Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of natural philosophy. He refutes these two philosophers, who both maintained the intrinsic heat of the earth, but deduced it from different causes ; the one attributing it to the earth's being a piece of the sun, the other to a central fire. He demonstrates (we may use the term boldly) against M. De BUFFON, that the Sun is neither a liquefied and burning substance, nor could be put in fusion by the motion of comets around him that the planets were not struck out of the Sun by a comet- that neither the planets nor the Earth were originally liquefied matter-that all M. Buffon's fancies relative to the vitrefied matters of the Earth, grown hard, to the formation of marine bodics from organic molecules, and of calcareous substances from marine bodies, are false in fact and unphilosophical in theory-that all M. Buffon's notions concerning the formation and changes of our continents by the motion of the seas from East to West, as also his supposition that the waters may again cover all the parts of our globe, are contrary to the principles of hydrostatics, and to the authority of natural history--that it is not true, that the seas diminish in volume, or fink gradually beneath their level- and that the successive cooling or refrigeration of the Earth is a groundless notion, destitute of proof, and contrary to known and avowed facts.

In the course of these discussions, M. De Luc was led by M. Buffon's system (relative to the heat of the Sun and the fight of the elephants to the warmer regions of the globe) to enter into a very particular, circumstantial, and analytical examination of the nature and causes of heat. The result of this examination is, that a substance, capable of producing heat in certain circumstances, resides in all bodies, and constitutes a part of their mass, as long as it is restrained in its motions and lies dormant: but, when it is disengaged from the bodies in which it resides, by a cause that is capable of opening its prison, it escapes, becomes an elastic fiuid, and, in this new modification, is the iminediate cause of HEAT. The rays of the Sun, though not warm, in themselves, occasion heat, by giving activity to this substance in the bodies on which they fall; and it is in consequence of their influence, that this substance becomes an elastic or igneous fluid. The detail of experiments and reasonings, by which our Author confirms this theory, are curious and inltructive in the highest degree; it occupies fixty pages of the last volume of this work; it renders palpable the non-existence of warmth in the Sun and his says, and thus overturns the system of M. De Buffon; it exposes the erroneous conclusions which M. de Mairan drew from several phenomena ill-observed and improperly employed; and it furniihes our Author with a method of accounting for the different degrees of heat, observable in different years, in the same seasons, notwithstanding the uni

form

form and constant action of the Sun, which has been considered as its immediate cause; for he thews that the igneous fluid is nat, always, in equal quantity in the atmosphere at different times, nor even in different parts of the atmosphere at the same time.

After having confuted abundantly by facts and reasoning M. De Buffon's notion of the fucceffive retrigeration of our globe, M. De Luc (hews that it was not at all necessary to have recourse to this hypothesis for an explication of the frequent discoveries that are made in our countries, of the bones of elephants and other animals which belong to distant climates. These disco. veries are perfectly accounted for by the grand revolution, that sunk the ancient continents, and drew off the sea from thole which we now inhabit. These animals lived in the ancient continents, from whence their bones were carried by the rivers to the sea, which covered ours, and they were involved by the sea amidst the accumulations of its own productions, and buried in different parts of its bottom, which forms our present continents. Beside, the change in the temperature of the atmosphere, that must have attended the grand revolution, is employed successfully by M. De Luc, together with his theory concerning heat, to set this matter in the clearest light.

We come now to the last part of this important work, in which the learned Author explains happily, on his hypothesis, the cosmological system of the Book of Genesis, and cements that alliance between Nature and Revelation, which the wiseft men of all ages have discerned and admired, and which the minute phi. Josophers of the present times have made many impotent efforts to destroy. We refer the Reader to the work itself for our Author's observations on the Molaic history of the creation and the deluge. He thews that that history is in perfect conformity with the discoveries of natural history and the principles of found philosophy, though Moses did not give himself out for a philosopher, who had studied the phenomena of nature, or the structure, duties, and destination of man; but only alledged a special mission to teach men anew, their origin, and that of the universe, and to give them laws by divine authority. It is remarkable, that the deluge which has been a stone of stumbling to many dabblers and some adepts in philosophy, and has principally led them to reject the Mosaic history as unworthy of credit, is the great proof of its truth and divinity in the judgment of M. De Luc. The particular circumstances that connect the narration of Mofes with the records and discoveries of natural history, are " the breaking up of the fountains of the Great Deepthe time that passed from Noah's entrance into the Ark until his landing,--the expression of the waters returning off the earth continually and abating, Genes, viii. 3.--the menace in the fame Book (vi. 7,) to destroy mankind, and the earth with them 114

(as

(as Michaelis renders the passage, differently from our verfion) the olive-branch brought by the dove-and several others, which M. De Luc explains with the true spirit of a critie, and employs with the fagacity and judgment of a philosopher, in defence of the Mosaic history, and to the advantage of his own system.

These discussions are followed by a dissertation, which fills 55 pages, printed in a linall letter, under the title of Remarks on the Theological System of Revelation, in which M. De Luc confiders the objections which have been drawn from reason against the effential truths that have been taught, and the fundamental facts that have been established, by revelation. Though this part of polemics has been so repeatedly and amply treated, as to prevent the expectation of much novelty in our Author's reasonings, yet as M. De Luc is a keen thinker, who seems to have meditated still more than he has read on theological subjects, he has struck out here some uncommon points of view. Nay, even where he employs known arguments, he seems to have reviewed them, tried them anew, melted them down in his intellectual crucible to separate from them any drofs that may yet remain, fo that they often come forth with an air, that makes them look as if they were peculiar to him. The objections against the Mo. saic history, taken from the seemingly severe dispensation of a general deluge, and from the ministry of angels, are fully an. Twered ; and the Book of Genesis is thewn to be the basis of all the revelations that are the constituent parts of the Christian system, not only as it is the first revelation in the order of time, but because it furnishes a solution of all those general and previous questions, which arise from the idea of a revelation, such as the existence of a fir cause, the origin of the universe, the origin of man, the possibility of a communication and intercourse between him and the first cause, and the primitive ideas and language, which this cause communicated to men. Though we do not profess to adopt," without restriction, all the ideas of our excellent Author, yet we every where admire the dexterity and acuteness with which they are presented in the progress of this discourse. . Many of the questions he treats in it, are difficult, if not indeterminable, in the present state of human nature; but he has happily wrested them out of the hands of the enemies of religion, who made use of them as objections, and exposes the folly of judging positively concerning å part, when we have not seen its connec.ions with the whole. M De Luc fettles boldly (and here we follow him with a dubious step) the precincts of revelation and reason ; 'he attributes to the former not only the ideas of a first cause, but also the origin of language, which gave rise, as he thinks, to all the' abstračt ideas of origin, universe , beings, relations, duties, justice, truth, and, in a word, to

all all those first intellectual data, which, by being mutually communicated, render men capable of generalizing still farther their ideas, forming still more extenfive combinations, and drawing from them consequences both of a speculative and practical na

These first data he finds in the Book of Genesis; and there is no doubt, but that the origin and first cause of all things, made known by an express declaration, must have accelerated the procedure of the intellectual faculties in the pursuit of truth, —and farther say we and know we not.

After having determined the spheres of revelation and reason, our Author examines and refutes the objections of certain philosophers, as they are called, against the fundamental objects and truths of religion, such as the doctrine of Providence (by which he means the continual intervention of the first caule in the government of the universe, and more especially in those extraordinary events which we call miracles) and the activity and liberty of man. He is acute and ardent on these important subjects, and draws great advantage from his profound knowledge of nature, and of the operation of second causes, against the metaphysical bulwarks that have been erected, with such a subtile spirit of concatenation and arrangement, in favour of the neceffitarian system. The philosophical system of pre-ordination, or (as divines call it) predestination, that has been defended in such a specious and plausible manner by Leibnitz, Wolf, Bonnet of Geneva, and other eminent men in Germany, and that has been afferted so boldly of late, and avowed, even in its most alarming consequences, by Dr. Priestley, has met with a zealous and able antagonist in M. De Luc.

As this part of his dissertation would suffer by being abridged, we refer the Reader to the work itself, for the detail of his arguments. The origin of evil comes in for its part in these disquisitions : our Author's method of accounting for it, is rational and philosophical in the highest degree, and it is indeed coincident with the method employed by bis learned antagonists on the subject of liberty. M. De Luc does not abandon the system of optimism, as inconfiftent with the existence of human liberty. This is a capital defect in many of our modern peripatetics, and it shews that their views of the subject are far from being philosophical and extenfive. In effect, they leave all their objections against the moral government of the universe in their full force, and represent the Deity as conferring upon man a dubious gift, whose consequences may be pernicious, and even fatal, without any previous provision made for turning them, in the issue, to falutary purposes. M. De Luc, one of the keenest defenders of human liberty, steers a different course, and has not shattered his velel (which is an admirable failer) either on the rocks of Scylla or Charybdis. In 3 word, this piece is excellent in every point of view, and will

please please every candid reader: it will be read with pleasure and utility even by those who do not adopt the philosophical ideas of our Author on several points, and it exhibits such views of the present state of human nature, of its future destination, and of the providence and perfections of its Author, as must fill the good mind with solid fatisfaction and serene hope.

The concluding letter of this last volume is an affecting plea of good sense and humanity in favour of religion, and deserves to be read with attention by those unthinking men, who poison the sources of both private and publick felicity, by their repeated efforts to extinguish the light, the comforts, and the directions of that celestial guide in the minds of men. After considering the marks of fimplicity and truth that are palpable in the spirit as well as in (what he calls) the External Character of the Mosaic revelation, he maintains the cause of religion in general, asserts the cause of toleration and charity, and inquires, with the spirit of a rational Christian and a good man, into the sources of the deviations and errors of men in theological researches.

At the end of the work there is a general conclusion drawn from the whole, in which we find two very different representations of the universe and of man. These are the results of the two different systems of religion and irreligion, considered in their greatest opposition, and disengaged from certain shades, and modifications, that, in the minds of many incoherent men, give them sometimes an absutd air of approximation. These modi. fications could not be comprehended in the following tablatures, though they are frequently noticed and insisted upon in the course of the work. We shall give this concluding piece in the form and words (exactly translated) of the Author : and our Readers may judge from this fort summary, who is the genuine. friend of truth and mankind, -the Christian, or the unbeliever ?

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The attentive study of Nature, A certain kind of philosophy, seconded by the examination

which decides concerning of those NOTIONS that are Nature without having itucommon to all mankind, and died it, and combats the the INTIMATE CONSCIOUS- COMMON NOTIONS of manNESS or feeling of each indi. kind, as well as the INTIvidual,

MATE CONSCIOUSNESS or

FEELING of each individual,
PRONOUNCES,

PRONOUNCES,
I.

I.
That the physical or material That the MATERIAL UNI-
universe has not, in itself, the verse has, in itself, the CAUSE
cause of its existence: that it of its existence ; that this cause
proceeds from a first intelligent is nothing but its aggregate, or
cause, whose nature is diftinct the WHOLE, composed of its
from

various

« AnteriorContinuar »