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almost universally, and perhaps from the same quarter; for we find many of the Jewish theologians, and not a few of the Christian fathers, too much influenced by Platonic principles, giving countenance to the same doctrine, though probably not to the full extent of the Platonic school. Thus, the author of the Book of Wisdom, a book written in Greek instead of in Hebrew, and hereby proving his own æra as well as the school in which he had studied, expressly asserts that "The almighty hand of the Lord created the world out of unfashioned (amorphous) matter," è§ àμóp‡ov iλñs*: while Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Athanasius, and Gregory Nazianzen, appear to have concurred in the same opinion; and Justin Martyr affirms it to have been the general creed of his own æra: "For that the word of God," says he, "formed the world out of unfashioned matter, Moses distinctly asserts, Plato and his adherents maintain, and ourselves have been taught to believe."
This is one specimen of the very common attempt in the writings of the fathers to blend the narrative and doctrines of Moses with the principles of Platonism, which, in truth, had been embraced by many of them before their conversion. The text of Moses, when accurately examined, will be found, if I mistake not, to lead us to a very different conclusion. This text consists of the first and second verses of the book of Genesis, and is as follows: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep (or abyss); and the
* Cap. xi. 17.
Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Now in this passage we seem to have a statement of three distinct facts, each following the other in a regular series: first, an absolute creation of the heaven and the earth, which, we are expressly told, took place foremost, or in the beginning; next, the condition of the earth when it was thus primarily created, being amorphous and waste, or, in the words. before us, "without form and void;" and, thirdly, the earliest creative effort to reduce it from this shapeless and void or waste condition into a state of order and productiveness "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." And hence, to maintain from the Mosaic narration that the heaven or the earth existed in a waste and amorphous mass antecedently to the first act of creation, is to derange the series of such narration, and to put that process first, which Moses has put second.
I enter not here into the correctness of the general rendering, nor into the exact import of the word "created;" for whatever be the rendering, the same consecutive order of events must be adhered to, and the same conclusion must follow. I am perfectly ready, however, to admit that does by no means at all times import an absolute creation out of nothing, but, like create in our own language, that it occasionally denotes the formation of one thing out of another; yet, when we are told that, if Moses had really intended to express an absolute creation of the earth out of nothing, he would have used some other word, which should have limited us to this idea, I confidently put it to any critic, what word he could have employed specially appropriated to such a purpose, and limited to such
a sense, at the time he wrote? or even what word, thus restrained, he could select in our own times, from any spoken language throughout the world? Words are not invented for an exclusive expression of solitary facts, but for general use. The creation of the world, or of any thing whatever, out of nothing, is a fact of this kind; and no language ever had or ever will have a term precisely struck out for the purpose of representing such an idea, and exclusively appropriated to it: and assuredly there could be no such word at the time Moses first spoke of the fact, and communicated the doctrine; as, antecedently to this, it could not have been called for. And it will not be questioned, I think, that there is more sound sense and judgment in employing, as on the present occasion, a well-understood term, that comes nearest to the full extent of the idea intended to be conveyed, than to invent a new word for the purpose, that nobody has ever heard of, and, consequently, that noboby can comprehend the meaning of, till the very term that is thus objected to, or some other word from the vulgar dialect, shall be had recourse to as its interpreter. Yet although, in the Hebrew Scriptures, the word is occasionally used synonymously with our own terms, "to make, produce, or cause to be," to import a formation from a substance already in existence, we have sufficient proof that it was also understood of old to import emphatically, like our own word "create,” an absolute formation out of nothing. Maimonides expressly tells us, that it was thus understood in the passage before us, as well as in all others that have a reference to it, by the ancient Hebrews; while Origen affirms, that such was its import among many of the
Christian fathers, whatever might be the opinion of the rest, and forcibly objects to the passage just quoted from the Book of Wisdom, as a book not admitted into the established canon of Scrip
Still, however, the doctrine of a creation of something out of nothing was generally held to be a palpable absurdity; and a variety of hypotheses were invented to avoid it, of which the three following appear to have been the chief; each of them, however, if I mistake not, plunging us into an absurdity ten times deeper and more inextricable. The first is that of an absolute and independent eternity of matter, to which I have already referred ; the second, that of its emanation from the essence of the Creator; the third, that of idealism, or the non-existence of a material world.
I have already remarked, that the FIRST of these was modified, under the plastic hands of different philosophers of antiquity, into a great variety of shapes; and hence, in some form or other, is to be traced through most of the Grecian schools, whether of the Ionic or Italic sector, in other words, whether derived from Thales or from Pythagoras. In no shape, however, is it for a moment capable of standing the test of sober enquiry. We may regard matter as essentially and eternally intelligent, or as essentially and eternally unintelligent; as essentially intelligent in its several parts, or as essentially intelligent as a whole. The dilemma is equal in all these cases. Matter cannot be intelligent as a whole, without being intelligent in every atom, for a concourse of unintelligent atoms can never produce intelligence; but if it be intelligent in every atom,
then are we perpetually meeting with unintelligent compounds resulting from intelligent elements. If, again, matter be essentially eternal, but at the same time essentially unintelligent, both separately and collectively, then, an intelligent principle being traced in the world, and even in man himself, we are put into possession of two co-eternal independent principles, destitute of all relative connection and common medium of action.
The SECOND HYPOTHESIS to which I have adverted is not less crowded with difficulties and absurdities; but it has a more imposing appearance, and has hence, in many periods and among many nations, been more popular, and was perpetually leading away a multitude of the philosophers from the preceding system. According to this hypothesis, the universe is an emanation or extension of the essence of the Creator. Now, under this belief, however modified, the Creator himself is rendered material; or, in other words, matter itself, or the visible substance of the world, is rendered the Creator; and we merely shift the burden, without getting rid of it. There can be no difficulty in tracing this doctrine to its source. It runs, as I have already observed, through the whole texture of that species of materialism which constitutes the two grand religions of the East-Brahmism and Buddhism; and was undoubtedly conveyed by Pythagoras, and, perhaps, antecedently, by Orpheus, (if such an individual ever existed, which Cicero✶ seems to have disbelieved, from a passage of Aristotle, not to be found, however, in any of his