Woodwardian Professor

and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge

Fourth Edition


Adam Sedgwick

157 + 12 pages.

This electronic edition prepared by Dr. David C. Bossard
from original documents in the library holdings of Dartmouth College.

April, 2006.

Copyright © 2006 by David C. Bossard.

Before all other things, man is distinguished by his pursuit and investigation of TRUTH. And hence, when free from needful business and cares, we delight to see, to hear, and to communicate, and consider a knowledge of many admirable and abstruse things necessary to the good conduct and bappinees of our lives: whence it is clear that whatsoever is TRUE, simple, and direct, the same is most congenial to our nature as men. Closely allied with this earnest longing to see and know the truth, is a kind of dignified and princely sentiment which forbids a mind, naturally well constituted, to submit its faculties to any but those who announce it in precept or in doctrine, or to yield obedience to any orders but such as are at once just, lawful, and founded on utility. From this source spring greatness of mind and contempt of worldly advantages and troubles.
Cicero, De Officiis, Lib. 1. §13.


PREFACE  (1833)   v  vi  vii  viii

PREFACE to the FOURTH EDITION (1835)   ix  x  xi  xii

INTRODUCTION  1   001  002  003  004  005  006  007  008  009  010

[008] I speak of this as a place of sound learning and christian education, and inquire what ought to be the conduct of the understanding during the course of our academic studies before we enter on the great theatre of life.

[010]  The study of this place, as far as they relate to mere human learning, divide themselves into three branches:

I. The study of the laws of nature, comprehending all parts of inductive philosophy  10   010  011  012  013  014  015 (Note A below) 016  017 (Note B below) 018  019  020  021  022  023  024  025  026  027  028  029  030  031  032 (Note C below) 033

[010] In this, as in every other field of labour, no man can put aside the curse pronounced on him -- that by the sweat of his brow he shall reap his harvest.  Before he can reach that elevation from whence he may look down upon and comprehend the mysteries of the natural world, his way is steep and toilsome, and he must read the records of creation in a strante, and to many minds, a repulsive language, which, rejecting both the sense and the imagination, speaks only to the understanding. But when this language is once learnt, it becomes a mighty instrument of thought, teaching us to link together the phenomena of past and future times; and gives the mind a domination over many parts of the material world, by teaching it to comprehend the laws by which the actions of material things are governed.

[017] How any believer can deny the reality of a natural religion when he reads those passages in the Bible where its power is so emphatically acknowledged, is more than I can understand. We are told by St. Paul, that even the Gentiles are without excuse, for the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.  Yet I have myself heard it asserted within these very walls, that there is no religion of nature, and that we have no knowledge of the attributes of God or even of his existence, independently of revelation. The assertion is, I think, mischievous, because I believe it untrue: and by truth only can a God of truth be honoured, and the cause of true religion be served.

[025] By the discoveries of [Geology]  we learn that the manifestations of God's power on the earth have not been limited to the few thousand years of man's existence.  The Geologist tells us, by the clearest interpretation of the phenomena which his labors have brought to light, that our globe has been subject to vast physical revolutions. ... He sees a long succession of monuments each of which may have required a thousand ages for its elaboration. He arranges them in chronological order; observes on them the marks of skill and wisdom, and finds within them the tombs of the ancient inhabitants of the earth. He finds strange and unlooked-for changes in the forms and fashions of organic life during each of the long periods he thus contemplates. He traces these changes backwards through each successive era, till he reaches a time when the monuments lose all symmetry, and the types of organic life are no longer seen. He has then entered on the dark age of nature's history; and he closes the old chapter of her records.  -- This account has so much of what is exactly true, that it hardly deserves the name of figurative description.

Geology, like every other science when well interpreted, lends its aid to natural religion. It tells us, out of its own records, that man has been but a few years a dweller on the earth; for the traces of himself and of his works are confined to the last monuments of its history. Independently of every written testimony, we therefore believe that man, with all his powers and appetencies, his marvellous structure and his fitness for the world around him, was called into being within a few thousand years of the day in which we live -- not by a transmutation of species, (a theory no better than a phrensied ddream), but by a provident contriving power. And thus we at once remove a stumbling block, thrown in our way by those who would rid themselves of a prescient first cause, by trying to resolve all phenomena into a succession of constant material actions, ascending into an eternity of past time.

But this is not the only way in which Geology gives its aid to natural religion. It proves that a pervading intelligent principle has manifested its power during times long anterior to the records of our existence. ... It [sheweth] us new and unlooked-for instances of organic structure adjusted to an end, and that end accomplished. It tells us that God has not created the world and left it to itself, remaining ever after a quiescent spectator of his own work... It shews intelligent power not only contriving means adapted to an end: but at many successive times contriving a change of mechanism adapted to a change of external conditions; and thus affords a proof, peculiarly its own, that the great first cause continues a provident and active intelligence.

[031] In ending this portion of my discourse, let me exhort you not only to mingle thoughts like these with your abstract studies, but to give them an habitual personal application -- to seek above all things a spirit of single-mindedness and humility -- to believe yourselves in the perpetual presence of God -- to adore him in the glories of his creation -- to see his power and wisdom in the harmony of the world -- his goodness and his providence in the wonderful structure of living beings.

II. The study of ancient literature. 33  033  034  035  036  037  038  039  040  041  042 (Note D below) 043  044  045

III. The study of ourselves, considered as individuals and as social beings.  45   045  046  047  048  049  050  051  052  053  054  055  056  057  058  059  060  061  062  063  064  065  066  067  068  069  070  071  072  073  074  075  076  077  078  079  080  081 (Note E below) 082  083  084  085  086  087  088  089  090  091  092  093  094  095 (Note F below) 096  097

[056] With all its faults, [John Locke's] "Essay on the Human Understanding" is a work of great power; and were aany one to need a proof of this, he has only to consider the impression it produced on the speculations of a former age. Its greatest fault is the contracted view it takes of the capacities of man ... depriving him both of his powers of imagination and of his moral sense. Hence it produced, I think, a chilling effect on the philosophic writings of the last century: and many a cold and beggarly system of psychology was sent into the world by authors of the school of locke.


Note (A), p. 15.  On the Nature and Importance of Newton's Discoveries 97   097  098  099  100  101  102  103  104

[103] In the method of analysis and induction Newton stands without a rival in the history of man; whether we regard the boldness and certainty of his generalizations, or the inventive skill by which he linked together truths before his time sterile and unconnected.

Note (B), p. 17. On the vacuum of the universe. 104   104  105  106  107  108

Note (C), p. 32. On the habitual study of natural religion; Paley's Natural Theology. 108   108  109  110  111  112  113  114  115  116

Note (D), p. 42. On the arguments of heathen writers from final causes to the being of a God. Quote from Xenophon's Memorabilia. 116   116  117  118  119  120  121  122  123  124  125  126

[121] It may perhaps be well to consider some of the causes that have led men to reject the proofs of natural religion. One cause is the affectation of originality....

Another cause is ignorance of the laws of nature. Man is unwilling to think himself ignorant; and he naturally enough thinks lightly of the proofs he does not understand. Religious men may easily fall into this error: for their minds dwell on proofs not derived from any study of the material world, and they know full well, that the hopes and sanctions of natural religion are little fitted to satisfy the wants of man. Hence they reject it altogether. But they ought to know that the laws of nature, when properly understood, are records of the will of God, and are therefore fit matter for exalted study: and they have no right to argue from their own ignorance.

A third cause for rejecting natural religion is the reception of a narrow and false psychological system. This cause has, during the past century, tainted some of the best writings of the Ecclesiastical Members of our Church. ...

Lastly, some men have rejected natural religion through mere fanaticism. They believe our corruption to be so entire, that they deny to the natural man, all perception of the beauty of moral truth -- all knowledge of God -- and almost shut out from him the faculty of reason.

Note (E), p. 81. Objections to Paley's Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. 126   126  127  128  129  130  131  132  133  134  135  136  137  138  139  140  141  142

Note (F), p. 95 On the studies of mankind; vindication of Geology. 142   142  143  144  145  146  147  148  149  150  151  152  153  154  155  156  157