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of trust, of faith, of confidence. The needed degree of that knowledge will be different, in different cases. But in none will it be demonstration; in all, the faith resting upon it may be thoroughly rational.
But we are told again, "philosophy can show the necessity of faith; but it cannot transfer faith into knowledge." Perhaps not. But if philosophy proves the necessity of faith, in so doing, it also proves the necessity of some kind of truth or knowledge of it, in which such faith, if that of a rational being, must be grounded. That material, if not provided for in philosophy, is so elsewhere.
Again, "we must postulate God, as the basis of order, and the highest good. For reason, for conscience, and for all that is good in human association, the world without God is unmeaning." "Christian knowledge of God is based in Christian faith in him. Faith would lose its validity, if knowledge could be substituted in its place." Of course it would, or rather it would cease to be faith. But what the necessity, either of conflict or substitution? They both have their divinely established place and function; and in that Divine order one precedes the other. When a man says, "Credo ut intelligam," he means, "I accept facts, that I may understand them." But he must know them, as facts, thus to understand them. The apostles held up Christ to the faith of men. And they endeavored to call that faith into existence and exercise, by exhibiting, to their knowledge, the facts of his personal character and works. Demonstration does not exclude faith. Newton's demonstration of Divine power and presence, in every particle of inatter, did not interfere with his faith, either in the Divine personality or his perfection. So again visible evidence, and knowledge derived therefrom, have no such destructive power. Our Lord's disciples and followers, as we have seen, had such knowledge and evidence. Their faith was called forth and confirmed by it. On the other
hand, others, with the same knowledge and evidence, went no further, did not attain to faith. Knowledge, demonstration, proof if you choose to call it, of the existence and claims of a person, and faith in that person, are very different things. But if the latter, it must, to some degree, be preceded by the former.
The peculiarity of this whole style of thought and discussion, which we are examining, is: faith is treated as a weak form of knowing; a conviction, not justified upon sufficiency of evidence or information, but meritorious, in its voluntary reception and action upon certain great truths, irrespective of their proper evidence. If those truths do not in themselves, or in their evidence, afford rational ground for such faith, it can only be called credulity.
While, therefore, heartily agreeing with one of these statements, "A firm faith in a personal God is the fundamental need of the day," it must be added, This want will never be met by any faith which cannot say, "I know him whom I believe." I know him in the manifestations he has made of himself in his world, and in his word, to my rational and moral nature; in the revelations of that word, to my spiritual nature; in the experimental tests of such faith, afforded in his promises and dealings.
But the point, thus far, at issue, is often transferred, in this discussion, to another, and yet treated as if it were the same: not, whether we can know the fact of the Divine existence, but whether we can comprehend the Divine perfection. And the inference implied, if not the latter, not the former. "The attributes we ascribe to God," it is said, “are beyond the reach of our full comprehension. Our sphere is the relative, the limited, while we speak of God as the Absolute, the Infinite. In the Bible such attempts are recognized as futile."
The reply to this is twofold. take rational cognizance of ideas
First, we may, and do, and facts which are be
yond our comprehension. As has been said, while we may not comprehend, we do apprehend them. We speak of the Eternal and the Infinite. Do we mean temporal and
finite; or do we mean a positive of which they are negatives? We do not fully comprehend them. But so too it is with many other things of which we speak, and have knowledge. Do we fully comprehend anything? "Omnia exeunt in mysterium," in incognitum. Who fully comprehends an atom or a molecule? Who fully comprehends himself, the facts of his own being, or that of those around him? Does he not therefore know them; know them beyond the possibility of doubt or questioning?
So again, when it is said, "that in the Bible all efforts to comprehend God, in the infinitude of his perfection, are treated as futile," it is also to be said, that men are told to know him, and to reduce their knowledge to practice. While the question is asked in one place, "Who by searching can find out God to perfection?" the precept is urged, in another, "Acquaint thyself with God, and be at peace with him; thereby good shall come unto thee." There is no inconsistency in these passages. The first, while it implies a limitation to the capacity of the human searcher to know fully the object of his search, at the same time implies the existence, to some degree, of that capacity. The second indicates the obligation to use and exercise that capacity in a proper manner. So, too, when the Apostle says, "The world by wisdom knew not God," he says, that "when they knew God they glorified him not as God." As showing, moreover, how they knew him, he says, in the same connection, "The invisible things of him are clearly seen, being understood in the things that are made," i.e., in the works of creation. There is the same contrast in these two passages of the New Testament, as in those quoted from the Old Testament. One of them affirms human incapacity to discern and to sound all the depths of
the Divine counsels; the other, the capacity, and consequent obligation, to recognize and know the Author of those counsels.
The two things are ever to be kept apart. To treat them as identical is itself confusion, and can be productive only of its increase. The question of the proof, or evidences, of the Divine existence has to do with only one of these passages; those which affirm that God, as existent, can be known; that he ought to be known; that men, not thus knowing, are morally delinquent. To whom do "the heavens declare the glory of God"? To whom does the firmament manifest his handiwork? To angels and archangels? Yes; but also to men. And men are morally and spiritually criminal in not seeing them; in not recognizing and honoring the Divine Author from whom they proceed.
In some form or other, therefore, it is to be said; and whether by proof or not, this fact, as a fact, not only of faith but of professed knowledge, is widely accepted; and this, too, by every variety of capacity and cultivation. Whatever the prevalent view and opinion of German theologians, just now, as to this fact, and the validity of its proofs, there was a different one twenty years ago. It is not hazardous to say, that there will be still another twenty years hence. It is very often said, indeed, depreciatively, that men receive this truth, not upon rational evidence or because they have verified it themselves, but traditionally, and in faith, from the parent, or teacher, or current opinion. Doubtless it is often thus received. But is it thus necessarily held? Does its reception in that way at all interfere with their own subsequent verification of such truth, and by strictly scientific processes? It is traditional, and first known to the pupil in that way, that the squares of the two sides are equal to that of the hypothenuse. Is the validity of his subsequent demonstration at all affected by his previous traditional acceptance? So, also, as to
facts of history. The manner in which one first comes to the knowledge of a truth, and the evidence upon which he finally verifies, accepts, and rests upon it, need to be carefully distinguished. Specially is such distinction. to be kept in view, in these proofs of the Divine exist
We thus come to the issue of these proofs or evidences. The fact itself, as one of human belief and conviction, of open acceptance, is undeniable. Men, in some way or other, rationally or irrationally, logically or illogically, know of it everywhere; affirm their conviction of it; and, to a greater or less degree, regulate their lives by it. Such conviction, moreover, is not the inheritance of a special class or condition. It is common, alike, to the civilized and savage, the cultivated and uncultivated, the highest and lowest forms of intellectual capacity and acquisition. There are, indeed, numberless diversities, as to certain things connected with this accepted fact of the Divine existence; as to his unity, his perfections, his manifestations to human knowledge and apprehension. "How comes it to pass," says a theological writer, speaking of one of these facts, the Divine unity, "that so many nations, even of those possessed of the highest culture, should, with their clear and comprehensible view of the Divine existence, have been so obstinately polytheistic? Much indeed of this polytheism was pantheistic; and some of it consistently would have been monotheism. But, however as to these points, this truth of the Divine Existence was and is accepted." Was and is that acceptance rational? Did the faith, grounded in it, have a sufficient reason? Is it capable of satisfactory proof, of rational verification?
Of course, as already intimated, there are two distinct issues in this matter. How do we actually get this idea; how do we rationally verify it? As to the first, is it by communication or by rational intuition? If the former,