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the body we find that the various processes of digestion, propulsion through the arteries, oxidation in the lungs, deposition in the tissues, secretion, excretion, are all purely physical ; differing somewhat in animals from similar processes in plants, and affected in the former by influences not observable in the latter; but still it is within the strict limits of scientific truth to say that the nutritive and developmental processes in plants and animals (often indifferently termed “vegetative”), as well as those of disorganisation and decay, are different phases of well-defined physical action; and therefore, by slightly changing the term of expression we may truthfully say that plants and animals are born, live, and die simply by the operation of the physical forces upon inorganic and organised matter.
It may not so much surprise the general reader to hear that the alimentary and developmental processes are the result of the operation of physical forces; for he knows very well that whilst his nutritive organs are in a healthy condition, he is hardly conscious of the transformations which in this respect are taking place in his body. He is well aware that in its passage through the alimentary system certain chemical changes are going on, over which he has no control; he knows, too, that without a thought of his, the mechanical action of the heart propels the blood to the extreme limits of his corporeal frame; but he may perhaps regard doubtfully the statement that locomotion, which is peculiarly under the domination of his will, should be the immediate result of the conversion of food in his body, just as literally as the progress of a locomotive arises from the consumption of fuel in its furnace. But so it is, nevertheless. If we require a certain amount
of “power” in the steam-engine we must supply the furnaces with a given weight of fuel, which, being ignited, causes a certain volume of water to expand, and forces it to occupy an increased space; a piston is thus raised which sets the machinery in motion. There are moreover various kinds of fuel which “ give out” heat in different degrees and so cause the expansion and consequent elevation of the piston in a longer or shorter period. Exactly the same thing occurs in the human body. Food taken in at the mouth, besides forming blood which is laid upon the tissues to supply waste and make up for disintegration, generates by a chemical process a certain degree of heat, and this is, popularly speaking, converted into motive power. So far have chemists and physicists pushed their experiments in this direction as to feed themselves and others at suitable periods with various kinds of food, and they have then made arduous mountain ascents themselves, or caused the subjects of their investigation to carry heavy weights. Thus it has been found that there are certain kinds of food, such as butter, fat, starch, &c., which are known to be “heat-giving,” as distinguished from others, flesh meat, grain, &c., which contain a large proportion of nitrogen and are called “flesh-forming" foods; and some investigators have gone so far as to affirm that the power of motion is due entirely to the conversion of“ heat-giving foods” only. Be that as it may, the fact, essential for our argument, is established beyond a doubt that the body of a man is as much a machine, fed by fuel and worked by the physical forces, as any locomotive that ever ran over a line of railway.
But what does all this prove? Some of our readers,
in their anxiety to approach the adorable Being whom they believe to be the Author or Originator of these varied phases of force, will probably reply as follows: “ It proves that the Deity, modifying what we call His physical forces, has set them in operation in the construction and maintenance of our bodies, without the necessity of any supervision on our part; for if we were compelled to think about the action of our stomach, of our heart, and of the other organs of our bodies, our minds would be so completely occupied in watching those organs that we should have no time left for mental development. And as to locomotion, we know very well that the mechanical forces are at work every time we lift an arm, therefore so long as you leave us our Will to direct their operation, we shall not quarrel with you about the secondary forces through which that Will acts.”
This is no doubt the real state of the case, but it is reasoning per saltum. For it presupposes the existence of a personal Deity who directs, if He does not immediately set in motion those vital forces, and it assumes a
purpose ” or “design” on His part, in relieving us from the responsibility of repairing the waste of our bodies. So the materialist or atheist might turn round upon us and say that Man is only relieved from this duty so long as he places himself in the proper "conditions of existence," and failing that, he must watch every mouthful he eats and drinks ; must pour chemicals into his body, and establish an artificial digestion.
To prevent even the introduction of such difficulties into our argument, it is best therefore to proceed slowly, step by step, and to confine ourselves for the present to the
statement of what has been scientifically demonstrated, and what will be found by our readers to be a truth admitted by all trustworthy physical and biological observers, whatever may be their metaphysical views. The entity, Force, which moulds the heavenly spheres, aggregates rocks and minerals, raises the waters of the ocean to the skies, to descend again upon our pastures; which reaches our organs of sense, and falls upon our flower-beds as “light” and “heat”; this same force also causes our plants and animals to live and grow; obviously with that end entering into, and acting through their organisation. It is not one force which attracts moisture towards plants and a specifically different force that causes this same moisture in its modified form, as sap, to circulate in their vascular system, but it is the same force; and so, too, in animals, the same power (or modifications of it) provides for their nutriment and growth, as well as causing them to decay and their inorganic materials to return to the earth, air, or water. Whatever “physical Force” is, that also, in a modified form, is “ Vital Force," and as the scientific investigation of the former confirms the religious belief in an invisible Power, which we have figuratively called a spiritual Hand operating in nature, so the comparison and consideration of its varied phases still further corroborate that faith, inasmuch as it is found that under whatever conditions that Force operates, whether upon inorganic or organised forms of matter, it is still One and Indivisible.
THE ACTION OF GOD'S FORCES IN NATURE.
“ He in the thickest darkness dwells;
Rev. B. BEDDOME.
So far, we have sought to show by the inductive method, that there is in the universe an invisible Force, Power, or Existence, without form or substance, which is omnipotent, ever active, and in one or other of its phases indissolublý linked with every kind of matter. And further, that however multiform the modifications of that entity may be, whether it be called "physical” Force, and known to our senses as motion, light, heat, sound, electricity, &c., or “vital,” and engaged in the construction and maintenance of organised types of existence, it is still one and the same Power, its changes being dependent upon the material conditions under which it operates. There are now two or three trains of thought by which we might proceed in our argument, and attach intelligence to this unnamed Power.
First we might reason thus from the known to the unknown. We ourselves exist. One of the phases of our being is that we can set that mysterious Power to which we have referred in operation either directly with our hands, or indirectly by means of portions of the material world around us, already under the influence of the Power. We can raise the piston in a cylinder by manual force, or, by expanding water in a boiler and by allowing it in its