Abbildungen der Seite


circles of medicine and law. There ly his character and prospects; were can be no occasion for attempting they not bound to give him some in-, any proof of this fact, since to all who timation of their proceedings, and I have had the least occasion to ob.. some opportunity of justifying him. serve the conduct of these gentle. self? Ought they not first to have men, it is perfectly notorious. The procured a private conference, to respectability of their public cha- have stated their objections, and reracter, their situation on the spot, quested an explanation ? This is the the assistance ' they could afford rule of Scripture, and it is a rule eveeach other, and the success they had ry way worthy of its high origina had met with in some late instances, al. Ought he 'not at least to have all offered the fairest prospect of been made a party, and to have their views being crowned with suc. been heard publicly in his own de.

But a sudden reverse had been fence ? No! At the moment of preexperienced. In consequence of the senting the protest, Mr Leslie had favourable reception given by the never heard of the violent

measures Town Council to the representations pursuing against him, unless through of Messrs Stewart and Playfair, and common report, or the friendship of of the approaching appointment of a individuals. layman to the Mathematical chair, In the same view, we find the Mi. their golden

hopes were on the nisters attempting to revive their ale point of being frustrated, and a rule most forgotten claim of arisamen. established, which, if not prevented, tum"; a privilege which had never must render this favourite scheme been exercised in the case of a Mawholly abortives

thematical professor, nor, for many Here then we find a clue which

years past, in the case of

any pro. may guide us to the secret history of fessor. It was at best a case of ci. this extraordinary transaction. Mr vil right, which was to be pursued Leslie's book had been ten months in the competent court ; nor could before the public, it had passed any thing be more preposterous, through the hands of reviewers of the than making it, as it certainly was, most opposite principles,-it had the basis of a reference to the Genebeen read and applauded by the most ral Assembly. Besides, it was a eminent men of science throughout a right which had been actualiy exBritain,-it had been crowned by ercised in the present case. Their ad. the Royal Society : but of all these vice, though neither asked for nor none had ever criticised a word as the desired, had been given, and that in least exceptionable in a religious a manner the most solemn and impo. point of view; not one even of Mr sing that could be imagined.

It Leslie's accusers had ever suspected or had been given too, under the form hinted any such thing, till the precise of instrument, and stood engrossed moment, when that gentleman's inte in the council records. rest happened to come into opposi- In the doctrine of Mr Leslie's tion with theirs. From all which, we note, there was really nothing in the may fairly infer, that Mr Leslie's least exceptionable. The subject of only offence against religion was the his work was entirely physical; the holding a professorial chair

, to which passage to which the note relates one of their number had thought fit was wholly employed in refuting an to aspire.

hypothesis of physical intermedia, Before publicly denouncing Mr which, by the bye, had been always Leslie as an atheist, before taking considered as one of the strong holds a step which was to blast complete of the Atheist. The note, there.


fore, being a continuation of this many days after the suffrages of the passage, must, by all rules of fair in. Royal Society of London had entitled terpretation, be understood to refer him to lift up his head in this metropolis,

as a man who had done honour to his solely to physical causes. To have u. sed the term in any other sense would that all his future prospects were to be

native land ;-it was at this moment, have been a violation of all the com- blasted for ever; the well-earned prize mon rules of reasoning ; it would which he was about to receive, snatchhave been a species of insanity. Now, ed from his grasp; and he himself, that betweenphysical causes and effects stigmatised as a disgrace to his parent there exists no necessary con

onnection, church, proclaimed to be unworthy of is a doctrine which bas been held, and belonging to any other, and pointed out zealously supported, by Bacon, by and good in every quarter of the globe.

to the scorn and execration of the wise Barrow, by Clarke, by Butler, Reid, Let me remind them, in the last place, Gregory, Ferguson, Robison ; in that this charge of Atheism was delibershort, by all the greatest names in di. ately and publicly preferred, with all vinity and philosophy. It is a doc.' the imposing solemnity of legal forms, trine of which Mi Stewart himself, within a few hours of the time when many years ago, published a full illus. Mr Leslie's explanatory letter had been iration; and which he had taught in

read in their hearing ; and that in the luis class without the least exception strance to the Patrons of the University,

act of presenting their written remonbeing taken by any one, When, in the letter was not only suppressed, but no addition to this, we have a declara. intimation was given that such a letter tion from Mr Leslie, that he had existed.

Short Statement, p. 101, considered cause solely as a subject of physical examination, and a solemn Let us now consider a little the protestation against any irreligious nature of that doctrine, the denial of inferences which might be drawn which has rendered Mr Leslie the obfrom his doctrine, we must acknow. ject of such a deadly persecution.ledge every reasonable ground of op- Mr Leslie is accused of denying position to be completely obviated. • all such necessary connection beEven if this explanation had not ap- tween cause and effect as implies an peared strictly philosophical, still it operating principle in the cause.”would be unfair not to give more Without enquiring whether Mr Les. credit to his solemn declaration than lie will admit this as a fair interpreta. to our own doubtful comments on his tion, we may rest assured, that the words.

proposition which he is thus accused On the circumstances which at. of impiously denying, expresses, in tended the giving in the representa- the clearest manner, the opinion which tion and protest, we quote the fol. his accusers entertain on the subject. lowing strictures of Mr Stewart : They must believe a necessary con

nection to exist in cases, where Mr Let Mr Leslie's accusers reflect on the circumstances of their own conduct,

Leslie can trace only an invariable on the norning of his election. Let sequence. Now, as we had before them remember, that it was at the criti. occasion to observe, Mr Leslie could cal moment when this gentleman,-a not possibly be supposed to refer person who had never offended them, or to any other than physical causes. at least whose only conceivable offence They must therefore be understood was his competition with one of their

as expressing their own, and requi. colleagues,-when he was flattering him. self with the confident hope of obtaining thai between physical causes and ef

ring him to express his conviction, at length, the reward of a virtuous and laborious life, devoted from his earliest fects there exists a necessary connecyears to the pursuits of science, and not tion. And yet they could hardly be


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ignorant, that this is the very essence fence of an inconsistent jargon of
of the system of Spinosa ; a system metaphysical words, which waged
which has always been regarded by war with the human understanding.
the best judges as one of the most If it was no longer safe, when a work
dangerous modifications of Atheism. contained in it 'exceptionable doc-
For, if physical cause and effect be trines, to express satisfaction with
connected together necessarily, that any part of it; if a man must be an-
is, by a succession which no power swerable for all the inferences which
human or divine can alter, the opera- the ignorance or ingenuity of his ad.
tion of the Deity must be necessarily versaries could draw from his opi-
set aside. This system, accordingly, nions ; there was an end of all free.
although it acknowledges in name the dom of debate, and the truth of any
existence of the Deity, is yet, by principle was no longer sufficient to
means of this very doctrine, really give it currency in the world. There
subversive of that fundamental princi. seemed to be every reason to wish,
ple of religion. It is impossible, in- . that some resistance was made to
deed, in Christian charity, to suppose this wretched and disgraceful system :
that this could actually be the doc. and an appeal, on so important an
trine of the ministers of Edinburgh, occasion, to the supreme judicature
yet it seems equally impossible to an- of the church, seemed, on every ac-
nex to their words any other signifi- count, to be adviseable:

This appeal was made, and the reMr Leslie had indeed been invited sult was in the highest degree hoto come to the presbytery, and give nourable to that supreme court, and an explanation of his language ; that satisfactory to the friends of Mr is, to enter into a metaphysical dispu. Leslie. The party by whom he was tation with ten persons who had supported, had usually been found in shewn a determined resolution to the minority, but many of the most misinterpret every word he could zealous supporters of the opposite in say. Besides, observe the situation terest, hesitated not, on this question, of Mr Leslie. He was well aware, to come over to a side, where they that nothing less would satisfy bis saw, indeed, the men whom they had adversaries, than his implicitly sub- been accustomed to oppose, but scribing the metaphysical dogma a. where they, at the same time, perbove examined : yet this it was im- ceived the measures which they had possible to do without really becom. been accustomed to support. Among ing what at present he was only ac- the supporters of Mr Leslie were cused of. He had been assured by found men of the most opposite polithe first lawyers and philosophers of tical principles: the decision was pro. this country, that the explanation he duced therefore by no interference had given left no reasonable ground whatever from without. The asserfor further objection. His own cha. tion that it was so, is both faise in itracter had been publicly aspersed. self, and highly injurious to the suInsult after insule had been offered to

preme judicature of the church. the University, to which he now be. About the same time with Mr longed, and whose members had gi. Stewart's, appeared a small anonyven him their cordial support. Crude mous pamphlet, afterwards avowed and contradictory notions had been by Dr Thomas Brown, who had alstarted, on subjects the most import- ready made himself known to the ant that can occupy human reason; public as the successful opponent of while persecution was preparing, as the fanciful theories of Dr Darwin. of old, to display her banners, in de. According to this writer, the lan


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

guage of Mr Leslie, without any sures, is perceived innumerable times qualification or restriction, is the during the day, without having for most correct and philosophical, which its immediate consequence the sensa. could be employed on the subject. tion of darkness. Can we then be No words could more properly express said to have an uniform experience the relation between cause and ef- of the conjunction of the two sensafect, than those of invariable se- tions ? Do they not rather appear quence. A cause is nothing else to follow each other loosely and vari. than that event, which is invariably, ously, like those irregular succesthat is, which always has been, al. sions of events which we denominate ways is, and always will be, followed accidental ?”

It is the appearance by another event.

of the sun above the horizon that is This relation between two events immediately followed by day, and its cannot, as the author conceives, be disappearance by night. discovered previous to experience. Dr Brown is by no means dispo. Even after experience, this relation is . sed to admit the system which considiscovered, not by season, but by an ders mind as the sole agent in

every instinctive irresistible belief. And change.' In these changes we see this belief seems to take place when. only the same sequence as in those ever two events are seen following produced by materiał agents. In cach other. Experience then ena- the voluntary motions of the body, bles us to correct the error of first we see only desire followed by the impressions, to separate the loose and immediate attainment of its object. variable accessories, and to ascertain A mao may indeed take a nauseous that event, which, always preceding draught, which he dislikes ; but still, another event, forms its cause, or in. from a conviction of its necessity, he variable antecedent.

desires that motion of his hand The obvious objection to this sys- which is to carry it to his lips. With tem is, that many things follow each regard to the disposition to personify other constantly, without our ever material objects, and to refer to mind ascribing to them the relation of all their unaccustomed changes, the cause and effect : thus upon such a author conceives merely, that wheresupposition, night would be the cause ever there appears no visible agent; of day, and day of night. But, ac- mind is resorted to as the only uncordiog to Dr Brown, that only is known and invisible one.

In consethe invariable antecedent, which ne- quence of these speculations, Dr ver appears without being immediate. Brown considers the distinction be. ly followed by its consequent. Now, tween physical and efficient causes as ós how often, during a long and sleep- altogether nugatory. less night, does the sensation of dark. The grand question remains, how neos exist, without being followed is this system connected with the by the sensation of light! We per- great truth of the existence of the ceive the gloom ; we feel our own Deity ? By the constitution of our position in bed, or some bodily and nature we are irresistibly led to bemental pain which prevents repose ; lieve, that every change is invariably innumerable thoughts arise, at inter- connected with circumstances immedi. vals, in our mind, and with these the ately prior. This law must equally perception of gloom is occasionally apply to that greatest of all changes, mingled, without being followed by which consists in beginning existhe perception of light. At last tence. And, from the wisdom dis. light is perceived, and, as mingled played throughout nature, we are led with all our occupations and plea- to infer that the antecedent of this


[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

great event, must have been the will the old distinction between these and of an intelligent being. The will to physical causes. Whea therefore Mo inodify, to alter, or to destroy the Leslie is accused of denying a “ neuniverse, must, in like manner, becessary connection between cause and followed by its object. “It is not

“ It is not effect," he is supposed to admit the
necessary to the purity of theism, existence of efficient causes and their
that we should suppose something effects, and to deny only a certain re-
divine and incomprehensible to be in- lation between them. But, if we ad-
terposed, amid all those obvious and mit the existence of efficient causes,
regular changes which we observe: we admit all, for which, as essential
it is sufficient that we be fully im. to theism, the most zealous assertors
pressed with the necessity of a Crea- of that distinction contend.
tor, and trace the universe, with all its Again, since “ necessary connec-
regularity and beauty, as one great tion,” and “ operating principle,”
effect to the almighty source of be- are both synonymous with efficiency ;
ing." In our highest contemplations and since cause, when repeated in the
of his power, we believe only, that sentence without any qualifying term,
when he willed creation, a world must be understood both times to
arose, and that, in all future time, his have the same meaning ; Mr Leslie
will to create cannot exist without therefore is accused of denying “ all
being followed by the rise of worlds: such efficiency in efficient causes, as
that his will to destroy will be in implies efficiency in efficient causes."
like manner followed by destruction ; Dr Brown therefore insists that the
and his will to vary the course of clergy have no cause to wonder, if,
things by miraculous appearances. before explanation, Mr Stewart

The will is the only necessary previ- thought this an unlikely interpreta-
ous change ; and that being has al- tion.
mighty power whose every will is im. We proceed now to the arguments
mediately and invariably followed by brought forward on the other side of
the existence of its object.”

the question.
Dr Brown then exposes, at consi- The ininisters of Edinburgh never
derable length, the errors which Mr entered into any combination. The
Hume had mingled with this doc- allusions to it are false and groundless.
trine, and which alone render it ex. It was solemnly disavowed by one of
ceptionable. Upon the whole, to them at the bar of the general assem-
such as are not deterred by the ab. bly; and it was expected that some
struseness of the subject, we would degree of credit would be thought
recommend, instead of this imperfect due to his public declaration upon
analysis, a perusal of the treatise it. a subject, in regard to which it was
self, which deserves attention, not impossible that he could be mistaken.
merely from its temporary applica. Although the ministers of Edinburgh
tion, but from the new theory it had joined in favouring Mr Mac-
contains on this important branch of knight, and had given him their uni-
metaphysical science.

red advice against resigning his eccleSome time after, another pamphlet siastical charge, perhaps their conduct appeared by the same author, entit. might not by some have been thought led, “ A Short Criticism of the very iniquitous. But so it is, that Terms of the Charge against Mr they did neither. As no evidence Leslie." This is founded on the ex- whatever has been attempted on the planation of the clergy, that in using other side, they must either rest in ihe word cause, they meant only ef- simple denial, or undertake the unficient causes ; and takes for granted reasonable task of proving a negaMay 1806.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »