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PHILOSOPHY OF CREATION.
Thk special design of this Chapter will be to consider some of the cosmological theories on which the Philosophy of Creation has been based by different minds, and thus to show by contrast the beauty of those higher realities to which reference has been made in the preceding portions of this work. It is evident that the original state of matter is not presented in the aspect of surrounding things. The myriad forms of beauty that adorn the earth and heavens, point distinctly to a previous period when the present constitution of Nature began to exist. And the manifestations of progressive development which are everywhere apparent in the expanse of being, render it obvious that the present form and arrrangement of the Universe have not existed from eternity, but have been derived from a combination of materials existing anteriorly in a different state of refinement and perfection. Therefore the inquiry arises in every investigating mind, whence came the first dawn of Creation's morning ?—whence originated those primitive materials from which innumerable systems of worlds have been ushered into being?
In attempting to solve.this problem, the philosophers of all ages have exerted their strongest powers of analysis and investigation; and, as a consequence to be anticipated, several different hypotheses have been fofmed on the subject, which, though they may not prove to be satisfactory in themselves, are neyertheless indications of much profound thought on the part of their authors. The first theory which should be noticed in this connection is that of the eternity of matter. This, as it appears from historical records, has quite an ancient origin, and may be traced through most of the schools of Greece. "If," says a noted writer, "we search into the systems of all the^ancient schools of philosophy, amid ai\ infinite variety of different opinions in other respects, we find them, perhaps without an exception, concurring in a belief of the eternity of matter, or that general substance which constitutes the visible %orld around us; which was sometimes conceived to be intelligent in many of its corpuscles, and unintelligent in the rest, as was taught by Democritus, sometimes intelligent as a whole, though unintelligent in its separate parts, as taught both by Aristotle and Plato; and sometimes unintelligent in all its parts and particles, whether united or disjoined, which formed the dogma of Epicurus. Under some modification or other, however, the doctrine of the eternity of matter appears to have been universal among the philosophers of ancient nations."
This hypothesis is one which we might suppose would be - naturally first generated in the contemplations of materialistic minds. Viewing external matter as comprehending the entire realm of being, and having no conception of the existence of an essence more refined than the particles of which matter is composed, they were in a measure compelled to regard that as eternal, which they were unable to trace to a more sublimated source. The theory here referred to, therefore, is a good representative flf the materialisnfbf the age in which it originated. When the mind ascends to a spiritual plane of thought, it can easily perceive the difficulties with which such a theory is beset. Matter, in all its visible and tangible forms, is constantly undergoing the process of change. Even the very particles which make up its whole, become etherealized into an impalpable substance which extends beyond the reaeh of the senses. For this reason matter can not be eternal in its tangible or compound state, as otherwise it could not be reduced to an inappreciable form. But when we come to ascertain the primitive and substantial basis of matter, extending our view beyond its temporary and changing forms to the refined and spiritual essence into which it is capable of being resolved, we can reo# ognize the fact that this alone has an eternal existence, as the medium through which the Divine intelligence is expressed, and through which also all external matter is moved and governed.
To assert the absolute eternity of matter in any other sense than this, is to make a theory which can not stand the test of reason. The difficulties which lie in the way of such a theory, are ably set forth by the author before alluded to, as follows: "We may regard matter as essentially and eternally intelligent, or as essentially and eternally unintelligent; as Essentially intelligent in its several parts, or as essentially intelligent as a whole. The dilemma is equal in all these cases. Matter can not be intelligent as a whole, without being intelligent in every atom, for a concourse of unintelligent atoms can never produce intelligence; but if it be intelligent in every atoin^ then are we perpetually meeting with*unintelligent compounds resulting from intelligent elements. If, again, matter be essentially eternal, but at the same time essentially unintelligent, both separately and collectively, then, an intelligent principle being traced in the world, and even in man himself, we are put into possession of two coeternal independent principles, destitute of all relative connection and common medium of action." It will be observed that the theory which this reasoning is designed to explode, proposes to remove the necessity of any Divine agency in the work of creation. This, however, only shows the ten• dency of the human mind to extremes, when its exalted intuitions are not unfolded. Rejecting all conception of a Being which the senses can not comprehend, it blindly ascribes to gross and senseless matter, the very qualities which can alone exist in a supreme Intelligence.
But if the material theory of creation represents an extreme, it is not more so than the prevalent theological hypothesis on this subject. The proposition contained in this hypothesis is, that all the various forms of the visible Universe have been created by the Divine Being from absolute nothing. When it is said in the Primitive Record, that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," it is supposed that, previous to their introduction into being, the illimitable expanse was simply an empty and unbroken void, which'contained not even the least particle of any substance whatever; and that from this.vast but exceedingly unsubstantial source, the Divine Will, in its great omnipotence, brought forth the innumerable forms that fill immensity. In accordance with this theory, Dr. John Mason Good, who may be recognized as one of its promincut advocates, offers the following remarks :*—" So far from intimating any absurdity in the idea that matter may be created out of nothing by the interposition of an almighty intelligence, reason seems, on the contrary, rather to point out to ua the possibility of an equal creation out of nothing of ten thousand other substances, of which each may be the medium of
life and happiness to infinite orders of beings Matter,
then, we are compelled to regard as a substance created out of nothing by an intelligent first cause; himself immaterial, selfexistent, eternal, and alone." Now the mind that is true to the order and wisdom of nature, will perceive that the proposition here advanced, that something can spring from nothing, • involves a self-contradiction and impossibility. But exclaims our author, "This is only to argue in a circle ; for why is it a self-contradiction, or an impossibility V The answer is, that the proposition is contrary to the first principles of reason— that it overthrows the very basis on which reason begins to act, and hence that it is known to be absurd in the same manner as the affirmation that two and two make six would be known to be so. If the science of numbers be correctly established, then nought multiplied by itself, or by any given number, will produce nought; and this process might be continued to infinity with the same result. We may safely presume, then, that a whole infinitude of nothing would be insufficient for the production of a single form of matter.
It may be said indeed that Deity is omnipotent, and hence can produce such results as He desires, without reference to any impossibilities conceived by earthly minds. But even the omnipotence of Deity can not act in contrariety to absolute
• Good's Book of Nature, page 32.