Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

. Before Laplace can establish his theory, he must first prove, that we would not believe the greatest number of the most intelligent and upright witnesses who should assert that they had seen a hundred dice fall on the same faces; and he must prove, that when we believe the testimony of our own eyes, we do it from a persuasion of the immutability of the laws of vision. He has made no attempt to prove either the one or the other ; and we believe he did not make the attempt because he knew he had no such proofs to offer. He comes not forward here as a geometrician, but as an observer of human nature. Geometry could afford no proofs ; and all the proofs which could be brought from the observation of the sense and conduct of mankind, were against him; for in all ages mankind have actually believed the most astonishing events when well attested ; and they still go on to dò so, in spite of all that Hume and the enemies of revelation have said to the contrary. If it is a question which must be referred to the general judgment of mankind,—there is no doubt of that being against them !'

In the second section Mr. Somerville proceeds to examine the reasoning of the Edinburgh Reviewer. "Here he shews, in the first place, that the Reviewer employs a most pitiful sophism, calling that experience, which, in reality, is testimony, and ought to have been so called, and then arguing from it against testimony.

• If (says Mr. S.) it was owing to the want of acumen that the Reviewer did not perceive this confusion of ideas and terms, he must be

low in the class of reasoners. If he did perceive it, but adhered to it, because he easily saw that the distinction would overthrow all his reasoning, he must stand still lower as a man of integrity.'

He then proceeds to shew that the proposition, which assumes that no testimony can prevail against perfect uniformity of experience, is a mere childish truism, in which it is first assumed, that experience is perfectly uniform, and then argued, that if it be perfectly uniform, it must be perfectly uniform! The result, indeed, is this, that, according to the principles of the Reviewer, 'no testimony is to be credited beyond our own observation ;' a result which necessarily includes the grossest absurdity, and contradicts common sense.

In the third section Mr. Somerville proves that the Reviewer has made a concession which overthrows his whole argument.

· He computes that the probability of the sun rising to-morrow, is

78262159 that a person may wager 1826214 to 1 in favour of it. This implies, that if a person should wager more, as for instance, a hundred millions to one, he would act against the laws of probability. Here it is taken for granted that there is some probability of the sun not rising to-morrow : it is very small, but still it is something. Now,

placed very

as

1826214

or

I should be glad to know, by what mood or figure he will attempt to prove that an event which is not only possible, but to a certain degree probable, to-morrow, cannot by any evidence be established to have happened in any past period. If he say, that it is in itself impossible, we deny it upon his own showing, for he has proved that it is possible, and even to a certain degree probable. If he say, that uniform experience is against it, we deny it, and say that only the experience of the present generation is against it. If he say that uniform testimony is against it, this we deny also ; for it is testified by the author of the book of Joshua, that in his time the sun stood still for a whole day; and there is no testimony at all on the other side, as applicable to that particular day. The same observations may

be applied to all the miracles recorded in Scripture. Experience is not applicable to them, for it is limited to the objects under our notice ; and testimony is so far from being against them, that there is testi mony for them, and none against them. Many persons testify that they saw them happen, and none testify that they were upon the spot, and examined all the circumstances, and saw that they did not happen. As to the testimony of those who were not there, however uniform it might be, it does not bear at all upon the subject.'

Our acute Author then proves that the Reviewer has not, any more than Laplace, been able to bring his own science to act upon the subject, and that nothing approaching to the certainty of geometrical demonstration has been brought by either of them into the discussion. Their argumentation, indeed, rests upon the most egregious sophistry, and Mr. Somerville has properly exposed it. is reasoning is close and cogent, and his conclusions are irrefragable. The refutation of these two mathematicians, (who seem to have rashly approached a topic which they had very inadequately considered,) is complete, and, at the same time, temperate. We most cordially recommend the pamphlet to the attention of all who have in any way been thrown into a state of doubt, by the positive tone of the Edinburgh Reviewer ; and we are convinced that where the head only has been bewildered by his sophistry, doubts must soon yield to the force of Mr. Somerville's arguments.

As the subject is momentous, we shall subjoin a few observations.

And first, let us notice the singular fatality which often attends men of acumen and science, when they are tempted to oppose the truths of Revelation. The mathematical articles in the Edinburgh Review, though they are sometimes marked with strange peculiarities and prejudices, always evince considerable talent and research. The writer assumes the tone of a master, and generally proves that he is one. The only blunders in reasoning or investigation, into which (as far as we recollect) he has fallen, in the course of twelve years, are tro, viz. this in reference to miracles, and that in which he confounded the motive, and the accelerative forces, in order to prove that God did not superintend the world he had made! How is this to be regarded but as another confirmation of the Divine decree, that “they who despise God shall be lijntly esteemed,either for the baseness and folly of their lives, or the childishness and imbecility of their reasonings, when they presume to employ human intellect in opposition to the

teachings of Him who gave it? Let the conduct of the Edinburgh Reviewers, in reference to their article, and to this refutation, be considered. Mr. Somerville's paper appeared in the “ Edinburgh Instructor” on the 1st of December, 1814, and was published separately early in the February of the present year. There can be no doubt that the Editor of the instructor, in the first instance, and Mr. Somerville, in the next, would leave copies of this paper with the publisher of the Edinburgh Review, to be forwarded to the Reviewer. We have now lying at our elbow the 48th Number of the “ Edinburgh Review," which contains articles manifestly written about the end of March, or beginning of April. Does it exhibit any refutation of Mr. Somerville's essay? No. Does it contain any acknowledgement of error, or even of inadvertenc", in reference to the language it held, in the 46th Number, on the subject of miracles ? It does not. What then are we to infer from this, but that these Keviewers have neither intellectual ability to refute Mr. Somerville, nor manliness sufficient to acknowledge their own inistake, and deplore its evil tendency? It is to no purpose to say that they cannot be expected to stoop to notice what they may regard as insignificant magazines, and insignificant pamphlets. The Edinburgh Instructor is read by hundreds of well-informed persons, who are occasionally thrown into the society of the meinbers of “ the coterie;" and Mr. Somerville's pamphlet, though humble in its appearance, is the subject of frequent conversation at Edinburgii.The Reviewer of Laplace, therefore, must know, (it is next to impossible it should be therwise,) that the bulk of well-informed persons at Edinburgh, consider him as completely refuted: the same impression will, doubtless, be made upon every unbiassecl reader of Mr. Somerville's essay; and unless the Reviewer immediately attempt a reply to his clerical antagonist, the publie will inevitably conclude, not merely that he is, but that he considers himself, defeated. We venture to predict, however, that this gentleman will neither reply nor retract; but that he and his coileagues will, as usual, seize every convenient opportunity of sapping the foundations of religion, and sneering at the folly and fanaticism of those who consider Christianity to be of supreme importance. But this is, and always has been the manner of proceeding adopted by infidels. We notice it thus fully for the purpose of teaching our young readers especially, to be aware of it, and to ablior it.

• Dr. Campbell informs us (says Mr. Somerville) that it excited much surprise in his days, that Hume continued to publish one edi. tion after another of his Essays, without taking the least notice of the answer, though he had, in a letter to the author, expressed himself in terms very different from those of contempt, concerning that work, It has excited no less surprise, at present, that the Reviewer has republished Hume's doctrine, and maintained as profound a silence about the answer to it, as if none had ever been made. But there is no occasion for any surprise. They wish to produce a certain effect, and that effect is to be produced by promulgating their own doctrines, not by noticing the answers. They have perhaps taken the hint from those persevering personages, the quack doctors, who continue year after year to advertise their nostrums, long after their pernicious effects have been detected. They persevere, because they hope that many will read and believe, and purchase and swallow, who never heard of the detection.'

We must just glance at one passage more, and then take our leave of this interesting pamphlet.

• An Infidel, we know, may be so destitute of common honesty, as to declare his belief of the Bible, and even of the Scottish Confession of Faith, for a church living, or a professorship.'

Surely this is not meant to convey the idea that there are infidel Professors in the Scotch Universities, much less to insinuate that the lucubrations of such infidel Professors adorn the pages of the Edinburgh Review. Be this, however, as it may, the passage suggests a caution which we cannot, consistently with our duty, suppress. If there be Professors in any of the Scotch Universities, who disbelieve Christianity, and who, either anonymously or otherwise, impugn its principles and doctrines, we trust that English Dissenters, many of whom send their sons north of the Tweed to finish their education, will take especial care to select those Universities, in which the religious, as well as the literary and scientific character of the Professors, is unquestionable.

Art. XI. The Angler's Guide, being a complete Practical Treatise

on Angling : containing the whole Art of Trolling, Bottom Fishing, Fly Fishing, and Trimmer Angling, founded on forty Years' Practice and Observation. Second Edition, with very considerable Additions, Local Descriptions, Glossary of Technical Terms, and Index. Illustrated with wood engravings. By T. F. Salter, Gent. 8vo. pp.

xxxi. 300. Price 10s 6d. Tegs. 1815. WHEN the mind has been long occupied, whether it be in

close study, or in the harassing employments of more active life, it is quite natural that it should seek for some change of pursuit, something that it can call recreation. Among the motley crowd of things termed pleasures, that offer their services in the way of relaxation for the above classes, in common with the mere triflers of time, rural sports have never failed to excite a considerable share of attention.

Of late years, in cousequence of the game laws being so very strict, the certificate so enormously expensive, and country gentlemen so very tenacious of their privileges, and covetous in regard to game, so much so indeed, as almost to incur, in some cases, the charge which Scripture attaches to that chilling, selfish vice, fishing has become an object of more frequent and general pursuit, as of much more easy attainment. A new treatise on angling is eagerly sought after, and as eagerly studied. It would seem desirable, therefore, that some good moral hints should be mixed with this kind of scientific lore, that if people will spend their time in angling, their minds may be led to indulge some correct reflections, and not be wholly given up to inaneness, or left to the dangers so frequently attendant on a state of solitude.

Under this view of the case, Isaac Walton conferred no small benefit on this class of sporting gentlemen in his day, by his lively, good-humoured, moral dialogues on angling-a recreation much followed, it would seem, by some of the best men of that day. Even in our own times, it has had its advocates among persons of no inferior rank in the scale of intellect. Dr. Paley, in his Essay on the Goodness of the Deity, informs us that he had been a great follower of fishing, and in its cheerful solitude, had passed many happy hours.

Yet it may fairly be inquired, In what consists-in what can consist the pleasure of angliug ? This would not be the place to pursue the inquiry, even were we so inclined,

We will, however, make one quotation from the Archdeacon on this subject. It may reasonably be asked, he says) why is any

thing a pleasure ? and I know no answer which can be re“turned to the question, but that which refers it to appointment.-We can give no account whatever of our pleasures

6

« ForrigeFortsett »