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ledge of the true God. All this they knew very clearly, and it was the most usual subject of their prayers and meditations. This was that exalted wisdom which distinguished them from all the people of the earth. For whereas in other nations, none but the wise men knew some of these great truths, and that but imperfectly, and were entirely ignorant of others, every Israelite was instructed in them all, and they scarcely varied the least in their notions about any of them.*
Although this summary is due to the industry of another writer, rather than that of Mr. Sumner, we do not think it necessary to enter more at large into the object and peculiarity of design of the Hebrew polity;-into the peculiar sanctions of their law, into their religions opinions, national worship, the principles of their morality, or the causes to which the superiority of the Mosaic theology may be referred.
They constitute the titles of several sections in the volume now before
but for reasons which will be obvious to those who have accompanied us through the preceding pages of this article, we decline entering into them upon the present occasion. We desire, however, to be understood, as wishing to convey a strong recommendation of these 'sections' to the attention of students in divinity and of general readers, and to admit the learning, ingenuity and industry, which Mr. Sumner has displayed in the composition of them, as well as of the two which follow
upon the questions, Whether Moses could have invented the doctrines which he taught concerning the Creation,' and "Whether he could have derived the knowledge of it from the learning of the Egyptians, or from the popular belief of the Israelites. Mr. Sumner has brought to bear upon these discussions a considerable portion of ancient and modern learning, and has displayed a very creditable degree of acuteness and originality in the illustrations and comparisons which he has drawn from his own sources. Upon a fair consideration of the argument, we cannot hesitate to admit, that this portion of the Essay constitutes a valuable addition to that department of theological science of which it professes to treat.
We now proceed to what appears to us to be by far the most attractive portions of Mr. Sumner's Essay, viz. the second and third parts, in which the attributes of God, and especially his wisdom and goodness, are followed in detail into their influence over the moral and political condition of mankind.
Mr. Sumner begins the sccond part of his Essay, which treats of
* Sec Abbé Fleury, ut supra. The heresy of the Sadducees, concerning a future state, is the strongest exception to this last assertion.
the Wisdom of God, as it is to be discovered by the observation of a reasonable mind upon the structure of the world and of human society, with these remarks:
“The Creator, as being the author of all things, must possess a complete and actual acquaintance not only with the things which exist, or have existed at any definite poin of time, but with whatever can possibly arise as consequences from things so existing, or be contingent upon them. Neither can He, upon whose original will it depended that certain powers should produce certain effects, be possibly ignorant of the means which best conduce to any design, or of the end which may result from any particular means. And this perfect knowledge of all that is past, and all that is present, and all that is dependent upon the past and present, is omniscience, or infinite wisdom.'
But irrefragable as this argument appears to be, man, who is ever prone to justify his own departure from the ways of God as the necessary effect of surrounding circumstances, rather than of his own wilful perverseness, requires to be continually reminded by a recurrence to visible and sensible objects, or to the results of reasonings derived from them, that God knows our several cases and circumstances much better than we are able to describe them; and that he mercifully gives whatever is needful to promote our real welfare, though we, through our ignorance, may depreciate or despise the gift.
From the thousand ways in which this truth may be illustrated, it was evidently necessary to make a selection, and we think it is made in the essay before us with great judgment. Mr. Sumner undertakes to shew' by a few particular instances, that both in the constitution of the universe, and in the laws which peculiarly respect the human race, the Deity has shewn the most comprehensive and prospective wisdom. And these instances he has selected in such a manner as to avail himself of the latest discoveries in physics and politics.
On the constitution of the universe he justly observes, that the highest aim of philosophical theory is to account for the phenomena it treats of by the fewest possible principles; and the great ambition of human art is to attain the end proposed by the least complicated means. Examine by this test the effects of the principle of gravitation which at once determines the planets in their orbits and the descent of the most trifling body to the ground.' Contemplate the single body which forms the centre of the system :-it not only gives support and stability to the whole, but furnishes it, to the remotest point, with the essential requisites of light and heat.
' In descending from the contemplation of the whole system to the examination of the globe to which we ourselves belong, we are attended by the same comprehensive wisdom. The air of ouratmosphere, which is necessary to the existence of the animal and vegetable world, is com
posed of two elastic fluids, united in a definite and exact proportion ; a proportion so precisely suited to those for whose respiration it was intended, that any difference in the quantity of either ingredient would prove, according to its degree, injurious or destructive. The same air which supplies life and health to the human race is equally and alone salubrious to every other animal. It might be expected that the portion of this air which animals return in the alternate motion of the lungs, having performed its service, would prove of no further utility : but it has been otherwise contrived. This part of the atmosphere, though insalubrious to man, affords the most grateful nourishment to the plants by which he is surrounded; according to which provision nothing is lost, and the constant purity of the air we breathe is preserved.
The same air which in its compound state supports the life of the animal creation, administers also to the comfort and necessities of man in the shape of fire. Combustion is the decomposition of the atmosphere, a process which, under certain circumstances of temperature, most of the products of the earth have in a greater or less degree the power of effecting; and which is regularly accompanied by the disengageinent of the light and heat for which we have such frequent occasion, when the assistance of the solar rays is either wanting, or inapplicable. The same elastic fluids which perform these important purposes, in another state of composition become the chief constituents of water also. And the result is, that the principal wants of the animal and vegetable world are supplied by three elastic fluids, the peculiar union of which furnishes us with water, fire, and vital air. Neither do these fluids require the interposition of the Creator to supply their constant expenditure. The original mandate of Eternal Wisdom provided, as far as we can learn from physical researches, for a world of which we cannot foresee the termination. The simple gasses, disengaged by various natural processes, from the combustibles, vegetables, and different substances which absorb them, are so contrived as to form a natural reunion, and preserve a constant equilibrium.'-vol. ii. p. 8–11. But the case by no means terminates here.
From the rapid progress
which modern chemists have made in the discoveries arising from what may be termed the electro-chemical science, many bodies hitherto considered as elementary have been decomposed;—the number of elements or simple substances is diminished by almost every elaborate experiment.
The philosopher to whom we owe many of these discoveries, and who is equally distinguished by the brilliancy and importance of the facts which he has disclosed, by the humane and useful purposes to which he has adapted them, and by the singular candour and modesty of his deportment as a man of science and a gentlemen, has declared his opinion * that we are probably not yet acquainted with any of the true elements of matter.' And yet so far * See Davy's Agricultural Chemistry, 4to.-p. 38.
have the successful efforts of science in reducing compounded substances already extended, that the same philosopher has in another place thought himself, upon good grounds, entitled to statę, that a few undecompounded bodies, which may perhaps ultimately be resolved into still fewer elements, or which may be different forms of the same material, constitute the whole of our tangible universe of things.'*
It must, we think, be acknowledged, that a more beautiful display of exalted wisdom, of grandeur and simplicity in contrivance, of minuteness and delicacy in operation, of what is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, cannot even be faintly conceived by the imagination of man. But we turn with pleasure even from these engaging speculations to others yet more interesting to the moralist, who after all is the true philosopher, at least if the importance of the science is to be estimated by the value of the subjects about which it is conversant. We turn to the contemplation, with that lively sympathy with the fortunes of the human race, and that warm zeal for the interests of truth and justice, without the guidance of which, it has been well observed, “the highest mental endowments, when applied to moral or to political researches, are in perpetual danger of mistaking their way. To this higher department of the inquiry,—to MAN as a member of civil society and as a moral and accountable being, the remainder of the Essay exclusively relates.
As we have already hinted, there is no reasoning justly upon the Creator's provisions respecting man, without some understanding of the design of God in bringing him into existence, which involves the question, what man is in his state of nature, or as he is placed by Providence in connection with the scheme of earthly things. Now all reflection upon the moral and intellectual powers of man, compared with the circumstances calling for their exercise with which he is surrounded, tend uniformly to the conviction that he was placed here in order to exercise, according to his opportunities in his progress through the world, the various powers of reason and virtue with which he is endowed.' The state of nature then, when applied to man, is a state of progressive improvement; and we are convinced that it is equally true of communities as of individuals, that if they do not wilfully or through ignorance place themselves in a state contrary to aature, that is, inconsistent with the rules which God has given them for their government, they might proceed, through the whole period of their existence, in a growing course of moral and political welfare. But we must not anticipate.
* Davy's Elements of Chem. Phil.-p. 503; as quoted by Mr. Sumner.
Mr. Sumner very satisfactorily refutes the arguments of those philosophers, who, by exhibiting what they are pleased to call the chain of existence, virtually deny the gradual improvement of man to be the design of the Creator; and this he does by shewing the elastic and extendible nature of those links in the moral chain which are made up of human beings. M. Bonnet and a Mr. White are great advocates for this catenarian system of philosophy; and because they have observed that there is less difference between the highest brute and the lowest savage than between the savage and the most improved man, have thought themselves justified in concluding that man forms part of a regular gradation of beings, and is himself instinctively the subject of similar gradations ; that the Ouranoutang, for example, is the first link which connects man with quadrupeds, and that the Negro is the connecting tie between the white man and the ape. Upon these principles we see no sound objection to ranging Messrs. Bonnet and White as severally the intermediate links between the philosopher and the madman; for if it is to be understood that individual or national character is always to continue precisely at that point where it may have been observed at any particular period to have stood ;-or that there is a mental and moral circle drawn round each variety of human character, of the nature of an impassable barrier ; (which is evidently the case with animals regulated by instinct;)—then we must allow that the Bonnet and White links in the series must be permanently kept up, or the ways of Providence interrupted. But if the human mind in those individuals is of an expansive and improveable nature, although their moral faculties have been deadened or their intellectual powers perverted by abuse, then it will become us to use our best exertions in devising the means whereby more sober and enlightened philosophers than Messrs. Bonnet and White may be provided for the use of future generations. In short, man is placed in the world with moral powers and faculties, dormant indeed till called into exertion by the circumstances which surround him, but capable of being improved and exalted in the highest degree by a right application of them to those circumstances. He is commanded so to apply them, and instructed in the method of obeying that command. He is placed in a state of moral and mental trial, whereas brutes are placed in a condition of mere instinctive obedience to their animal propensities.
Man then being placed in a state of moral discipline through the media of surrounding circumstances operating upon his moral faculties, and of the reaction of those faculties modifying the principles upon which the affairs of the world are regulated, it behoves us, in estimating the wisdom and goodness of those principles as originally ordained by the Creator, always to keep in mind their
VOL. XVI. NO. XXXI.