Natural Theology Part Seven
OF THE PERSONALITY OF THE DEITY
CONTRIVANCE, if established, appears to me to prove every thing which we wish to prove. Amongst other things, it proves the personality of the Deity, as distinguished from what is sometimes called nature, sometimes called a principle: which terms, in the mouths of those who use them philosophically, seem to be intended, to admit and to express an efficacy, but to exclude and to deny a personal agent. Now that which can contrive, which can design, must be a person. These capacities constitute personality, for they imply consciousness and thought. They require that which can perceive an end or purpose; as well as the power of providing means, and of directing them to their end(Note: Priestley's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, p. 153, ed. 2.). They require a centre in which perceptions unite, and from which volitions flow; which is mind. The acts of a mind prove the existence of a mind: and in whatever a mind resides, is a person. The seat of intellect is a
person. We have no authority to limit the properties of mind to any particular corporeal form, or to any particular circumscription of space. These properties subsist, in created nature, under a great variety of sensible forms. Also every animated being has its sensorium, that is, a certain portion of space, within which perception and volition are exerted. This sphere may be enlarged to an indefinite extent; may comprehend the universe; and, being so imagined, may serve to furnish us with as good a notion, as we are capable of forming, of the immensity of the Divine Nature, i. e. of a Being, infinite, as well in essence as in power; yet nevertheless a person.
No man hath seen God at any time. And this, I believe, makes the great difficulty. Now it is a difficulty which chiefly arises from our not duly estimating the state of our faculties. The Deity, it is true, is the object of none of our senses: but reflect what limited capacities animal senses are. Many animals seem to have but one sense, or perhaps two at the most; touch and taste. Ought such an animal to conclude against the existence of odours, sounds, and colours? To another species is given the sense of smelling. This is an advance in the knowledge of
the powers and properties of nature: but, if this favoured animal should infer from its superiority over the class last described, that it perceived every thing which was perceptible in nature, it is known to us, though perhaps not suspected by the animal itself, that it proceeded upon a false and presumptuous estimate of its faculties. To another is added the sense of hearing; which lets in a class of sensations entirely unconceived by the
animal before spoken of; not only distinct, but remote from any which it had ever experienced, and greatly superior to them. Yet this last animal has no more ground for believing, that its senses comprehend all things, and all properties of things, which exist, than might have been claimed by the tribes of animals beneath it; for we know, that it is still possible to possess another sense, that of sight, which shall disclose to the percipient a new world. This fifth sense makes the animal what the human animal is: but to infer, that possibility stops here; that either this fifth sense is the last sense, or that the five comprehend all existence; is just as unwarrantable a conclusion, as that which might have been made by any of the different species which possessed fewer, or even by that, if such there be, which possessed only one.
The conclusion of the one-sense animal, and the conclusion of the five-sense animal, stand upon the same authority. There may be more and other senses than those which we have. There may be senses suited to the perception of the powers, properties, and substance of spirits. These may belong to higher orders of rational agents: for there is not the smallest reason for supposing that we are the highest, or that the scale of creation stops with us.
The great energies of nature are known to us only by their effects. The substances which produce them, are as much concealed from our senses as the Divine essence itself. Gravitation, though constantly present, though constantly exerting its influence, though every where around us, near us, and within us; though diffused throughout all space, and penetrating the texture of all bodies with which we are acquainted, depends, if upon a fluid, upon a fluid which, though both powerful and universal in its operation, is no object of sense to us; if upon any other kind of substance or action, upon a substance and action, from which we receive no distinguishable impressions. Is it then to be wondered at, that it should, in some measure, be the same with the Divine nature?
Of this however we are certain, that whatever the Deity be, neither the universe, nor any part of it which we see, can be He. The universe itself is merely a collective name: its parts are all which are real; or which are things. Now inert matter is out of the question: and organized substances include marks of contrivance. But whatever includes marks of contrivance, whatever, in its constitution, testifies design, necessarily carries us to something beyond itself, to some other being, to a designer prior to, and out of, itself. No animal, for instance, can have contrived its own limbs and senses; can have been the author to itself of the design with which they were constructed. That supposition involves all the absurdity of self-creation, i. e. of acting without existing. Nothing can be God, which is ordered by a wisdom and a will, which itself is void of; which is indebted for any of its properties to contrivance ab extra. The not having that in his nature which requires the exertion of another prior being (which property is sometimes called self-
sufficiency, and sometimes self-comprehension), appertains to the Deity, as his essential distinction, and removes his nature from that of all things which we see. Which consideration contains the answer to a question that has
sometimes been asked, namely, Why, since something or other must have existed from eternity, may not the present universe be that something? The contrivance perceived in it, proves that to be impossible. Nothing contrived, can, in a strict and proper sense, be eternal, forasmuch as the contriver must have existed before the contrivance.
Wherever we see marks of contrivance, we are led for its cause to an intelligent author. And this transition of the understanding is founded upon uniform experience. We see intelligence constantly contriving, that is, we see intelligence constantly producing effects, marked and distinguished by certain properties; not certain particular properties, but by a kind and class of properties, such as relation to an end, relation of parts to one another, and to a common purpose. We see, wherever we are witnesses to the actual formation of things, nothing except intelligence producing effects so marked and distinguished. Furnished with this experience, we view the productions of nature. We observe themalso marked and distinguished in the same manner. We wish to account for their origin. Our experience suggests a cause perfectly adequate to this account. No experience, no single instance or example, can be offered in
favour of any other. In this cause therefore we ought to rest; in this cause the common sense of mankind has, in fact, rested, because it agrees with that, which, in all cases, is the foundation of knowledge,--the undeviating course of their experience. The reasoning is the same, as that, by which we conclude any ancient appearances to have been the effects of volcanoes or inundations, namely, because they resemble the effects which fire and water produce before our eyes; and because we have never known these effects to result from any other operation. And this resemblance may subsist in so many circumstances, as not to leave us under the smallest doubt in forming our opinion. Men are not deceived by this reasoning: for whenever it happens, as it sometimes does happen, that the truth comes to be known by direct information, it turns out to be what was expected. In like manner, and upon the same foundation (which in truth is that of experience), we conclude that the works of nature proceed from intelligence and design, because, in the properties of relation to a purpose, subserviency to a use, they resemble what intelligence and design are constantly producing, and what nothing except intelligence and design ever produce at all. Of every argument,
which would raise a question as to the safety of this reasoning, it may be observed, that if such argument be listened to, it leads to the inference, not only that the present order of nature is insufficient to prove the existence of an intelligent Creator, but that no imaginable order would be sufficient to prove it; that no contrivance, were it ever so mechanical, ever so precise, ever so clear, ever so perfectly like those which we ourselves employ, would support this conclusion. A doctrine, to which, I conceive, no sound mind can assent.
The force however of the reasoning is sometimes sunk by our taking up with mere names. We have already noticed(Note: Ch. J. sect. vii.), and we must here notice again, the misapplication of the term law, and the mistake concerning the idea which that term expresses in physics, whenever such idea is made to take the place of power, and still more of an intelligent power, and, as such, to be assigned for the cause of any thing, or of any property of any thing, that exists. This is what we are secretly apt to do, when we speak of organized bodies (plants for instance, or animals), owing their production, their form, their growth, their qualities, their beauty, their use, to any law
or laws of nature; and when we are contented to sit down with that answer to our inquiries concerning them. I say once more, that it is a perversion of language to assign any law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent, for it is only the mode according to which an agent proceeds; it implies a power, for it is the order according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing; is nothing.
What has been said concerning law,holds true of mechanism. Mechanism is not itself power. Mechanism, without power, can do nothing. Let a watch be contrived and constructed ever so ingeniously; be its parts ever so many, ever so complicated, ever so finely wrought or artificially put together, it cannot go without a weight or spring, i. e.without a force independent of, and ulterior to, its mechanism. The spring acting at the centre, will produce different motions and different results, according to the variety of the intermediate mechanism. One and the self-same spring, acting in one and the same manner, viz. by simply expanding itself, may be the cause of a hundred different and all useful movements, if a hundred different
and well-devised sets of wheels be placed between it and the final effect; e. g. may point out the hour of the day, the day of the month, the age of the moon, the position of the planets, the cycle of the years, and many other serviceable notices; and these movements
may fulfil their purposes with more or less perfection, according as the mechanism is better or worse contrived, or better or worse executed, or in a better or worse state of repair: but in all cases, it is necessary that the spring act at the centre. The course of our reasoning upon such a subject would be this. By inspecting the watch, even when standing still, we get a proof of contrivance, and of a contriving mind, having been employed about it. In the form and obvious relation of its parts, we see enough to convince us of this. If we pull the works in pieces, for the purpose of a closer examination, we are still more fully convinced. But, when we see the watch going, we see proof of another point, viz. that there is a power somewhere, and somehow or other, applied to it; a power in action;--that there is more in the subject than the mere wheels of the machine;--that there is a secret spring, or a gravitating plummet;--in a word, that there is force, and energy, as well as mechanism.
So then, the watch in motion establishes to the observer two conclusions: One; that thought, contrivance, and design, have been employed in the forming, proportioning, and arranging of its parts; and that whoever or wherever he be, or were, such a contriver there is, or was: The other; that force or power, distinct from mechanism, is, at this present time, acting upon it. If I saw a hand-mill even at rest, I should see contrivance: but if I saw it grinding, I should be assured that a hand was at the windlass, though in another room. It is the same in nature. In the works of nature we trace mechanism; and this alone proves contrivance: but living, active, moving, productive nature, proves also the exertion of a power at the centre: for, wherever the power resides, may be denominated the centre.
The intervention and disposition of what are called second causes fall under the same observation. This disposition is or is not mechanism, according as we can or cannot trace it by our senses and means of examination. That is all the difference there is; and it is a difference which respects our faculties, not the things themselves. Now where the order of second causes is mechanical, what is here said of mechanism strictly
applies to it. But it would be always mechanism (natural chymistry, for instance, would be mechanism), if our senses were acute enough to descry it. Neither mechanism, therefore, in the works of nature, nor the intervention of what are called second causes (for I think that they are the same thing), excuses the necessity of an agent distinct from both.
If, in tracing these causes, it be said, that we find certain general properties of matter which have nothing in them that bespeaks intelligence, I answer, that, still, the managingof these properties, the pointing and directing them to the uses which we see made of them, demands intelligence in the highest degree. For example; suppose animal secretions to be elective attractions, and that such and such attractions universally belong
to such and such substances; in all which there is no intellect concerned; still the choice and collocation of these substances, the fixing upon right substances, and disposing them in right places, must be an act of intelligence. What mischief would follow, were there a single transposition of the secretory organs; a single mistake in arranging the glands which compose them!
There may be many second causes, and
many courses of second causes, one behind another, between what we observe of nature, and the Deity: but there must be intelligence somewhere; there must be more in nature than what we see; and, amongst the things unseen, there must be an intelligent, designing author. The philosopher beholds with astonishment the production of things around him. Unconscious particles of matter take their stations, and severally range themselves in an order, so as to become collectively plants or animals, i. e. organized bodies, with parts bearing strict and evident relation to one another, and to the utility of the whole: and it should seem that these particles could not move in any other way than as they do; for, they testify not the smallest sign of choice, or liberty, or discretion. There may be particular intelligent beings, guiding these motions in each case: or they may be the result of trains of mechanical dispositions, fixed beforehand by an intelligent appointment, and kept in action by a power at the centre. But, in either case, there must be intelligence.
The minds of most men are fond of what they call a principle, and of the appearance of simplicity, in accounting for phænomena. Yet this principle, this simplicity, resides
merely in the name; which name, after all, comprises, perhaps, under it a diversified, multifarious, or progressive operation, distinguishable into parts. The power in organized bodies, of producing bodies like themselves, is one of these principles. Give a philosopher this, and he can get on. But he does not reflect, what this mode of production, this principle (if such he choose to call it) requires; how much it presupposes; what an apparatus of instruments, some of which are strictly mechanical, is necessary to its success; what a train it includes of operations and changes, one succeeding another, one related to another, one ministering to another; all advancing, by intermediate, and, frequently, by sensible steps, to their ultimate result! Yet, because the whole of this complicated action is wrapped up in a single term, generation, we are to set it down as an elementary principle: and to suppose, that when we have resolved the things which we see into this principle, we have sufficiently accounted for their origin, without the necessity of a designing, intelligent Creator. The truth is, generation is not a principle, but a process. We might as well call the casting of metals a principle; we might, so far as appears to me, as well
call spinning and weaving principles: and then, referring the texture of cloths, the fabric of muslins and calicoes, the patterns of diapers and damasks, to these, as principles, pretend to dispense with intention, thought, and contrivance, on the part of the artist; or to dispense, indeed, with the necessity of any artist at all, either in the manufacturing of the article, or in the fabrication of the machinery by which the manufacture was carried on.
And, after all, how, or in what sense, is it true, that animals produce their like? A butterfly, with a proboscis instead of a mouth, with four wings and six legs, produces a hairy caterpillar, with jaws and teeth, and fourteen feet. A frog produces a tadpole. A black beetle, with gauze wings, and a crusty covering, produces a white, smooth, soft worm; an ephemeron fly, a cod-bait maggot. These, by a progress through different stages of life, and action, and enjoyment (and, in each state, provided with implements and organs appropriated to the temporary nature which they bear), arrive at last at the form and fashion of the parent animal. But all this is process, not principle; and proves, moreover, that the property of animated bodies, of producing their like,
belongs to them, not as a primordial property, not by any blind necessity in the nature of things, but as the effect of conomy, wisdom, and design; because the property itself assumes diversities, and submits to deviations dictated by intelligible utilities, and serving distinct purposes of animal happiness.
The opinion, which would consider generationas a principle in nature; and which would assign this principle as the cause, or endeavour to satisfy our minds with such a cause, of the existence of organized bodies, is confuted, in my judgement, not only by every mark of contrivance discoverable in those bodies, for which it gives us no contriver, offers no account whatever; but also by the farther consideration, that things generated, possess a clear relation to things not generated. If it were merely one part of a generated body bearing a relation to another part of the same body, as the mouth of an animal to the throat, the throat to the stomach, the stomach to the intestines, those to the recruiting of the blood, and, by means of the blood, to the nourishment of the whole frame: or if it were only one generated body bearing a relation to another generated body, as the sexes of the same
species to each other, animals of prey to their prey, herbivorous and granivorous animals to the plants or seeds upon which they feed, it might be contended, that the whole of this correspondency was attributable to generation, the common origin from which these substances proceeded. But what shall we say to agreements which exist between things
generated and things not generated? Can it be doubted, was it ever doubted, but that the lungs of animals bear a relation to the air, as a permanently elastic fluid? They act in it and by it; they cannot act without it. Now, if generation produced the animal, it did not produce the air: yet their properties correspond. The eye is made for light, and light for the eye. The eye would be of no use without light, and light perhaps of little without eyes; yet one is produced by generation; the other not. The ear depends upon undulations of air. Here are two sets of motions: first, of the pulses of the air; secondly, of the drum, bones, and nerves of the ear; sets of motions bearing an evident reference to each other: yet the one, and the apparatus for the one, produced by the intervention of generation; the other altogether independent of it.
If it be said, that the air, the light, the
elements, the world itself, is generated; I answer, that I do not comprehend the proposition. If the term mean any thing, similar to what it means, when applied to plants or animals, the proposition is certainly without proof; and, I think, draws as near to absurdity, as any proposition can do, which does not include a contradiction in its terms. I am at a loss to conceive, how the formation of the world can be compared to the generation of an animal. If the term generation signify something quite different from what it signifies on ordinary occasions, it may, by the same latitude, signify any thing. In which case, a word or phrase taken from the language of Otaheite, would convey as much theory concerning the origin of the universe, as it does to talk of its being generated.
We know a cause (intelligence) adequate to the appearances, which we wish to account for: we have this cause continually producing similar appearances: yet, rejecting this cause, the sufficiency of which we know, and the action of which is constantly before our eyes, we are invited to resort to suppositions, destitute of a single fact for their support, and confirmed by no analogy with which we are acquainted. Were it necessary to inquire
into the motives of men's opinions, I mean their motives separate from their arguments; I should almost suspect, that, because the proof of a Deity drawn from the constitution of nature is not only popular but vulgar (which may arise from the cogency of the proof, and be indeed its highest recommendation), and because it is a species almost of puerility to take up with it; for these reasons, minds, which are habitually in search of invention and originality, feel a resistless inclination to strike off into other solutions and other expositions. The truth is, that many minds are not so indisposed to any thing which can be offered to them, as they are to the flatness of being content with common reasons: and, what is most to be lamented, minds conscious of superiority, are the most liable to this repugnancy.
The suppositions here alluded to, all agree in one character: they all endeavour to dispense with the necessity in nature, of a particular, personal intelligence; that is to say, with the exertion of an intending, contriving mind, in the structure and formation of the organized constitutions which the world contains. They would resolve all productions into unconscious energies, of a like
kind, in that respect, with attraction, magnetism, electricity, &c.; without any thing further.
In this, the old system of atheism and the new agree. And I much doubt, whether the new schemes have advanced any thing upon the old, or done more than changed the terms of the nomenclature. For instance, I could never see the difference between the antiquated system of atoms, and Buffon's organic molecules. This philosopher, having made a planet by knocking off from the sun a piece of melted glass, in consequence of the stroke of a comet; and having set it in motion, by the same stroke, both round its own axis and the sun, finds his next difficulty to be, how to bring plants and animals upon it. In order to solve this difficulty, we are to suppose the universe replenished with particles, endowed with life, but without organization or senses of their own; and endowed also with a tendency to marshal themselves into organized forms. The concourse of these particles, by virtue of this tendency, but without intelligence, will, or direction (for I do not find that any of these qualities are ascribed to them), has produced the living forms which we now see.
Very few of the conjectures, which philosophers
hazard upon these subjects, have more of pretension in them, than the challenging you to show the direct impossibility of the hypothesis. In the present example, there seemed to be a positive objection to the whole scheme upon the very face of it; which was that, if the case were as here represented, new combinations ought to be perpetually taking place; new plants and animals, or organized bodies which were neither, ought to be starting up before our eyes every day. For this, however, our philosopher has an answer. Whilst so many forms of plants and animals are already in existence, and, consequently, so many internal moulds, as he calls them, are prepared and at hand, the organic particles run into these moulds, and are employed in supplying an accession of substance to them, as well for their growth, as for their propagation. By which means, things keep their ancient course. But, says the same philosopher, should any general loss or destruction of the present constitution of organized bodies take place, the particles, for want of moulds into which they might enter, would run into different combinations, and replenish the waste with new species of organized substances.
Is there any history to countenance this notion?
Is it known, that any destruction has been so repaired? any desert thus re-peopled?
So far as I remember, the only natural appearance mentioned by our author, by way of fact whereon to build his hypothesis, is the formation of worms in the intestines of animals, which is here ascribed to the coalition of superabundant organic particles, floating about in the first passages; and which have combined themselves into these simple animal forms, for want of internal moulds, or of vacancies in those moulds, into which they might be received. The thing referred to, is rather a species of facts, than a single fact; as some other cases may, with equal reason, be included under it. But to make it a fact at all, or, in any sort, applicable to the question, we must begin with asserting an equivocalgeneration, contrary to analogy, and without necessity: contrary to an analogy, which accompanies us to the very limits of our knowledge or inquiries; for wherever, either in plants, or animals, we are able to examine the subject, we find procreation from a parent form: without necessity; for I apprehend that it is seldom difficult to suggest methods, by which the eggs, or spawn, or yet invisible rudiments of these vermin, may have obtained a passage into the cavities in which
they are found(Note: I trust I may be excused, for not citing, as another fact which is to confirm the hypothesis, a grave assertion of this writer, that the branches of trees upon which the stag feeds, break out again in his horns. Such facts merit no discussion.). Add to this, that their constancy to their species, which, I believe, is as regular in these as in the other vermes, decides the question against our philosopher, if in truth, any question remained upon the subject.
Lastly; these wonder-working instruments, these internal moulds, what are they after all? what, when examined, but a name without signification; unintelligible, if not self- contradictory; at the best, differing in nothing from the essential forms of the Greek philosophy? One short sentence of Buffon's work exhibits his scheme as follows: When this nutritious and prolific matter, which is diffused throughout all nature, passes through the internal mould of an animal or vegetable, and finds a proper matrix, or receptacle, it gives rise to an animal or vegetable of the same species. Does any reader annex a meaning to the expression internal mould,in this sentence? Ought it then to be said, that, though we have little notion of an internal mould, we have not much more of a designing mind? The very contrary of this
assertion is the truth. When we speak of an artificer or an architect, we talk of what is comprehensible to our understanding, and familiar to our experience. We use no other terms, than what refer us for their meaning to our consciousness and observation; what express the constant objects of both: whereas names, like that we have mentioned, refer us to nothing; excite no idea; convey a sound to the ear, but I think do no more.
Another system, which has lately been brought forward, and with much ingenuity, is that of appetencies. The principle, and the short account, of the theory, is this: Pieces of soft, ductile matter, being endued with propensities or appetencies for particular actions, would, by continual endeavours, carried on through a long series of generations, work themselves gradually into suitable forms: and, at length, acquire, though perhaps by obscure and almost imperceptible improvements, an organization fitted to the action which their respective propensities led them to exert. A piece of animated matter, for example, that was endued with a propensity to fly, though ever so shapeless, though no other we will suppose than a round ball, to begin with, would, in a course of ages, if not in a million of years, perhaps in a hundred millions of
years (for our theorists, having eternity to dispose of, are never sparing in time), acquire wings. The same tendency to loco-motion in an aquatic animal, or rather in an animated lump which might happen to be surrounded by water, would end in the production of fins: in a living substance, confined to the solid earth, would put out legs and feet; or, if it took a different turn, would break the body into ringlets, and conclude by crawlingupon the ground.
Although I have introduced the mention of this theory into this place, I am unwilling to give to it the name of an atheistic scheme, for two reasons; first, because, so far as I am able to understand it, the original propensities and the numberless varieties of them (so different, in this respect, from the laws of mechanical nature, which are few and simple), are, in the plan itself, attributed to the ordination and appointment of an intelligent and designing Creator: secondly, because, likewise, that large postulatum, which is all along assumed and presupposed, the faculty in living bodies of producing other bodies organized like themselves, seems to be referred to the same cause; at least is not attempted to be accounted for by any other. In one important respect, however, the theory
before us coincides with atheistic systems, viz. in that, in the formation of plants and animals, in the structure and use of their parts, it does away final causes. Instead of the parts of a plant or animal, or the particular structure of the parts, having been intended for
the action or the use to which we see them applied, according to this theory, they have themselves grown out of that action, sprung from that use. The theory therefore dispenses with that which we insist upon, the necessity, in each particular case, of an intelligent, designing mind, for the contriving and determining of the forms which organized bodies bear. Give our philosopher these appetencies; give him a portion of living irritable matter (a nerve, or the clipping of a nerve), to work upon; give also to his incipient or progressive forms, the power, in every stage of their alteration, of propagating their like; and, if he is to be believed, he could replenish the world with all the vegetable and animal productions which we at present see in it.
The scheme under consideration is open to the same objection with other conjectures of a similar tendency, viz. a total defect of evidence. No changes, like those which the theory requires, have ever been observed.
All the changes in Ovid's Metamorphoses might have been effected by these appetencies, if the theory were true: yet not an example, nor the pretence of an example, is offered of a single change being known to have taken place. Nor is the order of generation obedient to the principle upon which this theory is built. The mammæ(Note: I confess myself totally at a loss to guess at the reason, either final or efficient, for this part of the animal frame, unless there be some foundation for an opinion, of which I draw the hint from a paper of Mr. Everard Home, (Phil. Transact. 1799, p. 2.) viz. that the mammæ of the f tus may be formed, before the sex is determined.) of the male have not vanished by inusitation; nec curtorum, per multa s cula, Jud orum propagini deest pr putium. It is easy to say, and it has been said, that the alterative process is too slow to be perceived; that it has been carried on through tracts of immeasurable time; and that the present order of things is the result of a gradation, of which no human record can trace the steps. It is easy to say this; and yet it is still true, that the hypothesis remains destitute of evidence.
The analogies which have been alleged, are of the following kind: The bunch of a camel, is said to be no other than the effect of carrying burthens; a service in which the species
has been employed from the most ancient times of the world. The first race, by the daily loading of the back, would probably find a small grumous tumour to be formed in the flesh of that part. The next progeny would bring this tumour into the world with them. The life to which they were destined, would increase it. The cause which first generated the tubercle being continued, it would go on, through every succession, to augment its size, till it attained the form and the bulk under which it now appears. This may serve for one instance; another, and that also of the passive sort, is taken from certain species of birds. Birds of the cranekind, as the crane itself, the heron, bittern, stork, have, in general, their thighs bare of feathers. This privation is accounted for from the habit of wading in
water, and from the effect of that element to check the growth of feathers upon these parts: in consequence of which, the health and vegetation of the feathers declined through each generation of the animal; the tender down, exposed to cold and wetness, became weak, and thin, and rare, till the deterioration ended in the result which we see, of absolute nakedness. I will mention a third instance, because it is drawn from an active habit, as the two last
were from passive habits; and that is the pouch of the pelican. The description which naturalists give of this organ, is as follows: From the lower edges of the under-chap, hangs a bag, reaching from the whole length of the bill to the neck, which is said to be capable of containing fifteen quarts of water. This bag, the bird has a power of wrinkling up into the hollow of the under-chap. When the bag is empty it is not seen: but when the bird has fished with success, it is incredible to what an extent it is often dilated. The first thing the pelican does in fishing, is to fill the bag; and then it returns to digest its burthen at leisure. The bird preys upon the large fishes, and hides them by dozens in its pouch. When the bill is opened to its widest extent, a person may run his head into the bird's mouth; and conceal it in this monstrous pouch, thus adapted for very singular purposes(Note: Goldsmith, vol. vi. p. 52.). Now this extraordinary conformation is nothing more, say our philosophers, than the result of habit: not of the habit or effort of a single pelican, or of a single race of pelicans, but of a habit perpetuated through a long series of generations. The pelican soon found the conveniency of reserving in its mouth, when
its appetite was glutted, the remainder of its prey, which is fish. The fulness produced by this attempt, of course stretched the skin which lies between the under-chaps, as being the most yielding part of the mouth. Every distension increased the cavity. The original bird, and many generations which succeeded him, might find difficulty enough in making the pouch answer this purpose: but future pelicans, entering upon life with a pouch derived from their progenitors, of considerable capacity, would more readily accelerate its advance to perfection, by frequently pressing down the sac with the weight of fish which it might now be made to contain.
These, or of this kind, are the analogies relied upon. Now, in the first place, the instances themselves are unauthenticated by testimony; and, in theory, to say the least of them, open to great objections. Who ever read of camels without bunches, or with bunches less than those with which they are at present usually formed? A bunch, not unlike the camel's, is found between the shoulders of the buffalo; of the origin of which it is impossible to give the account here given. In the second example; 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 valvesalso 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 affords. 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 fluids 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 exeroise could form a skull, or 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, suppose 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, whilst 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, infinitepower, 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 which 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 further, 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 we 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 have 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.
Self-existence is another negative idea, viz. the negation of a preceding cause, as of a progenitor, a maker, an author, a creator.
Necessary existence means demonstrable existence.
Spirituality expresses an idea, made up of a negative part, and of a positive part. The negative part consists in the exclusion of some of the known properties of matter, especially of solidity, of the vis inertiæ, and of gravitation. The positive part comprises perception, thought, will, power, action, by which last term is meant, the origination of motion; the quality, perhaps, in which resides the essential superiority of spirit over matter, which cannot move, unless it be moved; and cannot but move, when impelled by another(Note: Bishop Wilkins's Principles of Natural Religion, p. 106.). I apprehend that there can be no difficulty in applying to the Deity both parts of this idea.
THE UNITY OF THE DEITY
OF the Unity of the Deity, the proof is, the uniformity of plan observable in the universe. The universe itself is a system; each part either depending upon other parts, or being connected with other parts by some common law of motion, or by the presence of some common substance. One principle of gravitation causes a stone to drop towards the earth, and the moon to wheel round it. One law of attraction carries all the different planets about the sun. This philosophers demonstrate. There are also other points of agreement amongst them, which may be considered as marks of the identity of their origin, and of their intelligent author. In all are found the conveniency and stability derived from gravitation. They all experience vicissitudes of days and nights, and changes of season. They all, at least Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, have the same advantages from their atmosphere as we have. In all the planets, the axes of rotation are permanent. Nothing is more probable than that
the same attracting influence, acting according to the same rule, reaches to the fixed stars: but, if this be only probable, another thing is certain, viz. that the same element of light does. The light from a fixed star affects our eyes in the same manner, is refracted and reflected according to the same laws, as the light of a candle. The velocity of the light of the fixed stars is also the same, as the velocity of the light of the sun, reflected from the satellites of Jupiter. The heat of the sun, in kind, differs nothing from the heat of a coal fire.
In our own globe, the case is clearer. New countries are continually discovered, but the old laws of nature are always found in them: new plants perhaps, or animals, but always in company with plants and animals which we already know; and always possessing many of the same general properties. We never get amongst such original, or totally different, modes of existence, as to indicate, that we are come into the province of a different Creator, or under the direction of a different will. In truth, the same order of things attend us, wherever we go. The elements act upon one another, electricity operates, the tides rise and fall, the magnetic needle elects its position, in one
region of the earth and sea, as well as in another. One atmosphere invests all parts of the globe, and connects all; one sun illuminates; one moon exerts its specific attraction upon all parts. If there be a variety in natural effects, as, e. g. in the tides of different seas, that very variety is the result of the same cause, acting under different circumstances. In many cases this is proved; in all, is probable.
The inspection and comparison of livingforms, add to this argument examples without number. Of all large terrestrial animals, the structure is very much alike; their senses nearly the same; their natural functions and passions nearly the same; their viscera nearly the same, both in substance, shape, and office: digestion, nutrition, circulation, secretion, go on, in a similar manner, in all: the great circulating fluid is the same; for, I think, no difference has been discovered in the properties of blood, from whatever animal it be drawn. The experiment of transfusion proves, that the blood of one animal will serve for another. The skeletons also of the larger terrestrial animals, show particular varieties, but still under a great general affinity. The resemblance is somewhat less, yet sufficiently
evident, between quadrupeds and birds. They are all alike in five respects, for one in which they differ.
In fish, which belong to another department, as it were, of nature, the points of comparison become fewer. But we never lose sight of our analogy, e. g. we still meet with a stomach, a liver, a spine; with bile and blood; with teeth; with eyes (which eyes are only slightly varied from our own, and which variation, in truth, demonstrates, not an interruption, but a continuance of the same exquisite plan; for it is the adaptation of the organ to the element, viz. to the different refraction of light passing into the eye out of a denser medium). The provinces, also, themselves of water and earth, are connected by the species of animals which inhabit both; and also by a large tribe of aquatic animals, which closely resemble the terrestrial in their internal structure; I mean the cetaceous tribe, which have hot blood, respiring lungs, bowels, and other essential parts, like those of land-animals. This similitude, surely, bespeaks the same creation and the same Creator.
Insects and shell-fish appear to me to differ from other classes of animals the most widely of any. Yet even here, beside many
points of particular resemblance, there exists a general relation of a peculiar kind. It is the relation of inversion; the law of contrariety: namely, that, whereas, in other animals, the bones, to which the muscles are attached, lie within the body; in insects and shell-fish, they lie on the outside of it. The shell of a lobster performs to the animal the office of a bone, by furnishing to the tendons that fixed basis or immoveable fulcrum, without which, mechanically, they could not act. The crust of an insect is its shell, and answers the like purpose. The shell also of an oister stands in the place of a bone; the bases of the muscles being fixed to it, in the same manner, as, in other animals, they are fixed to the bones. All which (under wonderful varieties, indeed, and adaptations of form) confesses an imitation, a remembrance, a carrying on, of the same plan.
The observations here made, are equally applicable to plants; but, I think, unnecessary to be pursued. It is a very striking circumstance, and alone sufficient to prove all which we contend for, that, in this part likewise of organized nature, we perceive a continuation of the sexual system.
Certain however it is, that the whole argument
for the divine unity, goes no further than to a unity of counsel.
It may likewise be acknowledged, that no arguments which we are in possession of, exclude the ministry of subordinate agents. If such there be, they act under a presiding, a controlling will; because they act according to certain general restrictions, by certain common rules, and, as it should seem, upon a general plan: but still such agents, and different ranks, and classes, and degrees of them, may be employed.
THE GOODNESS OF THE DEITY
THE proof of the divine goodness rests upon two propositions; each, as we contend, capable of being made out by observations drawn from the appearances of nature.
The first is, that, in a vast plurality of instances in which contrivance is perceived, the design of the contrivance is beneficial.
The second, that the Deity has superadded pleasure to animal sensations, beyond what was necessary for any other purpose, or when the purpose, so far as it was necessary,
Page 455 might have been effected by the operation of pain.
First, in a vast plurality of instances in which contrivance is perceived, the design of the contrivance is beneficial.
No production of nature display contrivance so manifestly as the parts of animals; and the parts of animals have all of them, I believe, a real, and, with very few exceptions, all of them a known and intelligible subserviency to the use of the animal. Now, when the multitude of animals is considered, the number of parts in each, their figure and fitness, the faculties depending upon them, the variety of species, the complexity of structure, the success, in so many cases, and felicity of the result, we can never reflect, without the profoundest adoration, upon the character of that Being from whom all these things have proceeded: we cannot help acknowledging, what an exertion of benevolence creation was; of a benevolence how minute in its care, how vast in its comprehension!
When we appeal to the parts and faculties of animals, and to the limbs and senses of animals in particular, we state, I conceive, the proper medium of proof for the conclusion which we wish to establish. I will not
say, that the insensible parts of nature are made solely for the sensitive parts: but this I say, that, when we consider the benevolence of the Deity, we can only consider it in relation to sensitive being. Without this reference, or referred to any thing else, the attribute has no object; the term has no meaning. Dead matter is nothing. The parts, therefore, especially the limbs and senses, of animals, although they constitute, in mass and quantity, a small portion of the material creation, yet, since they alone are instruments of perception, they compose what may be called the whole of visible nature, estimated with a view to the disposition of its author. Consequently, it is in these that we
are to seek his character. It is by these that we are to prove, that the world was made with a benevolent design.
Nor is the design abortive. It is a happy world after all. The air, the earth, the water, teem with delighted existence. In a spring noon, or a summer evening, on whichever side I turn my eyes, myriads of happy beings crowd upon my view. The insect youth are on the wing. Swarms of newborn flies are trying their pinions in the air. Their sportive motions, their wanton mazes, their gratuitous activity, their continual
change of place without use or purpose, testify their joy, and the exultation which they feel in their lately discovered faculties. A beeamongst the flowers in spring, is one of the most cheerful objects that can be looked upon. Its life appears to be all enjoyment; so busy, and so pleased: yet it is only a specimen of insect life, with which, by reason of the animal being half domesticated, we happen to be better acquainted than we are with that of others. The whole winged insect tribe, it is probable, are equally intent upon their proper employments, and, under every variety of constitution, gratified, and perhaps equally gratified, by the offices which the Author of their nature has assigned to them. But the atmosphere is not the only scene or enjoyment for the insect race. Plants are covered with aphides, greedily sucking their juices, and constantly, as it should seem, in the act of sucking. It cannot be doubted but that this is a state of gratification. What else should fix them so close to the operation, and so long? other species are running about, with an alacrity in their motions, which carries with it every mark of pleasure. Large patches of ground are sometimes half covered with these brisk and sprightly natures. If we look to what the waters produce, shoals
of the fry of fish frequent the margins of rivers, of lakes, and of the sea itself. These are so happy, that they know not what to do with themselves. Their attitudes, their vivacity, their leaps out of the water, their frolics in it (which I have noticed a thousand times with equal attention and amusement), all conduce to show their excess of spirits, and are simply the effects of that excess. Walking by the sea-side, in a calm evening, upon a sandy shore, and with an ebbing tide, I have frequently remarked the appearance of a dark cloud, or, rather, very thick mist, hanging over the edge of the water, to the height, perhaps, of half a yard, and of the breadth of two or three yards, stretching along the coast as far as the eye could reach, and always retiring with the water. When this cloud came to be examined, it proved to be nothing else than so much space, filled with young shrimps, in the act of bounding into the air from the shallow margin of the water, or from the wet sand. If any motion of a mute animal could express delight, it was this: if they had meant to make signs of their happiness, they could not have done it more intelligibly. Suppose then, what I have no doubt of, each individual of this number to be in a state of positive enjoyment;
what a sum, collectively, of gratification and pleasure have we here before our view!
The young of all animals appear to me to receive pleasure simply from the exercise of their limbs and bodily faculties, without reference to any end to be attained, or any use to be answered by the exertion. A child, without knowing any thing of the use of language, is in a high degree delighted with being able to speak. Its incessant repetition of a few articulate sounds, or, perhaps, of the single word which it has learned to pronounce, proves this point clearly. Nor is it less pleased with its first successful endeavours to walk, or rather to run (which precedes walking), although entirely ignorant of the importance of the attainment to its future life, and even without applying it to any present purpose. A child is delighted with speaking, without having any thing to say; and with walking, without knowing where to go. And, prior to both these, I am disposed to believe, that the waking hours of infancy are agreeably taken up with the exercise of vision, or perhaps, more properly speaking, with learning to see.
But it is not for youth alone that the great Parent of creation hath provided. Happiness
is found with the purring cat, no less than with the playful kitten; in the armchair of dozing age, as well as in either the sprightliness of the dance, or the animation of the chase. To novelty, to acuteness of sensation, to hope, to ardour of pursuit, succeeds, what is, in no inconsiderable degree, an equivalent for them all, perception of ease. Herein is the exact difference between the young and the old. The young are not happy, but when enjoying pleasure; the old are happy, when free from pain. And this constitution suits with the degrees of animal power which they respectively possess. The vigour of youth was to be stimulated to action by impatience of rest; whilst to the imbecility of age, quietness and repose become positive gratifications. In one important respect the advantage is with the old. A state of ease is, generally speaking, more attainable than a state of pleasure. A constitution, therefore, which can enjoy ease, is preferable to that which can taste only pleasure. This same perception of ease oftentimes renders old age a condition of great comfort; especially when riding at its anchor after a busy or tempestuous life. It is well described by Rousseau, to be the interval of repose and enjoyment, between the
hurry and the end of life. How far the same cause extends to other animal natures, cannot be judged of with certainty. The appearance of satisfaction, with which most animals, as their activity subsides, seek and enjoy rest, affords reason to believe, that this source of gratification is appointed to advanced life, under all, or most, of its various forms. In the species with which we are best acquainted, namely our own, I am far, even as an observer
of human life, from thinking that youth is its happiest season, much less the only happy one: as a Christian, I am willing to believe that there is a great deal of truth in the following representation given by a very pious writer, as well as excellent man(Note: Father's Instructions; by Dr. Percival of Manchester. p. 317): To the intelligent and virtuous, old age presents a scene of tranquil enjoyments, of obedient appetite, of well- regulated affections, of maturity in knowledge, and of calm preparation for immortality. In this serene and dignified state, placed as it were on the confines of two worlds, the mind of a good man reviews what is past with the complacency of an approving conscience; and looks forward, with humble confidence in the mercy of God, and with devout aspirations towards his eternal and ever-increasing favour.
What is seen in different stages of the same life, is still more exemplified in the lives of different animals. Animal enjoyments are infinitely diversified. The modes of life, to which the organization of different animals respectively determines them, are not only of various but of opposite kinds. Yet each is happy in its own. For instance; animals of prey live much alone; animals of a milder constitution, in society. Yet the herring, which lives in shoals, and the sheep, which lives in flocks, are not more happy in a crowd, or more contented amongst their companions, than is the pike, or the lion, with the deep solitudes of the pool, or the forest.
But it will be said, that the instances which we have here brought forward, whether of vivacity or repose, or of apparent enjoyment derived from either, are picked and favourable instances. We answer, first, that they are instances, nevertheless, which comprise large provinces of sensitive existence; that every case which we have described, is the case of millions. At this moment, in every given moment of time, how many myriads of animals are eating their food, gratifying their appetites, ruminating in their holes, accomplishing their wishes, pursuing their pleasures, taking their pastimes! In
each individual, how many things must go right for it to be at ease; yet how large a proportion out of every species is so in every assignable instant! Secondly, we contend, in the terms of our original proposition, that throughout the whole of life, as it is diffused in nature, and as far as we are acquainted with it, looking to the average of sensations, the plurality and the preponderancy is in favour of happiness by a vast excess. In our own species, in which perhaps the assertion may be more questionable than in any other, the prepollency of good over evil, of health, for example, and ease, over pain and distress, is evinced by the very notice which calamities excite. What inquiries does the sickness of our friends produce! what conversation their misfortunes! This shows that the common course of things is in favour of happiness: that happiness is the rule, misery the exception. Were the order reversed, our attention would be called to examples of health and competency, instead of disease and want.
One great cause of our insensibility to the goodness of the Creator, is the very eatensivenessof his bounty. We prize but little what we share only in common with the rest, or with the generality of our species. When
we hear of blessings, we think forthwith of successes, of prosperous fortunes, of honours, riches, preferments, i. e. of those advantages and superiorities over others, which we happen either to possess, or to be in pursuit of, or to covet. The common benefits of our nature entirely escape us. Yet these are the great things. These constitute what most properly ought to be accounted blessings of Providence; what alone, if we might so speak, are worthy of its care. Nightly rest and daily bread, the ordinary use of our limbs, and senses, and understandings, are gifts which admit of no comparison with any other. Yet, because almost every man we meet with possesses these, we leave them out of our enumeration. They raise no sentiment; they move no gratitude. Now, herein, is our judgment perverted by our selfishness. A blessing ought in truth to be the more satisfactory, the bounty at least of the donor is rendered more conspicuous, by its very diffusion, its commonness, its cheapness; by its falling to the lot, and forming the happiness, of the great bulk and body of our species, as well as of ourselves. Nay, even when we do not possess it, it ought to be matter of thankfulness that others do. But we have a different way of thinking. We
court distinction. That is not the worst: we see nothing but what has distinction to recommend it. This necessarily contracts our views of the Creator's beneficence within a narrow compass; and most unjustly. It is in those things which are so common as to be no distinction, that the amplitude of the Divine benignity is perceived.
But pain, no doubt, and privations exist, in numerous instances, and to a degree, which, collectively, would be very great, if they were compared with any other thing than with the mass of animal fruition. For the application, therefore, of our proposition to that mixed state of things which these exceptions induce, two rules are necessary, and both, I think, just and fair rules. One is, that we regard those effects alone which are accompanied with proofs of intention: The other, that when we cannot resolve all appearances into benevolence of design, we make the few give place to many; the little to the great; that we take our judgment from a large and decided preponderancy, if there be one.
I crave leave to transcribe into this place, what I have said upon this subject in my Moral
When God created the human species,
either he wished their happiness, or he wished their misery, or he was indifferent and unconcerned about either.
If he had wished our misery, he might have made sure of his purpose, by forming our senses to be so many sores and pains to us, as they are now instruments of gratification and enjoyment: or by placing us amidst objects, so ill suited to our perceptions as to have continually offended us, instead of ministering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, every thing we tasted, bitter; every thing we saw, loathsome; every thing we touched, a sting; every smell, a stench; and every sound, a discord.
If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune (as all design by this supposition is excluded) both the capacity of our senses to receive pleasure, and the supply of external objects fitted to produce it.
But either of these, and still more both of them, being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing remains but the first supposition, that God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness; and made for them the provision which he has made, with that view and for that purpose.
The same argument may be proposed in different terms; thus: Contrivance proves design: and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances: and all the contrivances which we are acquainted with, are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil, no doubt, exists; but is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache; their aching now and then is incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable from it: or even, if you will, let it be called a defect in the contrivance: but it is not the object of it. This is a distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of the sickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's hand; though, from the construction of the instrument, and the manner of using it, this mischief often follows. But if you had occasion to describe instruments of torture or execution; this engine you would say, is to extend the sinews: this to dislocate the joints; this to break the bones; this to scorch the soles of the feet. Here, pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now, nothing of this sort is to be found in the works of nature. We never
discover a train of contrivance to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, this is to irritate; this to inflame; this
duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland to secrete the humour which forms the gout; if by chance he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or to torment.
The TWO CASES which appear to me to have the most of difficulty in them, as forming the most of the appearance of exception to the representation here given, are those of venomous animals, and of animals preyingupon one another. These properties of animals, wherever they are found, must, I think, be referred to design; because there is, in all cases of the first, and in most cases of the second, an express and distinct organization provided for the producing of them. Under the first head, the fangs of vipers, the stings of wasps and scorpions, are as clearly intended for their purpose, as any animal structure is for any purpose the most incontestably beneficial. And the same thing
must, under the second head, be acknowledged of the talons and beaks of birds, of the tusks, teeth, and claws of beasts of prey, of the shark's mouth, of the spider's web, and of numberless weapons of offence belonging to different tribes of voracious insects. We cannot, therefore, avoid the difficulty by saying, that the effect was not intended. The only question open to us is, whether it be ultimately evil. From the confessed and felt imperfection of our knowledge, we ought to presume, that there may be consequences of this conomy which are hidden from us; from the benevolence which pervades the general designs of nature, we ought also to presume, that these consequences, if they could enter into our calculation, would turn the balance on the favourable side. Both these I contend to be reasonable presumptions. Not reasonable presumptions, if these two cases were the only cases which nature presented to our observation; but reasonable presumptions under the reflection, that the cases in question are combined with a multitude of intentions, all proceeding from the same author, and all, except these, directed to ends of undisputed utility. Of the vindications, however, of this conomy, which we
are able to assign, such as most extenuate the difficulty are the following. With respect to venomous bites and stings, it may be observed,--
- That, the animal itself being regarded, the faculty complained of is good: being conducive, in all cases, to the defence of the animal; in some cases, to the subduing of its prey; and, in some, probably, to the killing of it, when caught, by a mortal wound, inflicted in the passage to the stomach, which may be no less merciful to the victim, than salutary to the devourer. In the viper for instance, the poisonous fang may do that which, in other animals of prey, is done by the crush of the teeth. Frogs and mice might be swallowed alive without it.
- But it will be said, that this provision, when it comes to the case of bites, deadly even to human bodies and to those of large quadrupeds, is greatly overdone; that it might have fulfilled its use, and yet have been much less deleterious than it is. Now I believe the case of bites, which produce death in large animals (of stings I think there are none), to be very few. The experiments of the Abbé Fontana, which were numerous; go strongly to the proof of this point. He
found that it required the action of five exasperated vipers to kill a dog of a moderate size; but that, to the killing of a mouse or a frog, a single bite was sufficient; which agrees with the use which we assign to the faculty. The Abbé seemed to be of opinion, that the bite even of the rattle-snake would not usually be mortal; allowing, however, that in certain particularly unfortunate cases, as when the puncture had touched some very tender part, pricked a principal nerve for instance, or, as it is said, some more considerable lymphatic vessel, death might speedily ensue.
- It has been, I think, very justly remarked, concerning serpents, that, whilst only a few species possess the venomous property, that property guards the whole tribe. The most innocuous snake is avoided with as much care as a viper. Now the terror with which large animals regard this class of reptiles, is its protection; and this terror is founded in the formidable revenge, which a few of the number, compared with the whole, are capable of taking. The species of serpents, described by Linnæus, amount to two hundred and eighteen, of which thirty-two only are poisonous.
- It seems to me, that animal constitutions
are provided, not only for each element, but for each state of the elements, i. e. for every climate, and for every temperature; and that part of the mischief complained of, arises from animals (the human animal most especially) occupying situations upon the earth, which do not belong to them, nor were ever intended for their habitation. The folly and wickedness of mankind, and necessities proceeding from these causes, have driven multitudes of the species to seek a refuge amongst burning sands, whilst countries, blessed with hospitable skies, and with the most fertile soils, remain almost without a human tenant. We invade the territories of wild beasts and venomous reptiles, and then complain that we are infested by their bites and stings. Some accounts of Africa place this observation in a strong point of view. The deserts, says Adanson, are entirely barren, except where they are found to produce serpents; and in such quantities, that some extensive plains are almost entirely covered with them. These are the natures appropriated to the situation. Let them enjoy their existence; let them have their country. Surface enough will be left to man, though his numbers were increased a
hundred fold, and left to him, where he might live, exempt from these annoyances.
The SECOND CASE, viz. that of animals devouring one another, furnishes a consideration of much larger extent. To judge whether, as a general provision, this can be deemed an evil, even so far as we understand its consequences, which, probably, is a partial understanding, the following reflections are fit to be attended to.
- Immortality upon this earth is out of the question. Without death there could be no generation, no sexes, no parental relation, i. e. as things are constituted, no animal happiness. The particular duration of life, assigned to different animals, can form no part of the objection; because, whatever that duration be, whilst it remains finite and limited, it may always be asked, why it is no longer. The natural age of different animals varies, from a single day to a century of years. No account can be given of this; nor could any be given, whatever other proportion of life had obtained amongst them.
The term then of life in different animals being the same as it is, the question is, what mode of taking it away is the best even for the animal itself.
Now, according to the established order of nature (which we must suppose to prevail, or we cannot reason at all upon the subject), the three methods by which life is usually put an end to, are acute diseases, decay, and violence. The simple and natural life of brutes, is not often visited by acute distempers; nor could it be deemed an improvement of their lot, if they were. Let it be considered, therefore, in what a condition of suffering and misery a brute animal is placed, which is left to perish by decay. In human sickness or infirmity, there is the assistance of man's rational fellow-creatures, if not to alleviate his pains, at least to minister to his necessities, and to supply the place of his own activity. A brute, in his wild and natural state, does every thing for himself. When his strength, therefore, or his speed, or his limbs, or his senses fail him, he is delivered over, either to absolute famine, or to the protracted wretchedness of a life slowly wasted by the scarcity of food. Is it then to see the world filled with drooping, superannuated, half-starved, helpless, and unhelped animals, that you would alter the present system, of pursuit and prey?
- Which system is also to them the spring of motion and activity on both sides. The
pursuit of its prey, forms the employment, and appears to constitute the pleasure, of a considerable part of the animal creation. The using of the means of defence, or flight, or precaution, forms also the business of another part. And even of this latter tribe, we have
no reason to suppose, that their happiness is much molested by their fears. Their danger exists continually; and in some cases they seem to be so far sensible of it as to provide, in the best manner they can, against it; but it is only when the attack is actually made upon them, that they appear to suffer from it. To contemplate the insecurity of their condition with anxiety and dread, requires a degree of reflection, which (happily for themselves), they do not possess. A hare, notwithstanding the number of its dangers and its enemies, is as playful an animal as any other.
- But, to do justice to the question, the system of animal destruction ought always to be considered in strict connexion with another property of animal nature, viz. superfecundity. They are countervailing qualities. One subsists by the correction of the other. In treating, therefore, of the subject under this view (which is, I believe, the true one), our business will be, first, to point out the advantages
which are gained by the powers in nature of a superabundant multiplication; and, then, to show, that these advantages are so many reasons for appointing that system of national hostilities, which we are endeavouring to account for.
In almost all cases, nature produces her supplies with profusion. A single cod-fish spawns, in one season, a greater number of eggs, than all the inhabitants of England amount to. A thousand other instances of prolific generation might be stated, which, though not equal to this, would carry on the increase of the species with a rapidity which outruns calculation, and to an immeasurable extent. The advantages of such a constitution are two: first, that it tends to keep the world always full; whilst, secondly, it allows the proportion between the several species of animals to be differently modified, as different purposes require, or as different situations may afford for them room and food. Where this vast fecundity meets with a vacancy fitted to receive the species, there it operates with its whole effect: there it pours in its numbers, and replenishes the waste. We complain of what we call the exorbitant multiplication of some troublesome insects; not reflecting, that large portions of nature might
be left void without it. If the accounts of travellers may be depended upon, immense tracts of forest in North America would be nearly lost to sensitive existence, if it were not for gnats. In the thinly inhabited regions of America, in which the waters stagnate and the climate is warm, the whole air is filled with crowds of these insects. Thus it is, that where we looked for solitude and death-like silence, we meet with animation, activity, enjoyment; with a busy, a happy, and a peopled world. Again; hosts of miceare reckoned amongst the plagues of the north-east part of Europe; whereas vast plains in Siberia, as we learn from good authority, would be lifeless without them. The Caspian deserts are converted by their presence into crowded warrens. Between the Volga and the Yaik, and
in the country of Hyrcania, the ground, says Pallas, is in many places covered with little hills, raised by the earth cast out in forming the burrows. Do we so envy these blissful abodes, as to pronounce the fecundity by which they are supplied with inhabitants, to be an evil; a subject of complaint, and not of praise? Further; by virtue of this same superfecundity, what we term destruction, becomes almost instantly the parent of life. What we call blights,
are, oftentimes, legions of animated beings, claiming their portion in the bounty of nature. What corrupts the produce of the earth to us, prepares it for them. And it is by means of their rapid multiplication, that they take possession of their pasture; a slow propagation would not meet the opportunity.
But in conjunction with the occasional use of this fruitfulness, we observe, also, that it allows the proportion between the several species of animals to be differently modified, as different purposes of utility may require. When the forests of America come to be cleared, and the swamps drained, our gnats will give place to other inhabitants. If the population of Europe should spread to the north and the east, the mice will retire before the husbandman and the shepherd, and yield their station to herds and flocks. In what concerns the human species, it may be a part of the scheme of Providence, that the earth should be inhabited by a shifting, or perhaps a circulating population. In this conomy, it is possible that there may be the following advantages: When old countries are become exceedingly corrupt, simpler modes of life, purer morals, and better institutions, may rise up in new ones, whilst fresh soils reward the cultivator with more plentiful returns. Thus
the different portions of the globe come into use in succession as the residence of man; and, in his absence, entertain other guests, which, by their sudden multiplication, fill the chasm. In domesticated animals, we find the effect of their fecundity to be, that we can always command numbers; we can always have as many of any particular species as we please, or as we can support. Nor do we complain of its excess; it being much more easy to regulate abundance, than to supply scarcity.
But then this superfecundity, though of great occasional use and importance, exceeds the ordinary capacity of nature to receive or support its progeny. All superabundance supposes destruction, or must destroy itself. Perhaps there is no species of terrestrial animals whatever, which would not overrun the earth, if it were permitted to multiply in perfect safety; or of fish, which would not fill the ocean: at least, if any single species were left to their natural increase without disturbance or restraint, the food of other species would be exhausted by their maintenance. It is necessary, therefore, that the effects of such prolific faculties be curtailed. In con junction with other checks and limits, all subservient to the same purpose, are the thinnings
which take place among animals, by their action upon one another. In some instances we ourselves experience, very directly, the use of these hostilities. One species of insects rids us of another species; or reduces their ranks. A third species, perhaps, keeps the second within bounds: and birds or lizards are a fence against the inordinate increase by which even these last might infest us. In other, more numerous, and possibly more important, instances, this disposition of things, although less necessary or useful to us, and of course less observed by us, may be necessary and useful to certain other species; or even for the preventing of the loss of certain species from the universe: a misfortune which seems to be studiously guarded against. Though there may be the appearance of failure in some of the details of Nature's works, in her great purposes there never are. Her species never fail. The provision which was originally made for continuing the replenishment of the world, has proved itself to be effectual through a long succession of ages.