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we may go back to a primitive communication, from a Divine source or in some other way. This, to the first generation, would have been a necessity. If not thus, by communication, is it by rational process, and intuition? This intuitive capacity, it is to be noted, demands for its exercise something as an occasion. As, for instance, we cognize the world objective, to ourselves subjective, and there comes the intuition of being. As, again, we find our bodies extended surface and with dimensions, there comes the further intuition of space. As, again, we know ourselves, in these successive experiences, there comes, through these, those of duration and personal identity. Is there any occasion in which an intuition of God is thus presented? How far do the facts of cause and effect, of responsibility, of dependence, become occasions to the emergence of this idea? Dependence, it is said, looks for, and in him finds its object. Accountability implies some being to whom it has regard; as effects, in their very nature, find a cause. That the ultimate inference, in these cases, is rationally legitimate, we may not hesitate to affirm. That these facts of human nature itself, as an effect as accountable, as dependent, do by rational necessity imply a Cause adequate, and independent, may be safely asserted.
But what may possibly be done rationally, by human capacity, and what is done actually, are very different things. The conviction and feeling of dependence, as those of accountability and imperfection, have probably been the occasion of the intuition of God. More frequently they have verified, and quickened into practical activity, the truth of God, already known, and in a different way. There is, we may say, an aptness in human nature for this truth; a capacity for its reception, so that it is, prior to proof, accepted and acted upon. Men, if left to themselves, might find God. Some, perhaps, would actually do so; and be rationally justified in so doing. As a matter of
fact, however, they usually receive this truth by communication from others. Human nature thus finds God, prior to argumentative proof of his existence and perfection. Those proofs have, at the same time, their place and value. They sustain the conclusion reached, and this whether by intuition or communication.
Most strikingly suggestive are the dictates of Scripture as to this subject. Its assertion is, that such conviction of God is not only rationally and morally justifiable, but that the want of it involves moral delinquency. It is "the fool," not the idiot and simpleton, but the perverse and wicked fool, who says "in his heart," "his wish," "there is no God." The Nineteenth Psalm, as to manifestations of God in the natural world, and the revelation of him in his perfect law, and the declarations of the first and second chapters of Romans, are too clear upon this point to admit of doubt or questioning. Men are everywhere contemplated as knowing God, at least in his existence; as capable of such knowledge; as morally and spiritually delinquent and criminal, if not deepening and confirming such knowledge, by acting upon it, and thus making it the knowledge of personal experience.
Looking, then, upon some of these proofs that have been offered, we first encounter that which has been most questioned, and in regard to which the greatest difficulties have been made, the ontological or metaphysical, usually designated as the a priori argument. From its very nature, it is an argument for the few, rather than for the many; requires habits of thought to which few are accustomed. This of course does not interfere with the fact of its validity. As in the higher, and even indeed in the ordinary, mathematics, the many, ex necessitate, accept and act rationally upon the conclusions of the few. The simple question is, are the processes rational? can the result be rationally validated? Is there in the fact of perfect being,
the cause of all other beings as effects, that which proves its actuality?
One form of this argument, known as the Anselmic, derives its conclusion, of actual being, from the fact that this idea is one not only of rational conception to finite capacity, but that in this idea, validating itself as rational, is nec essarily included the particular, or attribute of existence. I can think, satisfy myself, of the rationality of this idea of Perfect Being. In that idea is included the fact of actual existence. To think a being dependent, or non-existent, is to think him imperfect. Perfect Being non-existent at any time is unthinkable, is a contradiction in terms. Does this fact of necessary thought, included in this conception, justify the affirmation of the corresponding reality, or Perfect Being actually existing? Upon the principles of the philosophy of Realism, that valid conceptions have their corresponding reality, somewhere and somehow, the reply would be in the affirmative. The necessity of the particular actual, in the general idea, would of course go to sustain such conclusion.
But, apart from this philosophy of realism, there are dif ficulties. The idea of a thing in many cases cannot be accepted as proof of its actual existence. Is there that, in this idea of Perfect Being, that carries with it this conclusion? What is there in it which constrains to its acceptance as a reality? Here we are led to note its peculiarity already mentioned, its necessity. That necessity is not, that, as a matter of fact, all men, everywhere, necessarily think, or come to a distinct conception of it. Hundreds, thousands, the great majority of the human race, never do anything of the kind. But with those that do, wherever and whenever and by whomsoever thought, this necessity of thought is included in it. As already noted, to think Perfect Being, intelligently and consistently, is to think actually Existent Being. Perfect Being non-existent is
unthinkable,—as unthinkable, as much a contradiction in terms, as a round triangle, or intersecting parallels. Atheism and agnosticism do not accept this idea; the former subtracting the fact of actual existence, the latter the capacity of self-manifestation. The same is to be said of all materialistic conceptions of the author of nature. The Being, the God, of such systems, is imperfect. He may, therefore, in this fact, be non-existent. But not so with Perfect Being.
As a matter of fact, moreover, when such idea is accepted, it is never as a mere idea, but, as a truth, that of such a Being existing and working. This is not, as urged by some, an abstraction. It is not through perception. It is not an innate idea. It is rather the operation of an innate or connate rational capacity, the cognition, under certain conditions, by that capacity, of its proper object. Independent alike of abstraction and perception, the idea, under these its proper conditions, is intuitively known, validates itself, as a rational conception. Kant objected, to this argument, that thinking a triangle did not involve an actually existing one. Not one of iron, or brass, or wood, it may be replied. But one as a mathematical reality. Think three straight lines, of equal length, touching at their points, and a triangle is the necessary result. So here in Perfect Being, consciously or unconsciously, is included the particular of actual existence.
But there is another necessity of human thought, in which this same idea of Perfect Being finds its validity. We cannot consistently think on certain subjects, or in certain directions, without affirming or implying it. All finite and limited thought, for its existence and explanation, goes back to that which is infinite and unlimited; a Perfect Mind or Being, of thought and of action. Just as in thinking and knowing space, we cognize the idea or fact of its infinitude, just as in that of succession, we get
that of endless duration; so in' that of the finite thinking being, we recognize its implication, the thinking Mind or Being Infinite. So too with the ideas of the right and the good. With their intuition is that of their perfection; and this, not as a matter of choice to the thinker, but a necessity of his rational, thinking capacity. That which the mind thinks, and cannot avoid thinking, must be accepted as objectively true. Otherwise all knowledge is unattainable, whether in physics or metaphysics. Necessary conviction is conviction in its highest possible form, the ground of rational thinking, of all rational action.
Unconsciously this idea goes with us, and is implied in all rational processes. Such idea, it may be, is first given by tradition, or otherwise. Thus given, in various modes is sought its rational verification. The language of the Patriarch describes the two stages of human experience in this matter: "I have heard of thee," traditionally and in other ways from others, "by the hearing of the ear." But now, "mine eye," the eye of my spiritual and moral being, in the light of these truths of thy necessary existence, "seeth thee," gives me assurance of the existence and perfection.
Thus far, the proof ontological, or a priori. How as to that more frequently urged, and more within the sphere of popular apprehension, the a posteriori,-that from effects to causes? These latter, in the history of human speculation, stood first, were urged by Socrates and Aristotle, long before the a priori had been exhibited, or even thought of. Their value, too, as standing by themselves, can be easily estimated and understood.
Take that, first of all, from contingency, change, movement, succession; dependence, in these, one upon the other, manifestly going on in the world around us. "All things," is the language of atheistic unbelief, alike in the sphere of irreligious blasphemy and in that of scientific