Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

matter.

is ingeniously proved in the seventh Discourse, and the existence of final causes, is maintained against the Atheist in the discourse preceding. If gravitation (says our Author) does not cease to operate in a bomb, when it mounts in the air, though it operates invisibly, so neither does goodness cease to be the natural propensity of man, though it be often counteracted by accidental impressions.

The subject of the eighth Discourse is, the epistolary form under which the work before us appears ;- but this has been already considered. The ninth treats of toleration, to which subject our Author was led, by considering the adversaries his book and fyftem might set in array against him, and the spirit of candour, decency, and forbearance, that ought to guide those who are engaged in controversy, wbatever may be its object, or the points in dispute. This is an excellent piece. The tenth treats of the nature of man, and the knowledge acquired by the first men who studied themselves. The eleventh, of the properties of substances, and more especially, of the properties of

In the twelfih, our Author returns to the nature of man, and ascertains particularly the difference between perception and its inftrumen's, or, in his own words, between the being, which perceives, and its organs. This discourse, which contains 114 pages, is a very ingenious refutation of materialism in general; and the discourle, which follows, is a very full and mafterly answer to the materialism of Dr. PRIESTLEY in particular. He endeavours to fhew, that the reasonings of the Doctor have no fort of force, unless it be against those scholastic Spiritualists of former times, and their followers, who maintain, that the soul and the body have no property in common, no reciprocal point of conformity, or concurrence, and that, neverthelels, they are capable of an intimate communication with, and a reciprocal action on each other: he shews, that the more rational spiritualists (who do not disdain matter, but acknowledge that it must have an immediate relation to SPIRIT, though in consequence of properties, in these two substances, as set unknown to us) have palpable advantages over Dr. Priestley. He observes, that (notwithstanding the profession the Doctor makes of his attachment to the philosophy of Newton) nothing can be more anti Newtonian, than his idea of matter, and (what is more to the point) that no idea of matter is fo palpably insufficient to account for sensation and intelligence, as that which reduces it to a mere unsubstantial power of attraction and repulsion. The purest logic of reason and common sense, undefiled by scholastic jargon, reigns in this and the two preceding Discourses. Our Author coincides with the ideas of Dr PRICE, on this subject, more than once; but these discourses, as he tells us himself, were composed before the publication of Dr. Price's Conference.

Thc

[ocr errors]

The fourteenth Discourse, which concludes the first part of M. De Luc's work, may be confidered by some as a bss d'æuvre; but it is a very interesting one. Indeed, as these Dilcourses are preliminary in part, and partake more or less of the nature of a preface, it comes in with propriety in that point of view. Its object is of the utmost importance, but also, of the most nice and delicate nature; for it treats of the liberty of writing on philosophical subjects, and thus places an author between a Scylla and Charybdis of a momentous fort. Here again M. DE Luc has, in view, Dr. PRIESTLEY, who lays it down as a principle, that every man ought to publish with the utmost freedom, bis sentiments ( whatever they may be) on the most important subjects, and refute, with the same freedom, whatever be may think false and erroneous in the opinions of the public. M. De Luc is of opinion, that a wife and good man ought to be cautious and prudent in the use of this liberty, as truth may, and public felicity must, lose much by the indiscriminate employment of it on ail sorts of subjects. Whether our Author be in the right or in the wrong, we fall leave it to the candid and judicious reader to determine ;--- but this we can affirm, without difficulty, that he deserves to be heard, and that the considerations he offers on the subject, are important and respectable: they have, moreover, one undoubted title to an attentive hearing, which is, that they come from an ardent friend both to civil and religious liberty, who treats the subject with the spirit of a philosopher, and of a friend to man, and not with the narrow spirit of any

kind of party.

That the reader may be sensible of the importance of the objects that are presented to him in this work, M. De Luc advises him to pass from the first to the eleventh part; as he will find in this latter, all the facts and principles that the Author deligns to ascertain by the materials, observations, and reasonings, contained in the intervening parts. We, however, shall proceed in the straight line,

The second part of this great work contains, in eight letters, an examination of all the systems of cosmology, in which the prefent state of the surface of the earth is considered, as the effect of the general deluge. This examination leads our Author into prodigious details, as the science of cosmology comprehends not only the principles of physics, and requires all the materials of geography and natural history to form its ftupendous edifice, or to overturn those that have been erroneously raised under its name, but also extends to the history of man, of his origin, nature, and destination, as connected with the state and revolutions of the globe, which he inhabits. For (according to our Author's excellent and truly philosophical principle) all things in nature concur in the accomplishment of one great end, and that end is

bappinefs i

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

happiness ; and the universe is the work of an intelligent. Being, who has not left man in a total ignorance, either of his origin or of his end. Accordingly, in the close and circumstantial examination of the systems of Burnet, Whiffon, Woodward, Leibnitz, Scheuchzer, Piuche, and Engel, which we meet with in this second part, there is a rich treasure of observations and physical knowledge. The natural historian will find here, among other things, curious discussions relative to the cohesion of bodies, their fall or descent in water, the mechanism of petrification, the formation of gritts, and chryftallizations in the cavities of foflils, the state of the beds or firata at the earth's surface, considered with respect to the specific gravities of the substances which they contain, the vitrescible, but not vitrified substances, that compose the earth, and the existence of inhabited continents, while the marine bodies deposited themselves on those continents (formerly covered with water) which we now inhabit. After a refutation of the systems of the learned men already mentioned, M. De Luc shews, that, in general, all the systems, that de rive the present form of the earth from a violent change or revoJution, are contradicted by the regularity of the dry surface of our globe. He acknowledges, that the confused heaps of terrestrial and marine bodies, that are almost every where buried in the bowels of mountains, prove that our globe did not proceed, in the state in which it now is, from the hands of the Creator; but he observes juftly, that it is only the heterogeneous nature of these bodies, or their incongruity with the places where they are found, that can lead us to deduce from them the supposition of a general revolution in our globe: such a revolution having no vestiges or proofs but to the eye of reason. Nothing certainly

can be more ingenious, than the arguments by which M. De Luc proves the regularity of the present continents, in the letter that terminates this second part.

In the third part, our Author treats of the cosmological systems, in which the present fate of the surface of our globe is supposed to. have been produced by SLOW OPERATIONS, or the gradual influence of the WATERS. He lhews particularly, that the motion of the waters from east to west, to which M. BUFFON, and others, have attributed the change of land into sea, and sea into land, and the present form of our continents, has not produced such effects, and could not produce them, in the nature of things.

In the fourth part, with which the SECOND VOLUME commences, M. De Luc, examines the hypothelis of thole, wha consider the rivers as the cause of the present state of the earth's sure face; and he proves, with the utmolt perspicuity and evidence, that the actual form of our continents is in direct opposition to this system. The abettors of this hypothesis, which is become a favourite one, allege, in its support, the following fact; that our continents are diversified with mountains, hills, and plains, which are formed by beds or Arata, and the greatest part of these Arata contain marine bodies : to account for this fact, they observe, that as the present rivers diminish gradually our continents, and produce, from their materials, new ones in the sea, there were ancient rivers which demolished the ancient continents, and out of them formed ours. But our Author attacks this hypothesis, in order to prove the impossibility of the fore mation of our continents from ancient ones destroyed by the rivers - if such destruction be allowed to have exifted *.' To render his refutation clear, and unanswerable, he examines circumstantially the action of running waters upon the continents, and the causes that maintain the latter, and their mountains, against the influence of this action; these causes are not only physical, such as mosses, vegetation, &c. for the intervention and labours of men have contributed to the same end. These causes open to our Author a field for sentimental, as well as instructive discussions; for which we must refer the reader to the work itself. They will cestainly please both his understanding and his heart.

that This M. De Luc does not believe: he proves, on the contrary, that our continents, by their tendency to undergo fome change, in their form, by the circulation of the waters, tend thereby to their persection, instead of being threatened by that cause with ihe destruction, which some writers have fancied. This is a curious point of natural biftory, which, though it is not necessary to our Author's argument, furnishes, nevertheless, a new proof, that our continents are not the éffset of ancient rivers.

In the fifth part, our Author considers and refutes the systems, which attribute the formation of our continents to the SLOW CHANGES that have taken place in the level of the sea. Under this title, various hypotheses come into confideration, and engage him in deep and laborious researches. He combats, by the united powers of astronomy, geography, physics, and natural history, the system of those, who attribute the revolutions that have happened on the surface of the earth to the changes of its axis. He overturns the hypothesis of M. Le Cat, that was received with such applause in the year 1750. Ac. cording to this, the earth, in its first state, is supposed to have been a globe, whose constituent parts being ranged according to their specific gravities, was of consequence covered with water; and would have remained eternally in that state, had not the Creator formed the moon, whose attraction formed the tides, while the violence of the tides fetting the heavy parts of the carth in motion, produced the continents with their mountains and inequalities, and are imperceptibly mining both at present, to reproduce them again, and to destroy them again. Our Author, whose patience and candour keep an equal pace with his penetration and knowledge, disputes the ground inch by inch with this most unphilosophical hypothesis, and shews its glaring contrariety to the laws of motion, to many of the most invariable laws of nature, and also, to the moft undoubted and best ascertained phenomena.

thor, length,

The hypothesis of Telliamed (De Maillet) is the next that receives a mortal blow from our Herculean deliverer of the physical world from monsters and chimeras. He follows this strange author (who makes the sea the parent of all things), and examines his proofs of the diminution of the sea, and his whimlical opinions concerning the system of the universe, the population of the planets, the origin of plants, terrestrial animals, and man, and finishes these discussions, by thewing the insufficiency of natural history and physics to account for the existence and formation of any living being.

The THIRD VOLUME, in which we find the seventh and eighth parts of the work, contains a relation of two different voyages, made by our Author, into Germany and Holland. The first, which is the subject of twenty-five letters, exhibits a rich variety of entertainment to the natural historian, and often interesting points of view to the moralift; for few observers blend these two spheres of contemplation together, with such judge ment and fenfibility as M. De Luc. Among other things, the reader will find here the first lines of our Author's physical chronology, deduced from a view of the earth's surface, and other phenomena, and which we look upon, as infinitely superior in probability to many other methods of computation, which have been deemed respectable. The route of our Author through Lower Saxony, Hanover, Zell, Gettingen, Wesphalià, Guelderland, and Over-Yssel, furnishes him, in the heaths of these coontries, whether cultivated or uncultivated, abundant matter of observation. But the chain of mountains at Hartz, and the mines of that district, which were the principal objects of this journey, lead our Author into details, which are fingularly interesting, as they mingle the pleasures of rural description with the researches of philosophy. The perfon that can read, without finding his imagination and heart most pleasingly affected, the fixty-second, and several other letters of this volume, must have a mode of perceiving and feeling very different from that of the author of this article. The description of Osterode, in the neighbourhood of Gottingen, is charming; and, even in the narration of those circumstances that a fastidious critic will look upon as trivial, we discover the spirit of a philofophical and fentimental observer ; of a man, who, by his good humour and gaiety, must be an excellent companion on a journey. No object escapes him: nor does he, through an apprehenfion of 2

[ocr errors]

3

« PreviousContinue »