« PreviousContinue »
more of the true philosophy of history than some of the sons of the world are master of, who make profound speculations upon the decline, and fall, and rise of imperial power ; though they are as wide as heaven and earth of their true cause. She bas pinned upon her sleeve the dogma, culled from her Bible, that those meteors which arise every now and then in the firmament of power, and“ brandish their chrystal tresses in the sky, to scourge the bad revolting stars ” that flout the rule of heaven's sun supreme ;- those men, to speak untypically, who fill the brightest and blackest pages of bistory with their names, are but the instruments of Providence, who fights on their sides for a time, to punish his rebellious creatures.
Having been so ignorant of prophecy as we describe at the time of our hearing Mr Irving, we thenceforward devoted our Sundays to the study of it, to see if it really could be understood. The work of Bishop Newton we took as a guide, and also looked over that of Mr Irving. In many points, however, we have found reason to differ from both these writers, as the reader will see. To learning or research this little work can make no pretension; the work of the Bishop being all the materials we had to draw upon. But in independence of thought in the interpretation of the text of prophecy by the lights which scripture sheds upon itself, it will yield to none. It is by this that we think we have been enabled to solve the great problem of determining the date of the close of the papal period, which has hitherto baffled the ingenuity of all preceding interpreters : for the failure of many of whom, however, there is, indeed, the best possible excuse; for we are expressly told, that the very words in Daniel, xii. 7, by which alone, as we shall see, the date of the close of the papal period is determined, are sealed, or rendered, by the decree of God, unintelligible to man, till after that date has transpired.
Should this little work ever chance to fall into the hands of our schoolfellow Mr Irving, we beg to assure him, that it is out of no evil disposition that we have made his work the subject of our critical comments ; but merely because it was the only modern book upon prophecy that we could, without the slightest inconvenience, lay our hands upon, it being in the circulating library of the place. And if, in the battle of our books, his should receive “ a palpable hit,” we trust that the only feeling such event will inspire in its author, will be to make his offspring, for the future, a little more “cunning in fence.”
Having said thus much of the origin of this work, we have only a few words to add of explanation regarding some doctrines advanced in the Introduction to it; lest any of our readers should misunderstand, and unwarrantably take offence at them, where none was meant. One of our main designs in writing that Introduction was to shew, how poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked the creed of the sceptic, without the light of divine revelation, must necessarily be ; and how unjust it is in him to lay claim to that knowledge for his unassisted reason, which he could only have derived from divine revelation recorded in that book, which he holds forth to the world as a mingled tissue of truth and falsehood. If the deist admit the existence of something in man beyond the grave, we defy his philosophy to prove it. He bas derived the fact from the Bible. If he contend for the existence of only one intellectual power in the universe, he cannot prove whether there is one or several. He has stolen that part of his scanty creed, without confession, from the sacred scriptures. That an intellectual power does preside at every act of human perception, thought, and loco-motion, of which man is utterly unconscious, we think we have incontrovertibly proved ; and that is all the sceptic can know. Lest the maintenance of any doctrine, however, be imputed to us which we would be amongst the first most solemnly to renounce, we think it but due to ourself to state in explicit terms, in a manner which cannot possibly be misunderstood, the principles we contend for. We do maintain, then, that no conclusive argument can be drawn from philosophy, without the light of divine revelation, of the continuance of a conscience of identity in man beyond, with himself on this side of, the grave, more than of the same in the brute creation. If this be materialism, we plead guilty to the charge. But if materialism mean, that the perceptions, thoughts, and motions of man, are merely the effect of organised matter, with an organised fluid flowing through it; then we appeal to the candour of every reader to say, whether, in our illustrative argument of human loco-motion, we have not proved, in a manner which neither deist nor atheist can gainsay, that man cannot move the smallest member of his body without the operation in him of an intelligence, of which he is utterly unconscious, and which is nothing short of that by which even the organisation of the human body must have been effected, with the view of accomplishing that very loco-motion. What philosophy, however, is not able to inform us, of the continuance of a conscience of identity in man beyond the grave, revelation, in a typical fashion, gives us to know ; for “ the souls of them which were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held,” are represented by St John in the Apocalypse as crying, from under the altar in heaven, for vengeance upon those who shed their blood upon earth.--An idle and groundless imagination, unwarranted by scripture, has got into the heads of many, that the exalted creatures of God are immaterial. What was the body even of our Saviour after his resurrection, who was no creature, but had “life in himself ;" and who swept and glided through bolted doors into the company of his apostles ; and who afterwards ascended up to heaven in their sight; what was it to the fingers of doubting Thomas, if not material ? The fact is, that what is material to one class of God's creatures, can scarcely be conceived to be so by some others, who are not possessed of the same perceptive organs. Suppose, for the sake of illustration, that the inhabitants of the moon were exactly such beings as ourselves, and possessed of the same knowledge in every respect, except that arising from the organs of sight; and that, by God's power, a man were conveyed from this earth to their satellite, and attempted to explain to them the wonderful properties of light,--that it travelled a distance of ninety-five millions of miles while one of them could walk, with a moderate pace, half a mile,—would they believe such a thing, which they could neither feel, nor taste, nor smell, nor hear, to be material ? We think they could not well conceive it to be any thing of the kind, till the inhabitant of the earth had told them that it actually was drawn aside from the straight line of its path by the attraction of matter, which was palpable to their own organs of perception, like a stone thrown from their hands dragged from its path by the attraction of their moon.
There are two different sets of men in the world, who regard the prophecies of Sacred Scripture in a very different light: one set are those, who, presuming not to call in question the existence of a Supreme Intellect, yet maintain that such a being has never revealed himself to his earthly creatures ; that although he has informed the human body with functions so wonderfully adapted to its maintenance, and with faculties so beautifully contrived for its converse with the world around it, he has yet never condescended to hold any course with his intelligent creatures, either for the purpose of manifesting to them the glory of his own attributes, or promulgating among them those laws which are best adapted to their happiness. Such men as these look upon the prophetical narratives of the Old and New Testaments as the idle dreams or waking reveries of brain-sick stition ; or, perhaps, as something still worse — the artful inventions of a cunning priesthood, written after the events which they pretend so mysteriously to have foretold. Another set are those, who, with a single-hearted, entire, and devoted faith in the divine origin of the prophecies of Holy Writ, with unwearied industry, seek to gather from the types and mystical narratives in which they are set forth, either a sketchy portraiture of the past, or a shadowy outline of what is yet to come. Now, it were well worth the while of an impartial philosopher to inquire, whether there is any thing in the creed of the latter set of men, at variance with the present amount of human knowJedge as attained to by the inductive method of Lord Bacon, without the light of divine revelation, that need make any man ashamed, however high bis scientific attainments may be, to follow under the banner of that faith, which has enrolled among its adherents some of the highest intellects that ever graced humanity.
With the view of pursuing our inquiry upon this point, more especially as relates to Prophecy, the subject of this work, let us fix upon man as the subject of our reasonings ; and let us endeavour to determine, if possible, whether the miraculous manner in which the phecies treated of in this work were communicated to their human promulgators, Daniel and St John, is or is not consistent with true philosophy. Now, it appears to us, that the best manner of proceeding in an inquiry of this kind will be, first to ascertain what knowledge,
without the light of divine revelation, man can arrive at of his own faculties ; and then to compare such knowledge with the evidence of the two witnesses of God, the Old and New Testaments, and see how the two correspond. Casting divine revelation altogether aside, then, man can be regarded as nothing more than an association of phenomena operated upon a mass of matter by a set of powers which are unknown,—a mere material machine, wherein functions are carried on, most skilfully adapted to his support and reproduction, and wherein powers operate, most excellently calculated for his converse with the material and intellectual world around him ; which faculties, however, are lost to existence the moment that the blood ceases to flow through their material organs.
Human perception, thought, and loco-motion having, thus, never been objects of human observation, but as arising from material organs by the operation of certain unknown powers, must, therefore, be considered as phenomena of the material world : and, however strange it may appear, matter must be regarded as the matrix of those very perceptions and thoughts which take cognizance of itself. Since, also, every faculty of man, and consciousness among the rest, ceases from the moment that the blood fails to circulate through its material organ in the brain, no conscience of identity in man beyond, with himself on this side of, death, can be admitted by true philosophy, without divine revelation, to exist: for the same reasoning that would infer it of man, would also infer the same of the brute creation, which have the same faculties of perception and thought as man, only in an inferior degree ; which depends, as comparative physiology informs us, more upon the less complicated structure, and smaller relative size of the brains of the former, and their want of the organs of speech, than upon any inferiority in the intelligence, by which, as we shall see, the powers of which they are conscious operate.--Because the functions and faculties of man, as well as of the lower animals, are certainly associated and directed by some intelligence to the accomplishment of certain ends, philosophy is not entitled to give to such an association of functions and faculties a name, and to talk of that name as a single entity. It would well become those metaphysicians, who turn away their
with scorn from the light of divine revelation, to shew us that they are at least philosophers, by reforming their nomenclature ; for the language which they employ is often very loose and illogical, and totally at variance with the rules which ought to be followed in the study of phenomena. Such men have given to the combination of the human faculties of perception and thought the name of “mind,” and talk of this as a real entity; whereas, to philosophy without divine revelation, it is no such thing. All that can be said by the infidel in divine revelation, who will be just and honest enough not to lay claim to more knowledge than his unenlightened reason can furnish him with, is, that man is conscious of the capability of calling into action a certain number of powers, by the operation of which upon certain organs in his body, he is made conscious of perception and thought; but he is by no means justified in concluding that these powers are the same, any more than