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THE PHENOMENA OF THE UNIVERSE.
Accords with phenomena. LET us now suppose that a Great Intelligent First Cause exists, and has existed from eternity; are not all the appearances of the universe correspondent with the existence of such a being?
Unreasonable to ask more evidence. Again we may demand of an Atheist what other evidences of the existence of God he would require. Let him suggest something, which, in the form of evidence, would be more satisfactory to him, and he will not find it easy to fix on any evidence which is stronger or more suitable than what we already possess.
Atheist challenged to propose any stronger. It may appear strange to some that we challenge the Atheist to demand any clearer or 234stronger evidence of the existence of a Supreme Being than that which is already before us. But let the attempt be made to conceive of some evidence of this truth which would be more satisfactory, and better adapted to be a standing proof to all nations, and we have mistaken the matter, if the result will not be that the existing evidence is as good as any which they could ask. It will be worth while to spend a little time in considering this point, for if we cannot satisfy the Atheist of the truth of our position, the discussion may be satisfactory to others who have not been accustomed to view the subject in this light.
Visibility of God not requisite. It is true we do not see God, and the reason is, he is a spirit; and a spirit, from the very nature of the case, is invisible. We cannot see the souls of our nearest friends; we know that they exist, not by any direct perception of the intelligent substance, but by the actions which they perform through the instrumentality of the body. If God were not a spirit he could not be an active, 235intelligent, powerful, and perfect being; but being a spirit he must be invisible. Nothing is visible but material substances, and these only by means of light reflected from them to the eye.
Invisible existences are believed in. It is not forgotten that most Atheists, being materialists, deny that there is any such substance as spirit; but they do not and cannot deny that there is something within us which thinks and feels and wills, and has power to originate bodily motion. Call the substance, of which thought is a property, by what name you please, still it is an invisible substance. Who can pretend to see a thought or a volition? or who would say that he can see the mind, and describe its shape and give its magnitude and dimensions? Let it be supposed then that the cause of all intelligence has a nature resembling this intelligent nature of which we are every moment conscious, but far more excellent, as it must b supposed that every excellence exists in a higher degree in the cause than in the effect.236
In no way could a spiritual Being be better revealed. Now supposing such an intelligent being to exist, call him spiritual or material, only let him be a being of thought, will, and passion; and that he is necessarily from his nature invisible to eyes of flesh; the question is, how could such a being make himself known to rational minds such as ours. As we cannot by any direct perception look into the mind of another, and as such a being cannot make himself visible without assuming a gross body, we can conceive of no way by which he can make himself known but by performing some act, or exhibiting to us some work which shall contain the impress of his character. For if he should assume a bodily shape, and thus make himself visible, it would not be the intelligent substance which we perceived, but a body, which was no part of his essence. If an intelligent creature could be so situated in the universe as to have no opportunity of contemplating any work of God, such a creature could never arrive at the knowledge of his existence. But the supposition is impossible; for an intelligent creature 237could not exist without the consciousness of its own thoughts; and in the mind itself, even if it were cut off from all perception of material things, there is sufficient proof of an efficient, intelligent cause. The impress of the divine attributes is as clearly printed on the soul as on any of the works of God to which man has access.
The First Cause known by his works. As the First Cause, if there is one, must be from his nature invisible, the only way by which he can be conceived to make known his existence, is by setting before us some work, in which his wisdom, power, and goodness may be manifested; and by the contemplation of which a rational mind may infer, that a being does exist, to whom these properties belong. If then in the various objects in the world, there is as much evidence of these attributes as we can conceive, and in fact far exceeding our most enlarged conceptions, we have the best proof of the existence of a Great First Cause, which we could have. The simple question then is, could there be exhibited stronger evidences of wisdom than we have in 238the structure of the body of man, and in the constitution of his mind? Could the various species of animals in the earth, air, and sea, be formed with more consummate wisdom than they are, in relation to the climate in which they live, and the provision made internally and externally for their subsistence, and the propagation of their kind. Examine also the vegetable world. Call in the aid of glasses to inspect the concealed structure of the vessels; contemplate the leaf, the flower, and the mature fruit, and say whether you can conceive of contrivances more exquisite. If any man thinks that animal and vegetable bodies could have been constructed with more wisdom, let him point out in what respects these works of nature are deficient in wisdom But even if it were possible to conceive of more perfect works, this could not in the least invalidate the argument from them, for the existence of an intelligent cause. If the question were of the degree of perfection in the wisdom exhibited, then the skill manifested in each work would be a proper subject for consideration. An imperfect time-piece proves the 239existence of an artist as fully as one that is perfect.
This manifestation needs no amendment. But there is here no need of this remark, for the Atheist may be defied to conceive of any improvement in any of the works of God, in regard to the adaptation of the means used to the end to be accomplished; and these evidences of the wisdom of God are scattered profusely over the whole universe. We cannot turn our eyes to the heaven or the earth, to objects of great magnitude, or so small that they can be seen only by the microscope, but the same admirable perfection of contrivance is manifest in them all. The internal structure of the gnat is as wonderful as that of the elephant; and: in the manifestation of wisdom in the creation there is a wonderful variety. No two species are exactly alike; and the difference is exactly such as it should be to accomplish the special end in view. The more intricate our examination of the contrivance and evident design in the organization of animal and vegetable bodies, the stronger will 240be our conviction, and the greater our admiration.
God is clearly manifested. The only question then is, could the evidences of intelligence in the cause, if thus innumerable, be exhibited in a clearer and stronger light than they are; if not, then God could not make known his existence as an intelligent being more clearly than he has done. The number of instances in which design appears, is far greater than can be examined, and the degree of wisdom in the various contrivances in organized bodies, transcends our conception how, therefore, could we have by new works, greater evidence of an intelligent cause, than we already possess?
The evidence need not be as great as possible. But there seems in most minds a lurking suspicion, that the existing evidence is not as convincing as it might have been. Even if this were so, we have no right to complain, when it cannot be denied that we have very strong evidence. God is not obliged to give to his creatures the strongest possible evidence of his241own existence. He may choose to leave scope for human industry, and also make the reception of the truth a part of our moral probation; and the pleasure of discovering truth after laborious research, a part of the reward of virtue. No doubt this is the fact in regard to some truths of no small importance. The honest inquirer discovers them, while the proud and prejudiced mind, though more acute, misses them, and embraces in their stead dangerous error. In maintaining, therefore, that the evidence for the being of God is as convincing as it could be to an impartial, rational mind, it is not because such clearness is considered essential; but simply because the fact appears to be as stated.
Can stronger proof be proposed? But since many may still suppose that they can imagine much stronger proof than any which exists, let us consider what can be alleged in favour of this opinion.
Supposition of address to the ear. Could not God speak to us in a voice of thunder, and thus make himself known? Undoubtedly he could; and such a voice would 242doubtless greatly terrify us; but would it be a stronger proof of his wisdom and power than the works of nature which we behold? If this tremendous sound were heard very often, it would at length become familiar, and would cease to produce the same impression as at first. If heard but seldom, it would leave a suspicion that it might have been no more than a disordered imagination. But how could we be sure that the voice proceeded from a being who would not deceive? The mere hearing the noise could give us no certain evidence of the character and veracity of the speaker?
A visible glory not convincing. But perhaps it may be thought that a glorious visible appearance would place the matter beyond all possibility of doubt. The majestic appearance of a divine person, would, it may be alleged, satisfy every one. The same objections may be made to this species Of evidence, as to the former; how could we know that this visible appearance was that of the Great First Cause? Unnatural appearances prove nothing 243respecting the character of the person who assumes them; if such apparitions were only occasionally exhibited, we should be prone to doubt of their reality; and if frequent, we should become too much accustomed to them to receive any impression. But whatever impression such appearances might make, considered as evidence of an all-perfect Deity, they would not be comparable to that which we have in the works of nature.
Miracles. But if the Supreme Being exists, why could he not make himself known by working stupendous miracles? Of course, if miracles might be demanded by one, all have the same need; and the same claims and miracles would become so common, that it would be difficult to distinguish them from natural events. And again, miracles require no more power to produce them than is required to produce common events. In many cases they would require no more than a cessation of the power by which natural events are produced. The standing still of the sun, or the stopping of the rotation of the earth, would be nothing else 244than removing the impulse by which they were originally put in motion.
Are effects of power. In a miracle, we only see the effect of divine power. We may infer from this, that there is a Being who can change the laws of nature; and a miracle taken by itself can prove nothing more. But in the works of nature, we have innumerable proofs of the wisdom and beneficence of the Author of the Universe. And the number, variety, and wisdom of these works are evident to every person of common sense. The proofs of a great intelligent cause are spread out, over the heavens and the earth, the sea, and the air. We are little affected by these objects, because they have ever been before our eyes since our earliest infancy. But as evidences of a Divine existence their force is not diminished by the uniformity of the laws of nature, by which they are continually produced, but greatly increased. The different species of animals and vegetables have successively been reproduced, according to laws that never vary; and this shows that the plan of the Almighty is perfect, and that He 245can accomplish all his pleasure, and has given uniform laws to every kind of being which his wisdom and power have produced.
But add nothing to proof of power. It is not denied that miraculous displays are a decisive proof of a Great First Cause, who is possessed of omnipotence; but what we maintain is, that the evidence of omnipotence is not greater than in the natural effects which are constantly produced before our eyes. And as to the character and attributes of God, they are far more clearly exhibited in the various productions of nature, than they would be by a miraculous interposition. If another sun were placed in the heavens, which is as great a miracle as we can imagine, it would be a proof of mighty power, but not a stronger proof than the existence of the natural sun; and as to the wisdom and goodness of the Deity, there would be no comparison, for in the former case, nothing but the existence of Omnipotence could be inferred from the miracle, for there would be no appearance of wisdom in such a miracle. But in the existence of the natural sun, which gives light, 246heat, motion, and life to all earthly living things, the wisdom and goodness of the Creator are most illustriously displayed. Who can enumerate the benefits which are derived from the influence of the sun? and the same sun, which communicates so many blessings to our world, dispenses blessings in the same way to other planets.
Result of the argument. If we saw the dead raised in a thousand instances, it would be a decisive evidence of the existence of a Being of almighty power; but the evidence is fully as strong from the formation and vivification of innumerable animal bodies of many species. And no miracle can be conceived, which would furnish stronger evidence of the Divine existence, than the works of creation which are ever before our eyes and our minds. I think, after what has been said, that we cannot wish for more convincing evidence of the existence of a Supreme Being, than we already possess in the works of nature spread out before us; and even if we were shut up in a dark dungeon, we have this convincing evidence in our own 247persons, in the constitution of both our souls and bodies.
The demand of self-evidence. The only thing which can be alleged further is, that this might have been made a self-evident truth as much as our own existence, or the existence of the world without us; and many formerly entertained that opinion that the idea of God is innate, and that a speculative Atheist is a thing impossible. Some very learned and respectable philosophers and theologians have expressly inculcated this opinion in their writings. Now, although we do not believe there are any innate ideas, and although the existence of God can scarcely be said to be self-evident, yet in the proof of it, there is but a single step of reasoning. It is a self-evident truth that every effect must have an adequate cause; and when there is evident design in the effect, the cause must be intelligent. The conclusion is so easily drawn from an intuitive truth, that it is not wonderful that it should be classed among self-evident truths. We can scarcely conceive of the state of that mind which after seriously contemplating 248the wonderful evidences of design in the human frame, can doubt the existence of an intelligent First Cause, and an intelligent cause producing effects by a wise adaptation of means to a definite end, and the harmonious operation of thousands of parts in the vital functions must, according to every proper definition of the term, be a person.
Attributes of God. All the arguments by which the being of God is proved, involve the proof of some of his attributes. If the marks of design in creatures prove the existence of a Creator, it is by showing that he must be possessed of wisdom to cause so many wonderful contrivances as we behold in the world. As the operation of any cause is the exertion of power, so the creation of the world is the action of omnipotence. A greater power than that which brings something out of nothing cannot be conceived: this indeed we cannot comprehend, and, therefore, some who admit that the world is the work of God, as far as relates to the organization and moulding of matter, yet cannot be persuaded that omnipotence 249itself can give existence where there was none before. But if God did not create the matter that is in the world, whence came it? There are but two suppositions; one is, that matter existed from eternity, and is, therefore, self-existent and independent; the other, that it is an emanation of the divine essence. The first is inadmissible; it supposes two eternal beings independent of each other, and the latter leads to pantheism, or that all things are a part of God; as whatever emanates from him must be a part of his essence, for this is immutably the same. Though wisdom and power are the attributes which are first observed, they are not the only attributes of which we may learn something by studying the works of nature. For when we attentively consider the nature of the end, to accomplish which the innumerable contrivances are adapted, we cannot but observe that this end is beneficent. All the parts of animals are connected with the vitality, enjoyment, and preservation, of the animal or species. The goodness of God is therefore as manifest in the creation, as his wisdom. There is not a part in 250any animal body which can be shown to be without its use. Every species is fitted by the bodily structure, and by the instincts and passions with which it is endued, to enjoy in the most perfect degree that kind of life to which it is destined. Even the minutest animalculæ have bodies organized with as exquisite skill as those of the larger species. No living creature exists for which food is not provided, suited to the appetite and nourishment of the species, and which it has the means of procuring. So every species is endowed with the instinctive ability to provide for itself and its progeny suitable places of residence; and there are insects which, though they undergo a remarkable metamorphosis and change of appetites, are still able by their instinct to find the nourishment which is agreeable and necessary. And what is still more wonderful and indicative of far-seeing wisdom in the Creator is the fact, that these insects which were once in the chrysalis state, and afterwards assume the form and instincts of butterflies, are led by an invariable propensity to deposit their eggs on plants 251necessary for the young grubs, but on which they themselves never feed. Were it not for this wise provision for the young, they would all perish. Between the animal and vegetable world there is a beautiful harmony; the latter to a large extent supplies food for the former. It may be thought that the constitution of things by which one animal preys upon another, is an argument against the goodness of God; but these animals are only intended for a transitory existence, and as they all must die, and are tormented with no apprehensions in regard to the future, and the pain indeed is momentary, if they enjoy much more pleasure than pain during their existence, there seems to be no solid objection against this law of nature.
Objections from existence of pain. It has often been alleged as an atheistical objection against the goodness, and by consequence, against the existence of God, that pain or misery has a place among his works. This perhaps is the most plausible of all objections which infidels have ever produced; and yet it has no certain principles on which to rest. With a 252system such as the present, where there is a gradation of sensitive beings, it is impossible for us to conceive how all pain could be excluded. As far as we can see, the susceptibility of pleasure carries with it a liableness to some degree of pain. What if the pain which animals endure arise out of the principle of self-preservation, and from the appetites, in the gratification of which consists their enjoyment? Without desire and appetite there could be no animal enjoyment, and when the safety of the animal requires it, it is wisely ordered that by uneasiness or pain it should be stimulated to seek its necessary food, or flee from danger.
Miseries of the human race. And as to man, while in the present world we cannot conceive how he could have any enjoyment, unless he was also subject to such feelings of uneasiness human race. as rendered him capable of relishing his enjoyments. This remark relates to pains which cannot be avoided, such as the pain of hunger and thirst, and the pain arising from contact with some injurious body. The surface of man’s body is the chief seat of pain, because 253danger commonly approaches him from without. It does not appear, therefore, possible that such a system of creatures as exist in the world could be constituted so as to be exempt from all un easy feelings. To make creatures whose constitution would exempt them from all liableness to pain, would, as far as we can see, exempt them from all susceptibility to pleasure. And as to those evils which men bring upon themselves by imprudence, intemperance, injustice, or by disobeying the voice of conscience within them, they must be attributed to themselves and not to the constitution of the world. And as God is not obliged to make every creature as great and as happy as it could be made, it may seem to exhibit his wisdom and power to produce beings in whose existence there is a mixture of natural good and evil.
Moral perfections of the First Cause. It appears clear, then, that the Author of this universe is powerful, wise, and beneficent; but how does it appear that he is possessed of a moral character? that he loves moral excellence, and disapproves of moral evil? This appears evidently 254from the moral constitution of man. The law interwoven in his constitution proves that his Maker approves of moral excellence. Again, it would be absurd to suppose that the creature could possess an excellence, and one superior to all natural endowments, of which there was no prototype in the Great First Cause. We may lay it down as a maxim, that whatever perfection we can conceive of must exist in the most perfect degree in the Creator, for all our ideas of perfection are derived from the contemplation of creation; and whatever excellence there is in the creation must exist in the Creator.
Divine approbation of virtue. Besides, by the laws of nature, virtuous conduct is generally productive of pleasure and peace of mind; and immoral conduct is generally a source of misery. These laws of nature are the laws of God, and manifest his approbation of virtue and disapprobation of vice.255
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