion with specimens of both these — at once confirming the doctrine, and illustrating the significancy of the expression in which Scripture hath conveyed it to us, when it tells of the manifold wisdom of God. 


But while, on a principle already often recognised, this multitude of necessary conditions to the accomplishment of a given end, enhances the argument for a God, because each separate condition reduces the hypothesis of chance to a more violent improbability than before; yet it must not be disguised that there is a certain transcendental mystery which it has the effect of aggravating, and which it leaves unresolved. We can understand the {Page No. 302.} complex machinery and the circuitous processes to which a human artist must resort, that he might overcome the else uncomplying obstinacy of inert matter, and bend it in subserviency to his special designs. But that the Divine Artist who first created the matter and ordained its laws, should find the same complication necessary for the accomplishment of His purposes; that such an elaborate workmanship, for example, should be required to establish the functions of sight and hearing in the animal economy, is very like the lavish or ostensible ingenuity of a Being employed in conquering the difficulty which himself had raised. It is true, the one immediate purpose is served by it which we have just noticed — that of presenting, as it were, to the eye of inquirers a more manifold inscription of the Divinity. But if, instead of being the object of inference, it had pleased God to make himself the object of a direct manifestation, then for the mere purpose of becoming known to his creatures, this reflex or circuitous method of revelation would have been altogether uncalled for. That under the actual system of creation, and with its actual proofs, He has made His existence most decisively known to us, we most thankfully admit. But when question is made between the actual and the conceivable systems of creation which God might have created, we are forced to confess, that the very circumstances which, in the existing order of things, have brightened and enhanced the evidence of His being, have also cast a deeper secrecy over what may be termed the general policy of His government and ways. And this is but one of the {Page No. 303.} many difficulties, which men of unbridled speculation and unobservant of that sound philosophy that keeps within the limits of human observation, will find it abundantly possible to conjure up on the field of natural theism. It does look an impracticable enigma that the Omnipotent God, who could have grafted all the capacities of thought and feeling on an elementary atom, should have deemed fit to incorporate the human soul in the midst of so curious and complicated a framework. For what a variegated structure is man’s animal economy. What an apparatus of vessels and bones and ligaments. What a complex mechanism. What an elaborate chemistry. What a multitude of parts in the anatomy, and of processes in the physiology of this marvellous system. What a medley, we had almost said, what a package of contents. What an unwearied play of secretions and circulations and other changes incessant and innumerable. In short, what a laborious complication; and all to uphold a living principle, which, one might think, could by a simple fiat of omnipotence, have sprung forth at once from the great source and centre of the spiritual system, and mingled with the world of spirits — just as each new particle of light is sent forth by the emanation of a sunbeam, to play and glisten among fields of radiance. 


But to recall ourselves from this digression among the possibilities of what might have been, to the realities of the mental system, such as it actually is. Ere we bring the very general observations of this chapter to a close, we would {Page No. 304.} briefly notice an analog between the realities of the mental and those of the corporeal system. The inquirers into the latter have found it of substantial benefit to their science to have mixed up with the prosecution of it a reference to final causes. Their reasoning on the likely uses of a part in anatomy, has, in some instances, suggested or served as a guide to speculations, which have been at length verified by a discovery. We believe, in like manner, that reasoning on the likely or obvious uses of a principle in the constitution of the human mind, might lead, if not to the discovery, at least to the confirmation of important truth — not perhaps in the science itself, but in certain of the cognate sciences which stand in no very distant relation to it. For example, we think it should rectify certain errors which have been committed both in jurisprudence and political economy, if it can be demonstrated that some of the undoubted laws of human nature are traversed by them; and so, that violence is thereby done to the obvious designs of the Author of Nature. We do not hold it out of place, though we notice one or two of these instances, by which it might be seen that the mental philosophy, when studied in connexion with the palpable views of Him by whom all its principles and processes were ordained, is fitted to enlighten the practice of legislation, and more especially to determine the wisdom of certain arrangements which have for their object the economic well-being of society. 


Whatever may be thought of the relative strength of the argument for a God, as drawn first {Page No. 305.} from the material and then from the mental world — we cannot but feel that in the latter, there is, if not a superior strength, at least a superior and surpassing dignity. The superiority of mind to matter has often been the theme of eloquence to moralists. For what were all the wonders of the latter and all its glories, without a spectator mind that could intelligently view and that could tastefully admire them? Let every eye be irrevocably closed, and this were equivalent to the entire annihilation in nature of the element of light; and in like manner, if the light of all consciousness were put out in the world of mind, the world of matter, though as rich in beauty, and in the means of benevolence as before, were thereby reduced to a virtual non-entity. In these circumstances, the lighting up again of even but one mind would restore its being, or at least its significancy, to that system of materialism, which, untouched itself, had just been desolated of all those beings in whom it could kindle reflection, or to whom it could minister the sense of enjoyment. It were tantamount to the second creation of it — or, in other words, one living intelligent spirit is of higher reckoning and mightier import than a dead universe.