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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39



If Theists find no support from the Design Argument, and if their First Cause is shown to be a very late effect—of ignorance, what have they else to rest their faith upon? There is one more refuge to which they may run, but it it can prove nothing but a temporary shelter, for the pitiless "hail" of modern thought "shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the water" of common sense "shall overflow the hiding-place." The case of orthodoxy, whether we begin at one end or the other, needs but to be stated in plain words to be refuted. Not willing to ascribe any inherent power to what is known and familiar to everybody, they credulously credit some totally unknown substance with all possible power, and assign to it the task of imparting to matter all its attributes and qualities. It is impossible, say they, that "blind," "dead" matter should page 16 move itself, and assume all the beautiful and wonderful forms we see. The world could not have made itself; there are to be seen in it beauty, splendour, intelligence; these could not have originated in mere matter; they must have been bestowed by a being who himself possesses them." All this is specious but hollow, prime faith but not logic.

Is matter so "dead" and "blind" a thing as they represent? Do not divines discredit matter to enhance the greatness of their fictitious deity? Those who divest their minds of prejudice find in matter food for ceaseless wonder; and it is quite gratuitous to tell us matter cannot think, feel, &c. How do you know? Matter has shown such marvellous properties, single and combined, that he must be reckless who will venture to say that he knows all its attributes. The facts of nature—the glowing of suns, the ceaseless revolutions of planets, the endless currents in the air and sea, the ever changing face of the sky, the resurrection in spring, the marvels of vegetation and animal life—all proclaim the power of matter, and rebuke the ignorance of those who call it "blind" and "dead." What! a thing that is in eternal flux, ever changing into shapes and motions more enchanting than all romances—this thing "dead" and "blind"! Because its mode of life is different from yours, dare you say it does not live at all? Because it sees not as you do through lenses, does it therefore not see at all? In sooth, you are fine judges of such profound mysteries!

We see the magnet attract steel; we see chemical action day by day; we observe the mutual attraction of the earth and bodies near its surface; this experience is our sole reason for supposing that the magnet and the earth do attract, that elements possess chemical cohesion. In organised bodies, on the other hand, we see all the phenomena of what we are pleased to call "life," and in the higher ones of intelligence. Why ascribe magnetism to that piece of soft iron, if you won't ascribe life to the tree or the man? The magnetism is an essential attribute of the magnet, the life is such of the man. Why suppose there is a living being who bestows the life, unless you also assume a magnetic being to bestow the magnetism? Really orthodox talk on this subject is mere trifling. They say that a being cannot bestow an attribute itself does not possess. Very well; if that be so, their God must be a curiosity.

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Let us suppose that they are correct; then their God must have had, in his own person, all the qualities now possessed by all matter—weight, size, colour, shape, taste, odour, extension—he must be solid, liquid, and gaseous; freezing, boiling, burning; must be magnetic and non-magnetic, gravitating, attracting, repelling; must be both resting and moving, living and dead, blind and seeing, intelligent and foolish, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, rough and smooth, etc. These are but a few of the qualities we observe around us, they must be native or imported, belonging essentially to matter, or else imparted by some other substance which possessed them all before. The Deist may charge me with trifling and flippancy; but I am merely delivering his own doctrines, and trying as best I can to show their real absurdity.