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There were formerly few males of the higher classes who frequented the churches, which were either attended by women only, or more generally half empty; now there are few of either sex in the higher classes who habitually absent themselves from places of worship-and among all ranks the regular attendance, good order, and decent demeanour of those who attend, must strike every observer.
But although our preachers were greatly more eloquent and effective than they are, it is impossible their instructions can benefit those who do not hear them. Those who do attend and listen, are benefited, and it will not be pretended that vice and misery prevail greatly among them, or, at least, that they are not diminished by the influence of preaching; but the class in which vice and misery really prevail, is a class that never enters a church, -that has no opportunity of doing so. Our present places of worship are far too few in number for the accommodation of all classes, and these few are closed against the poor by high seat-rents; of course it is the lowest and worst class, those who have most need of instruction, and who are least inclined to seek it,* who, under our present arrangements, are necessarily deprived of its benefits. The clergy, seeing how much our population has outgrown the means of instruction, are now anxious to supply this deficiency, and notwithstanding any opposition that may be made, it is hoped that this great desideratum will soon be obtained. After this is the case, and after the influence of preaching has been brought fully and fairly to bear upon the lowest and most degraded class, if it is then found to fail in diminishing vice and misery, it will be time enough to speak of the inefficiency of preaching. What I maintain, and what Marry, the immortal part hath need of a physician, but that moves not them. Though that be sick, it dies not."
I say is borne out by multiplied facts, is, that it has succeeded as far as it has been tried.
If, then, it be true, that all the mighty empires of the old world fell by the force of inherent corruption, and, after a short period of prosperity, continued to decline until they came to utter ruin, it may be asked, why this has not yet been the case with us? We have seen Britain gradually rising, and, amidst many turmoils and revolutions, constantly advancing in prosperity and improvement for eighteen hundred years, till we have reached a pitch of wealth and refinement equal, perhaps, if not surpassing, those of any ancient state. Wealth, we have seen in their case, produced luxury, and luxury led to vice, and vice to total corruption and ruin. Why is not that our case? How does it happen that now, in the midst of all our overflowing wealth, we are still confessedly improving,—that the higher and middle classes are becoming purer instead of being more corrupt,—that we are engaged in an attempt to reform all abuses, and that the only contest among our parties is, as to which are the best means of perfecting our institutions?
The answer is, that Christianity has been the cause of our preservation. Christianity, taught in a pure and effective form, as it has now been taught among us for two centuries, rendering familiar to the people the sacred and sublime truths of the Gospel, and enforcing by their sanction the simple precepts of morality-calling into activity, and gratifying all the higher and worthier feelings of our nature - and calculated, in course of time, to strengthen and improve these feelings, not in individuals merely, but in the race. Well and truly it has been said of the teachers of this divine doctrine, that they are the salt of the earth.
I have endeavoured to prove, by undeniable facts, what this doctrine and these teachers have already done. Mr Combe speaks of what Phrenology is to do, and I shall be happy to see it realized. In the mean time, I beg to remind him that hitherto Phrenology has done nothing; and to recommend to his notice the maxim, "Let not him who buckleth on his armour boast as he who putteth it off."
EXAMINATION OF MR COMBE'S VIEWS RESPECTING THE NATURAL LAWS.
I. General view of the subject.
THE notion of a Natural Law discoverable by man's reason, sufficient for the regulation of all his actions, is as old as the first speculation on the subject of the human faculties. The philosophers of ancient Greece endeavoured to discover this law, by following which man might attain the greatest possible happiness, or what they termed the supreme good. But though many of their speculations directed to this end were plausible and ingenious, and though they formed the loftiest ideas of human virtue, and pretended, by means of it, to be able to attain a happiness equal to, that of the gods, they utterly failed in their attempts to form a scheme of practical morality, calculated to effect any improvement on the generality of mankind.
Similar views have been entertained in modern times by various writers. In France, during the latter part of the last century, they became favourite doctrines with a
set of philosophers, whose main object appeared to be, to undermine the influence, and supersede the authority of revelation. These philosophers revived the old speculations on the subject of a natural law, which they maintained to be "universal, invariable, demonstrable, reasonable, just, pacific, and of itself sufficient." They held, that by means of this law, man would be able, by his own unassisted means, to attain the highest perfection of his nature; and that, if it was only generally understood and obeyed, society would be a scene of unalloyed happiness, and that vice and misery would for ever disappear from the world.
It is obvious that these doctrines were maintained by the writers alluded to, not so much for their own sake, as for the sake of certain consequences which were supposed to follow from them. The great object was to get rid of revelation, and of the law which it proclaims under the highest sanctions, a law too pure, searching, and uncompromising, to prove agreeable to the wayward and capricious desires of man's sinful nature. They assumed, that if a law were discoverable by reason, sufficient for the attainment of perfect virtue and perfect happiness, and accompanied by motives sufficiently strong to ensure its being universally obeyed, there could be no necessity for a law being proclaimed by a revelation from Heaven. And as the Creator does nothing in vain, and could not be supposed to have promulgated a law without necessity, it followed that there could be no such thing as a divine revelation, and that every thing pretending to be such must be founded on imposture.
It also occurred, that if the laws by which this world is governed are such, that perfect justice is done in every case, and that perfect happiness is attainable by obedience to them in the present life, no reason could be assigned
for the existence of a future life for amending what may be amiss in the present.
Accordingly, the French philosophers who maintained the doctrine of a natural law, uniformly and consistently rejected all belief in revelation and a future state. These views are fully and elaborately set forth in a work supposed to have been written by Diderot, under the assumed name of Mirabaud, entitled, "The System of Nature, or the Laws of the Moral and Physical World," and are more concisely stated by M. Volney, author of the "Ruins of Empires," in a sequel to that performance, which he first named the "Catechism of a French Citizen," and which was afterwards published in English under the title of " The Law of Nature."
We are warned by high authority to beware of false teachers, of whom it is emphatically said, "By their fruits ye shall know them;" and if in the present instance we apply this sure and infallible test, we can be at no loss to form a correct judgment. These works, which may be called the Confession of Faith, and Shorter Catechism of Infidelity, and others inculcating similar principles, with which France was inundated at the period referred to, were but too successful in poisoning the national mind, and preparing the way for that total dissolution of moral and religious principle which took place in that country at the time of the Revolution, and for the exhibition, unparalleled in the history of the world, of the supreme council of a great nation proclaiming, by a solemn decree, that "there is no God," and that "death is an eternal sleep."
Mr Combe states, that his notions on the subject of the natural laws were derived from a MS. work of Doctor Spurzheim's, with the perusal of which he was honoured in 1824, and which was afterwards published