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REPLY TO CHAPTER I.
Priestly Metaphysics, according to which God, Time, Space and Matter must be
Annihilated !-Freedom of the Will-Unsolved Problems.
In the first chapter of the “ Notes" we are treated to a metaphysical disquisition.
Ingersoll.—“ The universe, according to my idea, is, always was and forever will be. . . . It is the one eternal being. the only thing that ever did, does, or can exist."
Lambert.-" When you say 'according to my idea' you leave the inference that this theory of an eternal universe never occurred to the mind of man until your brain acquired its full development."
How trenchant this logic ! how irresistible its conclusion ! The words, “ according to my idea,” are here said to imply primitive conception. Because I say “ I have an idea," I leave
” the inference that no one ever conceived the same idea before.
Let us try the good priest's logic on himself. According to his idea the Catholic Church is infallible, the priest can forgive sins,* and so of every doctrine of his church. Thercfore his brain first conceived these dogmas. True our Reverend
* I had never supposed that forgiveness of sins by the priest was a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, until I heard Father Lambert distinctly state the fact in a lecture delivered by him in Oil City, Pa. Before that time I had often occasion to defend his church against this charge, alleging that the priest claimed simply the power to declare, ex officio, forgiveness of sins already pardoned by Almighty God.
Father may claim that his faith is more than an idea," but this only shows the superior modesty of Mr. Ingersoll. Pardon me, this is wasting powder on too small game. No reference to the Father, but to the sophistical averment he inadvertently let slip.
The remark made by Mr. Ingersoll was merely prefatory, and given to indicate his position to his adversary, and is followed in the next paragraph by the modest confession, "of course, upon a question like this, nothing can be absolutely known.”
But let us come down to “hard-pan and examine the Father's metaphysics. He says, “ You [Ingersoll] affirm the eternity of matter. On this I reason thus :
“That which is eternal is infinite. It must be infinite because, if eternal, it can have nothing to limit it.
“ But that which is infinite must be infinite, in every way (italics ours]. If limited in any way, it would not be
“Now, matter is limited. It is composed of parts, and composition is limitation. It is subject to change, and change involves limitation. Change supposes succession, and there can be no succession without a beginning, and therefore limitation. Thus far we are borne out by reason, experience, and common sense.”
Waiving the question of the power of “experience” to bear us out in our ideas of the eternal, the infinite, and the illimitable, is it true that that which is infinite must be infinite in “every way?” Every way is indefinite, but let us suppose it means in every attribute.
The human soul at death, Scripture being the judge, starts on an eternal pilgrimage. It never dies. Its life is eternal life.
“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.-Matt. xxv. 46.
Yet who believes that the human soul is, in any of its attributes, equal to that Spirit which religious conception portrays as omnipotent, perfect in holiness, in justice, mercy and truth, whose days are from everlasting to everlasting? Yet as.to infinity of duration future, the lives of angels and men are co-extensive with the life of Deity. So the Scriptures teach us. Space, which has been aptly defined as that which has its centre everywhere and its circumference nowhere, is infinite expansion but nothing more. It is therefore limited by unity of attribute. So of time: it is infinite duration only.
A line infinite in length, extending through space, may be imagined, or symbolized, as readily as we may symbolize space or eternal duration regarded as the sum total of infinite diurnal successions. Yet the supposed line would have infinite length without appreciable breadth or thickness. Therefore though infinite in one respect yet finite in others.
The same fallacy is perpetrated in the sequitur to the above : “Matter is limited and therefore finite, and if finite in anything, finite in everything; and if finite in everything, therefore finite in time, and therefore not eternal."
Does the good priest not see, his premises being admitted, that with one breath he has blown away the whole fabric of theology with its hope of heaven and fear of hell? How dear to the Christian believer is his hope of the resurrection of the body! But we are told: “Matter is limited and therefore finite, and if finite in anything, finite in everything; and if finite in everything, therefore finite in time, and therefore not eternal." The matter composing our bodies, according to the “Notes," is finite in that it had a beginning, is a composite, and is subject to change. Therefore finite in everything it cannot be eternal, but must fade away like the shadows which Ait before us and are
So also of the
glorified body of the Lord. More painful still, according to priestly logic, God himself, with matter, time, and space, must
, cease to be. It will scarcely be denied that even he is limited by the attributes of his own being. Again, it is inconceivable that he could annihilate space, create a being equal to himself, or make the diameter of a circle equal to its circumference. Dr. Adam Clark, in his posthumous work on theology, says that God can do anything which does not involve contradiction or absurdity. How we are to determine what proposition involves contradiction or absurdity he has not informed us. How he knows that the creation of matter out of nothing—which is the old way of putting it-does not involve contradiction and absurdity we are not told. To our mind the act is inconceivable. Be that as it may, here are limitations even to divine power, and, “if limited in any way,” he cannot be infinite; if not infinite, not eternal; and, if not eternal, he must cease to be!
The Pentateuch portrays God as of human form, after whose image man was made. “And they saw the God of Israel," etc.—Exodus xxiv. 10. "And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back parts : but my face shall not be seen.”—Exodus xxxiii. 21, 22, 23.
This was the anthropomorphic idea of early history. Anon, since men's ideas became less gross, God has been viewed as a Spirit, whom the heaven of heavens could not contain. Interpretation has grown gray in attempt to conform these two opposite ideas to each other without disturbing the harmony of Scripture. The method of reconciliation is this: the advanced idea being accepted, the older and less spiritual one must mean the same, though, according to the plain words of Scripture, it means the very reverse.
Lambert.-“ If this universe of matter alone exists, the mind, intellect, or soul must be matter or a form of matter," etc.
Certainly, but this is but to affirm that all that is is all that is. But those who hold that matter always existed may yet claim that within its folds were enwrapped all of the phenomena of past, present, and future time, including animal and vegetable life, gravitating forces, etc. No one, so far as I know, regards thought as a material substance, although born of materiality, or expressed from its inter-relations. So also of gravity.
But the Father, from words unsaid by his opponent, depicts fearful consequences; such as, that the free agency of man is destroyed, and that he becomes a mere pile of drift floating up and down the ocean of life whither wind and current may carry him.
Lambert.—“The forces that govern matter are invariable. From this it follows, that every thought of the philosopher, every calculation of the mathematician, every imagination and fancy of the poet, are mere results of material forces, entirely independent of the individuals conceiving them."
How they can be "entirely independent of the individuals conceiving them,” in any rational view of the case, appears to us an insoluble mystery. Perhaps, however, the Father intended to have said, entirely independent of the volition of the individuals conceiving them.
But will it be affirmed that mind, in its conceptions and the moral results which follow them, is entirely capricious ? That it is not governed by laws germane to its own nature? Were one sufficiently skilled in mental mathematics, and knew all of the factors which go to make up a moral or intellectual