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APPENDIX TO LECTURE III.

GOD AS RELIGIOUS POSTULATE.

IF we are to speak of God as a postulate of the soul, we must speak of Him as a postulate for the whole need of the soul—for its religious and its rational, not less than for its moral need. We must speak of Him also in such a way as to show that this postulate is not an arbitrary one, but springs necessarily from the soul’s rational and moral constitution, and so as to explain the conviction of its truth by which it is accompanied. But this can only be done by showing that there are laws of man’s spiritual nature which imperatively demand such and such an object, and by making it clear what these are. In like manner I would lay it down as a first principle, as against all psychological and empirical theories of religion, which propose to account for men’s religious ideas and beliefs from natural causes (hopes and fears, animism, ghosts, etc.), without raising the question of how far they correspond with any outward reality, that no theory of religion can be adequate which does not cast light on the deepest ground of the soul’s movement towards God, and on the nature of the object which alone can adequately satisfy it. This again assumes that there are laws of the spiritual nature which determine beforehand what the character of the object must be which alone can satisfy the religious necessity, and which impel the soul unceasingly to a search after that object. This, however, is precisely what I consider the truth about religion to be,- as a survey of its manifestations in history reveals its nature to us. Religion is not an arbitrary product of the soul. Even in the lowest and poorest religions we see something struggling into consciousness,—a want, a desire, a need,—which is not measured by the extent of its actual knowledge of the Divine. Religion we might define from this point of view as the search of the soul for an adequate spiritual 113object to rest in, combined with the consciousness that there is such an object, and with the impulse to seek after it and when found, to surrender itself to it. Now what kind of object is it which the soul thus demands? This can only be determined by the study of its laws, as these spring from its essential nature, and are exhibited on the field of historical religion. And here, I think, we are warranted to say—

1. That the soul, as itself personal, demands for the satisfaction of its religious need, a personal object. From whatever source it derives its idea of the Divine (sense of dependence, outward impressions of nature, moral consciousness), it invariably personalises it. Over against its “I” it seeks a “Thou,” and will rest satisfied with nothing less.

2. That the soul, as thinking spirit, demands an infinite object. This is a proposition of some importance, and requires more careful consideration. We cannot err in seeking with Hegel the deepest ground of man’s capacity for religion in his possession of the power of thought. The power of thought is not the whole of religion, but it is that which gives man his capacity for religion. The lower animals are irrational, and they have no religion. Thought, in this connection, may be described as the universalising principle in human nature. It is that which heads us to negate the limits of the finite. It is that which impels man from fact to principle, from law to wider law, from the collection of facts and laws in the universe to the principle on which the whole depends. It is the element of boundlessness in imagination, of illimitableness in desire, of insatiableness in the appetite for knowledge. On the side of religion we see it constantly at work, modifying the idea of the object of religion, and bringing it more into harmony with what it is felt that an object of worship ought to be. One way in which this is done is by the choice of the grander objects of nature—the sky, sun, mountains, etc.—as the embodiments and manifestations of the Divine. Another way is by the mere multiplication of the objects of idolatry—the mind seeking in this way, as it were, to fill up the gap in its depths. Another way is physical magnitude—hugeness. “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits and the breadth thereof six cubits; he set it up in the plain of 114Dura.”195195Dan. iii. 1.

This love of the colossal is seen in most oriental religions (e.g. Egyptian, Assyrian). Another way is by what Max Muller calls Henotheism—fixing on one special deity, and treating it for the time being as if it was alone and supreme. Another way is by creating a “system,” placing one deity at the head of the Pantheon, and making the rest subordinate. We have examples in the position held by Zeus and Jupiter in the Greek and Roman religions—a position described by Tiele as one of “Monarchism allied to Monotheism.” Another way is by tracing back the origin of the gods, as in Hesiod, to some uncreated principle; or by placing behind them a fate, necessity, or destiny, which is a higher power than they. Finally, in the philosophical schools, we have reasoned Theism, or Pantheism, or some cosmic theory in which the universe itself becomes God. Through all, the search of the soul for an infinite is clearly discernible.

3. That the soul, as itself ethical, demands an ethical object. It does this in all the higher forms of religion. It may be observed that, once the idea of an ethical God has been brought home to the mind, no lower conception of the Deity can be accepted. The agnostic himself—strongly as he protests against the knowableness of God—will yet be the first to maintain that it is impossible to entertain, even as hypothesis, any idea of God which represents Him as false, cruel, tyrannical, revengeful, unjust. He knows enough about God, at any rate, to be sure that He is not this.

4. I may add that the soul, as itself an intelligence, demands a knowable object. It has previously been shown that, for purposes of religion, an unknowable God is equivalent to no God at all. Religion seeks not only a knowledge of its object, but such a knowledge as can be made the basis of communion. Here, again, we are led by the very idea of religion, to the expectation of Revelation. The bearing of all this on the Christian view is very obvious, It gives us a test of the validity of the Christian view, and it explains to us why this view comes home to the spirit of man with the self-evidencing power that it does. It comes to the spirit as light—attests its truth by its agreement with the laws of the spirit. The worth of this attestation is not weakened 115by the fact that the Christian religion itself mostly creates the very capacity by which its truth can be perceived—creates the organ for its own verification. It makes larger demands upon the spirit, calls forth higher ideas than any other; but, in doing so, reveals at the same time the spirit to itself. Brought to the foregoing tests, it discovers to us a God personal, infinite, ethical, and knowable, because self-revealing, and in this way answers the demands of the religious spirit.

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