« НазадПродовжити »
have been subsequently needed for the creation of a reasoning being ?
These are questions, however, to which it will be unnecessary for us to seek replies, inasmuch as we propose to study the Deity in nature for ourselves, and not to deal merely with speculative propositions concerning His existence and providential methods.
THE POWER OF GOD IN NATURE,
"Fire and hail, snow and vapours, stormy wind fulfilling His word.”
It would be perfectly legitimate if we were to assume the existence of God; and taking as wide a survey of nature as the limited range of our senses, and our restricted knowledge will allow, we might show that in one series of phenomena we have unmistakable evidences of order, beauty, and utility, whilst another set of operations presents indubitable proofs of forethought and design; and it would then be quite logical for us to affirm that the Deity who rules the universe and who has brought it to its present condition, is almighty, omniscient, designing, and perfectly beneficent. For whether, as some believe, his existence was first suggested by the contemplation of the universe, or whether it be that religion has always been an intuitive quality of our race, the fact remains that from the earliest historic period up to the present hour, there has been an increasing conviction in the minds of men that there is a Deity. And not alone have men believed in, but they have appealed to, worshipped, and derived comfort and support from a higher spiritual Being, by whatever name or names He may have been designated. Moreover, every extensive observation of the natural world, every cosmical system that has been propounded, every series of events
in human history, has led to the same inference; and if here and there a small sect, or even at some particular stage in the world's history vast bodies of men have doubted His existence, as every thinking man is said to do at some period of his life, still it may be safely affirmed that both natural and human history have established the fact that there is a great First Cause, an over-ruling Providence.
It would be, therefore, a species of affectation to profess ourselves capable of entering upon the inquiry before us, with the determination to prove the very existence of the Deity from natural phenomena, without the consciousness that we should be establishing what needs no proof, and demonstrating what is apparent to the humblest intellect. But what we may do is this: We may place before our mind's eye the conception which we have formed of the Power which rules and the Mind that directs the phenomena of nature, and then, turning to our most trustworthy scientific authorities, we may endeavour with their assistance to ascertain how far that view is borne out by the observations of the most skilful experimentalists, and the most unprejudiced and large-minded natural philosophers. Of the systematic reference to authorities we shall have more to say in a future chapter, when we come to treat of the evidences of design in nature ; it is only necessary to state that we shall at first avail ourselves of their aid chiefly for the elucidation of physical phenomena. But let it not be forgotten that in this method of inquiry into the nature of the Almighty, compared with the one pursued in the first Part of this little treatise, we labour under the serious disadvantage that whilst the study of religion may be said to have commenced with the birth of Man,
science is but a child of yesterday ; so, all we can hope to do is to designate the direction which should be taken by future students of theological science, and to sketch the merest outline of the great Ruler of nature as He is seen in the visible world.
We believe Him, then, to be an Existence without form or substance, inappreciable to our human senses as a Power, but rendered apparent by His acts in nature.
Here we must stop for the present; and it will be at once obvious that if this view be correct we cannot expect to see God himself in any form of matter. We may learn something, much indeed, concerning His nature, by investigating the “ behaviour” of matter, just as we may conclude a man's mental character from the close study of his actions; but as the mere observation of his countenance gives but little indication of the mind beneath, so a merely superficial survey of surrounding nature does little to reveal the character of its Ruler. It is the Mind of God that we seek in all earnestness and humility to approach, and the operation of His Forces that we desire to comprehend.
It would be wasting the time of our readers to enter upon the discussion of the relations between Mind and Matter, or Force and Matter, as it has been hitherto conducted, for it would be possible to lay our hands upon the works of two highly intelligent living naturalists, close observers of the phenomena of life, agreeing upon all essential scientific theories of natural history; and we should find that one of them believes there is no such entity as Force, but that Matter contains within itself the properties necessary for its own government and development, whilst the other absolutely denies the existence of
Matter altogether, saying that it “is nothing but Force; that Matter, popularly understood, does not exist, and is, in fact, philosophically inconceivable”;* that “when we touch matter, we only experience sensations of resistance," and much more to the same effect.
Setting aside therefore as perplexing and unserviceable the merely speculative views of individuals, who from the observation of one phase of nature propound theories of the universe, we propose to take the opposite course, and to gather into a focus the opinions of some of the leading men who have devoted themselves to the study and personal investigation of various nearly-allied branches of physical science, and who, based upon that experience, have expressed their ideas concerning matter and the forces which it reveals. And here we shall encounter not that conflict of opinion which a diversity of pursuits might have suggested as probable, but an unconscious agreement such as we should sooner have expected to find between students or teachers whose attention had been confined to one and the same series of natural phenomena.
Is or is not Force something distinct from Matter, and if it be so how does it operate in nature ? These are the questions to which we must first seek replies in the records of science.
The ancients (it may be remarked in passing) believed matter to possess no qualities whatever, but to have its qualities imparted to it.
To-day it is one of the first principles of physics that: “ All forms of matter whether in the atom or in the mass are alike inert and incapable by the exertion of any spon
* Wallace on 'Natural Selection,' p. 365. Macmillan. 1870.