Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

blights. Falsehood kills, like frost, every precious thing it touches. The channels of error can bear no refreshing streams for virtue, order, or happiness. But truth is light, sunshine, and blessed power to the world. It is health and vigor to the mind. It is elevation and progress to society and every human interest. Belief in the existence and government of a Supreme Being has this clear seal of utility. The ideas of God, responsibility, divine favor, and divine displeasure, have been potent for justice, veracity, honesty, temperance, purity, and order. They have tended to repress wrong. They have given nerve to moral character-in individuals and communities. Long before the days of Plutarch, who wrote: “I am of opinion that a city might sooner be built without ground to fix it on than a commonwealth be constituted together without any religion or idea of the Gods, or, being constituted, be preserved,” 1 moralists had been feeling that neither personal life nor society could bear the loss of this faith.

The strength of this benign influence has always been in direct proportion to the clearness and fullness of the theistic belief. Prevailingly, indeed, the idea of the Supreme Being has been so overlaid by distorting polytheisms, and His relations to the world and man have been so shrouded in darkness and error as to turn the true fruit, in large measure, into false. Often the notion of God has been so dreadfully misconceived as to pervert religion into conflict with even morality and make it a wasting power. But this result attends the falsification of any great and potent truth. The blight becomes proportionate to the greatness of the truth perverted. But whenever the conception of God has been clear and well

1 "Moralia," V., p. 380.

developed, discerning Him as the self-existent Maker and Governor of the universe, infinite in wisdom, power, holiness, and goodness, this faith normally strengthens all the best forces of human life and purifies and elevates its joys. The best and loftiest ethical systems the world has ever known are found under the light of the clearest and most positive theism. Under this light the human mind shows its healthiest vigor, the conscience its clearest affirmations and most regal authority. Under it manhood grows to its noblest forms and shows its finest possibilities. Under it science and philosophy are achieving their grandest successes and nations are growing the freest and strongest. It is hardly a falsehood that is bearing these happy fruits, a thom that bears

these grapes.

4. Of real presumptive force, also, is the further consideration that all the facts and phenomena of the world are best accounted for under belief in God. No principle of scientific procedure is more fully recognized than that a theory is proved true by thoroughly explaining all the phenomena concerned. It is discredited when it fails to solve all the facts. If it accounts for all, or best accounts for them, it gains scientific authority. Thus a conjecture as to the sun's place in the solar system passed from a mere hypothesis to the rank of scientific truth in astronomy. So, too,' a supposition in Newton's mind has come to stand as the truth of the law of gravitation. As it explains all the phenomena, it is accepted as true, . despite the fact that gravitation itself is inscrutable.

Now the doctrine of God affords the most direct interpretation of all the phenomena of the known universe—and the only explanation of many of them. Not to speak of the strained methods and manifold

incredibilities which mark materialistic and atheistic science in its attempts to trace the self-evolution of matter and energy from chaos to the present world-order, with all its endlessly diversified structures, replete everywhere with myriad marks of mind and adaptation to the service of mankind, it is enough to remember that there are not a few of the most integral and essential facts of creation which have thus far utterly baffled all nontheistic solution and before which its science is confessedly helpless. Illustrations of this helplessness are found in the attempts to explain the transitional steps of nature's ascent at the origin of life, of consciousness, and selfdetermination. With its most searching light it has neither found nor shown, in the mere energies of nature, how the non-living could create life, how unconsciousness could generate consciousness, or how force, acting in necessity, could develop self-determination or the free-will of personality. This failure at these great points, at which the world-existence ascends to its highest and grandest realities, is frankly acknowledged by representative scientists. But we may fairly maintain that the direct solution which the doctrine of a selfexistent, ever-living, intelligent free Creator furnishes of these otherwise insoluble problems, is an almost decisive presumption in its favor. To use the words of an able thinker and writer : “It is not rash to say that it is beyond all comparison stronger as an hypothesis which accounts for all phenomena under it than any accepted

Du Bois-Raymond, in Leipzig Lecture on "The Limits of the Knowledge of Nature" ; Johannes Hanstein, in “Das Protoplasma als Träger der pflanzlichen und thierischen Lebenzösischen"; Count Saporta, in “ Die Planzenwelt vor dem Erscheinen des Menschen"; Lorenz Fischer, in “Ueber das Princip der Organization und die Pflanzenseele.

theory in the science of the physical universe in any department—that of heat, or light, of primal atoms, or of gravity itself.” I “The simplest conception which explains and connects the phenomena," writes Prof. Henry, of the Smithsonian Institution, “is that of the existence of one Spiritual Being, infinite in wisdom, power, in all divine perfections, which exists always and everywhere."

But the evidence for this great truth is not permitted to rest alone on these presumptions, strong and impressive as they are. There are various evidences that carry a positive demand, in the court of human reason, for recognition of the divine existence. They have taken four chief forms, characterized by distinctive features which come from the parts of nature used as sources of argument and from the logical methods employed. These stand simply for generic types of formal view of nature's witness with respect to the being of God. Sometimes the method is a priori, proceeding directly from the ideas which are held to be necessary in the mind's own insight and consciousness. Sometimes it is a posteriori, as necessary inference or logical conclusion from observed facts. Commonly the reasoning is found to unite the two methods. Sometimes the argument is based on the existence and phenomena of mind ; sometimes on the facts of order, adaptation in physical elements and structure in the natural world.

1. The COSMOLOGICAL, or more exactly, the ÆTIOLOGICAL ARGUMENT is, perhaps, logically the first. This reasons from the existence of the world as finite, originated, and dependent, to the existence of God, as the necessary unconditioned self-existent cause. It rests upon the rational law of causation—that everything that occurs must have an adequate cause.

1 Prof. H. N. Day, “Outlines of Ontological Science," p. 257.

(G

The law does not assert that being, or all-existence, must have a cause, but only that originated or begun existence must. That the world has had a beginning is indisputable, and science and philosophy are busy only with the question how it came to be. Scientific effort has been intently searching the earth's self-contained records, trying to read the history of its progress and discover how it has become what it is. In all its parts, and as a whole, nature is found finite and conditioned in its being and changes. In this search for the cause of it all, the inexorable demand of the law of causation can never be satisfied till a cause is reached that is not an effect, a first cause, a self-existent, absolute cause, one that is not dependent for its being upon anything else. The first cause cannot be in the world itself, in any phase or stage of its evolution. An "eternal series " of effects without a cause is as utterly unthinkable as a single effect or change without a cause. Hence the law of causality is satisfied only when the cause of the entire movement and product is reached. This “first cause, thus satisfying the whole world-series of events, being necessarily self-existent by the very fact of its being the first and source of all, must, therefore, be identical with God as the Creator of all. Thus, if self-existence, abso luteness, and creatorship are true elements of the divine idea, inexorable logic demands God as the cause of this finite, contingent, dependent universe.

This argument thus draws the line clearly and sharply between self-existent being and all originated and dependent being, and insists that the logic that ascends from the existence of the one to the existence of the other is legitimate and firmly valid. And modern thought

1 The criticism of Kant is the only one that has, to any considerable

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »