Page images
PDF
EPUB

cause it was not, strictly speaking, moral. principally in not needing the stimulus of His son, indeed, calls him “a very hero practical ends. He generalized and raof morality;" but by this he only means tionalized the ingenuities which they put a moralizing hero, a devotee of practical into operation. A philosopher of a very sobriety. Even his practical code of ethics, different school has laid down as the prolike his thought, was by no means of a per standard of morality, the rather vague fine texture fitting close to the average test of “conformity to the fitness of things.” life of the day rather than rising above it If you take it, however, in the most literal -practical therefore, but also very me- and physical sense you can imagine, that chanical. He respected morals and poli- is exactly what Paley's intellect was so tics chiefly as divine “contrivances” for acute to discern. He loved to note how preventing fatal collisions between indi- the universe pieced together. He did not vidual happiness-seekers; yet though di- search out the deeper meanings and exvine, surely from this point of view, con- pressions which these “fittings” of the trivances much less effective than various world were really intended to convey; he human contrivances of similar aim. Hap- only asked if they were obviously and inpiness-seekers might perhaps-had that tentionally the furniture of this world, and been the divine purpose—have been more of no other-if they were contrived to fit successfully saved from collision, either by its various niches, and contrived also to ampler supplies of that desideratum, or correspond and look symmetrical inter se. by far more "violent motives” restricting Like a child over its dissected map, he each seeker to his own peculiar line of scarcely looked to see whether the whole happiness, than any with which we have picture grew in unity of color, depth, and been in fact supplied. Paley's lengthy import, as it grew towards completeness; treatise on morals would scarcely have so long as the bits suited, he thought but been either needed or written had the little of the new hints which might be human-happiness-regulating machine an- derived from each successive touch and swered as well in holding society together tint with regard to a solution we will not as the instincts of the beaver or the bee say but rather a just appreciation of the answer with the settlements of those well- great problem of creation. It was the one organized communities which he disposes great faculty of his mind to detect coïnciof so succinctly in other works. How- dence. He carried about with him, as it ever, he has the great merit of expressing were, in his mind the shape and measure what almost all other people then thought, of all apparently dislocated things and and that too in its most bare and uncere- facts; and no sooner saw a trace of some monious form.

corresponding thing or fact than he deIf we have dwelt long on the personal scended swiftly upon the phenomenon, character of Paley, it is in the belief that, and investigated the apparent connection. however well his writings may character. This is the one great talent displayed in ize the age in which he lived, the man his “Horæ Paulinæ;" it afforded him all himself characterizes it and its social defi- the best illustrations for his “Moral Philociencies more accurately far. But before sophy;" it was, on a somewhat larger and leaving him, we must briefly examine the vaguer scale, the faculty which is remarkgreat train of thought which he worked able in his “Evidences:" and this keen intelout in a book of far more permanent and lectual tact, as we may call it, culminated sterling value than his “Moral Philosophy;" in the really wonderfully able and ingeniin a line of thought, too, certainly not less ous work on “Natural Theology." strikingly representative of his day and of The exclusive bias towards "evidences" the mind of his generation. The great -towards the study of means rather than acuteness of Paley's intellect was, as we of ends-which Paley's mind thus gave to have indicated, chiefly shown in detecting the religious thought of his day, was, for the various fittings of the world. It dił two principal reasons, remarkably unfafered from that of other practical men vorable to the social side of religion, nay,

even dissociating: first, because in perlarger sum than now-for his " Moral and Political suading men that they knew much more Philosophy,” though it was his first work. His son about the means and machinery of God tells us that his father met with a copy of the second than about his final ends, character, and publisher's hands. It would be difficult to get £1000 life, it overshadowed the only center of now for any volume on such a subject.

Unity; next, because in representing the

creation of sensitive existence as a mere to know it, in order not to misread enmachine for producing and accumnlating tirely and cloud with selfish dissociating a great sum of happiness, it necessarily meanings these subordinate methods. We suggested - as it in fact suggested to need to have ever before us the purifying Paley—that God's care for the individual vision of his character, that we may not was merged in his care for the species, misinterpret the processes of nature by and consequently that individual ends and mistaking the mere ingenuity of the scafgeneral ends might come into direct col- folding for the beauty of the building; in lision. On both these tendencies we must order that we may not misinterpret the dwell with a few illustrations, as they institutional side of religion and education seem to us most characteristic of the reli- into selfish and unintelligible ordinances, gion of the age.

which either crush, or stupefy, or corrupt 1. There is nothing that tends to do the life of society. away so quickly and completely with the And it can not be denied, that to such social power of any religion, as the merg- misinterpretations the thoughts predomiing of the divine life and character in what nant in Paley's works have not a little con. are supposed to be the mere means or tributed, in so far as they severed cominstrumentalities of the divine agency. pletely the reasons for belief from the Every sacerdotal corruption, and every object of faith; marshaling his arguments, dreary mechanical philanthropy, every both with regard to nature and revelation, philosophical dogmatism that has strained in long array, without ever introducing us faith and dimmed the light of inspiration, to the Being to whom they should lead. has been founded on this false and de- The only source of social unity is in God pressing notion. The priest has never himself.' Paley, like the high ecclesiasceased to tell men that the means of tical school, the high Calvinistic school, grace are mercifully made more distinct and the rationalistic philanthropic school, to our poor limited human vision than the in their very different ways, exhausted all divine life which it is their purpose to his strength in pointing out the admirable impart; and we must be content to adopt adaptations of the approach to God. There the one, and rest in hope that we shall are, no doubt, certain points both of his have the other.” The external philan-“Natural Theology"and of his" Evidences” 'thropist has ever preached “that there is where he allows a single ray of the divine more dependence to be placed on judicious character itself to shine through the habits formed early in life than on any crowded indications of mere intelligence impulses of devotion or fanciful illumina- and capacity which He displays: where, tions of conscience; and that if we will for instance, he dwells on the solicitude but have sufficient confidence in the edu- for weakness and helplessness evinced in cational means, the well-known and pro- the parental instincts of animals; still vidential laws of human growth must more, perhaps, where he shows the anxresult in the moulding of a sober and iety for symmetry and beauty which is well-disciplined character as the end." displayed in the animal universe-the And so, too, we have seldom been with most unsymmetrical and unsightly and unout the presence of some "enlightened" expressive organs being closely "packed” philosophy, teaching us that of the ab- and covered-in in so fair symmetrical and solute and eternal principles of things we expressive a frame; most of all

, perhaps, can know nothing; that it is the wisest where he shows that the limitations of as well as the most humble course to human and animal life appear to be proacquaint ourselves with the processes of vided for in the great system of celestial creation which we may understand, and astronomy itself-sleep implying night as to exchange the fruitless study of divine its correlative, so that the periodic ex. ends for the study of nature's means and haustion of bodily and mental powers is man's limitations.” In all these cases we closely linked with the arrangements of believe the very reverse to be the truth; the planetary system. In all these cases that we know, or may know, through the we seem to get a glimpse of foundations voluntary self-revelation of God, far more of society which lie beyond mere ingeniof his real and intimate character than ous mechanism--of provision for social we can ever know of his mere methods disinterestedness—of an external justificaof action, whether natural or ordained. tion for the love of beauty-of the law And we not only may know this, but need of alternate growth through labor and

through rest in the life of man. And in nizes the marvelous contrivances of the all these cases Paley's argument rises universe, sees in it a happiness-manufacabove its ordinary level, simply because it tory, and infers a doctrine of selfishness. allows us to see some deeper aspect of The education-theorist recognizes the same the divine character than mere intelli- marvelous mechanism, sees in it a reposigence : in helping us to see God's care for tory of fixed habits, and infers a speedy helplessness, his care for beauty, his care millennium through the moulding influto show us that a creature's energy needs ence of classes, tracts, and schools. Each constant renewal-his greatest strength interpolates his own end, accepting at coming out of perfect and unconscious once the divine“ method.” And so, too, rest-Paley really helps us to see the in dealing with Christian teaching, the character of God, and not a mere con- method of Paley has only been too closetriver. But in the main, Paley's argu- ly followed out. The “means of salvament fixes our attention painfully on the tion," as they are called, absorb all attenlimitations of nature, instead of on the tion from the meaning of the end. When character that shines through. A means you come to ask what salvation is, you may be ingenious; but if it expresses get the most opposite answers, and are nothing in itself—if it be a mere scaffold- even told you are asking an irrelevant ing or step-ladder to something else-it is question. The “ appointed means” are rather what we should at first term an in- more distinctly revealed, it is said ; rather dication of a finite mind than of an infinite say, they are more pliant to human purmind. The most divine of God's works poses than the divine end. By the Calare never mere means, they are means vinist we are told that the whole essence and end at once. The eye is useful, and of revelation consists in the discovery to so far only a means; but it is spiritual and man of a new means by which, without expressive, and so far an end. But when any previous eradication of sin, sin may you come to be told about the stomach of be pardoned. By the Romanist we are the camel, the folding poison-tooth of the told that even repentance, or the putting serpent, the valves of the thoracic duct, off of sin, would not avail without adoptthe rings of the trachea, the bandage at ing penance-the appointed means of abthe ankle, and so forth, you feel that such solution. In both cases a contrivance for contrivances, argued from alone, would reaching God, be it acceptance of a rather impress you with the limited inge- doctrine or obedience to an ordinance, is nuity of a finite mind than the perfect wis- substituted for the end; and the true dom of an infinite spirit. These instru- end itself is left unguarded from the disments of life, as such, are not adequate figurements of human dogmatism, selfishrevelations of God: all the works of his pess, and pride. Only a faith which that we fully understand are like a human keeps ever in sight the personal character society, in which each element lives for of God keeps ever in sight the one true the rest, and yet has a life of its own; in bond of human society that can subdue which all means are ends, and all ends selfish ends, harmonize jarring purposes, means. That we can not often discern unite in one life the members of one this in the organic mechanism of the body, body. Any system which, like Paley's, is one reason, we believe, why physiolo- elaborately distracts the attention to the gical even more than mechanical science subordinate machinery either of divine has so often had an atheistic influence; it agency or human belief, opens a direct displays intelligence rather than intellect, way to the interweaving either of such design rather than purpose, contrivance purely selfish ends of action as he himself without character.

proposed, or of other ends of more And, unhappily, this is just what complex nature, with the methods of human nature is too prone to take advan- divine agency, and thus eventually opens tage of. If it may make its own God, it the way to the multiplying discords and will adopt almost any mode of proving ultimate disorganization of all social life. him, or any mode of worshiping him. That which accounted for the coïnciLiberated from the vision of the divine dences of the universe, he recognized ; life, it eagerly accepts the arguments or that which constituted the coherence of the institutions commonly reckoned reli- human society, he passed by. gious, and wrests them to its own selfish 2. But Paley's rationale of the world purposes. The happiness-theorist recog- as a great happiness manufactory held

within it another still more dissociating the increase of the gross sum of happiness principle. In regarding sensitive happi- appears to involve the constant sacrifice ness, or pleasure, as the “pulse of the of hosts of sensitive creatures. There it machine” - as the one aim of God in is involuntary. But men, having a will of producing it—he measured by a standard their own, might not like to resign in that set society and individuals at vari- favor of “ an average of happiness ;" and ance. For if the object of the universe consequently society which involves that be the production of a certain gross sacrifice is always liable to destruction. amount of the article "pleasure,” it is im- Paley, therefore, has to find a new motive mediately obvious that the individual for consulting the general consequence," creatures which feel it are of no account, rather than the particular ;” and he except in proportion to the degree in finds it in a promise as to a future life. which they swell the total of enjoyment; Here society and individuals would be and individual interests may thus come constantly at issue; until you come to into immediate conflict with general in- look into the revealed future “general terests. For instance, to sacrifice one rules,” and “general consequences,” the sentient being for every two created, regard for which alone opens the way for would produce the same gross result, and positive law and impartial justice, would therefore be as agreeable to the divine have no claim over us. Nor, indeed, is method, as the creation of one only; yet, it as general rules that they do establish clearly, to the individual sacrificed it a claim over us, but simply because their would not be the same thing: and thus observance is to be rewarded with a perthe selfish principle inevitably introduces petuity of private blessing in time to a conflict between social principles and come. The society, therefore, which by individual principles of action. Society this artificial compromise is established can not be held sacred, as grounded on a as a compact whole here, dissolves again divine unity, by those who regard social after death into an infinite number of good as the average result to which the private individuals, enjoying each his own sacrifice of their own being might at any perpetuity of private happiness. The time be justly required. Paley, gazing social “compromise” is but temporary, on the mechanical side of the universe, and could not have been binding at all and principally on the lower orders of without this divine offer of a high reward creation, thought he saw this principle, in the next life for postponing particular and did not wholly shrink from it. He happiness to the general happiness in this. saw Nature “so careful of the type, so Clearly, then, Paley saw in society only careless of the single life;" he saw that another “contrivance" for securing a " of fifty seeds she often brings but one to larger amount of happiness than could bear;” and he drew the conclusion that otherwise have existed within the same it was general happiness or pleasure” area-an amount secured frequently at that was the great aim of the universe. the immediate expense of individuals, and When he came to the human world, he giving, therefore, a clear title to “comwas obliged, therefore, to admit that pensation.”

general happiness" is God's end, private In short, Paley was not a thinker to happiness the right end of every indivi- sound the intellectual depths even of his dual, and the two by no means identical ; own age. Creation must indeed have extricating himself from his difficulty by been mechanical, man selfish, and society the hypothesis that “everlasting” happi. held together by a thread, had the ingeness will set the balance right, by more nuities he found in the former, and the than repaying in another world the sacri- motives he discovered in the latter, been fice of private happiness in this. The as little mixed with finer elements as he whole theory of his moral philosophy rests supposed. He stretched his arm but a on the importance of keeping general litile way into the deep waters; and rules,” even when the particular result is fancied that the strength of the upper evil; and he reconciles us to the sacrifice, currents which he measured there, disonly by crediting with an infinity of closed to him the origin of the mighty future happiness those who thus act. storm, and the fixed constitution of the Thus his theory of society is, as it were, still mightier tide. He saw deep enough formed on the observation of the lower to discern the ingenuity of the universe, world of involuntary animal life, where but not deep enough to see its wonder

and its bloom. He saw deep enough to glad to turn away to the unspoiled happidiscern the prominent selfishness of man, ness of animal life. He is half aware that but not deep enough to see how that self it is light shining into darkness -- the ishness was tempered, regulated, and darkness comprehending it not. overpowered. He saw that God had revealed fragments of his will, but did not It is like passing straight from the see that his mere will could never have market-place to the mountain side, to ex- ' been obeyed without the purifying revela- change Paley's broad, rough, and businesstion of himself, But we must not ima- like familiarity with the "common things” gine that the shallowness of his philosophy of the universe for the delicate spiritual was a fair measure for the shallowness of freedom, but too arduous and too selfhis character. The mysteries which seem- cultured forms of Channing's faith. Paley ed to him to vanish beneath the acute can not, like Channing, be called an indigaze of his understanding, really existed vidualist, simply because he left no room for him as for us: but Paley discerned in his creed for moral individuality at all; spiritual things, if we may so say, by a unraveling all characters alike into the sense of touch, more than by a sense of one primary and impersonal element of a vision; and he could not believe that he desire for pleasure. But if Paley's creed saw at all what he could not present tan- were not individualistic, still less was it gibly to others. He tells us himself that social; its very first assumption being he once fancied he felt something more competitive self-love, the force which in "obligation” than a “violent motive soonest rends the union of human society. resulting from the command of another;" It attempted, indeed, to assuage these but on attempting to handle the matter, otherwise inevitable conflicts; but this it the mystery disappeared from his view. attempted only by promising a liberal In truth, his eye was fitted for the distribution of retiring pensions in “everoutward world, not for the inward. He lasting happiness" to all those who should took society and man without demur at waive the cravings for immediate enjoytheir own low estimate of themselves. ment here. No society that had fully He understood the animal creation best; taken to heart Dr. Paley's system would and the homely humor with which he have been able to understand why one compared the instincts of animals and the kingdom of God” should comprehend “ rational” selfishness of man, was proba- all men; indeed, they would have thought bly of permanent benefit to his day. So it a very unfortunate arrangement, quite far as his theory went, however, no man certain to reintroduce into the future specicould have been further from discerning ally appropriated for recompense those or teaching that religion is essentially inequalities of position, and those necessisocial, and that the deepest root of faith ties for self-sacrifice, which they had hoped grows out of the purest society. He bas were peculiar to the state of probation. absolutely no glimpses of such a truth But Channing's faith included the amplest while dealing with social and political recognition of the sacredness of society; duties; very few come to him even when, and yet, as a faith, it certainly was not soin his construction of evidences, he cial but individualist. Born a generation shrewdly analyzes the motives of suffering later than Paley, the enthusiasm of the Christians; and no doubt he had his war of independence had in part already brightest gleams of light on the constitu- anticipated for America, and especially for tion of the universe while he walked New-England, that mighty social moveabout his garden marveling at flowers ment which changed the face of Europe and shells; “ laughing immoderately” as during Channing's early youth. He not he tried the hypothesis of rationality on only inherited that profound love of freethe instincts of the sparrow and the but- dom which—in political and practical life terfly; or giving God heart-felt thanks for at least-the New-England fathers had the enjoyments of “ shrimps,” and the ever cherished as the great involuntary divinely ordered "pleasures of a healthy blessing bestowed on them by their perinfant.” Though, according to Paley's secutors, but he inherited it at a time conception, the benignity of God shines when political life all over Europe and down complacently even on the selfish- America was reacting upon the most inness of man, yet he is conscious of a sickly ward life of faith; when dreary conservaglare in the contrast, which makes him tisms were justifying themselves by ad

« PreviousContinue »