Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

(which might be said without disparagement to any) should have been so miserably neglected, and that so much merit should meet with so little reward, a friend, who was no great misanthrope neither, nor out of humour with the world for any disappointments he had met with in it, used to smile at the conceit of any one being preferred for his merit, and said, if a man was preferred notwithstanding his merit, it was as much, all things considered, as could reasonably be expected. He had a notion, that being quite in the right, stood more in a man's way than being a good deal in the wrong: there are unfashionable, unpalatable truths, which must be kept out of sight, or brought forward as little as possible. This is an hard saying, who can hear it?"

“ From that time, many went back, and walked no more with him.” Though, in regard to Mr. Jones, it must be allowed, whatever part of his merit might“ keep him back from honour," some of it had a share in the preferment he did obtain. To Archbishop Secker, who gave him the Living of Pluckley, he was first known only as the Author of the Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity; and from the present Archbishop of Canterbury, who always spake of him with the affection of a Brother, he received most unequivocal proofs of sincere friendship, independent of the sine-cure Rectory of Hollingbourn, and very valuable Living of Lachington, given to Mr. Jones's son, in the life-time of his father.

The Physiological Disquisitions, before alluded to, having received their last revise, they were added to the public stock of philosophical knowledge in 1781. In the Introduction (from which the present is printed verbatim) the Author mentions his intention of confining himself to the compass of two volumes in

b4

quarto,

quarto, and his being obliged to reserve for the last a Discourse on Electricity, which he had given his friends reason to expect in this volume. It is to be regretted, that other engagements prevented the execution of his whole plan, but since his death, Six Letters on Electricity, which he had prepared for the press, have been published. Whatever prejudices might have subsisted against them at that time, it is to be supposed they soon died away, for the impression has long since been sold off, and the book is now in great request. And indeed what wonder, when the view which he gives of nature is so rational and consistent, so agreeable to fact and experiment! If we are to be pleased on rational grounds with the study of nature, we must be pleased with the works of God as they are in themselves, and not as human fancy may have conceived of them and represented them.

Motion, it is now plain enough, is maintained in the heavens and the earth by the action of the elements on one another, and true philosophy consists in observing and explaining the relations subsisting between them, as he has done. All philosophers agree, that nature being uniform and simple in its operations," things in heaven are conducted upon the same principles as things upon earth. Allowing this, which no reasonable man can deny, it is easy to shew, that all effects, so far as causes are intelligible, and within our reach, are owing to the action of the fluid matter in the heavens in one of the three conditions of fire, light, or air, and every philosopher in Europe may be challenged to single out any one experiment in which he can fairly prove that any one of these three hath no share in the effect. But precisely at the time, (and providentially as one would think) when philosophers

seemed

seemed to themselves to have banished the instrumentality of elementary causes, an active, powerful, and universal fluid became at once as manifest as the day, which till that time seemed to have been concealed under the shades of the night. And there is no doubt, that Sir Isaac Newton, attached as he was to his mathematical speculations, would have given up his vacuum, and all the qualities working within it, had he lived to see the state of experiments in the present day.

The world is evidently no vacuum, matter does not act by qualities but by impulses, as the various operations of nature, and the experiments of art, demonstrate to satisfaction. The seasons of the

year follow the light and heat of the sun, and all the productions of the earth follow the operations of the ele. ments. Every man may be referred to his own body for an analogical exhibition of the ways of nature; for man's natural life, with the fluidity of his blood, the motion of his lungs, the digestion of aliments, the secretion of the juices, is undoubtedly carried on by the agency of heat or fire, with the impressions of internal and the pressure of external air. How is vapour raised in the world, and how is steam raised in the body, but by heat? How are they carried off, and conveyed from place to place, but by air ? Examine all the operations of chemistry, and see whether attraction can be found acting without heat or cold in any one of them. Whether the formations of the forge and furnace, of which there is no end, can be carried on without fire. Whether repulsion is ever found to divide things, or attraction to unite them, without the elements to dissolve and evaporate. Put sulphur and oil together, and preach a sermon over them upon the power of attraction, they will remain

quiescent

quiescent to the end of the world; but apply fire to them in a certain degree, and they will unite, never more to be separated. From these, and all other like operations of nature and art, does it look as if matter acted on matter at a distance by qualities? Can there be a supposition more unphilosophical, more contrary to fact? For how should two masses of dead matter, placed at a distance, have any effect on each other, when even two animated bodies cannot exercise any such power? Let two men be placed at the distance of twenty yards from each other, take away the light from between them, and they cannot see one another; take away the air, and then the one cannot speak, and the other cannot hear. In short, the world is at an end with them both; and so it would be with this earth, and the sun, and all the planets, unless they communicated with each other by some intervening fluid in motion. As the system of life and functions of the body are kept up by the blood flowing to all parts, the rationale of the thing is the same in the great system of nature, where order and motion must be preserved on the same principle of a circulation in the fluid of the heavens.

But a notion is entertained, it seems, by some persons, that the Elementary Philosophy naturally leads to Atheism, and Sir Isaac Newton himself is charged with giving countenance to Materialisin by his Ether; though nothing can be further from the truth; and it is surprising how such a thought could ever enter into the head of any man.

It is the aim and study of the Elementary, called the Hutchinsonian Philosophy, not to confound God and Nature, but to distinguish between the Creator and the creature ; not with the heathens to set up the heavens for God, but to believe

and

and confess with all true worshippers, that “ it is Jehovah who made the heavens." And to maintain that the operations in nature are carried on by the agency of the elements, which experiment demonstrates, is no more excluding God from being the Creator of the world, than to maintain that motion once given to a watch will continue without the iminediate application of the artist's hand every moment to it, is asserting, that the watch made itself. The powers of nature truly understood, in the sense of this Author, agree with what is revealed to us concerning the nature of God and man, which is a farther recommendation of the plan.. “Nature is Christian.” But Nature, falsely understood, as in modern philosophy, leads to such ideas of God as are contrary to the Christian Religion; it being well known, that ever since the fashion has prevailed of deducing religious truth from some fancied discoveries in philosophy, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity hath been more and more disputed; as it is an undoubted fact, that our Arians, Socinians, and Deists, are chiefly found among those, who affect to excel in the modern philosophy, and who actually make use of it to recommend Heterodoxy and Infidelity. Let any one read the Physiological Disquisitions, and he will soon be convinced, that North and South are not more opposite than Hutchinsonianism and Materialism. In this, as in all his writings, Mr. Jones is mindful of his own observation, “ Life is so short, and knowledge comes so " slowly to man in this mortal state, that nothing “ should be represented under an obscure form, which is

capable of a plain one.” “ Your stile” (says a friend writing to him, after having read the Disquisitions) * Your stile has the property of the Italian atmo

“ sphere,

« AnteriorContinuar »