« 上一頁繼續 »
ON A PAMPHLET INTITLED
THE ETERNITY OF THE WORLD.
BY A SCEPTIC.
BY THE REV. T. S. HUGHES,
LATE FELLOW OF EMMANUEL COLLEGE, AND
EXAMINING CHAPLAIN TO THE LORD BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH.
AMONGST the various expedients to which sceptics of the present age have resorted, for the purpose of subverting the opinions and unsettling the faith of others, we may observe an extravagant and affected admiration of ancient philosophy; of a philosophy whose wisest professors confessed its insufficiency to instruct mankind, whilst they feelingly lamented the absence of that heaven-descended teacher who has illumined the hearts and minds of men, and whose advent they anticipated with a species of prophetic anxiety.
In the early ages of the Church the doctrines of Christianity soon became tainted with an admixture of heathen tenets, particularly with the fanciful, though sublime, speculations of the Platonic schools this probably was occasioned by the force of ancient principles in philosophic converts to the new religion, as well as by an influence arising from that partial coincidence which is sometimes observable between the tenets of the Christian and the Pagan institutions. During what are called the dark ages, similar effects were produced by the prevalence of a scholastic theology which so long enslaved the human intellect, when the most sublime inquiries, such as the origin of things, the essence of the soul, the nature of the Deity, &c. were mixed with the frivolous dogmas of the Schools, and rendered objects of fruitless disputation and technical subtlety; resort being had to the dialectic aid of the ancient philosophers, especially of Aristotle, not for the purpose of investigating truth, but of defeating an opponent and establishing the triumph of human ignorance.
At length the revival of literature, accompanied by the blessed light of the Reformation, dissipated the clouds which hung over the avenues to knowlege. Since that period the writings of antiquity have been appreciated and studied according to their
real merits, and instead of being placed as barriers against the progress of true Christian philosophy, they have acted amongst its best auxiliaries, helping to confirm its truth, to illustrate its doctrines, and to purify its records. In these days of advancement in all the arts which dignify and adorn life, shall we tamely see endeavors made to bring us back to the practices of superstitious, rude and barbarous ages? Shall we on whom not only the light of sound philosophy but that of Revelation has shone, bind ourselves again to the extravagant theories of unenlightened heathens? Shall we follow as guides men who were so little acquainted even with the material world, that they uniformly resolved all matter into four simple elements, every one of which we know to be a compound substance? who, though they never attempted to investigate the phenomena of mind or to analyse its intellectual powers, were so dissatisfied to remain in that ignorance of its essence which no human wisdom can ever hope to dispel, that they formed as many different conceptions of its entity or non-entity as there existed sects of philosophers? who held ideas concerning the divine nature no less numerous, extravagant, and absurd? and who at the same time were really possessed by so anti-philosophical a spirit, that the followers of each master bound themselves by his dicta, as laws, even though he affirmed that the sun and moon and stars were actually no bigger than they appear to the naked eye; and this, although they could see, and expose, the absurdities of each rival sect? No. We need not depreciate the real excellencies of ancient philosophy: we may still admire its splendid diction, its noble sentiments, its frequently sublime morality, and its majestic eloquence but whilst we thus forbear to snatch from its brow the myrtle-wreath which it so gracefully wears, let us not seek to place thereon the laurel crown. In fact, the temperature and genius of the ancients seems to have been far too warm and volatile for the cultivation of sound philosophy: they never waited to found their opinions on experiment or induction, even in the arts and sciences which are strictly compatible with those admirable methods. Both in the material and in the intellectual parts of creation, they utterly neglected the observation and analysis of phenomena, to erect systems on the frail basis of hypothesis to which they obstinately adhered, though involved in consequences
inconsistent and contradictory. Thus they lost themselves in the bewildering mazes of their fanciful imaginations; and they stand in this point of view, as beacons to be avoided,' though in the department of literature they may serve as models for our imitation.
These reflections have been suggested by a perusal of the pamphlet mentioned in my title-page, which professes to uphold a doctrine that pervaded nearly all the schools of ancient philosophy; viz. "the existence of matter, as an uncreated independent principle, from all eternity," in opposition to the generally received opinion "that it was produced by the supreme mind or intelligence, which we denominate God." My endeavors in the following pages will be directed to show, in as concise manner as the subject will permit, 1. That this doctrine is quite as much exposed to the objections of metaphysical argument, as that which it opposes. 2. That by lowering the attributes and limiting the power of the Deity, it has, contrary to our Author's declaration, an effect on morals. 3. That it does not so well account for the origin of evil as the opposite doctrine. 4. That it acquires no credit from the opinions of philosophers ancient or modern; and, 5. That it is contradicted by the explicit dictates of Revelation.
Erat autem sapientia Græcorum professoria et in disputationes effusa, quod genus inquisitioni veritatis adversissimum est. Nov. Org. lib. i. c.
In the very commencement of this disquisition it is proper to state that concerning the real nature or essence of mind and inatter, we must be content to remain for ever ignorant. The same also may be asserted with regard to many other objects of our investigation, such as the cause of attraction between the magnet and iron, the nature of gravitation, and the secret spring which moves our limbs by mere volition of the mind: the link which connects these several causes and effects, is concealed in the most impenetrable mystery.
Neither of matter nor of mind must we ever expect to know more than the successive phenomena which they present to our observation; and with these, the ascertaining and classifying of which is the object of real philosophy, we are not warranted in going any further than the ascribing them to some permanent subject. "Matter (says a late ingenious writer') is the permanent subject of certain qualities, extension, &c. . . . . that is to say, it is the permanent exhibiter to us of certain varying phenomena which we observe. Mind is the permanent subject of certain qualities or states or affections of a different class, perception, memory, &c. ... that is to say, of certain varying phenomena of which we are conscious. What matter is, independent of our perception; what mind is, independent of its temporary varieties of feeling, it is impossible for us to discover; since whatever new knowlege of matter we can suppose ourselves to acquire, must be acquired by our perception, and must therefore be relative to it; and whatever new knowlege we can suppose ourselves to acquire of mind must be itself a state or affection of the mind, and therefore only a new mental phenomenon ;" &c.
This statement being admitted, and how it can be doubted is
1 Browne. Philosophy of the Human Mind, vol. i. p. 206.