« PreviousContinue »
The drift of this argument is to prove, that all these are prospective contrivances for the purpose of inflicting penal suffering on a race of fallen and guilty creatures: that had man been in a state of innocence, and the use of metals been necessary for him in that state, they would have presented themselves upon the surface in a fusible state; and all the labour and research, all the skill of subduing the stubborn qualities of ore by fire or otherwise, are proofs of the wrath of God against a creature to whom such occupations are necessary ;-in other words, that all labour is penal. As well might Mr. Gisborne have required, that every instrument of luxury or ornament,—the golden goblet, the diadem or the tiara studded with diamonds, should present themselves spontaneously to man. On the other hand, all the toil of research, all the ingenuity employed in refining and modifying native materials for the use of man, is represented as so much misery. Almost every thing may be taken by two handles; and it would surely have occurred to a more cheerful temper, or a more philosophical understanding, that these prospective contrivances, for such unquestionably they are, may be proved by the event to have been intended for a very different purpose;—that innumerable blessings were placed within the reach of man, but at a proper distance to stimulate research, to reward labour, to exercise the sagacity, and in all respects so circumstanced as to suit the condition of a creature destined to advance to the highest degrees of civilization and of intellectual improvement, by a vigorous exercise both of mind and body ;-that the dislocations and disruptions which it suits our author's temper to bewail in strains so lamentable, by inclining the strata of the earth, have been in many instances the very means by which mines and minerals were discovered, and have afforded the greatest facilities to their being wrought. Again, according to Mr. Gisborne, miners and manufacturers of metals are damnati ad metalla-criminals condemned, for the original transgression of their first parents, to darkness, damps, and intolerable toil: but we would beg leave to ask him, whether, in our happy country at least, this state of gloom and suffering is not spontaneously chosen? Does not every individual who embraces this occupation elect it for himself? Are not other callings at his option? Or are our miners, like the convicts of the Roman law, worn out by the combined operation of labour and want, proportioned, in either case, with artificial and exquisite cruelty, so as to constitute the severest of all punishments? Is not their free and moderate share of labour a blessing instead of a curse? Is it not the parent of health, vigour and spirits ? But further, the exercise of the understanding in research for the discovery of mines and minerals is
highly pleasurable. The consciousness of sagacity and skill at once encourages hope and enhances the joy of success; nay even the stimulus to exertion under temporary disappointments is far from being undelightful. But in the long and varied process by which the most important and valuable of metals is modified for the uses of man, invention and improvement, the progress of which is almost without bounds, are so many sources of pure and innocent pleasure. Intimately connected with the subject of metallurgy are the sciences of chemistry and even electricity: and are all these pursued in gloomy discontent, as if their prosecutors were merely condemned to the endurance of some great evil, merely to avoid a greater? In short, we need vot at this time to be told how much of that highly cultivated state of society in which we live is owing to improvement in the modification of metals; nor that every improvement in art, every step in the progress of human society, is not only an accession to general happiness, but a source of delight to the inventor.
• But,' says our author, with inflexible adherence to his hypothesis, what are the tendency and effects of the present arrangement and collocation of mineral beds? Precisely those, which, for the benefit of our argument, we should especially desire. They are to shew that the Deity, when placing mankind in a state of innocence upon the globe, devised and carried into execution, in its very structure and composition, provisions and prospective arrangements unadapted to the then existing state of man, but suited to the situation of men in the event of their falling from holiness and from his favour, and that his omniscience foresaw such fall, and made provision for it,'—
--that is, to punish it. Had Mr. Gisborne applied another and a truly Christian analogy to this case, he might have arrived at this conclusion,--that as God had made a prospective arrangement for the recovery and salvation of mankind, foreseeing the fall, so in foresight of the same event and of the consequent expulsion of our first parents from Paradise, he had graciously provided in the structure and furniture of the earth materials for human skill and industry, by which they might, in a great measure, repair the physical consequences of the fall, and raise themselves to an higher degree of intellect than could have been naturally attained in Paradise itself. This would have been an inference at once cheering and pious.
For the establishment of the same hypothesis, our author pursues through many a page of gloomy declamation, the case of earthquakes and volcanos, and then infers, from the case of Korah and his company, that each of these phænomena is an act of divine vengeance; and so plainly,' saith he, is this conclusion rational, that in the volume of Revelation itself, and when earthquakes formed as now part of the ordinary dispensations of Providence, the argu
ment, as addressed to natural reason, is most awfully applied and illustrated in the miraculous judgment on Korah and his company. “If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men, then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up, then shall she understand that these men have provoked the Lord”- the voice of the earthquake proclaims to the pupil of natural theology “ Man has provoked the Lord.”
To this inference we have two objections :—First, that the fate of these rebels is not clearly proved to have been produced by an earthquake. It was a new thing, probably a sudden, tranquil
, and miraculous subsidence of the earth beneath their feet-and, secondly, because the analogy is wholly inapplicable; for this terrible event was specifically threatened beforehand as an act of vengeance. The same fallacy runs through all our author's reasonings on these subjects. We believe the deluge, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the peculiar agonies of human childbirth, and the awful event of death, all these we believe to have been, or to be, properly, penal, because we are so assured in Scripture; but as to other convulsions which have agitated the earth, or other miseries which have afflicted it, since they are all capable of being accounted for by physical causes, we deem it presumptuous to judge as to their moral purpose or direction because we have no authority for so doing. We have another instance of our author's unhappy bias towards the gloomy system
• There is a circumstance connected with the ordinary suppor of the human frame, which accords with á fallen state only, namely, the general necessity for the use of animal food. That one holy and pure being, &c. &c. should be constrained for the preservation of his existence, or his strength, continually to 'dip his hand in blood-this would be a supposition inconsistent, I think, with any semblance of probability' What is there unnatural or improbable in this? The organs of the human frame, the teeth, the stomach in particular, prove that, though capable of being sustained by vegetable food, man was either created in part a carnivorous animal, or was refashioned into a different creature at bis expulsion from Paradise. Besides on the opinion here advanced, we have only to observe that no man is constrained to dip his hand in blood and to eat the flesh of what Mr. Gisborne thinks proper to call a fellow-creature: it was allowed to Noah as an indulgence, and may be accepted or declined by his posterity. But we cannot forbear to urge the iminense addition which was made to the happiness of those species of animals. which ordinarily constitute the food of man by this very indulgence. Had
the restriction to vegetable diet, which may seem to have prevailed down to the Flood, been continued to the present time, the sheep might indeed have been propagated and preserved for its fleece, and the cow for its milk, but where would have been all the enjoyment, which arises from the long process of fattening? Compare the worn out age of an ox and a horse-the one turned out to destitution and insults, the other pampered and protected till its existence is terminated by a momentary and unexpected stroke. All this happiness arises from the use of animal food.
In the paradisiacal state, as Mr. Gisborne truly observes, God gave to the whole animal creation the green herb, and that only, for meat. This provision leads into a boundless field of hypothesis and conjecture : man and the hog indeed could subsist indifferently upon animal and vegetable food, but what was to become of animals purely carnivorous ? To suppose that they originally subsisted on herbs is to suppose them to have been different creatures; their teeth, claws, muscles, eyes, smell and organs of digestion plainly point them out as made for pursuit and ravine. Now it is
very extraordinary that during this whole period, from the creation to the deluge, there is no mention of beasts of prey: they appear to be unnoticed amongst the original works of the creation, for of the two words which could alone be supposed to describe them, the one means exclusively pecus or jumentum, and the other a living creature in general. It is only after the Flood that blood is said to be required of every beast: can we then conceive a subsequent creation to have taken place of these tribes, and that proper food was allowed for their sustenance ? Every way and in
view the subject is enveloped in clouds and darkness.
Another unfavourable and unfair view of the quantum of present happiness is exhibited in Mr. Gisborne's account of agricultural labour:
* How great,' he says, ' how continual is the toil annexed to the effective culture of the earth! Agriculture wears not in this our planet the characteristics of an occupation arranged for an innocent and fully fa"voured race. It displays to the eye of natural theology traces of the sentence pronounced on the first cultivator, the representative of all that were to succeed—“Cursed is the ground for thy sake”—“ Thorns
also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.”- “ In sorrow shalt thou · eat all the days of thy life"--" In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.”
It bears, according to Mr. Gisborne, in its toils and its solicitudes plain indications that man is a sinner.' It bears indeed plain indications that man is placed upon earth in a state, where if he is too idle to plough and sow, he will never reap; and this is all. But has our author attended so little to his Bible as not to know, that in this respect, Adam was not the representative of all that were to succeed,
and that this primæval curse of the earth was positively repealed in the days of Noah, according to the prediction of his father Lamech, that he should comfort them concerning the work and toil of their hands, because of the earth which the Lord had cursed ? And accordingly God declares immediately after the Flood, “I will not curse the ground any more for man's sake. Would that Mr. Gisborne, as a means of dispelling that gloom which a peculiar system of theology appears to have diffused over his whole understanding and temper, would take, by way of antidote, a beautiful and cheering passage of the 65th Psalm— Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice—Thou visitest the earth and waterest it-Thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths drop fatness—The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.'* To all this we may add, that had Paul and Barnabas been of Mr. Gisborne's mind, they would not have used the appearances of divine beneficence in the present world, as a proper topic for bringing the people of Lystra to a belief of the Being and Providence of the true God:
Nevertheless he left not himself without witness in that he did good, and gave us rain and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness;' whereas our author would make the witness to consist in the Almighty's continuing to curse the earth for man's sake, and to fill his hands with toil and his heart with sorrow. Were ever the sweet, the innocent, the healthful, the primæval labours of the husbandnian so misrepresented by gloom and melancholy before?
The peculiar turn of our author's mind is no where more conspicuous than in his reflections upon war, as a proof of the depravity of human nature. On this subject, St. James had told us truly and concisely that wars and fighting proceed from the lusts of men. Our author, with equal truth, but with that verbiage which every where deforms his style, has expanded this simple proposition into the following declamation :
The employment of war-it is one which bears on its front the indelible brand of punishment and guilt' (an easy inversion would have prevented this hysteron proteron). It is penal in its nature—it has its root in unrighteousness. The conflict of man with man is not the encounter of the wild beast with its antagonist. The brute animal, of whatever blind passion he may be following the impulse, wars not against checks of conscience and conviction of duty. His aggressions
* We would seriously recommend to our author's perusal, for his better information on this subject, the fourth of Bishop Sherlock’s masterly Discourses on prophecy, where the repeal of the curse on the earth for the sin of man is discussed with a clearness and accuracy almost peculiar to that great author. The study of such writers, instead of the school of theology to which Mr. Gisborne has addicted himself, would have been of watcrial service, both to his understanding and temper.