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ample: Why should the application of water, which appears to promote and thicken the growth of feathers upon the bodies and breasts of geese, and swans, and other water-fowls, have divested of this covering the thighs of cranes? The third instance, which appears to me as plausible as any that can be produced, has this against it, that it is a singularity restricted to the species; whereas, if it had its commencement in the cause and manner which have been assigned, the like conformation might be expected to take place in other birds, which fed upon fish. How comes it to pass, that the pelican alone was the inventress, and her descendants the only inheritors, of this curious resource ?
But it is the less necessary to controvert the instances themselves, as it is a straining of analogy beyond all limits of reason and credibility, to assert that birds, and beasts, and fish, with all their variety and complexity of organization, have been brought into their forms, and distinguished into their several kinds and natures, by the same process (even if that process could be demonstrated, or had it ever been actually noticed) as might seem to serve for the gradual generation of a camel's bunch, or a pelican's pouch.
The solution, when applied to the works of nature generally, is contradicted by many of the phænomena, and totally inadequate to others. The ligaments or strictures, by which the tendons are tied down at the angles of the joints, could, by no possibility, be formed by the motion or exercise of the tendons themselves; by any appetency exciting these parts into action; or by any tendency arising therefrom. The tendency is all the other way; the conatus in constant opposition to them. Length of time does not help the case at all, but the reverse. The valres also in the blood-vessels, could never be formed in the manner which our theorist proposes. The blood, in its right and natural course, has no tendency to form them. When obstructed or refluent, it has the contrary. These parts could not grow out of their use, though they had eternity to grow in.
The senses of animals appear to me altogether incapable of receiving the explanation of their origin which this theory
af. fords. Including under the word “sense” the organ and the perception, we have no account of either. How will our philosopher get at vision, or make an eye? How should the blind animal affect sight, of which blind animals, we know, have neither conception nor desire ? Affecting it, by what operation
of its will, by what endeavour to see, could it so determine the Auids of its body, as to inchoate the formation of an eye? or suppose the eye formed, would the perception follow? The same of the other senses. And this objection holds its force, ascribe what you will to the hand of time, to the power of habit, to changes too slow to be observed by man, or brought within any comparison which he is able to make of past things with the present; concede what you please to these arbitrary and unattested suppositions, how will they help you? Here is no inception. No laws, no course, no powers of nature which prevail at present, nor any analogous to these, would give commencement to a new sense. And it is in vain to inquire how that might proceed, which could never begin.
I think the senses to be the most inconsistent with the hypothesis before us, of any part of the animal frame. But other parts are sufficiently so. The solution does not apply to the parts of animals, which have little in them of motion. If we could suppose joints and muscles to be gradually formed by action and exercise, what action or exercise could form a skull, and fill it with brains? No effort of the animal could determine the clothing of its skin. What conatus could give prickles to the porcupine or hedgehog, or to the sheep its fleece?
In the last place; What do these appetencies mean when applied to plants ? I am not able to give a signification to the term, which can be transferred from animals to plants; or which is common to both. Yet a no less successful organization is found in plants, than what obtains in animals. A solution is wanted for one, as well as the other.
Upon the whole; after all the schemes and struggles of a reluctant philosophy, the necessary resort is to a Deity. The marks of design are too strong to be gotten over. Design must have had a designer. That designer must have been a person. That person is God.
OF THE NATURAL ATTRIBUTES OF THE DEITY.
It is an immense conclusion, that there is a God; a perceiving, intelligent, designing Being; at the head of creation, and from whose will it proceeded. The attributes of such a Being, sup
pose his reality to be proved, must be adequate to the magnitude, extent, and multiplicity of his operations: which are not only vast beyond comparison with those performed by any other power; but, so far as respects our conceptions of them, infinite, because they are unlimited on all sides.
Yet the contemplation of a nature so exalted, however surely we arrive at the proof of its existence, overwhelms our faculties. The mind feels its powers sink under the subject. One consequence of which is, that from painful abstraction the thoughts seek relief in sensible images. Whence may be deduced the ancient, and almost universal propensity to idolatrous substitutions. They are the resources of a labouring imagination. False religions usually fall in with the natural propensity; true religions, or such as have derived themselves from the true, resist it.
It is one of the advantages of the revelations which we acknowledge, that, wbilst they reject idolatry with its many pernicious accompaniments, they introduce the Deity to human apprehension, under an idea more personal, more determinate, more within its compass, than the theology of nature can do. And this they do by representing him exclusively under the relation in which he stands to ourselves; and, for the most part, under some precise character, resulting from that relation, or from the history of his providences: which method suits the span of our intellects much better than the universality which enters into the idea of God, as deduced from the views of nature. When, therefore, these representations are well founded in point of authority, (for all depends upon that,) they afford a condescension to the state of our faculties, of which, they who have most reflected on the subject, will be the first to acknowledge the want and the value.
Nevertheless, if we be careful to imitate the documents of our religion, by confining our explanations to what concerns ourselves, and do not affect more precision in our ideas than the subject allows of, the several terms which are employed to denote the attributes of the Deity may be made, even in natural religion, to bear a sense consistent with truth and reason, and not surpassing our comprehension.
These terms are; Omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity, self-existence, necessary existence, spirituality.
“Omnipotence," "omniscience,” “infinite" power, “infinite" knowledge, are superlatives ; expressing our conception of these
attributes in the strongest and most elevated terms which language supplies. We ascribe power to the Deity under the name of “omnipotence,” the strict and correct conclusion being, that a power which could create such a world as this is, must be, beyond all comparison, greater than any which we experience in ourselves, than any which we observe in other visible agents; greater also than any which we can want, for our individual protection and preservation, in the Being upon whom we depend. It is a power, likewise, to which we are not authorized, by our observation or knowledge, to assign any limits of space or duration.
Very much of the same sort of remark is applicable to the term “ omniscience,” infinite knowledge, or infinite wisdom. In strictness of language, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom; wisdom always supposing action, and action directed by it. With respect to the first, viz. knowledge, the Creator must know, intimately, the constitution and properties of the things which he created : which seems also to imply a foreknowledge of their action upon one another, and of their changes ; at least, so far as the same result from trains of physical and necessary causes. His omniscience also, as far as respects things present, is deducible from his nature, as an intelligent being, joined with the extent, or rather the universality, of his operations. Where he acts, he is; and where he is, he perceives. The wisdom of the Deity, as testified in the works of creation, surpasses all idea we have of wisdom, drawn from the highest intellectual operations of the highest class of intelligent beings with whom we are acquainted; and, which is of the chief importance to us, whatever be its compass or extent, which it is evidently impossible that we should be able to determine, it must be adequate to the conduct of that order of things under wbich we live. And this is enough. It is of very inferior consequence, by what terms we express our notion, or rather our admiration, of this attribute. The terms, which the piety and the usage of language have rendered habitual to us, may be as proper as any other. We can trace this attribute much beyond what is necessary for any conclusion to which we have occasion to apply it. The degree of knowledge and power requisite for the formation of created nature cannot, with respect to us, be distinguished from infinite.
The Divine “omnipresence” stands, in natural theology, upon this foundation :- In every part and place of the universe
with which we are acquainted, we perceive the exertion of a power, which we believe, mediately or immediately, to proceed from the Deity. For instance; in what part or point of space, that has ever been explored, do we not discover attraction? In what regions do we not find light? In what accessible portion of our globe, do we not meet with gravity, magnetism, electricity: together with the properties also and powers of organized substances, of vegetable or of animated nature ? Nay, farther, we may ask, What kingdom is there of nature, what corner of space, in which there is any thing that can be examined by us, where we do not fall upon contrivance and design? The only reflection perhaps which arises in our minds from this view of the world around us is, that the laws of nature every where prevail; that they are uniform and universal. But what do you mean by the laws of nature, or by any law? Effects are produced by power, not by laws. A law cannot execute itself. A law refers us to an agent. Now an agency so general, as that we cannot discover its absence, or assign the place in which some effect of its continued energy is not found, may, in popular language at least, and, perhaps, without much deviation from philosophical strictness, be called universal: and, with not quite the same, but with no inconsiderable propriety, the person, or Being, in whom that power resides, or from whom it is derived, may be taken to be omnipresent. He who upholds all things by his power, may be said to be every where present.
This is called a virtual presence. There is also what metaphysicians denominate an essential ubiquity; and which idea the language of Scripture seems to favour: but the former, I think, goes as far as natural theology carries us.
Eternity” is a negative idea, clothed with a positive name. It supposes, in that to which it is applied, a present existence; and is the negation of a beginning or an end of that existence. As applied to the Deity, it has not been controverted by those who acknowledge a Deity at all. Most assuredly, there never was a time in which nothing existed, because that condition must have continued. The universal blank must have remained; nothing could rise up out of it; nothing could ever hare existed since; nothing could exist now. In strictness, however, we have no concern with duration prior to that of the visible world. Upon this article therefore of theology, it is sufficient to know, that the contriver necessarily existed before the contrivance.