Page images
PDF
EPUB

that there is an exclusiveness in the demands of science in this connection, which it must be compelled to abandon. It acknowledges but one source of knowledge, the senses : but one method of knowledge, induction : and but one sphere of knowledge, material phenomena. It must remain infidel, and even atheistic, till it is driven from this exclusive position.

Christianity, more comprehensive, recognizes both reason and faith' as sources of knowledge, as deep in the constitution of man as the senses themselves; it presses its weight on every law of belief; the very act of believing it, gives development and scope to every power, and calls into action every hidden law of the intellect. There is no controversy

1 The tendency to believe testimony is as constitutional as the tendency to believe the senses; and it does not oftener lead to crror.

Man's normal state is holiness, and in that state he is surrounded only by holy beings. He is made, therefore, to believe implicitly. It is only the knowledge of evil that teaches man to disbelieve. Hence the credulity of children. It is the spontaneous action of a law of belief belonging to man's normal state. “Heaven lies about us in our infancy."

God, in forming man's constitution, formed him to believe in testimony as really as in the senses; and so prepared him to be the recipient of revelation, Walking by faith has its foundation in the human constitution as really as walking by sight.

Belief in testimony, or the confidence of men in one another, is the bond of society, without which the social state would be impossible.

God, in communicating his revelation through testimony, seems to throw himself on the confidence of his creatures. He seems to say: "Behold, ye are in a world of falsehood and tempted to have no faith in man. You were made for a world of truth, where every word is worthy of belief. Your very constitution adapts you to a world of universal faith. Behold, I send you messengers of the unerring truth of the world from which you are fallen. Believe their testimony. From the suspicion and scepticism engendered by your knowledge of evil, turn to the truth which you were made to believe." Thus God casts himself on the confidence of his creatures, to win them to believe and trust him; and in so doing he draws out and strengthens that confidence which is one of the noblest elements of man's normal state, and which even here is the bond of society. Infi delity, on the contrary, says to men: “Behold, you are in a world of lies; for this you were made; there is nothing in your constitution that prompts you to trust others; you are made only for falsehood and unbelief.” And so it crushes that confidence which is necessary to elevate man to his normal state, and even to make society tolerable here.

The fact that all the constitutional laws of belief do continually lead men to error is a proof that man is fallen from his normal state.

here, between reason and faith; they act in alliance to vindicate their own authority and existence against a destructive science which discards both.

Equally exclusive is science in its teachings respecting the method and sphere of knowledge. Inductive science is incapable of making known the existence of any substance, whether the inquirer's own existence or that of the external world; it cannot verify any source of knowledge or law of belief; it cannot show why even the senses are to be trusted, or the uniformity of nature believed. It takes no cognizance of either efficient or final causes. Bacon rejected the latter from science, as being like vestal virgins, sacred to religion, and therefore barren. Comte, carrying out the system more consistently, excludes efficient causes also from the sphere of knowledge, and thus denies that we can have any knowledge, not merely of a personal God, not merely of an impersonal first cause, but of efficiency or power itself. The boasted inductive method, -philosophy it may not be called, since it makes philosophy impossible, - whenever logically and exclusively carried out, is destructive, not of revelation merely, nor even of philosophy, but of belief itself. The argument of Hume respecting miracles, is a legitimate inference, proving the impossibility of supernatural revelation; the misnamed Positive Philosophy of Comte, is its fair and legitimate statement, proving the impossibility of philosophy; and universal scepticism is its legitimate and ultimately necessary result.

Here is no conflict of philosophy and revelation ; they act in alliance, to vindicate their own existence and the possibility of knowledge against a destructive science, fatal alike to both. On this point, the demands of science are not to be satisfied, but silenced; science must remain sceptical till it will confess and abandon its own bigoted exclusiveness.

When this is done, and it has thus become possible to believe in a God and to admit the idea of a revelation as a possibility; when the sources of knowledge, the laws of belief, and the methods of investigation which philosophy and revelation alike vindicate, are recognized, and the mind begins to exVOL. XIII. No. 50.

24

patiate in the comprehensive sphere of knowledge thus opened, then returns the demand for the unity of one all-embracing law. The mind, adopting the method of induction, to which it always spontaneously resorts in dealing with facts — and before the days of Bacon, not less than since-attempts to classify the grand facts made known through the senses, the reason, and faith, and to reduce them all to general laws. It demands that the particular facts disclosed by revelation shall harmonize, in detail, with the teachings of science and philosophy. It demands, also, that science, philosophy, and revelation shall not be merely three isolated spheres of knowledge, each having a unity of its own, but that they shall be parts of one system, the unity of which the mind discerns; and that, through all the facts of science, the intuitions of reason, and the deductions of philosophy, and through all the inward experience of the divine power in the heart, and all its outward revelations of the world unseen, be discerned the unity of one all-pervading law, and the harmony of one all-embracing plan. Here reason and philosophy are found allied with science, and insisting that, till Christianity proves itself able to satisfy these demands, it shall not be accepted as divine. This, I am to show, that it is able to do.

In the first place, Christianity discloses the true comprehensiveness of that order or course of things, in which the unity of the universe is found.

The error of Naturalism lies in taking the course of nature as the only course or order of events in the development of universal being, and the law of nature as the one all-comprehending law. Therefore it strives to find a place for Christianity in the course and law of nature; and failing, rejects it as having no right to be. But this is an attempt to incorporate the whole into one of its own parts. The truth is, that the course of nature is but one course or order of the Divine manifestation; the natural is but one part of that universal Divine action which, when exerted beyond the course of nature, we call supernatural, and which at once encompasses and permeates the natural, as the ocean encompasses and permeates its own currents. Thus Christianity is not to be taken up into the course of nature, but

the course of nature itself is to be taken up into that universal course of the Divine procedure which Christianity reveals. Miracles and direct interpositions of God's Spirit, though they transcend the course of nature, are only the penetration of it by a broader law, in which itself is comprehended. The course of nature is, as I just now intimated, like a current in the ocean. It has its own limits, course, and law; but is also subject to the law of the ocean in which it moves, and a part of which it is ; it heaves with the ocean's billows; the swell of distant storms, unseen in all the course of the current, sweeps across it, and the ocean-tides, raised by heavenly attraction, exhibit its phenomena, inexplicable to one who knows only the course of the current, but themselves the natural course of the ocean in which it moves. So the course of nature, which science reveals, is but a cur. rent in the ocean of God's universal action; if miracles sweep across it, and tides of heavenly influence swell within it, though transcending its law and unaccountable to one who looks only at its course, yet are they but the

result of a broader law and the course of an all-comprehending action, sweeping across the stream of time, and to higher intelligences manifesting, and not interrupting, the law which is the harmony of the universe.

Therefore, while science reveals the course of nature, Christianity reveals the acts of God and the law of his action in that unseen infinitude in which, as in an ocean, the course of nature winds its way; it shows how these divine acts from the unseen sweep through the course of nature, and reveals what are its position in, and its relations to, God's universal manifestation of himself in action.1

1 It is remarkable that, however incredible the Scriptural miracles would seem in any other book, we are never conscious of surprise, never regard them as incredible, incongruous or unexpected, when we read of them in the Bible. The central thought that this is the record of God's feelings and acts in saving men, is so vast, the truths opened to us are so stupendous, the scenes disclosed so sublime, every step in the progressing story is so manifestly the step of the Almighty, that these great miracles harmonize with the grandeur of the whole revelation ; they seem to uz no more surprising or incredible, than the rainbow with which God adorns the retiring storm or the stars with which he nightly gems the sky.

As Christianity reveals the comprehensiveness of the law or course of things, so also it recognizes those elements essential to the very idea of a plan, efficient and final causes. Physical science, discarding these, is incapable of grasping the idea of a universal plan. It discloses only a causeless and aimless succession of phenomena, connected only by juxtaposition and uniformity of sequence. So far as it teaches us, the earth, rolled aimless and unguided through space, is but as a wreck, helpless on the heaving ocean, to whose sides its wretched inhabitants cling for a season in dismal expectation, and over which the surging days break unceasing, like blind billows, each sweeping off its thousands, to sink forever in the fathomless abyss. Philosophy, seeking the cause and purpose of things, grasps the idea of a plan, but is incapable of disclosing what the plan is. Christianity recognizes all the elements of a universal system; it reveals its source in the personal God; the deepest law of its administration or evolution in the divine love, and its final purpose in God's glory, or the ever developing expression of what God is.

It is this broad plan which is recognized in the great Cal. vinistic, the Augustinian, the Pauline doctrine of the eternal purpose of God, foreordaining “whatsoever cometh to pass.” This doctrine itself is objected to as destructive of the very idea of a course or law of nature, and as resolving all events into the isolated results of arbitrary and ictic volitions. But it does express the very law which is the unity of the universe. It teaches that every purpose of God's will is the expression of God's eternal character; that every purpose of his will expresses the eternal bent or intention of the mind of God, concentrates in itself the energies and affections which glow eternal in the Godhead, and impel him to action. It teaches, therefore, that all which he does is the expression of his eternal and holy nature intelligently evolving itself in action; and that all his works, the least as well as the greatest, come out of the inmost mind and heart of the Eternal. As in the finger's end are felt the pulsations of the heart, so in the remotest act of God, pulsate the eter

« PreviousContinue »