Page images

Medical Dispute on the Origin of Vitality.

623 boasted, and which their behaviour the last winter, a controversy was contradicts; but if your affections afloat amongst the medical professors have been engaged; if your views and students at St. Bariholomew have been comprehensive and en. Hospital. The subject in dispute was larged; if your faith have been lively one of considerable importance, referand active, which they will be in ing to nothing less than the origin of proportion to the exigencies of the the vital principle in man, or the im. moment; if you have accustomed your- mediate cause of the phenomena of selves to serious and devout prayer, life. Upon this difficult question, the you will rise from the exercise with lecturers maintained what they consi. calm and tranquil minds, without any dered opposite theories, and they undue bias, without any inordinate condescended to back their arguments wish or desire, without any selfish or by language and arts that are disunbecoming feeling, prepared to judge graceful to the professors of a liberal of the alternative which lies before science. The pupils of each lecturer you, to choose that which appears to became enlisted under the banners of be most extensively connected with their master, and the controversy asyour duty, and to leave the issue in sumed an acrimonious appearance that the hands of that Being, · who doeth savoured much of the odium theoloall things well,' and pot less prepared gicum, which unfortunately is not to acquiesce in his appointments, whe- confined to doctors in divinity. Alther they accord with your wishes or though the dispute is now terminated, not. Thus acknowledging the Divine and that in a way not very honourable agency, you will be careful to act to the parties, yet the effect likely to upon the best principles and motives, be produced upon the minds of the to determine with the greatest caution young students may be easily calcuand judgment; you will endeavour to lated; for, not only has a stop been anticipate every possible consequence put to inquiry, but religion has been of your decision, and thus you will be brought in to inflame the passions, preserved froin those errors and obli- and confirm the prejudices of another quities into wbich they are liable to generation. fall who know not God, who do not The lecturers having made the seek, and who do not seem to value public a party to their disputes by the his direction and blessing."

publication of their lectures, there can J. W. be no indelicacy in repeating their

names, or animadverting on their proYork,

ductious. With the nature of the September 15, 1819. controversy your readers may make THI THE biographier of the late Mr. theinselves acquainted, by consulting

Cappe's Memoirs, begs leave to the Physiological Lectures delivered reply, in answer to the suggestion of at Bartholomew Hospital by Mr. E. F., [p. 494,) that it would give her Abernethy and Mr. Lawrence, two of great pleasure to prepare a republica. the surgeons to that institution. Upon tion in the manner he suggests, and in the subject matter of it, all that will a cheap form, if she should find upon be necessary to be observed here is, inquiry, that the Tract Societies would that the theory of life contended for be disposed to promote the circula. with so much asperity by Mr. Abernetion.

thy, is, that it is a principle distinct

from, and super-added to organizaJuly 21, 1819. tion, being the same as was mainA

S your work is sometimes the tained by the late eminent Mr. John

vehicle of scientific intelligence, Hunter. What this principle is, he and

many of your readers feel inte. does not informi us, but intimates that rested in those events that have a ten- it is either electricity, or something dency either to accelerate or impede analogous to it. He is more silent the march of kuowledge, perhaps the still as to the period or stage of orgafollowing communicatiou, which hus nization when be supposes this prina reference to what I consider the ciple to be communicated. Mr. Lawmore unfortunate view of the subject, rence rejects this theory as fictitious, may not be unacceptable.

and following Cuvier, Bichat, and You are probably aware that during other French surgeons, maintains that


life is an essential part, and the result but then it acts differently upon the of organization.

great mass of society, with whom it Now, Mr. Editor, whichever of serves as a scare-crow, and therefore these opinions be right, or whether, the better suits his purpose. Medical indeed, there be any essential differ- men are generally supposed to derive ence between them, there certainly their opinions from demonstrable facts; can be nothing in either to warrant and whatever is not of this sort is, with a declaration of war, or the indulgence them, matter of doubt or scepticism. of any other feelings in a wise man Mr. Abernethy may fancy bimself than a wish to see the truth promoted exempt from the charge; but I have by fair and peaceable discussion. reason to know that in what is called Lofortunately, however, medical men “the religious world,” he is considered are slaves to system as much as theo- as much a sceptic as his opponent. logians, and they can descend to the He tells us that in France, “a pation same arts to silence an opponent. where the writings of its philosophers Neither of the gentlemen referred to and wits have greatly contributed to has been sparing in the language of demoralize the people,” he does not abuse; but Mr. Abernethy, by the wonder that physiological studies dextrous use of a weapon peculiarly should be rendered conformable to bis own, has contrived to put down what is esteemed most philosophical his adversary beyond the power of a or clever; but that their principles resurrection. If you ask me what should be extolled in England, be this weapon is; I answer, the cry of thinks “ cannot but excite the surheresy. Mr. Abernethy has disco. prise and indignation of any one fully vered that the tenet of his opponent apprized of their pernicious tendency." upon the subject of life is sceptical, With reference to the system of his and of a demoralizing nature, and opponents, he says, “Whoever, there therefore dangerous to society. fore, inculcates opinions tending to

In the progressive state of science, subvert morality, benevolence, and the it often happens that men outlive social interests of mankind, deserves their early opinions. If this proves the severest reprobation from every noihing else, it is at any rate a good member of our profession, because his argument for proposing them with conduct must bring it into distrust modesty, and will save us eventually with the public." If this passage much shame and self-reproach. To stood alone, no person would object stigmatize an opinion with ill names is to it; but applying, as he means it, oftentimes a substitute for argument; to the theory of his opponent, it sabut when this is not the case, it is the vours too much of the disingenuous mark of a bad temper, and shews arts of controversy. For myself, I am plainly that we are not willing to not prepared to say whether the system trust solely to the evidence of truth, of materialism, which I suppose to be It is also unfair and unphilosophical the result of Mr. Lawrence's theory, to measure an opinion by its sup- be true or false ; but I really cannot posed consequences.

Medical men,

see that the belief of it involves the above all others, should abstain from serious cousequences imagined by Mr. such a mode of reasoning; for they Abernethy. That tbis gentleman does ought to know that a strong religious not always reason accurately, even prejudice prevails in the world agaiust where he appears to be most at home, the profession itself, on account of the is evident from the following pasage: supposed sceptical tendency of their “ What Mr. Hunter thought al-cut studies.

sensation, I know not; what I think, I The most obnoxious passages in willingly declare, which is, that it can Mr. Abernethy's work are to be found be neither the result of organization, in his first Lecture; where he takes nor an affection of mere life. In rea. frequent opportunity of designating soning on the motions of the matter his opponents as “ sceptics," which surrounds us, and also of that of dern sceptics,” and “ professed scep- which we are composed, we must ties." This term he well knows to grant either that the atoms are inobe of innocent signification, and ra- tive, or that they are impelled to ther honourable than otherwise, as

So also in reasoning with implying reflection and judgment: respect to sensation, if the atonis be




On the Rev. Samuel Newton's Objections to the Improved Version. 625 not sentient, it is impossible to sup- us right. The exertion of any other pose that sensation can result from authority in matters of science is althe arrangement or motion of insen- ways dangerous, and fails to answer sible atoms." This argumeut may be the end. It may restrain the actions, refuted by the analogy of a watch, but cannot fetter the mind. It may which, when taken to pieces, is desti- impede tbe march of knowledge, but tute of motion in any of its parts; but capuot extinguish it. To judge of a when put together again in a skilful question by its supposed tendency, is inanner, acquires motion as the result to begin at the wrong end of the arof combination.

gument; for if a fact be ascertained, I have no wish in any thing I have we may safely leave its consequences. said, to derogate from the professional These are often imaginary, always merit of the above gentleman, whose exaggerated, and the less the mind is fame, I believe, stands deservedly inured to reasoning, the more easily high, and his works fraught with will it be operated upon by the passion solid instruction. But great men are of fear. The safest way to get rid of not always wise, and superior talent error is to let it take its course, and it is sometimes neutralized by acerbity will be sure to melt before the sunof disposition.

shine of truth. But the worst part of the drama

W. W. remaios bebind. The governors of the charitable institution to which both gentlemen are surgeons, having On the Rev. Samuel Newton's Objecdecided that Mr. Lawrence's opinious

tions to the Improved Version. are of a dangerous tendency, sus

LETTER IV. pended him from two of his appoint

SIR, ments, and there is no saying how much further they would have proceeded, 7.

THE wrathful writer of the had he not appeased them by sup

“ Trinitarian's Appeal Depressing his book. This circumstance fended," in his Seventh Letter vents he announced in his opening Lecture his displeasure in his usual indignaut of the present season, in which he style against the Editors of the Im. stated that he had acted in deference proved Version, for having presumed to the opinion of his friends, who con. to interpret the language of the New sidered his work as having a bad Testament in a sense favourable to religious tendency; his own views in the suspension of perception during it, however, were purely physiolo- the interval between death and the gical, referring merely to explanations resurrection. Every theological schoof the animal economy, the actions it lar knows that there has always been is capable of performing, &c. He a diversity of opinions among inqui. apologized to Mr. Abernethy for the sitive persons upon this subject. Luasperities of his pen; but declared, at ther was a zealous advocate for the the same time, that he saw no reason

suspension of thought: Calvin was for changing his opinions upon the equally, or even more, zealous in suppoint in debate. With this partial porting the commonly-received doccompromise the disputes at the hos- trine of the intermediate state. In pital have pretty well subsided. this country the question has been

I shall not detain your readers fur- ably dissussed between Mr. Hallett ther than by expressing my regret ‘and Mr. Grove: and the writings of that the researches of scientific men Bishop Law, Dr. Peckard and Archshould be controlled by the religious deacon Blackburne, seem almost to prejudices of persons who are incom. have set the question at rest in the petent to estimate the value of their estimation of the thinking part of the labours. The facts of science must be community. But this writer, just as tried by their own merits, by their if he had never heard of the subject consonance to nature, which is always before, calumniates the Editors of an infallible guide. It is true, we the Improved Version, as if they had may sometimes mistake the mode of been the inventors and first propaher operations; but when this is the gators of a novel and dangerous hecase, it is the province of reason to sctresy.

“ There is one point,” says he, pp. gross blunderer in his interpretation 76, &c. “in which the New Theology of Scripture: and Mr. Newton“ is proposes nothing grateful except to an honourable, a very honourable the wicked. I refer to the doctrine of man." an intermediate state between death 8. The next charge which is aland the resurrection. This state, ac- leged against the Editors of the Imcording to the new opinions, is an proved Version is the old story, p.85, unconscious one. ... The Editors of that “they have but little reverence the New Version come forth to offer for the writers or writings of the New us the grave instead of paradise: and Testament." This learned critic is the darkness of continued death for one of that good sort of divines who the joys of light and life. Do you receive every book as canonical, which think we shall be disposed to listen to they have been taught to call canonithem and believe them? .... Tri- cal; and who believe that every cafling, indeed, and worse than trifling, nonical book is inspired. This easy are the arguments adduced by the and Jumping faith is also a most conAuthors of the New Version on this venient faith. It saves all the labour subject. Criticism must be all mouth of inquiry, all the trouble of discriand no argument, if their conduct in mination, and obviates all difficulties this matter be deemed critical and at once: “ Alps are no Alps to that : weighty."

difficulties are no difficulties to that." Is it possible that this writer should If it cannot understand it cau believe; never have heard of the controversy and if it cannot remove mountains, it concerning an intermediate state, till can at least swallow them. To such he looked into the Improved Version! a faith the Epistle of Jude is of equal and does he set himself up as a critic authority with the Gospel of Luke: and a judge? His arguments in de- and it yields as ready an assent to the fence of the popular doctrine are tri- tale of a quarrel between Michael and fling in the extreme; but with those the devil about the body of Moses, as we have at present no concern. He to the momentous and strongly autakes upon himself, however, to be thenticated narrative of the crucivery angry at the translation and in- fixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. terpretation of certain texts relating It is but too true that those graceto this subject, particularly Heb. xii. less and “ impudent witlings," the 22, where he accuses them, in bis Editors of the Improved Version, were usual polite style, of “playing their not gifted with this wholesome faith. pranks again with angels." He is in a far differeut way do these "iga also highly offended with Mr. Lind. norant and childish blunderers" mani. sey's interpretation of i Pet. iii. 18, fest their respect to the records of 19, who explains the words " spirits divive revelation. Being strongly in prison," of idolatrous Gentiles, and impressed with the conviction that not of human ghosts now in hell, whatever bears the stamp of divine whom Christ visited and instructed, authority, is to be received with the as this gentleman would have us be most unreserved submission, they relieve: and in the plenitude of his gard it as a sacred and imperative critical authority he denounces Mr. duty to make the most rigid inquiry Lindsey's interpretation, as adopted into the character and evidence of by the Editors of the Improved Ver. whatever lays claim to this high dission, to be “ a most confused and tinction; that they may not, through blundering method of setting aside indolence and negligence, admit errothe faith of Christ's pre-existence, and

neous traditions and human joven. of the existence of spirits now in tions as the word of God. And as prison.". And if this gentleman says the books of the New Testament

, that it is blundering, who shall say which contain the doctrine of Christ it is not? It is true, that Mr. Lind- and his apostles, were not all written sev was known and respected at Cam. at the sanie time, are not all of equal bridge as an excellent scholar, as authority, and were not collected and eminent for learning, as for piety, for put together by any su pernatural dihumility, and for charity. But Mr. rection, their first concern was to Newton says Mr. Lindsey was a inquire that books were really writ

On the Rer. Samuel Newton's Objections to the Improved Version.


ten by the apostles, and by apostolic This writer, p. 88, gravely acknowmen : and then to examive in what ledges, “I believe it has not been respects and to what degree any of very common for a very long space of these writings may have been cor- time for serious, learned and curious rupted by the inadvertence or unfaith individuals to have doubts concerning fulness of transcribers : and, finally, particular parts of the sacred writ. to distinguish with the utmost care ings." The whole of bis injudicious and caution between those portions and uncandid performance pretty of holy writ which were penned clearly shews that the line of the Auunder the impression of immediate thor's reading extends to a very short inspiration, and which justly demand distance beyond the writers of his unqualified assent, and those facts and own sect and persuasion. Yet still arguments wbich may reasonably be one would have thought that so very regarded as the production of the learned a critic might perchance have writer's natural powers, and which, heard the name of the Rev. Edward of course, are open to sober and can- Evauson, who was as

“ serious" as did examination and criticism. All “ learned," and as “ curious" an inthis takes up much time, and re- quirer after truth as ever graced the quires no inconsiderable portion of annals of literature or of Christianity; patient application : and not with and who bad better opportunities standing every precaution, they may, than many have, of manifesting the after all, deviate into some errone. strength of his principle by the costly ous conclusions. They will be sure sacrifices which he made at the shrine to see many things in a different light of conscience. This gentleman quesfrom the vulgar herd of implicit be- tioned the authenticity of all the salievers : and they may certainly de. cred historians excepting Luke; and pend upon being stigmatized with denied the genuineness of many of the every epithet of disgrace and infamy Epistles of Paul. I admire the ingeby those who either cannot, or dare nuity, and revere the integrity of Mr. not, or will not, examine for them. Evanson; but I do not adopt his selves. And it is only such“ wit couclusions. I have, however, known lings" as the Editors of the Improved some persons of sense, of learning and Version, who value truth and a good of serious inquiry, who have been conscience, and the Divine approba- convinced by Mr. Evansou's argution above all other considerations, ments. But I never heard the terms who will either give themselves the “ impudent and blundering witlings," trouble, or expose themselves to the or the like, applied to them, because obloquy of such an examination as I of the peculiarity of their persuasion. have described.

It was my happiness to have been Upon these grounds the Editors of brought up in a school in whiclı such the Improved Version make a dis. language was not in use. And after tinction between those books of the all, how little is this angry gentleman New Testament which were received qualified to pronounce a judgment in unanimously by the Christians of the the case, when, by his own confession, three first centuries, and those whose he is quite ignorant that any differgenuineness was called in question by ences of opinion had “ for a very long early Christian writers; and whatever time" subsisted among the learned respect they may see reason to pay upon these subjects. And, indeed, the to the latter, as writings venerable whole tenor of his intemperate work for their antiquity, they perfectly corroborates his honest confession of agree with the judicious Lardner, ignorance, and too plainly proves that that “they are not to be alleged as his criticisms, such as they are, were affording alone sufficient proof of any more frequently the result of irritable doctrine." This distinction, however, feelings, than of calm inquiry, or ex. will not do for our learned critic, who tensive information. would find himself sadly at a loss for 9. This writer quarrels with the a proof of the fall of angels, if the Editors of the Improved Version, p. second Epistle of Peter and the Epis- 90, for representing the language tle of Jude were (as the latter unques. which describes our Lord's exaliation tionably ought) to be withdrawn from as bighly figurative. “ Christians,"

says he, that is, those of his own sort,

the canon.

« PreviousContinue »