صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

where the only effect of our exertions would be the improvement and strengthening of our own muscular frame. We cannot believe that the Author of nature would so deceive us, or implant in us desires and expectations which are never to be gratified. Does not this afford a strong argument, that there is more in prayer, and in the effect of prayer, than its mere reflex influence upon our own minds? and that as our natural feelings, implanted by God, lead us to expect that he will hear and answer us, hence it must be true that he will, when he sees fit, actually hear and vouchsafe an answer? Of course such answer may not always be the granting of the specific request made by us at the time. All that is necessary, and all that is contended for is, that there may be a real hearing, and a real answer.

When, in addition to this argument from natural feeling, we take into view the confirmation afforded by the express injunctions of Scripture to "make our requests known unto God," and the numerous express declarations, that if we pray in faith he will send us an answer in peace, there seems nothing awanting to establish the point on grounds that cannot be shaken.

It signifies nothing that we are unable to shew how the answer is sent, consistently with our belief of the constancy of the laws of nature. Into that question it must for ever be needless for us to inquire, otherwise than hypothetically, as its solution depends upon elements that lie beyond the reach of our limited faculties. Surely, if we believe that there exists a God, the creator and ruler of the universe, it requires no additional stretch of faith to admit that his resources must extend to many things far above our most exalted conceptions, and which our imperfect powers of combination are altogether incompetent to fathom. I, therefore, enter into no reasoning on this part of the subject. Our

belief here does not rest upon reasoning, but upon feeling; and any argument that can be adduced against it, mounting as it must do to a sphere beyond the reach of our intellect, and attempting no less than to ascend to the very throne of Omnipotence, is not philosophy, it is the acmé of gross and arrogant presumption.

In regard to the influence of the Spirit, it is no objection to its reality that some persons are not conscious of its operation in their own particular case; neither is it an objection that some pious, but mistaken individuals have attributed to its operation certain feelings which are clearly the result of physical causes affecting their bodily organs. We are not to be moved by the incredulity of one class of persons, or the mistakes of another class, to reject what is unquestionably true, what is clearly and unequivocally declared to be true in the Scriptures, and what many thousands have attained the full assurance of being verified in their own personal experience. As to the possibility of the thing, we have the express opinion of a late distinguished antagonist of revelation, that our inability to explain the manner in which it is effected is no just objection against it. Lord Bolingbroke observes, that "an extraordinary action of God upon the human mind is not more inconceivable than the ordinary action of mind on body, or body on mind, and that it is impertinent to deny the existence of any phenomenon merely because we cannot account for it."

""*

In regard to the Spirit's influence, it may be remarked, that it is not to be expected to manifest itself by any outward throes or convulsions of the body, or any sensible internal motions of natural feeling. It is seen only in its effects upon the life and conversation. St John informs us how we should know that we have

* Bolingbroke's Works, vol. ii. p. 468, 4th edition.

received the gift:-"Hereby we do know that we know him, (Jesus Christ,) if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in him."* If, then, we would know and be assured that we have in reality received the true influence of the Spirit, let us examine ourselves, whether we do, or anxiously endeavour to do, the will of God, and to keep his commandments. If our consciences answer us that we do, happy There may be many lapses and shortcomings, but if we still hold fast the faith, and earnestly endeavour after new obedience, we shall not fail in the end to obtain our reward.

are we.

[ocr errors]

In regard to all points connected with revelation, I may now remark, once for all, that there is nothing whatever in Phrenology, more than any other system of the human faculties, that either affords an objection to any of the conclusions to which we arrive on the ordinary principles of reasoning, or which furnishes any great additional light to guide us to a right conclusion respecting them. It is a perfect delusion to suppose, as Mr Combe seems to do, that this new science is to produce a total revolution in our theological creeds, and place the Bible and its doctrines in an entirely new light. There is no truth or feasibility in such a supposition. Those parts of Scripture, which were before clear and indisputable, remain clear and indisputable still, and derive no additional clearness from phrenological illustration; and, on the other hand, there is no fact revealed by Phrenology which is at all at variance with any of those points. Mr Combe admits this with regard * 1 John, ii. 3—5.

[ocr errors]

to the moral precepts. I have endeavoured to shew that the same is the case with several of the doctrinal parts of Scripture. It is perhaps possible, that when Phrenology has been more fully established as a science, it may throw more light upon some of those dark and obscure parts of Scripture which Bishop Taylor speaks of, which appear at present covered with clouds and umbrages; but these, as he observes, occur only in matters of inferior moment, not necessary to be known as points of faith or practice. In regard to such points as we have been now considering, the doctrines respecting prayer and a special Providence, it may be safely averred, that Phrenology affords no data whateve affecting in the smallest degree our reasonings respecting them. The two subjects never once came into contact with one another. Phrenology leaves all such questions where it found them, and has no more to do with their right solution, than the principles of mathematical calculation, or the doctrine of the solar system.

In regard to such a point as the operation of spiritual influences upon the mind, we know nothing, and never can know any thing, except what is revealed in Scripture, or verified in our own experience. It affords no aid to explain this operation, when we are told, that the different faculties and feelings of which we are conscious, are connected with and dependent for their manifestation upon certan cerebral organs. After we are informed of this, we are just as far as ever from understanding how the mind, or the mental faculties, or the material organs of these faculties, are operated on by spiritual influence. It is a subject totally out of the sphere of reason, and it is useless for us to speculate upon or to form any theory with regard to it. We have no datafor such speculations, nor any means either of verifying or disproving any such theory. Upon such subjects as

these, it is the only safe and the only philosophical course, to adopt the advice of Lord Bacon, not to "mix divine things with human," but to "give unto faith that which unto faith belongeth."

CHAPTER XII.

ON CRIMINAL LEGISLATION.

I SHALL NOW make a few remarks on Mr Combe's system of criminal discipline, in regard to which he seems to me to have erred as much as in any other part of his speculations. And here I must confess myself utterly unable to imagine of what stuff Mr Combe's feelings of justice are composed, when he can see the most perfect justice in the case of a child, who has inadvertently swallowed arsenic, perishing in the most excruciating tortures, and at the same time denies the justice of inflicting retributive punishment on an atrocious criminal. Mr Combe's views upon this subject are such as to confound utterly all our notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice. According to him, the greatest criminals are to be regarded as the least. Crime, with him, is merely a misfortune, and criminals to be looked upon as objects of compassion, and only as objects of compassion. It follows, that those who commit the greatest crimes, being the most unfortunate, are entitled to our compassion in the greatest degree. Accordingly, Mr Combe seems to regard all criminals whatsoever, and particularly those who are guilty of the most atrocious offences, with a tender, and almost a fatherly affection, and he reserves his whole indignation for mere errors in judgment; for our divines, who, in place of teaching Phrenology from the pulpit, prefer preaching

« السابقةمتابعة »