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ALL ACTION RECIPROCAL.
quiet of an implicit faith to a restless scepticism or the humility of confessed ignorance.
(3.) I have never read Newton's “ Principia,” and I fear that I never shall do so: I learn, however, from Lord Brougham's “ Discourse of Natural Theology," that the great philosopher's great work is filled with admissions that the business of physical science is “ to deduce causes from effects till we come to the very First Cause,” and that " every true step made in inductive philosophy is to be highly valued, because it brings us nearer to the Great First Cause.” And I might quote similar statements from other defenders of Natural Theology.
I at once demur to the terms used; I deny that there can be a Great First Cause, because there is no such tbing as the cause of any effect. No effect is produced by a cause, but by causes. There is no isolated object in the material universe; each of the planets and satellites in our group exerts an influence upon the orbits of all the others, by which their respective theoretical curves lose the simplicity of their character, and those perturbations arise which, by their demonstrated periodicity and compensations, ensure the stability and perpetuity of the system. The terms“ moving power” and“ efficient cause” ought to be banished from philosophy; every motion, every effect, is the result of a reciprocal arrangement, and in no case is caused by any single independent agent or power. No Being or power can, by its own individual force or properties, move or cause any change in any distinct Being or body. No motion or change can occur without an effect of some sort being produced on all the agents concerned -either n, chemical change, recoil, reaction, or wearing out, and, as might be said, the most powerful agents feel their own exertions.
The motion of the earth round the sun is caused and regulated as much by its own power and properties as by those of the sun; the sun is influenced by the gravitation of the planets ; and if the earth or any of the planets were more or less dense, or if any one of their distances were altered, the motions of the whole system would be modified. Again, the motion of a ball when shot from a cannon, is caused and regulated as much by its own weight and
other properties as by those of the gunpowder or the metal tube. It is needless to multiply examples, the truth is self-evident.
To speak of an efficient cause” is, therefore, always incorrect; no effect can be truly said to be produced by a cause, but by causes; and that agent, which in ordinary cages we may be allowed familiarly and colloquially to term “the cause ” of any. thing, is invariably and necessarily influenced by its own action, and in proportion to the intensity of that action.
Therefore the ideas of efficient cause, a moving power, an independent power, and à fortiori an Almighty power, have not only no support from analogy, but are positively contrary to every known analogy, are loudly denied whenever Nature is questioned, and can only be believed on supernatural grounds, and with an utter abandonment of reason and philosophical experience to religious faith.
(4.) It has been asked, how can the belief in a God so universally held by every race and tribe in the world be accounted for, and how could the idea of a God have originated in the human mind, if the being does not exist? Before replying, I will ask a similar question : how did the ideas of Bogie, Puck, fairies, elves, and genies, originate in the human mind, if such beings did not exist ? All these imaginary supernatural beings are, in form and disposition, mere ugly caricatures or beautiful exaggerations of humanity. The modern Christian God is a good man, with all his attributes supposed to be infinite, and without material properties ; while all the original ideas of God were essentially anthropomorphous. He was endowed with human passions, and even with a human form. The origin of the belief is easily accounted for. In those days of ignorance, when natural causes were not understood, and every unusual phenomenon was an awful mystery, not satisfied with their ignorance, and bewildered by the beautiful and terrible phenomena of nature, men imagined a pero sonal governor of the world, and beheld in the rainbow or the thunder-storm, the earnest of his approval or the outburst of his displeasure. The gods wrote their decrees in the starry heavens, and
• “What we now lecture of as science, they wondered at and
THE OLD GODS NOT ALMIGHTY.
spoke to the wise of the earth in the meteor and the eclipse. From this first rude notion of a supernatural ruler of the world, has grown the idea of an almighty creator of the universe ; every great discovery in natural science has been a blow at the doctrine, and has been felt and acknowledged as such by the priesthood. The more wonderful the facts which we can refer to natural laws, the less reason is there to think of supernatural interference.
We have already examined the marks of ignorant and barbarous manufacture in the character of the God of the Bible, and we have seen the gradual growth of the modern God from the rudely-sketched Mosaic deity, a jealous, passionate, partial, and changeable being. In the oldest parts of the Bible, as in the existing records of all ancient nations, God is not represented as omnipotent. When Adam and Eve had obtained knowledge by eating the forbidden fruit, God is said to have been afraid lest they should become immortal like himself by eating of the tree of life (Genesis, chap. iii., verse 22). When men commenced building a tower to reach heaven, God is said to have feared that they would accomplish their purpose unless he interfered to prevent them—the writer's ignorance of nature, and limited estimate of his God's power, being displayed at once in this frivolous legend (Genesis, chap. xi., verse 6). We find the following passage in Judges, chap. i., verse 19:4" And the Lord was with Judah, and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain, but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Of course it is obvious that repentance, grief, and change of purpose are utterly incompatible with any notion of omnipotence. Deep thinking, careful reasoning, and that modicum of regard for truth which the civilised world possesses, have been of slow growth; our remote ancestors could not see, or cared not for those inconsistencies and contradictions in the character of their God, which have been shrouded, but not annulled, by those figurative explanations and occasional judicious silence fell down in awe before as religion.” Carlyle's Hero-worship,
“ All Paganism is a recognition of the forces of nature as godlike, stupendous personal agencies--as gods and demons." Ditto, p. 30.
FOSTER'S ELOQUENT IRONY.
which have stripped the deity of his vulgar material terrors to invest him with a mysterious and incorporeal grandeur.
Theists sometimes say that man feels an intuitive awe, and has an instinctive faith in a God. Education will cause veneration and awe to be excited in human bosoms by meaner ideas than that of the God of the Bible, who is associated in Christian minds with all that is magnificent and sublime in nature, as the monarch and maker of all. But no awe can be felt when the being is seen to be imaginary: ghosts have long ceased to have terrors for educated people, and the once terrific Bogie is laughed at even in our nurseries.
(5.) “ What a wonderful process,” says John Foster, in his description of an atheist, * “must that have been by which a man could grow to the immense intelligence that there is no God! What ages and what lights are requisite for this attainment! This intelligence involves the very attributes of divinity while a God is denied. For unless this man is omnipresent, unless he is at this moment in every place in the universe, he cannot know but there may be in some place manifestations of a deity by which even he would be overpowered. If he does not know absolutely every agent in the universe, the one that he does not know may be God.
“If he is not himself the chief agent in the universe, and does not know what is, that which is so may be God. If he is not in possession of all the propositions that constitute universal truth, the one which he wants may be, that there is a God. If he cannot with certainty assign the cause of all that he perceives to exist, that cause may be a God, If he does not know everything that bas been done in the immeasurable ages that are passed, some things may have been done by a God. Thus unless he knows all things—that is, precludes another Deity by being one himself-he cannot know that the Being whose existence he rejects does not exist. But he must know that he does not exist, else he deserves equal contempt and compassion for the temerity with which he firmly avows his rejection and acts accordingly.”
Foster's Essays. Essay I., Letter V.
NATURE TELLS THE TRUTH.
Perhaps the words “there may be a God after all," have never been expanded and amplified into a more eloquent passage ; but it may be argued with equal reason, that unless a man knows all things, he cannot know that there is not a Bogie, an ogre, a dragon, a fairy, or a sea-serpent a hundred yards long. Perhaps the last-mentioned individual does exist : sceptical naturalists do not flatly deny the possibility, but only that we have no trustworthy evidence of its existence, and that the various accounts of the monster's appearance are either highly suspicious, or can be explained away. In the same way, the atheist does not attempt
prove that no invisible, superior powers and intelligences exist, but only that the various narratives of supernatural interferences with the course of Nature, and the numerous pretensions to revelation, are false and erroneous, and that there is no necessity or reason for supposing such a creating, adapting, guiding, or sustaining power. And that the idea of an Omnipotent Will negatives and contradicts all that we know of the inexorable facts and laws of the universe, and is in itself a contradiction.
CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH.
NATURAL THEOLOGY AND COSMOGONY.
How often and how triumphantly has a question been propounded which the undecided sceptic or the mere flippant scoffer finds it impossible to answer: “ How, if you reject the Mosaic History, and deny the very existence of a God, do you account for the creation of the world? Do you believe the universe was formed by chance ?” And yet what an unfair and impertinent question it is. I may reasonably decline to accept the Hebrew account of the Creation, and yet coufess my inability to answer your question; my silence would be more rational than the blundering fictions of a barbarian priest. How can you expect me, an individual inhabitant of a third-rate world, to ac