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ART. 1.—THE "ARGUMENT, A PRIORI," DEFENDED BY
To the Editor of THE CHRISTIAN AMBASSADOR.
my notice, as containing a review of my work on the “Necessary Existence of God," under the more general heading of “The a priori Argument for the Existence of God.”
As the criticism in question is most decidedly unfavourable to the claims of the work reviewed, I, the author, do, as a matter of course, protest against the soundness of the criticism.
At my outset, I frankly declare that, to me, it is painfully evident the critic had not at all understood the demonstration upon which he sat in judgment. I shall adduce only one instance to illustrate my position; but the single instance will amply suffice. Nothing, then, can more clearly evidence the fact of the critic's non-comprehension of the demonstration than an illustration which occurs in the second* of the nine pages of which his tirade, or rodomontade, consists. In the page in question the passage quoted below is to be met: the sentences, however, we must preface by an observation. The “ Argument, a priori," or, in other words, the demonstration itself, begins with page 83 of my volume; while with page 75 begins a distinct tractate, entitled, “Necessary Existence implies Infinite Extension,” the relation of which to the “ Argument” itself is, in the General Preface, clearly exhibited in this way:
“ Thirdly, the reader is shown the connection betwixt necessary existence and infinite extension; in order that an argument which makes infinite extension an attribute of the Being it seeks to reach, may be viewed with a favourable eye by all those who admit the existence of a necessary Being, the Intelligent Author of the universe. Infinite extension-a necessarily existing Mind-the cause of all the things of
* Christian Ambassador, page 206. VOL. VII.-NEW SERIES.
nature: if these are inseparably related, he who allows the one, cannot reject the other. In short, the third work is a sort of argumentum ad hominem, to be used with the generality of Theists.
“It is obvious, that none of the three treatises already referred to, can be considered as adapted to the case of Atheists, as Atheists.
“ In the fourth place, ' The Argument, a priori, for the Being and Attributes of a Great irst Cause,' comes in sight.
And, fifthly and lastly, in the · Examination of Antitheos there is a defence, against the assaults of the chosen champion of Atheism, of one of the two precisely similarly situated foundations of the · Argument.'" *
“ It need hardly be said that those two productions, the Argument,' to wit, and the 'Examination,' are to be held as especially intended for Atheists. Without doubt, some classes of Theists might read the works with profit to themselves, were the truths insisted on to be sufficiently pondered, and duly digested. Nevertheless, the works are adapted and addressed to Atheists, primarily.”
Such is the relation of the two works to each other. The one is an argumentum ad hominem, addressed to THEISTS; the other is a demonstration, depending on no postulates, but self-evident premises, and is addressed to ATHEISTS. And the palpable paralogism of the critic in question lies in his bringing together those two distinct pieces, as if the one were a portion of the other—although they are written from such opposing stand-points;—bringing them together, I say, in a pell-mell, topsy-turvy fashion, from which nothing but the direst confusion could result. The paragraph in the review by this ill-judging critic, in which he amalgamates things so distinctly disagreeing, contains these words :
“ That there is 'Infinity of Extension, that there is ‘Infinity of Duration; these are all that Mr. Gillespie asks us to grant; and by these he will prove his point. The next thing is the question supposed, and a proposition based upon that supposition. 'SUPPOsing that there is a necessarily existing Substance, the intelligent cause of all things, it may be easily shown, that that Substance is infinitely extended.'t This may be easily shown. And, certainly, if we take Mr. Gillespie’s showing for genuine, there is nothing easier in the world; for all he does is to state three hypotheses upon this point, and then to decide at a word, upon his own ipse dixit, that the third is the only rational one. The process has certainly the merit of brevity. 'For,' he says, 'there are but three hypotheses which can possibly be framed in reference to the extension of the necessarily existing Substance. The first is : That that Substance is of no extension whatever. The second : That that Substance is of finite extension only. The third : That that Substance is infinitely extended. And as these hypotheses are all that can be made upon the subject, therefore, one of them must be true. The first hypothesis he pronounces absurd, the second untenable, and hence, with his usual simplicity of reasoning, “The third hypothesis must be true.'
Thus the “ Argument" itself, and a treatise which has nothing to do with it, are mingled together. They are mingled together, although the one starts from a hypothesis, and is addressed to Theists, and the other is a pure demonstration, addressed to Atheists! Such, then, is a specimen of this critic's treatment of his subject, and what could be expected from a writer so ill-prepared and ill-qualified for his undertaking ?
* Taken from the “ Argument." + Taken from other treatise. § Ibid. No intelligent reader
of the tractate will agree with the reviewer. In place of deciding upon the principle of ego dico, the most forcible reasons are given for rejecting the first two hypotheses, and holding by the last bypothesis of the three.
But I have done with the criticism itself, which, indeed, is little worth the labour of a deliberate notice; and, in the remainder of this article, I shall have to do, not with the criticism, but with the critic.
Our critic makes profession of Theism, nay, an exalted Theism, which can look down upon the grave errors of “even able and cultivated minds.”* The reviewer, I say, is a Theist, and as such he writes.
I Nor is there a word in his article to make us think that be dreams of departing from the ordinary doctrines of Theism, with regard to the great Attributes of the Supreme Being. For instance, he lays no claim to novelty on the subject of the Infinity, or Immensity, or Eternity of God. Now, the concession of these attributes is all that I require to be postulated in order to overturn the ground of everything which our critic has advanced, or could advance, against a priori argumentation in general, and my demonstration in particular.
God is of immensity. So allows my critic. Well, what is this but saying, in other words, that God is infinitely extended, or, is the substratum of infinite extension ? No other meaning can righteously be put upon the words, and this feeble critic is challenged to object to this, if he can, by shewing how a Being of immensity differs from a Being infinitely extended.
In the same way, God is eternal. So the critic admits. Well, to say God is eternal, is all one with saying that He is of infinity of duration, or, is the substratum of eternity, or infinite duration. Let the critic show, if he be able, the difference between a God eternal, and a God the substratum of infinity of duration.
In the language of Inspiration : “ The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him ;” and He it is “ whose name is Holy,” “ that inhabiteth eternity.”
Το pass to the next step in my progress, in company with this diin-sighted reasoner. As among the attributes of God, which are to be certainly granted, are, without doubt, immensity and eternity; so, as no man can perceive God but by his attributes, we must be able to arrive at and recognize the two foundation-attributes in question. This is saying not much more or less than that the two pillars of my “ argument a priori,” Infinity of Extension, and Infinity of Duration (or Immensity and Eternity), are indeed the two starting-points of the demonstration. Or in the words of my critic :
“A few words on the famous postulates, Infinity of Extension,' Infinity of Duration ;' for bere is the foundation, these are the premises. That there is . Infinity
Extension,' that there is 'Infinity of Duration;' these are all that Mr. Gillespie asks us to grant; and by these he will prove his point.”+
* Page 213. + Page 206.
of course, his little Christendom—that from Immensity and Eternity, separately or conjointly, nothing at all follows—no legitimate conclusion can be arrived at ? He surely will not do so, and yet he has, in point of fact, virtually done so in his article under notice. Indeed, the whole of the article may be summed up in two positions : First, Immensity and Eternity are the startingpoints of the demonstration ; and, secondly, the demonstration is objected to because these are the starting-points. The demonstration is objected to because it demands no other postulates than two of the most certain of the Attributes of God, laid down as ultimate facts, in a form incapable of denial. A nice ground of objection for a declared Theist!
The critic admits, yea, contends, that my factor is of “ vast importance; "* that I cannot be charged with carelessness, want of thought, or inability;” that, on the contrary, I have a wellstored mind," and "a powerful intellect;" and that I have employed “a decidedly logical manner of treatment.”+ And yet, what is the result of all those qualifications, directed to a good end ? “Of all the arguments” this is “the weakest, the most futile ; "I and the greatest surprise is expressed that “OTHERS ” should set up this “ argument, a priori," as superior to the com
argument, a posteriori.” And, in his concluding paragraph, our critic finds consolation in the reflection that he has made it fully evident “how futile is this celebrated argument.”
The antecedent and the consequent, the premises and the conclusion, seem ill-assorted, and look as if ready to fly asunder, rather than be able to dwell together in harmony. However, the author of the article has his solution of the marvel ready. He finds the dissonance, the disagreement of premises and conclusion, to arise from an old-established source of calamity.
66 Man is proud, and erratic reason will attempt impossibilities.
“ Man, a finite, a small finite, comparatively a monad, attempting to prove, not what he has seen, felt, and heard--not what is, but what must be "Kto wit, to himself, to his own mind or consciousness : in this region of metaphysical theology, as well as in that region (in which there are no disputers) where a whole is, of necessity, greater than any one of its parts, and where two and two are, necessarily, equivalents of four. In fine, we are arrived at the convenient point where we can pursue the old method of casting the blame upon nature, or the constitution of our faculties in special. 'Tis an old way of objecting to Philosophy that it is inimical to Revelation ; a proceeding next door to the procedure of him who, with our critic, lays the blame of the failure of this Argument, a priori," upon the puny nature of man, who is a * Page 205.
§ Ibid. | Page 213.
finite of six feet by two, and who, with his gowpen of pulp at the top of his vertebral column, should not presume to invade "every secret of the universe "*—the presumption of daring to do so seeming to be “beyond the pretensions of any mortal, unless he be demented.”+ Now we have it at last, and it is curious the solution was not hit on before. The short and the long is, the author of the “ Argument, a priori,” is labouring under dementia, a mild and medical euphemism for the more ugly-looking and vulgar 66 madness”—and thus there is an end of the whole affair. Edinburgh.
ART. II.-ELEMENTARY THEOLOGY.
IE faith of Christendom embraces as an article of primary im
portance and value the doctrine of the Trinity Councils have been convened to distinctly formulate it, and give it the sanction and authority of the assembled wisdom and piety of the church. Men who have refused to accept this doctrine have been expelled from christian fellowship and classed among the foes of the christian faith. In almost every conceivable way the importance of this doctrine has been affirmed and defended; and though in its defence there may have frequently been a manifest want of charity; and though many of the measures adopted-however excusable in part upon the ground of time and circumstance —cannot be fully justified, yet it does not appear that the importance of the dogma has been overrated. The views entertained throughout the whole circle of christian belief are complexioned by the acceptance, modification, or denial of this doctrine. Its position in the system of christian truth is fundamental, and as men are denominated Trinitarian or anti-Trinitarian, their views of the person and work of Christ, the person and work of the Holy Ghost, the nature and operation of evil, the relations of man to
* Page 213. + Thid.