AGROPE FOR GOD

 

An attempt to form an estimate of our present position in the search after God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the

 

Rev. C. C. W. DUGGAN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 ”…….all tend upwardly though weak,

 Like plants in mines which never saw the Sun,

 But dream of him and guess where he may be,

 And do their best to climb and get to him.

“…….I press God’s lamp

Close to my breast; its splendour, soon or late,

 Will pierce the gloom; I shall emerge one day.”

                                                                        (Browning: Paracelsus).



 

CONTENTS.

       _____

 

Chapter 1.    Introduction                                                       Page 5

 

        2.   The A Priori or Metaphysical Standpoint              8

 

        3.   The Second or A Posteriori Argument                   12

 

        4.   Belief in Evolution                                                     17

 

        5.   The Immanence of God in Nature                            20

 

        6.   The Ascending Order of Creation an

                Evidence of God                                                         24

 

        7.   Poets and Prophets as Interpreters of

                Nature                                                                          26

 

        8.   The Retort of Poet and Prophet to Science           29

 

        9.   The Attributes of God                                               35

 

      10. The Providence of God and a Future Life                41

 

      11.   Miracle in the Old and New Testament

                considered in the Light of Modern

Thought                                                                      48

 

      12.   Evolution, Revelation and Man                               57

 



 

AGROPE FOR GOD

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1.

 

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

“That they should seek God, if haply they might feel after (‘grope for’ Moffat), Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.”—Acts xvii. 27.

 

“For in Him we live and move and have our being “—in Whom? In an unknown and unknowable Being Who placed men in this world as puppets are placed upon a stage to dance blindly to any tune that is played? Or in a beneficent and loving Creator Who made us in His own Image, Who created a world of beauty for our delight, Who bestowed free-will together with an inborn longing after righteousness, and Who looked upon His work and saw that it was good?

From earliest times, men have been perplexed and troubled by their instinctive desire to get into touch with the Author and Creator of the universe, and have striven vainly against the limitations and barriers that have shut Him away from them. No man has seen God at any time, but many have cried out, like the Psalmist, My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God,” (Ps. xlii. 2.) and have longed for the hampering garment of the flesh to be cast aside, so that in the freedom of the Spirit they might come before Him in Whom they did indeed “live and move and have their being.”

It is a truism to say that man was made by God and for God, and that nowhere save in the Divine Presence will the soul find its true fulfilment and satisfaction; but between the first glimmerings of ultimate truth and the full realisation of that truth lies a long experience of difficulty, enquiry, and hesitating advance. To some the journey may be illuminated by rays of inspiration, to others no such blessing is given, and from cradle to grave they tread the path in perplexity, groping after the God they instinctively desire Who seems ever to withhold Himself from them.

It is not easy to find God, even though, as St. Paul declares, “He is not far from each one of us.” ‘Men seek Him in various and diverse ways, and often when the light glows strongest and men feel themselves to be on the verge of a glimpse of the Divine Being face to face, the reality eludes them, and they slip back again into perplexing darkness. Is it possible, we ask ourselves, for mankind ever to emerge from the obscurity that has so long clouded life’s pathway into the full light of the knowledge of God? Will there ever be a time when God will again walk upon the earth, as He did in the Garden of Eden, and hold converse with His creatures in the cool of the day? Or do we grope after a Being ever elusive Whose aspect changes according to the light that is flashed upon It? It may be that men are looking in the wrong direction—that they have not yet found that straight and narrow path that leads to the Kingdom of God. Who can tell? And is it not possible that after so many centuries of this blind groping in the dark, the soul of humanity is growing weary of the search, weary of the constant frustration and hindrance, weary of the stony road and the restless effort, and is sinking back into indifference about the spiritual urge that impels from within?

It must be admitted that there are many people in all Christian lands who give less thought to the claims of their Divine Creator and Preserver than they give to the most trifling matters of everyday life. If they were asked they would acknow­ledge, more or less grudgingly, that God made the world and was, incidentally, responsible for their own existence, but the admission appears to have no vital meaning for them. They feel no sense of allegiance, or of gratitude, or of responsibility towards the Omnipotent Being Who has given them life and breath. “If God wants me, why does He not reveal Himself to me?” they exclaim; “How can men worship a Being whom they do not know and cannot even understand?  So, like the Athenians, they make a mock of spiritual matters, and put off the acceptance of the means of salvation until a more convenient time.

But in spite of such mistaken and misguided attitudes it is true to-day, as in every other age, that the search for God is going on both in the individual and in the collective soul of men and women. Existence apart from God is not life, but death, and as long as there is any sort of spiritual activity and progress in the world, so long will the quest go on, and the realisation of Divine Truth be the only thing worth seeking.

It is the purpose of these pages to consider the trend of our present-day knowledge of God and endeavour to form an estimate of how far we have progressed (if we can be said to have progressed at all!) along the path that leads to the Light Eternal. That God exists, we know. Though science and reason may seem to some to say otherwise, yet the opening words of the Bible, “In the beginning, God” still comprise for most of us all we need to know of the origin of matter. “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world,” is what most of us feel about the ultimate realities, the ultimate triumph of right over wrong, of good over evil.

It is not the end of the journey, the goal towards which we are striving, that puzzles us, but the journey itself, the crossing of the wilderness through which we all have to pass in our progress towards the City of God. Where so many who have gone before us have slipped or have fallen or have lost their way amidst the labyrinth of paths that cross and recross each other, how can we hope to steer a better course and to find ourselves at last in the presence of the God Whom we seek?


 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2.

 

 

THE A PRIORI OR METAPHYSICAL STANDPOINT.

 

Let us, first of all, consider the existence of God as the First Cause from the A-priori or metaphysical standpoint. This is a difficult view to understand. The theories of Darwin, and of scientific men like Herschel, Maxwell, and Stokes do not carry us very far, although the combined results of their investigations tend to show that the existence of a First Cause is possible, and indeed probable. They do not say that there is no God, but they do assert that we cannot know for certain whether there is or is not a God.

A—priori reasoning rests on general notions or ideas and is independent of experience. We may summarise the position thus—To begin with, there is an intuitive conviction of the existence of God in the human mind. It seems impossible for us to ‘think of ourselves or of the world without thinking also of an absolute and infinite Being. Though we are surrounded by the visible and the finite, we cannot prevent our thoughts from travelling beyond the visible and finite towards a supreme invisible, infinite Being. Whether we like it or not, we are practically compelled to think of God. We might indeed say that it is as necessary for us to be conscious of a supreme Being in our mind as it is for us to be conscious of the world or of self.

Seeing that the thought of the existence of God is an inherent necessity for us, we are led to conceive Him as having an actual existence apart from ourselves. It seems inevitable that we should think of Him thus, for as He is the Being than whom nothing greater can be conceived, is it possible that He should exist only in the intellect? We might conceive of Him as exist­ing at one and the same time in the intellect and in reality. And so to think of God as existing in the intellect and in reality would seem to be, a priori, a necessary component of our mental life.

An enquiry into what constitutes the reality of the external world compels us to postulate an infinite and eternal Mind; and the creation of conscious beings possessing a soul or spirit seems to them, to indicate the existence of God as pure Spirit.

Let us digress for a moment in order to consider the matter from another angle. Addison once said that the devout man does not only believe, but feels that there is a Deity. He has actual experience of Him in every-day life, so that his reason supports his belief; his fellowship with his God grows as he communes with Him, and even in this life he feels a convincing certainty of his Creator’s existence. Indeed the general consent of mankind to a fundamental belief in a Deity must be due to one of three reasons :—( 1) Either the idea of God is innate and co-existent with the human mind itself; or (2) It is so obvious a truth that no thinking man could fail to find it; or (3) It is an age-long tradition delivered down through all history from the first man.

The first of these three reasons finds support from a study of Comparative Religion, from which we learn that every nation on the face of the earth has been driven not only to conceive of the existence of God in some form or other, but also to endow Him with certain attributes and to form certain beliefs with regard to Him. The persistent similarity of these religious beliefs suggests that there has always been the conviction, so constant as to look like a primal instinct, that it is “out of the life of God that man in his deepest and most real self has come.” Mr. Clifford Howard discussing this subject in “Sex and Religion,” (see especially Chap. 3. on “Religious Backgrounds “) declares that “We cannot but believe that the faiths of mankind have all sprung from the same emotions, the same instincts, the same aspirations,” and, we remark, therefore point to the exist­ence of some answering objective reality.

When we turn to nature and begin to think about this world in which we live, we realise that the forces which we see at work do not provide adequate cause for the great series of stupendous and complicated motions which the universe exhibits. We are driven to the necessity of postulating a creative and sustaining Force, greater than any single force, greater than the sum total of forces, which created the universe and set it in motion. We must seek “One supreme Force above and beyond all finite things, forces, and causes.” That Force is what men have called God, the First Cause, from whom pro­ceeded that impulse which caused all the activity of life.

Again, organic life must have had a beginning on earth. But we believe that the physical conditions of this earth at one time were such that no living thing could exist upon it. How, then, came the first speck of protoplasm into the world? “Life from life” is the universal law as we know it. There must have been a first life; and it is no explanation of the origin of life to suggest, as has been done, that life was transferred to this planet from another, for such a reply only diverts the problem to another planet. But can we believe that all life originated in an inanimate force? Are we not compelled to believe that God is a Living Force? And again, when we search the universe for the origin of motion, we find it in one thing, and one thing only. Inanimate things move when they are moved. We move our­selves when we will to move. Will is the only origin of motion of which we have direct experience. Therefore we assume that God, the Living Force, the Universal Mover, has will.

Nor can we resist making the further supposition that the Power which directs nature has not only intelligence but a benevolent intelligence? And having admitted so much, is there any reason why we should not go a step farther and give our assent to the first article of the Christian Creed—” I believe in One God . . . . Maker of heaven and earth.”—in other words, an Intelligent Will first creating the universe, then setting it in motion, and finally originating life itself—in short a Personal God?

The following passage from an Essay on “Atheism Among the People” (pp. 9—14), by Alphonse de Lamartine, is worth quoting in full:- My belief in God is not that vague, confused, indefinite, cloudy sentiment which leads a man to suppose the existence of a principle where he sees a consequence, a cause where he contemplates effect, a source where he beholds an inex­haustible stream of life, of forms, of substance, flowing down into the incessantly-absorbed, incessantly-renewed ocean of the creation. Such a belief in God is, so to speak, nothing more than a mechanical sensation of the internal eye, a species of forced and brutal instinct of the intellect, an evidence unreason­ing, unperfectionated, not meritorious, not religious, similar to the material evidence of light which enters into our eyes when we open them in the day time, to the evidence of sound which we receive when we listen to a noise, to the evidence of feeling which is afforded us when we plunge into the waves of the sea. This elementary, coarse, instinctive, involuntary, belief in God, is far from being the intelligent, living, active, and legislative faith of humanity. It is almost animal. I am persuaded that if the brutes themselves, the dog, the horse, the elephant, the birds could speak, they would confess that there is at the bottom of their nature, of their instincts, of their sensations, of their obtuse and imperfectly organised intelligence, a dark and secret feeling of the existence of a superior and primordial Being from whom all emanates, and to whom all returns; that they have a shadowy outline of the divinity imprinted on their being, a distinct presenti­ment of that idea which fills the worlds, and for which alone the worlds were made—the idea of God.

“Although this is a bold, it is not an impious supposition; for as God has made nothing for Himself, He must have placed in all that He has made an imprint of Himself—more or less clear, more or less luminous, more or less profound—a presenti­ment or a recollection of the Creator.

But faith, when it stops here, is not worthy of the name. It is a species of pantheism; that is, a confused visibility—a brutal indivisible incorporation of something impersonal, blind, fatal, and divine, which is called God, in the elements which compose the universe—but which is a visibility without any moral con­clusion as regards man, and without any adoration of God. The pantheism of which I am accused as a philosopher and a poet— the pantheism which I have always despised as an inconsequence and a blasphemy—is exactly similar to the reasoning of the man who would say, I behold an innumerable multitude of rays, which emanate from no sun whatever!

“Faith, or a reasonable and efficacious belief in God, pro­ceeds, doubtless, from this primary instinct; but in proportion as the intellect is developed and the human thought reflects, it goes from knowledge to knowledge—from conclusion to con­clusion—and from light to light—from sentiment to sentiment— infinitely farther and higher into the idea of God. It does not see Him with the eyes of the body, because the infinite is not visible by means of a small fleshy window, formed in the frontal bone of an insect called man; but it sees Him with a thousand times more certainty by means of the mind, that immaterial eye of the soul, which nothing blinds; and, after having seen Him, with evidence, upon the divine objects of His creations, on the terrestrial and eternal destinies of His creatures, on the nature of the homage and adoration which God expects from them, on the moral laws, on the public and private duties which He imposes on His creatures by their conscience, on the liberty which He leaves them, in order to give them, together with the suffer­ings of conflict, the merits and the rewards of virtue, behold instinct becomes faith in God in the soul of man! Man may then utter the sublimest words ever spoken upon earth or in the stars—the words which, of themselves, fill the universe, which began at its creation and will occupy eternity, ‘ I believe in God.’”


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 3.

 

TUE SECOND OR A P05TERI0RI ARGUMENT.

 

Dr. Brewster’s definition of the A Posteriori Argument is simple and complete: “Proving the cause from the effect. Thus if we see a watch we conclude there was a watch-maker. Robinson Crusoe inferred there was another human being on the island, because he saw human footprints in the wet sand. It is thus we infer the existence and character of a deity from his works.”

The A Posteriori method is at once more satisfactory and more provocative to the alert mind than the A Priori method, in that it shows the existence of a designer from the existence of the design and challenges the human powers of analysis, of reason and of judgment in a constantly changing manner.

An A Priori argument is as true in one generation as in another. A proposition of Euclid or the Binomial Theorem is independent of human history and psychological outlook. And though by a supreme effort of imagination some philosopher may be able to imagine a condition in which two and two cease to be four, his surmise is too subtle for most of his fellow men and can be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Broadly speaking, the A Priori conclusion is established from the moment we have accepted the premises. But when we begin to reason along the A Posteriori line, we realise that the difficulties are increased. Certain, factors affect our consideration, which, from their variety and newness tend to make the statements that satisfied one generation somewhat inadequate in another.

There are many reasons for this need of a continual readjust­ment of an A Posteriori argument, and some of these should be briefly noted.

 

1.    Psychological and temperamental changes.

2.    Changes in the generally accepted premises on which an argument is built up; and

3.        Growing suspicion as to the capacity of the human mind to deal with evidence.

 

Psychological and Temperamental Changes.

As regards the first of these, it may be sufficient to point out that even in the most ordinary conversation we speak of different kinds of ages or periods. For example; (1) we speak of the Victorian Era as “a materialistic age” in which the five (or six as our physiologists say now) senses of man were the supreme judges of truth and scientists became more dogmatic than theologians; (2) we speak of the pre-war period as “the age of the query mark” a time in which even science became doubtful of its own generalisations, and the most approved principles and tenets were discounted with a gentle wonder. If we simply name Huxley as one of the prophets of the first period and H. G. Wells as a prophet of the second, we realise the change that has come over the minds of that particular class of people to whom an A Posteriori argument has an appeal. Any public speaker who can “ feel” the character of his audience can realise in a moment that the logic which would satisfy a Huxley audience would fall very flat indeed in an H. G. Wells audience.

And this is precisely the difficulty of the moment. We may perhaps best illustrate it by taking that wonderful piece of reasoning which Paley built up around the discovery of a watch. A man finds a watch, learns its purpose, and at once realises that no such entity could spring into existence unless a mind had planned it and instructed fingers had brought the parts together so that they should function in the desired manner. Paley reasons that just as the design of the watch would be clear evidence of the existence of a designer, so the countless evi­dences of nature and existent life around us point to the existence of the Master mind that has planned their being.

Such an argument presented to a materialistic audience, is well-nigh unanswerable. We are not surprised to know that this simple but powerful plea swept away the doubts of thousands of persons, when it was used by preacher and debater during the Victorian Era of cold logic and “four-square” thinking. Nor, in a certain sense is the argument less true or less convincing to-day; but, as will be shown later, its mere recital among an audience that has been born and reared in an atmosphere of notes of interrogation, is more likely to stir a thousand hesit­ations and questions, than to satisfy the problems of the listeners.

 

Changes in Accepted Premises.

The second change which must be recognised, is that the premises of argument which satisfied a previous generation will not necessarily satisfy our own. This is true of every age but especially of one like ours which has widened its bases of enquiry in many ways and developed much impatience of accepted authority. The consequence is that very much more time and thought have to be devoted to the discovery of the common grounds upon which a case may be built up. As discussion is impossible between debaters until they have found the basis on which they agree, so the conclusion of an A Posteriori argument is futile unless it is established upon the tenets, principles and data that will be accepted by those whom we desire to convince.

And here we are met with the difficulty that the foundations of debate are by no means as standard and fixed as once they were. In fact the foundations are so fluid that they may almost be said not to exist at all, the points of agreement between conflict­ing schools of thought being so hard to find. To illustrate this point let us consider the views which are still held by the evan­gelical school of thought. It is necessary to set these views out fully and fairly because they are still firmly and tenaciously held by very large numbers of people and by several sections of the Christian Church.

 

The Evangelical Position.

It has been said that our earliest and simplest conceptions of God are probably the truest. What does this mean? It means that the conception of God that comes to the mind of a child is doubtless the purest and truest. The innocent and simple thinker may say My father and mother knew God; He was a personal Being to them. They had intercourse with Him, and the truth of His Being was evidenced by their own deep experience. They said, ‘God is here, God is there; God sees; God knows; God governs.’” These are the early conceptions of God that we have before the theological definitions come to us, before sceptical ideas take possession of the mind. And the simplicity of the spirit of the child that says, “God is in heaven; He can hear a little prayer like mine,” is the spirit to which many learned theologians would fain return. That is the pure conception of God that belongs to the very instinct of human nature. It is born, and it is dependent on the environment and teaching of saintly parents and a Christian home.

The Biblical conception of God is that, first of all, God stood as the Creator, the Maker of men.” We know that from the Book of Genesis—God said, Let us make man in our image.” We have no very authentic or very reliable information about the origin of man apart from the Scriptures, and the Holy Bible declares that God created man in His own image; that He made him of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul. God stands in relation to the human race in that very close connection of Creator and Maker. Man \vas made in the likeness of God, more in his spirit than in his outward form; for God is a Spirit, and upon the primitive spirit of man there was impressed the image of God. He was like God in mind and in spirit; he was pure from the very hand of God; and God delighted in him as He saw him. Then God gave to man perfect and universal authority. Everything was put under his control.

The Holy Bible speaks of man as having fallen from grace through becoming a sinner and therefore no longer being in the likeness of God. But the Fall has not changed the relationship in which God stands as creator and Maker to the human race. Man is still under a moral obligation to God. Every man, even a sinner, is always accountable to God for what he does with his body and with his soul, for what he does with his time and with his strength. Man is still God’s creation, and, as such, he cannot escape from the moral obligation to the Creator to whom he will have to give an account sooner or later. God is the final Judge before Whom he must appear.

The above is I think, a perfectly fair statement of the funda­mental position, and offers a method of reasoning that would be entirely satisfactory provided the premises of the argument could be accepted. That the standpoint here expressed should be a means of help and inspiration to large numbers of people who still adhere to the evangelical school of thought, is no proof that such elementary and fundamental views would answer the doubts of a restless, doubting and intellectual present-day enquirer. St. Paul himself might have used some of these arguments in addressing the members of the Church at Jerusalem but he would not have preached a sermon on these lines on Mars’ Hill.

The difficulty of finding agreed premises has always per­plexed the reasoner, and especially so when he reasons with an audience which he cannot see. Two free-masons, discussing a question of lodge ritual, would seem to be talking sheer nonsense if overheard by an outsider; but, for their purposes while speak­ing to each other, it would be perfectly unnecessary to link up that ritual with anything which an outsider might understand.

The Evangelical argument set out above takes for granted a common agreement about the Scriptures and their interpretation, and the economy of time that results from this assumption enables you to plunge at once into your subject without troubling to resolve any intellectual doubts or difficulties. This, however, cannot be regarded as satisfactory. Broadly speaking, the man who uses to-day the A Posteriori method in writing on the existence of God, cannot do this. He cannot begin with “The Bible says” because his audience of seekers after truth is only kept at arm’s length by this very form of introduction.

 

Suspicion of the Qualities of the Human Mind.

Another difficulty is the growing fear which shadows a great many persons, that the human mind possesses certain magnetic and creative powers which have a very disastrous effect upon all such things as “evidence” and “proof.”

The idea that a man creates his own truth and his own world is but an individualisation of the theory that mind is everything and matter is merely subjective. Such an extreme statement of this theory as “If I believe it, it becomes true to me, and that is the ‘only kind of truth I understand” can easily be swept aside as ridiculous; but the real difficulty of this kind of outlook does not lie in its extreme statements; it lies in the fact that by a quite moderate use of his individual power of choice a person can select one truth out of many and by the very act of selection magnify its relative importance and value. Who would doubt, for an example, that a rustic scene means more to a poet than to a prize-fighter? If we concede as much, can we object that psychic phenomena mean much more to a spiritist than to an unbelieving critic?

The question is not simply one of faith being increased because of our willingness to believe; it becomes much more a case of our selection of the things we believe actually fashioning and shaping the world in which we live. Consequently any A Posteriori argument that may be presented to humanity must he such as shall not only stand the strain of average objection and criticism, but also reach the minds that have already created proportions and values for themselves that lie somewhat on the left or right of any average central line of thought and conclusion.

These are three of the difficulties that beset us when we seek to present an inductive or A Posteriori argument for belief in God. Yet in spite of them and others of a similar kind the call to make such a statement comes to every one of us as a stimulating challenge. Be” ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you,” (1 Pet. iii. 15), were words written as much to help a believer to establish his own faith as to become a messenger to others.


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 4.

 

BELIEF IN EVOLUTION.

 

The believer in God still regards the argument from design as convincing and unanswerable, in spite of the fact that it may no longer be stated profitably in the same crude form that sufficed in other days.

The many writers of the last one or two generations seem to have regarded evolution as a crushing and final reply to the A Posteriori argument of the design predicating a Designer. Nowadays we are somewhat bewildered by this attitude of mind. The farmer whose design is that there shall be a harvest, and who scatters the seed with this end in view, is none the less a planner because he decides that the harvest should result from nature’s laws and generosity. We are of the opinion that Paley’s watch would still be a sound illustration, even though watch­makers had learned the art of making a watch that could throw off reproductions of itself.

In the prologue to his work “Evolution and Creation,” Sir Oliver Lodge says: “My thesis is that there is no essential opposition between Creation and Evolution. One is the method of the other. They are not two processes, they are one—a gradual one which can be partially and reverently followed by the human mind…… To me Creation seems to be an eternal process always going on……

“So far from excluding God and the Spiritual World, our present outlook—in moments of insight—leaves room for little else. We are impressed with the constant activity of some Beneficent Power…… Everything flows, nothing is stagnant, said Heracleitus—and it is profoundly true.”

“I personally find plain evidence of purpose in that pro­longed development of life upon the earth which has culminated in the creation of man,” said Dr. Barnes, the Bishop of Birm­ingham, at the Church Congress of 1928. “I do not therefore think that we can expect to discover from the mechanisms of natural science that knowledge of things as they really are which some men of science assert that we can thus obtain . . . .  Belief in the existence of human personality after death is bound up with our conceptions of God. If we accept Christ’s view of God we cannot believe that He will allow anything of value to be destroyed. We can confidently claim that the spirit of man is of such value as to be worthy of preservation.”

While acknowledging that natural science tells us how things happen, Dr. Barnes declares that it does not explain the intrinsic nature of the sequences which it describes. It told us how things happened, but not why.

We must not deify the Principle of evolution,” says Dean Inge. “There is such a thing as progress in the direction of evil….. To those who think that the mere lapse of time must eventually bring about the Golden Age, the Devil replies ‘You forget that I am evolving too.’

“It is not even certain that we can assert evolution in spiritual values. Rodin, the great sculptor, has said, ‘Progress exists in the world but not in art.’ Jesus of Nazareth will remain for ever without a rival…… We cannot infer from the fact of human progress within the historical period that the creation is in process of development towards ‘one far off Divine event’….. Let me enumerate some uncertainties which cut very deep into any rounded scientific theory of the universe. Is space infinite? Einstein says that it is unbounded but not infinite. He fixes a maximum extension of about a thousand million light years—a light year is about six billion miles. There, is no beyond, for space curves round upon itself. There is the well-known principle of Carnot, in virtue of which all energy passes irrevocably into a state in which it is no longer available. In plain words, the whole universe is running down like a clock. If so, the clock must have been wound up at a date which we could specify if we knew it, and the cosmic process is not ever­lasting, or, alternatively, it is wound up periodically by some entirely unknown force.” (Paper read at Church Congress 1928).

These two recent statements may he regarded as applications of the “Design argument” to the theory of Evolution, and serve to show that the evidences for a creative intelligence of First Cause are strengthened rather than weakened by the fact that what has been created carries within itself the energy to develop yet further. The very presence of some restless force in life itself that causes a constant urge toward new heights of complete­ness or (as Dean Inge might seem to suggest in his theory that the Devil himself is evolving) toward new depths of degradation, is surely a satisfactory proof of the force behind it all that is greater than the medium through which it operates.

 

 

Ex nihio nihil fit.  Though a proverb may simply be a sweeping generalisation, it is difficult for those with minds so constituted as ours to escape from the conclusion that there is nothing new or that the things that be are the expressions of a will and purpose that are greater than themselves.

“Science,” writes Dr. C. F. D’Arcy (Science and Creation p. 19) “presents us with an account of a most amazing progress continued through incredibly long ages. Also this progress is marked by a steady movement, as the complexity of organisation increases, away from the purely material and towards the spiritual—the intellectual, the moral, the social…..

“Surely we feel compelled to believe that if there is some Power, which we call Creative, behind all this process that Power must be one which seeks these higher values….. No natural selection can account for the whole vast evolution of Creation…..         Natural selection is a sifting process and a fixing process. It is nothing more. All that is really creative must be pre-supposed before its process begins.”

The belief in a God leads to the practice of worshipping Him, on the same principle as that on which all dependents honour and look up to those in whose power they are placed. But the road by which men strive to reach fulness of truth is love. It must be travelled slowly, and being a road of com­paratively recent discovery may demand the use of new methods, the shedding of things formerly useful but now of little real necessity. The time is approaching when the groping after God may take a new direction, may be less uncertain because of some added glimmer of light. For we, who believe the Holy Spirit to be a living Power, assure ourselves that He is using the new knowledge which has been won, the fresh experiences which give their mark to our age, to lead us to a fuller vision of the God whom we worship.


 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 5.

 

THE IMMANENCE OF GOD IN NATURE

 

The subject of the immanence of God in nature prompts us to think about the physical world around us into which we were born and in which we live, and to ask what it is, how it became what it is, whence it came and what it means. This is a subject of inquiry which is full of beauty, of the most absorbing interest, and one, which can be very helpful to us physically, morally, intellectually, and spiritually.

The two great objects and subjects of our thinking and perceiving in this matter are God and Nature. The study of God is called theology, the study of nature is called natural science. They are both sciences, for they both lead us to knowledge, the one to the knowledge of what God is in Himself, and the other to the knowledge of what He has done and is doing in the natural world, so that theology and natural science are sister sciences, and the one helps the other.

Viewed aright nature is constantly pointing us up to God, and revealing the thought and the truth that ‘God has written not one book only through which He teaches, or would teach, us about Himself, but two books. To the believer the Holy Bible is one of these; is he beginning to see that nature which is religion revealed by science” is the other? We are in great and special need to-day of what we may call this gospel of nature. In theology, in religion, in the Church we are too formal, too gloomy and narrow and stiff. We need to bring into our religious belief, feeling, and practice that ‘element of light, freshness, and breadth of which the world of sea and earth and sky is so sug­gestive and communicative. It is curious that in the ordinary religious mind there is often a suspicion and fear of natural science. Mention the subject to a man who suffers from this timidity, and he will at once take fright and say that he does not want to be “disturbed in his religious belief.” He is afraid of what nature, scientifically known, might say to him if he listened and knew the facts. So he closes his ears and hears nothing but what he wants to hear. This man’s religion rests upon fear and not upon truth. He knows nothing of the meaning of our Lord’s great utterance, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (S. John viii. 32). Men of this type persecuted Galileo in olden days, and are angry with the scientists of our day.

Why, one asks, be afraid of nature if nature be one of the two books that God has written? And why be suspicious of science if science be the careful and sincere examination of nature in order to ascertain her facts and forces and laws? And what is true science but such an investigation? To be afraid of nature and to ‘be suspicious of science is to be afraid arid 5uspicious of God, for it is to be afraid and suspicious of truth.

Am I in religion to be a believer in God, and in my relation to nature and nature’s relation to me to be an atheist? That is what this “fear” of which I speak comes to in the last instance. Such a position is utterly irrational, and indeed quite absurd. If God be the Author of both the Holy Bible and the universe, and we believe and say that He is, then there can be no contradiction, nor even antagonism, between them, and in learning from each in turn we learn about the one Supreme Cause from Whom they both come. It is a mistake in this respect to live in watertight compartments, keeping our religion separated by an impene­trable wall from our science and our science from our religion, for we have not only to feel God in our hearts and souls but also to know Him with our reason in all His works. There should be free and open avenues of approach and communication bac1~wards and forwards between our religious and scientific knowledge. Truth in nature, or as we call it, “scientific truth” is as sacred and as binding upon us as truth in religion. In consequence any element in our stated religious belief, whatever it be, which will not bear upon it the light of ascertained and undeniable fact is not a truth and should be boldly and courage­ously abandoned.

For example, it simply is not true to say that the world was created 4004 B.C. We should be nearer the mark if we said four m~1lion and four B.C. and even then we should probably have many millions to spare. Nor is it true that physical pain and death in the animal world were consequent upon a penalty for man’s first sin and fall in the Garden of Eden. Both these beliefs are contradicted by what we know of the truth of God in nature. As to the age of the world, geology demands not thousands but millions of years as the necessary length of time during which it has or could become what it is now; and in the underlying strata of the earth there is clear evidence that animals died in pain long before the advent of man, and therefore of sin, on this planet of ours. In both instances correction is made and the truth is given by science. We lose nothing in our religion by knowing that truth; on the contrary, we gain by it, for it enables us to put right any theory that is obviously wrong in our religious conceptions. Here science corrects religion, or at least our religious ideas, and we ought to be grateful to science for the service. Fear of nature and of science is in the first place quite unnecessary and utterly unworthy of the Christian man. The right attitude is the attitude of Kepler when he said, “In studying the movements of the heavenly bodies ‘I am thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” We are not to be afraid, or even suspicious; of valid science and enlightened historical inquiry and criticism. They are not our foes but our friends, for they “both lead us to the truth of God.

And then, too, we must remember that religious knowledge, like scientific knowledge, is progressive. We go on to know more and more with the advance of time; and sometimes, in the light of the new, something of the old must be given up. But in that, we are gainers and not losers. Where and when a man is wrong in this respect is in giving up something vital in his faith and receiving nothing in return. This is the case where his conception of science is wholly materialistic and therefore, by inference, atheistic, and also the case where his historical critic­ism is purely negative a priori, and negative in its conclusions. Such a method, of course, has to be avoided, for it cannot lead us to true science or valid criticism. Sound reason and well-based knowledge are always harbingers of new, fresher, and wider truth.

As the more scientific and accurate astronomy has corrected the earlier imaginary and misleading astrology, so modern hist­orical criticism corrects the old and misleading views about the Holy Bible. Science gives us a true cosmogony in place of the faulty and imperfect notions which have been handed down to us from our fathers, and modern criticism presents us with a Book which is a rational, luminous, and living historical docu­ment in place of being a mechanical and superstitiously-regarded fetish. All this is pure gain to us who are living in the light of the latest truth, and in this twofold respect we may be thankful.

It will steady us to remember that every advance in science and criticism, where the inquiry is competent, honest and sincere, makes for truth and not for error. For it cannot but be that man who diligently seeks and searches for the truth, in whatever department of enquiry, will always, in the long run, find it (St. Matt. vii. 7-8). Our attitude of mind and heart, therefore, in view of to-day’s ardent and unceasing questionings and find­ings in regard both to nature and religion should be that of confidence and hope, not that of fear. in this respect and to this extent we may accept Matthew Arnold’s definition of God’ as “the stream of tendency . . . . the enduring power, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness.” (Literature and Dogma. pp. 43, 59).


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 6.

 

THE ASCENDING ORDER OF CREATION AN EVIDENCE OF GOD.

 

That man rose from the dust by slow stages is now generally accepted by us all. The rising order through matter, vegetable life, amoebae, fish, amphibia, reptiles, mammals up to the human is sketched out in greater or lesser detail by science; but when we come to the question “Why has life thus developed?” the scientist must depart from the strict methods of his system or remain silent.

That this marvellous record of advance is a mere pointless assumption of fancy shapes arising from the slime of chaos is unthinkable, yet the explanation of a scientist can mean no more, nor be valued by a different standard, than the explanation of a poet. Logician and visionary who try to explain the meaning of the wonder are equally powerless to do so. But at all events the idealist is more free to make the attempt; for here we must pass on to a plane of thought and understanding in which the mind frees itself from’ some of the smaller impedimenta of the chemist’s laboratory and the naturalist’s study.

Man, at his present stage in development, finds himself endowed with gifts that cover the entire circle of his experience. He is not wholly brain, yet his brain can trace his history from the dust upwards. He is not wholly emotion, yet the greatest deeds of human life have sprung from emotion rather than reason. He is not wholly animal, yet the call of his blood continually rings through him, and calls him down to the brute again. Should a day arrive when the scientist says to him “This is the way you developed, but ‘why’ you grew upwards I cannot tell,” this is surely the time when he may reply “Some other part of my being, some other quality I possess, can tell me.” It is unreasonable that he should cease to search for a reply t) the question simply because science has become dumb; and doubly unreasonable if his intentions, his longings, his hopes, his fears are actually framing a reply.

Man at his high point of consciousness, aware of tormenting limitations and small achievement, yet even more aware of the long journey he has travelled and the spirit that is in him to accomplish yet greater things, dares to see a purpose and a plan and the outline of a yet unfulfilled vision. What wonder that in so many lives the marvellous revelation of God in Jesus Christ becomes an explanation and a fulfilment, and the Resurrection a point in human history around which his aspirations can centre!

But,” says the scientist, “you have no evidence.” Nor has he, if he be forced to limit himself to the rules and standards of his developed power of reasoning. Equally, how­ever, upon the other hand, though he may be powerless to prove because of lack of evidence, the same cause makes disproof impossible.

His sound and proper position can thus be stated :—Man has acquired the power to reason and thus to become separate from other creatures, but does the acquisition of this gift prove that he has not also developed in other directions as well? Primarily man may have been a creature of instinct. In palaeolithic and neolithic ages lie learned to be a ‘thinker, but may not his instinct meanwhile have developed along yet separate lines of which his many intuitions, his aspirations and his hopes are evidences and signs?

The human responsiveness that is attracted by and reaches out to the appeal of Christ is outside the whole range of subject’s that we summarise as “evolution.” Their planes are seemingly as separate and remote as music and book-keeping; although out of our sight the same law may operate in both, as do mathematics in both rhythm and accountancy.

Yet more than this. How often has science progressed by the aid of the brilliant guess or inspiration. The power of vision and the leap of faith have saved the chemist thousands of toil­some experiments and years of painful research. Swift instinct leaps; slow reason feebly climbs (Young). The scientist with imagination doubles the power of his appliances. There is a place where prophet and poet must lead. Science cannot disprove their visions, but at present, as far as we can see, it may not endorse them. To-day, science makes reasonable such wonders ~s wireless and the powers of various rays; but centuries ago had some knowledge of these truths been discovered, they would probably have been untenable to the wise but believed by the foolish. How many of those who were enthralled by the fertile imagination of Jules Verne, realised the possibility of actually seeing the materialisation of the marvellous machines which existed then only in the imagination of that great master of fiction?


 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 7.

 

POETS AND PROPHETS AS INTERPRETERS OF NATURE.

 

It is in the power of any human vision to view the wonders of nature, but it appears to be a special gift of a few to interpret them.

Entirely apart from religious thought and interpretation, humanity has reason to bless the artist and poet, the seer and the dreamer, the child of fancy and the seeker of mountain’ heights, for the meanings they have discovered in all the delights of natural beauty. Is it any wonder then that humanity will not limit the poet and the artist merely to the playful fancy of pleasing picture and delightful verse? If here and there the poet shall become a prophet and a seer and the artist fill out his picture with what passes beyond time and space dare we say, “You have exceeded your rights. We allow you to dream, but deny your vision; we accept your faithful portrait, but we disdain the scene you see behind it?” But poet and dreamer have none the less ‘been bold enough ‘to become prophets and interpreters of the invisible. Man may see the grinding wheels upon the earth, but the prophet who sees the living creature in the heavens over the wheels must not be forbidden his rights to show that “The spirit of the living creature was in the wheels” (Ezek. i 20).

There are, as has been said before, two realities for our thinking in this matter—God and nature. Take first the Old Testament idea and conception of this twofold reality. The religious and thinking Jew had a strong and clear sense of the truth of the presence of God in the natural world. Such passages as the following from the Old Testament are illustrative and proof of that :—“ Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that bath He done in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deeps. He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings for the rain; He bringeth the wind out of His treasuries.” (Ps. cxxxiv. 6, 7). “0 Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is full of Thy riches,” (Ps. civ. 24). “Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morn­ing, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall overwhelm me, and the light about me shall be night; even the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.” (Ps. cxxxix. 7-12).

Everywhere in the Old Testament, in patriarch, psalmist and prophet there is a vivid sense of God’s presence and power in the natural world. From whence did they get this feeling? Not from nature herself, for it was not their way to argue up from nature to nature’s God, as we modern people of the western world endeavour to do. The Fathers of Israel ‘began with God, and only ‘after that came down, so to speak, upon nature; they saw God in nature because they first saw Him above it, while all the time God was for them supernatural. In other words, their ‘thinking and feeling in this matter were deductive and not inductive, God for them already is before the world appears, and is seen and known. So the Holy Bible opens with the dog­matic statement, In the beginning God.”

We can perhaps sum the matter up by saying that the religion of the ancient Jews was not philosophical in its spirit but what we may call intuitive, and that their intuition related them to the reality of God before it did so to that of nature. They felt and realised before they began to think. So in the Old Testament we do not find philosophy before religion. The Greeks, on the other hand, at about the same era, made their gods, or at any rate some of them, subsequent to the cosmos in time. Thus the God of the Old Testament belonged to eternity and the Greek God to time. So for the ancient Jew, though God was in nature, He was also different from and above it. [n their insistence upon God’s immanence in the natural world, the Jews never failed to insist also upon His transcendence above ‘it. In this way the Old Testament theology avoided that error~ common among other ancient religious thinkers, the error of pantheism, in which God as an indwelling spirit is in nature but nowhere else.

In other words, in the old Testament there is a clear and distinct idea of the personality and unity of God. So we get in its pages such utterances as these, “He telleth the number of the stars; He giveth them all their names.” (Ps. cxlvii. 4). “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” (Ps. xxiii. 1). “The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Dt. vi. 4). It may be objected that this is not the expression of a reasoned belief but simply of emotional and poetic feeling. Yes, but it must be added that it is not the poetry of pure imagination, still less of fancy, but the poetry of faith, with faith’s insight, which is a very different thing. The true poet is a seer, and he detects truth by immediate vision while the logician can only mediately and partially reach it by reasoning.

Perhaps the difference here is the difference between Words­worth and John Stuart Mill. What Wordsworth saw “with that inward eye” directly, Mill only thought about, and what he thought was always less than half of what Wordsworth saw. Ratiocination, expressing itself in the syllogism, is one thing; and immediate apprehension, signified by art or music or poetry, is another, and the point is that there is objective reality for both, only that immediate apprehension sees more and deeper and higher truth than ratiocination. We might say that one is sight and the other insight, or ‘that one sees what appears and the other what is. A distinction is sometimes drawn between reason and reasoning, because to the reason realities must be directly appar­ent, while for pure reasoning the signs and symbols of realities suffice. This, I venture to submit is the difference between the poetic and the severely logical mind, and it is in this sense that the Old Testament writers are poetic, and because of this that they saw and felt so clearly the reality of God within, behind and above the natural world.

But the same thing is true of the thinkers of our day. Consider Browning and Tennyson in this respect. Both these poets had a profound and wide-reaching effect upon modern English theology. In our foremost theological thinking it is possible to trace the marked influence of Browning and Tennyson, especially that of Browning. The explanation of this is that the true poet is a prophet, and the prophet sees more of the truth of God than the formal scientist, whether he be a theologian or a physicist; and for this reason, that the prophet sees with’ the eye of the soul, and the scientist only with the eye of sense, or, at most, with the eye of the mind. Therefore, to say that the Old Testament theology is in form and spirit poetic is to speak for and not against its truth.


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 8.

 

THE RETORT OF POET AND PROPHET TO SCIENCE.

 

The Arab steed or the darting hound may mock the move­ments of creatures less fleet of foot, but they dare not match their own movements against the eagle for the fact of speed has been qualified by a new dimension. May we not claim the same for the eagle mind of seer and prophet, that declines the limit­ation that others would set? “Race me over the desert, but you may not use your wings,” cries the steed. “Why not?” retorts the eagle. And the scientist is countered with the same retort from those who refuse to allow his limitations to bind them.

But we live in an age of the scientific spirit, and of scientific investigation and discovery, and must ask “What has this spirit to say as to our belief in God first as immanent in nature and then as transcendent above it?” In a word, can we believe what the Old Testament people and our forefathers believed as to God? Can we be religious as they were?

In asking that question we touch upon what is one of the most acute and pressing problems of our day. Science is alien­ating many from the faith, and the question is, ought it to be allowed to do that?

I think it was Huxley who said that his religion was “the religion of all men of science,” the assumption being that he had little, if any, rational assurance of the truth of what we consider to be fundamental, essential, and vital in our theistic belief. How has this situation come about? and is there reason for it? Of Course, a man like Haeckel bows God out of the universe, and says he has no further use for Him there, since as a scientist Haeckel has matter and force to begin with, and then evolution to follow on, and having these he can do without God. Is this’ really the voice and verdict of science? If that were so science would take away from us infinitely more than it gives. An atheistic science (though, in fact, there is and can be no such’ thing) is, ‘because of its discoveries and inventions, in the realm of the physical, of great utility to the physical and also to the intellectual man, but it robs the spiritual man of his God, and that, in the last instance is all loss to us and no gain. There is for man no substitute in science, however advanced and up-to-date it may be, for the reality of God. A science which makes it impossible for a man to feel and say “Our Father, which art in heaven” is man’s deadly foe and not his friend “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world (scien­tifically), and forfeit his life? For what should a man give in exchange for his life?”

There is no such thing as a satisfactory religion of science or culture. Seeley was wrong when he took as the motto for his book, “Natural Religion,” “We live by admiration.” He should have followed Wordsworth in adding the words “hope and love,” and that would have carried him from culture to religion. ‘Man is himself personal, and in his God he need’s personality; what is other than personal God is less than man himself is, for personality is the highest reality he knows. How then can man worship, and be content with that which is not personal?

So that if science, either in itself or by itself or by implic­ation, is atheistic, we do not want it; we ask in this matter for the bread of a personal God and cannot put up with the stone of impersonal science in its place.

It might be objected here that, if science be atheistic in signification we must accept that signification because it is only truth that we pursue, and that we must follow the truth at all costs when we think we have found it. Consequently if science leads to atheism, to atheism we must go. The reply to this comes out of the mouth of the very science in question, in the fact that according to its teaching, man himself in his whole being and in all his need’s, is as much a part of nature as any’ other physical phenomenon.

Consider man then. It is part of his inborn nature to need a personal God as the object of worship, and to seek fellowship and companionship with the Divine. This is the voice of nature in man, and how can nature, whose final and finished product is man, be atheistic in response to her own highest and noblest child? Moreover, if nature has implanted in man his need of a’ personal God (and that she has done this is clear from the fact that man is instinctively and incurably religious) then true science in its knowledge of nature, is not, and cannot be, atheistic either in fact or by implication. A religious man and an atheistic science, coming from the same nature, would be contradiction in nature’s vital and cherished law and principle of continuity. If man by nature is a believer in God, then nature herself cannot be atheistic, for where and when she plants a deep-seated and characteristic longing in her offspring, she always provides an adequate supply of that which shall satisfy the thirst. You can only make nature atheistic by making man naturally so, and this you can never do. You would have to destroy his present proper being to do that, and then man would be no longer man at all. The fact that man is religious by nature is proof that the nature which gave him birth has that signification too, else where did this nature in man come from? And how could it come? While man is religious an atheistic science is impossible, for the effect cannot be contrary to, still less higher than, its cause.

But, apart altogether from man, the proper alternative here is not, either science alone or God alone. It is a shallow and a false assumption to say that science rules out the truth of the reality of God in nature and of His power therein. As a matter of fact, science, as science, is neutral in this matter. It is neither atheistic nor theistic but is simply a knowledge of nature as such.

It is only when reason steps in and asks questions about the “whence” and “whither” and “why” and “what” of nature that the idea of God is introduced, and then the question is, can you account for and explain to the satisfaction of reason the universe apart from and without a supreme Mind and Power which we call God? To ‘say that science, as such, is atheistic is absurd, because it is saying that facts as facts are absurd, and such an expression has no meaning whatever. It is philosophy, which interprets ‘the facts and makes inferences from them, that is either theistic or atheistic, and philosophy at its best, f Ron I Plato, down to Hermann Lotze, who died in 1881, has never been atheistic; not even the philosophy of Herbert Spencer was that.

We are needlessly alarmed when we fear that there is some­thing in science which is going to strike a fatal blow at our faith in the immanence of God. Look at science and consider what it is and what it does. What it deals with are phenomena, things seen, and these are perceived by the senses. It is the business of science in the first instance to ask and answer the question how things act, and not what they are. In course of time it may proceed further. Biology, for example, as we know it to-day, investigates the functions of life, and not the reality of life itself. Someday it may do more; for it is now engaged in opening up one stratum of phenomena after another, and possibly it may proceed eventually to deal with underlying fact or truth or es­sence. Science, in other words, is on the surface of things; up to the present it is simply neutral as to what is deeper down and further in, in regard to what it is dealing with. There may come a day when the wall of partition will have been broken down.

Of course, science must be followed by and must culminate in philosophy, for the mind of man is so constituted that it is not and cannot be finally satisfied with facts alone. It must go on to ask what their primary cause is, what their significance and towards what they are tending, and this is philosophy. Take the fact of the universe; we cannot help concluding that the universe has become what it is from what it was not, and for this development we demand an adequate cause. The only cause that we know is our own personal self expressing itself in and through a volitional act. And this we use in ideas as the type and symbol of the Supreme Cause at the back of nature. Herbert Spencer not only admits this but definitely states it as a necessary truth in principle and application. In his First Principles he writes, “The force by which we ourselves produce changes, and which serves to symbolise the cause of changes in general, is the final disclosures of analysis.” (Chap. iii. par. 50). Phenomena are only things, only effects, and by a law of thought we demand’ a satisfactory cause for them. Even the sum total of nature is only a series of phenomena, a successive grouping of facts, which cannot account for themselves. You must find an adequate cause of them in something other and higher than themselves, and in the Holy Bible we have given us such a cause, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Here, let us imagine, are a series of wheels, each lower one dependent upon the next above it for movement. There are, we will say, twelve wheels in all. The twelfth wheel is moved by the eleventh, the eleventh by the tenth, and so on until you get to the first wheel, and there we have what is called a secondary causation, that is, one phenomenon causing another. But this does not satisfy what we may call the mind’s causal demand, viz., the demand not for secondary cause alone but also for the primary cause which must be a cause which is not the effect of’ another secondary cause. When you reach the top wheel in the series your secondary causes have come to an end, for there is no wheel above to move it, and yet it moves. What is the cause of that effect? When you learn that it is in the mind of the mechanic, who made and placed in order all the wheels, your rational self is satisfied, satisfied because you have reached in thought, finality, which is saying that only in mind can you find that which meets your demand for the primary cause of phenomena.

Now we may say that nature is a series of moving wheels, each higher one moving the lower. Lowest of all there is the inorganic or matter. That is moved by the vegetable above. This again is moved by the animal which is higher still. Then the animal is moved by the rational, and when you reach the rational you have got to the top wheel. What moves that? For it moves; and the only satisfactory answer is that it is moved by the Supreme Mind of the universe Whom we call God.

The point here is that the inference of mind as cause is the only satisfaction of reason’s causal demand in every instance of things that become. Mind must always rise, in thought and discovery, from secondary to primary cause, and in every case the primary cause is mind. As I have shown in the illustration of the wheels and the mechanic, nature, including man, in pres­enting itself to our reason as a great objective reality, demands our assumption of the truth of the Supreme Mind as primary cause. To put the matter quite simply, how out of a mindless universe can you obtain the mind of man? Surely the thing is unthinkable. This, then, is the voice and verdict of reason when we are face to face with the question as to what it is, and why it is what it is. In consequence, to speak of science as being inimical to our faith in God is simply absurd. Indeed it would seem to ‘be evidence of shallow thinking, if not of an utter want of thinking. There is a well-known quotation from Bacon which runs thus, It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth man’s mind about to religion; for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered; it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.” (Advancement of Learning Bk. 1).

We may hold to it that what is true, whether in nature or in man, is not and cannot be against the reality of God.

Once for all, then, let us fix it in our minds that science is not the foe but the friend of the faith. See what science has done in accomplishment. By its investigations and discoveries it has in an incalculable degree increased for our apprehension and delight, as well as for our use, ‘the wonders of the physical’ universe. Think what the telescope, the microscope, and the spectroscope have accomplished in this respect!

William Paley (1743—1805) in his treatise on Natural Theology, sets out with vivid clearness, the argument in favour of the existence of God from the wonders of the world around us. If in the time of Paley it was possible to see God in nature because of what was known then of nature’s vastness and her minute adaptation of means to ends, surely it is more possible to see God there now! For consider how modern science has increased for our perception and thought the greatness of nature both in the infinitely great and in the infinitely little, and if you increase the marvel of the effect, so much greater is the demand in reason made upon us for an adequate cause of that effect In fact modern science has increased the demand of the human intelligence for the Supreme Mind as nature’s cause. This may be expressed by saying that the teleology of nature, seen in the light of modern science, is infinitely richer and more convincing than that of the nature which Paley saw and knew. In this direction we are profoundly indebted to Darwin. By his careful and exhaustive observations and investigations of animal and plant and insect life he has shown us how wonderfully complex and yet how simply and smoothly harmonious nature is. Darwin’s works are a veritable storehouse of teleology for the thinking and believing religious man.

In regard to science and religion in the present respect, this is the point, that science has to do with nature’s method of operation, and religion with its cause. They belong to different departments, and therefore there is and can be no antagonism between them. There is only antagonism when they interfere with each other’s work. When, for instance, religion dictates to science as to nature’s methods of work, and when science dic­tates to religion as to nature’s cause. In this case both religion and science are out of their true and legitimate sphere, and the antagonism which is set up between them as a consequence arises through sheer misunderstanding of each other and of each other’s field of work. The antagonism, when there is any, is not between science and religion but between “dogmatic scientists off their beat,” like Haechel, and dogmatic and narrow-minded religionists like Bishop Wilberforce who asked Huxley once at a meeting in Oxford whether it was on his grandfather’s or his grandmother’s side that he had descended from an anthropoid ape. Let us never be afraid of nature, for it is God’s handiwork, and God Himself is in it.

The fact is, we pin our faith too much upon miracles, as if it were mainly the exceptions to the regular course of nature that showed the presence of the Divine therein. The real miracle is not any exception, however wonderful, to nature’s regular and continuous order, but the order itself. It is the whole of nature that is miraculous, and not single and isolated incidents in it. God, the presence of God and His working are most clearly and best seen in science and not in anti-science. Science is the hand­maid of religion and not her antagonist.

We, as believers in God, face to face with the scientific spirit and findings of our day, may express our thinking and assurance thus: In our reason and consciousness we have experience of God. This is for us as clear a fact as is the fact of gravitation for the scientist. With this Consciousness of God in our minds and hearts, we turn and look through the eyes of modern science at the world in which we live, and see and feel that it is a world wonderfully adapted to us physically, intellectually, morally and spiritually, a world so constituted that we are helped freely and richly to live and realise in it our fullest being.

There is a sense in which we may say we are complete in nature. What is this but Personality in nature appealing and responding to personality in us? In consequence, to follow the course of science is no other and no less than to follow the mode and method of God’s presence and working in the cosmos, and this at least in part is what is meant by the Immanence of God in Nature.

The argument of Paley’s watch is reinforced by a thousand testimonies from the world around us. The arrangement of a number of wires in a frame each at varying degrees of tension which forms the musical instrument; the orderly plan or method of a great factory in which the workers proceed without con­fusion and the machinery keeps on in continuous movement, are evidences to us of design and of the influence of a controlling mind. Physical science presents us with a wonderful picture of the orderliness and regularity of the cosmos, but the poet gives us the meaning. How ably and beautifully are the glories of God in creation depicted by Thomas Moore—

“Thou art, 0 God! the life and light

Of all this wondrous world we see;

Its glow by day, its smile by night,

Are but reflections caught from Thee;

Where’er we turn Thy glories shine,

And all things fair and bright are Thine.”

(Sacred Songs).


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 9.

 

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD.

 

The realisation of God from the evidences of Nature can only be satisfactory up to a point. The fact that this realisation is almost universal takes us little farther than the influence of nature herself. Equally any religion that arises purely and simply from the observation of natural phenomena has little chance of becoming more than Pantheism or even idolatry as long as the faith is untouched by other revelation. This natural religion begins, however, to assume a more valuable place in life and experience, the moment it becomes associated with the rightness or wrongness of a man’s acts. Nature-worship unlinked with a code of morals can as easily detect evil as good in the unseen powers behind the natural revelations, and consequently becomes devil-worship as easily as goodness-worship.

It is the strength as well as the difficulty of the Christian religion that it derives from a revelation which from its beginning definitely linked up man’s belief with his actions, his faith with his morals. In a certain sense this is true of many of the non­2hristian faiths. Even unenlightened savages consider their deeds in the light of being approved or blamed by the gods they worship and it is almost certain that the chief idea of sacrifice everywhere has been to propitiate and to please the deities that would otherwise be offended. Sacrifice, even in most primitive form, is consequently a recognition on man’s part of that greater power outside him, but the code of morals that it enshrines must be lofty or vile according to the understanding that the man has of the nature of the being whom he worships. The view we hold of the attributes of God colours our lives and indicates the lines of action we should take. In consequence, at this point we find that to follow the revelations of nature only is insufficient. No Christian believer with the scriptural narrative before him would feel that the conclusions of the A PosteriOri Argument from the evidences of science can do more for him than make his belief credible, sane, and consistent with outward signs and phenomena,

But at this point our faith is stimulated and quickened by other testimonies in which direct and immediate revelation from God as to His love for man is the mainspring, but into which also the evidences of history of psychology and of human nature enter, and where the use of sound reason has its place. History is “the memory of nations,” and adds all the accumulated knowledge of the past to the truth which we are slowly still acquiring. That the soul and the mind need to obtain yet greater  testimonies than these; that there is always the witness of the Holy Spirit hovering over the Saviour of mankind, and working conviction inside the heart of man, is the really overwhelming evidence of all

But at this place, passing a little way along the path, and seeing God as prophets, apostles, and teachers have realised Him, we find in His attributes the qualities that make for the advance of the believer and that inspire him to do better deeds and to live a more worthy life.

God is Eterna1. He has life in Himself (St. John v. 26); in Him are all the possibilities of existence. He is unchangeably the same and yet He never ceases to live His life as something new, because He has in Himself an inexhaustible fountain of renovation and youth.

God is Omnipresent. He “fills heaven and earth” (Jer. xxiii. 24). The inmost fundamental being of all that exists _-Omnipresence is the free self determining the presence of God with His creatures, to each of whom He wills to stand in a different relation—present in one way in ‘history, in another way in nature, in one way in the Church, in another way in the world.

God is Omniscient. His one Essence is clear to Himself, He knows all things in their eternal unity, the possible as possible,  the actual as actual—no creature knows itself fully, He sees each with all-searching, all-penetrating vision. (Heb. iv. 13; Ps. xciv. 11).

God is Omnipotent. He has complete dominion over Him-self, but if He is to have power over all and in all, He cannot Himself be all. We discern His omnipotence with special clear­ness when we look to the supernatural commencement of the world. He did not expend His creative power then, but contains in the depth of His being, an inexhaustible fountain of possi­bilities, new beginnings, new revelations. “With Him all things are possible.” (St. Matt. xix. 26).

God is Wisdom. In this are combined the omnipotence and Omniscience.  Wisdom directs His action to the realisation of

~      the infinite design of His will. It is not merely the inner reflec­tion of the Divine Mind, but also operative, all-moulding thought (Wisd. vii. 22-27). In men alone it completes its work.

God is Blessedness. The words are found frequently in con­junction in the New Testament (Rom. i. 25 ix. 50; St. Mark ‘xiv. 61. 11 Cor. i. 3 etc.) They mean that God possesses life complete in itself.  But while God is self-sufficient, His blessed­ness must be conceived as conditional upon the perfecting of His Kingdom. We must assume that He has a twofold life (1) in Himself of unclouded peace and (2) a life in and with His creation in which He not only submits to the conditions of fini­tude but even allows His power to be limited by the sinful will of man. This is again swallowed up in the inner life of perfection. -

God is Spirit. There is no other passage in Scripture besides St. John iv. 24 where it is expressly declared that God is Spirit; yet throughout the whole of Scripture we are led to infer that He is so, and our duty to Him is everywhere founded on the belief and knowledge of this attribute of His nature. When we believe God to be Spirit, we not only distinguish Him from all bodily substance, but in the same manner as the soul greatly excels the body in the superior powers of life, understanding, knowledge, activity, so we must conceive of God as of a Being excelling in an infinitely higher proportion, not only the souls of men, but also all other intellectual natures or spirits whatso­ever.

God is Unsearchable. It appears at first sight a very easy thing to say what constitutes a plant or animal. It is not so. There are myriads of living creatures that occupy the debatable ground between the vegetable and animal kingdoms; nor have naturalists yet determined on which side of the border to assign them a place, whether to rank them amongst the plants or animals.

What is man? It seems an easy thing to answer that question; yet I am not sure that even at this day, we have any correct definition which, distinguishing him on the one hand from the angels, and on the other hand from the higher orders of the animal kingdom, is at once brief and comprehensive. Now if we have such difficulty in defining even ourselves, or those objects that being patent to the senses, may be made the subject of searching and long experiment, is it to be wondered at that when we rise above the works to their Maker, from things finite to things infinite it should~ be found much easier to ask than to answer the question, What is God? The telescope by which we hold converse with the skies, the microscope which unveils the secrets pf nature, the crucible of the chemist, the knife of the anatomist, the reflective faculties of the philosopher all such instruments of science fail us here. On the threshold of that impenetrable mystery, a voice arrests our steps. From out of the clouds and darkness that are round about God’s throne the question comes, “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job. axe. 7).

God is Incomprehensible. God is to us and to every creature incomprehensible. If we could fathom or measure Him and know His greatness by full knowledge He would not be God. A creature can comprehend nothing but a creature. We may know God but not comprehend Him as our feet tread the earth, but do not cover all the earth. The sea is not the sea if you can hold it in a spoon. Only the Incomprehensible may "measure the waters in the hollow of His hand” (Is. all. 12). We cannot comprehend the sun which we see and by which we see all other things, nor can we comprehend the sea nor the earth, nor the air, nor a blade of grass. Our understanding is incapable of knowing all that God has put into the least of these things. We are strangers even to ourselves and know but little of our body and less of our soul. Therefore we who do not completely and perfectly understand anything are incapable of completely and perfectly understanding God.

The existence of a God once accepted, the next question is, in what relation do we stand to Him? Are any laws laid down f or our conduct? Are we responsible to Him for keeping or breaking these laws? To these questions it does not appear that Natural Religion can give a perfectly satisfactory answer, though Bishop Butler in “The Analogy of Religion” shows how much information on these subjects may be derived from an examin­ation of the order of nature. We may gather from the history of moral growth that a general undefined notion of responsibility is associated in nearly all human minds with the idea of divine existence, at least a sense of responsibility sufficient to excite pleasure when we do what we believe to be good, and remorse when we do what we believe to be evil.

Again, the connection which generally exists between vice and misery on the one hand, and virtue and happiness on the other, impresses upon us the idea that there does exist such a thing as retributive justice. But, though the general law by which the affairs of the world appear to be governed is, that virtue is followed by happiness, and vice by misery, and though a full knowledge of the circumstances of every case which appears an exception to that law might show us that more real happiness is enjoyed by a virtuous sufferer than by a prosperous

sinner, daily experience furnishes us with exceptions to this law, numerous enough to throw great doubts upon its reality if the period of human existence ends with the present life.

These then are the elements which seem to be contained in any religion suited to the wants of man; that there exists a Supreme Being Who possesses power over man and the material universe, and all creatures therein, and Who is to be worshipped by all His rational creatures; that He has laid down laws for our conduct, by our obedience or disobedience to which we subject ourselves to recompense of reward or punishment, and that there are certain practical rules of conduct by which the intercourse of men with each other ought to be governed, and by an attention to which the stability of the social system may to a great extent be ensured. All these elements of religion are susceptible of proof in varying degree, either from nature, or from human experience, or from revelation.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 10.

 

 

THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD AND A FUTURE LIFE.

 

In man’s earliest gropings after God the sense of His power and majesty frequently makes the deepest impression upon the mind. The voices and scenes of nature that appear best to express His presence and nearness are often those sounds that appal the mind with their awe-inspiring mystery. The roll of the thunder, the flash of the lightning, the angry tumult of the tempest, the reverberations of the forest, even the mighty stillness of the wilds, and the cold austerity of the vast skies, may well chain down the primitive mind to the sense of His greatness. But as life widens out and man realises himself as an erect creature with the light of the sun striking upon his uplifted forehead the consciousness that God is simply all-powerful becomes inadequate. As deep calleth unto deep man feels within himself a quiver of something which responds and calls out to this greatness that is beyond him. What wonder that so often it grows into a sense of relationship of sonship with this Great Unknown!

The realisation by man that he is a child of that which is greater than himself, has its endorsement in a hundred different human activities and methods. The erection of Kingship as a human system, the natural proneness of man toward hero-worship, the origin of many earlier and lesser faiths all bear witness to this inward sense of God’s dominion and protective care.

Even when science comes to point to new meanings in nature, and when geologists, biologists, and evolutionists set out the summaries of their beliefs, the hunger of man is sharpened rather than appeased. He may realise this sense of the power and watchfulness of the Creator over the world He has created in a broad and general way, viewing God like nature, “So care­ful of the type….. so careless of the single life almost as a follower of an ancient chieftain seeing his own life as a thing that might reasonably be cast away for the welfare of the tribe. But the feeling remains in him that none the less God is there— watching over him, guarding him and covering him with His mantle. He may more often feel it in acts of national kindness and benefit than in the individual realisation of His help, just as many more Jews might have sung, “He that keepeth Israel, shall neither slumber nor sleep” than could have cried “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”

Speaking generally, -this sense of the Fatherhood of the great Creator runs through the feelings of man. Revelation enlarges it and every right argument from nature in some way or other gives its assent.

Creation and Cosmogony. Our idea of creation involves a creature able in time to produce and develop itself. Creation lays the foundation of the self, development of the world its genesis. Not by the production of an impotent world, without independence, which melts like wax before His breath, but by bringing into being a world endowed with freedom and unlimited amount of independent power, does the Creator reveal His power as that of wisdom and love.

Here is a twofold beginning. (1) There is the beginning of all life when the first stirrings amid the slime set in motion all the consequences, the developments, and the changes that have burst out into being in a million varieties, and in their later stages evolved this creature—man. (2) There is the beginning of each separate life natural and multiple. To think of the first is to think in terms of the supernatural, and even in thinking of the second, the mind flies back over the long history and discovers in every birth the echo and consequence of the first outburst of life; the will of the Divine Logos.

The alternative for any philosophical explanation of the origin of the universe lies between the mythological representation of chaos and the revealed truth of the Creative word.

In our idea of creation which involves that created beings shall reproduce themselves, even science appears to allow us to gain glimpses of a steady operation of development through selection and free choice. The doctrine of free-will is nowhere negatived by the discoveries of the evolutionists, but upon the other hand appears to receive the fullest endorsement and support from every evidence of progressive advance from lower types to higher. The man who sees Providence working throughout all’ the infinite processes of creation must surely see freedom as one of the conditions of that upward climb.

“In the lowest beasts are slaying men

And in the second men are slaying beasts

And on the third are warriors—perfect men

And on the fourth are men with growing wings.”

(The Idylls of the King).

 

is rendered even more true as a poetic picture of evolution when we see in it the operations of man’s own deliberate choice.

The idea of Providence itself is the development of the idea of creation. As the highest good can be realised only in the Kingdom of freedom, Providence can, strictly speaking, only be revealed in the history of God’s dealings with man. Hence the “Kingdom of God,” wherein the highest good—God Himself— is realised in a system of divinely-blessed individuals.

The manifold wisdom of God is revealed in the fact that the movements and complications in the world of freedom must unavoidably manifest the purposes of God and work together for their final accomplishment. It does not forcibly prevent the sins of men, but it introduces new and unforseen developments whereby it makes use of the very devices of men ultimately to accomplish its own holy plan. To demand a perfect Theodicy here would be to require us to see through the course of this world in all its parts, or to expect that the manifold wisdom of God should be exhausted in this life. A perfect Theodicy cannot be attained except in the perfected history of the world. The contradiction which has been supposed between the free progress of the world and the omniscience of God rests upon a one-sided conception of omnis­cience as merely “knowing beforehand,” and an ignoring of the conditional element in the divine decrees. The final purpose of this world and persistent development through the entire series of its essentially necessary stages must be regarded as fixed in the eternal counsel of God; but the practical operation of this counsel, if it is to be conditional on the freedom of the creature, must allow for individual departures from the plan, which, however, will balance out in the average actions of mankind; or which may be made to constitute a part of that average by some special acts and interferences of Provi­dence. There is nothing at all irreconcilable in the two facts of absolute free-will on the part of man, and persistent purpose in the counsels of God. The freedom of a child to play any games it may wish in the nursery, in no way lessens the authority and power of parent or nurse to decide what that nursery still shall be.

We must distinguish between the immanent and the transcendent operations of Providence—Immanent, where it encloses itself in the laws of this world’s progress, as sustaining power; Transcendent, where the course of history is interrupted, and the combination of circumstances, necessary to a certain turning point or the beginning of a new epoch, is affected not by the circumstances themselves but by an over—ruling will manifesting itself in the course of events, giving us the idea of miracle, creative power, working in either history alone or nature alone, and hearing witness that the God of history and of conscience is Lord also of nature’s laws.

It is the grossest anthropomorphism to represent God as One Who makes the kingdom of holiness His highest aim and yet finds an unsurmountable difficulty in those laws of nature which seem opposed to holiness. To suggest that He has no power to reconcile or overcome them, is to assume that the Creator is less than the laws He has created. The evidence of nature and the testimony of science as to the progressive manner of growth from low forms of life to higher is a testimony to the power of the created being himself to become a creator—an outgrowth and extension of the mere fact that created beings reproduce their own kind. The things that man made, be they but the huts in which our rude f ore-fathers dwelt, or the crudest garments of skin with which he covered himself, are evidences of a creative power dwelling inside the will of man. As we pass up from primitive to highly skilled, the things that are made by man stamp him as ‘a maker and show his alliance with the great Creator.

“Every work of art, every engineering structure, is first conceived in the mind and then reproduced in matter,” Sir Oliver Lodge truly states. (Evolution and Creation pp. 105-106). “There is always a ‘let there be.’ The process is always a gradual one, and the steps in human creation can be traced. The steps in Divine creation are less obvious; they require study by those who are competent; but the method, so far as we can follow it, seems to have the same general characteristics. There is no haste or suddenness of operation, everything is obedient to what may be spoken of as divine law, and gradual evolution is the universal method.

“The work of Creation is not something in the past, which occurred and then stopped; it is a continuous process. The same Power which brought the Universe into existence is regulating and controlling it, subject to self-imposed limitations which brought conscious beings into existence and endowed them with free-will and with power of a very limited kind. This free-will and this power enable them, if they are willing, to assist and accelerate, or to obstruct and oppose, the increase in value, and thereby to take their due share in the intermediate stages towards ultimate and far-distant perfection.”

“Were it not for our perception of this gradual method the present state of mankind would be depressing. The opposite to evolution is stagnation, which would mean the abandonment of hope….. The whole creation works together towards some great end, and happy are those who realise effectively that they can be cooperative agents even to a small degree in the mighty process.”

God not only rules the world, He regulates it; He not only created the human race, He has provided for and ordained its destiny. It is surely not possible for us to conceive of this vast progressive movement passing to nothingness. As we view the upward trend, the constant pressure towards some completeness that still lies beyond our vision, and realise how short is the span of life here with its thwarted accomplishment, the sense of the hereafter and of the future life dawns upon us. Thus humanity, groping after God, has been lit by the inward promise of a Life beyond. To the believing Christian this aspiration finds its highest satisfaction in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Perfect Revelation. The perfect revelation of Providence is the manifestation of God in Christ. In Him human history finds its true centre, and contemplates its development as an organic whole, the creation and nurture of nations and individuals for the Kingdom of God.

“And what of man?” asks Sir Oliver Lodge, (Evolution and Creation p. 99). “If his death be the end of him, the value of his existence may be doubtful. But if, as I know, death is not the end of him; then there may be infinite progress in store. The cyclical machinery of the physical universe is employed to develop value in the mental and spiritual universe; just as the revolution of a flywheel may be the means of turning out a woven fabric of beauty and design. Some fabrics may age and turn to dust; but not so a poem or a piece of music; they have in them the seeds of immortality, and if great enough will last as long as humanity endures. All fundamental things last for ever, if what we have been saying is true; but while the physical things last by a kind of evolution of cyclical change, the evolution of Spiritual things has no necessary regress. They can advance con­tinually through higher and higher stages towards perfection.

This, I take it, is the real meaning of Evolution. This is why the physical universe exists. This, surely, is the real aim and purpose of the ultimate and infinite term, ‘God.’”

Hear also Dr. Barnes, “How man’s spirit or personality will be preserved we cannot say. Shall we not be content with St. Paul’s confident hope that God will give it a body? I would urge that in this matter our difficulties are no greater than those difficulties with regard to the whole of the future life which the doctrine of relativity has brought into clear relief.

“A generation ago, it was customary to say that Heaven was a state and not a place, the implication being that the life after death was temporal and not spatial. Einstein has, however, dem­onstrated that space and time form a single complex which we arbitrarily break up in our thought. We have no right to postu­late that in the world to come part of this complex will be destroyed while the other part remains intact. In fact, with regard to space and time in the Kingdom of Heaven, very much the same difficulties arise as with regard to body and personality. In neither case can natural science give effective guidance.” (Paper read at Church Congress 1928).

Time has its existence in the teleological relation of beginning and result, reality and idea, and as it has a beginning—for time antecedent to creation is a pure abstraction devoid of contents— so when the unity of the finite and infinite is complete it will be absorbed into eternity. That time has reality for God we must believe, the moment we see the Incarnation as a vital part of His revelation, occupying a fixed place in man’s history. The fact that the world lives and moves in God as eternal power and righteousness, and that God is the source of sanctification and blessing would be meaningless to us apart from our conception of time and place.

As inaugurating new beginnings, or higher forms of life in nature and history, God reveals Himself as the transcendent principle. As confining His activity within the laws of develop­ment, the manifold variety of finite cause and their reciprocal action, His working is immanent. Hence the distinction between creation and preservation. Creative work passes into sustaining activity—as far as it assumes the form of laws. Again it passes out of the lower order, becoming the principle of a higher. Hence the higher order is a miracle for the lower. Divine Pro­vidence unites the creative and sustaining activities, for it involves the idea of the goal and perfection of the world.

“Need there be any end, or beginning of time?” asks Sir Oliver Lodge, (Evolution and Creation p. 83), and he goes on to say, (p. 97), “The greatest name even given to the Deity in old times, the greatest inspiration of Moses, and one that was adopted (and as far as I know the only one adopted by our great Exemplar) was the name I AM—which suggests a universal present, an eternal now, without beginning or end. The physical universe, which has been poetically called “the living garment of God,”—das Gottheit lebendiges Kleid—may among its other attributes have this also. It is not for us creatures of a day to understand such an idea fully; but it is coming within our mental conception.”


 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 11.

 

MIRACLE IN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT

 

CONSIDERED IN THE LIGHT OF MODERN THOUGHT.

 

That a miracle should stimulate the faith of the eye—witness is natural, and it is equally reasonable that the same marvellous event, in the course of time, should not only cease to be such a stimulus, but actually become an added difficulty among those who had not seen the wonder performed. “I can believe most of the Bible story, but I am still a little troubled about the miracles” are words we constantly hear; and though this difficulty is not as great now as it may have been a generation or so ago, we are still perplexed with the problem, that vast numbers of seekers, who are attracted by the supreme vitality and truth of the teach­ings and life of Jesus, are halted by the supernatural element in the Bible narrative. Yet this very fact is in itself entirely in line with Scriptural teaching and with the whole method of revelation. The manner of yesterday is useless to-day; and the aid to faith that was given to help one group of persons may actually be a stumbling-block to another.

In this chapter miracles are discussed as evidence, and it will be shown how very much of their value remains, provided this initial fact is clearly understood.

As revelations of the mind of God, of His unfolding purpose in human history, of His tenderness and compassion through Jesus Christ their value becomes fuller and clearer and richer as time passes on, and as they light up new fires in the hearts of new generations. But in the initial purpose in which they caused the unbeliever to realise the greatness of the miracle-worker by the very deed he had performed ‘before his eyes, they served a unique purpose which they might never serve again in the same way. If I see an almost unbelievable action performed it does encourage me to believe in the powers of the one who has performed it, and, full of this faith, I may go away and tell others of his gifts. But I shall quickly discover that the mere recital of what I have seen has not by any means the strength of conviction for them that it had for myself, and that testimony to the ability of the wonder—worker is weakened rather than strengthened by introducing incredible evidence. “I should not have believed it had I not seen it”  said a man to his friend about a certain event. ‘”Then can you blame me it I take the same line?” was the reply, “ and remember that I have not seen it.”

In the case of most miracles the faith of the actual onlooker and the faith of the one who has not seen the wonder performed, are reversed in the order in which they are related to the miracle and the greater truth behind it. The Jewish convert of Galilee believed in Christ because he had seen the miracle; we, on the other hand, believe in the miracle because we believe in Christ. Nothing of truth is ultimately lost by this change of setting, in fact the very change appears to be entirely harmonious with the new development in our Lord’s teaching when His two years of wonder-working were ended and his final year of deeper and more spiritual teaching had begun. It was at this critical point that the seekers for signs were disappointed, for, as He told them there should be no more signs given but the sign of the Prophet Jonah. (St. Matt. xii. 39).

Now this was a very significant promise and may be accounted one of the most merciful as well as one of the most prophetic declarations He ever made; for here was declared the important truth that the miracle of the Resurrection should differ from all other miracles. And history has proved this to be the case. That a scattered, dispirited, discouraged group of dreamers, robbed of their leader and seemingly thrust back upon the ordinary vocations of life in a vanquished country, should suddenly emerge from obscurity and set forth a truth that should shake the earth to its foundations, is evidence that no reader of the story of the nations can dare to ignore. That from this miracle should spring a new civilisation able to inspire and originate, to establish order and lay the foundations of new empires, to foster the noblest arts and graces, to raise the standard of life, to fill a world with hope, is evidenced to every enquirer. Men may doubt other miracles, but this miracle is part of our life and being. Even unbelievers draw their main benefits and blessings from the triumphs of the Resurrection. “There shall no sign be given, but the sign of Jonah” may not be believed by them any more than other sayings, but the fulfilment of the prophecy has been the greatest stimulus and inspiration that humanity has known.

The word “miracle” (derived from the Latin mirari, to wonder) denotes anything wonderful, beyond human power, and deviating from the common action of the laws of nature, a supernatural event. There were two conceptions held in the early Christian Church, one being that miracles involved an interference with the forces, and a suspension of the laws, of nature; and the other, that as this could only be effected by Divine power, they served as proofs of Divine revelation. There was also the theory, held by Bonnet, Euler, Hailer, and others, that miracles “were already planted in nature. The miraculous germs always exist alongside other germs in a sort of sheath, like hidden springs in a machine, and emerge into the light when their time comes.” Paracelsus held a similar view when he claimed that there was a “twofold world, existing one in the other; beside or behind the visible is an inner, ideal world which breaks through in particular spots.” (cf. Hartmann “Life of Paracelsus,” Preface). A further theory maintains that “miracles may be wrought by the selection and use of laws of which man knows and can know nothing, and which, if he did know, he could not employ.” These theories merely aim at discovering the means by which the miraculous events are brought about; they are hypothetical only, and do not help us in arriving at any con­clusion as to how the miracles are worked.

In dealing with the attempt that has been made to discover a natural law which will explain at least some of the miracles of Jesus, Matthew Arnold says, “In one respect alone have the miracles recorded by the evangelists a more real ground than the mass of miracles of which we have the relation. Medical science has never gauged—never, perhaps, enough set itself to gauge—the intimate connection between moral fault and disease. To what extent or in how many cases what is called illness is due to moral springs having been used amiss, whether by being over-used or by not being used sufficiently, we hardly at all know and we too little inquire. Certainly it is due to this very much more than we commonly think, and the more is it due to this the more do moral therapeutics rise in possibility and import­ance.” (Literature and Dogma p. 147).

Before going any further, let us look for a moment at the nature of the miracles in the Old and New Testaments. The great miracle-workers of the Old Testament are admittedly Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, but we remark (1) that the idea of God reflected in the miracle stories of these lives is not of the loftiest kind, (2) that there is less of the supernatural, and more of the natural and normal in the wonders they were able to perform than we find in the New Testament occurrences. As regards the crossing of the Red Sea, for example, which was regarded by the Israelites as a miracle, a perfectly rational explanation can be found, for those who desire it: given a strong east wind, its waters could temporarily recede and leave a passage through which anyone could pass over.

In the case of Elijah and Elisha, the miracles which they were enabled to perform seemed to be a necessary concomitant to their spiritual teaching; almost as though without such super­natural element, they would have failed to maintain their hold upon Israel’s imagination. We find that Elijah’s miracles, with few exceptions, are works of wrath and destruction, while in the main Elisha’s are works of beneficence and healing; in fact, with Elisha the miracles seem the principle function of his life’s work, his teaching being altogether subsidiary. The healing of the water of Jericho by putting salt in it, the provision of water for the army of Jehoshaphat, the healing of Naaman the Syrian and the recovery of the iron axe-head are all instances of Elisha’s wonder-working activity as contrasted with that of Elijah. Another miracle of the same class, the feeding of a hundred men with twenty loaves so that something was left over, is a striking instance of a resemblance between the wonders of Elisha and those of Jesus Christ. There is also the story of the power of Elisha continuing after his death, as when the dead man who was cast into his sepulchre was brought to life by the mere con­tact with his bones, and in this we find an instance of an analogy between his miracles and those recorded of mediaeval saints.

Turning to the miracles of Jesus, we find them divided mainly into two headings (1) miracles of healing and (2) natural or cosmic miracles. Under the first heading are grouped such super­natural works as the healing of the centurion’s servant, the raising of the daughter of Jairus, the casting out of the devils into the herd of swine, the healing of men with the diseases of palsy and of dropsy, the raising of Lazarus and of the widow’s son at Nain, and many others; while in the latter category, are found the feeding of the Four and Five Thousand, the stilling of the storm, the withering of the fig tree, and so on. In this connection, it is interesting to notice that Christ’s own insight regarding the supernatural power by which He worked has some­times been challenged, for it is noticeable that He never failed to ascribe His power to the indwelling of God the Father within Him, (e.g. St. John xiv. 10). The Divine agency has always been recognised as controlling the working of miracles, but whether God’s action is creative, or selective and directive in miracles, seems to be beyond men’s knowledge.

At the beginning of the 18th Century, the whole New Testa­ment was regarded as an infallible revelation of true religion. But the higher criticism of the Bible by Mill, in 1707 and Wetstein in 1751, proved that there were variations in the text of the Gospels, and therefore the authority of the New Testament could not be said to be that of a legal code, permanent and fixed. An increased study of natural science in the 17th and 18th centuries proved the general uniformity of nature, and from henceforward the miracles of the New Testament which had formerly appeared as bulwarks of Christianity began to appear as difficulties needing explanation. Rationalists have attempted to explain away these miracles by urging that they are mere coincidences or natural occurrences, while at the same time they held tenaciously to the accuracy of the letter of the New Testa­ment. D. F. Strauss, in 1833, however, abandoned these shifts and expedients and disregarded the point of historical accuracy, claiming that the fulfilments of prophecy in the New Testament arose from the Christians’ belief that the Christian Messiah must have fulfilled the predictions of the. prophets, and therefore the miracles of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament either origin­ated in the same way or are purely mythical embodiments of Christian doctrines.

The opinions of David Hume (1711-1766) and later of T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) are extremely interesting on this sub­ject of the miracles. Hume had defined a miracle as a “violation of the laws of nature,” but Huxley refused to accept this. While, on the one hand he insists that the “whole edifice of practical life is built upon our faith in its continuity,” on the other hand, he says, “nobody can presume to say what the order of nature must be;” this, therefore, “knocks the bottom out of all a priori objections either to ordinary miracles or to the efficacy of prayer.” (Essay on Hume, chap. vii). If by the term “miracles” we mean only extremely wonderful events, there can be no just ground for denying the possibility of their occurrence. Assuming the chemical elements to be aggregates of uniform primitive matter, he saw no more theoretical difficulty in water being timed into alcohol in the miracle at Cana, than in sugar undergoing a similar conversion.. The credibility of miracles with Huxley seems to be a question of evidence, and it may be remarked that a scientific explanation is destructive of the supernatural character of a miracle, and that the demand for evidence may be so framed as to preclude the credibility of any historical event.

While Flume denied the subjective credibility of miracles, the objective possibility of miracles was denied by Spinoza. In this connection, Huxley expresses himself very cautiously in recognising that we do not know the continuity of nature so thoroughly as to be able to declare that this or that event is necessarily an interruption of it. “If a dead man did come to life, the fact would be evidenced, not that any law of nature had been violated, but that these laws, even when they express the results of a very long and uniform experience, are necessarily based on incomplete knowledge and are to be held only on grounds of more or less justifiable expectation,” (Essay on Hume, Chap. vii.). If we conceive the Will of God as acting on the course of nature in the same way as the human will acts on the human body, then the laws of nature may be regarded as habits of Divine activity, and miracles as unusual acts which, while consistent with the Divine character, mark a new stage in the fulfilment of the purpose of God.

The doctrine of evolution, instead of increasing the difficulty of the possibility of miracles, decreases it; for evolution enables us to realise the universe as an uncompleted process, and one in which there is no proof of absolute continuity, at any rate on the phenomenal side. That life cannot be explained by force is recognised ‘by Sir Oliver Lodge, (Life and Matter. p. 198). “Life may be something not only ultra-terrestrial, but even immaterial, something outside our present categories of matter and energy; as real as they are, but different, and utilising them for its own purpose.”

Proof of the possibility of miracles leads us on to the inquiry regarding the necessity of miracles. They may, on the one hand, be regarded as the credentials of divine revelation, though that view is not now widely held. It is recognised that acts of super­human power, even if established by adequate historical evidence do not necessarily carry with them a divine origin. Their moral quality must correspond with the character of God; the miracle and the doctrine must illuminate one another. So, on the other hand, the credentials must also be the constituents of the revel­ation. Of the miracles of Jesus, Bushnell says “the character of Jesus is ever shining with and through them, in clear self-evidence, leaving them never to stand as raw wonders only of might, but covering them with glory as tokens of a heavenly love, and acts that only suit the proportions of His personal greatness and majesty,” (p.254). The miracles of Jesus—the relief of want, the removal of suffering, the recovery of health and strength—reveal in outward events the essential features of His divine mission.

We may say, therefore, in summing up that the probability of miracles depends on the conceptions we have of the relation of God to nature, and of nature as the adequate organ for the fulfilment of God’s purposes. If we believe in a divine revelation and redemption, transcending the course of nature, then the miracles as signs of that divine purpose will not appear improbable.

In the days in which we live, the general opinion about the miracles of the Bible has undergone something of a change. A good many of the events that were once called and thought of as miracles are miracles no longer. Most of the wonderful works of our Lord were works of healing, and our understanding of the possible influence of mind over matter has been so greatly enlarged that no longer does the healing of disease by spiritual means seem to us to be any violation of natural law, for we have come, partly, to understand the law by which such works may be performed. Anyone who knows anything about the laws of psychotherapy or who has ever studied the works of such men as Professor Dubois, understands that there are laws in operation by which the personality of one man can so appeal to the person­ality of another as to make him master the ills and frailties of his body.

But you may say, this reasoning suffices for some of the miracles of healing, but how about the others? How about making a blind man see or a cripple walk? Fevers and evil spirits are in one class, but organic diseases are in another. Let us remember that already what we call mental and nervous diseases are largely within human control, and if we admit—as of course we must admit—that there is a supernatural power and control in Jesus Christ, why, then, should it be incredible that that power should reach out and stretch beyond what we see and know to something to which we have not yet attained? We cannot calculate by a mathematical process the magnitude of the power and personality of Jesus Christ. We can judge only in proportion to the power of His personality upon the minds and bodies of men.

As regards the nature-miracles of Jesus, these are, of course, in a different class; they have nothing to do with the possible power of personality on other persons. In other words, they are out-and-out miracles in the sense that we have no inkling as yet to the law which could have produced such events. But in this connection let us consider that new laws of God are being discovered all the time. If our fathers had been told that a man could fly across the Atlantic, they would have said that it was impossible; but the law has now been uncovered by which it can and has been done. And because new laws of God are being uncovered all the time, the truly scientific mind is quite willing to say to-day that “nihil impossibile est.” It is only the unin­formed, uninstructed, unscientific mind which can say that any­thing is preposterous, incredible, or impossible. The question as to how far personality can go in its control of the laws of nature is an unanswered and unanswerable question, but we do know that the higher the personality mounts, the more wonderful its control of the laws of nature seems to be.

For the Christian Church, the miracles of Jesus are of primary importance, for in these acts, Jesus revealed Himself as Saviour. “The Jesus Christ presented to us in the New Testa­ment would become a different person if the miracles were removed.” (Temple—Relations between Religion and Science. Lect. vii; cf. also Bp. Gore, “Jesus of Nazareth,” p. 204). But for the supreme miracle of His Resurrection the Christian Church would never have come into existence at all. In His sinless perfection and His filial relationship to God, Jesus Christ is unique, and His works are in accordance with His nature.

The following is an apt quotation from Bushnell’s book “Nature and the Supernatural” referred to above, which, though sixty years old, is still a classic on the subject. “If the great scientists,” he says, “can thrust their hands into the soft walls of the temple which we call the universe far enough to touch forces by means of which they are able to work the miracle of the modern world, why should it be thought a thing incredible that Christ should thrust His hand deep enough into the universe to touch forces by means of which He could accomplish the won­drous things spoken of in the Gospels?” (p. 364).

We have referred to David Flume’s definition of a miracle as “a violation of the laws of nature.” What he actually as­serted occurs in his essay entitled Of Miracles,” which essay was published as the 10th section of his work, “Inquiry Concern­ing Human Understanding;” and runs as follows:-“A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature, and, as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle from the very nature of the fact is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”

His contention was not allowed to pass unanswered. Many arguments were advanced against it, but perhaps the best refut­ation came from the pen of George Campbell, D.D., the principal of Marischal College, Aberdeen, who in “Dissertation on Miracles” accused Flume of a lack of precision in his use of the word “experience.”

Archbishop Whately at a later date supported Campbell, declaring that the word can have three distinct meanings, (1) personal experience, which would not serve Flume’s purpose; (2) universal experience, “regarding which it would be a petitio principii to assert that it was against the occurrence at any period of the world’s history of miracles;” or (3) “something inter­mediate between the two, viz., the experience of the generality, which is not enough to establish Flume’s proposition.” (See “Elements of Logic,” appendix).

The general consensus of opinion to-day would seem to be, as gathered up in a leading Encyclopaedic Dictionary, (Cassell’s), “A miracle is not a violation of the laws of nature, but the operation of a higher law overriding that of a lower, as what may be termed the law of life suspends the chemical action of the gastric juices on ‘the stomach itself during life, leaving them free to act at death.” Certainly, all who believe in the omni­potence of God, and that Jesus Christ was God Incarnate, must admit the possibility of miracles.


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 12.

 

EVOLUTION, REVELATION AND MAN.

 

Let us now gather the threads together and see where we stand.

We have seen that with regard to the existence of God, strict demonstrative evidence is not to be looked for. Even in the scientific field it is not always, is perhaps seldom, to be obtained. For example, the existence of the ether is not to be demonstrated, but constitutes a necessary hypothesis to account for observed facts. On the other hand if there be not demon­strative evidence, modern science tends to make matter a form of energy and seems often to involve at least something of an intel­ligent pantheism, and we may conclude that there is an enormous balance of probability (the guide of life) in favour of conscious energy as First Cause. The intelligent First Cause, the all-per­vading and sustaining energy we call God.

The theory of Evolution is not to be regarded as having done away with the necessity for a First Cause. True, it has moved the origin of things many stages back, but the whole series of evolution would seem to involve the vivification, impregnation or other operation of a higher power not to be distinguished from miraculous. From the point of view of some reasoners the beginnings of matter, life, consciousness, may be miraculous. Again, as already pointed out, science shows a rising order in the scale of Creation—matter, vegetable life, amoebae, fish, amphibia, reptile’s, mammals, man; and it seems unreasonable to suppose that Man is the final and highest consciousness possible, especially in view of his lofty aspirations, tormenting limitations, and, comparatively speaking, small achievement. Is there nothing to suggest that he has a higher destiny before him than mere matter or the brute creature? The struggle, the schism in man would seem to suggest instinctive anticipation and attempts at preparation for a larger existence, such as we might attribute say to the chrysalis prior to the butterfly stage, or to the human embryo in utero. In response to such instincts and cravings Revelation offers a hope and a satisfaction.

Moral Character of the Creator.—The necessities of our moral and intellectual nature, compel us a priori to attribute to God infinite and moral goodness. His character is to be learnt in the first instance from a study of His works. A general idea has first to be framed before any revelations can profitably be weighed. Here, as before, we have not certain demonstration, but we have again sufficient probability. In nature, for instance, we find indications of His great bounty, goodness, benevolence, power, beauty, love—although there are counter-indications in each direction. These we feel to be difficulties, blots or defects, detractions, and consider them abnormal.

Mankind presents similar and stronger indications in all directions but in considering Man we feel instinctively that such blemishes are abnormal and are to be progressively overcome. We dream of a golden age and aim at a Utopia, to the attainment of which we perceive that the great obstacle lies in the faults and inconsistencies of human character. That they are regarded as inconsistencies is in itself suggestive of aberration from an absolute standard of moral good, after which we strive with such a measure of success as is marked by the gradual amelioration of society.

There is enough in the foregoing to suggest the likelihood that the Creator would make Himself known in answer to the longings of men. The Revelation, imperfect and partial hitherto, culminates in Jesus Christ, Who claims to be the perfect Revel­ation on earth of God.

The Person of Jesus Christ and His mission on earth stand outside or beyond the evolutionary process as we know it. In His miraculous works we see the supremacy of spirit and will acting upon the physical order, but they forbid us to say that “the relation of the spiritual to the natural order can be defined in any terms of progressive evolution.” As regards His Resur­rection, the value of the evidence depends to some extent on the view taken. But from any point of view the changed mentality of the Apostles requires some great and startling occurrence between Good Friday and Easter Day. Something similar is required to account for the amazing success of the Christian Church, how it became the mighty institution it still is, also for the radical change from the seventh day to the first for religious observance as the Sabbath or Lord’s Day.

It is unthinkable that the memory of a mere man crucified as a malefactor, no matter how good and noble a man he might be, and one believed by some in his day to be no better than a fraudulent deceiver, would account for these great outstanding events in the world’s history. The enthusiasm or hallucination of such a man’s followers seems equally insufficient to produce such wonderful results. The only satisfactory solution is that He stood outside of and above the range of ordinary experience.

Limitations to the understanding of a Divine Revelation arising from the necessity of the case, consist in :—(1) The language of finite human beings which is incapable of conveying with absolute truth facts concerning the spiritual and infinite, and (2) The condition of the individual receiving it: he may suffer from individual mental distortions and prepossessions—the results of previous training. Hence any revelation even sup­posedly complete and absolute can only be received subject to the conditions of the recipient; and therefore even if absolutely true in the original corpus can only be relatively true as understood by the recipient, and would be liable to further distortion in pass­ing through him to others. (See Westcott—Gospel of Life p.xxiii. also p. 107, 184). The resultant would be, likely enough, the best possible in the circumstances, but yet being always con­ditioned as above, the expression could only be relatively and not absolutely true to infinite and spiritual fact. Thus, for pur­poses of thought, allowance would have to be made for margins of error and incomplete apprehension. In just so far as our explanation or understanding of a revelation would seem to be complete and satisfactory, there would be ground for distrust of the result obtained because of the fundamental impossibility. If, therefore, Jesus Christ is the complete revelation of God, we might expect that He would be only partially understood and even that our apprehension should be largely erroneous. It is perhaps the great half-seen facts behind our theological state­ments and behind the visions of prophets and poets which really are the truest; and not the less true for being incapable of exact statement.

Our Creeds.—Hence would seem to arise a need for a certain modesty regarding our creeds. They are, or were at the time, the best we could offer; but, with a growing knowledge and experience, they may require restatement, seeing that it is rather that they contain or point towards a truth than that they are true. At any time, they can only be relatively true. “At present we see only the baffling reflections in a mirror,” (1 Cor. xiii. 12. Moffat’s translation). To balance the unsatisfactory uncertainty of the relativity of our knowledge, “now I know in part”, there is the practical personal conviction which may be obtained- “If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching….  (S. John vii. 17).

The vast majority, if not the whole of mankind, despite human limitations and failures of achievement, has always longed for and believed that there was some unveiling of the Divine Being. In this connection Bishop Westcott reminds us (Gospel of Life, Intro.) that “ human desire includes potentially the promise of satisfaction.”

The indications of the character of God are sufficient to give rise to a hope and suggest a probability. The general con­sent supplies some ground for believing that revelations of the Divine have been given. We may still hold that Faith is not mistaken in her vision—” the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” (Is. xl. 5).

The Problem of Evil.—As regards the problem of Evil, in the actual state of man the revelation of God, in the world without and in the soul within, is partially obscured and partially defaced. The existence of evil, physical and moral, is a difficulty which probably cannot be fully met But in the course of evolution at some point, we can take it, the consciousness of man recognised its power of independence and chose to form a judgement and follow a course for the worse rather than for the better, accord­ing to its standard at the time.

It is not necessary that the original error should have been made by a common ancestor or even in one common race. St. Paul implies a common ancestor (Rom. v. 14 &c., 1 Cor. xv. 22; 1 Tim. ii. 13) but this would not seem to compel acquiescence. For (a) no other idea would have been possible then, (b) if we modify the eschatological teaching of Jesus Christ, allowing for the apocalyptic element, similarly we should allow for the Rab­binical standpoint and the necessary limits in St. Paul himself. Furthermore, the fact is evident that each individual man has used his choice for the wrong, and this is sufficient to account for much of evil. And again, the moral training of men would seem to demand the possibility, if not even the actuality, of evil.

If regarded as insufficient to justify the existence of evil, these considerations would appear at any rate to supply a prac­tical answer to objections.

The Evidence of Comparative Religion.—The study of Comparative Religion shows many likenesses to the Christian Faith in the beliefs of other peoples. When divested of racial and other particular colour the religious faiths of men exhibit a large body of common ideas. These would seem to indicate instinctive needs, and, if intuitive, ‘suggest a degree of truth and general applicability. All in varying degree point to the Word the Revealer. He fulfils the implied promises (implied in the implanted desires) and, as far as we can understand Him, serves to winnow out the chaff of previous thought. The likenesses found in Comparative Religion are evidences of the necessities of our constitution and point towards a fact of which all religions are an imperfect delineation—the “Desire of all Nations.” (Hag. ii. 7.              A.V.)

The Word Made Flesh.—The Logos was made flesh and tabernacled among us, the Light which shone in the darkness, and the darkness apprehended it not. No man grasped fully, the most part of mankind completely misunderstood; a very few devotedly accepted the Person, and from faint and weak begin­nings were led to a fuller, but always necessarily incomplete, apprehension.

This would seem to indicate our present position. Since Christ came, we have had, in a growing degree, sufficient know­ledge for a modestly systematic statement of Theology, but always to be regarded as provisional and tentative, awaiting the fuller disclosure which comes through natural science, the observed course of history, experience of the working of Divine laws, spiritual enlightenment of thinkers, prophets, poets, and humble souls to whom God has spoken.

We “grope for” God in our age as others have done in their age, but not blindly. “Now I know in part.” With en­larged knowledge, experience, and capacity, we await and receive further illumination sufficient for present practical guidance. We continue the search, for we expect the vision to break upon us eventually. “Then shall I know….  as also I have been known.” 1 Cor. xiii. 12).

Our search is a practical one. Civilisation to-day is suffering from lack of new life. May it not be that new life will come from an ever-growing recognition of the power of every human spirit to know God and to be like Him; from a belief in a revel­ation not of old time only but of to-day; the Divine within co­operating with the Divine without, to bring man to that knowledge which alone is eternal life, and to that service which alone is perfect freedom?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End.