« السابقةمتابعة »
a Weekly Magazine,
OF CHRISTIAN EXPOSITION AND ADVOCACY.
Who knows not that truth is strong, next to the Almighty; she needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious, those are the shifts and the defences that error uses against her power.---MILTON.
In your 2nd letter in reply to mine on the Design Argument,' you again combat my opinions on the . Eternity of Matter,' and say but little on Paley's noted argument. My rejoinder to your reply needs a few lengthened observations on the cardinal point of Atheism. You
say, “ but even if you had succeeded beyond the possibility of a doubt, in establishing the indistructibility of matter, would that be proof of its eternity? I think not. An event of which man is the cause, as a fact in history, may be indestructible, but who would argue that it is, therefore, eternal. That Sebastopol has been besieged for nine months by the allied forces of France and England, is a fact absolutely indestructible, but we all know that that is evidence for its eternity. A thing, then, may be indestructable, and yet have begun to be." Is this, then, to be the proof, that matter can be indestructible, and yet have begun to be? The argument is fallacious for the one is finite the other infinite; the one is a fact of an operation once taking place and then ceasing to take place; to make the argument TENABLE, you should have proved that the allies began to besiege Sebastopol; and that they will continue throughout eternity to besiege it--then you would have a beginning without an
No. 2, Vol. II.
ending, and the finite would merge into the infinite, but no argument can be deduced from the observance of any event of history, separate from nature (or the aggregate of involuntary matter) for the simple reason that before we can know that it will be INFINITE, we shall have to be INFINITE OURSELVES—and as we are but FINITE can only deduct FINITE objects from finate
You say, 'The eternity of matter involves the eternity of the globe which we inhabit. But there is proof, in the present appearance of the earth, that it is not eternal.' Suppose one particle to be washed from the peaks of the primary rocks in a million of years; the time would at length come when they would be reduced to the level of the surrounding soil, if indeed, the wasting process would not reduce the entire surface of the earth to one dead level, which would everywhere be covered with water. Those mighty rocks, lifting up their rugged heads to heaven with a silent but lofty eloquence, demonstrate the non-eternity of the world, and serve as steps by which the human mind may rise to the great Creator.'
The eternity of the globe,' in its PRESENT SHARE, as an argument, is diametrically opposed to the views of all atheists, for, it is an incontestible FACT, proveable by goeology and (fossil) zoology, that this, and other planets have come into their present - Forms by a long series of progressive developments, commencing, not all simultaneous, with a GASEOUS diffused MATTER thrown off from a central body, which by its own rotation has gradually been condensed, thereby receiving its opacity in structure and sphericity in form.
Dr. Nicholl speaking on this mighty rock subject says, “geologists could tell at what particular epoch in the development of the earth any given mountain chain rose, or was first thrown up. All the rocks with which we are acquainted consists of two grand classes-the chrystalline or primary rocks ; and the stratified, or those laid down by the agency of water. Now, the stratified rocks must originally have been laid horizontally, for in that way only could water deposit rocks. Therefore, when we found stratified rocks not in a horizontal position, it was very evident that they have been disturbed by some convulsion after being laid down. In some places we find a nucleous of primary rocks, with stratified rocks, as it were, leaning against it, and other stratified rocks lying horizontally beside thé uplifted ones. In this case it is evident that the crystalline rock had been thrown up after the stratified rock that was lifted up by it, and before that which was lying horizontally.
The stratified rocks were connected with each other in point of time all over the world, and therefore, when we find a crystalline rock between two stratified rocks, one of which was thrown up and the other not, we fixed its time, and thus the apparent chaos and confusion disappeared.' Enquiry has enabled us to fix the age of all the great masses of mountains. There was seventeen epochs in this liistory, each epoch succeeded by a long period of comparative repose. The last great epoch was that which threw up the Andes; the last previous ones, that in which the Himalaya mountains were thrown up. Between each of these steps or epochs, lay almost immeasurable periods of time. Was it possible to form any conception of the period of time that elapsed since the formation of the Andes? Since that time all the rivers now in existence had flown on undisturbed. How long then had the Mississippi flown? Fortunately we are enabled, by estimating the thickness of matter called delta, carried down by rivers to calculate how long the river had been flowing. A small part of this delta occupied THREE MILLIONS OF YEARS in its formation! Now, this is an indisputable geological fact; and if the present rivers have been flowing on above 3,000,000 of years, what can we make of the Mosaic Cosmogomy of 6000 years.
Either geology or scripture is at fault—they cannot both be true. I ask, you, sir, what knowledge have you that those mighty rocks' have not been undergoing
the wasting process ' for millions of years, and can you prove that ALL 'the present mountains have not been ten times their present height to allow for the wasting process of nature. The mountain avalanche rolls down its annual congeries of frozen particles which militate against the size of the Alps, but then, we must not forget that the snows of winter descend upon the peaks of the highest rocks and CLOTHE them anew with a carpet of icicles. I come now to your argument on the population. You
say 'the present amount of the population of the earth furnishes another proof of its non-eternity, Though particular races, at given periods, may decline in numbers, population, on the whole, is of an increasive nature. There are vast tracts of land, which a few centuries ago were without a single inhabitant, now giving full scope to the enterprize and energy of teeming thousands. Had the race been eternal these tracts of land would have been inhabited ages ago, every corner of the earth, capable of yielding food to inan and beast, would have been crowded with living beings, yea, the world would have been too small to contain its inhabitants, and immense tracts of it would have become sepulchres of the dead. This has never been the case, and is far from being the case even now.
The world is not half-populated. There are islands and almost continents that do not sustain one tithe of the inhabitants they might. There are millions of acres lying waste that by cultivation could bear as rich cereal crops as were ever raised on the banks of the Don or the Nile ; and there are hundreds of millions of acres, which superior husbandry could make fourfold more productive than they are at present. But had the race been eternal, ages ago the pressure of the population would have been so great that ' necessity, the mother of invention,' would have forced men to the highest cultivation of every available
That it is not so, and that the earth is not half-peopled, are difficulties with which the theory of the ' eternity of matter 'is environed, which the highest genius of infidelity will find it difficult to remove. The human race, with many-voiced but unanimous speech, proclaims, like the Alps and Andes, that, it must have had a beginning, and therefore, a Creator.'
I do not confound the eternity of matter with the eternity of organisms, as you seem to imagine, although I differ from you in the point of time at which MAN in his present form first appeared on the face of the earth--you (taking the Mosaic Cosmogomy) believing it to be about 6,000 years since the first pair of the human species were born. I believing it to be near as many millions of years. 1. cannot accept your argument on the amount of the population on the earth,' and do not believe that (on the whole) the human species increase, in an extensive ratio, simultaneously over the globe. We always find that population increases when it is unrestrained by poverty, war, crime, misery, disease, or famine.
These are checks to population, and has the world ever been free from them? History speaks of the follies of nations, under the name of history, and what is it, but a record of misery and disasters? Babylon with her crimes -Syria with her wars-Persia with her refined barbarism--Carthage with her competitive cowardice---Greece with her municipal squabbles-Rome with its wars-Sycthia with its desert scourge—the Huns, Goths, Franks, and Danes. with their savage murders—and the Anglo-Saxon power with its riches and poverty-its pride and its misery, all these are symbols of national disasters, powers which rose into being by destroying their opponents, and most of them ended by being destroyed in their turn. Are there not whole nations that have disappeared from their collective form, and exist but as scattered individuals. The North American Indians are fast losing ground--three hundred years ago they swarmed in America-now the progress of civilization is the signature of their death-warrant. When we read history, we are surprised how the ancients used to collect their numbers. Xerxes could raise an army of 5,000,000 ; and Cæsar, along with most of the Roman generals, have met and defeated armies,
where a quarter and oft half a million of soldiers were assembled; and where the Roman bulletins announced a loss of two or three hundred thousand slain to their enemies.
Such armies cannot now be raised, nor such losses incurred, without annihilation to the country from whence they spring. Montesquieu, in his Lettres Persanes (Letter CVIII) says, ' Upon a calculation the most exact that matters of this sort will admit, I am led to think, that the earth does not contain now fully the fiftieth part of the human beings that inhabited it at the time of Cæsar.'' This, I think, is proof against the Mosaic Chronology, of the progressive population question.'
You say, further, the lack of any memorial of the world's eternity presents no less a difficulty to your theory. We have a right to demand historical evidence. If the race has existed for ever it is inconceivable that nothing worthy of record or remembrance occurred in the mighty cycle of the past.
The entire absence of any memorial of the world's eternity, is proof the most convincing, that it has begun to be, and therefore, must have had a Creator.' I cannot see that that the premises of the argument warrant its conclusion, for we know nothing of credible universal history, since the invention of printing, six hundred years ago; and writing itself was unknown four thousand years ago; what shall we then say to the
destruction of that great Alexandrian library, the receptacle of all the learning of the East, collected by the civilization of the West.' The millions of manuscripts that were destroyed there, might have told us of the history of the past, since the invention of writing on papyrus.
But by the will of an untutored conquering savage, this speaking mausoleum of the dead was lost for
You ask of the cities,'"men,' • thoughts,' wars,'' revolutions,''conquests,' &c., of the past. How many men with genius equal to the highest in every branch of the fine-arts, have perished in our time for want of an historians pen. Then what shall we say of thoughts' unrecorded; of revolutions' forgotten; of 'wars' of extermination; of conquests' which are truly buried in oblivion ? Do we not know of cities buried, and nations whose relics are being turned up by the plough, whose names were never known to history. Witness the monuments and tumuli of Central America ; it is the perfection of Greece, amid the barrenness of Scythia. An empire without a written language, is lost for ever, and antiquarians even while exhuming the genius of a forgotten nation, cannot even recall its ancient name. You
say 'progression is the law of man's being; and if he has existed for ever, it is inconceivable that his present condition should be so far from the gaol which he is capable of reaching
All history and tradition point to the comparative recent origin of the race, to the paucity of earth's inhabitants, to the wide tracts of land that have never been cultivated, as proof that the world has not existed for ever.' argue that the world has existed for ever,' in its PRESENT STATE, but that the
matter' composing the world, IS ETERNAL, and is subject to ceaseless CHANGE, and yet it is considerably older than your Mosaic chronology.
In reply to your argument on “progression,' I assert the impossibility of our knowing when progression' first commenced. We progress in knowledge now on account of the facilities we have for accumulating and distributing the experience of the past, by the publications and teachers of the present. Arts and sciences have been gained and lost and then regained.
We have proof that mesmerism was known to the ancients, and lost in the gloom of the middle-ages and resuscitated by modern discoveries. Some of the mysteries of chemical colour were gained by the ancients and are lost to the moderns
. Statuary found its noblest worker in Phideas; in painting in Appelles; in history in Herodotus ; and in poetry in the person of Homer. Socrates and Plato
I repeat, I do not
have no parallel in modern philosophy—they pierced through the very confines of knowledge and progression, could progress no further. It we had an accurate chronicle of all the sciences of the ancients, should we not have an array of knowledge equal to that obtained by the present race of men of their own discovery. Progress is merely accumulation, and this could never be accomplished before writing was invented. You say that all history and tradition point to the recent origin of the race, &c.' Are you aware, sir, of the opinion of the ancients on this subject. Sir Richard Phillips says, 'that the Chinese, Japanese, Hindoos, and Chaldeans, claim an INDEFINITE antiquity;' and Sir Richard tells us the Hindoos began the creation as a mere astronomical epoch, when all the planets were in Aries, or nearly TWO THOUSAND MILLIONS OF YEARS since; and taking in the nodes and apsides, they extend it to four thousand three hundred and twenty millions, which they call a Calpha, or day of Brahama.' Now I do not commit myself to those opinions, * but such accounts as those should teach us a little modesty when dealing with holy books, for I hold that the Hindoo and Jewish Bibles, are alike authentic and credible. Plato states that the Island of Atlantis covered with cities, and crowded with inhabitauts, was absorbed into the sea 9000 years before his time, that is 11,500 years from the present day. Calisthenes, was told by Berosus, the historian of Babylon, (who was in that city when Alexander was there) that 402,000 years before his time the axis of the earth was parallel to the plain of the ecliptic.' I might multiply quotations from ancient history, if I was so inclined, but sufficient is advanced to prove that history and tradition ’ DO NOT 'point to the comparatively recent origin of the race.'
You observe next, 'No one can claim for the eternity of matter a place in the category of necessary truths. You must admit its non-existence to have been possible. We can conceive matter not to have existed. This is exactly what 1
claim' for matter, and what 1 consider it already possesses. I cannot conceive of a time when universal matter was non-existent, and I should much esteem your 'CONCEPTIONS' on the subject if you would accurately transcribe them from the tablets of your memory -for assuredly they will throw a perfect flood of light upon the subject. Until you illuminate' me with this . fact' of conceiving there to have been once a time when there was absolutely no matter,' 1 must leave this argument in quiescence. You say, “Matter is passible; for even man can fashion it according to his will
. Its changes the most unthinking cannot fail to perceive. 1ts inertia is a fact to which thousands of the sons of toil can bear testimony, if the philosophers should fail us. lt presents not the shadow of one of the phenomena of consciousness or vitality. It has no thought, no choice, no will. And limited thus in every attribute, incapable of originating of itself any event, and equally unable to resist the agency of others, it is in conceivable that it should be self-existent and eternal.' We enter again into the arcana of science. 1 admit that man can fashion it (matter) according to his will' in many places. Man has power over finite particles of matter, but he is powerless before the infinity of matter. He can mould iron or clay into a form, but can he make the air into an image, the water into a monument; or can he give electricity a shape? He cannot fashion those 'according to his will.' You speak of its INERTIA. 1 ask, where is it? Do not single a stone, and
say it has no locomotion, but view matter in its immensity, in the planets of the solar system. Its inertia is not there. Matter is moved by two forcesattraction and repulsion--throughout the physical and moral worlds. Attraction is a natural force inherent in matter, and is capable of producing motion when acted upon by matter in another situation, which destroys the equilibriun hitherto existing between the two, and motion is the result. "Let this position be further attacked, and i will fully demonstrate the vis inertia of Newton to be false. You speak of its want of consciousness' and 'vitality. Of the
* Million of facts.