Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

verse doth attract, and is attracted by, all the rest,—that this universal attraction on every side, is an incessant, uniform, and regular action by certain laws according to the quantity of matter and longitude of distance,—and that it can neither be destroyed, impaired nor augmented by any thing, by motion, rest, position, alteration of form, or diversity of medium. But the operation of distant bodies upon each other without contact, effluvia, or corporeal medium, as it differs from every other characteristic of matter, cannot possibly arise from any of the properties essentially requisite to its existence as matter distinguished from spirit. This attraction therefore must either have been originally impressed upon it by some exterior power, or, which is equally good in the argument, it must be regarded as the constant agency of such a Power preserving the Unity and Symmetry of the whole universe, and steadily conducting the motions of its several parts.

THE LAWS OF NATURE.

X.—This phrase is applied to certain connexions of things, which being invariable suggest the idea of Cause in that which precedes, and of Effect in that which follows. Many of them have subordinate laws, according to which the specialities of the effect in regard to proportion, form, extent, &c., are regulated, as might easily be shown by enumerating the theorems on the head of gravitation, or the laws of chemical attraction.

But none of them exclude the operation of a creative power.

a They are all calculated only to uphold the existing order of things,—to preserve the various forms of matter, to reproduce what is decomposed, or to indicate the results of combination,presenting such standards of uniform action in their several departments, as may enable man to prosecute the science of nature with success, or to apply with certainty the materials around him to the purposes of art and of life. As they do not produce, but presuppose the existence both of matter and of the special properties which discriminate its various forms, they leave room for the operation of a creative power in the production of the one and the constitution of the other. But for the acting of this power they could have had no sphere of existence. Whence is it, that the gases which exhibit matter in the simplest state, are so limited in number ? and that the permanent quality of each is so decidedly marked ? To what is it owing, that the crystals of the various salts do not assume the same uniform appearance, but have each their invariably distinctive characters? These, and a thousand similar questions might be proposed. If the facts cannot be ascribed to any of the es.. sential properties of matter, then the free determination of it to these forms and no other, was the act which fixed the laws, and the Act of a Power which established their operation for ever, unless suspended, altered, or annulled by some new interposition. The laws of nature are thus existing phenomena which come under the idea of effects in relation to a Primary Cause. *

XI.—These Laws are of such a nature as must supersede the necessity of ascending beyond their Cause to another.

They confessedly include all the relations beyond subordinate cause and effect in the universe. Their cause therefore must be regarded as the First.

XII.-Even in the sphere of their operation, they leave room for the permanent agency of a First Cause, and necessarily require it.

They are descriptive of certain connexions of things, so uniform and invariable, that the antecedent is denominated the cause, and the consequent the effect ; but they give us no idea of the manner in which the effect follows the cause. There is a chasm here, which gives place for the permanent operation of a divine power,-a chasm which nothing but an almighty agency ean fill. The law is established, but it requires a power distinct both from itself and its subject to uphold its operation, and in fact produce the phenomena.

XIII.—These Laws farther require a previous disposal of

Could it be owing to any of the common properties of matter that this attraction which combines and changes different substances should not act at a distance, like that of gravitation, electricity or magnetism? Or that the particles of one metal should cleave together with firmer cohesion than those of another? Or that a body apparently of the same density with another sbould be lighter,—that potassium, for example, which seems to possess the properties of a metal, and nearly resembles quicksilver in its fluid state, should yet differ so much in specific gravity from all metals, and particularly from that to wbieh it bears 60 great a similarity? Tbe final cause in all these cases may be sufkeiently obvious. Did potassium possess the ponderosity of quicksilver, it would be very unfit for its province in the economy of vegetation. Without different degrees of cohesion, that diversity of metals which is adapted to the different purposes of art could not exist. And so on. But the First Cause of these phenomena is not to be found in Nature.

their subjects, to prevent the dreadful consequences which in certain arrangements would infallibly ensue.

The atheist will not admit the constant interference of another power acting beside or beyond these laws, to prevent such consequences, neither can the theist (though he may allow occasional miracles for particular purposes,) resort to this idea, since it is utterly inconsistent with the very supposition that laws have been established.--The invariable connexions which give rise to the idea of cause and effect, on whatsoever they depend and howsoever upheld, certainly exist. And these are such, whether chemical or physical, that were their subjects otherwise disposed, the harmony of nature would soon be destroyed, the world turned upside down, and anarchy produced throughout the wide extent of the universe. If such would be the effect of the existing laws, were the present arrangement changed by some means or other, we must conclude that without a previous disposal of their subjects, they would have prevented the present form of the universe. Now a previous arrangement establishing a system of order which these laws should tend to uphold rather than destroy, and by which their operation should be properly controlled, implies a previous agent,-a power superior to the laws, able to counteract or suspend their operation wherever it would have interfered, till the arrangement which should render them beneficial was made.

XIV.—There are many phenomena for which both chemical and physical laws fail to account, and which therefore indicate still more clearly the permanent agency of a Great First Cause.

These phenomena are constant and uniform, pertaining to what the Scriptures denominate “ the ordinances of heaven," or more generally to the constituted order of nature, and therefore are not to be classed with miraculous effects, in which there is always a deviation from that order, and most commonly a suspension of physical laws, or something produced beyond their power and at the same time not within the sphere of the uniformity referred to. The very constitution of the order of nature indicates, as we have seen, an agent distinct from matter possessed of power to arrange and diversify it. We are now to consider the manner in which that order exists and is upheld, in relation to some of the phenomena which might be conceived to be within the sphere of physical laws. And when we say that these laws fail to account for the facts, we do not mean that they are utterly excluded, for in many instances (as in the process of vegetation for example) they may have their place, while the proposition remains in full force. At the same time, it is stated in moderate terms, since facts occur in which the law which operates in all other eases seems to be uniformly controlled, if not counteracted. To prevent confusion, it may be proper to remark farther, that the uniformity of the facts gives room for certain determinations about them which may be called Laws, (as for example light has its own laws) but these are different from what is usually meant by the term, and signify nothing more than certain theorems relative to the properties, &e., of what has been constantly found to take place.

1. If light be matter, the atheist has no means of accounting for its diffusion, or even explaining its phenomena. Suppose that light gravitates, and that the sun and fixed stars, instead of being the sources of it, are in reality centres to which it is attracted from all points ;-then, a power distinct from, and superior to, the laws of nature, must be recognised, 1st, Constituting, in some inexplicable way, the sụn and fixed stars centres of attraction to the matter of light, and preventing it from being disturbed in its course by those large bodies called planets, which since they are not luminous constantly, and on every side, cannot be so at all by attraction ; 2dly, Continually producing the matter of light, for if it descend to the respective centres, it must remain there by the power of gravitation, and either rest on the central body, or circulate around it; 3dly, Somehow in certain proportions disposing of the luminous matter at the centre, that the magnitude of the central body be not increased. Suppose, on the other hand, that instead of tending to a centre, light diverges in every direction from the sun and fixed stars, what occasioned and constantly sustains the projectile force by which its particles are emitted and move at the amazing rate of 200,000 miles in a second ? What secured the effect of continuous illumination, by the velocity and rapid succession of these particles (480 issuing in a minute), though it has been calculated that they are 24,000 miles asunder ? And by what is the waste replenished ? Finally, let it be admitted as ascertained by experiment, that lucine or the base of light exists, and acts even in darkness, and let us suppose that light is only a certain form given to the particles of lucine diffused throughout the universe ; still, that the sun and fixed stars should have the power of exciting these particles, or so acting upon them as to make them become visible and produce light, must be owing to some primary cause, since the power is

[ocr errors]

evidently denied to other bodies in the heavens, and cannot result from the essential properties of matter, or from any law connected with these. On every view, the existence, perpetuity, and wondrous peculiarities of light, must be traced to an Almighty agent who could say “ Let it be,” and it was.

2. There are in the universe, vast groups of stars, which have been denominated nebula, some of them much greater than the milky way, which is seen by the naked eye, from our world, stretching over an immense region of the heavens. By what law shall we account for the decomposition of some of the larger of these, from which, according to the observations of Dr. Herschell, lesser nebula are detaching themselves ?

3. The fixed stars have no real motion peculiar to themselves. Their apparent motion is entirely owing to the rotation of the globe we inhabit; for such is the immensity of their distance, that the annual revolution of the earth does not sensibly affect their position, to the eye of the observer. Besides the apparent motion, another has been detected styled by astronomers their

proper motion ; but this is also supposed to arise from a progressive motion of our system towards one quarter of the heavens,—the constellation Hercules. If this be the case, then the motion of our sun with the planets around him will be either rectilinear or curved. Suppose it rectilinear, whence

, is it that the law of gravitation does not subject him to the attraction of other heavenly bodies, among which his path is directed ? Say with Dr. Herschell that the motion is in a curved line, and belongs to the revolution of our whole system round some distant centre; we ask,—not where is the attractive force capable of producing such an effect ? for its existence is possible enough,—but why are the other fixed stars exempted from the law? We see them collected in groups, we discover vast multitudes of them in the milky way, but we detect no real change of position.

4. Beyond the limits of our system, in the region of the fixed stars, and therefore classed with them, are certain variable stars, -some of which have appeared for a time and then vanished, others have been gradually increasing in brilliancy, and others constantly diminishing, while a great number exhibit a periodical change in their splendour. Any one who looks into the astronomical table of new and variable stars, must be satisfied that the principle of gravitation cannot account for all the appearances they exhibit—that some of these appearances indicate their being subject to peculiar laws,—and that they belong to a constituted order different from that which

appears

in our

a

a

« AnteriorContinuar »