Wesley, was developed into nobler form during the century by various thinkers, and especially by Archdeacon Paley, whose Natural Theology exercised a powerful influence down to recent times. The same tendency appeared in other countries. Various philosophers did indeed show weak points in the argument, and Goethe made sport of it in a noted verse, praising the forethought of the Creator in foreordaining the cork tree to furnish stoppers for wine-bottles.
Shortly before the middle of the nineteenth century the main movement culminated in the Bridgewater Treatises, Pursuant to the will of the eighth Earl of Bridgewater, the President of the Royal Society selected eight persons, each to receive a thousand pounds sterling for writing and publishing a treatise on the "power, wisdom, and goodness of God, as manifested in the creation." Of these, the leading essays in regard to animated Nature were those of Thomas Chalmers, on The Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Condition of Man; of Sir Charles Bell, on The Hand, as evincing Design; of Roget, Animal and Vegetable Physiology with reference to Natural Theology; and of Kirby, on The Habits and Instincts of Animals with reference to Natural Theology.
Besides these there were treatises by Whewell, Buckland, Kidd, and Prout. The work was nobly done. It was a marked advance on all that had appeared before in matter, method, and spirit. Looking back upon it now we can see that it was provisional, but that it was none the less fruitful in truth. Here we may well remember Darwin's remark on the stimulating effect of mistaken theories, as compared with the sterilizing effect of mistaken observations: mistaken observations lead men astray, mistaken theories suggest true theories.
An effort made in so noble a spirit certainly does not deserve the ridicule that, in our own day, has sometimes been lavished upon it. Curiously, indeed, one of the most contemptuous of these criticisms has been recently made by one of the most strenuous defenders of orthodoxy. No less eminent a standard-bearer of the faith than the Rev. Prof. Zoeckler says of this great movement to demonstrate creative purpose and design, and of the men who took part in it, "The earth appeared in their representation of it like a great clothing shop and soup kitchen, and God as a glorified rationalistic professor." Such a statement as this is far from just to the conceptions of such men as Butler, Paley, and Chalmers, no matter how fully the thinking world has now outlived them.
- For Ray, see the work cited, London, 1827, p. 153. For Grew, see Cosmologia Sacra, or a Discourse on the Universe, as it is the Creature and Kingdom of God; chiefly written