« PreviousContinue »
that in respect to the inhabitants of this world, such is an essential part of the Divine plan. Whether that plan, however, includes a continuation of the existence of man, or any of the animal tribes associated with him, beyond the present life, must be learned, if learned at all, from other sources.
The second argument is from the law of continuance. It is briefly this. Whatever exists will continue to exist until something occur to destroy it. This proposition is in accordance with an original principle of belief, and its truth is moreover confirmed by the universal experience of mankind. Our powers of perception and action exist. They will therefore continue to exist until something occur to destroy them. The only event from which we can apprehend the destruction of these powers is death. That death will destroy them, cannot however be inferred either from the reason of the thing or from the analogy of nature. Nor is the connection subsisting between our live ing powers and the bodily organs through which they are exercised, so far as we are able to trace it, of such a nature as to afford the slightest presumption that the dissolution of the latter will be the destruction of the former. On the other hand, from the fact that our powers of reason, memory and affection are not dependant in any such manner as those of sense, or so far as we know in any manner at all upon our bodily organs, and from the fact that in many cases of mortal disease these powers remain in full exercise up to the last moment, there is good reason to believe that they are in no way affected by death—that they are altogether beyond the reach of the king of terrors.
There is therefore good reason to believe that our living powers, including those of perception and action, as well as of memory, imagination, affection, etc. will survive death.
This train of reasoning and illustration which forms the main argument of bishop Butler, for a future life, is, we think, open to criticism at several different points. In commenting upon it, however, we shall confine ouselves to two general remarks.
The first is, that could we demonstrate the distinct nature and entire independence of the soul, could we prove beyond all doubt or question, that it sustains no other relations to the body than such as are necessary to enable each to act upon and receive impressions from the other, this would of itself afford no ground for the belief that the soul is destined to survive the body. The two having been created to form by their union the same compound being, why should we suppose one of them to be continued in existence more than the other, after that being has accomplished the purposes for which it was made, and its career of life and action is terminated ? Since
Powers of the Mind dependent on the Body.
they commence their existence at the same time, and grow up together, unfolding their respective powers and faculties in constant and harmonious relation to one another, why should we not suppose the parallel to be continued, and both on the termination of life to be alike resolved into their original elements ? Indeed such is probably the fact in respect to all the lower animals.
The second remark is, that under our present constitution, the powe ers of reason, memory, and imagination, are just as much dependent upon certain parts of the body as those of sensation or perception. This is evident from the effect produced by disorders of the brain, the portion of the organization with which the spirit has its immediate connection. These commonly disturb the exercise of the former class of powers even sooner than they do that of the latter, and almost always to a much greater extent. Few persons, we apprehend, who have suffered only from slight irritability of that organ, can have failed to be conscious of a stronger tendency of the circulation towards it after any serious exertion of the mental faculties. That spontaneous succession of ideas which constitutes the natural train of thought, and which sleep or a swoon alone interrupts, would seem, in our present state, to be the result of one continued series of organic impressions-impressions similar in character, it is probable, to those by which the ideas were originally introduced to the mind. Indeed we are inclined to believe that perception and conception, whether considered in themselves or in relation to the causes which immediately produce them, are more nearly allied to one another than is commonly imagined. We think there is reason to suppose that they both depend upon the action of the same specific portions of the brain, and that the main difference between them consists in that action having its origin, in the one case, in impressions made upon the outward senses, while in the other it springs from babit, and is, to a greater or less extent, under the control of the will. But we will not extend our observations upon this subject, as we purpose to consider, in a separate Article, the nature and extent of the office performed by the cerebral organs, in evolving the mental phenomena. We will only add here, that no argument in favor of the separate and independent action of the mind can be drawn from the fact that, in many cases of mortal disease it retains the full possession of its powers up to the period of dissolution. In such cases, the brain is not the immediate seat of the dis ase, and its functions, like those of the heart, lungs, and many other parts of the system, continue to be performed in their accustomed manner, though not indeed with their accustomed energy, until they are finally interrupted by death. In other cases, where the brain is directly involved in the disease, either disturbance of the mental faculties or inconvenience and suffering from their exercise, are commonly among the earliest symptoms by which its existence is indicated.
In constructing his proof of a future life, as we have already intimated, we think the author of the Analogy has erred in leaving altogether out of the argument the moral nature of man and his capacity for improvement-the two features of his constitution by which he is principally distinguished from the lower tribes of the animal kingdom, and which, taken in connection with what may be discovered of the character and government of God, point, as we think, most distinctly to another and higher existence beyond the present. We are also surprised that a mind so clear and penetrating, should have failed to perceive that the real question at issue is not whether the soul be naturally or essentially immortal, but whether he who formed the soul designs to continue it forever in being; and that the answer to this question must be sought in the indications of the divine will and purpose to be gathered from our own natures and from the constitution and government of the world around us. It might be supposed that the author bad, in preference, adopted the course pursued by him, in order that he might render the argument independent of the being and attributes of God, did he not, in the commencement of the Analogy, take for granted the existence of anintelligent Framer and Governor of the universe. Owing to this misapprehension, as we think, in regard to the nature of the proposition to be established, and the consequent error in the choice of means for demonstrating it, although far more acute and subtle in his reasonings than the author of the Tusculan Questions, he does not, in fact, present so many of the true grounds for belief in the great and glorious doctrine of our immortality, as the Roman orator.
Having thus briefly reviewed the different considerations which have been urged to show, independently of the teachings of revelation, that the spirit of man is not, like his body, destined, on the termination of life, to be resolved into its component elements, we would now ask the attention of the reader, for a few moments, to a great and leading fact in the past history of our globe, which though never before considered, so far as we know, in reference to this question, we think has a real bearing upon it, which taken in connection with the capabilities and endowments of the soul, we think indicates, on the part of the Creator, a purpose to continue it in being beyond the brief period of its present existence. We refer to the gradual and progressive development of life, upon our planet, from the epoch of its earliest inhabitant down to the present hour. For a knowledge of this remark
67 able though well established fact, we are indebted to the combined labors of the geologist and the comparative anatomist. It was unknown to the ancients; nor were there any phenomena, open to their observation, which could have led them to conjecture it. Indeed, it is only within the last half century that the different physical sciences have attained a degree of advancement rendering the discovery possible. The ordinary aspect of nature, as seen from the narrow point of observation occupied by a single generation, or even the entire race of mankind, would rather lead to a different conclusion, would suggest the idea of movement without progress, of change without development. As we have already remarked, life everywhere moves in cycles. In harmony with this primary law of the organic world, we observe in the phenomena of inorganic nature, whether of greater or less magnitude, the most perfect conformity to the same type. We see it in the continued round of combinations and decompositions through which each of the elements is constantly passing. We behold it in the succesions of day and night, in vicissitude of the seasons, and in the more extended revolutions of the remoter cometic and planetary bodies, some of which require for their coinpletion the lapse of centuries. These and other similar observations naturally impress the mind, when contemplating the universe, with the idea of a vast system which, complete in itself, is each moment accomplishing the entire purpose of its creation, which, though embracing all the provisions necessary for perpetuating its existence through the cycles of eternity, tends to no other or higher results than we see at present evolved from it.
To correct the erroneous impression which we are thus liable to receive from the character of the changes occurring around us, we must turn to the past history of the earth, inscribed upon the rocky tables of its crust. From the facts recorded here we learn that, beneath this stationary and unprogressive aspect of nature, in our world at least, constant advances have been making towards a higher and more perfect state.
If we examine the oldest divisions of the fossil-bearing rocks—those which were first deposited after the earth became the abode of living beings—we discover in the organic remains wbich they contain, only Hepresentatives of the lowest classes of the several departments of the animal kingdom. The different races, forining the higher classes, had not yet been called into existence. This general fact is true of the Radiates, of the Mollusks, and of the Articulates. It is more especially true of the Vertebrates, which constitute the highest division of animals, and of which the only representatives found in these rocks are certain inferior tribes of fishes. Hence geologists have designated the long period occupied by the deposition of these ancient strata as the reign of fishes. There were as yet no reptiles, no birds, no mammals, no animals of any kind, either possessing lungs or breathing the air.
If we pass up through these ancient strata till we come to beds occupying a position midway in the series of fossiliferous rock, and examine the remains which we meet here, we shall find that a great advance has already been made in every department of animal life. Not only are the orders previously existing greatly enlarged, but animals belonging to new and higher classes make their appearance. We now have, in addition to fishes of a more advanced organization, reptiles in great numbers, some birds, and even a few mammals belonging to that remarkable family which is so largely developed at present on the continent of New Holland, and which presents a type of character in some respects intermediate between that of birds and ordinary mainmals.
On account of the great predominance, however, of the order of lizzards during the accumulation of these secondary strata, the period has been denominated the reign of reptiles.
If we, lastly, direct our attention to the upper and more recently formed layers of the fossil-bearing rocks, we shall find here still further evidences of the gradual and progressive development of animal life. Mammals, such as the horse, ox, bear, wolf, elephant, lion, etc., make their appearance in great variety and abundance. Indeed, some of the families belonging to this class, seem to bave been more largely developed than they are at present. This is especially true of the Pachyderms, of which nearly as many different species have been discovered in the gypsum of the basin of Paris, as are now known to exist on the entire face of the globe. Man, however, was still wanting, no remains either of him or of his works havir.g been found even in the newest and most superficial strata. As the mastadon, elephant, rhinoceros, and other large mammiferous quadrupeds, were the dominant animals during this period of the earth's history, it has very properly been characterized as the reign of mammals.
At length, when the fulness of time has come, man, the last and most perfect of God's works, the head and completion of the animal creation, is called into existence. In him the long line of physical advances which we have beheld is terminated. Embracing in his bodily organization a wider variety of powers, and in his mental constitution a far more extensive range of faculties than any or all of the tribes which preceded him, he presents the highest development of the original and primary conception of life that is ever to be witnessed in connection with our planet; the complete embodiment of that perfect type, towards which we have seen, in the successive races of the lower ani