cause is something so necessarily connected with its effect, that without it that effect could not have happened, it is evident that there can be but one such single and sole cause in the universe, and that is the Creator himself. For put the matter, for a moment, to the trial of a few examples, taken from the physical and moral world. Fire burns us, and we are sure from our sensation, that there must be in the fire power to produce that effect upon us; but can we be certain, that the sensation of heat in us, and the operation of that power in fire, are so inseparably connected together, that the one could not have happened without the action of the other? Could not God have contrived other methods of affecting our senses in the same way, or have done it by his own immediate agency? The same reasoning will apply with equal force in reference to mind. Not a thought, volition, desire, voluntary exertion, of which God himself could not be the author, without the exercise of our powers. Not one of those effects, which are always regarded to be caused by the exertion of our mental powers, which God himself might not have brought about in a way different from that which he has now established, and which, of consequence, cannot be considered as so necessarily contiected with the exertion of those powers, that, without them, they could not have happened. I repeat it, therefore, if by the word cause be meant something so necessarily connected with its effect that, without it, that effect would not have taken place, there can be but one great cause both in the physical and moral world, and we are completely landed in the mystical and incomprehensible theory of Father Mallebranche. Here, then, God, who was before, as we have seen, made the immediate operating cause of both evil and good in the physical world, is now made equally the immediate operating cause of all evil as well as good in the moral; and the free agency of man together with all accountability to his Maker are at once uprooted. When the traitor betrays his country, or the child puts his father to death; when the assassin cuts off his benefactor, or the suicide throws back indignantly into the face of bis Creator that existence which he had communicated; all these culprits are become irresponsible agents, and are no longer criminal, for God is the sole and immediate operating cause in all these transactions. In a word, under a theory of this kind, God is the true author of all the blasphemies, treacheries, adulteries, murders, and the whole train of enormities which are perpetrated among mankind. Father Mallebranche latoured hard, indeed, to relieve his doctrine from these formidable objections; but, although we cannot but award him the praise of having connected with his system great sincerity and zeal in its cause, together with an ardent, though mystical piety, yet it is not to be denied that he was unable to defend it. We had thought, that this mystical theory had passed away as the tale of other times, until we find principles stated, that lead to it by inevitable consequence in the writings of the Professor. Does the Profes. sor, then, show himself in his works to be a disciple of Mal. lebranche? Evidently not: for neither do we find in his productions, any of that spirit of piety which breathes through the works of that venerable father, nor does his language in any part imply, that he intends to extend his doctrine farther than to exclude all causation from the events of the physical world; and as to Mr. Hume, nothing could be more remote from his views or his principles than to acknowledge the immediate action of the Creator throughout the universe. The Professor certainly does not perceive the consequences to which this doctrine of Mr. Hume, which he unwarily adopts, unavoidably conducts him. He, in one of his notes, indeed, informs us that Nallebranche deduced his conclusion from premises very nearly the same with Mr. Hume's, the fallacy of which in the extent to which it is applied, we shall soon detect; but he no where avows himself to have embraced the principles of that father.


The fallacy of Mr. Hume, on this point, consists in confounding two things that are entirely distinct, necessary connection between causes and effects, with efficiency in causes to produce their effects. We may be perfectly satisfied that a cause has power and efficiency to produce its effect, and that in the exercise of that power it operates under the influence of necessary laws, or laws over which it has no controul, without there being supposed between it and its effect, in the nature of things, such a necessary connection, that the one could not have taken place without the other. The sun gives us light and heat, and we are sure as things are now constituted there must be a power in that luminary to produce these results; but it is impossible for the mind of man to say, that these things are so inseparably united, that the infinite power and wisdom of the Creator might not have occasioned the one without the intermediation of the other, When we witness any effect, indeed, we are sure of one thing only; and that is, that there must be some cause, as this is a truth confirmed by invariable experience, and by the abstract conclusions of the understanding; but of what nature that cause is, we can derive only from observation, or, in the case of the Creator, from an examination of his works and from revelation. Neither is it possible to the human mind to determine a priori, or by any strict rules of demonstration that the efficiency which we have found in causes, in one or two or more cases, will always inhere in that collection of sensible qualities. This is a lesson to be learnt only from experience; and upon our continued experience it must rest as its foundation, as there are no abstract arguments that can minister in this case to its support or confirmation. But does this consideration render the proof less satisfactory to a reasonable mind, diminish its confidence in the stability of the order of nature, or justify the scepticism of Mr. Hume when he maintains, that we have no good ground of reasoning from the past and present to the future, would vacate all the lessons of experience, destroy the force of the whole argument from induction, and, thereby upturn the foundation of experimental and moral science? We cannot strictly demonstrate that fire will burn us to-morrow, or water drown us, the sun rise and set, or the tides ebb and Aow in our rivers; but does this consideration lessen our confidence that all these events will take place? This view of the matter will serve to explain to the Professor, what he has quoted from Dr. Barrow and others, in a note on this subject, and seems not rightly to have understood; and will convince him that that Great Philosopher and eloquent preacher, instead of agreeing with him and Mr. Hume in asserting, that there is no efficiency in natural causes, expressly recognizes in his very modes of expression an opposite doctrine. " That the object of the physical inquirer,“ says the Professor," is not to trace necessary connections, or to ascertain the efficient causes of phenomena (here we see to trace necessary connections, and ascertain efficient causes, are considered by Mr. Stewart equivalent expressions), is a principle which has been frequently ascribed to Mr. Hume as its author, both by his followers and his opponents; but it is in fact of a much earlier date, and has been maintained by many of the most enlightened, and the least sceptical of our modern philosophers: nor do I know that it was ever suspected to have a dangerous tendency until the publication of Mr. Hume's writings. If we except, says Dr. Barrow, the mutual causality and dependence of a mathematical demonstration, I do not think that there is any other causality, in the nature of things, wherein a necessary consequence can be founded. Logicians do indeed boast of, I do not know what kind of demonstration from external causes either efficient or final, but without being able to show one genuine example of any such; nay, I imagine it is impossible for them to do so. For there can be no such connection of an external efficient cause with its effect, through which, strictly speaking, the effect is necessarily supposed by the supposition of the efficient cause, or any determinate cause by the supposition of the effect. Therefore, there can be no argumentation from an efficient cause to the effect, or from an effect to the cause, which is strictly necessary.”

The observations before made, afford a sufficient key to explain this opinion of Dr. Barrow, and show that it is perfectly just and true; but at the same time instead of answering the purpose for which it was brought by the Professor, namely, to prove that causes in the natural world are not considered by Dr. Barrow as efficient causes, that it is in direct hostility to it, Dr. Barrow all alongspeaks of external causes as efficient or final, of demonstration from external efficient causes, thereby proving, beyond any doubt, that he considers external causes as true efficients. But Dr. Barrow, it is said, avows, that there can be no such connection of an external efficient cause with its effect, through which, strictly speaking, the effect is necessarily supposed by the supposition of the efficient cause, or any determinate cause by the supposition of the effect.” This is true, and amounts to the doctrine we have before inculcated. That is to say, Dr. Barrow maintains, that although by an evidence satisfactory to the mind, we have ascertained that the influence of the sun and moon causes the rising and falling of the tides in our river, we cannot prove by strict demonstration or necessary consequence, that although the cause or influence of the sun and moon should subsist, it must una. voidably produce that effect, or the rising and falling of the tides in future, or, if we suppose the effect to have taken place, it must unavoidably have resulted from that determinate cause. This, no person who understands the subject will pretend to deny; and to maintain a contrary doctrine would be to confound the different degrees of evidence upon which our knowledge rests. We can no more attain to strict demonstration in the science of nature, than we should be contented with the ground on which inductive reasonings rest

« ForrigeFortsett »