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(i) THE ingenuity of Scepticism has been long admired, but here the author boldly out-does all his former out-doings. Much has been said against the authenticity of religion, on the supposition that the evidence to which she appeals, is not either sufficiently general or intelligible to the bulk of mankind. But surely an argument is not conclusive, in one case, and inconclusive in another. Admit this reasoning against revelation to be valid, and you must also admit it against our author's hypothesis. There never ac least was an objection started that could, in the remotest degree, affect the truths of the gospel, more intricate, metaphysical, and abstracted, than that by which our essayist would destroy the popular doctrine of the soul's immortality. How many live and die in this salutary conviction, to whom these refined speculations must for ever remain as unintelligible as if they had never been formed! It is a sentiment so congenial to the heart of man, that few of the species would chuse to exist without it. Unable, as they are, to account for its origin, they cordially and universally indulge it, as one of their tenderest, best, and last feelings. It inhabits alike the rudest and most polished minds, and never leaves any human breast 9 which is not either wholly engrossed by criminal pleasure, deadened by selfish pursuits, or perverted by false reasoning. It governs with all the ardor and influence of inspiration, and never meets with any opposition but from the weak, the worthless, or the wise above what is written. All the world have uniformly considered it as their last resource in every extremity, and for the most part still regard and cherish the belief of it, as an asylum in which their best interests are ultimately secured or deposited , beyond the reach of all temporary disaster or misfortune. Where, therefore, is the probability of exterminating so popular and prevailing a notion, by a concatenation of ideas, which , perhaps, not one out of a million in any country under Heaven is able to trace or comprehend?
(a) The natural perceptions of pleasure or pain cannot be said to act on the mind as one part of matter does on another. The substance of the soul we do not know, but are certain her ideas must be immaterial. And these cannot possibly act either by contact or impulse. When one body impels another, the body moved is affected only by the impulse: But the mind, whenever roused by any pleasing or painful sensation, in most cases looks round her, and deliberates whether a change of state is proper, or the present more eligible j- and moves or rests accordingly. Her perceptions, therefore, contribute no further to action , than by exciting her active powers. On the contrary, matter is blindly and obstinately in that state in which it is, whether of motion or rest, till changed by some other adequate cause. Suppose we rest the state of any body, some external force is requisite to put it in motion; and, in proportion as this force is great or small, the motion must be swift or slow. Did not this body continue in its former state, no external force would be requisite to change it; nor, when changed, would different degrees
of fores be necessary to move it in different degrees 6f velocity. When motion is impressed on.any body, to, bring it to rest, an extra-force must always be applied, in proportion to the intended effect. This resistance is observable in bodies both when moved in particular directions and to bear an exact proportion to the vis impreffa, and to the quantity of matter moved. Were it possible to extract from matter the qualities of solidity and extension, the matter whence such qualities were extracted would no longer resist; and consequently resistance is the necessary result of them, which, therefore, in all directions ,must be the same. The degree of resistance in any body being proportionate to the vis imprejsa, it follows, when that body is considered in any particular state, whether of motion or rest, the degrees of resistance must either indefinitely multiply or decrease, according to all possible degrees of the moving force. But when the fame body is considered absolutely, or without fixing any particular state, the resistance is immutable"; and all the degrees of it, which that body would exeat upon the accession of any impressed force, must be conceived as actually in it. Nor can matter have any tendency contrary to that resistance, otherwise it must be equal or superior. If equal, the two contrary tendencies would destroy each other. If superior, the resistance would be destroyed. Thus change would eternally succeed to change without one intermediate instant, so that no time would be assigned when any body was in any particular itate. Gravitation itself, the most simple and universal law, seems far from being a tendency natural to matter; since it is found to act internally, and not in proportion to the superficies of any body; which it would not do , if it were only the mechanical action of matter upon matter. From all this, it appears, that matter considered merely as such, is so far from having a principle of spontaneous motion, that it is stubbornly inactive, and must eternally remain in the same state in which it happens to be, except influenced by some other .—that is , some immaterial power. Of such a power the human soul is evidently possessed; for every one is conscious of an internal activity, and to dispute this would be to dispute us out of one of the most real and intimate perceptions we have.
Though a material automaton were allowed possible, how infinitely would it fall short of that force and celerity which every one feels in himself. How sluggish are all the movements which fall under our observation. How slow and gradual their transitions from one part of space to another. But the mind, by one instantaneous effort, measures the distance from pole to pole, from heaven to earth, from one fixed star to another; and not confined within the limits of the visible creation, Shoots into immensity with a rapidity to which even that of lightning, or sun-beams, is no comparison. Who then shall assign a period to the mind which, though depressed with so much dead weight, is ever active , and unconscious of fatigue or relaxation ? The mind is not only herself a principle of action, but probably actuates the body, without the assistance of any intermediate power, both from the gradual command which she acquires of its members by habit, and from a capacity of determining, in some measure, the quantity of pleasure or pain which any sensible perception can give her. Supposing the interposing power a spirit, the same difficulty of spirit acting upon matter still remains. And the volkio.n of our own mind will as- well account for the motion of the body, as the formal interference of any other spiritual substance. And we may as well ask, why the mind is, not conscious of that 'interposition, as why she -:.~:1 recd l o* '• < ' .'. $ . . r.' .<u3 ;.- v v
is ignorant of the means by which she communicate! motion to the body.
C}) It is always bad reasoning to draw conclusions from the premises not denied by your adversary. Whoever, yet, of all the assertors of the foul's immortality, presumed to make a monopoly of this great privilege to the human race? "Who can tell what another state of existence may be, or whether every other species of animals may not possess principles as immortal as the mind of man? But that mode of reasoning, which militates against all our convictions, solely on account of the unavoidable ignorance to which our sphere in the universe subjects us, can never be satisfactory. Reason, it is true, cannot altogether solve every doubt which arises concerning this important truth. But neither is there any other truth, of any denomination whatever, against which sophistry may not conjure up a multitude of exceptions. "We know no mode of existence but those of matter and spirit, neither of which has uniformly and successfully defied the extreme sobtilty of argumentation. Still a very great majority of mankind are staunch believers in both. So well constituted is the present disposition of things, that all the principles essential to human life and happiness continue, as it is likely they ever will, to operate, in spite of every sort of clamor which sophistry or scepticism has raised or can raise against them.
( 4 ) There is not a single word in all this elaborate and tedious deduction, which has not been urged and refuted five hundred times. Our ignorance of the divine perfections, as is usual with this writer, is here stated as an unanswerable exception to the conclusion usually drawn from them. But he very artfully overlooks, that this great ignorance will be equally conclusive as applied o either fide of the argument. When we compare,