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supposition was unnatural ? - we allowed this treatise to remain on our library table with its leaves uncut, looking upon it with something of the feeling with which we are too apt to eye a lawyer's bill, which we know must be attended to, but which disgreeable operation we defer with zealous procrastination.
Under these circumstances we were roused from our self-imposed apathy by the receipt of the letter from our acute and talented correspondent, that immediately precedes this article. We consequently exclaimed, “ Can such things be ?” Wondering if it were possible that an ex-Lord Chancellor, and one who ought, at some period of his life to have been a lawyer, could so far commit himself, and that none of our contemporaries should notice it, we opened his work and read.
We read. In absolute kindness to the great majority of our countrymen-in honest kindness to Lord Brougham himself, when we closed the book, we fervently wished that we should be the last reader that might ever lose his time over the pernicious work. “In kind. ness to Lord Brougham”-the words have dropped unconsciously from our pen, and we will not recall them. In the most baleful objects, there is always something that is beautiful. In the vivid and irresistible lightning-flash, whose aim is devastation, and whose contact death, there is a stern grandeur that writes its name in the heavens, and the word is “ beauty;"—the insidious viper, whose sting is instant corruption, has, notwithstanding its reptile form and earthcontaminating creep, a beauty in its variegated colours; even the toad, that would tempt the crushing of the heel, did not its defence lie in its very hideousness, has an eye which Earth's master-mind has not disdained to celebrate; and even Lord Brougham's “ Natural Theology" has one or two solitary points on which the mind does not loathe to dwell. For the sake of these, small and overwhelmed as they are, we wish in kindness to him, that his “ Discourse” may sink into instant oblivion, and pass away from the memory of man.
There is a certain successful physician now practising, who has given it as his opinion, upon his oath, and in a court of justice, that he believed that every human being was insane, in a degree, upon some particular point; and that perfect sanity was only to be found in the divine essence of perfection—the Deity. If every deviation from the line of rectitude be an act of madness, the doctor is right. But there is a large class of individuals who are not mad, but stolid. These have faculties so obtuse, that, except in the most obvious cases, they cannot discriminate right from wrong, and are therefore no more mad than the brutes that browse; but we refer to another class, upon whom some one or two absorbing passions are so strong, that they become the instinct of their lives, the moving principle of all their actions, and the enjoyment of which is the summum bonum of their existence. These men are not, strictly speaking, mad, they only follow out those sensations that give them the most enjoyment, and endeavour to be as happy as they can after their own hearts. The besetting sin of this class is an inordinate vanity, a burning and a destroying thirst for applause, and an egregious self-exaltation, ridiculous to every body but its unconscious victim. Such a character was the Roman Nero. Not content with the empire of the universal world, with the adulation of kings, and the sycophancy of genius, he descended into the arena and struggled with the Helot gladiator for the vociferations of the then unwashed, and the title of the emperor of the world could not satiate him without being accompanied by the renown of being its first fiddler.
It is this corroding vanity that has made emperors buffoons, and lord high chancellors mountebanks. What it has made Lord Brougham, in his public character, we all know: it has produced a multitude of curious scenes-a multitude of mischievous deedsand-among the most evil-“ A Treatise of Natural Theology." We have quoted the mad doctor's opinion, in order that the liberal reader may kindly impute as much of this treatise to the bias of incipient insanity as Christian charity will permit.
Now this, that follows, Lord Brougham has done. Let the reader give his utmost attention to it. He has voluntarily taken a brief in the right cause, and, knowing it to be right, unrighteously betrayed it, and, we thank God, as weakly as unrighteously.
To elucidate sacred by profane things, he has done what is tantamount in treachery to this. A man has a clear, and most legal right to an estate. He has from its immediate deviser, documents that all the world acknowledge to be genuine, and that none but the most profligate and the utterly crazed can dispute. Lord Brougham accosts this man, tells him that he has a good title, but, in order to make assurance doubly sure, persuades him, for his own security, and that of his posterity, to come again into court, and that he will plead his cause. Behold the casuist counsel there, brief in hand : he begins by saying, “ My lord, look at these documents, they certainly are good as far as they go-but my client has other claims upon this land of promise: indeed, if I cannot prove this other right, all these excellent parchments go for nothing, and my client is a beggar- for, upon these previous prescriptive rights all the documentary evidence is based ; destroy them, and all my client's right and title are moonshine.” Having gone thus far, he then proceeds upon the primal subject, and reasons it so weakly and so unsatisfactorily, loads his arguments with so many contradictions, and involves his positions in so many doubts, that what with perplexity and confusion, he does away with the principle, or so weakens it in the minds of his hearers who are his judges, that the all that depended upon it naturally falls to the ground, and the deluded wretch that trusted his cause in his hands, finds himself utterly and most treasonably ruined.
All this we will prove: but had he done no more than this, his soul would have been pure as unsunned snow, in comparison to the crimson stain his foolish vanity will eternally fix upon it. The supposititious estate is the kingdom of eternal life, the documentary evidence, a writing no less awful than the New TESTAMENT. The principal prescriptive right upon which the validity of all this hangs— the holiest of our aspirations--the only solace of the poor—the sweetest hope of the rich--the essence of all good, and the impulse to all virtue—the validity of all this depends—upon Lord Brougham's visionary theory of « NATURAL THEOLOGY.".
We are Christians - we are Protestants. We will therefore endeavour to forgive this cool, this callous attempt to crush all belief, in the faith of a church, that Lord Brougham, had he the years of a Methuselah, will never live to overthrow.
This is not declamation. We are going to prove, by his lordship's own words, what we have stated; but, before we enter upon the subject, we must entreat the reader to reflect for a few minutes. Has Lord Brougham written this book from mere vanity or with a deep intent? Is there not in all this the cloven foot, and the plundering hand
- the spirit of rapine that Alings the eye of greed upon the church property? Is not this a covert attack upon all faith, and will not the honest Dissenter of every denomination join with the conscientious churchman in heaping deserved obloquy upon the underminer of their common creed? We fear that there is no madness-it is cool, cautious, deliberate, consummate Machiavelism.
We proceed to our proofs. We pledge ourselves to show, out of Lord Brougham's mouth, in the first place, that he asserts revealed religion to be secondary to, and the proof of its truth dependent upon, “ Natural Theology"—and, in the second place, that he has made what he chooses to call Natural Theology, a thing so ricketty and weak—so contradictory, and so absurd, that it is apparent he wishes, by destroying what he is pleased to consider as the parent, quietly to immolate the offspring, and to make his readers infer, that there is no truth at all in revelation, folly in all professions of faith, and no necessity for an Established Church.
To our first proof, as to his lordship's assertion of the ancillary and secondary nature of Revelation, as vouchsafed to us by the Holy Writ. The reader will find—but we would rather that he should take our word for it, and eschew the book—so we correct ourselves and say, there will be found in page 215 these words: “ Accordingly, we (the ex-chancellor) proceed a step farther, and assert, that it is a vain and ignorant thing to suppose that Natural Theology is not necessary to the support of Revelation. The latter (that is, Revelation !) may be untrue—though the former be admitted. It may be proved, or allowed, that there is a God, though it be denied that he sent any message to man, through men, or other intermediate agents.” Again, “ But Revelation cannot be true, if natural religion be false.” Again, in page 207—“It is plain that no sufficient evidence can ever be given by direct Revelation alone, in favour of the great truths of religion." But, in order that it may not be said that we garble extracts, we give the whole.
" Suppose it were shown by incontestable proofs that a messenger sent immediately from heaven bad appeared on the earth ; suppose, to make the case more strong against our argument, that this messenger arrived in our own days, nay, ap. peared before our eyes, and showed his divine title to have his message believed, by performing miracles in our presence. No one can by possibility imagine a stronger case ; for it excludes all arguments upon the weight or the fallibility of testimony; it assumes all the ordinary difficulties in the way of Revelation to be got over. Now, even this strong evidence would not at all establish the truth of the doctrine promulgated by the messenger ; for it would not show that the story be brought was worthy of belief in any one particular except his supernatural powers. These would be demonstrated by his working miracles. All the rest of his statement would rest on his assertion. But a being capable of working miracles might very well be capable of deceiving us. The possession of power does not of necessity exclude either fraud or malice. This messenger might come from an evil as well as from a good being ; he might come from more beings than one ; or he might come from one being of many existing in the universe. When Christianity was first promulgated, the miracles of Jesus were not denied by the ancients; but it was asserted that they came from evil beings, and that he was a magician. Such an explanation was consistent with the kind of belief to which the votaries of polytheism were accustomed. They were habitually credulous of miracles and of divine interpositions. But their argument was not at all unphilosophical. There is nothing whatever inconsistent in the power to work miracles being conferred upon a man or a minister by a supernatural being, who is either of limited power himself, or of great malignity, or who is one of many such beings. Yet it is certain that no means can be devised for attesting the supernatural agency of any one, except such a power of working miracles; therefore, it is plain that no sufficient evidence can ever be given by direct Revelation alone in favour of the great truths of religion. The messenger in question might have power to work miracles without end, and yet it would remain unproved, either that God was omnipotent, and one, and benevolent, or that he destined his creatures to a future state, or that he had made them such as they are in their present state. All this might be true, indeed ; but its truth would rest only on the messenger's assertion, and upon whatever internal eridence the nature of his communication afforded ; and it might be false, without the least derogation to the truth of the fact that he came from a superior being, and possessed the power of suspending the laws of nature.”
His lordship thus delivers himself concerning miracles.
“ It deserves, however, to be remarked, in perfect consistency with the argument which bas here been maintained, that no mere revelation, no direct message, bowever avouched by miraculous gifts, could prove the faithfulness of the promises held out by the messenger, excepting by the slight inference which the nature of the message might afford. The portion of his credentials which consisted of his miraculous powers could not prove it. For unless we had first ascertained the unity and the benevolence of the being that sent him, as those miracles only prove power, be might be sent to deceive us; and thus the hopes held out by him might be delusions. The doctrines of Natural Religion here come to our aid, and secure our belief to the messenger of one Being, whose goodness they have taught us to trust."
Again, he thus contemptuously speaks of the internal evidence of revealed religion.
“ Thus, were our whole knowledge of the Deity drawn from Revelation, its foundation must become weaker and weaker as the distance in point of time in, creases from the actual interposition. Tradition, or the evidence of testimony, must of necessity be its only proof: for perpetual miracles must be wrought to give us evidence by our own senses. Now, a perpetual miracle is a contradiction in terms; for the exception to, or suspension of, the laws of nature so often “repeated would destroy the laws themselves, and with the laws the force of the exception or suspension. Upon testimony, then, all Revelation must rest. Every age but the one in which the miracles were wrought, and every country but the one that witnessed them-indeed, all the people of that country itself save those actually presentmust receive the proofs which they afford of Divine interposition upon the testimony of eye-witnesses, and of those to whom eye-witnesses told it. Even if the miracles were exhibited before all the nations of one age, the next must believe upon the authority of tradition ; and if we suppose the interposition to be repeated from time to time, each repetition would incalculably weaken its force, because the laws of nature, though not wbolly destroyed, as they must be by a constant violation, would yet lose their prevailing force, and each exception would become a slighter proof of supernatural agency. It is far otherwise with the proofs of Na. tural Religion : repetition only strengthens and extends them. We are by no means affirming that Revelation would lose its sanction by lapse of time, as long as it had the perpetually new and living evidence of Natural Religion to support it. We are only sbowing the use of that evidence to Revelation, by examining the
inevitable consequences of its entire removal, and seeing bow ill supported the truths of Revelation would be, if the prop were withdrawn wbich they borrow from Natural Theology ; for then they would rest upon tradition alone.”
Let the pious man, the father of a family, the instructor of youth, or whoever he may be, who has felt his bosom relieved from care as he prayed when he went to rest, or his heart elated with joy as he murmured his morning thanksgiving; let him, we say, attentively read these extracts, and should he be so sunk into fatuity as to trust to the impression they would convey, would he not find all his faith in the Bible, all that the tender mother first taught, and the venerable pastor confirmed, to be of no more value than his lordship's legal opinion when High Chancellor of England, and no more to be depended upon than the versatility of his politics? Revelation, it appears, is nothing, until it has received the sanction, the approving nod, of Lord Brougham's “ Natural Theology.”
Although Lord Brougham tells us that a perpetual miracle is a contradiction in terms, we cannot but think that the present continued dispersion of the Jews is something like a perpetual miracle, and were his lordship to be wafted to the Dead Sea, and from thence to the spot where Babylon once was, he might, as he pondered over these silent deserts, feel that prophecies have been fulfilled.
Lord Brougham dare not, with all his hardihood, assert that the account of our Saviour's mission was false, or that any thing contained in the Evangelists is a fabrication. Among the first disciples, and the early converts, what was known of this modern “ Natural Theology," upon which the truth of all revelation depends ? Did the Crucified teach it? Where was it? And who shall presume to say that, under the very eye of our blessed Redeemer, religion—the purest, the best—was not? If revealed religion was incomplete and inconclusive as to holiness, until Newton discovered his calculus, and Harvey the circulation of the blood, and “ Natural Theology” had a Brougham for its apostle, according to his lordship's own favourite system of argument by induction, there could have been no religion at all. He distinctly asserts that “natural theology is necessary to the support of revelation.” Consequently, when they neither cared for nor knew what natural theology meant, revelation could have no support therefore, not being supported it must have perished, and thus there was an end of the matter altogether.
Again, what does the great mass of believers know about “ Natural Theology"_the peasant, the artisan, the neophyte all over the world ?- Is there no revelation for them because they have not read Paley or Lord Brougham's misrepresentation of him ?
And shall there be no merit in faith? If this “ Natural Theology," is to make the doctrines of religion, and the mysteries of the pact between God and man as simple and as undeniable as the proposition that four times four are sixteen, what becomes of the great merit in confiding with an implicit humility in the mysterious promises of redemption ? And his lordship pretends to fear, that God's word might be weakened by being carried to distant ages through the means of tradition, were it not for the assistance afforded to it by human knowledge. Has not our Saviour said that “ My church ?" &c.
Revealed religion has most assuredly nothing to be thankful for at