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Mr Hume considers true religion as never manifested except in the coolness of philosophical speculation ; and he regards himself as sufficiently accounting for that warmth of devotion which exhibits itself in sacrifices and mortifications, or in rapture and hope, its almost universal concomitants, but which he terms superstition and enthusiasm, --when he says, that the one proceeds from “ weakness, “ fear, and melancholy," and the other from “ hope, pride, “presumption, and a warm imagination," in either case combined with “ ignorance.” It is plain, supposing this view of the matter to be correct, that religion is folly, and reason is the principle which expels it; that philosophy, so far from being the torch of religion, is the harbinger of its fall ; and that the converse of Lord Bacon's doctrine is true, a little philosophy making men religious, a great deal, unbelievers.
But such, after all, is too generally the character, not merely of Mr Hume's writings, but of the philosophy taught in the schools. It is not the object of this paper to attempt any detail of the views of religion given by all the different authors who have speculated upon its foundations in human nature. Happily, indeed, if Dr Thomas Brown be excluded, (and he, in this respect, is subsequent only in date, not superior in principle,) this is rendered needless by our access to a work which may fairly be regarded as containing the essence of all that has been written on the subject. Mr DugALD STEWART, a living philosopher, who never has been accused of imperfect acquaintance with the writings of his predecessors, gives the substance of their views in his little work, (not the least valuable of his writings) the OUTLINES OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY; from which it will be sufficient to extract a summary of his doctrines, to establish the truth of what has been asserted.
It is known, that Mr Stewart considers human nature, in this abstract of his philosophy, under the two divisions of the intellectual and of the active and moral powers, with a sort of appendix regarding the phenomena of man as a member of political society; and, in laying out his subject, he makes no express reference to his capacity for religion. After discussing, indeed, the active and moral powers of man, he details the various branches of duty which he regards as arising out of them; and among these, no doubt, he includes duty to God. But it is not, like the others, (our duties to our fellow-creatures,) deduced from any of the principles that had gone before. It has a principle for itself; and, such as it is, it shall be explained here.
Mr Stewart sets out with saying, that “our duties to God “ (so far as they are discoverable by the light of nature,) MUST BE
INFERRED from the relation in which we stand to him, as “ the Author and the Governor of the universe.” And hence, he says, that an examination of the principles of natural religion, “ besides being the reasonable consequence of those impressions “ which his works produce on every attentive and well-disposed “ mind, may be itself regarded, both as one of the duties we owe to “ him, and as the expression of a moral temper sincerely devoted to “ truth, and alive to the sublimest emotions of gratitude and bene“ volence.” The doctrines of natural religion, he then says, are discoverable by two modes of reasoning, the argument a priori, and the argument a posteriori. The first he dismisses very summarily, because “ it is less level than the other to “ the comprehension of ordinary men;" and, " in inquiries of this “ sort, the presumption is strongly in favour of that mode of rea“ soning which is the most simple and obvious. Quicquid nos vel “ meliores vel beatiores facturum est, aut in aperto, aut in proximo posuit natura.”*
He adds, that “ the existence of a Deity, “ however, does not seem to be an intuitive truth. It requires the “ exercise of our reasoning powers to present it in its full force to “ the mind. But the process of reasoning consists only of a single “ step, and the premises belong to that class of first principles “ which form an essential part of the human constitution. These “premises are two in number. The one is, that every thing which “ begins to exist must have a cause ; the other, that a combination “ of means, conspiring to a particular end, implies intelligence."
Applying this principle to the evidences of active power exhibited in the universe, the first conclusion drawn is, “ that the phenomena of the universe indicate the constant agency “ of powers which cannot belong to matter, or, in other words, that
“ they indicate the constant agency of mind.” Applying it next to the evidences of design exhibited in the universe, the au- thor deduces the existence and character of God, as being “ that power not belonging to matter, that mind,” which created and regulates the whole.
A subordinate branch of the inquiry (the indications of uniformity of design appearing in nature,) is said to be “ne
cessary for the demonstration of the unity" of God; and the appearances of wisdom, it is added, are “ useful, by their
tendency to elevate our conceptions of the Supreme Being." But in prosecuting this train of inquiry, Mr Stewart has to encounter a serious class of objections—from those who dispute its soundness as a mode of philosophizing; and he does seem to feel the awkwardness of ascribing a sentiment so ardent in itself, and so universal even among barbarous people, (which, on his own principles, should be aut in aperto, aut in proximo), to any process of reasoning. He, therefore, concludes one branch of the inquiry by saying, that, “ before leaving this subject, it is proper to “ remark, that the metaphysical reasonings which have been oc
casionally employed in the illustration of it, ought not to be “ considered as forming any part of the argument for the existence “ of God, which (as was already observed) is an immediate and necessary consequence of the two principles formerly mentioned.
of these reasonings is not to confirm the truth of the “proposition, but to obviate the sceptical cavils which have been
urged against it." Still, however, it will be observed, he holds that the existence of God, the foundation of all religious principle, is discovered by an argument, addressed to the intellect.
Supposing, then, that this fundamental part of religion is truly, as represented by this writer, the offspring of argument, what explanation does he give of the phenomena of religious worship, which are not less general than the other ? This is it. He sets himself to explain “ the evidences of be“ nevolent design in the universe,” and “ the evidences of the “ moral government of the Deity,” (to prove which last he finds it necessary to betake himself to a future state; but
which future state, though used as a proof, he also has to prove),—that is to say, to use his own words, “the evi« dences of the Divine goodness and justice." And hav. ing established these attributes by a train of reasoning, he designates them as those “ which constitute the moral perfection of the Deity, and which render him a proper object “ of religious worship.”
These ten concluding words are the whole account given by this author of one of the most singular and influential phenomena exhibited in human nature. It is true, that, in the conclusion of his whole inquiry, he says,* that, “ after “the view which has been given of the principles of natural reli“ gion, little remains to be added concerning the duties which re“spect the Deity. To employ our faculties in studying those eviden“ces of Power, of Wisdom, and of Goodness, which he has display“ed in his works, as it is the foundation, in other instances, of “our sense of religious obligation, so it is, in itself, a duty in“ cumbent on us as reasonable and moral beings, capable of recog“ nising the existence of an Almighty Cause, and of feeling corre“ sponding sentiments of devotion. By those (he adds) who enter“tain just opinions on this most important of all subjects, the “ following practical consequences, which comprehend some of the “ chief effects of religion on the temper and conduct, will be readily “ admitted as self-evident propositions."
These practical consequences are four-love and reverence towards a Deity who is of infinite moral excellence,—the inducement to virtuous conduct afforded by a sense of his goodness, and by the prospect of future reward,--and a complete resignation of self to the Divine will.
But do these principles either exhaust the subject of devotion, or even embrace its most leading phenomena? Are they sufficient to explain the absurdity, variety, or even warmth of that feeling which has been universal ; or do they in any way touch the sacrificial system, which has been equally universal ? Are they not at once felt, on the contrary, as being a mere evasion of the difficulty, as being a substitution, in short, of involved processes of reasoning for
. P. 241.
what is felt as being an instinctive sentiment of the most powerful character ?
Let it not be supposed that, in these remarks, we are undervaluing the arguments for the existence of God, drawn from final causes, or the reasonableness of inquiries into the foundation of religious worship in the principles of human nature. It is not even to be supposed, that we object to the particular mode in which Mr Stewart conducts this inquiry. We regard his speculations, on the contrary, as, in many respects, just and always important; but we value them not, like him, as of themselves, accounting for our religious feelings, but as coinciding with those primitive sentiments which form these, and are a simple and elementary part of our nature ;-as confirming its excellence, as proving its reasonableness, as illustrating its scope and useful direction, and so as commanding the assent of the understanding to what previously was the dictate of the heart. It is very true, that causality will go far to establish both the existence and the unity of a wise God. But the intellect is stimulated to this inquiry by the sentiments, (and, in particular, as we shall by and by see, by the venerating principle,) which require and prepare the mind for the reception of Deity, and without which there could not be a right perception of His character ; while the feeling of Adoration, which is an invariable concomitant of the other, can in no sense be regarded as a corollary from the existence of God, or even be excited at all by the mere intellect.
Let us see, then, whether Phrenology affords any better explanation of the subject than is to be drawn from the books of the old philosophy. The phrenologists, influenced by the facts in human nature which are shortly detailed above, have conceived them to be indicative of a PRIMITIVE FACULTY or PRINCIPLE, which they call THE SENTIMENT OF VENERATion; and it will not be difficult to perceive, both that this is an elementary principle resolvable into none more simple, and also that it easily and completely accounts for the various