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Supreme Being - is not God. But as we believe He is Infinite in power and wisdom, we must also believe that if he pleases He can, at any time and to any person, make a Revelation.
The possibility being admitted, the probability next claims consideration. It is natural for a good father to speak to his children often, kindly and helpfully; and no good father having the opportunity ever neglects to do so. God is good unto all, - is love, is our Father. It is kind to instruct the ignorant, to warn those in danger, and to comfort the afflicted ; and from time immemorial man has been ignorant, in danger and afflicted in many ways. Love ever desires to manifest itself to the object beloved. God is love, and therefore He must love His own offspring; and loving them, a manifestation a Revelation of himself to them, seems inevitable and certain, if, and so far as, such a Revelation is needed by man. We may not know exactly what our forefathers in ancient times needed to be taught from above, but we can easily call to mind many things they did not need to have revealed to them.
1. They did not need to be tauglit language. It is probable that in the infancy of our race, man did not use or know any words: He was as dumb as an animal. But he had reason, and an ever increasing fund of objective ideas that he desired to express; and their expression was essential to his mental growth and progress. He was not doomed to isolation. Instinctively his vivacious eyes expressed his feelings and wishes, and by looks and signs he began to commune with his fellows. Soon his wonderful organs of speech broke: the silence ; his spontaneous ejaculations of joy, fear, pain, were readily understood. His tongue was loosed, modulation of tones set in, and various animals were named, just as our children name the cow, sheep, dog and cat, by the utterance of sounds resembling the noises made by the animals themselves. After a time, by accident or otherwise, arbitrary sounds were employed to designate plants, actions and inanimate things. Thus a language was formed that ulti
mately developed a copiousness and perspicuity sufficient to satisfy the needs of poets, philosophers and religious teach
No superhuman aid was needed, and, of course, none was given. Books are the result of a similar, natural developement. Man first made pictures; then, idea hieroglyphics; then, plionetic pictures. Gradually these pictures shriveled into the letters of an alphabet, and writing began. Eventually types displaced the copying pen, and books were rapidly multiplied. Thus those mighty, onward and upward strides of the human race speaking, writing, printing – were not caused by a Divine Revelation. Instead, they are the natural results of the original abilities and tendencies vested in man.
2. Agriculture, the industry absolutely essential to human welfare, was not a Revelation but a discovery. Primitive man saw that corn grew from a seed in the ground; and by observation and experiment, he ultimately learned that by pulverizing and enriching tie soil, and keeping down the weeds, the inarvest of food would be largely increased. It is a long way from the rude stick with which Cain tilled the soil, up to the complex machinery in use on a prairie farm ; .but unaided man has made the journey and achieved the triumph.
3. The use of fire to give light, to ward off cold, to cook food, to hollow the boat, to fashion the paddl), the club, the pestle, and in later times to turn the ponderous steam-engine, needed not to be taught by Revelation. The Prometheus that brought fire from heaven was electricity. From the tree ignited by lightning, or from the red hot lava ejected from a volcano, or by rubbing together two dry sticks of wood, man easily kindled his first fire; and what he thus could do, no doubt he did.
4. Art and science came not by Revelation, but by observation, study and experiment. From the first, man has needed raiment, home, toil, and a knowledge of the mechanical arts, to make his plıysical frame comfortable, and the sublime revealments of science to develop the mind; but he
was left by his Creator to discover, learn and invent as best he could. And nobly has he attended to these duties. No thinker, in our day, believes that God revealed to man the use of iron, or taught him how to make a compass, a telescope, a table of logarithms, a steam-engine or an electrical battery. All we know about the starry heavens, the so-called laws of nature, and the elements of matter, was made known to us by scientists — not by inspired teachers. The vast vol. ume of nature is ever wide open, and unaided man has the ability to read many of its sublime chapters. The Bible does not pretend to teach astronomy, geology or chemistry, r.or does it contain a single valuable hint on either of these sciences.
5. The idea of law and duty, of rewards and punishments, came not by Revelation. Among animals, might is right, and impulse and instinct, law ; but man is more than an animal. He is endowed with reason and a rudimentary conscience; and by these he casily perceives that some deeds are right, and others not right; and that it is for his good to do the right and not do the wrong. Even the Golden Rule was known by the Gentiles before the New Testament was written'; and the august court of justice has been in session ever since man began to sin. A perfect code of laws, by which all the fiery passions could be curbed, and all the conflicting claims of selfish man could be equitably adjusted, was not at first to be expected; but as defects and deficiences appeared in the first dim outline of law, culture guided by experience readily supplied the needed additions and amend. ments. Cain was not ignorant of the fact that “ assault and battery ” was a crime; but he did not know that the thread of life could be so easily broken. He struck the fatal blow; and in a moment his brother's blood cried out against him; a guilty, sickish feeling came over him, and he realized that murder is an atrocious crime. From that hour, “ Thou shalt not kill ” was recognized as a law for all. In a similar way, all laws existing in the nature of things liave been or may be discovered. The Decalogue was not the enactment of its laws, but simply a record of commands generally well known, written down as a Constitution for the Jewish nation. Before Moses was born, both Hebrews and Egyptians knew it was wrong to kill, steal, commit adultery, swear falsely; and even the perfect ethics embodied in the teaching of Jesus, is mainly the ripe fruitage and authoritative statement of maximns, and rules of conduct, that had long been familiar to many a heart.
As an Apostle said, — “ Those who have not the ( written) law, are a law unto themselves ;” and often the Master read and explained the commandments inscribed on the fleshly tablets” of human nature.
6. Even religion came not by Divine Revelation. In the early dawn of reason man perceived that himself and all things were wrought upon and influenced by mysterious and often mighty superhuman forces; that something or some being made the sun, moon and stars revolve, the winds blow, the clouds fly, the thunder roar, the lightning flash, the earth quake, and a thousand other changes take place; and he could not refrain from feeling if not fully believing, that the cause of these otherwise inexplicable acts, was an intelligent and mighty Actor - in other words, a God. He also noticed that these invisible agencies, beings or Gods, were apparently changeable ; sometimes friendly and sometimes hostile to man. Could their anger be averted and their favor secured ? Possibly; an experiment was worth trying. It was known that presents, praise and prayer could influence men, and they might influence the Gods. Immediately therefore, worship — solemn songs, ascriptions of praise, humble petitions and rich offerings—was introduced. It was further noticed that the performance of these rites was followed by prosperity, and thcir neglect by adversity, at least occasionally ; and the experiment was deemed a success. Religion is thus shown not to have been a Hebrew exotic; but a vine indigenous in every land and age. In Homer's time, religion was regarded as an ancient institution ; and hence the great Poet, both in the Iliad and Odyssey, represents the Greek and Trojan warriors not only as firm believers in the Gods, but also devout worshipers. Neither history nor tradition runneth back to a date when man was undevout. Before Moses, before Abraham, before Noah, there were “ preachers of righteousness,” and men who “ called on the name of the Lord.” In Greece, Egypt, Persia, India and China, in ancient time, sages talked wisely of the Gods, and priests taught religion and conducted the ceremonies of worship. Some theory of rewards and punishments was held by every nation, and a hazy idea of an existence after death in a shadowy sheol, or in an earthly transmigration of souls, haunted every mind. In no civilized or half-civilized land was atheism over general or popular.
All these — language, art, science, religion — are indige. nous in the human soul; and though plants of slow growth, they have from the first been approximating perfection. If a more rapid progress had been desirable, God could and would have inspired inventors, experimenters, discoverers to hasten the evolutions, but a gradual rise, “first the blade, then the ear, afterwards the full corn in the ear," seems to have been the Divine policy ever since the beginning. Many dark sinful centuries elapsed before Moses was born, or the the Bible written, or the Son of God sent to eartlı ; and all the long time, the race gained and grew. Perhaps it was best that by slow self culture a man should to some extent fit himself for the coming Kingdom of God. There must be a stock of some size before a scion can be engrafted.
But we are not obliged to suppose that man, during all these weary ages was left entirely to his own resources. On the contrary, God was always good unto all, and, without discrediting the Scriptures, we are at liberty to conjecture if not believe that thousands of prophets taught; that Heaven's light streamed into millions of minds; that Divine whispers were heard by many a Gentile sage, as by Balaam; and that thus all men were aided in their upward progress. The entire history of the world has not been written, and we are ignorant of many a great event that has probably occurred.