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to investigation, men confound sensations and their causes, and also original and acquired perceptions, must detract from any practical results of the infallibility ascribed to the testimony of the senses. All at first confound sensation with its cause, and suppose that something like it exists in the external world. Till convinced by reason, when looking on a portrait, or a painted landscape, men suppose there is more before them than mere canvass covered with pigments possessing different properties of reflecting light, which at midnight present only an even, colourless surface. It is now well established, that the eye gives us no knowledge of the place, distance, or form of bodies. These are all matters of experience. We cannot tell, by the sense of sight simply, whether an object is on our right hand or our left; whether it is a sphere or a cube; a few feet distant, or many rods. As we gaze on nature, the eye does not reveal to us whether a great mountain or a deep valley is before us. It gives us no knowledge of the position of the heavenly bodies; we never see the stars in their true places; and we suppose we see the sun after it has been several minutes below the horizon.
Professor Chace, denying the direct Divine agency in the production of material phenomena, maintains that they must be ascribed to properties which God gave matter at its creation. He seemingly settles the whole question at the outset, by asserting, in the strongest terms, that our senses in the clearest manner support his views. They declare that material bodies are
“ actual substances, possessing properties, and acting by virtue of those properties. This testimony bears on it the impress of certainty. We cannot doubt it if we would. It brings with it the Divine sanction, and God himself is responsible for its truth. God has so made us, and placed us in such relations to these bodies, that we are naturally and instinctively led to take this view of their constitution. Nay, further, such is the structure of our minds, that this view is forced upon us, so that we cannot avoid it without doing the greatest violence to our understandings.”—Pp. 346-348.
Denying, as we do distinctly, the main position of the author, that our senses reveal to us directly the existence of matter in its various forms, possessing properties, and acting by virtue of those properties, -it seems we become liable to serious charges, no less than blasphemy, and a want of common sense. As, however, we have not been “led instinctively and naturally” to his conclusions, we hope that under the plea of natural inability we may escape
the imputation of guilt.
We have but indicated a course of argument we should pursue against the assumptions of Professor Chace which he has not attempted to prove.
We suppose there are few, if any, at the present day who really doubt, however the conviction may have been acquired, the existence of matter, or that, in our connexion with it, we experience sensations which become the sure foundation of much of our knowledge. All our researches, as well as our experience, show us the perfection and harmony of the works of God. We are astonished when we learn how few are the elements that compose the infinitely varied forms in which matter appears, and how few, simple, and general are the laws by which these forms are governed. Design is everywhere manifest, and man cannot comprehend the wisdom displayed. All parts of inanimate nature are fitted to each other, when the least mistake would ruin all; and the whole is perfectly adapted to the wants and conditions of the various orders of animate beings earth sustains. Says Aristotle-“Whoever admires not the skill and contrivance of nature, must either be deficient in intellect, or must have some private motive which withholds him from expressing his admiration.”—Lib. x, cap. 10.
In nature's vast expanse, wherever we turn, what new wonders rise! If we look upward, we are led to exclaim,
" This prospect vast is nature's system of divinity.” It is “elder Scripture writ by God's own hand.” It tells us of his existence, and the origin of worlds his hand has formed.
But the question we are considering is scarcely less important. We ask, who guides these orbs in all their varied motions?
“On yon cerulean plain,
Weave the grand cipher of Omnipotence."
Thus matter is described as passive, not capable of producing any motion, and also as constantly producing motion, and exerting power at insensible and inconceivable distances. How can these views be reconciled ?
There is much confusion as to the meaning of Attraction. It is described in all its operations as the same power, but manifested under different circumstances. It causes the descent of all falling bodies, and, at the same time, forces liquids to ascend through tubes and the pores of plants. It is said to be proportioned in its force to the quantity of matter; how, then, in opposition to the whole attractive force of the earth, can the capillary attraction of a tree cause liquids to ascend to its highest leaf, and even extend its leaves and twigs?
The most curious manifestation of this power is called Affinity, --sometimes single elective, at others, double. Under its influence, the particles of bodies, forsaking old combinations, form new ones; “for there seem,” says Comstock, “in this respect to be very singular preferences and dislikes existing among the particles of matter.” While some particles have this strong mutual affection, others have a degree of dislike amounting to aversion; hence repulsion is often so great that they cannot remain peaceably in the same neighbourhood. Some degree of knowledge of circumstances seems absolutely essential to the exercise of these preferences and dislikes; hence, we have the manifestation of intelligence and the passions by the inert, utterly powerless particles of matter.
That matter is impenetrable, inert, and has extension, we can readily conceive. These terms imply only facts relating to an existing substance. They leave the changes and phenomena of matter, usually ascribed to attraction, to be referred, as we think they ought, to an independent, intelligent cause. The supposition that there is power, energy, force, or intelligence in an inert lump of matter, we cannot regard otherwise than as absurd. Let any one point out, if he can, the connexion between what are usually denominated cause and effect in matter. It is said to be the nature or law of bodies mutually to attract each other; hence a stone falls to the earth. In this statement no efficient cause is described, no explanation given; but a fact is named, and referred to a class of results of a similar character previously observed. A law of nature is a term applied to a class of phenomena supposed to be similar; but to call this law their cause would be a perversion of language. Many of the phenomena of nature are incorrectly classed. Who at present is prepared to enunciate the general law of chemical composition and decomposition ? The name attraction is given to the affinity, by which we suppose the particles of the various ingredients of bodies to be aggregated; but who can point out any common feature between this and the attractions of which alone we know the exact effects ? :
Newton did not regard gravity as an inherent cause in matter. He did not pretend to have discovered the cause of a stone's falling to the ground, or of the revolution of the planets. Considering attraction as a phenomenon, he hesitated as to the cause, sometimes considering it as material, (Optics, p. 343,) and sometimes as immaterial, (Ib., p. 325.) In a letter found in Bentley's Works,
“ It is inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon and effect other matter without mutual contact, as it must, if gravitation, in the sense of Epicurus, be essential and inherent in it. And this is one reason why I desired you would not ascribe innate gravity to me. That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man, who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it. Gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws." --Bentley's Workcs, vol. iii, pp. 211, 212.
The only reasonable mode of accounting for the phenomena of the material world is to refer the physical effects, usually ascribed to gravity and other laws of nature, to the direct action of the Deity. The laws of nature, such as the laws of motion, gravitation, affinity, are only a figure of speech, expressions of the regularity and continuity of one infinite cause. The course of nature is nothing but the will of God producing certain effects, in a constant and uniform manner. The changes in the external world, the least and the greatest, the fall of a stone, the motion of the planets in their orbits, the growth of plants, the murmuring rivulet, the gently rolling stream, the impetuous cataract, sunshine, dew, rain, storms, tempests, the flashing lightning and the rolling thunder, must be referred to the will and power of God. Matter is wholly passive and inert, having no powers or active inherent properties. Mind alone is active, and all changes must result from its volitions.
All the researches of science have not pointed out with certainty a single active cause apart from the operation of mind. In nature we see antecedents and consequents, yet no connexion but sequence in time can be discerned between them, the former are the mere signs, not the causes, of the latter. We see regularity and simi- . larity of effects, but the attribution of these effects to certain hidden