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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 40

Materialism: a paper read before the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand

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A Paper.

A. D. Willis, Letter-Press and Lithographic Printer. Wanganui

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The following Paper on Materialism was read before the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand during its last Session. It is now published by request of the Assembly.

Wanganui, April, 1881.

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MAterialism is no new thing. It is on the contrary, and in its essence, old almost as thought itself. But never perhaps in all the past has it had a palmier hour than the present. Said M. Guizot in 1866,—"Le Sensualisme, dans sa vraie nature de materialisme, est rentré activement en scéne, tantôt tacitement admis par des esprits, studieux et serieux, tantôt hautement professé et proclamé par les enfants terribles de l'ecole, non-seulement dans son principe, mais dans ses conséquences." He spoke of his own country. But Materialism is not a passing feature, or phase of French thought. It may be said to be throughout the civilized world the dominant philosophy of the day. Men of science who in their own special walk, physical or mental, have gained for themselves renown and influence, are its friends and promoters : some really whilst not avowedly, as Huxley and Tyndall; others, both avowedly and uncompro-misingly, as Büchner and Haeckel, Maudesley and Bain. Others who, like Spencer, claim not to be Scientists, but reasoners only, take the alleged results of science, and seek to enthrone it on a basis of impregnable argumentation. And at the same time, as the water, which rises on the heights, finds a way for itself to the low ground beneath, the conclusions of materialistic workers on the fields of science, and of plausible reasoners, not scientific, have found entrance amongst the many, entrance and acceptance with the multitudes and masses of men. To what has the revival of the Materialism which now prevails been owing? To two causes apparently.

1. Materialism has come upon us by way of reaction from the Idealism, which is its opposite. It is the ebb after the flow of the tide; the swing of the pendulum back in a direction opposite to that in which it had moved. Idealism having over-pressed the truth which is its, having absorbed matter in mind, nay, having, even after such absorption, absorbed all in God, recoil has come in the re-introduction and re-instatement of Materialism. I suppose that there is a "nemesis of thought" as well as of mistaken conduct in unhappy practical con-sequences thereof, and I can believe that if, as the Pantheistic Idealist, we put aside elementary certainties, if we seek to obliterate the distinctions clearly marked out by intuitional truth, nemesis may come in a recoil, which shall involve the page 4 denial of that for which we have so done. At all events, the revival of Materialism has been so explained by one who was at once philosopher and theologian. Looking on to, and predicting the present prevalence of a revived Materialism, Dr. James Buchanan uttered his prediction on the ground of the observation, that in human speculation, the pendulum has ever fallen back from one extreme to another, and that accordingly an over-pressed Idealism would result in a rush to Materialism. His significant words, so amply fulfilled, are these: "In these circumstances there may be a tendency to relapse into the Materialism of the last century, which attempted to explain the whole theory of the Universe by the laws of matter and motion, or, at least, to embrace some modification of the positive philosophy which excludes all causes, whether efficient or final, from the field of human knowledge, and confines our inquiries to the mere phenomena and laws of material nature." But again, and

2. Materialism has come upon us as favoured by, as even directly resulting from, a habit of mind, which is itself engendered by the time and labour bestowed on the examination of material things, by the zeal and enthusiasm wherewith nature, as she lies around men a wondrous physical system, is investigated and studied. The age is scientific—preeminently so, and as no other has ever been. In all departments of the material world, and wherever inquiry is possible, inquiry is made; facts and the relations of facts are sought after and ascertained. It is ever thus. The mind wearies not of the search, being ever rewarded by it. And thus a habit or frame of mind is engendered favourable to Materialism; all other facts and causes than facts and causes physical get thrust out of view, and these, from the very exclusiveness with which the mind is occupied by them, come to be regarded even almost as the only ones. "A man," says Dr. Hodge, "may be so habituated to deal with quantity and number as to become incapable of appreciating beauty or moral truth. In like manner a man may be so devoted to the examination of what his senses reveal as to come to believe that the sensible alone is true and real." We may find an instance of the effect of exclusively physical study in hindering the perception and acknowledgment of aught else than what is physical in the use that has been made of the doctrine of the "correlation of the physical forces." There is, say the men of science—in this very much reviving, I suppose, substantiating an article of the creed of a very ancient Materialist—there is, they say, only a certain fixed quantum of force in the world, to which no addition can be made, and of which no portion is ever lost. Force, fixed in quantity and one in kind, they teach—force, moreover, which, as fixed page 5 in quantity and one in kind, can be made, chamelion-like, to take different forms, as heat, as electricity, as light, and does take them everyday under manipulation by nature or by man, both nature and man having it in their power to make force in one form to pass, in the measure of it, into another. A fine generalization is this doctrine of force, if, as would seem, it has been scientifically established, and forcibly does it impress one with the simplicity and the skill of the procedure of Him who is the God of nature and of man. But it has been no sooner scientifically determined than, under the power of the prejudicial habit of which I speak, it has been made use of to destroy the difference between life-force or mind-force on the one hand and physical force on the other. If, it has been asked, in things outside the sphere of the vital and the mental force is one, convertible from one form to another, may not the vital and the mental forces be but other forms of that same force? And the materialistic conclusion has been hastily drawn that "analogy demands" that they should be so regarded.

But, if the revival of Materialism may be thus explained, we must, I think, if we would fully explain its prevalence, take another cause into account. Materialism is atheistic. Its logical result is atheism, and all along its course it has had atheism as its terrible associate. There have been, indeed, inconsequent Materialists, such as Priestley, who believed in a personal Deity, though they were Materialists. But Materialism was atheistic, as it came from the lips of Lucretius; atheistic, as it was taught and avowed by the Sensationalist Philosophers of France; and atheistic it is to-day. The Positivist by the very terms of positivism is atheistic: so also is the physicist, who, though he disown positivism, yet denies the distinction between matter and mind, holds that "thought is in such wise the product of the brain, that where there is no brain, there can be no thought;" and who puts force, "inscrutable force," in the place of the Supreme. Materialism being thus indissolubly wedded to the dark negation of God, its anti-religious character must not be forgotten, when we are accounting for it. I believe in the depravity of the human heart, and in a system which pretends to throw the sanction of thought over godlessness, I can see that which the heart will readily and gladly draw to. Atheism under the garb of a philosophy, freedom so from the restraints of theism—than that to the depraved heart, as it lies in the breast untouched and unquickened by the hand of the Spirit of God, nothing could be more welcome. At all events, I cannot help entertaining the idea that, were Materialism not atheistic, common men who are not "thinkers" would show less favour to it. And, says Dr. Buchanan—again,—"There is also abundant page 6 reason to believe that both Atheists and Pantheists have had recourse to the theory of Materialism with the view of excluding the doctrine of a living personal God, and explaining all the phenomena of nature by the eternal laws of matter and motion." But my duty now is briefly to put the system before the Assembly. We will consider:—

I. Materialism, taken ontologically, or as a system explanatory of that which is. Materialism, I began by saying, is no new thing, and the varieties of it have been and are many. Running, however, through all its varieties from the system of Lucretius onwards, are there certain principles which are peculiar and essential to it. There are two especially:—

1. There is the principle of the sole existence of matter, its universality as constituting all existences. "Matter is everything," there is nothing but matter. In a condition, coarser or more refined, matter is that of which all things consist. That which we call mind, and have been, and are accustomed to regard as an entity sui generis totally distinct from it, is yet and really matter. From man downwards through every organic form to the brute earth, which is without both life and thought, one thing and one thing only prevails, the constituent essence of all, namely,—matter. There has never been anything else, and matter, which is everything, has always been. To quote the words of a Materialist, about the most thorough-going, it should be said, of his class :—"Matter is immortal, indestructible; not a particle of the world can be lost, nothing can perish. Even the atoms are in themselves unalterable, indestructible, existing to-day in one, to-morrow in another combination; they form by their manifold concurrences the innumerably diversified forms in which matter presents itself to our senses, in an eternal and continuous process of change."

2. There is the principle of the necessary, invariable combination of matter with force. "There is no matter without force," they say, and "no force without matter." Whilst matter, eternal matter is everything, there exists, in and along with it, and as an ever-present endowment of it, the further thing,—force. It exists, possessed alike by the atoms of Lucretius, and the molecules of modern scientists; and exists as does its eternal co-temporary in a fixed quantity, of which no part can ever be lost, and to which no increase can come. It exists as that which forms, arranges, and out of the eternal substratum of things, the one sole all-pervading element or component of things, brings "the universally diversified forms in which matter presents itself to our senses." "Matter," say Materialists, "is the principal cause of all page 7 existence;'" yes, matter with force, the force which is inalienable from it. This out of the womb of matter brings all things, forming and arranging them as we see them to be formed and arranged. This makes life. It makes mind also, for life and mind are only "modes of ordinary force." It is the world's king, inscrutable, indeed, but omnipresent and almighty. Nay, it is God; all that the Materialist will own as God. "We admit of no creation either in the beginning, or in the course of the world's history; and regard the idea of a self-conscious extra-mundane Creator as ridiculous":—says Vogt, in words both bold and blasphemous.

Thus does this philosophy of the senses take up into its hands two sense-apprehended things, that it may push them explanatorily in all directions, and so give us its rationale of what is. The rationale, however, fails in three respects; it is defective, it is false, and, even were it not defective, it would, through its falsehood, be inadequate. And by a few imperfect sentences would I show this. They will suffice, though few and imperfect.—

1. It is, I say, defective. To be complete, it should, but it does not, explain the things, by which it would explain all things. It speaks to us of matter, but, back of matter, there is the question—Whence matter? which it does not notice, much less answer. It speaks again of force, the invariable accompaniment of matter; but as to this also, there is the same question and the same silence. It speaks of matter and force as ever in inseparable combination, but it has still nothing to say when further it is asked—Whence has the combination come? It is true the Materialist clothes matter with the attributes of Deity, and says it is eternal; so uttering one of the many assumptions which he is in the habit of making, and one which, to say the least, he is not in a position to prove. Even, however, if matter be granted to him, that rudis indigestaque moles, that pondus iners of the old poet, those fine, indivisible atomic particles, which have never been reached by any experimental test, and are at the most, however probable, only a supposition or hypothesis, the question remains—Whence force? Whence and how the marriage of matter and force? I say marriage. But the question, it may be, is in the first place not of a marriage, but of a birth; Did matter, eternal matter, give birth to force and then marry her own child? Nuts, all these questions, which, hard as the teeth of the Materialist may be, he does not attempt to crack. No, Materialism, as Luthardt says, "which seeks to explain the enigma of existence, begins by two enigmatical, inexplicable quantities." And so does it labour under a defect, itself the sufficient refutation of its claim to be the philosophy of existence. The human mind inevitably page 8 runs back to the fontal beginning of things: its great inquiry has ever been—Whence am I, and all that I am in the midst of? It can find rest in no system, which avoids that inquiry. But

2. Materialism is false, whilst it is defective. Its root principle of the sole existence of matter is a falsehood, and diffuses falsity all through the system. I make here the appeal, which is usually made against the Materialist, to the human consciousness, and I say, the contradiction of the fundamental falsehood of Materialism every one carries at every moment within his own breast. In the consciousness of every human being there lies deep and ineradicable the double certainty that he is, and is as possessing qualities and powers which matter never possesses; that, therefore, he is at the centre of his personality other than matter, even a mind, a spirit. This certainty is awaked within a man as soon as consciousness awakes: it is the certainty of early, as well as of mature, life. It exists in, it influences every man; it is proceeded on as well by the rudest, as by the most cultivated. It exists before ever a man turns his thought in on himself to ask any question as to himself; either the question—"Am I?" or the other—"What am I?" Yes, and it exists a certainty which no sophistry avails to displace or overturn. If, then, human consciousness is to be trusted, there is in the world more than matter, a something quite different from matter. It may, indeed, be alleged that consciousness is not to be trusted. It has been. Maudesley makes the allegation, and by means of cases of diseased consciousness, endeavours to show its untrust worthiness. But if it is not, then we can know that matter is, no more than that mind is. All knowledge ceases whether of the Me or the Not Me, the Ego or the Non Ego. It is in reliance on consciousness, the consciousness that the mind operating through the senses has cognosced matter, that we utter the predication—matter is, as much as it is on it that we rely, when we say—mind is. The Materialist who, to strip the tree of knowledge of every branch but that one on which he has confidently perched himself, would have us distrust consciousness, does at the same time bring himself to the ground by lopping it off also. But I remark further:—

3. Materialism, even were it not defective, would be, from its falsehood, inadequate.

"I do not think that the Materialist is entitled to say that his molecular grouping and his molecular forces explain everything. In reality they explain nothing. The utmost he can affirm is the association of the two cases of phenomena, of whose real bond of union he is in absolute ignorance. The problem of the connection of soul and body is as inscrutable page 9 in its modern form as it was in the pre-scientific ages." Such are Tyndall's words. We may name them Tyndall's confession—the confession that the rationale of Materialism, viewed in one special respect, has failed, and a confession made under the force of scientific thought by one who, if he is not to be, as he would not be, called a Materialist, is yet influenced by a strongly materialistic bias. But it is not in respect only of the problem of the union of the soul and the body within our individual personality that it fails. Three things there are which the Materialist, with his two principles of matter and force, cannot reason away; the gulf between which and matter, even force-endowed matter, has yet to be bridged. They are three common things. They are :

(a) Life, of whose spontaneous up-springing (generatio equivoca) out of dead matter no trace is to be found either now, or in all past geologic times, and which never originates but from previously existing life. This even Materialists (Virchow and Huxley) admit—an admission which, as has been said, is fatal to their philosophy, for "if dead matter can only be made alive by previous living matter there must be a source of life outside of matter, or life never could have begun."

(b) Organism, again, which being the embodiment of an idea and a purpose, implies mind; which is so often fashioned and made in circumstances anticipatory of its own employment, as the eye, which, though made for light, "is formed in darkness," and the ear, which, though made for sound, "is formed in silence;" which organism, however, immediately on its coming into the circumstances for which it was intended, shews itself to be in the nicest way adapted to them. And

(c) Mind. But that it may be seen how Materialism fails to make mind out of, or to resolve it into matter—fails to reason it out of existence as a distinct entity, and that it may be seen also how organism, which implies mind, stands in its way a fact it cannot reduce, let me ask the Assembly to take

II. Materialism, as a psychology—the application which it makes of its principles to mental phenomena.

We come here to what is the real battle-ground between the Materialist and those who cannot subscribe his dark and lowering creed. The contest, here, howsoever or in whose favour soever it may end, is decisive of the whole question tying between him and his antagonists. Evidently if, when each side draws in its forces from wider ground, and unites them in conflict over the narrower issue—what is man? is he matter only, or matter and something more, a soul as well as a body, a soul distinct in all its qualities from, however mysteriously linked to, and depending upon, the body in which it dwells?—evidently, I say, if the Materialist cannot, in page 10 relation to man, establish his position of the sole existence of matter, and man is left not one, or matter only, but twofold, the Materialist loses all. Mind, left to man, must be taken as a refutation of the fundamental principles of Materialism. Other mind, too, there may be if, spite the Materialist, mind remains in man, even the Great Eternal Mind, the Creator alike of matter and mind; the glory of whose limitless power shines out through and over all things created by Him; and whose presence—a real presence, indeed, in the midst of His works, is necessary to their continuance as His creative Fiat was necessary in order to their existing at all. And mind left to man, death need not be, as, on the principles of the Materialist, it must be taken to be, the end-all of the human personality. Room remains for, a possibility at least remains of, immortality after physical disintegration—room, too, in which to entertain and consider the proper and conclusive evidence of man's immortality : not that pitiable thing which Positivists, by way of tribute to the indelible hope of a hereafter dwelling in every breast, are, I suppose, obliged to preach, but which can have no power whatever, either to influence men as they live, or to gladden them when they die; not a man's living on, after having personally quite passed away, in the effects which have come of his own life and action, and which, taken up into the current of the development of the race, are perpetuated in it: not that, but the immortality, so worthy at once of man and God's grace to man, which has been brought to light through the Gospel. Yes, if the Materialist loses the fight when he posts his forces out on the field of psychology, he loses everywhere, and he loses his all.

That psychology is the decisive battle ground I represent it to be, Materialists seem to feel. They have, at all events, bent their efforts to the work of winning victory on this ground, and theory after theory has been offered all with the view of doing away with mind. These theories, of course, do not quite agree. Nay, excepting as to the common intention of them, they very much disagree. And, with the difference in view, it seems to me that it would be no very unfair thing to say to the propounders of them : "It is, gentlemen, a priori likely, even certain that if mind be, after all which has been believed to the contrary, not mind but matter, force-endowed matter, its materialistic explanation must be single, if not simple. You cannot all of you be right. We venture even to think that some of you are very obviously wrong. So, take the advice which we, with our differences, have so often had given to us, and first settle it amongst yourselves what the genuine materialistic credo upon this question—man and the constitution of man, is. And do not page 11 be displeased if, until you have done that, and then done a little more, we gently refuse, in the interest of the dignity of our kind, to believe that even a Materialist is not something more and higher than clay, even though the finest of the fine." These divergent theories are, as I may name them, the secretion-theory, the cell-theory, the force-theory, the two-sided theory, the "I don't know," or the agnostic theory (Huxley), and in fact others still, for, as I have said, psychological Materialism is as unfixed a thing as well can be. I would ask you in your patience and on the principle, "ex uno disce omnes," to look at one or two of them. Take

1. The secretion-theory. There are in the body glands, and other organs, of various form and structure, by which special substances are provided—in a word, secreted, such as bile, saliva, and the tear wherewith we pity folly, or lament distress. It is a purely physical process, there being, on the one hand, the operation of the material organ, howsoever set in action, and, on the other, a corresponding material result. And like to it is the process by which thought gets into existence, by which all kinds or qualities of thought, higher or lower, common or grand, are originated. A physical process, the organ of which is the brain, results in the physical effect—thought. Says the coarse Materialism, of which Büchner, Moleschott, and Vogt are the expounders, "Thought, stands in the same relation to the brain as bile to the liver.' Again, "The brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile." Again, "Mental activity is a function of the cerebral substance." Once more, "Thought is emitted by the brain as sounds are by the mouth, as music is by an organ." These men have still more to say. They speak of the soul, that thinker whose existence Descartes saw, and in his "Cogito ergo sum" said, when he was laying the foundations of his philosophy, was implied by thought, and they tell us that it is "the product of a peculiar combination of matter," and again in grandiose terms "that in the same manner as the steam engine produces motion, so does the organic complication of force-endowed materials produce in the animal body, a sum of effects so interwoven as to become a unit, and is then by us called spirit." But we may put this aside, let it mean anything, or nothing. After that secretion of their materialistic brains which tells of the parental relation, through secretory exudation, of the brain and thought, it is difficult to see what need there is for a soul, a thinker at all, or why the very name should not be blotted out of every vocabulary of all the many tongues, in which it has so universally had a place. Thought is a brain-secretion: in and out of the soft cellular matter, lying convoluted within page 12 the cranium, are prepared and given forth or discharged thoughts, hard and tender, good and bad! There, is a short and happy phrase, which is fully explanatory of all mental phenomena, which each of us can easily remember and bring up in removal of any psychological difficulty, provided, that is, that in the mechanical process of thought-secretion, as it goes on within ourselves, any such difficulty should be secreted, and the explanation secreted along with it. But if thought is just a brain secretion, then this secretory cerebral substance operates differently from other organs of secretion. Others give out only what they have had in them—the physical, the material. In the case of brain-secretions, however, we have more in the product than in the producer, a something generically different from all in it. And so, seeing that the cause must ever be like its effect, and the effect like its cause, there is what we are not quite able to understand. Surely there is a secret somewhere about these secretions, which should have been more fully explained. But

2. There is the force-theory to which I, a little ago, alluded, and which, as we saw, makes use of an alleged scientific discovery, or that of the fixedness of the quantity of force, of the oneness of force in all its physical manifestations, mechanical, chemical, or other, and of the convertibility of force in one form into force in another, in order to the explaining away, as of vitality, so of mind. Mind (thought), like vitality, is force; and it differs from other forces, or other manifestations of the one force, only in being a special manifestation of it. And this it is sought to make out by arguments such as these :—

(a) It is not philosophical to think otherwise. "As there is no reason for assuming a specific force for light and another for heat, therefore it is unnecessary and unphilosophical to assume a specific force for vital and mental phenomena." In other words, philosophy forbids the introduction into the explanation of any set of phenomena of more causes than would suffice, and here one cause—force, the same throughout the spheres both of the mental and physical, is enough. An argument this, which is very like a begging of the question!

(b) It is against analogy to think otherwise. Combine, says Huxley, hydrogen and oxygen, and you get a tertium quid, or water, which in its properties is different from both. But it never strikes you to allege that an occult something, to be called "aquosity," or what you will, has presided over the mixture or combination, and that to it is to be ascribed the difference between the compound and its parts. And why should it be held that thought, appearing through or with the action of the brain, has required for its production page 13 the something called mind. If water, so very different from its components, results from the interaction of the chemical forces of its components, why may not thought be just the transmuted form of the forces, or force, supplied to the brain by its alimentation. An argument, this, again, which, with all the reason there is for not believing in Materialism in any form, we may answer by asking—Why should it?

(c) Use has been made of certain familiar facts. It has, for instance, been urged that "every exercise of thought or feeling is attended by an evolution of heat," and that that shows that "thought is resolved into heat." I suppose the fact of the concurrence of thought and heat no one of us Preachers will deny. Times, I fancy, we have all known, when, with an expectant audience before us, we have looked into vast depths of vacuity, and our minds have been most painfully exercised over a troublesome absence of thought, and, accompanying that condition of the consciousness, there has been not a little of the evolution of heat. The conclusion from the fact, however, is another thing. Concomitancy is not exactly to be taken as identity, as Dr Hodge wittily shows, who, remarking that we express our sorrow by tears, further remarks that sorrow and salt water are not therefore to be regarded as the same thing.

Now, whatever estimateis to be taken of these arguments as by them the force-theory is supported, one thing seems clear. If mind (thought) is one of the correlated forces, men of science should be able to do with it what they can do with others of them. They can weigh or measure others. They give us e.g. 772 foot pounds as the mechanical equivalent of heat; and that on the ground that Mr Joule found that 772 lbs. falling through one foot produces heat enough to raise 1 lb of water 1 deg. F. Similarly they should be able to measure the mental so that it shall be quite a proper thing, and in no wise ridiculous, to speak in such terms as a lb of argument, or a cwt of disputation. And no doubt it will be in no small degree for the general convenience when they have done so, and shown the way of doing so, for then men will escape the danger they have ever hitherto run of attaching weight to thoughts and arguments, even perhaps a Huxley's or a Tyndall's, which have very little weight in them. As yet, however, thought has never been weighed in any scales but those which mind supplies. And until it is, we may surely treat this force-theory as powerless against the conviction that mind and matter are two very different substances which, whilst they coexist in man, and readily affect the one the other, yet are never to be confounded with one another.

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Further still :—

3. There is the two-sided theory, according to which matter and mind are but two sides of one and the same substance, like the obverse and reverse faces of a coin. The theory is not new. It is substantially that one-substance theory which was favoured and adopted by Priestley, which was favoured also and advocated by French Sensationalists, by D'Holbach in his "Systême de la Nature." It has found an earnest and a confident advocate in Professor Bain, who says—"The arguments for the two substances have, we believe, now entirely lost their force"; and again—"The one substance with two sets of properties, two sides, the physical side and the mental, a double-faced unity, would appear to comply with all the exigencies of the case." But, confident as he is, it would be difficult to take sides with him. It is simply an impossibility that such antithetic and irreconcileable qualities as feeling and thought on the one side, and extension, inertia, impenetrability on the other, should coinhere in one and the same substance. Were a coin presented to us bearing on its obverse the head of Antiochus Epiphanes, that bitter enemy of the Jews and their religion, and on the reverse the representation which stood out on the medal struck by the Dutch Republic—ships, a fleet breasting the deep in all the gaiety of its pride and power—and surrounding them the legend,—"Flavit Jehovah et dissipati sunt,"—we should not hesitate at once to pronounce it a forgery, and that however beautifully executed. We should know it to be from the occurrence in the legend of the one word Jehovah. Nor can we hesitate to put aside this theory of the two in one, however plausibly, and by whatever pen it may be argued, that qualities mental and qualities physical may in one substance and together inhere.

Thus far, we have considered Materialism as it presents to us its rationale, first, of existence generally, and second, of man. Turning unsatisfied from both, I would still for a few minutes occupy the attention of the Assembly with

III. Materialism taken sociologically.

"Sociology," it has been said, "is the most complex of all the sciences." It is, from its very complexity, hard to define. The science of collective human life, it has for its subject man as he is, and as he shews himself, under his relations to his fellow-men : its problem is to show how social man has come to be what he is; how social phenomena spring from the laws regulating "the thoughts, feelings, and actions of men united together in the social state;" how "one state of society results from and takes the place of another" in endless progression and advancement. It had Comte for page 15 its father; and materialistic in its origin, it is still in the fostering hands of Materialists. When brought into being it seemed to its author complete and unimprovable, like the goddess who sprang in her maidenly martial perfectness from the capacious skull of Jove. Forgetting that it is not given to one man to make a science, and especially one necessitating such width of observation as sociology, Comte said, in the egregious egotism which Guizot tells us characterised him, "I will venture to say that sociological science, though only established by this book, already rivals mathematical science itself, not in precision and fecundity, but in positivity and rationality";—an outburst of vanity on which we have a significant comment in the fact that Materialistic workers are still labouring to construct a sociology. The question which I would here ask is this :—"Supposing such a science possible, is it possible that a true sociology can come from the hands of Materialists?" And to that I answer, "No, for Materialism has no place in itself for factors which have played, and still play, the very chiefest part in human life, in the life and the state of collective humanity.

1. It has no place in it for God, for the Hand, and for the Providence of God. With Comte, God was a matter of the past. He, and all supernatural Existences, and all supernatural interposition belonged to the infancy of the race—illusions, once fondly believed in, but outgrown and left behind at last and forever. Spencer, too, has no God, or none but one, which is the negation of God—impersonal inscrutable force.

2. It has no place either for human freedom. Take it either generally with its principles of matter and force, or specially as an offered explanation of mind and thought, and a glance is enough to show that it has not. If mind be matter, and its operation or thought be force, then you have the necessary always and cannot have the free. "In referring all mental action to physical forces, Materialism cannot but exclude all freedom of action. There is no spontaneity in chemical affinity, in light, heat, or electricity; yet to these forces all vital and mental phenomena are referred. If thought be a certain kind of molecular motion of the brain, it is no more free than any other kind of molecular motion called heat. And this is the more obviously true if they are correlative, the one thing being changed into the other." Human freedom must ever be a difficulty in the construction of a sociology, into whose hand soever that task may fall, even as the extreme variableness of the atmosphere is a difficulty in the way of another Science,—freedom with its waywardness, its impulsiveness, its uncertain wilfulness. But constructors who, from prepossessing error, leave it out page 16 of account, do no better than children who build the card castle a breath overthrows. Again :—

3. It has no place in it for those high beliefs which have so largely determined the action, and the social results of the action of men. It is historically certain that men have believed in God. Nay, the Assembly will remember that it was the universality of the belief which was to Cicero evidence of the Divine existence. It is as certain that men still do, and they not merely the profanum vulgus. Yes, God, the personal, extramundane Creator and Ruler, is not dead. Nor is the belief in Him dead. As the many have faith in God, so also have men of mind and mark, occupying every walk of science, and philosophy, and eminent in it, eminent certainly as any philosopher decked in the gloomy mantle of Materialism, for power of thought, for capacity of judgment, for care and conscientiousness of enquiry and research. And along with this highest of all beliefs go the sense of responsibility and the hope of life beyond the grave with God. In vain do Materialists, with the inordinate pride of a Comte, seek to talk down these beliefs. They obtain, and they will obtain, influencing many, the very many, amongst whom are not a few of the eminent. Spite the prevalence of materialistic atheism, decay has not overtaken these old beliefs; they are still the hinge on which the vast world moves. Again, and—

4. Lastly, Materialism has no room for motives which, springing from those realities of religion it denies, have affected, and are affecting, the social condition of men all the world over. With its denial of God and a Hereafter, it necessarily makes itself one with a utilitarian selfishness, hard and unyielding. The question and the motive, which it puts forward, are simply "how to make the best of this world." We may see evidence of this on one page and another of Mr Spencer's Sociology. We may see it, I think, in the sentences :—"For if the unworthy are helped to increase by shielding them from that mortality which their unworthiness would naturally entail, the effect is to produce, generation after generation, a greater unworthiness." "How far the mentally-superior may with a balance of benefit to society, shield the mentally-inferior from the evil results of their infirmity, is a question too involved to be here discussed at length." Thank God, other motives, influential and ever-operating there are—even love and pity, a pitying love. In heaven it is, in the great Heart of the Almighty. On earth, too, it is, in human hearts innumerable which He has blessed. Pure and meek it has, as a very angel from God's presence, travelled down the ages, throwing the shelter of its kindness over the weak and the needy, presenting its cup of healing to the lips of the criminal, the outcast, the wretched. It, too, far from wearying or desisting, page 17 is, by the very largeness and multifariousness of its benevolence, making ours the most distinguished of the centuries. Materialism may ignore it. Before its hand can be stayed, however, Materialism will need to destroy not only God, but with him all sense, dwelling in man, and leading to the admiration and the practice, of the things that are "honest, and pure, and lovely, and of good report." Truly a hard task, its!


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Page 3.Sensationalism, in its true character as Materialism, has again entered actively on the scene, now tacitly admitted by thoughtful earnest minds, and again boldly professed and proclaimed by the Enfants terribles of the school, not only in its principle, but in its consequences."
Page 5.Materialism has been named by Mr Carlyle "the grand idolatory by which at all times the true worship, that of the invisible, has been polluted and withstood." He so speaks of all forms of it.
Page 8.Another confession of Tyndall's runs thus :—"I have noticed during years of self-observation that it is not in hours of clearness and vigour that the doctrine (of Materialistic Atheism) commends itself to my mind, and that, in the presence of stronger and healthier thought, it ever dissolves and disappears as offering no solution of the mystery in which we dwell, and of which we form part." See Belfast Address Additions.
Page 13.President Barnard (see Hodge's S. Theology vol. 1., pp. 201-2) thus reasons :—"Thought cannot be a physical force, because thought admits of no measure. I think it will be conceded without controversey that there is no form of Material substance, and no known force of a physical nature (and there are no other forces), of which we cannot, in some form, definitely express the quantity by reference to some conventional measuring unit. No such means of measuring mental action has been suggested. No such means can be conceived. Now I maintain that a thing, which is unsusceptible of measurement, cannot be a quantity, and that a thing that is not even a quantity, cannot be a force."
Page 14The "Systême de la Nature" was first published in 1780 by Condillac. Its authorship seems to be somewhat doubtful. It is usually quoted as by D'Holbach. But it has also been ascribed to Mirabeau.
Page 15Guizot's words are :—Modeste en apparence, quoique, au fond, prodigieusement orgeilleux." Meditations, Vol. ii., p. 250.
Page 15Dr. Hodge, in his enumeration of the principles of Comtism puts the sixth thus :—"As everything is included in the department of physics, everything is controlled by physical laws, and there is no more freedom in human acts than in the motions of the stars; and, therefore, the one can be predicted with the same certainty as the other." See Hodge, S. Theology, Vol, i., p 255.

A. D. Willis, Victoria Avenue, Wanganui.