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“By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear.”—Epistle to Hebrews.
“Man is neither the master nor the slave of Nature; he is its interpreter and living word. Man consummates the universe, and gives a voice to the mute creation.”—Ed. Quinet.
“He who believes in God must also believe in the continuance of man’s life after death. Without this there could be no world which would be conceivable as a purpose of God.”—Rothe.
“I trust I have not wasted breath; I think we are not wholly brain, Magnetic mockeries; not in vain, Like Paul with beasts, I fought with Death;
“Not only cunning casts in clay: Let Science prove we are, and then What matters Science unto men, At least to me? I would not stay.” TENNYSON.
“Does the soul survive the body? Is there God’s self, no or yes?” R. Browning.
THE POSTULATE OF THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE WORLD IN REGARD TO NATURE AND MAN.
The Christian doctrine of God as personal, ethical, and self-revealing, carries with it a second postulate as to the nature of man. The Christian doctrine of God and the Christian doctrine of man are in fact correlatives. For how should man know that there is a personal, ethical, self-revealing God,—how should he be able to frame the conception of such a Being, or to attach any meaning to the terms employed to express His existence,—unless he were himself rational and moral—a spiritual personality? The two views imply each other, and stand or fall together. We may express this second postulate of the Christian view in the words, Man made in the image of God.196196Gen. i. 27. Dorner says truly: “The absolute personality of God, and the infinite value of the personality of man, stand and fall with each other.”— Person of Christ, v. p 155.
This truth of a natural kinship between the human spirit and the Divine is at once the oldest declaration in the Bible about man, and is implied in every doctrine of the Christian system. It is implied, as already said, in the knowledge of God, and in the call to fellowship with Him in holiness and love. It is implied in the Christian view of sin; for sin in the Christian view derives its tragic significance from the fact that it is a revolt of the creature will against the Divine will, to which it is by nature bound, that it cuts the soul off from its true life and blessedness in union with God. It is implied in regeneration, and in the capacity of the soul to receive the Spirit of God. For the Spirit of God does not enter the soul as something foreign and extraneous to it. He enters it as the principle of its true life. What, on the one side, we call the operations of the Spirit, or the presence of the Spirit in the 120soul, we call, on the other, the new life itself. The Divine and human here are but one and the same thing on two different sides. It is implied also in the call of man to a Divine sonship. It is the case, no doubt,—and the fact is one to be carefully considered,—that in Christ’s teaching God is not called the Father of all men indiscriminately, nor is the title “son of God” given to all men indiscriminately. It is used only of those who are the subjects of spiritual renewal, and who bear in some measure the moral and spiritual likeness of the Father.197197Matt. v. 9, 45; John i. 12-13. Cf Schmid’s Theol. of the New Testament, p. 101 (Eng. trans.). It does not denote a merely natural or physical relationships, but a moral bond as well. Deliberate and hardened transgressors are spoken of, not as children of Gods, but rather as children of the devil.198198Matt. xxiii. 15; John viii. 44. But this is only because these wicked persons have turned their backs on their own true destination. As made by God, and as standing in his normal relation to Him, man is without doubt a son. Hence, in the Gospel of Luke, though not by Christ Himself, Adam is called “the son of God,”199199Luke iii. 38. Yet only through the context—Ἀδὰμ, τοῦ Θεοῦ. and Paul does not scruple to quote the saying of the heathen poet, “For we also are His offspring.”200200Acts xvii. 28. The fact that the title “son of God” should belong to any, already implies a natural kinship between God and man, else the higher relationship would not be possible. If there were not already a God-related element in the human spirit, no subsequent act of grace could confer on man this spiritual dignity.201201On the nature of man’s sonship cf. Candlish’s Fatherhood of God, and Dr. Crawford’s work in reply (same title); Bruce’s Kingdom of God, chaps. iv. and v.; Wendt’s Die Lehre Jesu, ii. pp. 145–151, 453–464.
Not only in the Christian view in generals, but specially in the great central doctrine of the Incarnation, is this truth of man made in the image of God seen to be implied. I have already referred to certain services which the German speculative movement in the beginning of the century rendered to Christianity, in laying stress on the essential kinship which exists between the human spirit and the Divine, a thought never since lost sight of in theology. So long as the world is conceived of in deistic separation from God, it is inevitable that the Divine and human should be regarded as two opposed 121essences, between which true union is impossible. Once this point of view is overcome, and it is seen that the bond between God and man is inner and essential—that there is a God-related element in the human spirit which makes man capable of receiving from the Divine, and of becoming its living image—a great step is taken towards removing objections to the Incarnation. A union between the Divine and human is seen to be possible, to the intimacy of which no limits can be set,—which, indeed, only reaches its perfection when it becomes personal. The Incarnation has not only this doctrine of man as its presupposition—it is, besides, the highest proof of its truth. Christ, in His own Persons, is the demonstration of the truth of the Bible doctrine about man. To get a knowledge of the true essence of anything, we do not look at its ruder and less perfect specimens, but at what it is at its best. Christ is the best of humanity. He is not only the Revelation of God to humanity, but the Revelation of humanity to itself. In Him we see in perfect form what man in the Divine idea of him is. We see how man is made in the image of Gods, and how humanity is constituted the perfect organ for the Revelation of the Divine.
It is evident that in the Christian view the doctrine of man links itself very closely with the doctrine of nature—of creation. It is not merely that man is related to nature by his body, but he is in Scripture, as in science, the highest being in nature. He is, in some sense, the final cause of nature, the revelation of its purpose, the lord and ruler of nature. Nature exists with supreme reference to him; is governed with a view to his ends; suffers in his fall; and is destined to profit by his Redemption.202202See pp. 193–196. I propose to begin with the natural basis—the doctrine of creation.
I. The natural basis—the doctrine of creation.
I. The Bible affirms, and perhaps it is the only book that does so, that all things, visible and invisible, have originated from God by a free act of creation.203203Gen. i. 1; John i. 2; Col. i. 16; Heb. xi. 3. etc. The Bible doctrine of creation is something more than the Mosaic cosmogony. For my present purpose it is indifferent how we interpret the first chapter of Genesis—whether as the result of direct Revelation, 122or as the expression of certain great religious truths in such forms as the natural knowledge of the age admitted of. I believe myself that the narrative gives evidence of its Divine original in its total difference of character from all heathen cosmogonies, but this is a view I need not press.204204Note A.—The Creation History. The main point is the absolute derivation of all things from God, and on this truth the Scripture as a whole gives no uncertain sound. Discussions have been raised as to the exact force of the Hebrew word (bara) used to express the idea of creation,205205Cf. Delitzsch’s Genesis, ch. i. 1, and Schultz’s Alt. Theol. pp. 570, 571. but even this is of subordinate importance in view of the fact, which none will dispute, that the uniform teaching of Scripture is that the universe had its origin, not from the fashioning of pre-existent matter, but directly from the will and word of the Almighty.206206“Creation out of nothing,” says Rothe, “is not found in express words in Holy Scripture. . . . The fact itself, however, is expressed in Scripture quite definitely, since it teaches throughout, with all emphasis, that, through His word and almighty will alone, God has called into being the world, which before did not exist, and this not merely in respect of its form, but also of its matter.”—Dogmatik, i. 133. “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.”207207Ps. xxxiii. 9.
Not only is this doctrine of creation fundamental in Scripture, but it is of great practical significance. It might be thought, of what practical importance is it to us to know how the world originated? Is not this a question of purely speculative interest? But a moment’s reflection will convince us that it is not so. The vital thing in religion is the relation of dependence. To feel that we and our world, that our human life and all that we are and have, absolutely depend on God,—this is the primary attitude of religion. For if they do not thus depend,—if there is anything in the universe which exists out of and independently of God,—then what guarantee have we for the unfailing execution of His purposes, what ground have we for that assured trust in His Providence which Christ inculcates, what security have we that all things will work together for good? But to affirm that all things depend on God is just in another way to affirm the creation of all things by God. They would not depend on Him if He were not their Creator. They do depend on Him, because they are created by Him. The doctrine of 123creation, therefore, is not a mere speculation.—Only this conviction that it is “the Lord that made heaven and earth”208208Ps. cxxi. 2.—that “of Him, amid through Him, and to Him, are all things”209209Rom. xi. 36.—that He has created all things, and for His pleasure they are and were created,210210Rev. iv. 11. Revised Version reads: “For Thou didst create all things; and because of Thy will they are and were created.”—can give us the confidence we need in a holy and wise government of the universe, and in a final triumph of good over evil.
If the doctrine of creation is the only one which meets the wants of our religious nature, it may new further be affirmed that it is a doctrine consonant with reason, and consistent with all true knowledge. It is opposed, first, to all forms of dualism; secondly, to a merely logical derivation of the universe; and thirdly, to the atheistic assertion of the self-subsistence and eternity of the universe. Let us glance briefly at these various oppositions.
1. Partly on metaphysical, partly on moral grounds, some have revived the old Platonic doctrine of an eternal matter, or ether independent principle, which exists alongside the Deity, and conditions and limits Him in His working. Thus Dr. Martineau holds that, in order to afford an objective field for the Divine operations, we must assume something to have been always there, a primitive datum, eternal as God Himself;211211Study of Religion, pp. 405–408; Seat of Authority, pp. 32, 33. while the late J. S. Mill thought the difficulties of the universe could be best explained by supposing the Creator hampered by the insufficiency and intractableness of the materials He had to work with.212212Three Essays on Religion, pp. 178, 186. Cf. Plato, Timaeus, p. 51 (Marg. Jowett’s Plato, iii.). Karl Peters, a disciple of the pessimistic school already mentioned, sets up space as a second eternal principle beside God;213213Willenswelt, pp. 335–344. and others have held similar views. Philosophically, these theories are condemned by the fact that they set up two absolutes in the universe, which, if they really were absolutes, could never be brought into any relation to each other, much less be embraced in a single act of knowledge. Suppose this eternal matter to exist outside of God, how could it ever get to be known by God, or how could He ever act upon it, seeing that it has its being utterly apart from Him? 124Or, if it is not out of relation to His intelligence, by what middle term is this relation brought about? This, which applies to two absolutes, applies, of course, much more to a theory which starts from an infinity of independent atoms— that is, from an infinite of absolutes. But these theories are weighted with difficulties of another kind. An absolutely quality less matter, or ὒ λη, such as Plato supposes,214214Cf. his Timaeus, pp. 27, 35, 50, 51. is unthinkable and impossible. Plato himself is compelled to describe it as a μὴ ον, or nothing. It is a mere abstraction.215215Dr. Stirling says: “A substance without quality were a non-ens, and a quality without a substance were but a fiction in the air. Matter, if to be, must be permeated by form; and equally form, if to be, must be realised by matter. Substance takes being from quality; quality, actuality from substance. That is metaphysic; but it is seen to be as well physic,—it is seen to have a physical existence; it is seen to be in rerum natura.“—Phil. and Theol. p. 43. Is Dr. Martineau’s eternal matter, which has no properties of any kind till the Creator bestows them upon it, in any better case? When, again, Mr. Mill identifies this eternal element, not with naked matter, but with the matter and force which we know— with constituted matter, clothed with all its existing properties and laws—are we not in the new predicament of having to account for this matter? How came it there? Whence this definite constitution? Whence these powers and properties and laws which, in their marvellous adjustments and inter- relations, show as much evidence of design as any other parts of the universe? To suppose that “the given properties of matter and force, working together and fitting into one another”216216Three Essays, p. 178. I may refer for further development of this argument to two articles by myself in The Theological Monthly (July and August, 1891), on “John Stuart Mill and Christianity.”—which is Mr. Mill’s own phrase—need no explanation, but only the uses subsequently made of them, is to manifest a strange blindness to the fundamental conditions of the problem.
2.If the Scripture view of creation is opposed to dualism in all its forms, it is not less opposed to every theory of a mere logical derivation of the universe—whether, with Spinoza, the universe is supposed to flow, with logical necessity, from an absolute substance;217217Cf. Spinoza’s Ethics, Part I. Prop. 29.—” Nothing in the universe is contingent, but all things are conditioned to exist and operate in a particular manner by the necessity of the Divine nature.” Prop. 33.—“Things could not have been brought into being by God in any manner or in any order different from that which has in fact obtained.” or with Hegel, to be the development of 125an impersonal Reason; or with Green, to arise from a Reason that is self-conscious. It is this doctrine of a necessary derivation of the universe which takes the place in modern times of the old theories of emanation; but I shall only make two remarks on it. (1)It involves an amazing assumption. The assumption is that this universe, which exhibits so much evidence of wise arrangement, and of the free selection of means to attain ends, is the only universe possible, and could not, by any supposition, be other than it is. Such a theory may be the only one open to those who hold the ground of the universe to be impersonal; but it is not one which a true Theism can sanction, and it is unprovable. Why should infinite wisdom not choose its ends, and also freely choose the means by which they are to be accomplished? Which is the higher view—that which regards the Divine Being as bound down to a single system—one, too, which wisdom, love, and freedom have no share in producing, but which flows from the nature of its cause with the same necessity with which the properties of a triangle flow from the triangle; or that which supposes the universe to have originated in a free, intelligent act, based on the counsels of an infinite wisdom and goodness?218218Cf. Veitch’s Knowing and Being, pp. 290, 291. (2) As in this theory no place is left f or freedom in God, so logically it leaves no place for freedom in man. Freedom implies initiative, control, a choice between possible alternatives. But, on this theory we are considering, freedom can never be more than a semblance. Whether the individual recognises it or not, all that he sees around him, and all that takes place within him, is but the working out of an immanent logical necessity.219219Lotze discusses “the conception of the world” as “a necessary, involuntary, and inevitable development of the nature of God,” and says regarding it: “It is wholly useless from the religions point of view, because it leads consistently to nothing but a thorough-going determinism, according to which not only is everything that must happen, in case certain conditions occur, appointed in pursuance of general laws; but according to which even the successive occurrence of these conditions, and consequently the whole of history with all its details, is predetermined.”—Outlines of the Philosophy of Religion, pp. 71, 72 (Eng. trans.). Things are what they are by a necessity as stringent as that which obtains in mathematics, and as little room is left for human initiative as on the most thorough-going mechanical or materialistic hypothesis. History, too, shows that the step from the one kind of determinism to the other is never difficult to take. The consciousness of (pg. 126–127 missing) 126freedom, however, is a fact too deeply rooted in our personality; too many interests depond on it to admit of its being this put aside at the bidding of any theory, metaphysical or other; and so long as human freedom stands, this view of the origin of the universe can never gain general acceptance.
3. In the third place, the doctrine of creation is opposed to the atheistic assertion of the self-subsistence and eternity of the universe. I may here point out the indications which science itself gives that the universe is neither self-subsistent nor eternal. Science, indeed, cannot prove the creation of the world, but it may bring us to that point at which we are compelled to assume creation.
(1) In the analysis of nature, science compels us to go back to primordial elements. The atomic constitution of matter seems one of the surest results of science,220220Professor Clifford said: “What I wish to impress upon you is this, that what is called ‘the atomic theory’—that is just what I have been explaining—is not longer in the position of a theory, but that such of the facts as I have just explained to you are really things which are definitely know, and which are no longer suppositions.”—Manchester Science Lectures on “Atoms,” Nov. 1872. Cf. art. “Atom” in Ency. Brit., and Stallo’s Concepts of Modern Physics, pp. 28, 29. and it is not yet suggested that these primordial elements are developed from one another by any process of evolution, or that their homogeneous structure and identical properties are to be accounted for by natural selection or any similar cause. Here, then, is one limit to evolution, and it is important that those who are disposed to regard evolution as all-embracing should take notice of it. But science not only tells us that the universe is built up of atoms, it finds that each of these atoms is a little world in itself in intricacy and complexity of structure;221221The authors of The Unseen Universe say: “To our minds it appears no less false to pronounce eternal that aggregation we call the atom, than it would be to pronounce eternal that aggregation we call the sun.“—P. 213. Cf. p.139. Professor Jevons believes that “even chemical atoms are very complicated structures; that an atom of pure iron is probably a vastly more complicated system than that of the planets and their satellites.”—Principles of Science, ii. p.452. and the fact that all atoms of the same class are exactly alike, perfect copies of each other in size, shape, weight, and proportion, irresistibly suggests the inference that they have a common cause. “When we see a real number of things,” says Sir John Herschel, “precisely alike, we do not believe this similarity to have originated except from a common 127principle independent of them.” Applying this to the atoms, he observes, “the discoveries alluded to effectually destroy the idea of an eternally self-existent matter, by giving to each of its atoms the essential characters at once of a manufactured article and a subordinate agent.”222222Quoted in Hitchcock’s Religion of Geology, p.105, and endorsed by Professor Clerk-Maxwell—art. “Atom,” Ency. Brit.; and by the authors of The Unseen Universe. The latter say: “Now, this production was as far as we can judge, a sporadic or abrupt act, and the substance produced, that is to say, the atoms which form the substratum of the present universe, bear (as Herschel and Clerk-Maxwell have well said), from their uniformity of constitution, all the marks of being manufactured articles.”—P. 214. This reasoning, I think, will command general assent, though fastidiousness may be offended with the phrase “manufactured article” as applied to a work of Deity.
(2) Science compels us to go back to a beginning in time. No doctrine comes here more powerfully to our support than the doctrine of evolution which some suppose to be a denial of creation. If the universe were a stable system,—i.e. if it were not in a condition of constant development and change,—it might with some plausibility be argued that it had existed from eternity. But our knowledge of the past history of the world shows us that this is not its character; that, on the contrary, it is progressive and developing.223223This does not necessarily mean acceptance of the nebular theory of development. See Note B.—Evolution in Inorganic Nature—The Nebular Hypothesis. Now it lies in the very thought of a developing universe that, as we trace it back through narrower and narrower circles of development, we come at last to a beginning,—to some point from which the evolution started.224224Professor Clerk-Maxwell says: “This idea of a beginning is one which the physical researches of recent times have brought home to us, more than any observer of the course of scientific thought in former times would have had reason to expect.”—Address to Math. and Phys. Sect. of Brit. Assoc., 1870. The alternative to this is an eternal succession of cycles of existence, a theory which has often recurred, but which brings us back to the impossible conception of a chain without a first link, of a series every term of which depends on a preceding, while yet the whole series depends on nothing.225225See Note C.—The Hypothesis of Cycles. Science can give no proof of an eternal succession, but so far as it has any voice on the subject points in an opposite direction, by showing that when the universe has parted with its energy, as it is in constant process of doing, it has no means of restoring it again.226226See passages quoted in Note C.128
(3) Finally, it is the view of many distinguished evolutionists, that the course of evolution itself compels us to recognise the existence of breaks in the chain of development, where, as they think, some new and creative cause must have come into operation. I may instance Mr. Wallace, a thoroughgoing evolutionist, who recognises three such “stages in the development of the organic world, when some new cause or power must necessarily have come into action,” viz. (a) at the introduction of life, (b) at the introduction of sensation or consciousness, (c) at the introduction of man.227227Darwinism, pp. 474–476. With the view I hold of development as a process, determined from within, I do not feel the same need for emphasising these as “breaks.” We have, indeed, at the points named, the appearance of something entirely new, but so have we, in a lesser degree, with every advance or improvement in the organism, e.g., with the first rudiment of an eye, or of a new organ of any kind. The action of the creative cause is spread along the whole line of the advance, revealing itself in higher and higher potencies as the development proceeds. It only breaks out more manifestly at the points named, where it founds a new order or kingdom of existence.228228Mr. Gore has said: “The term supernatural is purely relative to what at any particular stage of thought we mean by nature. Nature is a progressive development of life, and each new stage of life appears supernatural from the point of view of what lies below it.”—The Incarnation (Bampton Lectures), p. 85. Lange has expanded the same thought. “Each stage of nature,” he says, “prepares for a higher; which in turn maybe regarded as above nature, as contrary to nature, and yet as only higher nature, since it introduces a new and higher principle of life into the existent and natural order of things. . . . Thus the chemical principle appeared as a miracle in the elementary world, as introducing a new and higher life; similarly the principle of crystallisation is a miracle with reference to the lower principle of chemical affinity; the plant, a miracle above the crystal; the animal, a miracle in reference to the plant; and man, over all the animal world. Lastly, Christ, as the Second Man, the God-Man, is a miracle above all the world of the first man, who is of the earth earthy.”—Com. on Matt. p. 152 (Eng. trans.).
While thus advocating, as part of the doctrine of creation, a beginning of the world in time, I am not insensible to the enormous difficulties involved in that conception. Prior to that beginning we have still, it may appear, to postulate a beginningless eternity, during which God existed alone. The Divine purpose to create was there, but it had not passed into act. Here arises the difficulty. How are we to fill up in thought these blank eternal ages in the Divine life? The doctrine of 129the Trinity, with its suggestion of an internal Divine life and love, comes in as an aid,229229Cf. Professor Flint, in Anti-Theistic Theories, pp. 438, 439. He remarks: “Although Omnipotence cannot express itself fully in the finite world to which we belong, the Divine nature may be in itself an infinite universe, where this and all other attributes can find complete expression. . . . The Divine nature must have in itself a plenitude of power and glory, to which the production of numberless worlds can add nothing.” but, abstracting from the thought of the world, of the universe afterwards to be created, we know of nothing to serve as a content of the Divine mind, unless it be the so-called “eternal truths.” So that here we are in, presence of a great deep. A yet greater difficulty arises when we ask, Since God purposed to create, why was creation so long delayed? Why was a whole eternity allowed to elapse before the purpose was put into execution?230230 This objection was early urged against the doctrine of creation. Cf. Origen, De Principiis, Book iii. 5; Augustine, De Civitate Dei, Book xi. 5. If it was a satisfaction to love and wisdom to produce a universe, why was creation not as eternal as the purpose of it? Why an eternity’s quiescence, and then this transient act? Or rather, since in eternity no one moment is indistinguishable from another, why this particular moment chosen for creation? The very mentioning of these difficulties suggests that somehow we are on a wrong track, and that the solution lies—since solution there must be, whether we can reach it or not—in the revisal of the notions we set out with as to the relations of eternity to time.
First, some have sought to cut this knot by the doctrine of an Eternal Creation. God, it is thought, did not wait through a solitary eternity before He called the world into existence—the act of creation is coeval with His Being, and the world, though a creature and dependent, is eternal as Himself. This was the doctrine of Origen in the early Church, of Erigena in the Middle Ages, and has been revived by Rothe, Darner, Lotze, and many others in modern times. It is carefully to be distinguished from the doctrine of a pre-existent eternal matter formerly referred to. But I do not think it solves the difficulty. It is either only the doctrine of an eternal series of worlds in another form,. and is exposed to all the difficulties of that assumption; or it seeks to evade these difficulties by the hypothesis of an undeveloping spiritual world, standing, as Dorner says, in the light of eternity, antecedent to the existing 130one—an hypothesis which leaves the origin of the temporal and developing world precisely where it was. Besides, how is the purpose of God ever to be summed up into a unity, if there is literally no beginning and no goal in creation?231231See Note D.—“Eternal Creation.” Secondly, another form of solution is that of the speculative philosophers, who would have us regard the distinction of time and eternity as due only to our finite standpoint, and who bid us raise ourselves to that higher point of view from which all things are beheld, in Spinoza’s phrase, sub specie aeternitatis.232232Spinoza’s Ethics, Part II. Prop. 44, Cor. ii.—“It is the nature of reason to perceive things sub quadam aeternitatis specie.” The meaning of this is, that what exists for our consciousness as a time-development exists for the Divine consciousness as an eternally complete whole. For God, temporal succession has no existence. The universe, with all its determinations, past, present, and future, stands before the Divine mind in simultaneous reality. Language of this kind is found in Spinoza, Fichte, Hegel, Green,233233A good illustration is afforded by Mr. Green in a fragment on Immortality. “As a determination of thought,” he says, “everything is eternal. What are we to say, then, to the extinct races of animals, the past formations of the earth? How can that which is extinct and past be eternal? . . . The process is eternal, and they as stages in it are so too. That which has passed away is only their false appearance of being independent entities, related only to themselves, as opposed to being stages, essentially related to a before and after. In other words, relatively to our temporal consciousness, which can only present one thing to itself at a time, and therefore supposes that when A follows B, B ceases to exist, they have perished; relatively to the thought which, as eternal, holds past, present, and future together, they are permanent; their very transitoriness is eternal.”—Works, iii. p. 159. and is to be met with sometimes in more orthodox theologians. It is, however, difficult to see what meaning can be attached to it which does not reduce all history to an illusion.234234Hegel, indeed, says: “Within the range of the finite we can never see that the end or aim has really been secured. The consummation of the infinite aim, therefore, consists merely in removing the illusion which makes it seem yet unaccomplished. . . . It is this illusion under which we live. . . . In the course of its process the Idea makes itself that illusion, by setting an antithesis to confront it; and its action consists in getting rid of the illusion which it has created.”—Wallace’s Logic of Hegel, p. 304. For, after all, time-development is a reality. There is succession in our conscious life, and in the events of nature. The things that happened yesterday are not the things that are happening to-day. The things that are happening today are not the things that will happen to-morrow. The past is past; the future is not yet come. It is plain that if time is a reality, the future is not yet present to God, except ideally. 131The events that will happen to-morrow are not yet existent. Else life is a dream; all, as the Indian philosophers say, is Maya,—illusion, appearance, seeming. Even if life is a dream, there is succession in the thoughts of that dream, and time is still not got rid of. I cannot see, therefore, that without reducing the process of the world to unreality, this view of it as an eternally completed fact can be upheld. In an ideal sense the world may be, doubtless is, present to the Divine mind; but as regards the parts of it yet future, it cannot be so actually.235235Cf. Veitch’s Knowing and Being, chap. vii.; Seth’s Hegelianism and Personality, pp. 180–184; Pfleiderer, Religionsphilosophie, iii. pp. 293–295 (Eng. trans.); Lotze, Microcosmus, ii. p. 711 (Eng. trans.); and see Note D. to Lect. III. What other solution, then, is possible? The solution must lie in getting a proper idea of the relation of eternity to time, and this, so far as I can see, has not yet been satisfactorily accomplished. The nearest analogy I can suggest is that of the spiritual thinking principle within ourselves, which remains a constant factor in all the flux of our thoughts and feelings. It is in the midst of them, yet it is out of the flux and above them. It is not involved in the succession of time, for it is the principle which itself relates things in the succession of time-for which, therefore, such succession exists. I would only venture to remark, further, that even if the universe were conceived of as originating in an eternal act, it would still, to a mind capable of tracing it back through the various stages of its development, present the aspect of a temporal beginning. Before this beginning, it would be possible for the mind to extend its vision indefinitely backwards through imaginary ages, which yet had no existence save as its own ideal construction. But God’s eternity is not to be identified with this thought of an indefinitely extended time. Eternity we may rather take to be an expression for the timeless necessity of God’s existence; and time, properly speaking, begins its course only with the world.236236See Note E.—Eternity and Time. A few words before leaving this part of the subject on the motive and end of creation. If we reject the idea of metaphysical necessity, and think of creation as originating in a free, intelligent act, it must, like every similar act, be conceived of 132 as proceeding from a motive, which includes in it at the -same time a rational end. And if God is free, personal Spirit, who is at the same time ethical Will, what motive is possible but goodness or love, or what end can be thought of but an ethical one? In this way it may be held that, though the universe is not the product of a logical or metaphysical necessity, it arises from the nature of God by a moral necessity which is one with the highest freedom, and thus the conception of creation may be secured from arbitrariness. It is an old thought that the motive to the creation of the world was the goodness of the Creator. Plato expresses this idea in his Timaeus,237237Timaeus, p.29—“Let me tell you, then, why the Creator created and made the universe. He was good, and no goodness can ever have any jealousy of anything. And being free from jealousy, He desired that all things should be as like Himself as possible.”—Jowett’s Plato, iii. p. 613. and points to a yet more comprehensive view when, in the Republic, he names “the Good” as the highest principle both of knowledge and of existence.238238Republic, Bk. vi. Since the time of Kant, philosophy has dealt m very earnest fashion with this idea of “the Good”—now conceived of as ethical good, but likewise as including in it the highest happiness and blessedness—as at once the moving cause and end of the world. Start from the postulate of Kant, that moral ends are alone of absolute worth, and the inference is irresistible that the world as a whole is constituted for moral ends, and that it has its cause in a Supreme Original Good, which produces the natural for the sake of the moral, and is guiding the universe to a moral goal.239239See last Lecture, pp. 108–109. Hence, from his principles, Kant arrives at the notion of an ethical community or “Kingdom of God,” having the laws of virtue as its basis and aim, as the end to which creation tends.240240In his Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft, Bk. iii. Cf. Seth’s From Kant to Hegel, pp. 123, 124; Caird’s Philosophy of Kant, pp. 611–613. Lotze takes up the same thought of a world ordered in conformity with the idea of “the Good,” and having its source in a Highest-Good Personal, and from him chiefly it has entered into Ritschlian theology.241241Cf. Microcosmus, ii. p. 728 (Eng. trans.); Outlines of Metaphysic, pp. 151, 152 (Eng. trans.). But Christian theology from its own standpoint arrives at a similar result. We have but to ask, with Dorner, What is the relation of the ethical nature of God to the other distinctions we ascribe to Him? to see that “the non-ethical distinctions in and 133the nature of God are related to the ethical as means to an end; but the absolute end can only lie in morality, for it alone is of absolute worth.”242242Christian Ethics, p. 65 (Eng. trans.). In the graduated system of ends of which the universe consists, the moral, in other words, must be presumed to be the highest. And this is precisely what Christianity declares when it teaches that Christ and the kingdom of God are the consummation of God’s world-purpose; that the government of the world is carried on for moral ends; and that “all things work together for good to them that love God.”243243Rom. viii. 28.
II. The nature of man, and his place in creation: man the final cause of the world.
II. From the point now reached, the transition is easy to the Scripture doctrine of the nature of man, and of his position in creation. I may begin here with man’s place in creation, which of itself is a testimony which nature bears to the meaning and purpose of God in that creation. Assuming that final cause is to be traced in the world at all, we can get no better clue to it than by simply observing whither the process of development tends—what, as Mr. Spencer says, is “the naturally revealed end” towards which evolution works.244244Data of Ethics, p. 171. Here is a process of development, of evolution, going on for millenniums—what, as a matter of fact, do we find to be the outcome of it? At the base of the scale is inorganic matter; then we rise to organic life in the vegetable world; as a next round in the ladder of ascent we have animal and sentient life; we rise through all the gradations of that life—through insect, fish, reptile, bird, mammal—till at length, at the close of the long line of evolution, we find—What? Man, a self-conscious, personal, rational moral being; a being capable of entering not only into moral relations with his fellow-men, but, infinitely higher, into spiritual and moral relations with his invisible Creator. Man’s creation, it is true, is only the starting-point of a new line of evolution, but that evolution is one of moral life. So far as the teaching of evolution goes, then, man is the crown and masterpiece of this whole edifice of creation, and this also is the teaching of the Bible. I have been frequently struck with this in reading the works of Mr. Spencer and of other evolutionists, that none of them supposes that evolution is ever to reach a higher being than man; that whatever future development there is to be 134will not be development beyond humanity, but development within humanity. In this it is implied that man is the end of nature, and that the end of nature is a moral one. In man, if we may so speak, mute and unintelligent nature attains to consciousness of itself, gains the power of reading back meaning into its own blind past, and has a prophecy of the goal to which its future tends. At the summit of nature’s gradations—of her inorganic kingdom and plant kingdom and animal kingdom-there stands a being fitted for the kingdom of God.
The agreement of Scripture and science up to this point is patent and incontestable. In the original picture in Genesis we have, as in nature, a gradually ascending series of creations. We have man at the top of the scale; man as the latest being of all, and distinguished from all by the fact that he alone bears his Creator’s image; man set at the head of the lower orders of creatures, as God’s rational vicegerent and representative. Science corroborates all this. It gives to man the same place in the ascending series of creations as Scripture gives him; declares him to be the last and final product of nature; links him intimately with the past through his physical organisation, in which the whole of nature, as physiology shows, recapitulates itself; and at the same time acknowledges that he stands alone, and far removed from the other creatures, in his powers of thought and language, in his capacity for a selfregulated moral life under general rules, in his religious nature, in his capability of progress, and of boundless productivity in arts, sciences, laws, and institutions. Nay, looking at creation as a whole, from the vantage-ground which our present know ledge gives us, we can feel that its plan would have remained incomplete, its pyramid would have lacked a summit, had man not appeared upon the scene. For man not only stands at the head of creation, but, in virtue of his rational nature, he occupies a position in relation to it different from every other. The animal, however high in the scale of development, is a mere creature of nature; man has a life above nature. He is a being of “large discourse, looking before and after.”245245Hamlet, act iv. scene 4 He is capable of reflection on himself; on the meaning and causes of things in the world around him; on the ends of his own existence. He can rise above momentary impulse and passion, and 135 guide his life by general principles of reason, and so is capable of morality. For the same reason he is capable of religion, and shows his superiority over nature through the thoughts he cherishes of God, of infinity, of eternity. Till a mind of this kind appeared, capable of surveying the scene of its existence, of understanding the wisdom and beauty displayed in its formations, and of utilising for rational purposes the vast resources laid up in its treasuries, the very existence of such a world as this is remained an inexplicable riddle: an adequate final cause—an end-for-self—was not to be found in it.246246See Note F.—Man the Head of Creation. It would indeed be an exaggeration to view creation solely from the standpoint here taken. The position that man is the final cause of creation must obviously be held with certain qualifications. Were we to attempt to maintain that the world exists solely for man’s use and benefit, we would be met by unanswerable objections. Because man is the supreme end of nature, it does not follow that there are not lower ends—the happiness of the sentient creatures, e.g., and many others that we do not know. This world, again, is part of a wider system, and there may be not only lower ends, but wider ends, than those prescribed by man’s existence. There is a delight which creative wisdom has in its own productions, which is an end in itself. God saw the works that He had made, and behold they were good; though not till man appeared upon the scene were they declared “very good.”247247Gen. i. 31. But this in no degree militates against the position that the main use and end of nature is to subserve the purposes of man’s existence. Is not this to a thinking mind implied in its very dispositions and arrangements, in its distribution of land and sea, in its river plains and ocean communication, in its supplies of mineral and other wealth stored up in its recesses, in the forces it puts at man’s disposal for the accomplishment of his purposes, in the very obstacles it interposes in the way of his advancement, stimulating his mental activity, summoning forth his powers to contend with difficulties, and in this way rousing him up to further conquests? There are yet higher teleological relations which nature sustains to man, on which I cannot now dwell—the part, e.g., which natural conditions play, as in Greece, in the development of the character and spirit of peoples; the food which the 136study of nature affords to his intellect; the beauty which delights, and the sublimity which awes him, both speaking to his spirit of things higher than them-selves; the suggestions it gives of the infinite and eternal, etc. Taking it all in all, we may rest in the view that man, as nature’s highest being, is the key to the understanding of the whole development; that nature does not exist for its own sake, but supremely for the sake of the moral; that its chief end is to furnish the means for such a development as we now see in the mental and moral history of mankind.248248On the teleological relations of nature to man, see Kant, Kritik d. Urtheilkraft, sect. 83—“Of the last end of nature as a teleological system,” and sect. 84—” Of the final end of the existence of a world, i.e. of the creation itself”; and cf. Caird, Philosophy of Kant, ii. pp. 545–557.
As a compound being, made up of body and of spirit, man is the link which unites the natural and the spiritual worlds.249249See this thought worked out in Herder’s Ideen zur Phil. d. Gesch. der Menschheit (cf. Book v. 6, quoted in Note F.). The direct link between man and nature is the body, which in its erect posture, its highly evolved brain, its developed limbs, and its countenance lifted up to the heavens, bears witness, as already Ovid reminds us,250250 Metamorphoses, i. 2: “Pronaque quum spectent animalia cetera terram, Os homini sublime dedit, coelumque tueri Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.” to the dignity of the soul within. As Materialism ignores the rights of the spirit, and would reduce thought, feeling, and will, to functions of matter; so an ultra-spirituality is too apt to ignore the rights of the body, and to regard it as a mere accident of man’s personality. Materialism quite rightly protests against this one-sidedness; and the whole tendency of modern inquiry is to draw the two sides of man’s nature—the material and the spiritual, the physical and the metaphysical, the physiological and the mental—more closely together. The Bible avoids both extremes. Materialism gets all its rights in the Bible doctrine of the body. The abstract spirituality of a Plotinus, or of a hyper-refined idealism, which regards the body as a mere envelope of the soul, dropped off at death without affecting its entirety, is quite foreign to it. I do not dwell on this now, as I shall have occasion to refer to it in the following Lectures. Enough to remark that the Bible history of man’s creation; the remarkable honour its places on the body as God’s workman 137ship and the temple of the Holy Ghost; its doctrines of sin, with death as the penalty; of the Incarnation—“forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same”;251251Heb. ii. 14. of Redemption, which includes “the Redemption of the body”;252252Rom. viii. 23. of the future life in a glorified corporeity—all warn us against an undue depreciation of the body. I go on to remark that if the Bible gives its rightful place to the body, much more does it lay stress on the possession by man of a spirit, which is the true seat of his personality, and the link which unites him with the spiritual world, and with God. Psychological questions would be here out of place, and I can only enter into a very brief examination of the Biblical terms used to express the different aspects of man’s spiritual nature, relegating the further discussion of these to their proper sphere in Biblical theology or psychology.253253Cf. on this subject the works of Delitzsch and Beckon Biblical Psychology; Oehler and Schultz on Old Testament Theology; Wendt’s Inhalt der Lehre Jesu; Heard on the Tripartite Nature of Man; Laidlaw’s Bible Doctrine of Man; Dickson’s Flesh and Spirit (Baird Lectures), etc. I would first remark that the Biblical usage of psychological terms can only be understood if we keep strictly to the Biblical point of view. In the Old Testament, it is the unity of the personality which is the main fact, and not the distinction of an immaterial and a material part, as in our modern usage. Nephesh or soul does not, in the Old Testament, stand opposed to body, but is rather the principle of “life,” which manifests itself on the one hand in the corporeal functions (“the life is in the blood”254254Lev. xvii. 11., and on the other in the conscious activities of the mind. The real contrast in the Old Testament is between “flesh” (basar) and “spirit” (ruach), and the “soul” is the middle term between them, the unity of them.255255Another word for spirit is Neshamah—used twice in the Old Testament, once in a noteworthy passage for the principle of self-consciousness (Prov. xx. 27), as in 1 Cor. ii. 11. This does not mean that “soul” and “spirit” are separable elements in the same way that “soul” and “body” are, but it means that the “soul,” as inbreathed by God, is the source or seat of a double life. On the one side, it is the animating principle of the body; the source of all vital functions. It is its presence in the body which 138constitutes the latter “flesh.” On the other side, it is the principle of self-conscious life. Various names are employed to denote the kinds of these self-conscious activities; but they may be grouped generally under the name “spirit.” More explicitly, all the activities of the “spirit” belong to the “soul”; but the converse is not true, that all the activities of the “soul” belong to the “spirit.” For the vital functions of the body, with the appetites, desires, impulses, etc., which belong to this side of our nature, likewise are traceable to it as their source. It is only the higher activities of the “soul”—those which we still denominate “spiritual”—I speak of general usage, for probably there is no distinction we can make which has not some exception—which are described by the term “spirit.” Thus we read of a spirit of wisdom, of knowledge, of understanding, of an upright spirit, a free spirit, a contrite spirit, etc.256256Isa. xi. 2; Ps. li. 10-12. Some of the references are to the Divine Spirit, but as the source of spiritual powers in man. That the “soul,” essentially considered, is also spiritual, is implied in its origin from the Divine Spirit. In the New Testament we have a distinction of “soul” and “body” much more akin to our own, though the influence of Old Testament usage is still very marked. “Soul” (ψυχή) still includes a higher and a lower life; and the higher life is still denoted by the term “spirit” (πνεῦμα); while the implication of a body is still always conveyed in the term “soul.” There is no “soul” which is not intended to animate a “body”; there are incorporeal spirits (angels, demons), but they are not called by the name “souls.” On the other hand, the “soul” is recognised as spiritual in its essence, and in its disembodied state is classed among “spirits,” e.g. “the spirits in prison.”257257I Pet. iii. 19. I need not discuss the cognate terms heart (καρδία), mind (νοῦς), understanding (διάνοια), etc., but content myself with saying that, except in the sense above explained, I do not see how a trichotomous view of man’s nature can be maintained. The distinction of “soul” and “spirit” is a distinction within the one indivisible spiritual nature; and the antithesis “soul” and “body” really covers all the facts of man’s personal life. The highest functions of the “spirit” arc in the New Testament ascribed also to the “soul”;258258E.g. Matt. xxii. 27; Luke i. 46. and the “soul” in turn is used 139by Jesus as a name f or man’s highest imperishable life. “He that hateth his life (ψυχή) in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”259259John xii. 25.
From this digression I return to the fact that it is in his “soul” or “spirit” that man peculiarly bears the Divine image. In a threefold respect is man the personal image of his Maker.
1. He bears first of all the rational image of God. We have a proof of this in the fact formerly referred to, that man can understand the world God has made. How is science possible, except on the assumption that the reason we find in ourselves is the same in kind as the reason which expresses itself in the universe? The argument is the same as if we were set to translate a book written in a foreign language. The first condition of success in that attempt—the postulate with which we set out—is similarity of intelligence between the man who wrote the book, and ourselves who seek to decipher its meaning. If his reason were of a totally different kind from ours, the attempt to understand him would be hopeless. Precisely the same condition applies to the possibility of our knowledge of the world. Reason in man and the reason expressed in nature must be the same in kind, or no relation between them could be established. Christian theology expresses this by saying that the world is created by the Logos, a term which means at once reason and word.
2. Man bears God’s moral image, not now in the possession of actual righteousness, but in the possession of the indestructible elements of a moral nature. (1) He is a being with the power of moral knowledge; reason, in other words, is the source to him, not only of principles of knowledge, but of laws of duty. The idea of the good, and with it the moral “ought” or ethical imperative, is part of his constitution. His moral ideal may vary with the degree of his development and culture; but, throughout, man is a being who distinguishes good and evil, and who recognises the obligation to obey the good and to eschew the evil. In this he proclaims himself a subject of moral law, and a being with a moral destiny. (2) He is a free, spiritual cause, i.e. he has moral freedom. I speak again not of man as at present he actually is, with 140his freedom sadly impaired through sin, but of man in the constitutive elements of his nature. And as a free, spiritual, self-determining cause, standing at the summit of nature, man is again in a very marked sense the image of his Maker. It is this power of will and self-decision in man which most of all constitutes him a person. Through it he stands out of and above nature’s sequences, and can react on and modify them. He is, as some have chosen to regard him, a supernatural cause in the order of nature.260260Cf. Bushnell, Nature and Supernatural, pp. 23–25. It is surely of little use to deny the possibility of miracle, when every human volition is a species of miracle—a new, hyperphysical cause interpolated in the chain of physical events, and giving them a hew direction. (3) Man is a being with moral affections. Without these he would not be a true image of the God who is love. Summing up these points, we recognise in man a conscience which reveals moral law, a will which can execute moral purposes, and affections which create a capacity for moral love. This relates only to formal attributes; but it is now to be remarked that the bearing of God’s moral image in the full sense implies not only the possession of these attributes, but an actual resemblance to God in character, in holiness and love. In the primeval state—the status integritatis of the Biblical account261261See next Lecture.—this possession of the image of God by man can only be viewed as potentiality, though a pure potentiality, for the perfected image could not be gained except as the result of self-decision and a long process of development, if even then without the appearance of the second Adam from heaven.262262This is a view already enunciated with great clearness by Irenaeus. Cf. Dorner, Person of Christ, i. pp. 314–316; Art. “Irenaeus” in Dict. of Christ. Biog. vol. iii.; and Harnack, Dogmengeschichte, i. p. 499. It is Christ, not the first Adam who is the ideal here, the model after which we are to be renewed in the image of Him who created us. Only in Christ do we see what a humanity perfectly conformed to the Divine idea of it is.
3. Man bears the image of God in his deputed sovereignty over the creatures, a sovereignty which naturally belongs to him in virtue of the attributes just enumerated, and of his place at the head of creation already adverted to. To the 141reality of this sovereignty, all man’s conquests over material conditions, his achievements in art and civilisation, his employment of nature’s laws and forces for his own ends, his use of the lower creatures for service and food, etc., abundantly testify.263263On the whole subject of the image of God in man, cf. Laidlaw’s Bible Doctrine of Man, Lect. III. (Cunningham Lectures).
I might add one other mark of the possession of the Divine image by man, likewise involved in his self-conscious personality. I refer to what may be called the potential infinitude of his nature. It has often been remarked that man could not even know himself to be finite, if he were not able in thought to transcend the finite, and frame an idea of the Infinite. It is the strange thing about him, yet not strange once we realise what is implied in the possession of a thinking nature, that though finite, hedged round on every side by the limitations of the finite, he yet shows a constant impulse to transcend these limitations, and ally himself with the Infinite. Through this peculiarity of his nature, there is none of God’s infinite attributes which does not find a shadow in his soul How else could Carlyle, e.g., fill his pages with references to the eternities, the immensities, etc., in which man’s spirit finds its awful home? Is a being who can form the idea of eternity not already in affinity with the Eternal, in a sense His image? Man is not omnipresent, but is there not a shadow of God’s omnipresence in those thoughts of his that roam through space, and find a satisfaction in the contemplation of its boundlessness? He is not omniscient, but is not his desire for knowledge insatiable? The same spurning of bounds, the same illimitableness, is seen in all his desires, aims, ideals, hopes, and aspirations. This shows the folly of the contention that because man is finite, he is cut off from the knowledge of the Infinite. The objection seems to turn on the thought that there is a physical bigness in the idea of infinity which prevents the mind from holding it. It might as well be contended that because the mind is cooped up within the limits of a cranium only a few inches in diameter, it cannot take account of the space occupied, say by the solar system, or of the distance between the earth and the sun!
In thus affirming the spiritual nature and dignity of man, 142and a sonship to God founded thereon, it was inevitable that the Christian view should meet with keen opposition from the modern anti-supernaturalistic tendency, which regards with extreme disfavour any attempt to lift man out of the ranks of nature, and the prevailing bias of which is strongly towards Materialism. In this spirit Professor Huxley has told us that “anyone who is acquainted with the history of science will admit that its progress has, in all ages, meant, and now more than ever means, the extension of the province of what we call matter and causation, and the concomitant banishment from all regions of human thought of what we call spirit and spontaneity.”264264Lay Sermons, “On the Physical Basis of Life,” p. 156. The materialistic hypothesis has wide currency at the present day, though it is difficult to see how any sober mind, reflecting on the patent difference between mental and physical phenomena, could ever suppose that it was adequate, or could imagine that by its aid it had got rid of “spirit.” As involving the denial of the existence of a spiritual principle in man, distinct from the body, this hypothesis is manifestly in contradiction with the Biblical doctrine just explained, and on this account claims a brief consideration.
The great fact on which every theory of Materialism strikes is, of course,
the fact of consciousness. Life, unattended by sensation, presents a great enough
difficulty to the theorist who would explain everything on mechanical principles,265265Kant has said that the
attempt to explain the world on mechanical principles is wrecked on a caterpillar. but when
consciousness enters the difficulty is insuperable.266266 Du Bois-Reymond, who
himself favours Materialism, specifies, in his Die Sieben Weltrathsel
(The Seven Enigmas of the World), seven limits to the materialistic explanation
of Nature. These are:
The Existence of Matter and Form.
The Origin of Motion.
The Origin of Life.
The Appearance of Design in Nature.
The Existence of Consciousness.
Intelligent Thought and the Origin of Speech.
The Question of Free-Will.
See the account of this work in Kennedy’s Natural Theology and Modern Thought, from which I take the list (p. 52). Enigmas 1, 2, and 5 Du Bois-Reymond regards as insoluble. It is, at the same time, no easy matter to bind down the advocates of the materialistic theory to a clear and consistent view.
1. There is the crass, thorough going Materialism which literally identifies brain with mind, and the movements of the brain with the thoughts and feelings of which we are aware in consciousness. Brain action, on this hypothesis, is thought and feeling. “The brain,” says Cabanis, “secretes thought, as the liver secretes bile.” This is the crude theory of writers like Moleschott, Vogt, and Buchner, but it is too manifestly absurd—it too palpably ignores the striking differences between mental and physiological facts—to be accepted by more cautious scientists without qualification. Brain movements are but changes of place and relation on the part of material atoms, and, however caused, are never more than motions; they have nothing of the nature of thought about them. “It is absolutely and for ever inconceivable,” says the distinguished German physiologist, Du Bois-Reymond, “that a number of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms should be otherwise than indifferent to their own positions or motions, past, present, or future. It is utterly inconceivable how consciousness should result from their joint action.”267267Lecture on Die Grenzen des Naturerkennens. Leipsic, 1872. There is, accordingly, general agreement among scientific thinkers that the physical changes and the mental phenomena which accompany them are two distinct sets of facts, which require to be carefully kept apart. “The passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness,” says Professor Tyndall, “is unthinkable.”268268Fragments of Science, “Scientific Materialism,” p. 121. In the sixth edition the words are—” is inconceivable as a result of mechanics” (vol. ii. p. 87). He goes on to say that, could we “see and feel the very molecules of the brain; were we capable of following all their motions, all their groupings, all their electric discharges, . . . the chasm between the two classes of phenomena would still remain intellectually impassable.” “I know nothing, and never hope to know anything,” says Professor Huxley, “of the steps by which the passage from molecular movement to states of consciousness is269269Article on “Mr. Darwin’s Critics,” in Contemporary Review, Nov. 1871, p. 464. Mr. Spencer expresses himself similarly: “Can the oscillation of a molecule,” he says, “be represented in consciousness side by side with a nervous shock, and the two he recognised as one? No effort enables us to assimilate them.”—Principles of Psychology, i. sec. 62. “The two things are on two utterly different platforms,” says Professor Clifford; “the physical facts go along by themselves, and the mental facts go along by themselves.”270270“Body and Mind,” in Fortnightly Review, December 1874. So far as this goes, it is clearly 144in favour of spiritualism, and would seem in consistency to require the abandonment of Materialism.271271Cf. Herbert’s Modern Realism Examined, pp. 89–94; Kennedy’s Natural Theology and Modern Thought, pp. 64–66.
2. An escape, however, may seem to be afforded from this dilemma, by consenting to regard matter as itself but the phenomenal manifestation of some unknown power, as therefore not the ultimate reality, but only a form or appearance of it to our senses. This is the view held by Strauss, Lange, Haeckel, Spencer, and the scientific professors whose words I have just quoted. “I have always,” says Strauss, “tacitly regarded the so loudly proclaimed contrast between Materialism and Idealism (or by whatever terms one may designate the view opposed to the former) as a mere quarrel about words. They have a common foe in the dualism which has pervaded the view of the world (Weltansicht), through the whole Christian era, dividing man into body and soul, his existence into time and eternity, and opposing an eternal Creator to a created and perishable universe.”272272Der alte und der neue Glaube, p. 212. But whatever the change in the theoretic groundwork, this view in practice comes to very much the same thing as the other. It will not be disputed that it does so with Strauss and his German allies, whose Materialism is most pronounced.273273Strauss declares his thorough agreement with Carl Vogt in his denial of any special spiritual principle, p. 210. But our English savants also, while disclaiming the name “materialists,” while maintaining in words the distinction between the two classes of facts (mental and physical), while careful to show that a strict interpretation of the data would land us rather in a subjective Idealism than in Materialism,274274Thus, e.g., Huxley: “For, after all, what do we know of this terrible ‘matter,’ except as a name for the unknown and hypothetical cause of states of our own consciousness?” (“On the Physical Basis of Life “) . . . it follows that what I term legitimate Materialism . . . is neither more nor less than a shorthand Idealism.”—” On Descartes,” Lay Sermons, pp. 157, 374. On the relation of extreme Materialism to Idealism, cf. Kennedy’s Natural Theology, pp. 64–66. none the less proceed constantly upon the hypothesis that mental facts admit of being translated (as they call it) into terms of matter, and that thus only are they capable of being treated by science.275275At least this terminology is held to be preferable. Prof. Huxley says: “In itself it is of little moment whether we express the phenomenon of matter in terms of spirit, or the phenomenon of spirit in terms of matter. . . . But, with a view to the progress of science, the materialistic terminology is in every way to he preferred.”—Lay Sermons, “On the Physical Basis of Life,” p. 160. 145Thus, Professor Huxley speaks of our thoughts as “the expression of molecular changes in that matter of life which is the source of our other vital phenomena,”276276Lay Sermons, “On the Physical Basis of Life,” p. 152. In the same essay he tells us: “As surely as every future grows out of past and present, so will the physiology of the future extend the realm of matter and law, till it is coextensive with knowledge, with feeling, and with actions.”—P. 156. of consciousness as “a function of nervous matter, when that matter has attained a certain degree of organisation.”277277Article on “Mr. Darwin’s Critics,” in Contemporary Review, Nov. 1871, p. 464. In his Lecture on “Descartes,” he says: “Thought is as much a function of matter as motion is.”—Lay Sermons, p. 371. This is carried out so far as to deny the existence of any freedom in volition, or indeed of any influence exercised by consciousness at all upon the train of physical events.
One advantage of this materialistic-idealistic form of the theory is, that it enables the theorist to play fast and loose with language on matter and mind, and yet, when called to account, to preserve an appearance of consistency by putting as much or as little meaning into the term “matter” as he pleases. Professor Tyndall is eloquent on the “opprobrium” which we, in our ignorance, have heaped on matter, in which he prefers to discern “the promise and potency of every form of life.”278278“Belfast Address,” Fragments of Science, ii. p. 193. But lie has to admit that, before he can do this, he has to make a change in all ordinarily received notions of matter. “Two courses and two only are possible,” he says. “Either let us open our doors freely to the conception of creative acts, or, abandoning them, let us radically change our notions of matter.”279279Ibid. ii. p. 191. To which Dr. Martineau very justly replies, “Such extremely clever matter, matter that is up to everything, even to writing Hamlet, and finding out its own evolution, and substituting a moral plebiscite for a Divine government of the world, may fairly be regarded as a little too modest in its disclaimer of the attributes of mind.”280280Religion as Affected by Modern Materialism, pp. 14, 15. My chief objection to Dr. Tyndall, however, is that practically he does not change his notion of matter, but, ignoring his own admission of the “chasm intellectually impassable”281281Fragments of Science ii p 87. between the two classes of phenomena, persists in treating mind as if it were capable of being adequately represented by molecular changes of matter, in the 146ordinary acceptation of the word. Instead, however, of supporting the view that molecular changes and mental functions are convertible terms, science, with its doctrine of the “conservation of energy,” has furnished, as we shall now see, a demonstration of the opposite.
There are three points at which, in the light of modern science and philosophy, the argument for Materialism is seen utterly to break down.
1. The first is that which I have just alluded to, the impossibility of accounting for the phenomena of consciousness in consistency with the scientific doctrine of the “conservation of energy.” As already remarked, none but the very crassest materialists will maintain that the molecular changes in the brain are themselves the thoughts and feelings which we are aware of in consciousness. What the physicist will say is, that these changes are attended by certain conscious phenomena as their concomitants. You have the motions, and you have the conscious fact—the thought or feeling—alongside of it. This is the way in which the matter is put by writers like Huxley and Tyndall, who frankly confess, as we have seen, the unbridgeable gulf between the two classes of phenomena. But, once this is admitted, the assertion that mental phenomena are products of cerebral changes is seen to come into collision with the scientific law of conservation. If mental phenomena are produced by material causes, it can only be at the expense of some measure of energy. This, indeed, is what is affirmed. Physical energy, it is supposed, is transformed into vital energy, this again into thought and feeling. But this, it can be shown to demonstration, is precisely what does not take place. Every scientific man admits that energy in all its active forms is simply some kind of motion; and that what is called “transformation of energy” (heat into light or electricity, etc.) is merely change from one kind of motion into another. What, then, becomes of the energy which is used when some change takes place in the matter of the brain, accompanied by a fact of sensation? It is all accounted for in the physical changes. No scientific man will hold that any part of it disappears, passes over into an “unseen universe.” With keen enough senses you could track that energy through every one of its changes, and see its results in some physical effect produced. The circuit is closed within 147the physical. Motions have produced motions, nothing more, and every particle of energy present at the beginning is accounted for in the physical state of the brain at the end. There has been no withdrawal of any portion of it, even temporarily, to account for the conscious phenomenon.282282“Motion,” says Du Bois-Reymond, “can only produce motion, or transform itself into potential energy. Potential energy can only produce motion, maintain statical equilibrium, push, or pull. The sum-total of energy remains constantly the same. More or less than is determined by the law cannot happen in the material universe; the mechanical cause expends itself entirely in mechanical operations. Thus the intellectual occurrences which accompany the material occurrences in the brain are without an adequate cause as contemplated by our understanding. They stand outside the law of causality, and therefore are as incomprehensible as a mobile perpetuum would be. “—Ueber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens, p. 28 (in Kennedy’s Natural Theology, p. 48). This is a new outside fact, lying beyond the circle of the physical changes, a surplusage in the effect, which there is nothing in the expenditure of energy to explain. It is a fact of a new order, quite distinct from physical motions, and apprehended through a distinct faculty, self-consciousness. But, apart from the nature of the fact, there is, as I say, no energy available to account for it. What energy there is, is used up in the brain’s own motions and changes, and none is left to be carried over for the production of this new conscious phenomenon. If this is true of the simplest fact of consciousness, that of sensation, much more is it true of the higher and complex activities of self-conscious life.283283On this argument, see Herbert’s Modern Realism Examined, pp. 43, 57; Kennedy’s Natural Theology and Modern Thought, pp. 48, 49, 79, 80; Harris’s Philosophical Basis of Theism, pp. 439–442.
2. The second point on which Materialism breaks down is the impossibility of establishing any relation between the two sets of phenomena in respect of the laws of their succession. The mental facts and the physical facts, we are told, go along together. But it is not held that there is no relation between them. And the relation is, according to Professor Huxley, that the mental order is wholly determined by the physical order; while, conversely, consciousness is not allowed to exercise the slightest influence on the physical series. Consciousness he thinks, in men as in brutes, to be “related to the mechanism of the body simply as a collateral product of its working, and to be as completely without any power of modifying that working as the steam-whistle which accompanies the work of a locomotive 148 engine is without influence upon its machinery.”284284“The Hypothesis. that Animals are Automata,” in Fortnightly Review, Nov. 1874, pp. 575, 576. This steam-whistle illustration fails, as his critics all point out, in the essential respect that a steam-whistle does subtract a portion of the energy available for working the machinery, while the production if a conscious. phenomenon does not. Cf. Herbert, pp. 46, 47; Kennedy, 79, etc. The physical changes, in other words, would go on precisely as they do, in obedience to their own laws, were there no such thing as consciousness in existence; and consciousness is simply a byeproduct or reflex of them without any counter-influence. Similarly, Mr. Spencer says, “Impossible as it is to get immediate proof that feeling and nervous action are the outer and inner faces of the same change, yet the hypothesis that they are so harmonises with all the observed facts”;285285Principles of Psychology, i. sec. 51. and again, “While the nature of that which is manifested under either form proves to be inscrutable, the order of its manifestations throughout all mental phenomena proves to be the same as the order of its manifestations throughout all material phenomena.”286286Ibid. i. sec. 273. The one point clear in these statements is that in the materialistic hypothesis the order of mental phenomena is identical with an order of physical phenomena, determined by purely mechanical conditions.287287See Note G.—Mind and Mechanical Causation. Is this according to fact, or is it not precisely the point where a materialistic explanation of mind must for ever break down? On the hypothesis, the one set of phenomena follow purely physical (mechanical, chemical, vital) laws; but the other set, or a large part of the other set (the mental), follow laws of rational or logical connection. Suppose a mind, for example, following out the train of reasoning in one of the propositions in Euclid—or, better still, think of this demonstration as it was first wrought out in the discoverer s own mind. What is the order of connection here? Is it not one in which every step is determined by the perception of its logical and rationally necessary connection with the step that went before? Turn now to the other series. The laws which operate in the molecular changes in the brain are purely physical—mechanical, chemical, vital. They are physical causes, operating to produce physical effects, without any reference to consciousness. What possible connection can there be between two orders so distinct, between an order determined solely by 149the physical laws, and the foregoing process of rational demonstration? The two orders are, on the face of them, distinct and separate; and not the least light is cast by the one on the other. To suppose that the physical laws are so adjusted as to turn out a product exactly parallel to the steps of a rational demonstration in consciousness, is an assumption of design so stupendous that it would cast all other proof of teleology into the shade. I am far, however, from admitting that, as the materialistic hypothesis supposes, every change in the brain is determined solely by mechanical, chemical, and vital laws. Granting that cerebral changes accompany thought, I believe, if we could see into the heart of the process, it would be found that the changes are determined quite as much by mental causes as by material. I do not believe, for example, that an act of will is wholly without influence on the material sequence. Our mental acts, indeed, neither add to nor take from the energy stored up in the brain, but they may have much to do with the direction and distribution of that energy.288288See Note H.—Mind and Cerebral Activity.
3. A third point on which the materialistic hypothesis breaks down is its irreconcilability with what is seen to be implied in self-consciousness, and with the fact of moral freedom. To constitute self-consciousness, it is not enough that there should be a stream or succession of separate impressions, feelings, or sensations; it is necessary that there should be a principle which apprehends these impressions, and relates them (as resembling, different, co-existent, successive, etc.) to one another and to itself, a principle which not only remains one and the same throughout the changes, but is conscious of its self-identity through them. It is not merely the mental changes that need to be explained, but the consciousness of a persistent self amidst these changes. And this ego or self in consciousness is no hyperphysical figment which admits of being explained away as subjective illusion. It is only through such a persistent, identical self, that knowledge or thought is possible to us; it is implied in the simplest analysis of an act of knowledge. Were we simply part of the stream, we could never know it289289Cf. Green’s Prolegomena to Ethics, Book i.; Lotze’s Microcosmus, pp. 157, 163; Seth’s. Hegelianism and Personality, pp. 3–5. Lotze puts the point thus.: “Our belief in the soul’s unity rests not on our appearing to ourselves such a unity, hut on our being able to appear to ourselves at all. . . . What a being appears to itself to be is not the important point; if it can appear anyhow to itself, or other things to it, it must be capable of unifying manifold phenomena in an absolute indivisibility of its. nature.”—Microcosmus, p. 157. As 150another fact of our conscious life incompatible with subjection to mechanical conditions, I need only refer to the consciousness of moral freedom. In principle, Materialism is the denial of moral freedom, or of freedom of any kind, and with its triumph moral life would disappear.290290Cf. Ebrard’s Christian Apologetics, ii. pp. 77–98; Dorner’s Christian Ethics, pp. 105, 106; Kennedy’s Natural Theology, Lecture V.
These considerations are sufficient of themselves to refute Materialism, but the final refutation is that which is given by the general philosophical analysis of the relation of thought to existence, a subject on which I do not enter further than I have already done in the previous Lecture. Thought, as I tried to show there, is itself the prius of all things; and in attempting to explain thought out of matter, we are trying to account for it by that which itself requires thought for its explanation. Matter, which seems to some the simplest of all conceptions to work with, is really one of the most difficult; and the deeper its nature is probed, whether on the physical or on the metaphysical side, the more does it tend to disappear into something different from itself; the more, at any rate, is it seen to need for its explanation facts that are spiritual. It was remarked above how, even in the hands of Professors Huxley and Tyndall, matter tends to disappear in a subjective Idealism; the only escape from this is a rational theory of knowledge, which again explains the constitution of the world through rational categories. To explain thought out of matter is, from a philosophical point of view, the crowning instance of a hysteron proteron.291291Cf. Caird’s Philosophy of Religion, pp. 94–101.
III. Man as made in the image of God constituted for immortality.
III. From the distinction thus shown to exist between the spiritual and the material parts of man’s nature, there results the possibility of the soul surviving death, and the foundation is laid for the doctrine of Immortality. The consideration of the Biblical aspect of this subject will more properly be reserved for next Lecture, where I treat of the connection of sin and death. Here I will only ask how far nature and reason have a voice to utter on these two questions: Is man constituted for 151immortality? And is there a presumption that the soul will survive death? These questions, it ought to be observed, are not identical. The proposition that man, as a being made in God’s image, is naturally destined for immortality, is not immediately convertible with the other, that the soul will survive death; for it is no part of the Biblical view, as we shall see afterwards, that death is a natural condition of man. Now, however, that death has supervened, the question arises, Does the soul still survive? To this question also, as I hope to show, both Old and New Testaments give an affirmative answer; but the complete Scripture doctrine of immortality means a great deal more than this.
It is a significant circumstance that the modern unbelieving view of the world has no hope to give us of a life beyond the grave. With the obscuration of the idea of God, and the loss of the sense of the spiritual, there has gone also faith in immortality.292292Renan has said: “No one in business would risk a hundred francs with the prospect of gaining a million, on such a probability as. that of the future life.”—Dialogues, p. 31. Cf. Strauss, Der alte und der neue Glaube, pp. 123–134. “In fact,” he says, “this. supposition is the most gigantic assumption that can be thought of; and if we ask after its foundation, we meet with nothing hut a wish. Man would fain not perish when he dies; therefore he believes he will not perish.”—Pp. 126, 127. Materialism, of course, is bound to deny a future life. The theories of Huxley, Tyndall, and Spencer hold out just as little hope of it,293293The contrast is again marked with the attitude of the last century “Natural Religion,” which regarded the “immortality of the soul” as one of its most certain articles. How little assurance even Theism, apart from Revelation, can give on this subject, is seen in Mr. Greg’s. statements in The Creed of Christendom, chap. xvii.; and Preface to his Enigmas of Life. though Mr. Fiske, developing a Theism out of the principles of Mr. Spencer, has developed also a doctrine of immortality, another evidence of the connection of these two belief’s.294294Fiske’s Man’s Destiny. Dr. Martineau tells the story that on a report of the arguments of this. book being read to an English friend, a Positivist, on its first appearance, his exclamation was: “What? John Fiske say that? Well; it only proves, what I have always maintained, that you cannot make the slightest concession to metaphysics, without ending in a theology!”—Preface to A Study of Religion. The hope proposed to us in lieu of individual immortality is that of “corporate immortality,” the privilege of joining the “choir invisible” of those who have laboured in the service of humanity, though they live now only in the grateful memory of posterity.295295 “O may I join the choir invisible Of those immortal dead who live again In minds made better by their presence. . . . This is life to come, Which martyred men have made more glorious For us to strive to follow” George Eliot, Jubal, and other Poems, pp. 301–303. Pantheism, likewise, 152forbids the thought of personal immortality, exalting instead the blessedness of absorption in the Infinite.296296Thus in the Indian systems, but also in modern times. Spinoza’s Pantheism has no room in it for personal immortality. In Hegel’s system the question was left in the same ambiguity as the question of the Divine personality (cf. Stirling’s Secret of Hegel, ii. pp. 578–580; Seth’s Hegelianism and Personality, pp. 149, 150). On Schleiermacher’s views, see Note I.—Schleiermacher and Immortality. We cannot, however, part with the hope of immortality without infinitely lowering the whole pulse and worth even of present existence.297297Cf. p. 160.
The only scientific plea on which the possibility of immortality can be denied to us is based on the fact that mind in this life is so intimately bound up with physiological conditions. Once grant, however, that the thinking principle in man is distinct from the brain which it uses as its instrument, and no reason can be shown, as Bishop Butler demonstrated long, ago, why it should not survive the shock of the dissolution we call death. Death need not even be the suspension of its powers. “Suppose,” says Cicero, “a person to have been educated from his infancy in a chamber where he enjoyed no opportunity of seeing external objects but through a small chink in the window shutter, would he not be apt to consider this chink as essential to his vision? and would it not be difficult to persuade him that his prospects would be enlarged by demolishing the walls of his prison?”298298Quoted by Dugald Stewart, Active and Moral Powers, i. p. 72 (Collected Works). Cf. Tusculan Disputations, Book i. 20. It may turn out, as Butler says, that existing and bodily conditions are rather restraints on mind than laws of its essential nature.299299Analogy, i. chap. 1. Even so rigid a critic of evidence as the late J. S. Mill admits that this argument against immortality from the present dependence of thought and feeling on some action of the bodily organism, is invalid. “‘there is, therefore,” he says, “in science, no evidence against the immortality of the soul, but that negative evidence which consists in the absence of evidence in its favour. And even the negative evidence is not so strong as negative evidence often is.”300300Three Essays, p. 201. It may, at the same time, be questioned, as we have seen, whether there are not 153 limits to the extent to which science has demonstrated the dependence of the higher mental operations on cerebal changes.301301See Professor Calderwood’s views in Note H. Science, therefore, cannot negative the idea of immortality, but has reason no positive utterance to give on this great and solemn question of future existence? It is not men of science only, but some believers in Revelation also, who show a disposition to minimise the indications and corroborations which nature affords of man’s immortal destiny. Mr. Edward White does this in support of his theory of conditional immortality;302302In his Life in Christ. but many others also have held the opinion that this is a question on which reason has little or nothing to say, and which must be determined solely by the light of Revelation. This position seems to me a hazardous one for a believer in Revelation to take up. Just as in speaking of Theism I ventured to say that, if God exists, it is inconceivable that nature should afford no evidence of His existence;303303Lect. III. p. 81. so I would say here that if human immortality be a truth, it is impossible that it should be only, or merely, a truth of Revelation. If, as he came from his Creator’s hand, it was man’s destiny to be immortal, his fitness and capacity for that destiny must reveal itself in the very make and constitution of his being, in the powers and capabilities that belong to him. If it could really be shown that in man’s nature, as we find it, no trace of anything exists pointing to a higher sphere of existence than earth affords, no powers or capabilities for which this earthly scene did not offer full employment or satisfaction, this alone, without any other argument, would be a cogent disproof of immortality. For the same reason, immortality cannot be viewed, as in Mr. White’s theory, as a mere external addition to a nature regarded as having originally no capacity or destination for it, a donum superadditum. It is impossible that a being should be capable of receiving the gift of immortality, who yet in the make and constitution of his nature gives no evidence that he was destined for immortality. Otherwise immortality loses all moral significance, and sinks to the level of a mere prolongation of existence, just as the life of the brute might be prolonged. Such evidence, if it exists, may not be sufficient to demonstrate man’s immortality, but it will show that the make and 154constitution of his nature points in that direction, that immortality is the natural solution of the enigmas of his being, that without immortality he would be a riddle and contradiction to himself and an anomaly in the world which be inhabits. And are there pot such proofs?
1. Our minds are arrested here, first, by the fact that nearly every tribe and people on the face of the earth, savage and civilised, has held in some form this belief in a future state of existence. This suggests that the belief is one which accords with the facts of human nature, and to which the mind is naturally led in its inquiries. Assume the doctrine to be false, there is still this fact to be accounted for—that nearly all tribes and families of mankind have gone on dreaming this strange dream of a life beyond the grave.304304Cicero urges the argument in The Tusculan Disputations, Book i. 13. For modern illustrations, cf. Max Muller’s Anthropological Religion, Lecture V.; Dawson’s Fossil Men and their Modern Representatives, chap. x., etc. Mr. Spencer, of course, has a way of explaining this belief which would rob it of all its worth as evidence. The hypothesis is a very simple one. Belief in a future state, according to it, is simply a relic of superstition. It had its origin in the fancies of the savage, who, from the wanderings of his mind in sleep, and supposed appearances of the dead, aided by such facts as the reflection of his image on the water and the appearance of his shadow, imagined the existence of a soul, or double, separable from the body, and capable of surviving death.305305Eccles. Institutions, chaps. i., xiv.; Strauss has a similar theory, Der alte und der neue Glaube, p. 124. Were I discussing this theory at length, I would like to put in a word for Mr. Spencer’s savage. I would like to ask, first, Is Mr. Spencer so sure that this is the whole explanation of that singularly persistent instinct which leads even savage minds to cling so tenaciously to the idea of a future life? May it not be, though a philosopher may not care to take account of them,
“That even in savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings,”
For the good they comprehend not,”
and that, sometimes at least,
“the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God’s right hand in that darkness,
And I would like, secondly, to ask, Is the savage, after all, so illogical as Mr. Spencer would make him out to be? Allow that he has crude notions of apparitions and dreams, this is not the essential point. The essential point is that, from the activity of his mind in thinking and dreaming, he infers the working of a power within him distinct from his body. Is he so far wrong in this? I do not think we do justice always to the workings of the savage mind.307307Max Muller says: “We cannot protest too strongly against what used to be a very general habit among anthropologists, namely, to charge primitive man with all kinds of stupidities in his early views about the soul, whether in this life or the next.”—Anthropological Religion, p. 218. The savage knows, to begin with, that there is a something within him which thinks, feels, acts, and remembers. He does not need to wait on dreams to give him that knowledge.308308Cf. Max Muller’s discussion of the “shadow” and “dream” theory in Anthropological Religion, pp. 218–226. “Before primitive man could bring himself to imagine that his soul was like a dream, or like an apparition, it is clear that he must already have framed to himself some name or concept of soul.”—P. 221. The step is natural to distinguish this thinking something from his hands and head and body, which remain after its departure.309309Cf. Max Muller, Anthropological Religion, pp. 195, 281, 337, 338. “It was a perfectly simple process: what may almost be called a mere process of subtraction. There was man, a living body, acting, feeling, perceiving, thinking, and speaking. Suddenly, after receiving one blow with a club, that living body collapses, dies, putrefies, falls to dust. The body, therefore, is seen to he destroyed. But there is nothing to prove that the agent within that body, who felt, who perceived, who thought and spoke, had likewise been destroyed, had died, putrefied, and fallen to dust. Hence the very natural conclusion that, though that agent had separated, it continued to exist somewhere, even though there was no evidence to show how it existed and where it existed”—P. 281. See also Mr. Greg, Preface to Enigmas of Life, p. 7; and Fairbairn’s Studies in Philosophy of Religion, pp. 115ff. Going further, he peoples nature with spiritual agents after the type of the mind he finds within himself. Here, therefore, we have the clear yet not reasoned out distinction between body and spirit, and this, in connection with other hopes, instincts, and aspirations, readily gives birth to ideas of future continued existence. But, however it may be with the savage, how absurd it is for Mr. Spencer to assume that the mature and thinking portion of mankind have no better foundation for their belief than is implied in these vulgar superstitions which he names! You sit at the feet of a Plato, and see his keen intellect applied to this subject; you listen to the eloquence of a Cicero discoursing on it;310310Plato’s Phaedo, Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations and Dream of Scipio, etc. Cf. Max Muller on Anthropological Religion, Lecture XI. you 156are lifted up by the grand strains of the poets of immortality. You really thought that it was proof of the greater mental stature and calibre of these men that they speculated on such themes at all, and expressed themselves so nobly in regard to them. But it turns out you are mistaken. You and they have miserably deceived yourselves; and what seemed to you rational and ennobling belief is but the survival of superstitions, born of the dreams and ghost fancies of the untutored savage!
2. But let us leave the savage, and look at this subject in the light of the higher considerations which have in all ages appealed with special force to the minds of rational men. I pass by here the metaphysical arguments, which at most are better fitted to remove bars to the acceptance of the doctrine than to furnish positive proofs of it. The real proofs are those which, as already said, show that the make and constitution of man’s nature are not explicable on the hypothesis that he is destined only for a few short years of life on earth, but are such as point to a nobler and enduring state of existence. It is an interesting circumstance that Mr. J. S. Mill, who, in his treatment of this question, took evident delight in reducing the logical evidence to its minimum, yet practically brings all those arguments which he had thrust out by the door of the head back by the door of the heart, and uses them to found the duty of cherishing this hope of a future life.311311In the Essay on “Theism,” in Three Essays on Religion. See below. What are these indications which point to a fitness for, and are a prophecy of, immortality in man?
(1) There is the fact that the scale of man’s nature is too large for his present scene of existence. I have already spoken of that shadow of infinitude in man which manifests itself in all his thoughts, his imaginations, his desires, etc. Look, first, at his rational constitution. In the ascent of the mountain of knowledge, is man ever satisfied? Does not every new height he reaches but reveal a higher height? Does not every new attainment but whet his appetite to attain more? Is any thirst more insatiable than the thirst for knowledge? Is it not the last confession of ripened wisdom that man as yet knows nothing as he would wish to know? Or look at the ideas which man’s mind is capable of containing. His mind spans the physical 157universe, and ever as the telescope expands the horizon of knowledge, it reaches out in desire for a further flight. But there are greater ideas than even those of worlds and systems. His mind can take in the thought of God, of eternity, of infinity. Is this like the endowment. of a creature destined only for threescore years and ten? The same illimitableness attaches to imagination. “The use of this feigned history,” says Lord Bacon, speaking of poetry, “is to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man on those points wherein the nature of things doth deny it, the world being in proportion inferior to the soul; by reason whereof there is, agreeable to the spirit of man, a more ample greatness, a more exact goodness, and a more absolute variety than can be found in the nature of things.”312312Adv. of Learning, Book ii. 13. Finally, there is desire. Give a man all of the world he asks for, and he is yet unsatisfied.
“I cannot chain my soul; it will not rest
In its clay prison, this most narrow sphere.
It has strange powers, and feelings, and desires
Which I cannot account for nor explain,
But which I stifle not, being hound to trust
All feelings equally, to hear all sides.
Yet I cannot indulge them, and they live,
This argument is not met by saying, as Mill does, that there are many things we desire which we never get. This may be true, but the point is that even if we did get all the satisfaction which the earth could give us, our desires would still go beyond that earthly bound.314314“Man,” says Kant, “is not so constituted as to rest and be satisfied in any possession or enjoyment whatsoever.”—Kritik d. Urtheilskraft, p. 281 (Erdmann’s ed.).
“And thus I know the earth is not my sphere,
For I cannot so narrow be, but that
The argument is further strengthened by comparing man with 158the other creatures that tenant the earth. Modern science justly lays stress on the constant relation subsisting between creatures and their environments. Throughout nature you find the most careful adjustment of faculty to environment. If there is a fin, there is water; if there is an eye, there is light; if there is a wing, there is air to cleave, etc. But here is a creature whose powers, whose capabilities, whose desires, stretch far beyond the terrestrial scene that would contain him! Must we not put him in a different category?
(2) The same inference which follows from the scale of man’s endowments results if we consider life from the point of view of moral discipline. Everything which strengthens our view of the world as a scene of moral government, everything which leads us to put a high value on character, and to believe that the Creator’s main end in His dealings with man is to purify and develop character, strengthens also our belief in immortality. The only way we can conceive of the relation of nature to man, so as to put a rational meaning into it, is, as Kant has shown, to represent it to ourselves as a means to the end of his culture and morality.316316Cf. Kant on “The Last End of Nature as a teleological System,” Kritik d. Urtheilskraft, pp. 280—285; and Caird, Philosophy of Kant, ii. P. 501. Can we believe, then, that God will spend a lifetime in perfecting a character, developing and purifying it, as great souls always are developed, by sharp trial and discipline, till its very best has been evoked, only in the end to dash it again into nothingness? What would we think of an earthly artist who dealt thus with his works, spending a lifetime, e.g., on a block of marble, evolving from it a statue of faultless pro portions and classic grace, only in the end, just when his chisel was putting his last finishing touches on it, to seize his mallet and dash it again to pieces. It would stumble our faith in God—in the “Divine reasonableness”317317“For my part,” says Mr. Fiske, “I believe in the immortality of the soul, not in the sense in which I accept the demonstrable truths of science, but as a supreme act of faith in the reasonableness. of God’s work.”—Man’s Destiny p. 116.—to believe that such could be His action.
(3) A third consideration which points in the same direction is that frequently insisted on—the manifest incompleteness of the present scene of things, both as respects human character and work, and as respects the Divine administration. Here, 159again, everything that strengthens our faith in a moral government of the world, that impresses us with the infinite worth of human personality, that intensifies our sense of justice and injustice, forces on us the conviction that the present life, with its abounding anomalies, imperfections, and iniquities, is not God’s last word to us;318318 There is no reconciling wisdom with a world distraught, Goodness with triumphant evil, power with failure in the aim, If—(to my own sense, remember! though none other feel the same!)— If you bar me from assuming earth to be a pupil’s place, And life, time,—with all their chances, changes,—just probation-space, Mine, for me?” BROWNING, La Saisiaz, Works, xiv. p. 178. that there is another chapter to our existence than that which closes on earth. Here comes in the consideration which Kant urges of the need of prolonged existence to complete the fulfilment of our moral destiny;319319It should be noticed that, as Kant grants a “doctrinal faith” in the existence of God, as distinguished from theoretical demonstration on the one hand, and the moral proof on the other (see note D. to Lecture III.), so he admits also a “doctrinal faith” in immortality. “In view of the Divine wisdom,” he says, “and having respect to the splendid endowment of human nature, and to the shortness of life, so inadequate for its development, we can find an equally satisfactory ground for a doctrinal faith in the future life of the human soul. —Kritik d. r. Vernunft, p. 561 (Eng. trans. pp. 590, 591). the sense of accountability which we all carry with us, instinctively anticipating a day of final reckoning; the feeling of an unredressed balance of wrong in the arrangements of life and society; above all, the sense of incompleteness which so often oppresses us when we see the wise and good cut down in the midst of their labours, and their life-work left unfinished. These are the “enigmas of life” for which it is difficult to see how any solution is provided if there is not a future state in which life’s mysteries shall be made clear, its unredressed wrongs rectified, the righteousness of the good vindicated, and a completion granted to noble lives, broken off prematurely here. Our faith in God leads us again to trust Him, that “He that hath begun a good work”320320Phil. i. 6. in us will not leave it unfinished.
(4) Finally, there is the fact which all history verifies, that only under the influence of this hope do the human faculties, even here, find their largest scope and play. This was the consideration which, more than any other, weighed with the late J. S. Mill, in inclining him to admit the hope of immortality. “The beneficial influence of such a hope,” he says, 160in words well worth quoting, “is far from trifling. It makes life and human nature a far greater thing to the feelings, and gives greater strength as well as greater solemnity to all the sentiments which are awakened in us by our fellow-creatures, and by mankind at large.321321Cf. Uhlhorn in his Christian Charity in the Ancient Church. “There is an idea,” he says, “which has been again met with in our own day, that men, when they first clearly come to believe that human life finds its life in this life alone, would be on that account the more ready to help one another, so that at least life here below might be made as pleasant to all as possible, and kept free from evil. But, in truth, the opposite is the case. If the individual man is only a passing shadow, without any everlasting significance, then reflection quickly makes us decide: Since it is of no importance whether he exists or not, why should I deprive myself of anything to give it to him? . . . It was only when through Christianity it was for the first time made known that every human soul possessed an infinite value, that each individual existence is of much more worth than the whole world,—it was only then that room was found for the growth of a genuine charity.”—Pp. 33, 34 (Eng. trans.). It allays the sense of that irony of nature, which is so painfully felt when we see the exertions and sacrifices of a life culminating in the formation of a wise and noble mind, only to disappear from the world when the time has just arrived at which the world seems about to begin reaping the benefit of it. . . . But the benefit consists less in the presence of any specific hope than in the enlargement of the general scale of the feelings; the loftier aspirations being no longer kept down by a sense of the insignificance of human life—by the disastrous feeling of ‘not worth while.’”322322Three Essays, p. 249. The evolutionist, it seems to me, should, beyond all others, respect these voices of the soul, this natural and unforced testimony of our nature to a life beyond, which does not disappear (as it would do were Mr. Spencer’s hypothesis correct), but only grows clearer and more solemn, as the history of humanity advances.
I think, then, we may conclude that reason does create a presumption, and that a very strong one, in favour of a future life. The considerations we have urged prove the possibility of immortality, and show that the soul of man is naturally fitted for immortality. We need not claim that they do more, though they have proved sufficient to inspire many of the noblest minds of our race, even apart from the gospel, with a very steady persuasion that there is a life hereafter. They cannot give absolute certainty. They may not be able, apart from the light of Revelation, to lift the mind wholly above the 161suspicion that the law of waste and destruction which prevails here against the body may somewhere else, and finally, prevail against the soul. But, so far as they go, they must be accepted as a powerful corroboration and confirmation, from the side of nature, of the Christian view.
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