« السابقةمتابعة »
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. 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.' I repeat, I do not 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 ex. perience 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
have no parallel in modern philosophy--they pierced through the very confines of knowledge and progression, could progress no further. If 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.'
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 inhabitants, 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. Untiỉ 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. Its inertia is a fact to which thousands of the sons of toil can bear testimony, if the philosophers should fail us. 1t 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 inconceivable 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 equilibrium 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.
first, it is sufficient to state that we only know consciousness' as an attribute of organised existence; and for the vitality of matter, it is seen in the changing seasons--in the lassitude of winter, and the vigour of spring, the power of summer, and the re-action of winter. These form the vitality' of matter.
You have entered into the astronomical argument, for what purpose 1 cannot tell, without you appear again to have confounded the eternity of FORMS of matter with the eternity of matter itself. Your quotation from Whewell 1 perfectly agree with, as modern science has demonstrated the existence of a 'resisting medium' to the planets, and 1 think it is clear that the planets composing the solar system will (in course of time) be precipitated upon the sun, an event, however, which it will take millions of years to consummate, and prior to which must happen the decrease of our years and days by the less distance the planets will have to traverse round
1f 1 mistake not, history proves this position. Mackintosh says, * The ancient Chinese astronomers divided the circumference of the circle into 3654 parts, instead of 360, the division adopted among the western nations. By this division the sun moved through one degree daily, so that their solar year was about twelve minutes more in length than that of the present time.
The Indians also valued the year at a greater length than that which is known to be the true one at present. The following is a ‘synoptical view of the ancient Indian tables, showing the length of the sidereal year, as estimated by the Hindoo astronomers of that time :
Days, Hours. Min. Sec.
36 In respect to the Chaldean astronomers, it is mentioned by Porphyry that Calisthenes transmitted to Aristotle a' series of observations made at Babylon during a period of 1903 years preceding the capture of that city by Alexander the Great, which carries back the Chaldean astronomy to at least 2234 years B. C.; so that if the Chaldeans were not acquainted with the true length of the solar year, it cannot be said they were not diligent observers, for here are a set of observations extending over 2000 years.'
1 might mention how Hipparchus discovered that from the time of the ancient Egyptians the length of the year had decreased four minutes ; or of the difference of time which led to the forming of the Julian, and subsequently the Gregorian calendar. Sufficient is, however, advanced to make us both agree on the electrical theory of the universe, and prove that even if the PLANETS are destroyed BEFORE eternity, it will not militate against the claims of atheism, because it will only be a destruction of FORMs and not of MATTER itself. So here, in this astronomical argument, there is no evidence to prove the noneternity of matter, and, consequently, there is no evidence of a beginning of matter.'. In dismissing those arguments on the eternity of matter,' let me observe, that 1 think they must, from their intrinsic worth, unencumbered with either verbosity or sophistry, win their way into the minds of the unprejudiced --for the difficulties which the opposite opinions plunge us into are sufficient to decide the question in the favour of the atheist. Sound philosophy' requires us to think and REASON on the existence of everything we see around us ; and in the belief of the eternity and self-existence of matter every doubt is at once vanquished-every speculation is conveyed in a right channel. The Christian cannot say that matter was not in existence at a certain epoch; and, to support
*Electric Theory, p. 265.
his position, he is bound not only to say at what date matter was non-existent, but at what date it came into existence, and by what means it was produced. From the very nature of the questions they are unanswerable, and must for ever remain involved in the same obscurity. Do the Scriptures say that matter is but 6000 years of age ?-then geology tells him that it is three millions of years since the Mississippi first shot her silver streams into the Atlantic; and how shall we reconcile the two ? Nay! difficulties throng the path of the Christian ; he is unable to answer the simplest questions of the atheist, and attempts to cramp down the buoyant energies of nature to the age of an American tree. The atheist is free from the difficulties of the Christian; he sees the universe in all its beauty and deformity, and searches, not for its commencement, but for the order of its seasons. He seeks no cause separate from itself to account for its existence; and although life to him may be full of sorrow, or it may be sparkling with joy, yet the knowledge which atheism inspires makes him content in his poverty, or delirious in happiness; he neither repines at his misfortunes nor boasts of his success, for they both proceed necessarily from their causes, and could have been no other than they were. And this happy content of mind, evinced in a state of atheism, ought to weigh in the Phyrronian balances of doubt which partial enquirers might be lost in-for assuredly the eternity of matter is a grander conception of truth than the assumed eternity of another Being, whose existence is merely a hypothesis. I take leave, then, of this subject.
You tell me my definition of design is far from a happy one;' and you further say, 'when you can show me matter designing, I shall abandon the analogical argument.' I, sir, will accept the 'analogical argument' when you can positively show me' mind designing;'—as neither matter' nor' mind' can be demonstrated as designing' in your manner of expressing the subject; for we cannot see the causes working -we can but see the results as they appear ; therefore, when you can conveniently introduce me to a mind in full . designing' operation, where I can see the accurate designs draw out without any materials, then I will become a convert to your doetrine-otherwise I can only accept the word design' as a mental operation connected with human organisation.
You ask me, ' When did nature ever bring forth spontaneously an ear of corn, a plant, or a human being ?'
. I am not able to answer any of this trio of queries; but I can inform you that living creatures have been produced from electricity, and if it would not make my letter too long, I would quote numerous instances of the process and results of such operations.
Speaking of God's intelligence, you say, 'it is an attribute not of matter but of mind.' I ask, how can an effect be an effect of an effect, or how can an attribute' be an attribute' of an 'attribute ?'--for assuredly the mind but occupies this position in relation to matter. But more of this when I treat on the 'Immortality of the Soul.'
You inform me my argument for the omnipotence of matter is suicidal,' 'that, because man and matter must have power, God cannot be omnipotent.' You say, 'I admit that man has power, and yet most inconsistently argue for the omnipotence of matter.' Allow re, sir, to throw the suicide upon the theist and not upon the atheist--for you admit that matter and man do possess
POWER,' forgetting that if God was omnipotent, he would possess ALL POWER, which our experience proclaims a fallacy; so then the omnipotence must be divided betwixt man and matter. I argue for the omnipotence of matter only upon the observances of the power of matter, and man being a FORM of matter's manifestations.
You find fault with my quotation from Shelley, telling me that 'power may be an attribute of being, without being self-existing.' Here you appear to mistake our argument, which is not human power, but universal power, as found in nature, which, I am afraid, you will not find existing by deputy. When you do, I relinquish Shelley's argument.
You admit that there must be one self-existent CAUSE in the universe, but persist in calling it God. If it is matter, then we agree; if it is not, then it is a nonentity. You speak of matter being an effect,”—an assumption impossible to defend, for ITS CAUSE is yet undemonstrated.
Carefully have I examined your arguments against my positions, and not one of them yet is logically overthrown. Atheism is still triumphant, and will yet inake her opinions a power which shall never end until the claims of Christianity be proved nothing but the weakness of superstition--the pride of a bygone age.
W. H. J.
R E P L Y TO L E T T E R IV.
TO MR. W. H. JOHNSON. SIR,
Paley's noted argument can well defend itself, till it is assailed by 'heavier metal than you have brought against it. Holyoake's attempt at reductio ad absurdum, which you have feebly copied, rests on the unfounded assumption that in God himself, there are proofs of design.
Your lengthened observations on the cardinal point of atheism, may, to some minds, mystify, but do not meet my objections to the eternity of matter. There is a difference between logic and length.
1. You seek to prove the eternity of matter from its indestructibility. But you have not proved, and you cannot prove its indestructibility, till you are omniscient. When you deny that there is any power in the universe able to destroy matter, you beg the question. But even if you had proved the indestructibility of matter, that would be no evidence of its eternity. The facts of history as facts are indestructible, yet they are not eternal. Your conclusion, therefore, is false. It is you, not I, who require to prove not only that Sebastopol will be besieged to all eternity, but that it has been besieged from all eternity. It can never cease to be a fact that Sebastopol has been besieged by the allied forces, but that fact began to be. Everybody admits that a fact is indestructible; all that I require to prove is, that Sebastopol began to be besieged; and this, nobody in his senses will deny,
2. You admit the non-eternity of the globe in its present shape. You even contend for a long series of progressive developments. Matter, then, is subject to change; but that which is subject to change is not self-existent, and therefore, not eternal. You seem quite insensible of the fact, that your long quotation from Dr. Nichol, proves my position. If it is possible to fix the age of the great masses of the mountains, then they have not been eternal. If they had stood for ever, the loss of one particle in a million of years would have proved quite sufficient to reduce them. What are three millions of years, or three millions of ages to the mighty cycles of eternity? I am prepared to defend the Mosaic Cosmogomy at the proper time; and when you are called upon for proof that it represents the creation of the universe as taking place only 6000 years ago, it will be found that you are as feeble in proof as you are valiant in assertion. Meanwhile, remember, that the real question at issue is not whether the world has existed 6000 years, or 6000,000,000 of years, but whether it has existed from all eternity. It is encumbent on you to show that neither its substance nor its forms have had any beginning.