« AnteriorContinuar »
the ague which was symptomatized by indifference among the many, and a tendency to infidelity or scepticism in the educated classes. At length those feelings of disgust and hatred, which for a brief while the multitude had attached to the crimes and absurdities of sectarian and democratic fanaticism, were transferred to the oppressive privileges of the noblesse, and the luxury, intrigues and favoritism of the continental courts. The same principles dressed in the ostentatious garb of a fashionable philosophy once more rose triumphant and effected the French revolution. And have we not within the last three or four years had reason to apprehend, that the detestable maxims and correspondent measures of the late French despotism had already bedimmed the public recollections of democratic phrensy; had drawn off to other objects the electric force of the feelings which had massed and upheld those recollections ; and that a favorable concurrence of occasions was alone wanting to awaken the thunder and precipitate the lightning from the opposite quarter of the political heaven? (See The FRIEND, p. 110.)
In part from constitutional indolence, which in the very bey-day of hope had kept my enthusiasm in check, but still more from the habits and influences of a classical education and academic pursuits, scarcely had a year
elapsed from the commencement of my literary and political adventures before my mind sunk into a state of thorough disgust and despondency, both with regard to the disputes and the parties disputant. With more than poetic feeling I exclaimed:
“ The sensual and the dark rebel in vain,
Slaves by their own compulsion! In mad game
Alike from all, howe'er they praise thee
Thou speedest on thy cherub pinious,
FRANCE, a Palinodia.
I retired to a cottage in Somersetshire at the foot of Quantock, and devoted my thoughts and studies to the foundations of religion and morals. Here I found myself all afloat. Doubts rushed in ; broke upon me" from the fountains of the great deep,” and fell “ from the windows of heaven." The fontal truths of natural religion and the books of Revelation alike contributed to the flood; and it was long ere my ark touched on an Ararat, and rested. The idea of the Supreme Being appeared to me to be as nécessarily implied in all particular modes of being as the idea of infinite space in all the geometrical figures by which space is limited. I was pleased with the Cartesian opinion, that the idea of God is distinguished from all other ideas by involving its reality ; but I was not wholly satisfied. I began then to ask myself, what proof I had of the outward existence of any thing? Of this sheet of paper for instance, as a thing in itself, separate from the phænomenon or image in my perception. I saw, that in the nature of things such proof is impossible; and that of all modes of being, that are not objects of the senses, the existence is assumed by a logical necessity arising from the constitution of the mind itself, by the absence of all motive to doubt it, not from any absolute contradiction in the supposition of the contrary. Still the existence of a being, the ground of all existence, was not yet the existence of a moral creator, and governor. “ In the position, that all reality is either contained in the necessary being as an attribute, or exists through him, as its ground, it remains undecided whether the properties of intelligence and will are to be referred to the Supreme Being in the former or only in the latter sense ; as inherent attributes, or only as consequences that have existence in other things through him. Thus organization, and motion, are regarded as from God not in
God. Were the latter the truth, then notwithstanding all the pre-eminence which must be assigned to the ETERNAL FIrst from the sufficiency, unity, and independence of his being, as the dread ground of the universe, his nature would yet fall far short of that, which we are bound to comprehend in the idea of God. For without any knowledge or determining resolve of its own it would only be a blind necessary ground of other things and other spirits; and thus would be distinguished from the Fate of certain ancient philosophers in no respect, but that of being more definitely and intelligibly described.” KANT's einzig möglicher Beweisgrund: vermischte Schriften, Zweiter Band, $ 102, and 103.
For a very long time indeed I could not reconcile personality with infinity; and my head was with Spinoza, though my whole heart re. mained with Paul and John. Yet there had dawned upon me, even before I had met with the Critique of the Pure Reason, a certain guiding light. If the mere intellect could make no certain discovery of a holy and intelligent first cause, it might yet supply a demonstration, that no legitimate argument could be drawn from the intellect against its truth. And what is this more than St. Paul's assertion, that by wisdom (more properly translated by the powers of reasoning) no man ever arrived at the knowledge of God? What more than the sublimest, and probably the oldest, book on earth has taught us,
Silver and gold man searcheth out:
God marketh out the road to it;
Job, CHAP. 28th.