Page images
PDF

that remarkable saying of the wisest of princes, “The thing which hath been, is that which shall be, and that which is done, is that which shall be dome, and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, see, this is NEw 2 . It hath been already of old time which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things, neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come: with those that shall come after.” This passage the above commentators consider as decisive, in proof of the eternity of this world, past and future. Strange 1 It will require but a cursory inspection of the passage to betray their sense of the paucity of scripture evidence to uphold a defenceless theory. Take the following in illustration :-s Of every individual component of the world, it may be asked, “as of a new-born infant, for instance,—is this new 2 and the answer would be, “it hath been already of old-time, which was before us.” That is, it is not, strictly speaking, a thing which hath not been before, — it is merely a subject of succession, — a repitition of that which hath been ; nothing variant in its characteristic nature from its precedent. So also, the chemist, who, though he should produce a new compound, new, that is, in its compounded state, yet it cannot be strictly called new, because all its various and several components, either primarily, or secondarily, existed before.”

The passage is to be viewed rather as a splendid eulogy upon that wisdom with which the author of it was endowed. He meant to assert that no rival in the intellectual field should exceed his knowledge of the ways and works of God. As though he had said, ‘Lo, I have seen all things under the sun, and the course of nature is such as will not produce anything which I have not acquainted myself with, it having already existed:” not from eternity, but “of old TIME;” he then living about the three thousandth year of the world; and this too, for the express purpose of setting before the minds of future generations, an open declaration of the fallacy of all sublunary things: for, high as he had extolled his wisdom, he adds, “ALL Is v ANITY AND vex ATION of spirit.” Neither the world, then, which we inhabit, nor yet the chaos out of which it was formed, is eternal; the cHAos being the very thing set forth by Moses as created “in the beginning.” We come now to remark, that arguments professedly adduced from scripture, to prove the eternity of the world, it is sufficient to refute by scripture. PolythEISTIC and other, the like systems of Atheism, however, require a different mode of treatment. Its advocates respectable, both in number and intellect, have embraced some of the master-spirits of every age. The ARIsroTELIAN philosophy, besides including considerable numbers of Jews and Mahomedans, enrolls among its champions the names of Averroes, Avicenna, Alfaraba, and others. Their respective systems (if systems they may be called) taught, that the material earth and heavens were the products of a blind caswalty—a fortuitous concourse of confusedly agitated atoms, that sprang from matter which was eternal. We cannot now detain you by a comparison of the atheism of Aristotle, with that of the more modern Spinoza. Suffice it now to say, that it was reserved for him to strip previously existing systems of their more repulsive forms, by investing it which a new garb. His system is as follows:—“There is a God; but this God is only the Universality or assemblage of creatures: that every thing is a modification of God; that the sun is God, as giving light: that aliments. are God; as affording nourishment: and so of the rest. For this system however, Spinoza was indebted: for the most part to the ancient pagan Superstitions. One, for instance, struck with the beauty of the stars,. said that the stars were God: Another, astonished at the splendor of the sun, said that the sun was God. Democritus, surprised at the beauty of fire, said that God was a material fire. Chrysippus, amazed at the beauty of that necessity-which causeth every thing to answer its destination, said, that God was fate. Permenides, affected with the beautiful expanse of heaven: and earth, said, that God was that expanse and the pagan Demonax (the Grecian philosopher) was once asked to go to the temple of Æsculapius, to supplicate the deity there to restore a sick child to health. “What,” replied Demonax, “do you imagine that, God! is so very deaf, that he can hear you no where else, but in the temple?” But, there is one defect about this god of Spinoza. He is destitute of reason, of intelligence. What— light, or aliments, or the stars, or the sun, or fire, or fate, capable of thought 2 Upon this point, even the most sceptical will not venture a dispute. The

1. Eccl. i. 9–11.

whole universe of created being, inanimate and animate, is constituted of the essence of matter, or of spirit, or of both. By spirit, we mean mind, intellect, soul. "That both these essences are common to all parts of the created universe, or even to all parts of animated nature, is not pretended; the brutes which perish, in common with man, partaking of a visible body and animal life. If peculiar however to any one portion of it, we are furnished with a demonstration of the existence of Both. This, then, we assert, is true of MAN. That man is a compler being, we thus demonstrate. — He has a visible body, material, and, of itself, destructible. Of this, we have the evidence of the senses, which is tangible, irrefragable. But this visible body in man, is endowed with the powers of motion, which, for the purpose of distinction we shall call the animal life; and which constitutes the connecting link between the visible body, and the rational spirit, mind, intellect, soul. This animal life in man, whatever it be, is doubtless, like his body, composed of matter, though refined and attenuated to its utmost degree; and, consequently, invisible to the eye. Then, upon the same principle that chaloric, or heat, is a material substance, and, though not visible or tangible, is still possessed of the powers of expansion, emission of light, chemical decomposition, and the like; the inference is drawn, that life is a refined, active substance, subject to the laws of matter, and possessing some properties in common with electricity, chaloric, light, &c., but yet differing from every other modification of matter; and that, as a consequence, it is equally liable to decomposition. With the rational spirit, mind, intellect, soul, of man, however, it is otherwise. This property or essence in man, though not palpable to the senses; i.e., though it can neither be seen, felt, heard, smelt, or tasted; yet, from its analogy to some substances strictly material, though not existing in the same degree, it is with equal certainty known to exist. “It is agreed, for instance, that a man may feel the violence of heat, and yet not see the principle which communicates it in palpable abstraetion before him. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the sound thereof.” but its subtle elements remain invisible to the eye. “And though it may here be objected, that the evidence of its existence is derived from a similar source with that which demonstrates the existence of animal life in man, and that consequently it can differ in no respect from it; and that, as that is material and destructible, so is this ; we answer, — that the difference between them is to be sought, not in the analogical evidence of their mere existence, but in their respective attributes. These demonstrate, that they differ, essentially, in their nature. The rational spirit in man is known for instance to possess the faculties of reason, judgment, the will, the affections, conscience, memory, and the imagination, of all of which the mere animal life in man, and which we admit the lower orders of animal nature inherits in common with him, is totally destitute. This difference constitutes the basis of man's superiority to the brute. Animal life, being material, is destructible. The

« PreviousContinue »