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remarks, that, “ of the innumerable theories that have been started upon this subject, the three following are those which are chiefly entitled to our attention, namely: life is the result of a general harmony, or consent of action between the different organs of which the vital frame consists ; second, life is a principle inherent in the blood; third, life is a gas or aura, communicated to the system from without. Each of these theories has to boast of a very high degree of antiquity, and each, after having had its day, has successfully yielded to its rivals, and in its turn has appeared under a different modification in some subsequent age, and run through a new stage of popularity.” Aristoxenius, one of the Grecian philosophers, and pupil of Xenophylus, and Erythraca of Lamptus, and Aristotle, conceived the principle of life resulting from “the system of harmony." His theory met with much favor both at Athens and at Rome. In the writings of Lactantius we find him thus speaking of it : “ As in musical instruments an accord and assent of sound, which musicians term harmony, is produced by the due tone of the strings, so in bodies, the faculty of perception proceeds from a connexion and vigour of the numbers of
of the frame."— Vol. 5, p. 140. Sir Humpbrey Davy supposed the principle of life, or life itself, to consist in a “perpetual series of corpuscular changes, and the substrata or living body as the being in which these changes take place.” Mr. John Hunter, the distinguished physiologist, regarded the blood itself as the principle of life, and treats the subject very ably in his work entitled, “ Hunter on the Blood.” Lavoisier sprang up with his brilliant powers of investigation, and pronounced oxygen to be the principle of life. Magendi, Dumas, Bichat, and Richerands, had all their peculiar theories, and their genius and ingenuity have given a probability at least to their various hypotheses. But no demonstrative proof has yet been given, capable of substantiating any theory ever yet advanced. When reduced to a tangible form, they really mean nothing ; we are as much in the dark as ever. Harmony may be the result of life, and the blood is necessary to its support, and oxygen for our existence; but they are not the principle of life itself. Harmony is there, the blood is there, the oxygen is there, and death ensuesand we have heretofore stood in the dark, with every theory crumbling into ashes. No theory is of real value unless it is susceptible of mathematical demonstration; and the author of the following, advances his only on the ground of his belief, that the proof of it exists in every thing that we behold in the material world. The
principle of life exists in the essential properties of matter, and it results from, or is caused by, the action of one thing upon another ; and why one thing, or substance, or element, acting upon another in a certain way, should produce life and sustain it, is no more a mystery, than why oxygen and hydrogen, in certain proportions, form water, or why anything is as it is. It is the result of properties of being sustaining in their movements their relations to each other, and no thing more. And the various theories that have been taught as to the principle of life, from Aristoxenius, who believed it proceeded from the system of harmony, down to the present day, must give way to the great fact, that the principle of life exists neither in the blood nor in the brain, nor in the nerves ; but that the substance of our being is depending upon the essential properties of the relationship of matter only, and which will be made self-evident from the following remarks, namely : We know that every elementary principle in the universe has an identity which distinguishes it from every thing else; we know that it has properties; we know that the principle of its being is action ; for the Deity reposes never ; neither do any of his works. We know that this disposition for every element to act, produces a combined action; we know that this combined action produces all that
exists. We know that certain elements and substances have an affinity for certain other elements and substances; that affinity, drawing these together, produce in their union new formations. And it is on this same great principle of action that life is produced and re-produced. We are composed of elements; these elements are in continual action from the instant we spring into being until we cease to be, when they start back to their original forms, and continue their action under some other manifestation. Not one instant do they repose ; and it is this great principle of action that is constantly producing and destroying. A certain action produces life-a certain action destroys it. Certain food which, of course, is composed of elements, supports life; certain minerals destroy it. Thus we come to see, that in the great progression of things, it is their essential properties of being to act upon one another, so as to produce and destroy—to form and re-form-to repeat again and again—to enter into combinations and separate—a continuous succession of changes. The production of to-day ceases to exist to-morrow; it has entered into something else. The vegetable has ceased to be a vegetable, and a part of its elements is flowing in our veins, It speedily will leave these and pass into new forms, and thus, throughout the whole universe of God, the order of its arrangement is motion, and from this inherent property of motion proceeds all that is. But this subject is susceptible of still further and more familiar proof. Take, for instance, a grain of corn placed in a vacuum; it would undergo no change whatever, because it cannot act upon itself. Place it, however, in the earth, and it at once undergoes a change. And what is this that we call a change ? Simply the action of one element upon another, and without such action no change would be produced whatever ; and herein is a familiar proof. This action is called life, and the change produces growth, and its cessation thus to act, death; and precisely so in relation to ourselves—our being is commenced, continued and ended, by the action of one thing upon another.
What is the great cause of the changes that are constantly taking place in all that exists? Why does not anything remain as it is? The flower that is so beautiful, so perfect in all its parts,—why does it not remain a flower ? The fruit so attractive to the eye—why does it decay? The young, the gay, the beautiful, why do they grow old? Why do the fairest things fade ?-why do the leaves fall in autumn ?-why do the winds blow? -why does the rain fall ?—why does any thing take place that does take place? It may be answered, they are the operations of nature. But this answer defines nothing. What is it? Where is the grand principle ? In what consists this ceaseless, eternal change? It is all brought about by the action of one element upon another, which action is the inherent principle of their being, (and here the reader must not take exception by endeavoring to separate this great action from its great author, but is requested to bear in mind what has previously been said on this subject.)* And if we reflect only for a few minuets, every object that we behold around us is indebted to this great law for its present form. There is nothing which has material being that is not composed of elements; and that which has caused these elements to act one upon another, so as to produce the given manifestation of any body, is their inherent principle of being. And although man has not heretofore understood the great cause of the existence of things, he has nevertheless acted upon it daily, and is a practical observer of the relationship of matter. For instance, the farmer sows his seed in the earth and enriches his soil, and waits for his crop, knowing he has acted in accordance with what he has always observed to produce crops heretofore; whereas, if he had laid his seed upon a rock, he would have had no hopes of a crop, because, the relationship of a seed to a
* Referring to a work now in the course of publication.
rock is such, that it would not cause it to produce. And he would have no hope, because he had not acted in accordance with the nature of the thing. That the principle of life exists in the essential properties of matter, can be as clearly demonstrated, as that the diameter of a circle is always equal to one-third its circumference, No matter under what form life is found, whether it be in a tree, flower, vegetable, animal, or in a man, it is indebted to the operations of this great law for its being; and the attention of even a common observer will have to be directed only to what is going on around him, to find the proof in every thing. It has heretofore been the case that we have been contented with observing the progress of things without seeking to penetrate into their causes. We know that if the seed were properly planted, it would ripen in time to grain or fruit; but of the causes of this process we know nothing, but in the operations of this law all is clearly and satisfactorily proven. Let us take three acorns, for instance; we lay one upon a rock, one is planted in the earth, and one is placed in a vacuum; trace now the result of each position. The one on the rock decomposesthe one in the vacuum remains the same—the one in the earth springs forth, and its sprout is seen struggling up through the ground. Now let us find the cause of the state of each. First, the one placed on the rock is decomposed; its relationship to matter has not been observed to make its germinating principle productive, notwithstanding it has not been permitted to retain its original form. No—it has been acted upon, and it has ceased to be. It was a spontaneous action, no extraneous or visible power was applied, and yet this change took place. Now, it is impossible for any change, however small, to take place in any particle of matter without a power; and wherein consists this power? Of necessity, it must be in the essential principle of matter, as it can be contained in nothing else; the proof of which is clearly found in the acorn which is placed in the vacuum ; this remains the same. Why? Because no element from without could come in contact with it, and therefore, no action could be produced. The one in the earth has passed through a different process from either, because the relationship to matter has been observed in the earth, and elements acted upon it so as to produce a sprout, the tree. The product is nothing more than the action of one element upon another. The acorn itself is composed of elements; the earth in which it is planted is composed of elements; the air up to which the sprout shoots is composed of elements; the heat of the sun, or caloric, is an element; the rain that waters it is coinposed of elements; and all these elements, acting upon each other, produce what is called life and growth, and the tree is the product of their combined action. And the same process of reasoning applies to whatever has life. The animal masticates the vegetable, which is composed of elements; it passes into the stomach. When the juices, which are composed of elements, act upon it, the nutritious part is conveyed to the blood, and the blood forms the solids of the system, perfectly simple and perfectly plain ; one element acting on another throughout, and in sustaining their relationship to each other, life is produced and continued. And it is impossible to find anything in the universe that lives, whose being is not begun and continued in this way. The action of one element upon another, is not only the cause of all that exists, but by it alone we are enabled to perform the simplest act. We are constantly talking of the power of steam, of electricity, of the mighty ocean, of the rushing wind. Calculations are made as to the horse-power, from the mighty Niagara to the little stream. Now, all power is obtained by opposing forces, and opposing forces are nothing but the essential principle of the being of matter, of elementary principles to act upon each other ; instance in detail the above. Steam is nothing more
than oxygen and hydrogen acted upon by caloric, and its expansive force is restrained by a pressure from without. We call it a steam-boiler, but the iron of it has been analyzed. It is composed of elernents, and the nature of its elements is such, in their present combination, as to enable them to withstand the power exerted against them by the elements, of what we call steam. Here, then, are two powers resisting each other ; the one the expansive power of steam, the other the cohesive power of iron. The power will continue to increase until the greater overcomes the weaker ; for this belongs also to the essential properties of matter, that the lesser force must always give way to the greater. But man does not carry things to this extent; for it is not his object, in constructing a steam-engine and boiler, and building his fire, merely to blow it up, as it is called; he has invented dipes, and tubes, and cylinders, by which means the action of these elements is brought to bear upon each other, and from this he obtains motion or power. The power of electricity is gained in the same way, by opposing forces. When it has no opposing forces it remains insensible; oppose it, and the sublime artillery of heaven is its voice, the sundered rock its victim, and the splintered oak its prey. It plays upon the world from the clouds on high, and the startled earth trembles beneath its power. The power of the ocean is derived from the winds, which disturb its equilibrium, and the law of gravitation which draws it back ; these forces contending, produce the mighty conflict which the mariner beholds with fear and trembling. The law of gravitation causes the water to descend with force; and a weaker force opposing it gives way, or is put in motion, as the water-wheel, for instance. It is not necessary to extend these remarks, as the information of every one upon these subjects is sufficient to enable them to make a further application. The rushing wind, or rather air, derives its force from the law of gravitation-heat and its nature, to maintain its equilibrium. Heat being much greater in some places than in others, causes the air to become rarefied or lighter, or more correctly speaking, enables it to overcome, to a greater degree, the force of the law of gravitation, and rise from the earth; the cool air from a distance commences moving forward to fill up the vacuum caused by the warm air ascending, and thus its motion or power is produced. Similar observations might be extended through volumes, but these are quite sufficient to show that all force or power is caused by opposing force or power; and the proof of this fact proves, also, that this universal opposing force so found, exists in the essential principles of matter to act upon each other, and this being proved, it is self-evident that all that exists is the product of the working of this great law; and unless we are willing to deny that we are matter, and not composed of elements, and not only to deny it but prove it, we must inevitably come under the operation of those laws which govern material beings. And to undertake to say we do not, when the testimony of every science proves that we do, would be merely an assertion of no weight; and to argue from the imagination rather than from the facts of the case, is as useless as it is unwise. The difficulty with us all is, we give ourselves up entirely too much to our imagination, and we have fixed the existence of a certain state of things that have no existence at all, and we take it for granted that we know all about things, of which in reality we know nothing; and notwithstanding it is one of the most pleasing traits bestowed upon us, yet it is one of the most dangerous, if not under proper control, for its tendency ever is to lead us into error ; every one having pictures in their minds, which, if they should take the trouble to investigate and reduce to a tangible form, would find they could actually have no reality; but from their being permitted to dwell there from year to year, they have taken a strong hold, and have become to be believed in as realities. I
will not stop to define what these pictures are, as they will be treated of in another place. I wish particularly here to request the reader to give himself up to the facts that have been set forth, and to free himself if possible from previously-conceived opinions and prejudices.* This work must be read as a whole, and what has been already stated in relation to the power and omnipotence of the Creator, borne constantly in mind; for the object of its author is to show our true relationship to him, and to explain our existence here, so that we may be enabled better to discharge the solemn duties incumbent upon us, and not, as some might at first think, to show that either we or his works exist in a kind of independence of him ; for any such attempt would be no less impossible than censurable; and we might just as well regard our limbs as some other person's limbs, or an enemy's, for instance, as to regard the works of the Almighty in any way separate from him; and, in proving that we exist from the essential principles of matter, sustaining in their movements their relationship to each other, it is only to be borne in mind, that not only the essential principles of matter, but matter itself, came fresh from the hands of the Infinite, and that all its combinations and formations are the result of his pleasure, which we always find to exist under certain laws, which were assigned when bes ing was given. I say it is only necessary to bear this in mind, in order to satisfy the most pious and conscientious Christian.
It has too long been the habit with us to endeavor to involve everything in mystery and surround it with impenetrability, as far as it relates to our material being here, and even our existence hereafter, rather than by a proper spirit of investigation to find out the real truth of the matter. No matter where error is found, it is dangerous, and the man who propagates it, is an enemy to his race. These remarks, then, serve to prove, without any detriment to revelation, first, that we exist precisely the same as everything we behold exists, namely, by the essential properties of matter, sustaining in their movements their relationship to each other ; that our life is commenced and continued by the operations of this great law; that there are two direct and opposing forces within us, which keep up the action, (on the same principle as has been previously explained, and in relation to force, page 69 ;) that these forces are, first, one exerting itself to preserve us in our present form of being, the other to change us into another form of be ing. The conflict is the action, which is life; and in compliance with the laws of nature, that a greater force always overcomes a lesser, we do what we call live or die. Whenever the elements acting upon each other, which cause life, are overcome by the opposing force of these elements, acting so as to free themselves from their present form of being, which we call death, then we die, when all action ceases in one sense, so far as new supplies go, and the counter-actions sweep our remains back to their elementary principles, the cause of which is, there has ceased to be an opposing force. Death, then, is brought about by the operation of the same great law as life, viz. : by the action of one element upon another in an opposite direction; and is nothing more than one force overcoming another, on the same principle that a projectile force is overcome by the laws of gravitation and resistance; or else a ball put once in motion would fly on forever. So with ourselves if there was no counteracting force, we would live on as we now are, forever. The medical profession will at once see that it is on the same principle of opposing force to force, that daily governs them in the treatment of all diseases. The equilibrium of the systein is disturbed, which superinduces some manifestation of disease; to counteract the force which has thrown it from its equilibrium, they make use of force under the form of a medicinal agent; the greater overcomes the weaker, and their patient is restored
* Referring to the work already spoken of.