Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

These affertions therefore being admitted, and both Points and Nows being taken as bounds, but not as parts, it will follow, that in the fame manner as the same Point may be the end of one line, and the beginning of another, so the same Now or Instant may be the end of one time, and the beginning of another. Let us suppose, for example, the lines A B, BC:

В B.

A

I say that the point B, is the end of the line A B, and the beginning of the line BC. In the same manner let us suppose A B, BC to represent certain times, and let B be a now or instant. In such case I say that the instant B is the end of the time A B, and the beginning of the time BC. I say likewise of these two times, that with respect to the now or instant, which they include, the first of them is necessarily Paft Time, as being previous to it; the other is necessarily Future, as being subsequent. As therefore every Now or Inftant always exists in time, and without being time, is Time's bound; the bound of completion to the Paft, and the bound of commencement to the Future ; from hence we may conceive its nature or end, which is to be the Medium of continuity between the Past and the Future, fo as to render Time, through all its parts, one intire and perfeet whole.

From the above speculations, there follow fome conclufions, which may be perhaps called paradoxes, till they have been attentively consider'd. In the first place, there cannot (strictly speaking) be any such thing as Time present. For, if all time be transient as well as continuous, it cannot like a linc be present altogether, but part will necessarily be gone, and part be coming. If therefore any portion of its continuity were to be present at once, it would so far quit its tranfient nature, and be time no longer. But if no portion of its continuity can be thus present, how can time possibly be present, to which such continuity is essential ?

Farther than this - If there can be no such thing as time present, there can be no Sensation of time by any one of the lenses. For all Sensation is of the Present only, the Past being preferved not by sense but by memory, and the Future being anticipated by prudence only and wise foresight.

K2

[ocr errors]

• But if no portion of time be the object of any sensation ; farther, if the Present never exist; if the Past be no more';. if the Future be not as yet ; and if these are all the parts, out of which Time is compounded : how strange and shadowy a being do we find it ? how nearly approaching to a perfect non-entity ? Let us try however, since the senses fail us, if we have no faculties of higher power, to seize this fleeting being.

• The world has been likened to a variety of things ; but it appears to resemble no one more, than some moving spectacle (such as a procession or a triumph) that abounds in every part with splendid objects, some of which are still departing, as fast as others make their appearance. The senses look on, while the fight passes, perceiving as much as is immediately present, which they report with tolerable accuracy to the fouls superiour powers. Having done this, they have done their duty, being concerned with nothing, fave what is present and instantaneous. But to the memory, to the imagination, and above all to the intellect, the several nows or instants are not loft, as to the senses, but are preserved and made objects of steady comprehension, however in their own nature they may be transitory and paling. “ Now 'tis from contemplating two or more of " these Instants under one view, together with that inter“ val of continuity, which fubfists between them, that we " acquire insensibly the idea of Time.For example: The fun rises; this I remember: it rises again ; this too I remember. These events are not together ; there is an extenfion between them not however of space, for we may fuppose the place of rising the same, or at least to exhibit no sensible difference : yet still we recognize some extension between them. Now wňat is this extension, but a natural day ? and what is that but pure time? 'Tis after the same manner, by recognizing two new moons, and the extenfion between these ; two vernal equinoxes, and the extension between these ; that we gain ideas of other times, such as months and years, which are all so many intervals, defcribed as above : that is to say, pafing intervals of continuity between two Inftants viewed together.

* And thus 'tis the Mind acquires the idea of Time. But this Time it muft be remember'd is Paft Time only, which is always the firft species that occurs to the human intellect.

How then do we acquire the idea of Time Future? The answer is, We acquire it by Anticipation. Should it be de-, manded still farther, And what is Anticipation ? We an

fwer,

fwer, That, in this case, 'tis a kind of reasoning by analogy from fimilar to similar ; from successions of events, that are past already, to similar successions, that are prefumed hereafter. For example: I observe, as far back as my memory can carry me, how every day has been succeeded by a night; that night by another day ; that day, by another night; and so downwards, in order, to the day that is now.

Hence then I anticipate a similar fucceffion from the present day, and thus gain the ideas of days and nights in futurity. After the fame manner, by attending to the periodical returns of new and full moons; of springs, summers, autumns, and winters, all of which in time past I find never to have failed, I anticipate a like orderly and diversify'd fucceffion, which makes months, and seasons, and years, in time future.

We go farther than this, and not only thus anticipate in these natural periods, but even in matters of human and civil concern. For example: having observed in many past instances how health hath succeeded to exercise, and fickness to floth; we anticipate future health to those, who, being now fickly, use exercise, and future fickness to those, who, being now healthy, are flothful. 'Tis a variety of such observations, all respecting one subject, which, when systematized by just reasoning, and made habitual by due practice, form the character of a master-artift, or man of practical wisdom. If they respect the human body (as above) they form the Physician; if matters military, the General; if matters national, the Statesman, if matters of private life, the Moralist; and the fame in other suhjects. All these several characters, in their respective ways, may be faid to poffefs a kind of prophetic discernment, which not only presents them the barren prospeet of futurity (a prospect not hid from the meanest of men) but shews withal chofe events which are likely to attend it, and thus enables them to act with superior certainty and rectitude. And hence it is, that (if we except those, who have had divine afliftances) we may justly fay, as was said of old,

He's the best prophet, who conjectures well. •From what has been reasoned it appears, that knowledge of the future comes from knowldge of the past ; as does knowledge of the past from knowledge of the present : so that their order to us is that of Present, Paft, and Future,

Of these species of knowledge, that of the Present is the lowest, not only as first in perception, but as far the more K3

extensive,

[ocr errors]

extensive, being necessarily common to all animal beings, and reaching even to zoophites, as far as they possess fensation. Knowledge of the Past comes next, which is fuperior to the former, as being confined to those animals that have memory as well as senses. Knowledge of the Future comes last, as being derived from the other two ; and which is, for that reason, the most excellent, as well as tbe most rare, since Nature in her superadditions rises from worse always to better, and is never found to fink from better down to worse.

And now, having feen how we acquire the knowledge of Time past, and Time future ; which is first in perception, which first in dignity ; which more common, which more rare ; let us compare them both to the present Now or Inftant, and examine what relations they maintain towards it.

In the first place there may be Times both past and future, in which the present Now has no existence; as, for example, in Yesterday and To-morrow.

Agen, the present Now may so far belong to Time of ei. ther sort, as to be the end of the past, and the beginning of the future; but it cannot be included within the limits of either. For if it were poflible, let us suppose C the preferit A B C D

E

1 Now included within the limits of the part time A D. In such case CD, part of the past time AD, will be fubfequent to C the present Now, and so of course be future. But by the hypothesis it is post, and so will be both past and future at once, which is absurd. In the same manner we prove that C cannot be included within the limits of a future time, such as B E.

• What then shall we say of such times, as this day, this month, this year, this century, all which include with them the present Now? They cannot be past times or future, from what has been proved; and present time has no existence, as has been proved likewise. Or shall we allow. them to be present, from the present now which exists within thim; fo that from the presence of that we call these also present, tho' the shortest among them has infinite parts always absent ? If so, and in conformity to custom, we allow such times present, as present days, months, years, and centuries, each must of neceffity be a compound of the Past and the Future, divided from each other by fome present Now or Inftant, and jointly called Prejent, while that.

Now

[ocr errors]

1

Now remains within them. Let us suppose, for example, the time X Y, which let us call a day, or a century i and X A B

B C C D E E Y f

& let the present Now or Instant exist at A. I fay, in as much as A exists within XY, that therefore X Ais Time past, and A Y Time future, and the whole X A, A'Y, Time present. The same holds, if we suppose the present Now to exist at B, or C, or D, or E, or any where before Y. When the present Now exists at Y, then is the whole XY Time past, and still more so when the Now gets to g, or onwards. In like manner before the present Now 'enter'd X, as for example, when it was at f, then was the whole X Y Time future ; 'twas the same, when the present Now was at X. When it had past that, then X Y became Time present. And thus 'tis that Time is present, while palling, in its present Now or Instant. 'Tis the same indeed here, as it is in space. A sphere passing over a plane, and being for that reason present to it, is only present to that plane in a single point at once, while during the whole progression its parts abfent are infinite,

From what has been said we may perceive that all Time, of every denomination, is divisible and extended. But if so, then whenever we suppose a definite time, even though it be a time present, it must needs have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And so much for Time.

Now from the above doctrine of Time, we propose by way of hypotheses the following theorie of Tenses,

The Tenses are ufed to mark Present, Paft, and-Future Time, either indefinitely, without reference to 'any Beginning, Middle, or End; or else definitely, in reference to such distinctions.

If indefinitely, then have we three Tenses, an Aorist of the Present, an Aorist of the Past, and an Aorist of the Future. If definitely, then we have three Tenfes to mark the Beginnings of these three Times ; three, to denote their Middles; and three to denote cheir Ends ; in all Nine.

“The three first of thefe Tenses we call the Inceptive Present, the Inceptive Past, and the Inceptive Future. The three next, the Middle Present, the Middle Past, and the Middle Future. And the three laft, the Completive Present, the Completive Past, and the Completive Future.

And thus 'tis, that the Tenses in their natural number appear to be twelve ; three to denote Time absolute, and nine to denote it under its respective diftinétions,

Aorist

KA

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »