Page images
PDF
EPUB

everywhere always, as much as sometimes anywhere. He fills all spirit, not less than all matter, yet is not limited by either, transcending both, being alike the materiality of matter, and the spirituality of spirit—that is, the substantiality which is the ground of each, and which surpasses and comprehends all. He is Perfect Cause and Perfect Providence, creating all things from a perfect motive, of a perfect material, for a perfect purpose, and as a perfect means, and to a perfect end. So, of all conceivable worlds he makes the best possible, of all conceivable degrees of welfare he provides the best in kind and the greatest in bulk, not only for all as a whole, but for each as an individual, for Jesus of Nazareth who is faithful, for Judas Iscariot who turns traitor. There is no Absolute Evil in the world, either for the whole as all, nor for any one as part.

That is the Philosophic Idea of God and of his relation to the Universe. To-day I state it short, for I have dwelt on it often before, and perhaps at some other time I shall take up the idea part by part, and speak of God as Infinite Power, then as Infinite Wisdom, then as Infinite Justice, as Infinite Love, Infinite Integrity, and so on.

I think this Idea of God as Infinite Perfection, Perfect Power, Wisdom, Justice, Love, Holiness, is the grandest thought which has ever come into mortal mind. It is the highest result of human civilization. Let no man claim it as his original thought; it is the result of all mankind's religious experience. It lay latent in human nature once, a mere instinctive religious feeling. At length it becomes a bright particular thought in some great mind; and one day will be the universal thought in all minds, and will displace all other notions of God-Hindoo, Egyptian, Hebrew, Classic, Christian, Mohammedan, just as the true theory of astronomy, which actnally explains the stars, displaced the Ptolemaic and all the other theories whhic were only approximate ; just as the iron axe displaced the tomahawk of stone.

The Evidence of this God is in man's Consciousness and in the World of Matter likewise outside of him. When the idea is presented to a thoughtful man, he at once says, “ Yes, God is Infinite Perfection, Power, Wisdom, Justice, Holiness, Love,” for human nature is too strong for his theologic prejudice. To prove there is such a being as Jehovah, who met Moses in a tavern between Midian and Egypt some thirty-three hundred years ago, and vainly tried to kill him, you must know Hebrew, and understand the antiquities of the Jews, know who wrote the Book of Exodus, where he got his facts, what he meant by his words, what authority he rested on; and when you have made that investigation, the story will turn out to be wind, and none the better because Hebrew wind thirtythree hundred years old; and after all that, you do not come to a fact of the Universe, but only the fiction of a story-teller. But to prove the Infinite Perfection of God, you have the facts in your own nature; you are to sit down beside that primeval well and draw for yourself, and drinking thence, you shall thirst no longer for heathen Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Gentile Damascus, nor for the Hebrew Jordan itself, for you shall find there is a well of living water within you, springing up to everlasting life; and as you drink, the scales of theologic leprosy fall off from your eyes, and you stand there a clean man, full of the primitive, aboriginal vigor of Humanity. As you look down into that depth of consciousness do you behold the eternal and immutable Idea of the Infinitely Perfect God forever mirrored there. This depends on no subjective peculiarities of the individual, but on the objective forces of the Universe. So, by its name to distinguish it from all other notions of God, I will call this the Philosophical or Natural Idea of God; it seems to me a fact given in Humanity itself, a self-evident truth of spiritual consciousness, something we discover in the Universe, not something we invent and project thereon. So, while I name the others Conceptions of God, I call this the Idea of God—the Philosophical Idea, because derived by that Method the Natural, because it corresponds to Nature. To this men will also add conceptions of their own invention, which partake of the subjective peculiarity of John or Jane.

I. This Idea of God is adequate to the Purposes of Science. First of all things the philosopher wants an Adequate Cause for the Facts of the Universe, both the World of Matter out of him, and tbe World of Spirit in him. He is to explain facts by showing their mode of operation, and tracing them back to the cause—to the proximate cause first, to the ultimate cause at last. Now, as I showed before, the Ecclesiastical Conception of God furnishes no adequate cause for the Facts of the Universe. To the theologian it is cause sufficient for Noah's flood, for the ark, for the downfall of Jericho when the rams'-horns blew, for the standing still of the sun and moon while a Hebrew army slew their victiins ;-it explains such things as are not authenticated facts of history, but only anonymous fictions of mythology. It is no adequate cause for the earth under our feet, for the heavens over our head, and, least of all, for this earth and heaven of human consciousness within us. The ecclesiastical God is sufficient cause for the Westminster Catechism, for baptism, by sprinkling or plunging, for belief in eternal damnation, for adınission to Dr. Banbaby's Churchbut it does not explain a mother's love for her wicked, profligate girl; nor David's wailing over his worthless, handsome boy: “O Absalom, my son ! my son Absalom! would God that I had died for thee!"—there is no fact in the ecclesiastical God's consciousness which corresponds to that. It is not cause for such a man as Socrates, or Franklin, nor such women as Miss Dix and Miss Nightingale, and others not less noble, only less known. It explains Pharaoh's dream about fat and lean kine; the story of Elisha's cursing the children who cried after him, “Gw up, thou bald head, go,"' and of the two she-bears out of the woods who tore two and forty of those children to atoms in Divine and bearish wrath—but it does not explain the life of such a man as Jesus of Nazareth, por his lament, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem !" It does not account for that grandest of human triumphs, * Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” To explain such characters the ecclesiastical conception of God is no more adequate cause than the penny-trumpet in a little boy's mouth is sufficient to explain the world of music which Beethoven dreamed into thought and then poured forth, gladdening the earth with such sweet melody. Read the Book of Genesis, then read Newton's Principia, Humboldt's Kosmos, nay, any college manual of chemistry, and ask if the theologic God is cause adequate to the chemic composition of a single flower! Nay, read the stories in Genesis, or the sermons in Jonathan Edwards, and then in some starry night look up to the sky, and ask if that form of Deity could have conceived the heavens? You see at once how insufficient it is.

But the God of Infinite Perfection is Adequate Cause for all the facts in the Universe. In the world of matter you find Power resident on the spot; Mind resident on the spot, a Plan everywhere, things working together in order. The world of matter is a “team of little atomies," thing yoked to thing, and skilfully are they drove afield by that Almighty One whose thoughtful road is everywhere. All is orderly_never a break in the line of continuity. In the fossil animals which perished a million of years ago you find proximate formations which point to man; nay, yet further back in the structure of the earth, the fashion of the solar system itself, do we find finger-posts which indicate the road to humanity-distinctly pointing unto man. There is Law always, a constant mode of operation, never a miracle ; no chemist, geologist, astronomer, can show proof of the “intervention of God," but the Power, Mind, Law, constant mode of operation, these show the presence of God always, everywhere, ordering all things " by number and measure and weight.” The chemist analyzes matter into some sixty primitive substances, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, · carbon, and the rest ; but of all that “ team of atomies” not a single brute creature ever thinks a thought; it is in God that the Mind resides, in him is the Power and the Plan. Mr. Whewell, a theological man indeed, but yet also, I think, certainly one of the ablest and most dispassionate men of science in these days, writes a book against the Plurality of Worlds, and declares there is no conscious life analogous to man's in any planet, in sun, or moon, or star: it is a dead world up there; the sun is a dead sun, the moon is dead as brass, and there is no life in any star. Why so? It is not consistent with the Ecclesiastical Notion of God; the Book of Miraculous Revelation never gives us a hint of a living thing in sun or moon or star ; the Plan of Atonement applies only to the earth, it cannot reach an inch beyond the atmosphere, which extends about fifty-two miles from the surface! Mr. Whewell is right—a plurality of worlds is wholly in

consistent with the ecclesiastical God; there is no record that such a thought ever crossed the mind of Moses, Jesus, Paul or John, that it ever occurred to Hebrew Jehovah or Christian Trinity. But it is not inconsistent with the Infinite God, and the philosopher who believes in him will not correct the facts of Nature by the fictions of Genesis. To him, how different the World of Matter appears, one grand act of creative power, which is everywhere active at all times.

Then when this Idea is accepted no philosopher will be bid to look for a miracle, and called an “infidel” because he finds only Law-law in the botanic growth of plants, law in the chernic composition of minerals, law in the mechanic structure of the earth, the sun, the solar system, the Universe itself. Then there will be no atheistic Lagranges and La Places to deny all God, because they do not find the phantom which theologians bid them seek, and because their telescope bores through the spot where the New Jerusalem was said to be, and finds but blank celestial space! From the scheme of matter and of mind no brilliant Schelling, no cautious, erudite Von Buch, no comprehensive, magnificent, generous, and thousand-minded Von Humboldt shall ever omit the Cause and Providence of matter and of mind!

Then, too, how different will the great complex world of Human History appear! Men will study it without hindrance, asking only for facts, for the law of the facts, and the human meaning of the law. They will find no 'miracle in man's religious history, but a continual development of a faculty common to all mankind, a gradual progress in religious feeling, religious thought, religious act; no savage nation without consciousness of God, a sense of dependence, obligation, gratitude-aye, and trust in hiin, and something of love for him “even in savage bosoms”—all this proportionate to the people's civilization. The philosopher will find God in all human history, in the gradual elevation of mankind from the low state of the wild man, to higher and higher types of excellence.

Jehovah is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; he inspires only Jews, them not inuch. He hates Esau, and butchers the Canaanites. To the Gentiles he is not a loving God, but a hating Devil. The ecclesiastical God is a Redeemer only to the redeemed--a handful of men, rather mean men too, I fear, most of them. What is he to babies dying unbaptized ? What to the wicked whom death cuts down in their unrepented naughtiness? He is not God, but a “consuming fire; ” he is “the Devil and his angels" to such; not the God of love, but a “great and dreadful God," who laughs when their fear cometh, and crushes Sodom and Gomorrah under his fiery hail; and, all bloody with battle, tramples populous Idumea under foot, as a Bacchanalian treads the wine-press full of purple-blooded grapes !

With the philosophical Idea, there is a God for all nations, for all men, inspiring liberal Greece and prudent Roine not less than pious Judea—a God for babies sprinkled, and for babies all unsmooched by priestly hands; a God for Jacob and Esau, Jew and Gentile; a God to whoin mankind is dear, Father and Mother to the human race! Then you can explain human history: the diverse talents of Egyptian, Hindoo, Persian, Hebrew, Greek, Teuton, Celt, American, these are various gifts, which imply no partial love on the part of him who makes yon oak a summer green, yon pine a winter green. You find the Infinite God in human history, as in the world of matter; for as the plan of material combination, mineral, vegetable, animal, did not reside in any one of the sixty primitive substances, nor in the world of minerals, plants, animals, but in God, who is the thoughtful substance to these unthinking forms—so the plan of human history is not in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; it is not in the whole world of men, but in the Infinite God, who is the Providence that shapes our ends to some graud purpose which we know not of. Thus the true idea of God is adequate to the Purposes of Science both of matter and man.

• II. This Idea of God is also adequate to the Purposes of Religion. For that I want not merely a cause sufficient to my intellect, but much more. I want a God I can trust and have absolute confidence in, so that I am sure of him.. Now the savage may confide in a God of blood, a partial God, who loves Jacob and hates Esau; an inconstant and irregular God, who works by fits and starts, who is absent now for a long time, and then comes in with miraculous pomp, signs, and wonders. A malignant man may be content for a moment with his vengeful Deity, who bates the wicked and will torment them forever ; but soon as a man is considerably enlightened in his mind, conscience, heart and soul, soon as he comprehends the Power that is everywhere always, active and acting for good, then that savage deity is not enough for him. He wants not only infinite Ability, power of Force to do, power of Mind to plan, and Will to execute, but also power of Conscience to will right, and the Infinite power of Affection to love all men and all things, using this energy of will, inind, force, for the welfare of each man—nay, of every mote that peoples this little leaf. That quality is not in the ecclesiastical God; here it is in the true God of earth and heaven and human consciousness. He is perfect creating Cause, making all things of the best possible material, from the best possible motives, for the best possible purpose, and as the best possible means to achieve that purpose. He is perfect conserving Providence, who is as perfectly, completely and essentially present in this little rosebud which I hold in my hand, as he was when, as the Biblical poet has it, “ the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy,” at the creation of the earth, just springing into new-born stellar life. He administers all things by the perfect method, with the best of means, and will secure the best of ends for you and me, for each man, saint and sinner, for the poor widow who supplicates and the unjust judge who fears not God, neither regards man.

« PreviousContinue »