Images de page

attempt to draw any conclusion from his condition now, in evidence of what it was then.

That the lower animals have always been liable to death, both in the present world and in that which existed before the creation of man, may be at once admitted; and that man is now equally so, is a fact about which there can be no dispute. But it is going quite beyond the province of philosophy to contend, that, because this is the case with man as he now exists, therefore, it must always have been so, and that it must have been so in a state totally different from the present —a state which revelation tells us to have been altogether surrounded by circumstances purely miraculous.

If there is any difference in this respect between the state of the soul after death, and the state of human nature previous to the Fall, it is this, that natural reason is less able to afford us any light respecting the latter, than it is respecting the former. Independent of Scripture, reason affords us some grounds for drawing conclusions in favour of a future state; and man, in all ages, has possessed notions, more or less distinct, of a state of existence of the soul, or thinking principle within us, after its separation from our present body. Socrates and Plato, and other heathen philosophers, have come very near to the same views upon this subject, which are more clearly unfolded by revelation; but with regard to the state before the Fall, as well as the Fall itself, and every thing connected with it, reason affords us no information whatever. There are, to be sure, certain obscure intimations, contained in some ancient poems, of an age when men are said to have been universally virtuous and happy but these are more likely to have been derived from tradition, than to have been deduced from any grounds of reason, and are, at any rate, too much mixed up with mythological fictions to be deserving of attention

[ocr errors]

here. We have, therefore, nothing with regard to this state, but the positive declarations of Scripture; and we must take these as they are given us.

According to the Scripture accounts, there are three circumstances which take man, in his primitive condition, quite out of the rules which are applicable to him in his present state. 1st, He was created in the image of God, who, we are informed, "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul." This is not stated to have been done at the creation of

any of the animal tribes. 2d, He enjoyed personal intercourse with God, which it is hardly possible to suppose would have been allowed to a mere mortal creature. 3d, He had access to a species of food altogether unknown to us, the fruit of the tree of life. Of what is included in any one of these circumstances, we are utterly ignorant, and all speculation concerning them is irrational and vain. But unless we are prepared to reject revelation, and to treat the whole as a forgery and a fable, they must be held as removing man so far above his present condition, as to render every argument drawn from his present state, just as inapplicable with regard to his condition at that period, as it can be with regard to his future condition after the resurrection.

[ocr errors]

It is expressly stated in Genesis, that in consequence of man's transgression, a sentence was pronounced upon him, in which death was included as one of its articles, which would have been absurd had he been already liable to death as part of his original constitution. It is stated by St Paul, that "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ;" and this is not a solitary text, for many other passages occur, intimating clearly that death, with regard to man, is the consequence of sin, and part of its punishment.

This is the Scripture doctrine; and it stands upon ground which cannot be impugned by any philosophical argument, for it lies beyond the proper sphere of philosophical investigation, as much as any thing else that lies beyond the limits of the world as now constituted. All Mr Combe's arguments respecting this subject must be confined to the present state of things. We shall consider a few of them.

"Death, then," he says, "appears to be a result of the constitution of all organized beings; for the very definition of the genus is, that the individuals grow, attain maturity, and die." This proves nothing; it just takes for granted the point to be proved. The following looks something like an argument, though it is a bad one: "The human imagination cannot conceive how the former part of this series of movements could exist without the latter, as long as space is necessary to corporeal existence. If all the vegetable and animal productions of nature, from creation downwards, had grown, attained maturity, and there remained, the world would not have been capable of containing the thousandth part of them, so that, on this earth, decaying and dying appear indispensably necessary to admit of reproduction and growth."

This objection is pre-eminently absurd, considering that we are speaking of a state of things of which we know positively nothing, and respecting the proceedings and arrangements of a Being who has only to will an effect, in order to produce it. What might have been the state of man had he continued without sin-had the first pair and all their posterity continued to enjoy personal intercourse with their heavenly Father, and to do his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven, we cannot possibly know; but this we are sure of, that their situation would have been then, as it is now, wisely adapted to their constitution, whatever that might have


been. If it had pleased the Almighty Creator that man should have lived for ever not subject to disease or decay, he had the power to accomplish this without committing the enormous blunder of leaving the race without sufficient room to contain them. It is not merely unphilosophical, it is ridiculous, and even blasphemous, to suppose that the resources of Divine power and wisdom are not equal to the solution of a problem like this. These resources are infinitely beyond those of the human understanding, and nothing but the grossest folly can lead any one to imagine that there is any difficulty here. There are many methods obvious even to us, by which the difficulty could be avoided; and it is of no consequence whatever whether this should be done, by arresting the farther increase of the race, after the world had become sufficiently stocked with inhabitants, or by transferring a part of them to other mansions, without tasting of death, as we are informed was actually done with some holy men of old, as Enoch, "who walked with God, and was not, for God took him;" or, as Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, who was carried to heaven in a chariot of fire.

The same observations apply to the following remarks. They are all exclusively applicable to the present system of things, that system which commenced at the Fall, and in which the world has continued ever since the expulsion of man from Paradise; but they are utterly irrelevant and inapplicable either to the original state of man before the Fall, or his future state beyond the grave.

"1st. It is obvious that amativeness and philoprogenitiveness are provided with direct objects of gratification, as one concomitant of the institution of death. If the same individuals had lived here for ever, there would have been no field for the enjoyment that flows from the

domestic union and the rearing of offspring. The very existence of these propensities shews, that the production and rearing of young, form part of the design of creation; and the successive production of young appears necessarily to imply the removal of the old.

"2d. Had things been otherwise arranged, all the other faculties would have been limited in their gratifications. Conceive for a moment, how much exercise is afforded to our intellectual and moral powers in acquiring knowledge, communicating it to the young, and providing for their enjoyments-also, what a delightful exercise of the higher sentiments is implied in the intercourse between the aged and the young; all which pleasures would have been unknown, had there been no young in existence, which there could not have been without a succession of generations.

"3d. Constituted as man is, the succession of individuals withdraws beings whose physical and mental constitutions have run their course and become impaired in sensibility, and substitutes in their place fresh and vigorous minds and bodies, far better adapted for the enjoyment of creation.

"4th. If I am right in the position that the organic laws transmit to offspring, in an increasing ratio, the qualities most active in their parents, the law of succession provides for a far higher degree of improvement than could have been reached, supposing the permanency of a single generation possessing the present human


These remarks (with the exception of the last, which involves a theory of extreme difficulty) are excellent, as applicable to our present condition; and to that extent it may be at once admitted, that the present arrangement is good—but it is quite unphilosophical to argue that no other arrangement could have been made suited

« PrécédentContinuer »