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not easily conceived, we shall have but little difficulty in showing that the conclusions of our anonymous author are perfectly unsatisfactory and untenable, when by his arrogant and false assumptions he endeavors to diminish the attributes and limit the power of the Deity. For instance, in page 31, he lays down the following premises for the basis of his argument:
"It being understood that it is impossible any two substances should exist in the same place; that spirit is a substance; that matter exists and is impenetrable; I think it will not be difficult to prove the eternity of the world."
The universe is now infinite, since, whatever is, is included in the term. If it has not always been so, there was then a time when it was imperfect, when much space was occupied neither by God nor matter. It was therefore a vacuum, mere nihility, absolute nothing, before the production of matter. This assertion at once reduces the universal mind to a finite Being; but will it make the doctrine of creation any thing more reasonable?—I think not. For to create, is to produce out of nothing; and he must have produced it where he was, or where he was not. It will not be maintained, I presume, that even the Deity could create where he was not, since no being's power can extend further than its existence; nor where he himself was, since that would be to introduce two beings into the same place—which is impossible."
In this argument the fallacy is easily detected. We may deny his minor and defy him to the proof. How can he show that spirit is a substance, a material substance,' (which is a contradiction in terms) and that impenetrability is an essential property of matter? How can he even prove an atomic theory,' when it can be demonstrated mathematically that matter is infinitely divisible?
How much more satisfactory and philosophical it is, to argue, from the amazing, and, as regards our capacities, unlimited signs of wisdom and power in the vast structure of the universe, to the omnipotence of the Creator! Nothing uncertain is here assumed ! and how much less is the imagination scared by this idea, than by that of an unintelligent principle existing without the pre-existence of an intelligent one! Let the omnipotence however of the Deity be once established, and what becomes of the impenetrability of matter? We can only measure that impenetrability by finite force, and can therefore only prove a degree of resistance:
"If spirit be any thing it must be a substance, however unknown." p. 30. 2 "His (God's) essence is every where diffused... but the merest atom takes from its absolute infinity." p. 33.
but infinite resistance is incompatible with infinite power, which, if it meet with any impediment, is no longer infinite. The omnipotence of God therefore enables him to exist in every part of space, whether it be a vacuum or not. More than this, his necessary self-existent nature (which our opponent himself allows) actually implies his omnipresence. For if the Deity possess in himself not a contingent, but a necessary existence, we cannot by any stretch of imagination conceive him only to have existed in, and to have been confined to, a particular spot: he must always have existed every where, and been essentially present every where, unchangeable in place as in nature : for how can we conceive a place. where God has a necessary existence, and another where he has it not? That which is necessary, must be so at all times and in all places. "Quocunque tu flexeris, ibi illum videbis occurrentem tibi nihil ab ipso vacat: opus suum ipse implet."
Now the same argument will apply also to matter. If matter be self-existent, it must exist every where, throughout infinite space. The whole universe must be one solid and material mass. How the revolutions of the planetary system can be carried on within such a medium, I leave our Author to explain. Moreover we may observe, that if primary matter had been thus self-existent, it never could have been moulded into its present forms of symmetry and beauty by the exertion of any power. The smallest atoms, if even the atomic theory were granted, could never have entered into the composition of a whole, as parts, but must ever have remained in their original immutable state.
But it is not only inert unintelligent matter, of which the necessary existence is affirmed by our author; certain essential qualities are also assigned to it which the Deity neither created nor can annihilate, but can merely modify. To this I answer, that modification is no more consistent with a self-existent quality than is annihilation. If an evil quality exist necessarily as an evil, or a good one as a good, it is a contradiction to suppose that the nature of either can be altered. The very confession therefore of our Author, that God can so modify the qualities of matter, destroys his theory.
We may here observe, that the assigning of these essential qualities to primary matter by the ancient philosophers, probably gave rise to a great portion of the heathen mythology: from being thus
Seneca de Beneficiis, lib. viii.
2 "If God could not prevent the existence of the external matter, so neither could he deprive it of its qualities, which were as eternal as itself. It might have evil qualities. From these evil qualities might spring, notwithstanding the modification of the Deity, all the evils we see in nature.” p.36.
considered as primary causes, principles, or powers, they became elevated into Deities. Nay a still wilder notion arose from this philosophy, planted (according to Lord Bacon) by Pythagoras and watered by the school of Plato and others, viz. that the world was one entire and perfect living creature, with a soul and spirit; insomuch that Apollonius of Tyana, a Pythagorean philosopher, affirmed, that the ebbing and flowing of the sea was the respiration of the earth. Cudworth on the same subject remarks," Ipse mundus, tanquam perfectum animal, quod corpore absolvitur et anima spectatur, sæpenumero tertii Dei vocabulo honestaretur."
But let us proceed to analyse another of our Author's principles, which he expresses in his motto, and comments upon at large in his Essay; viz. "Ex nihilo nil fit," or, "from nothing, nothing can proceed." This may be now easily answered. We have already shown that matter cannot be, of necessity, self-existent: it must have had a beginning. Neither can any thing else be shown to be necessarily existent and eternal, except God, who is acknowleged to be so by our Author himself. God therefore must be the first great cause of all things that exist, of original matter, as well as of all its subsequent forms and modifications, and we are necessitated to exclaim with our great philosopher, "that nothing is without beginning but God; no nature, no matter, no spirit, but only one and the same God.” 4
With what little difficulty or violence does this idea accommodate itself to the mind of him who acknowleges the omnipotence of the Deity! To an omnipotent Being, nothing, which is not in itself contradictory, can be impossible: that supreme intelligence, which has moved inert matter, may as easily be imagined to have created it, though we can no more explain the manner in which it was done, than we can understand how mere volition moves our own bodies. The difficulty lies not in the thing itself, but in our limited faculties; and if God had been pleased to add another faculty to the human mind, he might have rendered that perfectly clear which is now utterly incomprehensible. I will adduce but one more argument, in this part of my subject, to show what conclusions may be drawn against our Author's theory, from his own admission.
As Lord Bacon observes, "Quicquid a Deo non pendet, ut auctore et principio, per nexus et subordinationes, id loco Dei erit, et novum principium et Deaster quidem."
2 Vol. iii. p. 189. 4to. Edit.
3 Vol. i. p. 827. 4to. Edit. Lug. Bat.
+ Lord Bacon's Confession of Faith, vol. iv. p. 413.
Having acknowleged the existence of two independent principles, matter and spirit, having acknowleged also that man consists of body and spirit, he must allow that God created the spirit or soul of man at least, unless he asserts the existence of a third independent self-existing principle, or an infinite series of causes and effects from all eternity:' but to advance what there is no ground for admitting, or no possibility of proving, is more consistent with ancient than with modern philosophy. God then having created the soul or spirit of man, and spirit having been declared by our Author to be a material substance, what becomes of his original theory? But if we forbear to press him with this his own admission, we may surely be permitted to ask, how the idea of God's creating matter is more revolting to reason, than that of his creating a spirit?
2. I now proceed to show, in a few words, that our adversary's theory, contrary to his declaration, does affect the cause of morals. He must know, that, in proportion as the attributes of the Creator are circumscribed the veneration of the creature will be diminished. He must know that the whole harmony of the divine nature is destroyed, if power be wanting to execute what wisdom suggests and goodness adopts. He must know, that if the existence of evil qualities be assumed, which God himself can neither eradicate nor materially alter, the stupifying doctrines of necessity will receive a most pernicious sanction, and the diminution of man's responsibility will gradually lead him into the most degrading immorality. More than this, the prevalence of such a doctrine would oppose the reception of revealed religion by striking at the very root of miraculous evidence. If God has not the power of changing what we call good and evil, or the properties of matter and mind, for ever, he cannot do it for a moment. If he can do it for a moment, he can do it always; for who or what exists which can prevent him from doing in each succeeding moment, that which he did in the moment which preceded it? I would not willingly impute ill motives to a writer, unless they were rendered very probable by internal evidence; but several passages in this author's work induce me to believe that his revival of an almost exploded theory did not originate in so innocent a motive as he pretends. Many minds, which would start with horror from any direct attack upon their principles, may be unsettled by crafty insinuations, made with affected candor and an avowed object of promoting truth.
3. But with regard to the origin of evil, what solution of the mystery does this theory propose? a mere assumption founded
He disclaims the notion of the human soul being a portion of the divinity. p. 32.
neither on proof nor probability! the existence of noxious qualities produced without a contriver, and invincible by all the power of the Deity! Surely it is more rational to mistrust our own limited faculties in this matter, and to doubt whether that which we call evil, in a system whose general character is uniform benevolence and wisdom, a system too which we can observe only in detached and insulated portions, be not exaggerated as well as misunderstood. Certainly we find that the more intimately all the parts of nature are examined, the more they are found adapted to wise and benevolent ends: this is the invariable result of increasing observation and experience. But we may without any impropriety admit God to be the author of this evil, since it can very easily be shown to be a consequence of those general laws by which the welfare of all his creatures is secured, and of that free agency without which our best powers and feelings would want exercise, and thegood resulting from them be withdrawn from society. With created beings unlimited knowlege and unlimited happiness is totally inconsistent, and there is perhaps no system of creation from which the existence of evil could have been excluded. In one point of view, however, its disadvantages will be greatly lessened, if we contemplate it as the great trial of our virtue and the touchstone of our fidelity; which, though it produce pain and anxiety here, may advance our happiness to a much higher degree hereafter, when the justice of God shall remedy all those inconsistencies which appear to exist in his present government of the world.
4. We now come to show that this theory receives no confirmation from the opinions of philosophers.
What confirmation indeed can possibly be expected from the dogmas of philosophy when the subject of its investigation is clearly beyond the reach of human powers? "Homo naturæ minister et interpres, tantum facit et intelligit, quantum de naturæ ordine re vel mente observaverit; nec amplius scit aut potest." The province of philosophy is not to investigate efficient causes, or to feign hypotheses, but to generalise effects; and this in fact is all we do when we advance from discovery to discovery, resolving our conclusions into others still more comprehensive: nor have we any reason to be discontented with this order of things: science is not injured thereby, nor the advantages that mankind derive from it diminished. The disciples of Newton are not less numerous or less satisfied with his theory of gravitation, though the efficient cause lies hid from all researches, whilst his own query concerning the invisible ether of which he supposed it might be