C‎ > ‎Chalmers, Thomas - 1780-1847‎ > ‎Volume 1‎ > ‎

Bk. 1. - Chap. 3. - "Of the Metaphysics which have been resorted to on the side of Theism." - (Dr. Clarke’s a priori argument on the being of a god).


All have heard of the famous a priori argument of Dr. Clarke — an argument which Dr. Reid does homage to as the speculation of superior minds; but whether it be as solid as it is sublime, he professes himself wholly unable to determine. 


On this subject Dr. Thomas Brown is greatly more confident. “I conceive,” he tells us, “the abstract arguments which have been adduced to show that it is impossible for matter to have existed from eternity — by reasoning on what has been termed necessary existence, and the incompatibility of this necessary existence with the qualities of matter — to be relics of the mere verbal logic of the schools, as little capable of producing conviction as any of the wildest and most absurd of the technical scholastic reasonings, on the properties, or supposed properties, of entity and non-entity.”


But let us Hot dismiss an argument, which so deeply infused what may be called the Theistical Literature of England for the first half of the last century, without some examination.
{Page No. 100.}


What then we hold to be the first questionable assumption in the reasonings of Dr. Clarke, is that by which he appears to confound a physical with either a logical or mathematical necessity. We feel no difficulty in conceding to him the necessary existence of that which has existed from eternity — and that the necessity for its existence resides in itself and not in any thing apart from itself. That which has been created by something else both came into being, and continues we may also admit to be, in virtue of a power that is without it; and it is to this power exoteric to itself that we have to look for the ground both of its first and its abiding existence. But the thing which has existed for ever must also have some ground on which it continues to be, rather than that it should not be, or go to annihilation; and this ground on which at present it continues to be, must be the same with the ground on which it continued to be at any past moment. But if it never had a beginning this ground or principle of existence must have been from everlasting — the present ground in fact, on which it continues to exist, having abidden with it through the whole of its past eternity as the ground on which it exists at all. But as we are not to look for this ground in the fiat of another — it must be looked for in the necessity of its own nature — it contains within itself the necessity for its own existence.


Now what is the inference which Dr. Clarke has drawn from this necessity ? The word is applied to speculative truths as well as to substantive things. The truth of a proposition is often {Page No. 101.} necessarily Involved in the terms of it, or in the definition of these terms — just as the properties of a circle lie surely enveloped in the description of a circle. Nay a proposition may be so constructed that the opposite thereof shall involve at first sight a logical absurdity — so that this opposite cannot possibly be apprehended, or even imagined by the mind. Its truth is necessarily bound up in the very terms of it. It may be said to contain its own evidence within itself, or rather to contain within itself the necessity of its being admitted among the existent truths of Philosophy. The mind cannot, though it would, put it forth of its own belief; or, in other words, put it forth of the place which it occupies within the limits of necessary and universal truth. Now this test of a logical or mathematical necessity in the existent truths of speculation, he would make also the test of a physical necessity in the existent things of substantive and actual Nature. He confounds we think a logical with an actual impossibility. Insomuch that if the conception of the non-existence of any actual thing involve in it no logical impossibility, then that thing is not necessarily existent. He applies the same test to the things of which it is alleged that they necessarily exist, as to the propositions of which it is alleged that they are necessarily true. He holds that if things do necessarily exist, we cannot conceive this thing not to be — just as when propositions have in them an axiomatic certainty, we cannot conceive these things not to be true. And so on the other hand if we can conceive any existent thing not to be, then that {Page No. 102.} thing exists but does not exist necessarily. It has not the ground of its existence in itself — even as a necessary truth has its evidence or the ground of its trueness in itself. And therefore the ground of its existence must be in another beside itself.

It must have had a beginning It must not have existed from eternity.


It will be at once seen how when furnished with such an instrument of demonstration as this — he could on the strength of a mere logical category, go forth on the whole of this peopled universe and pronounce of all its matter and of all mind but the one and universal mind that they have been created. We can conceive them not to exist — and this without any of that violence which is felt by the mind, when one is asked to receive as true that which carries some logical or mathematical contradiction on the face of it. “The only true idea,” he says, “of a self-existent or necessarily existing Being, is the idea of a Being the supposition of whose not existing is an express contradiction.” “But the material world,” he afterwards says, “cannot possibly be such a being” — for “unless the material world exists necessarily, by an absolute necessity in its own nature, so as that it must be an express contradiction to suppose it not to exist; it cannot be independent and of itself eternal.” This argument is reiterated in the following terms — “‘Tis manifest the material world cannot exist necessarily, if without a contradiction we can {Page No. 103.} conceive it either not to be or to be in any respect otherwise than it now is.” He proceeds all along on the assumption that there is no necessity in the substantive existence of things, unless the denial of that existence involves a logical contradiction in terms. Nay, if without such contradiction we can imagine any variation in the modes or forms of matter from those which obtain actually, this is enough with him to expel from matter the property of self-existence. Ere we can award to matter this property, “it must,” he says, “be a contradiction in terms to suppose more or fewer stars, more or fewer planets, or to suppose their size, figure, or motion, different from what it now is, or to suppose more or fewer plants and animals upon the earth, or the present ones of different shape and bigness from what they now are.” At this rate, it will be observed, if we can imagine only five planets and without any such contradiction as that three and four make five — this of itself is proof that the actual state of the planetary system, or the actual state of matter whereof this system is a part, is not a necessary state, and so matter is not necessarily self-existent. In like manner the motion of matter is held not to be necessary because it is no contradiction in terms to suppose any matter to be at rest. Thus throughout, our powers or possibilities of conception within, are with him the measures or grounds of inference as to the realities of Being without. He denies the necessary existence of matter, merely because we can conceive it not to exist; and the necessity of motion, because we can conceive of. other {Page No. 104.} directions to it than those which obtain actually; and a necessity for the actual order or number or figure of material things, because without logical absurdity we can conceive of them variously. The necessary trueness of eternal truths may be discovered thus, that in the terms of that proposition which affirmed their non-trueness there would be contradiction. And so he would have it that the necessary existence of eternal things may be discovered thus, that in the terms of that proposition which affirmed their non-existence there would be the like contradiction. And therefore when the opposite of any existent thing can be imagined without such contradiction, it exists not necessarily — nor is it of itself eternal. The logical is made to be identical with, or made to be the test and the measure of, the actual or the physical necessity. The one is confounded with the other; and this we hold to be the first fallacy of the a priori argument.


On the strength of this fallacy, the puny mind of man hath usurped for itself an intellectual empire over the high things of immensity and eternity — subjugating the laws of nature throughout all her wide amplitudes to the laws of human thought — and finding, as it were, within the little cell of its own cogitations the means of an achievement so marvellous, as that of pronouncing alike on all the objects of infinite space, and on all the events of infinite duration. Because I can imagine Jupiter to be a sphere instead of a spheroid; and no logical absurdity stands in the way of such imagination-therefore Jupiter must have been created. Because he has only four satellites, whilst I can {Page No. 105.} figure him to have ten; and there is not the same arithmetical falsity in this supposition, as in that three and one make up ten — therefore all the satellites must have had a beginning. Because I can picture of matter that it might have been variously disposed, that its motions and its magnitudes and its forms may have been different from what they are, and that space might have been more or less filled by it — because there is not in short a universal plenum all whose parts are immovably at rest — in this Dr. Clarke beholds a sufficient ground for the historical fact that a time was when matter was not, or at least that to the power of another beside itself, it owes its place and its substantive Being in our universe. We must acknowledge ourselves to be not impressed by such reasoning. For aught I know or can be made by the light of nature to believe — matter may, in spite of those its dispositions which he calls arbitrary, have the necessity within itself of its own existence — and yet that be neither a logical nor a mathematical necessity. It may be a physical necessity — the ground of which I understand not, because placed transcendentally above my perceptions and my powers — or lying immeasurably beyond the range of my contracted and ephemeral observation.


But we have only touched on what may be called the negative part of the a priori argument — that by which matter is divested of self-existence. Thence, on the stepping-stone of actual matter, existent though not self-existent, might we pass by inference to a superior and antecedent Being from whom it hath sprung. But this were {Page No. 106.} descending to the a posteriori argument — whereas the high pretension is, that in the light of that same principle which enables the mind to discard from all matter the property of self-existence, may it without the intervention of any derived or created thing lay immediate hold on the truth of a self-existent God. This forms what we might call the positive part of the a priori argument. The truth is, if matter be not self-existent, because the supposition of its non-existence involves in it no felt and resistlessly felt contradiction; then the supposition of the non-existence of that which really is a self-existent Being must involve in it such a contradiction. “This necessity must,” to use the language of Dr. Clarke, “force itself upon us whether we will or no, even when we are endeavouring to suppose that no such Being exists.” This is the same principle on which we have animadverted already; but there appears, we think, to be a second and a distinct fallacy involved in the application of it. What is that in the whole compass of thought, whose existence must force itself upon the mind — and whose non-existence involves that contradiction which the mind with all its efforts cannot possibly admit into its belief. The answer is space and time. We can imagine matter to be swept away and the space which it occupies to be left behind. But we cannot imagine this space to be swept away. We cannot suppose either immensity or eternity to be removed out of the universe, any more than we can remove the relation of equality between twice two and four. “To suppose,” he adds, “immensity removed out {Page No. 107.} of the universe or not necessarily eternal is an express contradiction,” “To suppose any part of space removed, is to suppose it removed from and out of itself; and to suppose the whole to be taken away, is supposing it to be taken away from itself — that is to be taken away while it still remains which is a contradiction in terms.” The language of Sir Isaac Newton to the same effect is — “Moveantur partes Spatii de locis suis, et movebuntur (ut ita dicam) de seipsis.” Here then is a something, if you choose thus to designate either of the elements of space or time — here is a something which fulfils what is affirmed to be the essential condition of necessary existence. Its non-existence involves a contradiction which the mind cannot possibly receive; and its existence is forced upon the mind by a necessity as strong as either any logical or any mathematical.


Now it is at the transition which the argument makes from the necessary existence of space and time to the necessary existence of God that we apprehend the second fallacy to lie. Eternity and immensity, it is allowed, are not substances — they are only attributes, and, incapable as they are of existing by themselves, they necessarily suppose a substantive Being in which they are inherent. “For modes and attributes,” says Dr. Clarke, “exist only by the existence of the substance to which they belong.” The denial then of such a Being is held to be tantamount to the denial both of infinite space and of everlasting successive duration — and so such denial involves contradiction in it. It is with him a contradiction in terms to {Page No. 108.} assert no immensity and no eternity; and to suppose that there is no Being in the universe to which these attributes or modes of existence are necessarily inherent is also a contradiction in terms. Now, it is here we think that the non-sequitur lies. We do not perceive how boundless space and boundless duration imply either a material or an immaterial substratum in which these may reside as but the modes or qualities. We can conceive unlimited space, empty and empty for ever, of all substances whether material or immaterial — and we see neither logical nor mathematical impossibility in the way of such a conception. We do not feel with Dr. Clarke that the notion of immense space as if it were absolutely nothing is an express contradiction. Nor do we feel aught to convince in the scholastic plausibility of such sentences as the following: “For nothing is that which has no properties or modes whatever. That is to say, it is that of which nothing can truly be affirmed, and of which every thing can truly be denied, which is not the case of immensity or space.” In spite of this we can imagine no eternal and infinite Being in the universe — we can imagine an infinite nothing; nor do feel that in so doing, we imagine eternity and immensity removed out of the universe while they at the same time still continue there. There is nothing it appears to us in this scholastic jingle about modes and substances that leads by any firm or solid pathway to the stupendous conclusion of a God. Both Space and Time can be conceived without a substance of which they are but the attributes — nor is it at all clear that {Page No. 109.} these modes imply a substantive Being to which they belong. — Now the main stay of the a priori argument is that Eternity and Immensity are modes — and as we cannot rid ourselves of the conception of a stable existence in the modes, so neither therefore can we rid ourselves of the conception of an existent substance to which these modes belong. We repeat that we have no faith in the product of such excogitation as this — and should as little think of building upon it a system of Theism, as we should of subordinating the realities of History or Nature to the mere technology of Schoolmen.


However interesting, then, the modesty of Dr. Reid on the subject of the a priori argument, yet we cannot but regard the deliverance of the younger Metaphysician Thomas Brown as greatly the sounder of the two — although in it, perhaps, there is a certain air of confident temerity, especially as he only pronounces on the defects of the argument without expounding them. And if any futile or inconclusive argument have been devised for the support of religion, it is a real service to discard it from the controversy altogether. It is detaching an element of weakness from the cause. A doctrine stands all the more firm when placed on a compact and homogeneous basis — instead of resting on a pedestal which like the feet of {Page No. 110.} Nebuchadnezzar’s image is partly of clay and partly of iron. Let us be assured that a weak or a wrong reason is not only not an accession but is a positive mischief to the interests of truth — a. mischief indeed which Dr. Brown has well adverted to in the following sentences: — “Still more superfluous must be all those reasonings with respect to the existence of the Deity, from the nature of certain conceptions of our mind, independent of the phenomena of design, which are commonly termed reasonings a priori, reasonings, that if strictly analyzed, are found to proceed on some assumption of the very truth for which they contend, and that, instead of throwing additional light on the argument for a Creator of the universe, have served only to throw on it a sort of darkness, by leading us to conceive that there must be some obscurity in truths, which could give an occasion to reasonings so obscure. God and the world which he has formed — these are our great objects. Every thing which we strive to place between these is nothing. We see the universe, and, seeing it, we believe in its Maker. It is the universe, therefore, which is our argument, and our only argument; and as it is powerful to convince us, God is, or is not, an object of our belief.” And again — “The arguments commonly termed metaphysical, on this subject, I have always regarded, as absolutely void of force, unless in so far as they proceed on a tacit assumption of the physical argument, and, indeed, it seems to me no small corroborative proof of the force of this physical argument, that its remaining impression on our {Page No. 11.} mind has been sufficient to save us from any doubt, as to that existence, which the obscure and laborious reasonings, a priori, in support of it, would have led us to doubt, rather than to believe” 


We shall not go over the whole unsatisfactory metaphysics of that period — and whereof Dr. Clarke is far the ablest advocate and expounder. For the sake of our intellectual discipline, it is well, however, to familiarize ourselves with his celebrated demonstration, which though in effect vitiated by the one or two assumptions that we have specified, is nevertheless an admirable specimen of close and consecutive reasoning. It is not to be marvelled at, that possessed of such dialectic powers, he should have tinged with his own spirit almost all the authorship of natural theology at that period — till at length, in the impotent hands of his followers and imitators, it wrought itself out of all credit when unaccompanied by those redeeming qualities which buoyed up the performance of this great master, and has perpetuated its character as a standard and classical work, even to the present day. The whole of the Boyle lectureship, for example, was for many years deeply infused by it. Bentley, so able in other departments, presents us in his sermons on the subject, with what we should call, a perfect caricature of this a priori extravagance. It even deforms, at times, the pages of Foster, who is the most eloquent, and perhaps the best writer of that age on natural religion. As to Abernethy, we hold his book, in spite of the high character which was {Page No. 112.} affixed to it some half century ago, as so utterly meagre and insipid, that one cannot without the slackening of all his mental energies, accomplish the continuous perusal of it — and therefore it really matters not what quarter he gives, in his pages of cold and feeble rationality, to the a priori argument. It is of more consequence to be told that it is an argument patronised by Wollaston, who, in his “Religion of Nature Delineated,” imitates Clarke in making our ignorance of the Quomodo the foundation of a positive argument. “If matter,” he says, “be self-existent, I do not see how it comes to be restrained to a place of certain capacity — how it comes to be limited in other respects — or why it should not exist in a manner that is in all respects perfect.” And just because he sees not how — therefore matter ?nust derive its existence from some other being who causes it to be just what it is. Because we do not see the reason why matter should have been placed here and not there in immensity — because we cannot tell the specific cause of its various forms, and modifications, and movements — because of our inability to explore the hidden recesses of the past — and so to find out the necessary ground, if ought there is, for the being and the properties of every planet and of every particle — are we therefore to infer, that there is no such ground, and for no better reason than that just by us it is undiscoverable ? The reasoning of Wollaston comes to this — Because we do not see how matter came to be restrained to a particular place — therefore, it must not have been so restrained by an eternal necessity. 

{Page No. 113.}Our own inference, would have been diametrically the opposite of this. Because we see not how, we should say not how. It is a strange argument to found, as Clarke and Wollaston have done, on the impotence and incapacity of the human mind, that its very ignorance should authorize it to sport such positive and peremptory dogmata as have been advanced by them on the high mysteries of primeval being and primeval causation. 


Dr. Clarke’s style of reasoning upon this subject, has now fallen into utter disesteem and desuetude. He himself disclaims the old scholastic methods of argumentation, while there is much of his own that now ranks with the impracticable subtleties of the middle ages. He deals in the categories of a higher region than that which is at all familiar to human experience — and we fear that when he attempts to demonstrate the non-eternity of matter, and that to spirit alone belong the attributes of primeval necessity and self-existence, he leaves behind him that world of sense and observation within which alone the human mind is yet able to expatiate. After the modest declaration of Dr. Reid, it may be presumptuous in us to pass upon this argument a summary and confident rejection. But we may at least confess the total want of any impression which it has made upon our understanding — and that with all our partialities for the argumentum a posteriori we hold it with Paley greatly more judicious, instead of groping for the evidence of a Divinity among the transcendental generalities of time, and space, and matter, and spirit, and the grounds of a necessary and {Page No. 114.} eternal existence for the one, while nought but modifications and contingency can be observed of the other — we hold it more judicious simply to open our eyes on the actual and peopled world around us — or to explore the wondrous economy of our own spirits, and try if we can read, as in a ‘book of palpable and illuminated characters, the traces or the forth-goings of a creative mind anterior to, or at least distinct from matter, and which both arranged it m its present order and continues to overrule its processes. 


Nevertheless, let us again recommend the perusal of Clarke’s Demonstration. One feels himself as if placed by it on the border of certain transcendental conceptions, the species of an ideal world, which men of another conformation may fancy, and perhaps even see to be realities. And certain it is, that the very existence of such high thoughts in the mind of man may be regarded as the presentiment or promise of a high destination. So that however unable to follow out the reasonings of Clarke or Newton, when they convert our ideas of infinity and eternity into the elements of such a demonstration as they have bequeathed to the world — nothing, we apprehend, can be more just or beautiful than the following sentences of Dugald Stewart, when he views these ideas as the earnests of our coming immortality: — “Important use may also be made of these conceptions of immensity and eternity, in stating the argument for the future existence of the soul. For why was the mind of man rendered capable of extending his views in point of time, beyond the limit of human {Page No. 115.} transactions; and, in point of space, beyond the limits of the visible universe — if all our prospects are to terminate here; or why was the glimpse of so magnificent a scene disclosed to a being, the period of whose animal existence bears so small a proportion to the vastness of his desires ? Surely this conception of the necessary existence of space and time, of immensity and eternity, was not forced continually upon the thoughts of man for no purpose whatever ? And to what purpose can we suppose it to be subservient, but to remind those who make a proper use of their reason of the trifling value of some of those objects we at present pursue, when compared with the scenes on which we may afterwards enter; and to animate us in the pursuit of wisdom and virtue, by affording us the prospect of an indefinite progression ?” 


Before leaving this subject, we would remark on what may be called a certain subordinate application of the a priori argument — not for the demonstration of the being, but for the demonstration of the attributes of God. Dr. Clarke himself admits the impossibility of proving the divine intelligence in this way — though, with this exception, he attempts an a priori proof for the other natural attributes of the Godhead — and the argument certainly becomes more lucid and convincing as he carries it forward from these to the other attributes. The goodness, the truth, the justice of the Divinity, for example, may not only be inferred by an ascending process of discovery from the works {Page No. 116.} and the ways of God — but they are also inferred by a process of derivation from the power, and the unity, and the wisdom. From the amplitude of His natural, they infer the equal amplitude of His moral characteristics, — judging Him superior to falsehood, because He is exempted from the temptations to weakness; and to malignity because exempted from the temptations to rivalship; and to caprice because in the perfection of his wisdom there is the full guarantee for his doing always what is best. We give these merely as specimens of a style of reasoning which we shall not stop to appreciate — and instead of attempting any further to excogitate a Deity in this way; let us now search if there be any reflection of Him from the mirror of that universe which he has formed. It may be a lowlier — but we deem it a safer enterprise — instead of groping our way among the incomprehensible of the a priori region, to keep by the certainties which are spread out before us on the region of sense and observation — to look at the actual economy of things, and thence gather as we may, such traces of a handiwork as might announce a designer’s hand — to travel up and down on that living scene which can be traversed by human footsteps, and gazed at with human eyes — and search for the impress, if any there be, of the intelligent power that either called it into being, or that arranged the materials which compose it. 


But our examination of the a priori reasoning will not be thrown away — if it guide our attempts to separate the weak from the strong parts of the Theistical argument. More especially {Page No. 117.} it should help us to discriminate between the inference that is grounded on the true existence of matter, the inference that is grounded on the orderly arrangements of matter. The argument for the being of a God drawn from the former consideration, tinged as it is throughout with the a priori spirit we hold to be altogether mystical and meaningless — insomuch that for the doctrine of an original creation of matter we hold it essential that the light of revelation should be superadded to the dull and glimmering light, or rather perhaps to the impenetrable darkness of nature. We agree with Dr. Brown in thinking “that matter as an unformed mass, existing without relation of parts, would not of itself have suggested the notion of a Creator — since in every hypothesis something material or mental must have existed uncaused, and since existence, therefore, is not necessarily a mark of previous causation, unless we take for granted an infinite series of causes.” In the mere existence of an unshapen or unorganized mass, we see nothing that indicates its non-eternity or its derivation from an antecedent mind — while on the other hand, even though nature should incline us to the thought that the matter of this earth and these heavens was from everlasting, there might be enough in the goodly distribution of its parts to warrant the conclusion that Mind has been at work with this primeval matter, and at least fetched from it materials for the structure of many a wise and beneficent mechanism. It is well that Revelation has resolved for us the else impracticable mystery, and given us distinctly to understand, that to the fiat of great {Page No. 118.} Eternal spirit, matter stands indebted as well for its existence and its laws, as for its numerous collocations of use and of convenience. We hold that without a Revealed Theology we should not have known of the creation of matter out of nothing, but that by dint of a Natural Theology alone we might have inferred a God from the useful disposition of its parts. It is good to know what be the strong positions of an argument and to keep by them — taking up our intrenchments there — and willing to relinquish aU that is untenable. It is not the way to advance but really to discredit the cause of Natural Theology, when set forward by its injudicious defenders to an enterprise above its strength. Nothing satisfactory can be made of those obscure and scholastic generalities by which matter is argued to be incongruous with Eternity; and that therefore, itself originated from nothing, it must have a creative mind for the antecedent not of its harmonies and adaptations alone but of its substantive Being. We should like a firmer stepping-stone than this by which to arrive at the conclusion of a God. For this purpose we would dissever the argument founded on the phenomenon of the mere existence of matter, from the argument founded on the phenomenon of the relations between its parts. The one impresses the understanding just as differently from the other, as a stone of random form lying upon the ground impresses the observer differently from a watch. The mere existence of matter, in itself, indicates nothing. They are its forms and its combinations and its organic structures which alone speak to us {Page No. 119.} of a Divinity — just as it is not the clay but the shape into which it has been moulded that announces the impress of a Designer’s hand. The metaphysical argument which Ave should like to discard from this controversy wants altogether to our mind the character of obviousness. We can afford to give it up. It is truly a dead weight upon the cause. It is like seeking for the indications of an artist’s hand in the rude and raw material upon which he operates — when we might behold them at once in the finished work of those exquisite fabrications which hold forth irresistibly the marks of contrivance and so of a contriver. 


In combating an argument for a doctrine, we are not therefore combating the doctrine itself. Dr. Clarke has failed, we think in his attempt to demonstrate the non-eternity of matter — but it follows not that because we have attempted to expose this failure, we advocate the eternity of matter. It is well that our belief in the truths of religion does not stand or fall with the success or the failure of any human expounder. We happen to think that on the abstract question of the creation of matter out of nothing, there is a want of clear and decisive manifestation by the light of nature; and that for the establishment of what we hold to be the right and orthodox position upon this question, {Page No. 120.} there is an incompetency not in the a priori argument alone, but in every argument which the unaided reason of man can devise. We wonder not for example, that Aristotle, unblest and unvisited as he was by any communication from Heaven, admitted both an eternal matter and an eternal mind into his creed — for in truth the brightest and most convincing evidences for the one might for aught we know, consist with the aboriginal and everlasting occupancy of the other in our universe. These evidences as we shall afterwards see, are grounded not on the existence of matter, but on the order and disposition of its parts — and point to the conclusion, not that there must have been an intelligent spirit that willed the matter into being, but that there must have been an intelligent spirit who willed it into all those beauteous and beneficial arrangements which we every where behold. It is revelation alone we apprehend which has completely fixed and ascertained the proposition, that God not only fashioned our universe into its present mechanism and form; but that he also created the materials from which it is composed. He not only moulded the clay; but he made it, and made it out of nothing. Nature perhaps cannot pronounce decisively on the making; but of the exquisite moulding, of the goodly dispositions and structures that bespeak contrivance and a contriver, it taketh ample cognizance — so that it cannot look w ith intelligence to any department of observation or of science without a powerful impression that the hand of a divinity has been there.