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semblances or distinctions," without any reference to their
“ It may not be the habit of all men to obey conscience-its precise function being to take cognizance of the right and the wrong, of the ought and the ought not. The supremacy of conscience, therefore, may be regarded as an identical proposition. To say that it is right to obey conscience, is to say that it is right to do what is right.”. Dr. Chalmers extends the authority of conscience to the credentials and subjectmatter of the Scriptures. And he infers the duty of all men to examine the Bible, from the fact that its lessons do, at first sight, commend themselves to the moral faculty. The sovereignty, which is here claimed for conscience, should not be lost sight of in examining some of the details of the author's system. In estimating certain opinions respecting the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity (Inst. Theol. Vol. I. pp. 447–476], it will be found to possess especial value.
IV. Existence of God. On this theme Dr. Chalmers rejects all the à priori reasonings as worthless, except so far as they serve to show the historical progress of the argument, and to indicate the congeniality of the doctrine to the human mind. Nor does he stop with these exclusions. “Besides the à priori, there is a certain à posteriori style of reasoning, which, to our apprehension, is alike invalid and meaningless with the former. It begins with matter as an effect, and would thence reason upwards to a cause or maker of it.” 8 Theologians have styled this the Cosmological argument. But Dr. Chalmers denies the validity of the reasonings by which they attempt to show that matter is not eternal and self-existent. Even if this attempt should prove successful, he would reject the argument as “metaphysical,” since it views matter simply
3 Ibid. pp. 73, 74.
as an “entity," without any regard to its properties. It is an "obscure and lofty transcendentalism.” 1
Having " descended” from the essence to the phenomena of matter, Dr. Chalmers distinguishes between the laws" and “dispositions” of the material world. He affirms that the former do not constitute a valid proof for the Divine existence ; but relies on the latter, as furnishing “ the main argument for a God from the external world.” : “ We do not ask if ever a time was when the matter of the world had no existence, or if ever a time was when the laws of this matter were not in operation; but if ever a time was when the present order of the world — its machinery and exquisite organic structures — had yet to be set up? It is in these that the wisdom of a presiding Mind is most legibly held forth to us; these form our chief, if not our only, materials on the field of external nature for the demonstration of a God." 4 Whatever may be said of the eternity of matter, Dr. Chalmers thinks that the present dispositions of matter can be shown to have had a beginning. For the proof of this he relies chiefly on the science of geology; or rather, perhaps, on the conclusions which have been reached, from the facts of geology, by the botanist and zoologist. The science of anatomy teaches that many of the organic remains, enclosed within the rocks of the earth, belonged to races of beings which are now extinct; and it is equally true that some of the present orders of animal life do not reach beyond a certain point in the history of the globe. The dispositions of matter, then, are plainly an effect. Physical science proves that they had a beginning, and that they did not come into existence as a result of the workings of natural law. This effect involves the idea of an adequate cause, which is God. It does not make him the Creator of bare matter, nor of the laws of nature; but it demonstrates his existence as an intelligent contriver. “ We know of no power, in all the magazines of nature, that could have originated the new races, whether of animals or vegetables, which now replenish our
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. pp. 74, 75. 3 Ibid. p. 77.
4 Ibid. p. 79.
2 Ibid. pp. 75, 76. 5 Ibid. pp. 81-88.
world; and at no transition in nature's history do we meet, either with a more palpable necessity, or more palpable evi. dence, for the finger and forthputting of a God."1 Dr. Chalmers has presented this argument with great force and wealth of illustration; but, in leaving out the question of the eternity of matter, he has exposed it to a very obvious objection. For, if God be not older than nature, we demand a contriving cause for him, not less than for it. Only that which is selfexistent can be without a contriver. If, then, there be contrivances in nature, does not this fact, of itself, prove that nature is a created existence?
Dr. Chalmers does not recognize the doctrine of primary beliefs, so ably stated by the best Scottish philosophers, in his argument for the Divine existence. “ The argument by which we reason upward from a workmanship to a workman, or from a structure of any sort, in which we behold part adapted to part in the relations of convenience and order, to an artificer of adequate strength and skill for the completion of it - this argument is strictly and altogether an experimental one ; and to seek for any other on which to vindicate the conclusion, beside being mystical and unsatisfactory, is, in our apprehension, wholly uncalled for.” ? Having thus denied that our belief in the connection of the terms in every sequence is instinctive, Dr. Chalmers attempts to answer the celebrated objection of Mr. Hume, that we have no experience in world-making. The reply of the theologian to the skeptic is satisfactory; though it would not be so, if it did not tacitly assume the validity of certain beliefs of the human mind which are independent of experience.
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 89. 2 Ibid. p. 92. 8 Ibid. pp. 93-98.
4 We find ourselves not alone in the want felt in this part of Dr. Chalmers's writings. A recent work has the following: “We consider that these writers (Chalmers and others) while rightly repudiating the conclusiveness of à priori reasoning in reference to our subject [Theism], have failed to set forth, and even to apprehend with comprehensiveness and clearness, the subjective conditions, or principles, which their à posteriori argument at once presupposes as its essential basis, and demands in order to its complete and effective validity.” Tulloch's Theism, p. 8
The other general argument, adduced by Dr. Chalmers for the being of God (he gives but two), is drawn from the mental phenomena, especially from those of conscience. He prefers this argument to that from design in nature, since it throws light upon the Divine character. " It is obvious that were the views of an inquirer after God confined to the material world, he could infer nothing from all he saw as to the moral, but only as to the natural attributes of its maker.” 1 But the fact that pity is awakened in the minds of men at the sight of distress, that vice excites their abhorrence, and patriotism, their admiration, proves the existence of a righteous God, who has thus wisely constituted the human mind. “[The workings of conscience) suggest the idea, and more than this, we doubt not, the conviction -- the firm, yea the sound and warrantable conviction - of a God, based, too, on an argumentum à posteriori ; and if not the result of an inferential process, since to be a process it must consist of several steps, .yet as good as this, an instant conclusion of the mind, and which comes to us as if with the speed of lightning, in the course of one rapid transition from the feeling of a judge within the breast, to the faith of a Judge and a Maker who placed it there. This internal evidence outweighs in impression, and perhaps also in real and substantive validity, all the external evidence that lies in those characters of design, which are so variously and voluminously inscribed on the face of the material world. It has found an access for itself to all bosoms. We have not to look abroad for it, but it is felt by each man within the little homestead of his own heart; and this theology of conscience has done more to uphold a sense of God in the world than all the theology of academic demonstration.” ?
V. Future Life. As introductory to this topic, Dr. Chalmers briefly notices the problem of the origin of moral evil. “ We attempt no
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 105.
Ibid. p. 103.
positive solution of this question; but are far from regarding the conjectural solutions of Leibnitz and others as altogether worthless. It is enough for our purpose, that they might be the just and true solutions, for aught we know. It is thus that the objection grounded on this difficulty against the religious system in any form, if not mastered and overcome, is at least neutralized.” 1
Dr. Chalmers presents but two arguments for the immor. tality of the soul, taken from the same sources as those on which he rested the doctrine of the divine existence. « The first of these arguments is grounded on that general law of adaptation which is observable throughout all nature.”He dwells with much apt and splendid illustration on the prevalence of such a law. The nice correspondence of the objective to the subjective is traced throughout the lower orders of created life. “ The inferior animals (have) an actual fulness of enjoyment up to the measure and capacity of their actual powers of enjoyment.”8 6 That the creature man should be endowed with capacities and desires, and yet be left unprovided with objects whereon to exercise or to indulge them, were a sort of half-formed or unfinished economy, most unlike to all that we can observe in
other department of nature or experience, and most incongruous with all our notions of that wisdom which is so discernible in all creation besides, as one of the best established while also one of the highest of the natural attributes of God."*
The main reliance of Dr. Chalmers, to prove a future life, is on the argument from conscience.“ The cry of the oppressed on earth reaches heaven's throne, and enters into the ears of Him who sitteth thereon; and by whose coming awards
1 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 120. “I know not why it is that moral evil exists in the universe of the All-Wise and All-Powerful; nor through what occult law of Deity it is that “perfection should come through suffering. The question, like that satellite, ever attendant on our planet, which presents both its sides to the sun, but invariably the same side to the earth, hides one of its faces from man, and turns it to but the eye from which all light emanates. And it is in that God-ward phase of the question that the mystery dwells." — Hugh Miller's" FootPrints of the Creator," p. 327.
2 Insts. Theol. Vol. I. p. 123. 3 Ibid. p. 124. • Ibid. p. 125.