Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/87

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RELATION OF THE FINITE TO THE INFINITE.

direct motive power preëxisted in the force of gravity, or in the elastic property of the molecular structure of the spring. In bringing the wheels together, and making all the adjustments, we create neither force nor quality—in separating them and breaking the connections, we destroy nothing. The same is true of all mechanism, and indeed of all organisms. Chemical atoms are endowed with definite, inflexible, and indestructible properties that produce different effects only when differently related or correlated.

The difference between organic and inorganic conditions of existence is not a difference in the powers or properties of matter traceable to first causes, but to changed relations due to secondary causes; just as the movement of pieces upon the chess-board does not change the number or the power of the pieces, but, from their changed relations to each other, arise new and highly-complicated effects, that are perhaps never repeated in playing a million games. It is for this reason that no two organisms are ever exact duplicates of each other, nor is the individual ever twice in the same physical or intellectual conditions.

Now, is it not plain that, in the investigation of all the simple forces of which we have the slightest knowledge, there is not one in which we can find a comprehensible beginning? We trace them one by one from highly-involved conditions, through the less and less involved, until at last the simple force, divorced from all associated relations, is lost in the azure blue of the infinite—infinite in the space it may occupy—infinite in its duration—infinite in the diversity of effects that may arise from association with other simple forces, and finite or comprehensible alone in the duration of these conditions. It is at just this point we desire to draw the line between the knowable and the unknowable. All attempts to find the relation existing between first cause and any sequence or effect must utterly fail, for, as we have already seen, it is an effort of the mind to comprehend infinite conditions—to produce something from nothing. To say that God, in his creative energy, was the first cause, is to say that all the conditions of creation preëxisted in him, and, if all the conditions and possibilities of creation preëxisted in God, creation itself preëxisted in him, and consequently had no beginning, for the conditions by which creation was alone made possible, and which were its foundation-stones, were certainly first causes, and, if God created them, he created himself, which is absurd.

When we grant that the material universe contains in itself no creative energy, and that all the manifold laws by which seemingly blind atoms rise by intelligent coordination to organic conditions, and thus to intellectual activities, have not created themselves, we have exhausted the argument for materialism as a possible explanation of First Cause. And now we appeal to an Infinite Intelligence, a spiritual essence, superior to material conditions, and attempt to satisfy reason by making the universe the sequence of a Sovereign Will? But have