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stitution, as also probably is the case with the other fixed stars.
Analogical conjecture, then, has been broached (under the name of the nebular hypothesis,) to illustrate the process of the formation of our own system by what we behold in its different, and probably successive stages in other cases. It has been imagined that our system has been gradually evolved and condensed out of the nebula to which it belongs, and each of its planetary masses gradually consolidated from a previous state of expanded nebulosity. And this idea is further strengthed from the consideration of the probable high temperature from which our globe is believed to have cooled down to its present condition, and consequently to have undergone progressive condensation. While we have again the analogy of comets ; nebulous masses of extremely attenuated matter, yet existing as parts of our system; and still further, what recent observation has rendered very probable, vast quantities of unconsolidated particles and small masses of matter traversing space, and occasioning the phenomena of aërolites and meteoric stones.
Such elevated ideas as these views are calculated to suggest, it might be supposed would be among those which, above all others, religious minds would be prone to cherish and delight in, more especially as carrying us a step towards a conception of the Creator's operations; yet, from some perversion which it is difficult to comprehend, no hypothesis has been more vehemently assailed and calumniated as at variance with all religious impressions.
Argument from Physical to Moral Causation.
FROM what has been advanced, the proper course of our reasoning on these elevated subjects will be evident.
In physical science let us direct our inquiries to the contemplation of the order, arrangement, and adjustment among natural facts and laws, which we infer by legitimate induction. Let us keep the terms of our reasoning distinct and explicit, and conduct our sublimest speculations solely by an extended, but wholly independent collection of the universal manifestation of design and prospective arrangement, from the mere naked investigation of physical laws and causes. When such inferences have been carefully made,—when such indications have been dispassionately collected, then, in the order of just reasoning, we can advance to the sublime contemplations suggested by such evidences. This distinction, so often unheeded, is in fact the chief ground of Bacon's* reply to the censures cast on his system as neglecting the study of final causes,
* See De Augm. Scient., lib. iii., cap. 4 and 5. For a full vindication of Bacon on other grounds as well as this, the reader will refer to Lord Brougham's Discourse on Natural Theology, part i., sect. vi. Also, Mr. Whewell's Bridgewater Treatise, chap. 7.
and which has been reiterated by some modern writers.
What he objects to is the violation of all correct order of reasoning by assuming the theological view of final causes in physical inquiries, where it should be the very thing to be deduced and proved.
The fault to be guarded against is that of taking any metaphysical notions of final causes, any reference to moral causation, as the basis and guide of physical theories. In proportion as we do this we vitiate the conclusions of natural theology by an argument in a circle. We assume the point to be proved. This was precisely the error of Descartes and his school. From assumed metaphysical ideas of the Deity and his attributes they affected to reason downwards to the deduction of the laws and phenomena of nature. “ It is manifest,” says Descartes, " that we shall follow the best way of philosophizing if, from the knowledge of God himself, we endeavour to deduce the knowledge of the things created by Him—that thus we may attain the most perfect kind of science, the knowledge of effects from their causes*.” He was accused of neglecting “ final causes.” The fact was, in one sense, the consideration of them was in his system superfluous; in another, the whole theory consisted of nothing else.
This system was charged with having an atheistic
* See his Principia Philosophiæ, &c. and for particular instances, The Laws of Motion deduced from the Immutability of the Deity, part ii., sect 37 and 42.
tendency. In one sense, this was palpably untrue, as the whole of it was built on the supposition of the Divine attributes; in another, it might be open to the accusation if it be allowed that a system is injurious to the cause of religion which destroys and confounds all rational evidence of its truth. This remark may not be destitute of application even at the present day. The system of Descartes, as such, has now no adherents; but there are reasoners of several schools who fall into precisely the mistake here exposed*.
Thus then it is that the study of physical causes (understood in the simple meaning which we have before endeavoured to fix,) while it supplies the unassailable evidence of design and adjustment, as unavoidably carries us thence onward to the idea of an Intelligence from which that design emanated, and of an agency by which that adjustment was produced. It brings us, in a word, to recognise an influence of another kind, of an order different from, and far above that of physical causes or material action :—to acknowledge a sublime moral cause, the universally operating source of creative power and providential wisdom. But we grasp these truths only in their proofs and manifestations. Of the mode of influence or operation we are wholly and necessarily ignorant; even in ordinary cases of moral agents within the scope of our observation we fail
* See Note F.
entirely in conceiving the mode in which mind can influence matter; much more then must this be the case with regard to the unseen and infinite moral cause of the system of the universe.
Secondary Causes, and the First Cause.
By such considerations as those above adduced on sound and unexceptionable grounds, we establish the momentous and elevated truth, of one great moral cause of all things; and in this sense, as referring to the idea of designing wisdom and infinite intelligence, we perceive the wide distinction between the use of the term “ cause," and that adopted when we speak of secondary or physical “causes.”
We have already noticed, in other cases, the ambiguîties arising from the diversity of meaning attached to the same term “cause.” Here, then, it becomes more peculiarly necessary if we adopt the popular expression, “the First Cause,” to recur carefully to the distinction, if we would preserve any clearness of reasoning
We refer to senses of the term absolutely distinct in kind. Nor is it a term of mere verbal difference. It is of importance, whether in guarding against fallacies in evidence or in answering the cavils of scepticism.
Now, the result of our inquiry into the nature of physical causes was such as to carry our ideas rather to the extension of order and uniformity than to the suc