If Evolutionists and Skeptics could prove their cases using these Laws of Evidence & Logic then and ONLY then would they get the ear of True science and Faith…Read and Learn!
- laws of nature (in law of nature (logic)) Laws of nature are of two basic forms: (1) a law is universal if it states that some conditions, so far as are known, invariably are found together with certain other conditions; and (2) a law is probabilistic if it affirms that, on the average, a stated fraction of cases displaying a given condition will display a certain other condition as well. In either case, a law may be valid even though…
One of the primary principles of logic :
is the law of (non-) contradiction.
Basically it states that no statement (proposition, assertion, etc.) can be both true and not true–false-
The second primary law of logic:
is the principle of excluded middle.
The law of (non-)contradiction simply states that A cannot equal or be non-A
The third primary law of logic :
is called the law of identity.
It states that A=A or that “if any statement is true, then it is true
The fourth primary law of logic:
is the law of logical or rational inference
These four primary laws of logic are vital–essential–to all coherent or intelligible discussions or arguments.
As I hope is evident, one cannot–in any intelligent sense–not use them! I have witnessed many times evolutionists NOT using good Logic as well as Christians!
This argument is adapted from the Transcendental Argument championed by Greg Bahnsen
How does a Christian account for the laws of logic?
The Christian worldview states that God is absolute and the standard of truth.
Therefore, the absolute laws of logic exist because they reflect the nature of an absolute God.
God did not create the laws of logic.
They were not brought into existence, since they reflect God’s thinking.
Since God is eternal, the laws of logic are too.
Man, being made in God’s image, is capable of discovering these laws of logic.
He does not invent them.
Therefore, the Christian can account for the existence of the laws of logic by acknowledging they originate from God and that Man is only discovering them.
Nevertheless, the atheist might say this answer is too simplistic and too convenient. It might be, but at least the Christian worldview can account for the existence of logic itself.
Examples of the laws of logic:
Law of Identity:
Something is what it is.
Something that exists has a specific nature.
Law of Non-Contradiction:
Something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time, in the same way, and in the same sense.
Law of Excluded Middle:
a statement is either true or false.
Thus, the statement, “A statement is either true or false,” is either true or false.
How does the atheist account for the laws of logic?
If the atheist states that the laws of logic are conventions (mutually agreed upon conclusions), then the laws of logic are not absolute because they are subject to a “vote.”
The laws of logic are not dependent upon different peoples’ minds, since people are different.
Therefore, they cannot be bon human thinking, since human thinking is often contradictory.
If the atheist states that the laws of logic are derived through observing natural principles found in nature, then he is confusing the mind with the universe.
We discover laws of physics by observing and analyzing the behavior of things around us.
The laws of logic are not the result of observable behavior of object or actions.
For example, in nature we do not see something that is both itself and not itself at the same time.
Because we can only observe a phenomena that exists, not one that does not exist. If something is not itself, then it doesn’t exist.
How then can the property of that non-existent thing be observed?
Therefore, we are not discovering a law of logic by observation, but by thought.
Or, where in nature do we observe that something cannot bring itself into existence if it does not already exist?
You cannot make an observation about how something does not occur if it does not exist.
You would be, in essence, observing nothing at all, and how can any laws of logic be applied to, or derived from, observing nothing at all?
The laws of logic are conceptual realities.
They only exist in the mind, and they do not describe the physical behavior of things because behavior is action, and laws of logic are not descriptions of action, but of truth.
In other words, laws of logic are not actions.
They are statements about conceptual patterns of thought.
Though one could say that a law of physics (i.e., the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence) is a statement which is conceptual, it is a statement that describes actual physical and observable behavior.
But, logical absolutes are not observable and do not describe behavior or actions of things, since they reside completely in the mind.
We do not observe the laws of logic occurring in matter.
You don’t watch an object NOT bring itself into existence if it doesn’t exist.
Therefore, no law of logic can be observed by watching nothing.
If the atheist appeals to the scientific method to explain the laws of logic, then he is using circular argumentation because the scientific method is dependent upon logic; that is, reasoned thought applied to observations.
If logic is not absolute, then no logical arguments for or against the existence of God can be raised, and the atheist has nothing to work with.
If logic is not absolute, then logic cannot be used to prove or disprove anything.
Atheists will use logic to try and disprove God’s existence, but in so doing they are assuming absolute laws of logic and borrowing from the Christian worldview.
The Christian worldview maintains that the laws of logic are absolute because they come from God, who is Himself absolute.
But the atheist worldview does not have an absolute God.
So, we ask, “How can absolute, conceptual, abstract laws be derived from a universe of matter, energy, and motion?”
In other words, “How can an atheist with a naturalistic presupposition account for the existence of logical absolutes when logical absolutes are conceptual by nature and not physical, energy, or motion?”
The process of believing is illustrated in the first figure below. Four thresholds are given, from 50% to 95% probability. The 50% threshold is the lowest reasonable one, of course, for all lower probabilities point more toward disbelief. If I set my threshold of belief at 50%, I will believe any proposition whose evidence provides a probability greater than 50%. The arrow from just above the 50% level to the 100% level represents the amount by which the probability must be increased from its actual value to its accepted value of 100% by the act of believing.
The threshold of 50% is of course is very casual. It means that I will believe nearly anything presented to me. I can be much more selective if I raise the threshold to, say, 90% probability. I will then believe only propositions whose chances of being false are <10%. If I wish to be more stringent still, I can raise my personal threshold to 95% or greater. If I choose to be a real stickler, I may require 98–99% in order to believe. (By the way, science generally requires a probability of 95% to accept an idea as being true.)
Suppose I want to be a purist, and I decide to demand 100% probability. (I’m from Missouri—show me!) What happens to me then? I get into horrible philosophical/mathematical disputes about whether anything can be proven absolutely. Since we don’t have the opportunity to deal with such things in a short essay like this, we will avoid the question by not considering true absolutes.
Now we turn from belief to “proof.” It’s not as big a step as you might imagine, because “proof,” at least in the legal sense, is just a form of belief. Because the law has so permeated modern American life, we begin discussing proof from the legal standpoint.
Legal aspects of “proof”
A legal proceeding first decides on its threshold of belief (which it calls “standard of proof”), then assembles and evaluates evidence for the accusation. If the evidence exceeds the standard of proof, the legal body accepts the accusation and convicts the defendant. (It believes the proposition that he is guilty.) In so doing, the legal body is simply choosing to raise its probability from its demonstrated (actual) value to 100% . Has the legal body proven the defendant guilty in our absolute sense of the word? No. They have only chosen to believe that he is guilty (“considered” him guilty). Unfortunately, the law uses the word “prove” or “convict” for all these decisions, regardless of threshold probability. This causes great confusion until the process is diagrammed.
The five “standards of proof” (thresholds of belief) found in the law are shown in the lower figure below. “Preponderance of the evidence” is the lowest, at 50% probability. It is used in most civil proceedings, and requires only that the plaintiff (accuser) outprove the defendant. Probabilities of 51% vs 49% produce the same “guilty” verdict as 99% vs 1%.
The second standard of proof is “clear and convincing.” It is also used in civil proceedings (equity cases), but less frequently than “preponderance of the evidence.” Its threshold probability lies somewhere between 50% and 90%. For simplicity, I have set it at 75% in the figure.
The third standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It is the common standard of criminal proceedings, and requires roughly that “all reasonable doubt about guilt of the accused be removed from the mind of the ordinary person.” This standard is generally considered to correspond to a probability of at least 90% (although some lawyers would claim ≥95%). For convenience, I have used 90% in the figure.
The fourth standard of proof is “to a moral certainty.” It is also used in criminal proceedings, and requires jurors to be “confident enough about the conclusion to rely on it in matters of the greatest personal importance.” Its level of probability falls somewhere between “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “certainty”. I have represented it here as 95%. Sometimes these last two standards are lumped together, as in “beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.” To my mind, this further confuses the uninformed observer of the legal process. “To a moral certainty” means exactly the same. (Note the unfortunate use of “certainty” with probabilities of <100% here.)
The fifth standard of proof is “absolute certainty.” Although the law recognizes this standard of proof, it explicitly never requires it, because the law considers absolutism unworkable (i.e., no criminal would be convicted if 100% proof were required). FROM: HERE!
by the Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
TEXT.–The 7th chapter of Romans.
I HAVE more than once had occasion to refer to this chapter, and have read some portions of it and made remarks. But I have not been able to go into a consideration of it so fully as I wished, and therefore thought I would make it the subject of a separate lecture. In giving my views I shall pursue the following order:
I. Mention the different opinions that have prevailed in the church concerning this passage.
II. Show the importance of understanding this portion of scripture aright, or of knowing which of these prevailing opinions is the true one.
III. Lay down several facts and principles which have a bearing on the exposition of this passage.
IV. Refer to some rules of interpretation which ought always to be observed in interpreting either the scriptures or any other writing or testimony.
V. Give my own views of the real meaning of the passage, with the reasons.
I shall confine myself chiefly to the latter part of the chapter, as that has been chiefly the subject of dispute. You see from the manner in which I have laid out my work, that I design to simplify the subject as much as possible, so as to bring it within the compass of a single lecture. Otherwise I might make a volume; as much has been written to show the meaning of this chapter.
I. I am to show what are the principal opinions that have prevailed concerning the application of this chapter.
1. One opinion that has extensively prevailed and still prevails, is that the latter part of the chapter is an epitome of Christian experience.
It has been supposed to describe the situation and exercises of a Christian, and designed to exhibit the Christian warfare with indwelling sin. It is to be observed, however, that this is, comparatively, a modern opinion. No writer is known to have held this view of the chapter, for centuries after it was written. According to Professor Stuart, who has examined the subject more thoroughly than any other man in this country, Augustine was the first writer that exhibited this interpretation, and he resorted to it in his controversy with Pelagius.
2. The only other interpretation given is that which prevailed in the first centuries, and which is still generally adopted on the continent of Europe as well as by a considerable number of writers in England and in this country; that this passage describes the experience of a sinner under conviction, who was acting under the motives of the law, and not yet brought to the experience of the gospel. In this country, the most prevalent opinion is, that the 7th of Romans delineates the experience of a Christian.
II. I am to show the importance of a right understanding of this passage.
A right understanding of this passage must be fundamental. If this passage in fact describes a sinner under conviction, or a purely legal experience, and if a person supposing that it is a Christian experience finds his own experience to correspond with it, his mistake is a fatal one. It must be a fatal error, to rest in his experience as that of a real Christian, because it corresponds with the 7th of Romans, if Paul is in fact giving only the experience of a sinner under legal motives and considerations.
III. I will lay down some principles and facts, that have a bearing on the elucidation of this subject.
1. It is true, that mankind act, in all cases, and from the nature of mind must always act, as on the whole they feel to be preferable.
Or, in other words, the will governs the conduct. Men never act against their will. The will governs the motion of the limbs. Voluntary beings cannot act contrary to their will.
2. Men often desire what, on the whole, they do not choose.
The desires and the will are often opposed to each other. The conduct is governed by the choice, not by the desires. The desires may be inconsistent with the choice. You may desire to go to some other place to-night, and yet on the whole choose to remain here. Perhaps you desire very strongly to be somewhere else, and yet choose to remain in meeting. A man wishes to go a journey to some place. Perhaps he desires it strongly. It may be very important to his business or his ambition. But his family are sick, or some other object requires him to be at home, and on the whole he chooses to remain. In all cases, the conduct follows the actual choice.
3. Regeneration, or conversion, is a change in the choice.
It is a change in the supreme controlling choice of the mind. The regenerated or converted person prefers God’s glory to every thing else. He chooses it as the supreme object of affection. This is a change of heart. Before, he chose his own interest or happiness, as his supreme end. Now, he chooses God’s service in preference to his own interest. When a person is truly born again, his choice is habitually right, and of course his conduct is in the main right.
The force of temptation may produce an occasional wrong choice, or even a succession of wrong choices, but his habitual course of action is right. The will, or choice, of a converted person is habitually right, and of course his conduct is so. If this is not true, I ask, in what does the converted differ from the unconverted person? If it is not the character of the converted person, that he habitually does the commandments of God, what is his character? But I presume this position will not be disputed by any one who believes in the doctrine of regeneration.
4. Moral agents are so constituted, that they naturally and necessarily approve of what is right.
A moral agent is one who possesses understanding, will, and conscience. Conscience is the power of discerning the difference of moral objects. It will not be disputed that a moral agent can be led to see the difference between right and wrong, so that his moral nature shall approve of what is right. Otherwise, a sinner never can be brought under conviction. If he has not a moral nature, that can see and highly approve the law of God, and justify the penalty, he cannot be convicted. For this is conviction, to see the goodness of the law that he has broken and the justice of the penalty he has incurred. But in fact, there is not a moral agent, in heaven, earth, or hell, that cannot be made to see that the law of God is right, and whose conscience does not approve the law.
5. Men may not only approve the law, as right, but they may often, when it is viewed abstractly and without reference to its bearing on themselves, take real pleasure in contemplating on it.
This is one great source of self-deception. Men view the law of God in the abstract, and love it. When no selfish reason is present for opposing it, they take pleasure in viewing it. They approve of what is right, and condemn wickedness, in the abstract. All men do this, when no selfish reason is pressing on them. Who ever found a man so wicked, that he approved of evil in the abstract? Where was a moral being ever found that approved the character of the devil, or that approved of other wicked men, unconnected with himself? How often do you hear wicked men express the greatest abhorrence and detestation of enormous wickedness in others. If their passions are in no way enlisted in favor of error or of wrong, men always stand up for what is right. And this merely constitutional approbation of what is right may amount even to delight, when they do not see the relations of right interfering in any manner with their own selfishness.
6. In this constitutional approbation of truth and the law of God, and the delight which naturally arises from it, there is no virtue.
It is only what belongs to man’s moral nature. It arises naturally from the constitution of the mind. Mind is constitutionally capable of seeing the beauty of virtue. And so far from their being any virtue in it, it is in fact only a clearer proof of the strength of their depravity, that when they know the right, and see its excellence, they do not obey it. It is not then that impenitent sinners have in them something that is holy. But their wickedness is herein seen to be so much the greater. For the wickedness of sin is in proportion to the light that is enjoyed. And when we find that men may not only see the excellence of the law of God, but even strongly approve of it and take delight in it, and yet not obey it, it shows how desperately wicked they are, and makes sin appear exceeding sinful.
7. It is a common use of language for persons to say, “I would do so and so, but cannot,” when they only mean to be understood as desiring it, but not as actually choosing to do it. And so to say, “I could not do so,” when they only mean that they would not do it, and, they could if they would.
Not long since, I asked a minister to preach for me next Sabbath. He answered, “I can’t.” I found out afterwards that he could if he would. I asked a merchant to take a certain price for a piece of goods. He said, “I can’t do it.” What did he mean? That he had not power to accept of such a price? Not at all. He could if he would, but he did not choose to do it. You will see the bearing of these remarks, when I come to read the chapter. I proceed, now,
IV. To give several rules of interpretation, that are applicable to the interpretation not only of the Bible, but of all written instruments, and to all evidence whatever.
There are certain rules of evidence, which all men are bound to apply, in ascertaining the meaning of instruments and the testimony of witnesses, and of all writings.
1. We are always to put that construction on language which is required by the nature of the subject.
We are bound always to understand a person’s language as it is applicable to the subject of discourse. Much of the language of common life may be tortured into any thing, if you lose sight of the subject, and take the liberty to interpret it without reference to what they are speaking of. How much injury has been done, by interpreting separate passages and single expressions in the scriptures, in violation of this principle. It is chiefly by overlooking this simple rule, that the scriptures have been tortured into the support of errors and contradictions innumerable and absurd beyond all calculation. This rule is applicable to all statements. Courts of justice never would allow such perversions as have been committed upon the Bible.
2. If a person’s language will admit, we are bound always to construe it so as to make him consistent with himself.
Unless you observe this rule, you can scarcely converse five minutes with any individual on any subject and not make him contradict himself. If you do not hold to this rule, how can one man ever communicate his ideas so that another man will understand him? How can a witness ever make known the facts to the jury, if his language is to be tortured at pleasure, without the restraints of this rule?
3. In interpreting a person’s language, we are always to keep in view the point to which he is speaking.
We are to understand the scope of his argument, the object he has in view, and the point to which he is speaking. Otherwise we shall of course not understand his language. Suppose I were to take up a book, any book, and not keep my eye on the object the writer had in view in making it, and the point to which he is aiming, I never can understand that book. It is easy to see how endless errors have grown out of a practice of interpreting the scriptures in disregard of the first principles of interpretation.
4. When you understand the point to which a person is speaking, you are to understand him as speaking to that point; and not to put a construction on his language unconnected with his object, or inconsistent with it.
By losing sight of this rule, you may make nonsense of everything. You are bound always to interpret language in the light of the subject to which it is applied, or about which it is spoken.
V. Having laid down these rules and principles I proceed in the light of them to give my own view of the meaning of the passage, with the reasons for it. But first I will make a remark or two.
1st REMARK. Whether the apostle was speaking of himself in this passage, or whether he is supposing a case, is not material to the right interpretation of the language.
It is supposed by many, that because he speaks in the first person, he is to be understood as referring to himself. But it is a common practise, when we are discussing general principles, or arguing a point, to suppose a case by way of illustration, or to establish a point. And it is very natural to state it in the first person, without at all intending to be understood, and in fact without ever being understood, as declaring an actual occurrence, or an experience of our own. The apostle Paul was here pursuing a close train of argument, and he introduces this simply by way of illustration. And it is no way material whether it is his own actual experience, or a case supposed.
If he is speaking of himself, or if he is speaking of another person, or if he is supposing a case, he does it with a design to show a general principle of conduct, and that all persons under like circumstances would do the same. Whether he is speaking of a Christian, or of an impenitent sinner, he lays down a general principle.
The apostle James, in the 3d chapter, speaks in the first person; even in administering reproof. “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all.”
“Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.”
The apostle Paul often says “I,” and uses the first person, when discussing and illustrating general principles: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any:” And again, “Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” So also, “For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” In lst Cor. iv. 6. he explains exactly how he uses illustrations, “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself, and to Apollos, for your sakes: that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.”
2d REMARK. Much of the language which the apostle uses here, is applicable to the case of a backslider, who has lost all but the form of religion. He has left his first love, and has in fact fallen under the influence of legal motives, of hope and fear, just like an impenitent sinner. If there be such a character as a real backslider, who has been a real convert, he is then actuated by the same motives as the sinner, and the same language may be equally applicable to both. And therefore the fact that some of the language before us is applicable to a Christian who has become a backslider, does not prove at all that the experience here described is Christian experience, but only that a backslider and a sinner are in many respects alike. I do not hesitate to say this much, at least; that no one who was conscious that he was actuated by love to God could ever have thought of applying this chapter to himself. If any one is not in the exercise of love to God, this describes his character; and whether he is backslider or sinner, it is all the same thing.
3d REMARK. Some of the expressions here used by the apostle are supposed to describe the case of a believer who is not a habitual backslider, but who is overcome by temptation and passion for a time, and speaks of himself as if he were all wrong. A man is tempted, we are told, when he is drawn away by his own lusts, and enticed. And in that state, no doubt, he might find expressions here that would describe his own experience, while under such influence. But that proves nothing in regard to the design of the passage, for while he is in this state, he is so far under a certain influence, and the impenitent sinner is all the time under just such influence. The same language, therefore, may be applicable to both, without inconsistency.
But although some expressions may bear this plausible construction, yet a view of the whole passage makes it evident that it cannot be a delineation of Christian experience. My own opinion therefore is, that the apostle designed here to represent the experience of a sinner, not careless, but strongly convicted and yet not converted. The reasons are these:
1. Because the apostle is here manifestly describing the habitual character of some one; and this one who is wholly under the dominion of the flesh. It is not as a whole a description of one who, under the power of present temptation, is acting inconsistently with his general character, but his general character is so. It is one who uniformly falls into sin, notwithstanding his approval of the law.
2. It would have been entirely irrelevant to his purpose, to state the experience of a Christian as an illustration of his argument. That was not what was needed. He was laboring to vindicate the law of God, in its influence on a carnal mind. In a previous chapter he had stated the fact, that justification was only by faith, and not by works of law. In this seventh chapter, he maintains not only that justification is by faith, but also that sanctification is only by faith. “Know ye not brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? So then, if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” What is the use of all this? Why, this, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” While you were under the law you were bound to obey the law, and hold to the terms of the law for justification. But now being made free from the law, as a rule of judgment, you are no longer influenced by legal considerations, of hope and fear, for Christ to whom you are married, has set aside the penalty, that by faith ye might be justified before God.
“For when we were in the flesh,” that is, in an unconverted state, “the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death: But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Here he is stating the real condition of a Christian, that he serves in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. He had found that the fruit of the law was only death, and by the gospel he had been brought into true subjection to Christ. What is the objection to this? “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” The law was enacted that people might live by it, if they would perfectly obey it; but when we were in the flesh, we found it unto death. “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Now he brings up the objection again. How can any thing that is good be made death unto you?–“Was, then, that which is good made death unto me?–God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might be exceedingly sinful.” And he vindicates the law, by showing that it is not the fault of the law, but the fault of sin, and that this very result shows at once the excellence of the law and the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Sin must be a horrible thing, if it can work such a perversion, as to take the good law of God and make it the means of death.
“For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.” Here is the hinge, on which the whole questions turns. Now mark; the apostle is here vindicating the law against the objection, that if the law is the means of death to sinners, it cannot be good. Against this objection, he goes on to show, that all its action on the mind of the sinner proves it to be good. Keeping his eye on this point, he argues, that the law is good, and that the evil comes from the motions of sin in our members. Now he comes to that part which is supposed to delineate a Christian experience, and which is the subject of controversy. He begins by saying, “the law is spiritual but I am carnal.” This word carnal he uses once and only once, in reference to Christians, and then it was in reference to persons who were in a very low state in religion. “For ye are yet carnal; for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men.” These Christians had backslidden, and acted as if they were not converted persons, but were carnal. The term itself is generally used to signify the worst of sinners. Paul here defines it so; “carnal, sold under sin.” Could that be said of Paul himself, at the time he wrote this epistle? Was that his own experience? Was he sold under sin?” Was that true of the great apostle? No, but he was vindicating the law, and he uses an illustration, by supposing a case. He goes on, “For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I.”
Here you see the application of the principles I have laid down. In the interpretation of this word “would,” we are not to understand it of the choice or will, but only a desire. Otherwise the apostle contradicts a plain matter of fact, which every body knows to be true, that the will governs the conduct. Professor Stuart has very properly rendered the word desire; what I desire, I do not, but what I disapprove, that I do. Then comes the conclusion, “If, then, I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law, that it is good.” If I do that which I disapprove, if I disapprove of my own conduct, if I condemn myself, I thereby bear testimony that the law is good. Now, keep your eye on the object the apostle has in view, and read the next verse, “Now then it is no more that I do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Here he, as it were, divides himself against himself, or speaks of himself as possessing two natures, or, as some of the heathen philosophers taught, as having two souls, one which approves the good and another which loves and chooses evil. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” Here “to will” means to approve, for if men really will to do a thing, they do it. This every body knows. Where the language will admit, we are bound to interpret it so as to make it consistent with known facts. If you understand “to will” literally, you involve the apostle in the absurdity of saying that he willed what he did not do, and so acted contrary to his own will, which contradicts a notorious fact. The meaning must be desire. Then it coincides with the experience of every convicted sinner. He knows what he ought to do, and he strongly approves it, but he is not ready to do it. Suppose I were to call on you to do some act. Suppose, for instance, I were to call on those of you who are impenitent, to come forward and take that seat, that we might see who you are, and pray for you, and should show you your sins and that it is your duty to submit to God, some of you would exclaim, “I know it is my duty, and I greatly desire to do it, but I cannot.” What do you mean by it? Why, simply, that on the whole, the balance of your will is on the other side.
In the 20th verse he repeats what he had said before, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Is that the habitual character and experience of a Christian? I admit that a Christian may fall so low that this language may apply to him; but if this is his general character, how does it differ from that of an impenitent sinner? If this is the habitual character of a Christian, there is not a word of truth in the scripture representations, that the saints are those who really obey God; for here is one called a Christian of whom it is said expressly that he never does obey.
“I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present within me.” Here he speaks of the action of the carnal propensities, as being so constant and so prevalent that he calls it a “law.” “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” Here is the great stumbling-block. Can it be said of an impenitent sinner that he “delights” in the law of God? I answer, yes. I know the expression is a strong one, but the apostle was using strong language all along, on both sides. It is no stronger language than the prophet Isaiah uses in chapter lviii. He was describing as wicked and rebellious a generation as ever lived. He says, “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” Yet he goes on to say of this very people, “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God; they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they TAKE DELIGHT in approaching to God.” Here is one instance of impenitent sinners manifestly delighting in approaching to God. So in Ezekiel xxxiii. 32. “And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” The prophet had been telling how wicked they were. “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.” Here were impenitent sinners, plainly enough, yet they loved to hear the eloquent prophet. How often do ungodly sinners delight in eloquent preaching or powerful reasoning, by some able minister! It is to them an intellectual feast. And sometimes they are so pleased with it, as really to think they love the word of God. This is consistent with entire depravity of heart and enmity against the true character of God. Nay, it sets their depravity in a stronger light, because they know and approve the right, and yet do the wrong.
So, notwithstanding this delight in the law, he says, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Here the words, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” are plainly a parenthesis, and brake in upon the train of thought. Then he sums up the whole matter, “So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
It is as if he had said, My better self, my unbiased judgment, my conscience, approves the law of God; but the law in my members, my passions, have such a control over me that I still disobey. Remember, the apostle was describing the habitual character of one who was wholly under the dominion of sin. It was irrelevant to his purpose to adduce the experience of a Christian. He was vindicating the law, and therefore it was necessary for him to take the case of one who was under the law. If it is Christian experience, he was reasoning against himself, for if it is Christian experience, this would prove, not only that the law is inefficacious for the subduing of passion and the sanctification of men, but that the gospel also is inefficacious. Christians are under grace, and it is irrelevant, in vindicating the law, to adduce the experience of those who are not under the law, but under grace.
Another conclusive reason is, that he here actually states the case of a believer, as entirely different. In verses 4 and 6, he speaks of those who are not under law and not in the flesh, that is, not carnal, but delivered from the law, and actually serving, or obeying God, in spirit.
Then, in the beginning of the 8th chapter, he goes on to say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” He had alluded to this in the parenthesis above, “I thank God,” &c. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Who is this, of whom he is now speaking? If the person in the last chapter was one who had a Christian experience, whose experience is this? Here is something entirely different. The other was wholly under the power of sin, and under the law, and while he knew his duty, never did it. Here we find one for whom what the law could not do, through the power of passion, the gospel has done, so that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled, or what the law requires is obeyed. “For they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace: because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” There it is. Those whom he had described in the 7th chapter, as being carnal, cannot please God. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” But here is an individual whose body is dead. Before, the body had the control, and dragged him away from duty and from salvation; but now the power of passion is subdued.
Now I will give you the sum of the whole matter:
(1.) The strength of the apostle’s language cannot decide this question, for he uses strong language on both sides. If it is objected that the individual he is describing is said to “delight in the law,” he is also said to be “carnal, sold under sin.” When a writer uses strong language, it must be so understood as not to make it irrelevant or inconsistent.
(2.) Whether he spoke of himself, or of some other person, or merely supposed a case by way of illustration, is wholly immaterial to the question.
(3.) It is plain that the point he wished to illustrate was the vindication of the law of God, as to its influence on a carnal mind.
(4.) The point required by way of illustration, the case of a convicted sinner, who saw the excellence of the law, but in whom the passions had the ascendency.
(5.) If this is spoken of Christian experience, it is not only irrelevant, but proves the reverse of what he intended. He intended to show that the law, though good, could not break the power of passion. But if this is Christian experience, then it proves that the gospel, instead of the law, cannot subdue passion and sanctify men.
(6.) The contrast between the state described in the 7th chapter, and that described in the 8th chapter, proves that the experience of the former was not that of a Christian.
I. Those who find their own experience written in the 7th chapter of Romans, are not converted persons. If that is their habitual character, they are not regenerated; they are under conviction, but not Christians.
II. You see the great importance of using the law in dealing with sinners, to make them prize the gospel, to lead them to justify God and condemn themselves. Sinners are never made truly to repent but as they are convicted by the law.
III. At the same time, you see the entire insufficiency of the law to convert men. The case of the devil illustrates the highest efficacy of the law, in this respect.
IV. You see the danger of mistaking mere desires, for piety. Desire, that does not result in right choice, has nothing good in it. The devil may have such desires. The wickedest men on earth may desire religion, and no doubt often do desire it, when they see that it is necessary to their salvation, or to control their passions.
V. Christ and the gospel present the only motives that can sanctify the mind. The law only convicts and condemns.
VI. Those who are truly converted and brought into the liberty of the gospel, do find deliverance from the bondage of their own corruptions.
They do find the power of the body over the mind broken. They may have conflicts and trials, many and severe; but as a habitual thing, they are delivered from the thraldom of passion, and get the victory over sin, and find it easy to serve God. His commandments are not grievous to them. His yoke is easy, and his burden light.
VII. The true convert finds peace with God. He feels that he has it. He enjoys it. He has a sense of pardoned sin, and of victory over corruption.
VIII. You see, from this subject, the true position of a vast many church members. They are all the while struggling under the law. They approve of the law, both in its precept and its penalty, they feel condemned, and desire relief. But still they are unhappy. They have no spirit of prayer, no communion with God, no evidence of adoption. They only refer to the 7th of Romans as their evidence. Such a one will say, “There is my experience exactly.” Let me tell you, that if this is your experience, you are yet in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. You feel that you are in the bonds of guilt, and you are overcome by iniquity, and surely you know that it is bitter as gall. Now, don’t cheat your soul by supposing that with such an experience as this, you can go and sit down by the side of the apostle Paul. You are yet carnal, sold under sin, and unless you embrace the gospel, you will be damned. The Oberlin Evangelist.
January 4, 1843
HOLINESS OF CHRISTIANS IN THE PRESENT LIFE–NO. 1
PROVE ALL THINGS
Lecture by Professor Finney.
Preached in the City of New York, and reported for the Evangelist
by Rev. S.D. Cochran
TEXT.–Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.– 1 Thess. 5:21.
In speaking from this text, I remark,
1. That it enjoins the duty of fundamental and thorough inquiry on religious subjects. It requires us to know the reason of our faith and practice, that our piety may not be superstition, but the result of intelligent conviction, arising from thorough investigation.
2. In order to fulfill this requirement, the mind must be free from prejudices on religious subjects. So long as prejudices exist in any mind, it is impossible that it should examine religious opinions with any such spirit as will admit of obedience to this precept. All its views will be perverted just in proportion as it is uncandid and prejudiced.
3. This precept assumes the fact of our ability to ‘prove all things.’ The ability to comply with any requirement is always implied in the requirement. Otherwise the command is unjust.
4. This precept implies the necessity of correct information on religious subjects. The sentiment that it is immaterial what our opinions are, seems to prevail extensively among men, but it is plainly a mistake. Men can never be expected to remain rooted and grounded in the truth any farther than their opinions are true. All observation and experience prove this, and such is the concurrent representation of the Bible.
5. This command is given to all; not merely to ministers, but to laymen and women. Each is required to examine for himself, and to call no man master, so as to receive his “ipse dixit” as authoritative. It requires each one to know for himself the reasons of his faith.
6. The great mass of mankind don’t love to think closely. They would prefer to do almost any thing else. They are like school-boys who shun the labor of study, and go to be taught without having studied their lesson. What they are told they forget before the next recitation.
7. I shall address myself, in this lecture, to those, and those only, who will be at the trouble to think. To address others would but be a waste of time and strength. Those who will not think cannot be saved.
8. I will neither spend my time, nor endanger your souls, by random exhortation and appeal, but strive to follow the spirit of the text.
9. My object is not controversy; I hope wholly to avoid its spirit, and, as far as possible, even its form. On the contrary, it will be my object as far as possible, to present what I honestly believe to be the truth to the consideration of the honest and truth-loving.
10. There is but little obedience to the requirement in the text, and as a consequence great ignorance and error prevail on many questions of fundamental importance. There are very few who can give any rational account of what constitutes sin and holiness, moral obligation, or human responsibility.
11. The terms which represent the attributes of Christian character, or what are commonly called the Christian graces, are almost never rightly defined. The definitions which are given scarcely ever represent the right idea, for example, of love, faith, repentance, self-denial, and humility. It is manifest that but few know how to define them. Why? Because they have not complied with the requirement of the text. And because these attributes of holiness are not rightly defined, they are misunderstood, and the result is that they are not exhibited in the lives of Christians. We see one picture drawn in the Bible, and quite another in real life. The former is beautiful and glorious, the latter–how sadly deformed. Why? Because the mass are mistaken, and mistaken as the result of incorrect views respecting the nature of true piety.
12. The distinction between natural and revealed theology should be understood and appreciated. Indeed, it is fundamental to an understanding of the Bible, for the Bible both assumes the truths of natural theology, and that we understand them; for example, that we exist, the existence of God, our moral agency, natural ability, the distinction between right and wrong, &c. We do not, therefore, and can not rightly understand the Bible, unless we understand the fundamental truths of natural theology, which are taken for granted in the Bible.
13. Natural theology consists in those truths that we may learn from the book of nature. God has presented us with two books–that of nature, and that of revelation, and they are equally authentic, and mutually confirmatory of each other.
14. The Bible not only assumes, and in various ways confirms the truths of natural theology, but adds many truths not discoverable by unaided reason, but which are recognized as truths as soon as suggested.
15. Many err in supposing that because a truth is seen to be such in the light of its own evidence, when suggested, therefore it might have been discovered without inspiration. There are plainly multitudes of truths revealed in the Bible, which men could never otherwise have discovered, but which, now that they are discovered, are seen to be perfectly reasonable. It is one thing to apprehend and recognize truth, when made known, but quite another thing to discover it.
I bespeak your prayers and attention, while I proceed to show,
I. HOW WE KNOW ANY THING.
II. HOW WE KNOW EVERY THING WHICH WE DO KNOW.
III. SOME THINGS WHICH WE KNOW ABOUT OURSELVES, THE TRUTH, AND OUR KNOWLEDGE OF WHICH, ARE TAKEN FOR GRANTED BY INSPIRATION.
I. How we know any thing.
1. Consciousness is a condition of all knowledge. It is the mind’s recognition of its own existence, choice, thoughts and feelings. It is a knowledge of ourselves in the phenomena of our minds. The mind does not first observe its phenomena, and thence infer its own existence, for to attempt to prove this would be to assume as doubtful that which is absolute certainty and which must be so regarded in order to attempt proof or inferences, but it absolutely affirms its own existence, and consciousness testifies to this affirmation, saying, “I exist, I think, I feel, I will.” Consciousness give both the I and its phenomena, that is its choices, thoughts and feelings, together with their freedom or necessity. Without consciousness knowledge would be to us impossible, for there is no other way of obtaining knowledge. How and what could one know, without knowing that he knows? and what knowledge would that be, of which you have no knowledge?
II. How we know every thing which we do know.
1. As our existence, and all our mental acts and states are given us by consciousness, it is plain that we know by consciousness every thing which we do know. For example. Suppose I have a sensation: How do I know that I have it? By consciousness. So it is with all our emotions, desires, choices, judgments, affirmations, denials, hopes, fears, doubts, joys, and sorrows. They are all given us by consciousness. I am now speaking what every man knows to be true.
2. Nothing without us is known to us only as it makes an impression upon our minds which impression is revealed to us by consciousness.
3. What we know by consciousness we know with certainty, that is, we know that our existence, acts, thoughts, and feelings are realities.
4. Consciousness is therefore the highest possible evidence. We do, and cannot but rely upon it as conclusive. If I think, feel, or act, I know that I think, feel, or act, and know it absolutely. It is impossible from our very constitution to doubt its testimony.
5. But we should carefully distinguish between what is really revealed to us by our consciousness, and inferences drawn from such revelations. We may mistake the cause of a sensation, but not the sensation. When God spoke to Christ from Heaven, the people who heard were conscious of the sensation upon the auditory nerve. Here was no mistake. But they mistook its cause. They said, it thundered. So, in forming our various judgments and opinions we may mistake, but when consciousness testifies that we do judge or form an opinion, in this we cannot be mistaken.
III. Some things that we know about ourselves, the truth of which, and our knowledge of which are taken for granted by inspiration.
1. We know that we exist, and we know it so certainly that to ask for evidence is absurd. It is to assume that as doubtful which must be assumed as absolutely true in order to prove any thing true.
2. We know that we perform certain mental acts, and are the subjects of certain mental states. For example: we know that we originate choices and volitions, and are the subjects of thought and feeling.
3. Hence we know that we possess certain faculties and capacities, that is, we are capable of acts, thoughts, and feelings.
4. We know that these faculties, as also their products, are capable of being classified. All men naturally classify them. They never confound thinking with feeling, feeling with willing, nor willing with either of them. No child does this. Nor do they confound the power of thinking, or of feeling with that of willing, or with one another.
5. Hence all men, although they may not understand the terms employed by philosophers to represent the natural faculties, notwithstanding, fully understand the thing intended by these terms. They know themselves to possess those faculties which we call intelligence, sensibility, and free will. We think, feel, and will, and therefore we know that we have the faculties of thinking, feeling, and willing, and mental philosophy is nothing else than an analysis of what all men are conscious of. Under the general term intelligence we include consciousness, reason, and understanding. All thoughts, affirmations, intuitions[,] judgments, and inferences, are the product of the intelligence.
6. We are conscious of our own liberty in the sense of having ability to choose in any direction in view of motives–to choose or refuse any object of choice. We know this with absolute certainty. This is an intuition of reason revealed by consciousness, and however men may deny their own freedom, in theory, yet they always act upon the assumption that mankind are free.
7. We are conscious that we can voluntarily control some of our capabilities, and some we cannot; for example; the voluntary, and involuntary muscles. If I will to move my arm, it moves in obedience to my will, but if I will that my heart shall cease to beat it still continues to beat wholly regardless of my will. In like manner we know that some of our capabilities are directly under the control of the will, and some indirectly.
8. We know by consciousness that muscular action is directly necessitated by our will–that there is a necessary connection between volitions and outward action. Some have made freedom to consist in doing as we please, or as we will; but that there is no freedom in this, every one knows, for when I will to move my arm, or to perform any other outward action, the action takes place by a natural necessity. While the volition exists, the outward action must be.
9. We also know by consciousness that thought and feeling are only indirectly subject to the will. Suppose, for instance, you wish to transfer your thoughts from one object to another. You cannot do this directly, and yet you are conscious that you can indirectly through the attention. Hence by directing the attention to any given subject upon which you wish to think, thought is the necessary result. So if you abstract the attention from an object upon which you do not wish to think you thus indirectly abstract the thoughts from it. Even children know this with absolute certainty. So with feeling of every kind. We are conscious that we cannot directly feel by willing to feel. Suppose, for example, we wish to call into being the feelings of love, hope, fear, joy, or sorrow. We are conscious that we cannot, by direct willing, create these feelings, or even modify them. But, nevertheless, we are conscious that we can indirectly regulate the feelings to a great degree. For example: If we wish to experience the emotions produced by the beautiful, we turn our attention to a beautiful object, and the emotions arise of course. On the contrary, by turning our attention to an offensive object, we can indirectly produce disagreeable emotions in our own minds. The same law operates respecting all religious feelings. They can to a very great degree be regulated indirectly by the will through the attention, but never directly.
10. We know by consciousness that whatever we can do at all, we can do by willing and that whatever act or state is not connected with the action of our will is impossible to us by a natural necessity. Suppose, for example, I will to move, but suddenly the nerves of voluntary motion are paralyzed, so that they will not obey my will. Then to move is impossible for me. The same is true of thoughts and feelings. If I will to expel certain thoughts and feelings from my mind, and to produce others, I abstract my attention from those objects on which it rests and direct it to other objects. This course will universally change the existing thoughts and feelings, but if it should not, then to change them is impossible for me. So of every thing else. Whatever we cannot accomplish by willing, we cannot accomplish at all. This is universal experience.
11. We are conscious of possessing in our intelligence a faculty, called reason, or the intuitive faculty, by which we perceive and affirm absolutely certain truths which carry with them their own evidence. This faculty gives us, when certain conditions are fulfilled, all necessary, absolute and universal truths. It is so infallible, and uniform in its affirmations, that whenever the terms of a proposition are understood, every reason in the world will affirm the same things. For example, mathematical truths, as that two and two equal four, or things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another. These affirmations are so absolute that the mind cannot doubt them.
12. Among these self-evident truths are al[l] the first principles of morals such as–(1.) Tha[t] there is such a thing as right and wrong, and that the difference between them is fundamental. (2.) That the existence of these implies moral law. (3.) That men have moral character. (4.) That moral character implies moral obligation. (5.) That moral obligation implies moral law and moral agency. (6.) That moral agency implies natural ability. (7.) That natural ability implies the existence of intelligence, sensibility and freewill, that is, that moral agents actually know, feel, and will. The mind does not call for proof of these things, but affirms them as absolute verities, and the Bible therefore assumes them as true. It assumes that moral agents do actually know, feel and will. (8.) That moral character does not and cannot belong to the constitution of either body or mind, since it is impossible that a moral being should be either praise or blameworthy for his constitution. But moral character is necessarily either praise or blameworthy. It cannot thus belong to the constitution. (9.) That the constitutional appetites, desires and passions can have no moral character in themselves, since they are in themselves involuntary. For example, the appetite for food. Suppose yourself hungry, and in the presence of food. The appetite will naturally demand it from the very constitution, and can therefore in itself have no moral character. The same is true of desires and passions whenever you are in the presence of objects adapted to awaken them. (10.) This intuitive faculty affirms, that on the will’s consenting to gratify any of these appetites, desires or passions under forbidden circumstances, there is sin. For example, when Eve saw the fruit, her appetite naturally craved it. In this there was nothing wrong, but when she consented to gratify her appetite, not withstanding it was prohibited, this was supreme selfishness. Had it not been prohibited the gratification would have been proper, but being prohibited, it was sin. It is the same respecting the gratifying of any desire or passion whatever. (11.) This intuitive faculty asserts that moral character cannot belong to any involuntary act or state of mind whatever, nor to any outward actions. If I stab a man, the moral character of the act does not belong to the dagger, nor to the hand which held it, nor to the muscles of the arm, nor to the volition which impelled the arm, but to the intention. (12.) It also asserts that moral character cannot belong to the states of the sensibility, that is, to the various emotions or feelings, for these are necessary; nor to the states of the intelligence. There is no virtue in the perception of truth. Devils, and wicked, as well as good men, perceive truth, and doubtless think correctly on many subjects, and their reason affirms moral truths, but there is no virtue in this. (13.) It also asserts that moral character cannot belong to volitions as distinguished from choices, for choice or intuition necessitates volition for the time being. (14.) But it does assert that moral character belongs to the ultimate intention of the mind. Intention is the choice of an end. The ultimate intention is the last end chosen–that for which every thing else is chosen or done. I will illustrate the difference between ultimate and proximate intention. Suppose a young man laboring, and you inquire what he is laboring for. He says, to get money. This is one end. But ask again, what do you want of money? He says, to buy books. This is another end. Ask again, what do you want of books? He says, to get knowledge. This is another end. But continue the inquiry, what do you want of knowledge? He says, to preach the gospel. This is still another end. But you may ask farther, what do you want to preach the gospel for? He replies, to do good–because the good of the universe is valuable in itself. This is the last end–the ultimate intention, and all the previous ends are only means to this or what are called proximate ends. But in this case the whole moral character of all the process belongs plainly to the ultimate intention. In this all ethical philosophers, worthy of note at the present day, agree. It is plainly the doctrine of the Bible, and thus the Bible and natural theology are at one precisely. The truth is even children understand that character consists in ultimate intention. Pa, says the child in self justification, I didn’t mean to do it. And the question between the child and his parent is about the intention. So it is in courts of justice. They always inquire for the “quo animo” or intention. In short, all men, whatever may be their theory, understand and act upon the truth of this doctrine. If a physician give medicine with a design to cure, he would be universally acquitted of blame, even though instead of curing the disease, it should take the life of a patient. In fact, this doctrine is so certain that the Bible could not be believed if it disagreed with it. HOW WE ATTAIN TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF CERTAIN TRUTHS.
ALL teaching and reasoning take certain truths as granted. That the unequivocal, à priori affirmations of the reason are valid, for all the truths and principles thus affirmed, must be assumed and admitted, or every attempt to construct a science, of any kind, or to attain to certain knowledge upon any subject, is vain and even preposterous. As I must commence my lectures on moral government by laying down certain moral postulates, or axioms, which are, à priori, affirmed by the reason, and therefore self-evident to all men, when so stated as to be understood, I will spend a few moments in stating certain facts belonging more appropriately to the department of psychology. Theology is so related to psychology, that the successful study of the former without a knowledge of the latter, is impossible. Every theological system, and every theological opinion, assumes something as true in psychology. Theology is, to a great extent, the science of mind in its relations to moral law. God is a mind or spirit: all moral agents are in his image. Theology is the doctrine of God, comprehending his existence, attributes, relations, character, works, word, government providential and moral, and, of course, it must embrace the facts of human nature, and the science of moral agency. All theologians do and must assume the truth of some system of psychology and mental philosophy, and those who exclaim most loudly against metaphysics, no less than others.
There is a distinction between the mind’s knowing a truth, and knowing that it knows it. Hence I begin by defining self-consciousness.
Self-consciousness is the mind’s recognition of itself. It is the noticing of, or act of knowing itself. Its existence, attributes, acts, and states, with the attributes of liberty or necessity which characterize those acts and states. Of this, I shall frequently speak hereafter.
THE REVELATIONS OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.
Self-consciousness reveals to us three primary faculties of mind, which we call intellect, sensibility, and will. The intellect is the faculty of knowledge; the sensibility is the faculty or susceptibility of feeling; the will is the executive faculty, or the faculty of doing or acting. All thinking, perceiving, intuiting, reasoning, opining, forming notions or ideas, belong to the intellect.
Consciousness reveals the various functions of the intellect, and also of the sensibility and will. In this place, we shall attend only to the functions of the intellect, as our present business is to ascertain the methods by which the intellect arrives at its knowledges, which are given to us in self-consciousness.
Self-consciousness is, itself, of course, one of the functions of the intellect; and here it is in place to say, that a revelation in consciousness is science, or knowledge. What consciousness gives us we know. Its testimony is infallible and conclusive, upon all subjects upon which it testifies.
Among other functions of the intellect, which I need not name, self-consciousness reveals the three-fold, fundamental distinction of the sense, the reason, and the understanding.
OF THE SENSE.
The sense is the power that perceives sensation and brings it within the field of consciousness. Sensation is an impression made upon the sensibility by some object without or some thought within the mind. The sense takes up, or perceives the sensation, and this perceived sensation is revealed in consciousness. If the sensation is from some object without the mind, as sound or colour, the perception of it belongs to the outer sense. If from some thought, or mental exercise, the perception is of the inner sense. I have said that the testimony of consciousness is conclusive, for all the facts given by its unequivocal testimony. We neither need, nor can we have, any higher evidence of the existence of a sensation, than is given by consciousness.
Our first impressions, thoughts, and knowledges, are derived from sense. But knowledge derived purely from this source would, of necessity, be very limited.
OF THE REASON.
Self-consciousness also reveals to us the reason or the à priori function of the intellect. The reason is that function of the intellect which immediately beholds or intuits a class of truths which, from their nature, are not cognizable either by the understanding or the sense. Such, for example, as the mathematical, philosophical, and moral axioms, and postulates. The reason gives laws and first principles. It gives the abstract, the necessary, the absolute, the infinite. It gives all its affirmations by a direct beholding or intuition, and not by induction or reasoning. The classes of truths given by this function of the intellect are self-evident. That is, the reason intuits, or directly beholds them, as the faculty of sense intuits, or directly beholds, a sensation. Sense gives to consciousness the direct vision of sensation, and therefore the existence of the sensation is certainly known to us. The reason gives to consciousness the direct vision of the class of truths of which it takes cognizance; and of the existence and validity of these truths we can no more doubt, than of the existence of our sensations.
Between knowledge derived from sense and from reason there is a difference: in one case, consciousness gives us the sensation: it may be questioned whether the perceptions of the sense are a direct beholding of the object of the sensation, and consequently whether the object really exists, and is the real archetype of the sensation. That the sensation exists we are certain, but whether that exists which we suppose to be the object and the cause of the sensation, admits of doubt. The question is, does the sense immediately intuit or behold the object of the sensation. The fact that the report of sense cannot always be relied upon, seems to show that the perception of sense is not an immediate beholding of the object of the sensation; sensation exists, this we know, that it has a cause we know; but that we rightly know the cause or object of the sensation, we may not know.
But in regard to the intuitions of the reason, this faculty directly beholds the truths which it affirms. These truths are the objects of its intuitions. They are not received at second hand. They are not inferences nor inductions, they are not opinions, nor conjectures, nor beliefs, but they are direct knowings. The truths given by this faculty are so directly seen and known, that to doubt them is impossible. The reason, by virtue of its own laws, beholds them with open face, in the light of their own evidence.
OF THE UNDERSTANDING.
The understanding is that function of the intellect that takes up, classifies and arranges the objects and truths of sensation, under a law of classification and arrangement given by the reason, and thus forms notions and opinions, and theories. The notions, opinions, and theories of the understanding, may be erroneous, but there can be no error in the à priori intuitions of the reason. The knowledges of the understanding are so often the result of induction or reasoning, and fall so entirely short of a direct beholding, that they are often knowledges only in a modified and restricted sense.
Of the imagination, and the memory, &c., I need not speak in this place.
What has been said has, I trust, prepared the way for saying that the truths of theology arrange themselves under two heads.
I. Truths which need proof.
II. Truths which need no proof.
I. Truths which need proof.
First. Of this class it may be said, in general, that to it belong all truths which are not directly intuited by some function of the intellect in the light of their own evidence.
Every truth that must be arrived at by reasoning or induction, every truth that is attained to by other testimony than that of direct beholding, perceiving, intuiting, or cognizing, is a truth belonging to the class that needs proof.
Second. Truths of demonstration belong to the class that needs proof. When truths of demonstration are truly demonstrated by any mind, it certainly knows them to be true, and affirms that the contrary cannot possibly be true. To possess the mind of others with those truths, we must lead them through the process of demonstration. When we have done so, they cannot but see the truth demonstrated. The human mind will not ordinarily receive, and rest in, a truth of demonstration, until it has demonstrated it. This it often does without recognizing the process of demonstration. The laws of knowledge are physical. The laws of logic are inherent in every mind; but in various states of developement in different minds. If a truth which needs demonstration, and which is capable of demonstration, is barely announced, and not demonstrated, the mind feels a dissatisfaction, and does not rest short of the demonstration of which it feels the necessity. It is therefore of little use to dogmatize, when we ought to reason, demonstrate, and explain. In all cases of truths, not self-evident, or of truths needing proof, religious teachers should understand and comply with the logical conditions of knowledge and rational belief; they tempt God when they merely dogmatize, where they ought to reason, and explain, and prove, throwing the responsibility of producing conviction and faith upon the sovereignty of God. God convinces and produces faith, not by the overthrow of, but in accordance with, the fixed laws of mind. It is therefore absurd and ridiculous to dogmatize and assert, when explanation, illustration, and proof are possible, and demanded by the laws of the intellect. To do this, and then leave it with God to make the people understand and believe, may be at present convenient for us, but if it be not death to our auditors, no thanks are due to us. We are bound to inquire to what class a truth belongs, whether it be a truth which, from its nature and the laws of mind, needs to be illustrated, or proved. If it does, we have no right merely to assert it, when it has not been proved. Let us comply with the necessary conditions of a rational conviction, and then leave the event with God.
To the class of truths that need proof belong those of divine revelation.
All truths known to man are divinely revealed to him in some sense, but I here speak of truths revealed to man by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible announces many self-evident truths, and many truths of demonstration. These may, or might be known, at least many of them, irrespective of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But the class of truths of which I here speak, rest wholly upon the testimony of God, and are truths of pure inspiration. Some of these truths are above reason, in the sense that the reason can, à priori, neither affirm nor deny them.
When it is ascertained that God has asserted them, the mind needs no other evidence of their truth, because by a necessary law of the intellect, all men affirm the veracity of God. But for this necessary law of the intellect, men could not rest upon the simple testimony of God, but would ask for evidence that God is to be believed. But such is the nature of mind, as constituted by the Creator, that no moral agent needs proof that God’s testimony ought to be received. Let it be once settled that God has declared a fact, or a truth, and this is, with every moral agent, all the evidence he needs. The reason, from its own laws, affirms the perfect veracity of God, and although the truth announced may be such that the reason, à priori, can neither affirm, or deny it, yet when asserted by God, the reason irresistibly affirms that God’s testimony ought be received.
These truths need proof in the sense that it needs to be shown that they were given by a divine inspiration. This fact demonstrated, the truths themselves need only to be understood, and the mind necessarily affirms its obligation to believe them.
Under this head I might notice the probable or possible truths; that is, those that are supported by such evidence as only shows them to be probable or possible, but I forbear.
My present object more particularly is to notice–
II. Truths which need no proof.
These are à priori truths of reason, and truths of sense; that is, they are truths that need no proof, because they are directly intuited or beheld by one of these faculties.
The à priori truths of reason may be classed under the heads of first truths: self-evident truths which are necessary and universal: and self-evident truths not necessary and universal.
1. First truths have the following attributes.
(1.) They are absolute or necessary truths, in the sense that the reason affirms that they must be true. Every event must have an adequate cause. Space must be. It is impossible that it should not be, whether any thing else were or not. Time must be, whether there were any events to succeed each other in time or not. Thus necessity is an attribute of this class.
(2.) Universality is an attribute of a first truth. That is, to truths of this class there can be no exception. Every event must have a cause, there can be no event without a cause.
(3.) First truths are truths of necessary and universal knowledge. That is, they are not merely knowable, but they are known to all moral agents, by a necessary law of their intellect.
That space and time are, and must be, that every event has and must have a cause, and such like truths, are universally known and assumed by every moral agent, whether the terms in which they are stated have ever been so much as heard by him, or not. This last is the characteristic that distinguishes first truths from others merely self-evident, of which we shall soon speak.
(4.) First truths are, of course, self-evident. That is, they are universally directly beheld, in the light of their own evidence.
(5.) First truths are truths of the pure reason, and of course truths of certain knowledge. They are universally known with such certainty as to render it impossible for any moral agent to deny, forget, or practically overlook them. Although they may be denied in theory, they are always, and necessarily, recognized in practice. No moral agent, for example, can, by any possibility, practically deny, or forget, or overlook the first truths that time and space exist and must exist, that every event has and must have a cause.
It is, therefore, always to be remembered that first truths are universally assumed and known, and in all our teachings, and in all our inquiries we are to take the first truths of reason for granted. It is preposterous to attempt to prove them, for the reason that we necessarily assume them as the basis and condition of all reasoning.
The mind arrives at a knowledge of these truths by directly and necessarily beholding them, upon condition of its first perceiving their logical condition. The mind beholds, or attains to the conception of, an event. Upon this conception it instantly assumes, whether it thinks of the assumption or not, that this event had, and that every event must have, a cause.
The mind perceives, or has the notion of body. This conception necessarily developes the first truth, space is and must be.
The mind beholds or conceives of succession; and this beholding, or conception, necessarily developes the first truth, time is, and must be.
As we proceed we shall notice divers truths which belong to this class, some of which, in theory, have been denied. Nevertheless, in their practical judgments, all men have admitted them and given as high evidence of their knowing them, as they do of knowing their own existence.
Suppose, for example, that the law of causality should not be, at all times or at any time, a subject of distinct thought and attention. Suppose that the proposition in words, should never be in the mind, that “every event must have a cause,” or that this proposition should be denied. Still the truth is there, in the form of absolute knowledge, a necessary assumption, an à priori affirmation, and the mind has so firm a hold of it, as to be utterly unable to overlook, or forget, or practically deny it. Every mind has it as a certain knowledge, long before it can understand the language in which it is expressed, and no statement or evidence whatever can give the mind any firmer conviction of its truth, than it had from necessity at first. This is true of all the truths of this class. They are always, and necessarily, assumed by all moral agents, whether distinctly thought of or not. And for the most part this class of truths are assumed, without being frequently, or at least without being generally, the object of thought or direct attention. The mind assumes them, without a distinct consciousness of the assumption. For example, we act every moment, and judge, and reason, and believe, upon the assumption that every event must have a cause, and yet we are not conscious of thinking of this truth, nor that we assume it, until something calls the attention to it.
First truths of reason, then, let it be distinctly remembered, are always and necessarily assumed, though they may be seldom thought of. They are universally known, before the words are understood, by which they may be expressed; and although they may never be expressed in a formal proposition, yet the mind has as certain a knowledge of them as it has of its own existence.
All reasoning proceeds upon the assumption of these truths. It must do so, of necessity. It is preposterous to attempt to prove first truths to a moral agent; for, being a moral agent, he must absolutely know them already, and if he did not, in no possible way could he be put in possession of them, except by presenting to his perception the chronological condition of their developement, and in no case could any thing else be needed, for upon the occurrence of this perception, the assumption, or developement, follows by a law of absolute and universal necessity. And until these truths are actually developed, no being can be a moral agent.
There is no reasoning with one who calls in question the first truths of reason, and demands proof of them. All reasoning must, from the nature of mind and the laws of reasoning, assume the first-truths of reason as certain, and admitted, and as the à priori condition of all logical deduction and demonstration. Some one of these must be assumed as true, directly or indirectly, in every syllogism and in every demonstration.
In all our future investigations we shall have abundant occasion for the application and illustration of what has now been said of first truths of reason. If, at any stage of our progress, we light upon a truth of this class, let it be borne in mind that the nature of the truth is the preclusion, or, as lawyers would express it, the estopple of all controversy.
To deny the reality of this class of truths, is to deny the validity of our most perfect knowledge. The only question to be settled is, does the truth in question belong to this class? There are many truths which men, all sane men, certainly know, of which they not only seldom think, but which, in theory, they strenuously deny.
2. The second class of truths that need no proof are self-evident truths, possessing the attributes of necessity and universality.
Of these truths, I remark–
(1.) That they, like first truths, are affirmed by the pure reason, and not by the understanding, nor the sense.
(2.) They are affirmed, like first truths, à priori; that is, they are directly beheld or intuited, and not attained to by evidence or induction.
(3.) They are truths of universal and necessary affirmation, when so stated as to be understood. By a law of the reason, all sane men must admit and affirm them, in the light of their own evidence, whenever they are understood.
This class, although self-evident, when presented to the mind, are not, like first truths, universally and necessarily known to all moral agents.
The mathematical axioms, and first principles, the à priori grounds and principles of all science, belong to this class.
(4.) They are, like first truths, universal in the sense that there is no exception to them.
(5.) They are necessary truths. That is, the reason affirms, not merely that they are, but that they must be, true; that these truths cannot but be. The abstract, the infinite, belong to this class.
To compel other minds to admit this class of truths, we need only to frame so perspicuous a statement of them as to cause them to be distinctly perceived or understood. This being done, all sound minds irresistibly affirm them, whether the heart is, or is not, honest enough to admit the conviction.
3. A third class of truths that need no proof, are truths of rational intuition, but possess not the attributes of universality and necessity.
Our own existence, personality, personal identity, &c., belong to this class. These truths are intuited by the reason, are self-evident, and given, as such, in consciousness; they are known to self, without proof, and cannot be doubted. They are at first developed by sensation, but not inferred from it. Suppose a sensation to be perceived by the sense, all that could be logically inferred from this is, that there is some subject of this sensation, but that I exist, and am the subject of this sensation, does not logically appear. Sensation first awakes the mind to self-consciousness; that is, a sensation of some kind first arouses the attention of mind to the facts of its own existence and personal identity. These truths are directly beheld and affirmed. The mind does not say, I feel, or I think, and therefore I am, for this is a mere sophism; it is to assume the existence of the I as the subject of feeling, and afterwards to infer the existence of the I from the feeling or sensation.
4. A fourth class of truths that need no proof are sensations. It has been already remarked, that all sensations given by consciousness, are self-evident to the subject of them. Whether I ascribe my sensations to their real cause may admit of doubt, but that the sensation is real there can be no doubt. The testimony of the sense is valid, for that which it immediately beholds or intuits, that is, for the reality of the sensation. The judgment may err by ascribing the sensation to the wrong cause.
But I must not proceed further with this statement; my design has been, not to enter too minutely into nice metaphysical distinctions, nor by any means to exhaust the subject of this lecture, but only to fix attention upon the distinctions upon which I have insisted, for the purpose of precluding all irrelevant and preposterous discussions about the validity of first and self-evident truths. I must assume that you possess some knowledge of psychology, and of mental philosophy, and leave to your convenience a more thorough and extended examination of the subject but hinted at in this lecture.
Enough, I trust, has been said to prepare your minds for the introduction of the great and fundamental axioms which lie at the foundation of all our ideas of morality and religion. Our next lecture will present the nature and attributes of moral law. We shall proceed in the light of the à priori affirmations of the reason, in postulating its nature and its attributes. Having attained to a firm footing upon these points, we shall be naturally conducted by reason and revelation to our ultimate conclusions.
LECTURE II. Back to Top
I. DEFINITION OF LAW.
II. DISTINCTION BETWEEN PHYSICAL AND MORAL LAW.
III. ATTRIBUTES OF MORAL LAW.
I. In discussing this subject, I must begin with defining the term Law.
Law, in a sense of the term both sufficiently popular and scientific for my purpose, is a RULE OF ACTION. In its generic signification, it is applicable to every kind of action, whether of matter or of mind– whether intelligent or unintelligent– whether free or necessary action.
II. I must distinguish between Physical and Moral Law.
Physical law is a term that represents the order of sequence, in all the changes that occur under the law of necessity, whether in matter or mind. I mean all changes, whether of state or action, that do not consist in the states or actions of free will. Physical law is the law of force, or necessity, as opposed to the law of liberty. Physical law is the law of the material universe. It is also the law of mind, so far as its states and changes are involuntary. All mental states or actions, which are not free and sovereign actions of will, must occur under, and be subject to, physical law. They cannot possibly be accounted for, except as they are ascribed to the law of necessity or force.
Moral law is a rule of moral action with sanctions. It is that rule to which moral agents ought to conform all their voluntary actions, and is enforced by sanctions equal to the value of the precept. It is the rule for the government of free and intelligent action, as opposed to necessary and unintelligent action. It is the law of liberty, as opposed to the law of necessity– of motive and free choice, as opposed to force of every kind. Moral law is primarily a rule for the direction of the action of free will, and strictly of free will only. But secondarily, and less strictly, it is the rule for the regulation of all those actions and states of mind and body, that follow the free actions of will by a law of necessity. Thus, moral law controls involuntary mental states and outward action, only by securing conformity of the actions of free will to its precept.
III. I must call attention to the essential attributes of moral law.
1. Subjectivity. It is, and must be, an idea of reason, developed in the mind of the subject. It is an idea, or conception, of that state of will, or course of action, which is obligatory upon a moral agent. No one can be a moral agent, or the subject of moral law, unless he has this idea developed; for this idea is identical with the law. It is the law developed, or revealed within himself; and thus he becomes “a law to himself,” his own reason affirming his obligation to conform to this idea, or law.
4. A fourth attribute of moral law, is fitness. It must be the law of nature, that is, its precept must prescribe and require, just those actions of the will which are suitable to the nature and relations of moral beings, and nothing more nor less; that is, the intrinsic value of the well-being of God and of the universe being given as the ground, and the nature and relations of moral beings as the condition of the obligation, the reason hereupon necessarily affirms the intrinsic propriety and fitness of choosing this good, and of consecrating the whole being to its promotion. This is what is intended by the law of nature. It is the law or rule of action imposed on us by God, in and by the nature which he has given us.
7. A seventh attribute of moral law is, and must be, justice. That which is unjust cannot be law.
Justice, as an attribute of moral law, must respect both the precept and the sanction. Justice, as an attribute of the precept, consists in the requisition of just that, and no more, which is in exact accordance with the nature and relations of the ruler and the subject.
5. A fifth attribute of moral law is universality. The conditions and circumstances being the same, it requires, and must require, of all moral agents, the same things, in whatever world they may be found.
6. A sixth attribute of moral law is, and must be, impartiality. Moral law is no respecter of persons– knows no privileged classes. It demands one thing of all, without regard to anything, except the fact that they are moral agents. By this it is not intended, that the same course of outward conduct is required of all; but the same state of heart in all– that all shall have one ultimate intention– that all shall consecrate themselves to one end– that all shall entirely conform, in heart and life, to their nature and relations.
Justice, as an attribute of the sanction, consists in apportioning rewards and punishments, to the merit of obedience on the one hand, and to the guilt of disobedience on the other.
Sanctions belong to the very essence and nature of moral law. A law without sanctions is no law; it is only counsel, or advice. Sanctions are the motives which the law presents, to secure obedience to the precept. Consequently, they should always be graduated by the importance of the precept; and that is not properly law which does not promise, expressly or by implication, a reward proportionate to the merit of obedience, and threaten punishment equal to the guilt of disobedience. Law cannot be unjust, either in precept or sanction: and it should always be remembered, that what is unjust, is not law, cannot be law. It is contrary to the true definition of law. Moral law is a rule of action, founded in the nature and relations of moral beings, sustained by sanctions equal to the merit of obedience, and the guilt of disobedience.
8. An eighth attribute of moral law is practicability. That which the precept demands must be possible to the subject. That which demands a natural impossibility is not, and cannot be, moral law. The true definition of law excludes the supposition that it can, under any circumstances, demand an absolute impossibility. Such a demand could not be in accordance with the nature and relations of moral agents, and therefore practicability must always be an attribute of moral law. To talk of inability to obey moral law, is to talk nonsense.
9. A ninth attribute of moral law is independence. It is founded in the self-existent nature of God. It is an eternal and necessary idea of the divine reason. It is the eternal self-existent rule of the divine conduct, the law which the intelligence of God prescribes to himself. Moral law, as we shall see hereafter more fully, does not, and cannot originate in the will of God. It originates, or rather, is founded in his eternal, self-existent nature. It eternally existed in the divine reason. It is the idea of that state of will which is obligatory upon God upon condition of his natural attributes, or, in other words, upon condition of his nature. As a law, it is entirely independent of his will just as his own existence is. It is obligatory also upon every moral agent, entirely independent of the will of God. Their nature and relations being given, and their intelligence being developed, moral law must be obligatory upon them, and it lies not in the option of any being to make it otherwise. Their nature and relations being given, to pursue a course of conduct suited to their nature and relations, is necessarily and self-evidently obligatory, independent of the will of any being.
10. A tenth attribute of moral law is immutability. Moral law can never change, or be changed. It always requires of every moral agent a state of heart, and course of conduct, precisely suited to his nature and relations. Whatever his nature is, his capacity and relations are; entire conformity to just that nature, those capacities and relations, so far as he is able to understand them, is required at every moment and nothing more nor less. If capacity is enlarged, the subject is not thereby rendered capable of works of supererogation– of doing more than the law demands; for the law still, as always, requires the full consecration of his whole being to the public interests. If by any means whatever, his ability is abridged, moral law, always and necessarily consistent with itself, still requires that what is left– nothing more or less– shall be consecrated to the same end as before. Whatever demands more or less than entire, universal, and constant conformity of heart and life, to the nature, capacity and relations of moral agents, be they what they may, is not, and cannot be, moral law. To suppose that it could be otherwise, would be to contradict the true definition of moral law. If therefore, the capacity is by any means abridged, the subject does not thereby become incapable of rendering full obedience; for the law still demands and urges, that the heart and life shall be fully conformed to the present, existing nature, capacity, and relations. Anything that requires more or less than this, whatever else it is, is not, and cannot be, moral law. To affirm that it can, is to talk nonsense. Moral law invariably holds one language. It never changes the spirit of its requirement. “Thou shalt love,” or be perfectly benevolent, is its uniform and its only demand. This demand it never varies, and never can vary. It is as immutable as God is, and for the same reason. To talk of letting down, or altering moral law, is to talk absurdly. The thing is naturally impossible. No being has the right or the power to do so. The supposition overlooks the very nature of moral law. Should the natural capability of the mind, by any means whatever, be enlarged or abridged, it is perfectly absurd, and a contradiction of the nature of moral law, to say, that the claims of the law are either elevated or lowered. Moral law is not a statute, an enactment, that has its origin or its foundation in the will of any being. It is the law of nature, the law which the nature or constitution of every moral agent imposes on himself, and which God imposes upon us because it is entirely suited to our nature and relations, and is therefore naturally obligatory upon us. It is the unalterable demand of the reason, that the whole being, whatever there is of it at any time, shall be entirely consecrated to the highest good of universal being, and for this reason God requires this of us, with all the weight of his authority. It cannot be too distinctly understood, that moral law is nothing more nor less, than the law of nature revealed in the necessary ideas of our own reason, and enforced by the authority of God. It is an idea of that which is fit, suitable, agreeable to our nature and relations for the time being, that which it is reasonable for us to will and do, at any and every moment, in view of all the circumstances of our present existence,– just what the reason affirms, and what God affirms, to be suited to our nature and relations, under all the circumstances of the case.*
*It has been said, that if we “dwarf,” or abridge our powers, we do not thereby abridge the claims of God; that if we render it impossible to perform so high a service as we might have done, the Lawgiver, nevertheless, requires the same as before, that is, that under such circumstances he requires of us an impossibility;– that should we dwarf, or completely derange, or stultify our powers, he would still hold us under obligation to perform all that we might have performed, had our powers remained in their integrity. To this I reply,
That this affirmation assumes, that moral law and moral obligation are founded in the will of God;– that his mere will makes law. This is a fundamental mistake. God cannot legislate in the sense of making law. He declares and enforces the common law of the universe, or, in other words, the law of nature. This law, I repeat it, is nothing else than that rule of conduct which is in accordance with the nature and relations of moral beings. The totality of its requisitions are, both in its letter and its spirit, “Thou shalt love, &c., with all thy heart, thy soul, thy might, thy strength.” That is, whatever there is of us, at any moment, is to be wholly consecrated to God, and the good of being, and nothing more nor less. If our nature or relations are changed, no matter by what means, or to what extent, provided we are still moral agents, its language and spirit are the same as before,– “Thou shalt love with all thy strength,” &c.
I will here quote from the “Oberlin Evangelist,” an extract of a letter from an esteemed brother, embodying the substance of the above objection, together with my reply.
“One point is what you say of the claims of the law, in the ‘Oberlin Evangelist,’ vol. ii. p. 50:– ‘the question is, what does the law of God require of Christians of the present generation, in all respects in our circumstances, with all the ignorance and debility of body and mind which have resulted from the intemperance and abuse of the human constitution through so many generations?’ But if this be so, then the more ignorant and debilitated a person is in body and mind in consequence of his own or ancestors’ sins and follies, the less the law would require of him, and the less would it be for him to become perfectly holy– and, the nearer this ignorance and debility came to being perfect, the nearer would he be to being perfectly holy, for the less would be required of him to make him so. But is this so? Can a person be perfectly sanctified, while particularly that ‘ignorance of mind,’ which is the effect of the intemperance and abuse of the human constitution, remains? Yea, can he be sanctified at all, only as this ignorance is removed by the truth and Spirit of God; it being a moral and not a physical effect of sinning? I say it kindly, here appears to me, at least, a very serious entering wedge of error. Were the effect of human depravity upon man simply to disable him, like taking from the body a limb, or destroying in part, or in whole, a faculty of the mind, I would not object; but to say, this effect is ignorance, a moral effect wholly, and then say, having this ignorance, the law levels its claims according to it, and that with it, a man can be entirely sanctified, looks not to me like the teachings of the bible.”
1. I have seen the passage from my lecture, here alluded to, quoted and commented upon, in different periodicals, and uniformly with entire disapprobation.
2. It has always been separated entirely from the exposition which I have given of the law of God in the same lectures; with which exposition, no one, so far as I know, has seen fit to grapple.
3. I believe, in every instance, the objections that have been made to this paragraph, were made by those who profess to believe in the present natural ability of sinners to do all their duty.
4. I would most earnestly and respectfully inquire, what consistency there is, in denominating this paragraph a dangerous heresy, and still maintaining that men are at present naturally able to do all that God requires of them?
5. I put the inquiry back to those brethren,– By what authority do you affirm, that God requires any more of any moral agent in the universe, and of man in his present condition, than he is at present able to perform?
6. I inquire, does not the very language of the law of God prove to a demonstration, that God requires no more of man than, in his present state, he is able to perform? Let us hear its language: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and will all thy strength. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Now here, God so completely levels his claims, by the very wording of these commandments, to the present capacity of every human being, however young or old, however maimed, debilitated, or idiotic, as, to use the language or sentiment of Prof. Hickok, of Auburn Seminary, uttered in my hearing that, “if it were possible to conceive of a moral pigmy, the law requires of him nothing more, than to use whatever strength he has, in the service and for the glory of God.”
7. I most respectfully but earnestly inquire of my brethren, if they believe that God requires as much of men as of angels, of a child as of a man, of a half-idiot as of a Newton? I mean not to ask whether God requires an equally perfect consecration of all the powers actually possessed by each of these classes; but whether in degree, he really requires the same, irrespective of their present natural ability?
8. I wish to inquire, whether my brethren do not admit that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that every abuse of the physical system has abridged the capacity of the mind, while it remains connected with the body? And I would also ask, whether my brethren mean to maintain, at the same breath, the doctrine of present natural ability to comply with all the requirements of God, and also the fact that God now requires of man just the same degree of service that he might have rendered if he had never sinned, or in any way violated the laws of his being? And if they maintained these two positions at the same time, I further inquire, whether they believe that man has naturally ability at the present moment to bring all his faculties and powers, together with his knowledge, into the same state in which they might have been, had he never sinned? My brethren, is there not some inconsistency here?
The fact is, you contradict yourselves. Your positions are precisely as follow:–
(1.) Man is able perfectly to keep all the commandments of God.
(2.) God requires of man just that service in kind and degree, which would have been possible to him had he never sinned.
(3.) But man has sinned, abused, and crippled his powers, in so much that, to render the kind and degree of service which God demands of him, is a natural impossibility.
9. In the paragraph above quoted, the brother admits, that if a man by his own act had deprived himself of any of his corporeal faculties, he would not thenceforth have been under an obligation to use those faculties. But he thinks this principle does not hold true, in respect to ignorance; because he esteems ignorance a moral, and not a natural defect. Here I beg leave to make a few inquiries:
(1.) Should a man wickedly deprive himself of the use of his hand, would not this be a moral act? No doubt it would.
(2.) Suppose a man by his own act should make himself an idiot, would not this be a moral act?
(3.) Would he not in both cases render himself naturally unable, in the one case to use his hand, and in the other his reason? Undoubtedly he would. But how can it be affirmed, with any show of reason, that in the one case his natural inability discharges him from obligation, and not in the other– that he is still bound to use his reason, but not his hand? Now the fact is, that in both these cases the inability is natural.
(4.) I ask, if a man willingly remained in ignorance of God, whether his ignorance would constitute a moral inability? If a moral inability, he can instantly overcome it, by the right exercise of his own will, for nothing can be a moral inability that cannot be instantaneously removed by our own volition. But can the present ignorance of mankind be instantaneously removed by an act of volition on the part of men, and their knowledge become as perfect as it might have been had they never sinned? If not, why call ignorance a moral inability, or a moral effect? The fact is that ignorance is often the natural effect of moral delinquency. Neglect of duty occasions ignorance; and this ignorance, while it remains, constitutes a natural inability to perform those duties of which the mind is ignorant; and all that can be required is, that from the present moment, the mind should diligently engage in acquiring what knowledge it can, and perfectly obey, as fast as it obtains the light. If this is not true, it is utter nonsense to talk about natural ability as being a sine quà non of moral obligation. And I would kindly, but most earnestly, ask my brethren, by what rule of consistency they maintain, at the same breath, the doctrine of a natural ability to do whatever God requires, and also insist that he requires men to know as much, and in all respects to render him the same kind and degree of service as if they never had sinned, or rendered themselves in any respect naturally incapable of doing and being, at the present moment, all that they might have done and been, had they never, in any instance, neglected duty?
10. This objector appears to be strongly impressed with the consideration, that if a man’s ignorance can be any excuse for his not doing, at present, what he might have done, but for this ignorance, it will follow, that the less he knows the less is required of him, and should he become a perfect idiot, he would be entirely discharged from moral obligation. To this I answer: Yes, or the doctrine of natural ability and the entire government of God, are a mere farce. If a man should annihilate himself, would not he thereby set aside his moral obligation to obey God? Yes truly. Should he make himself an idiot, would he not thereby annihilate his moral agency; and of course his natural ability to obey God? Will my New School brethren adopt the position of Dr. Wilson of Cincinnati, as maintained on the trial of Dr. Beecher, that “moral obligation does not imply ability of any kind?” The truth is, that for the time being, a man may destroy his moral agency, by rendering himself a lunatic or an idiot; and while this lunacy or idiotcy continues, obedience to God is naturally impossible, and therefore not required.
But it is also true, that no human being can deprive himself of reason and moral agency, but for a limited time. There is no reason to believe, that the soul can be deranged or idiotic, when separated from the body. And therefore moral agency will in all cases be renewed in a future, if not in the present state of existence, when God will hold men fully responsible for having deprived themselves of power to render him all that service which they might otherwise have rendered. But do let me inquire again, can my dear brethren maintain, that an idiot or a lunatic can be a moral agent? Can they maintain that a being is the subject of moral obligation any farther than he is in a state of sanity? Can they maintain, that an infant is the subject of moral obligation, previous to all knowledge? And can they maintain, that moral obligation can, in any case, exceed knowledge? If they can and do– then, to be consistent, they must flatly deny that natural ability is a sine quà non of moral obligation, and adopt the absurd dogma of Dr. Wilson, that “moral obligation does not imply any ability whatever.” When my brethren will take this ground, I shall then understand and know where to meet them. But I beseech you not to complain of inconsistency in me, nor accuse me of teaching dangerous heresy, while I teach nothing more than you must admit to be true, or unequivocally admit in extenso, the very dogma of Dr. Wilson, quoted above.
I wish to be distinctly understood. I maintain, that present ignorance is present natural inability, as absolutely as that the present want of a hand is present natural inability to use it. And I also maintain, that the law of God requires nothing more of any human being, than that which he is at present naturally able to perform, under the present circumstances of his being. Do my brethren deny this? If they do, then they have gone back to Dr. Wilson’s ground. If they do not, why am I accounted a heretic by them, for teaching what they themselves maintain?
11. In my treatise upon the subject of entire sanctification, I have shown from the Bible, that actual knowledge is indispensable to moral obligation, and that the legal maxim, “ignorance of the law excuses no one,” is not good in morals.
12. Professor Stuart, in a recent number of the Biblical Repository, takes precisely the same ground that I have taken, and fully maintains, that sin is the voluntary transgression of a known law. And he further abundantly shows, that this is no new or heterodox opinion. Now Prof. Stuart, in the article alluded to, takes exactly the same position in regard to what constitutes sin that I have done in the paragraph upon which so much has been said. And may I be permitted to inquire, why the same sentiment is orthodox at Andover, and sound theology in the Biblical Repository, but highly heterodox and dangerous at Oberlin?
13. Will my brethren of the new school, to avoid the conclusiveness of my reasonings in respect to the requirements of the law of God, go back to old schoolism, physical depravity, and accountability based upon natural inability, and all the host of absurdities belonging to its particular views of orthodoxy? I recollect that Dr. Beecher expressed his surprise at the position taken by Dr. Wilson, to which I have alluded, and said he did not believe that “many men could be found, who could march up without winking to the maintenance of such a proposition as that.” But to be consistent, I do not see but that my brethren with or “without winking,” are driven to the necessity, either of “marching up” to maintaining the same proposition, or they must admit that the objectionable paragraph in my lecture is the truth of God.
11. An eleventh attribute of moral law is unity. Moral law proposes but one ultimate end of pursuit to God, and to all moral agents. All its requisitions, in their spirit, are summed up and expressed in one word, love or benevolence. This I only announce here. It will more fully appear hereafter. Moral law is a pure and simple idea of the reason. It is the idea of perfect, universal, and constant consecration of the whole being, to the highest good of being. Just this is, and nothing more nor less can be, moral law; for just this, and nothing more nor less, is a state of heart and a course of life exactly suited to the nature and relations of moral agents, which is the only true definition of moral law.
12. Equity is another attribute of moral law. Equity is equality. That only is equitable which is equal. The interest and well-being of every sentient existence, and especially of every moral agent, is of some value in comparison with the interests of others, and of the whole universe of creatures. Moral law demands that the interest and well-being of every member of the universal family shall be regarded by each according to its relative or comparative value, and that in no case shall it be sacrificed or wholly neglected, unless it be forfeited by crime. The distinction, allowed by human tribunals, between law and equity, does not pertain to moral law, nor does nor can it strictly pertain to any law. For it is impossible that that should be law, in the sense of imposing obligation, of which equity is not an attribute. An inequitable law cannot be. The requirements of law must be equal. A moral agent may, by transgression, forfeit the protection of law, and may come into such governmental relations, by trampling on the law, that moral law may demand that he be made a public example– that his interest and well-being be laid upon the altar, and that he be offered a sacrifice to public justice, as a preventive of crime in others. It may happen also that sacrifices may be demanded by moral law of innocent beings, for the promotion of a greater amount of good than that sacrificed by the innocent. Such was the case with the atonement of Christ, and such is the case with the missionary, and with all who are called by the law of love to practice self-denial for the good of others. But let it be remembered, that moral law never requires nor allows any degree of self-denial and self-sacrifice that relinquishes a good of greater value than that gained by the sacrifice. Nor does it in any case demand nor permit that any interest, not forfeited by its possessor, shall be relinquished or finally neglected, without adequate ultimate compensation. As has been said, every interest is of some comparative value; and ought to be so esteemed and treated. Moral law demands, and must demand, that it shall be so regarded by all moral agents to whom it is known. “THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF” is its unalterable language. It can absolutely utter no other language than this, and nothing can be moral law which holds any other language. Law is not, and cannot be, an arbitrary enactment of any being or number of beings. Unequal LAW is a misnomer. That which is unequal in its demands, is not and cannot be, law. Law must respect the interests and the rights of all, and of each member of the universal family. It is impossible that it should be otherwise, and still be law.
13. Expediency is another attribute of moral law.
That which is upon the whole most wise is expedient,– that which is upon the whole expedient is demanded by moral law. True expediency and the spirit of moral law are always identical. Expediency may be inconsistent with the letter, but never with the spirit of moral law. Law in the form of commandment is a revelation or declaration of that course which is expedient. It is expediency revealed, as in the case of the decalogue, and the same is true of every precept of the Bible, it reveals to us what is expedient. A revealed law or commandment is never to be set aside by our views of expediency. We may know with certainty that what is required is expedient. The command is the expressed judgment of God in the case, and reveals with unerring certainty the true path of expediency. When Paul says, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient,” we must not understand him as meaning that all things in the absolute sense were lawful to him, or that anything that was not expedient was lawful to him. But he doubtless intended, that many things were inexpedient that are not expressly prohibited by the letter of the law,– that the spirit of the law prohibited many things not expressly prohibited by the letter. It should never be forgotten that that which is plainly demanded by the highest good of the universe is law. It is expedient. It is wise. The true spirit of the moral law does and must demand it. So, on the other hand, whatever is plainly inconsistent with the highest good of the universe is illegal, unwise, inexpedient, and must be prohibited by the spirit of moral law. But let the thought be repeated, that the Bible precepts always reveal that which is truly expedient, and in no case are we at liberty to set aside the spirit of any commandment upon the supposition that expediency requires it. Some have denounced the doctrine of expediency altogether, as at all times inconsistent with the law of right. These philosophers proceed upon the assumption that the law of right and the law of benevolence are not identical but inconsistent with each other. This is a common but fundamental mistake, which leads me to remark that–
Law proposes the highest good of universal being as its end, and requires all moral agents to consecrate themselves to the promotion of this end. Consequently, expediency must be one of its attributes. That which is upon the whole in the highest degree useful to the universe must be demanded by moral law. Moral law must, from its own nature, require just that course of willing and acting that is upon the whole in the highest degree promotive of the public good,– in other words, that which is upon the whole in the highest degree useful, and therefore expedient. It has been strangely and absurdly maintained that right would be obligatory if it necessarily tended to and resulted in universal and perfect misery. Than which a more nonsensical affirmation was never made. The affirmation assumes that the law of right and of good-will are not only distinct, but may be antagonistic. It also assumes that that can be law that is not suited to the nature and relations of moral agents. Certainly it will not be pretended that that course of willing and acting that necessarily tends to, and results in, universal misery, can be consistent with the nature and relations of moral agents. Nothing is or can be suited to their nature and relations, that is not upon the whole promotive of their highest well-being. Expediency and right are always and necessarily at one. They can never be inconsistent. That which is upon the whole most expedient is right, and that which is right is upon the whole expedient.
14. Exclusiveness is another attribute of moral law. That is, moral law is the only possible rule of moral obligation. A distinction is usually made between moral, ceremonial, civil, and positive laws. This distinction is in some respects convenient, but is liable to mislead and to create an impression that something can be obligatory, in other words can be law, that has not the attributes of moral law. Nothing can be law, in any proper sense of the term, that is not and would not be universally obligatory upon moral agents under the same circumstances. It is law because and only because, under all the circumstances of the case, the course prescribed is fit, proper, suitable, to their natures, relations, and circumstances. There can be no other rule of action for moral agents but moral law, or the law of benevolence. Every other rule is absolutely excluded by the very nature of moral law. Surely there can be no law that is or can be obligatory upon moral agents but one suited to, and founded in their nature, relations, and circumstances. This is and must be the law of love or benevolence. This is the law of right, and nothing else is or can be. Every thing else that claims to be law and to impose obligation upon moral agents, from whatever source it emanates, is not and cannot be a law, but must be an imposition and “a thing of nought.”
INTRODUCTORY – EVIDENCE.
Before entering upon the question of the divine existence, I must remark: First, upon the importance of a correct and thorough knowledge of the laws of evidence; secondly, I must show what is evidence, and what is proof, and the difference between them; thirdly, I must inquire into the sources of evidence in a course of theological study; fourthly, must notice the kinds and degrees of evidence to be expected; fifthly, show when objections are not and when they are fatal; sixthly, how objections are to be disposed of; seventhly, on whom lies the burden of proof; and lastly; where proof or argument must begin.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF A CORRECT AND THOROUGH KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAWS OF EVIDENCE.
1. Without a correct knowledge of this subject our speculations will be at random.
2. The ridiculous credulity of some, and the no less ridiculous incredulity of others, are owing to the ignorance or disregard of the fundamental laws of evidence. Examples: Mormonism is ridiculous credulity, founded in utter ignorance, or a disregard of the first principles of evidence in relation to the kind and degree of testimony demanded to establish anything that claims to be a revelation from God. On the other hand, every form of religious skepticism is ridiculous incredulity, founded in ignorance or the disregard of the fundamental laws of evidence, as carefully shown.
II. WHAT IS EVIDENCE AND WHAT IS PROOF, AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM.
1. Evidence is that which elucidates and enables the mind to apprehend truth.
2. Proof is that degree of evidence that warrants or demands belief, that does or ought to produce conviction.
3. Every degree of evidence is not proof. Every degree of light upon a subject is evidence; but that only is proof which under the circumstances can give reasonable satisfaction, while it supplies the condition of rational conviction.
III. SOURCE OF EVIDENCE IN A COURSE OF THEOLOGICAL INQUIRY.
This must depend upon the nature of the thing to be proved.
1. Consciousness may be appealed to upon questions that are within its reach, but not on other questions.
2. Sense may be appealed to on questions within the reach of sense, but not on others.
3. The existence of God may be proved, not by an appeal to the Bible as his Word, for this would be to assume his existence and his veracity, which were absurd. The existence of God must therefore be proved either a priori, by our irresistible convictions antecedently to all reasoning; or a posteriori, as an inference from his works; or in both ways.
4. The divine authority of the Bible, or of any book or thing that claims to be a revelation from God, demands some kind of evidence that none but God can give. Miracles are one of the most natural and impressive kinds; prophecy is another; the nature of the proffered revelation, its adaptedness to our nature and wants is another. These are only noticed here as kinds of evidence essential to the proof of such a question.
5. Appeals may be made to any historical fact, or thing external; or to anything internal, that is, in the Bible itself that might be reasonably expected if the revelation in question were really from God.
6. In theological inquiries, as the universe is a revelation of God, we may legitimately wander into every department of nature, science, and grace for testimony upon theological subjects.
7. The different questions must however draw their evidence from different departments of revelation: Some from the irresistible convictions of our own minds; some from his works without us; some from his providence; others from his Word; and still others from all these together.
IV. KINDS AND DEGREES OF EVIDENCE TO BE EXPECTED.
1. In relations to kinds of evidence, I observe, no impossible or unreasonable kind is to be expected. For example, the evidence of sense is not to be demanded or expected, when the thing to be proved is not an object, or within the reach of sense. The existence of God, for example, is not given by sense, for the sense gives only the material and not the spiritual. It is absurd, therefore, for skeptics to demand the evidence of sense that God exists.
2. It is a sound rule, that the best evidence, in kind, shall be adduced that the nature of the case admits. For instance, oral testimony is not admissible where written testimony may be had to the same point. Of course, oral traditions are not to be received, where there is written history to the same point; but oral testimony is admissible in the absence of written, as then it is the best that the nature of the case admits.
3. So oral traditions may be received to establish points of antiquity in the absence of contemporary history.
4. Any book claiming to be a revelation from God, should in some way, bear his own seal, as a kind of evidence possible and demanded by the nature of the subject. The claim should be supported by evidence external and internal that make out a proof, or fulfills the conditions of rational conviction.
5. As to degree, evidence to be proof need not always amount to a demonstration, as this would be inconsistent with the nature of the case, and with a state of probation under a moral government.
6. We are not in general to expect such a degree of evidence as to preclude the possibility of cavil or evasion, and for the same reasons. On some questions we may reasonably expect to find evidence of an irresistible character; but in general it is important for us to remember that on all the important subjects of life we frequently find ourselves under the necessity of being governed simply by a preponderance of evidence — that we are in fact shut up to this often in questions of life and death. Now what we find to be true as a matter of fact in our daily experience, we should remember may reasonably be expected on questions of theology. We shall find evidence on all practical and important subjects that ought to produce conviction, that will satisfy an upright mind; but yet on many subjects not enough to preclude all cavil or evasion. On subjects of fundamental importance, we may expect to find evidence both in kind and degree that shall put those questions beyond all reasonable doubt.
7. In regard to the divine existence, it is reasonable to expect such evidence in both kind and degree as shall gain the general assent of mankind to the fact that God exists. Such evidence certainly does exist, and this conviction has been the conviction of the race.
8. We may expect that the evidence will be more or less latent, patent, direct, inferential, incidental, full, and unanswerable, according to its relative importance in the system of divine truth.
V. WHEN OBJECTIONS ARE NOT, AND WHEN THEY ARE FATAL.
1. They are not fatal when they are not well-established by proof.
2. When the truth of the objection may consist with the truth of the proposition, that it is intended to overthrow.
3. When the truth of the affirmative proposition is conclusively established by testimony, although we may be unable to discover the consistency of the proposition with the objection. Therefore,
4. An objection is not always fatal because it is unanswerable. We may not be able to answer an objection, and yet we may have positive proof that that is true against which the objection is raised. In this case the objection is not fatal.
5. An objection is fatal, when it is an unquestionable reality, and plainly incompatible with the truth of the proposition against which it lies.
6. It is fatal when the higher probability is in its favor. That is, it is fatal in the sense that it changes the burden of proof. When the higher probability is in favor of the objection, the burden of proof then falls upon the one who would sustain the proposition against which the objection lies. If he establishes the higher probability the onus is again changed, and the judgment ought always to decide in favor of the higher probability.
7. An objection is fatal when it is established by a higher kind or degree of evidence than the proposition to which it is opposed. For example, consciousness, sense, and reason present the highest kinds and degree of testimony. An objection fairly founded in and supported by an intuition of sense, consciousness, or reason, will set aside other testimony, because, as we have seen, knowledge thus obtained is intuitive, and more certain in its nature than that received from testimony of any other kind.
8. An objection is always fatal when it proves that the proposition against which it lies involves a palpable absurdity or contradiction.
VI. HOW OBJECTIONS ARE TO BE DISPOSED OF.
1. This depends upon their nature. If mere cavils without reason or proof, they are not properly objections, and may remain unnoticed.
2. So if they appear reasonable if they were proved, and yet are without sufficient proof, we are not gratuitously to take the burden of proof.
3. We are not bound to explain how the objection is consistent with the proposition against which it is alleged, but simply that if a fact, it may be consistent with it.
4. No objection is competent to set aside first truths, such as that a whole is equal to all its parts, that time and space exist, that every effect must have a cause, that a moral agent must be a free, self-active agent, etc. These are truths of irresistible and universal knowledge, and no testimony whatever is to be received as invalidating them.
5. No objection can set aside the direct testimony of consciousness, nor of sense or reason, where this testimony is unequivocally given.
6. Nor can any testimony set aside the unambiguous testimony of God. It is a first truth of reason that God is veracious; nobody can believe that he will lie. We necessarily assume his moral perfection; hence the testimony of God when rightly interpreted is conclusive upon any subject, and no human being can doubt this.
There is always a fallacy in whatever is inconsistent with first or self-evident truths, the affirmation of the pure reason, the intuitions of sense or consciousness, or with the testimony of God. Certain truths we are under necessity of receiving as valid by the laws of our own intelligence. Whatever objection is made to these must involve a fallacy, and cannot be received as valid.
VII. WHERE LIES THE BURDEN OF PROOF?
1. Always on him who takes the affirmative, unless the thing affirmed is sufficiently manifest without proof.
2. The burden of proof lies with the affirmative until the evidence fairly amounts to proof in the sense of demanding belief in the absence of opposing testimony.
3. When the affirmative evidence amounts to proof in this sense, the onus is upon him who takes the negative. His business in not to prove a negative, but to counteract the proof upon the positive side of the question, to render it null, or to present so much opposing proof as will annihilate the ground of rational conviction.
4. Every kind and degree of evidence that may as well consist with the negative as with the affirmative to be proved, leaves the onus unchanged.
5. When the evidence, or argument, or an objection proves too much, as well as when it proves too little, it leaves the onus unchanged.
6. If an objection needs proof, the onus lies upon the objector.
VIII. WHERE PROOF OR ARGUMENT MUST BEGIN.
1. Proof or argument must commence where uncertainty commences; or rather where the conditions of rational belief are wanting.
2. All argument and proof take for granted such truths as need no proof, but are either axioms, self-evident truths, or such as are either admitted, or are sufficiently apparent. (Roman numerals and some headings added, some numbers changed on both sections, Lecture VI divided — Gordon Olson).
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
Theology is the science of God and of divine things. The knowledge of God is possible only upon condition that he reveals himself to his creatures.
I. SEVERAL WAYS IN WHICH GOD MAY REVEAL HIMSELF TO RATIONAL BEINGS.
1. Rational beings may bear his image in such a sense as irresistibly to recognize him as possessing a nature like their own. They may of necessity transfer their conception of themselves in kind, that is, so far as the attributes of their own nature are conceived, to God; and conceive of him by a necessary law as being a rational being like themselves.
In this case it is plain that he might reveal himself directly to their intuitive perceptions, so that they would recognize his existence, his presence, and the nature of his attributes: and that this revelation might be so direct as to make them certain of his existence, presence, and attributes. I do not mean by this that he could give finite creatures a comprehension of his infinity, for this were a contradiction; but I mean that the fact of his existence might be intuitively perceived, and the infinity of his nature might be irresistibly affirmed.
2. This intuitive, or face to face revelation, might be made either to the moral function of the reason, that is, the conscience, or to the natural function of the reason. If made to the moral function of the reason, he would of course be known as the supreme and rightful Ruler; if to the natural function of the reason, he would be apprehended as a first cause, infinite and perfect.
3. Again, he might reveal himself in consciousness. This is an intuitive function, and reveals us to ourselves, and whatever can be properly brought within the field of our own experience. Sense must reveal to consciousness the outward world; but whatever should unify itself with our thinking, willing, and feeling, may be directly given to us in consciousness. We may be as conscious of such an embrace, and fellowship, and presence, as of our own existence.
For example, a revelation made directly to our intelligence by God might be a matter of consciousness; that is, we might not only know ourselves to be instructed, but be conscious of the source from which the instruction came. So, if peace, joy, hope, pervade our inward being, we may be aware of the source from which it comes — that is, such knowledge is possible.
4. Again, he may reveal himself to our logical faculty in such a sense, that from premises irresistibly postulated by the reason, his existence may be capable of demonstration.
5. Again, he may reveal himself in his works, through sense, in such a way as to render it natural to assume his existence; and indeed as to render it logically necessary to admit it.
6. Again, he may administer such a providence over the universe as will clearly reveal his existence to rational and reasoning beings.
7. Or again, he might reveal himself through the medium of a written revelation, in this sense: that he might produce a book in a manner and of such a character as naturally to conduct us to the conclusion that no being but God could produce such a book.
TWO REVELATIONS. — We have in fact two revelations of God; the one his works, the other his Word. His Word, the second revelation, assumes the existence and the knowledge of the first. Every attentive reader of the Bible has observed that it assumes that we already know the existence of God, and that we have an idea of his natural attributes and of his moral character; and therefore that we irresistibly assume that he is good, and that we are his subjects and ought to obey him. It never argues these questions; it does not assert them. It opens with the announcement that God made the heavens and the earth; and that he made man, and how and when he made him. Here the existence of God is taken for granted, and it is assumed that we know his existence.
Again, the second revelation, or his Word, is valid only as the first is valid, inasmuch as the second assumes the existence and validity of the first. If these assumptions have no foundation, if God has not in fact revealed himself in his works, then what we call his Word cannot be known to be his Word; and the second revelation, even if it were a revelation, would be invalid, inasmuch as its fundamental assumptions are invalid.
Again, the fundamental lessons taught in the first revelation must be learned as a condition of rationally receiving and of rightly interpreting the second. For example, being ourselves in the likeness of God, we are of ourselves a book of divine revelation. The attributes and laws of our nature are such that to understand what the Bible says of God we must to a certain extent understand ourselves, and rightly interpret the revelations which God has made to us in our nature and in the universe with which we are surrounded. Unless we recognize our moral nature, its postulates, its irresistible convictions, the law it imposes upon us, and the necessary ideas of right and wrong, we cannot understand what the Bible means. The Bible assumes that the moral law is in its essence and substance a necessary dictate of our nature; and that we have the ideas of right and wrong, and of what right and wrong in their essence are. It is only as we understand and rightly interpret the fundamental lessons given in our nature and in external nature, that we can rightly understand and interpret the Bible. Hence, they reject the Bible who fail rightly to interpret nature, understanding nature to include our own existence and attributes.
Again, they and they only fundamentally misinterpret the Bible who misinterpret nature, using the term in the sense last mentioned. I have said that the first revelation is made mostly in the laws and attributes of our own nature. From our own nature we can learn more of God, if it be rightly interpreted, than from the whole material universe. Our nature and attributes we learn directly in consciousness; hence a correct mental philosophy or psychology is indispensable to a correct interpretation of the Word of God. The first book of revelation of which we speak teaches what is generally called natural theology. It is plainly necessary that God should be revealed to us to a certain extent as the condition of any rational inquiry into the question whether the Bible be a revelation from him.
But again, suppose his existence be admitted, we must have the conviction or knowledge of his natural and moral attributes as a condition first, of settling the question whether the Bible is a revelation from him; and secondly, if it is a revelation from him, whether it is to be implicitly received. For example, unless we know his natural attributes, as his omniscience, we might suppose him mistaken in any revelation he might make, and should not feel ourselves bound, or even at liberty, to receive as unquestionable truth whatever he might say, even did we assume that it was well-intended. Again, unless we assume his omnipotence, his omnipresence, and his natural immutability, we could not be assured that he was able to do that which he wished and promised to do; or that he might not be absent on occasions when we had the promise of his aid.
Again, if we did not assume his moral attributes, we could not trust him, although we were aware of his natural attributes. His claiming to be good would not prove him to be so unless we had other evidence than merely that of his word. I do not mean to deny that we are so created as naturally and irresistibly to assume that God is to be trusted, and therefore that we do not need any other evidence than his assertion to demand our implicit confidence; but this is so just because, and only because, we are so created as necessarily to assume it. In other words, we are so created as necessarily to assume his goodness, and the existence and infinity of all his moral attributes. It is the knowledge of these obtained from the first book of revelation that makes it obligatory, or even consistent for us, to receive the second as a universally true and infallible revelation from God.
I proceed now to give that definition of God which is revealed to us in his first book of revelation; that is, to postulate what God is as known to us in the irresistible convictions of our minds, as these minds exist with our surroundings in the universe.
II. WHAT GOD IS AS KNOWN TO US IN THE IRRESISTIBLE CONVICTIONS OF OUR MINDS.
1. Such are the laws of our minds that no being can be recognized by us as the true God, a greater and better than whom can be conceived as existing or possible. When we think of God, I believe it is the universal conviction of all who have the conception of him as the self-existent, infinite God, that no greater, wiser, or better being can possibly be conceived by us; and further, that our highest and best conception of him, though just in the main, are nevertheless very inadequate; that he must, after all, be far beyond the compass of our thought, except in the sense that we affirm that he must be unlimited in all his attributes.
2. Our highest possible conception of Being is the nearest the true idea or conception of God, and just, so far as it goes.
3. Hence again, our highest possible description or definition of a Being, is the best definition of God that is possible to us. I believe it will be generally admitted that we could not conceive any being to be the true and living God of whom finiteness and imperfection were predicable. We have the idea or conception of a Being whose existence and attributes are unlimited and perfect in every respect; we define this Being to be the infinite and perfect Being; we can, we do, and must recognize this Being as God; and a greater and better we can have no idea or conception of as possible. And as I said, a finite and imperfect being we cannot conceive to be the true God. By God, then, we mean the infinite and perfect Being.
Hence, we may define God to be the infinite and perfect Being. Or, we may add to this, God the infinite and perfect First Cause. Or, we may add to this, God the infinite and perfect First Cause and Moral Governor of the universe. Or, we may vary the definition, and define him thus: God the First Cause of all finite existences, infinite and perfect. Or, God the Creator and Supreme Ruler of the universe, infinite and perfect. If we search for him by the argument a posteriori, and define his existence as a First Cause, we may then legitimately inquire what is implied in his being a First Cause, and thereby arrive at the attributes of infinity and perfection. Or, if we arrive at his existence through conscience as a Moral Governor, we may then properly inquire what is implied in his sustaining this relation, and thereby arrive at his infinity and perfection.
The methods of arriving at the fact of the divine existence are two: the a priori and the a posteriori. By the a priori method we directly assume or intuit the fact that he exists; affirm it as a first principle truth anterior to all logical reasonings. By the method a posteriori we reason from effect to Cause; seizing upon the events of the universe we infer his existence as a First Cause. Before entering directly upon the discussion of the question of God’s existence, we must define the principle terms to be used.
III. PRINCIPAL TERMS TO BE USED IN DISCUSSION OF GOD’S EXISTENCE.
1. ABSURDITY — An absurdity is any proposition or statement that is contradictory to known truth. A proposition may be absurd when it is self-contradictory; or, it is absurd if it contradict any truth of reason, for these truths, it will be observed, are intuitive and therefore certainly known. The absurd, then, is the contradictory, that which is inconsistent either with itself or with some known truth. That may be absurd which contradicts the intuitions of sense, as well as that which contradicts the intuitions of reason; for, as we have seen, sense is an intuitive faculty and its testimony is valid. Whatever, therefore, contradicts the plain and unequivocal revelations of sense is absurd. Again, that is absurd which contradicts consciousness. Consciousness is also intuitive; all its revelations are valid; and any proposition that plainly contradicts consciousness must involve an absurdity.
2. MYSTERY — A mystery is that which is incomprehensible; that which cannot be explained by us or referred to any known law or cause. The mysterious is that which is beyond or above the comprehension of our faculties in such a sense that although it may be a fact, it is a fact unexplicable by us. The absurd is contrary to reason, the mysterious is simply beyond reason; the absurd is that which we affirm cannot be so, the mysterious is that which may be, though we may not be able to explain or even conceive how it can be. The mysterious may be true. The absurd cannot be. In theology many things are above our comprehension, as the object of our study is the infinite. Therefore, mystery is to be expected. But in theology there can be no absurdity.
3. POWER — Power is the capacity or ability to be a cause or to produce effect.
4. CAUSE — This term is used in various senses, of which the following are the principal ones:
(1) Cause proper is an efficient; it is power in efficient or productive action. Cause implies an effect and is the efficient reason of the effect. It creates or produces. This is cause in its proper sense. Cause in this sense, as we shall soon see, must be intelligent, free, sovereign, efficient. Cause in this sense is called efficient cause.
(2) Instrumental cause. Cause in this sense is not of itself an efficient. It is not a power in itself, but only transmits an efficient power. It acts only as it is acted upon. It is neither free, sovereign, nor intelligent. Cause in this sense is an instrument and not an agent. To this category belong all the causes that are instrumentally producing the changes in the realm of unconscious matter. Cause in this sense is under the law of blind necessity. It acts as it is forced to act. I speak not now of the changes produced in the world of matter by the action of free agents, but of changes occurring under laws of necessity.
(3) Occasional cause. Occasional cause is only a motive or reason, that upon occasion of its being presented, induces a free intelligent being to act, or to become a cause in producing an effect. Cause in this sense is not an efficient. It does not compel or produce action. It is merely an instrument to act, and is as the terms denote only an occasion on which a true and proper cause acts, or a free intelligent being or power becomes a cause.
(4) Final cause. By final cause is intended the end or reason in view, and for the sake of which an intelligent being acts or becomes a cause. It is that reason that induces action, for example, the end God had in view, or the reason that induced him to cause the universe. His final end has been by necessitarian philosophers improperly called the final cause of his work of creation.
(5) Efficient cause. But to return to the consideration of efficient cause, of cause in its proper sense. Cause in this sense must be a power in itself. It is uncaused cause, as distinguished from caused or instrumental cause.
(a) It must be intelligent, as it acts upon occasion of the perception of some motive or reason for action. It must be free. It originates its own actions and is not caused to act.
(b) It must be a free agent. An agent is one who acts, and in the proper sense of the term, one who originates his own acts and is properly the author of them. A being who acts and is forced to act under a law of necessity is not capable of being a cause, in the proper sense of the term. He can be only an instrumental cause.
(c) Efficient cause must be sovereign. It must act upon occasion of some inducement, but never under a law of compulsion. It cannot be absolute in the sense of unconditional, for it acts upon occasion or condition of some perceived inducement, but it is sovereign in determining or acting in one direction or manner or another.
(d) Proper cause is not mere antecedence. It is production. Cause or causation is a mystery. There is no accounting for the self-originated acts of a free sovereign power. Such acts have no cause out of the power itself. Hence we cannot tell why an efficient cause is what it is or why the power acts as it does, and not otherwise. We may be able to tell the reasons which were the occasion of the act, but why this occasion rather than another has induced action we cannot tell. It is a mystery.
Cause and effect imply each other. Both must belong to time and neither can be eternal. A being may exist who has power to be a cause, who has never exerted that power for want of the proper occasion. The being may have existed from eternity. But from eternity he could not have been a cause. Exerting this power in an act must be an event and belong to time. But I must define event.
(6) Event. It is something that comes to pass.
(a) It may be the beginning of some existence or being.
(b) Or it may be some change in something already existent.
(c) All change is an event.
(d) Events occur in time, and cannot from their definition be eternal.
IV. SOME SELF-EVIDENT TRUTHS OF REASON.
I now proceed to postulate several self-evident truths of reason. Some of them are first truths, as they have been defined. Others are self-evident and are directly intuited by the pure reason, and must therefore be accepted as infallible truth. We have seen that cause in the most proper sense of the term, that is, efficient cause, is power in efficient action. That efficient cause must be intelligent, free, sovereign. We have also seen that an event is something that occurs, comes to pass, or take place in time. It is a change somewhere and in something. Or, it may be the beginning of something that before had no existence. As it occurs, begins, takes place, it must occur in time, and cannot be eternal. An event cannot be self-existent and eternal, for this is absurd and contradicts the true definition of an event.
1. My first postulate is that every event must have an efficient or an adequate cause. The efficient may act through or by means of an instrumental cause, or through a series of instrumental causes; but whenever there is an event, there must be a self-acting power in efficient action producing the effect immediately, or through instrumental cause or causes.
2. My second postulate is that neither cause nor effect can be eternal. This is self-evident from the definition of cause and effect. God existed from eternity with power to become a cause. When infinite wisdom called for an act of causality, he became a cause. But both the act and effect belong to time, and are not from eternity.
3. I postulate that a power acting as cause from eternity under a law of necessity is a contradiction. It is no cause if necessitated to act; it is a cause only in a secondary sense. It is therefore impossible that the material universe should have existed from eternity under a law of necessary change. In other words, it is a contradiction to say that the material universe has existed in a state of eternal change; for every change is an event, something comes to pass, and it is a contradiction to say that that which comes to pass is eternal. That which is eternal never began to be, it is therefore no event.
4. Again, if a necessary cause were possible, a self-existent and necessary cause must be an eternal cause, and is therefore a contradiction. A being may have existed who is free and who became a cause by acting in time; but neither a self-existing and necessary, or a self-existent and free cause can be an eternal cause.
5. Again, an eternal series, therefore, of causes and events is a contradiction; because all causation and events must occur, and therefore come to pass in time.
6. Again, a self-existent being must be an unconditioned, and therefore the absolute, immutable, and infinite being. If self-existent his existence cannot be conditioned; if unconditioned in his existence he must be immutable; and if immutable he must be infinite in his being.
7. Again, a self-existent being must be absolutely perfect in every respect in which he really exists; that is, in all the attributes that inhere in his necessary existence. The term perfect is used in two senses — the relatively perfect and the absolutely perfect. By relatively perfect we mean that which is complete in its place or relations, in its adaptedness to its end. By the absolutely perfect we mean that to which nothing can be added. A self-existent being is a necessarily existent being, and exists just as it does with all its inherent properties or attributes, not one of which is capable of increase or of change; therefore, all the attributes of a self-existent being must be infinite.
8. Again, matter cannot be eternal. Whatever is eternal is self-existent. If it be eternal it never came to pass; its existence was never an event; it never had a cause. Again, whatever is self-existent is immutable. This we have seen in the last proposition above. If self-existent it exists just as it does in all its attributes from a necessity of its own nature — that is, it is eternally impossible that it should not have existed, and so existed. If the material universe existed from eternity, it existed in a quiescent state or in a state of change, from a law inherent in itself. If in a quiescent state, it was immutable in that state and could never have changed; but it does change, and therefore it is not eternal. But if it existed in a state of change and under a law of necessary change, then cause and effect must have been eternal, which is a contradiction.
Again, if matter were self-existent, it must be eternal, absolute, immutable, infinite. That is, if it be self-existent, it is eternally existent; it must be absolute because its existence has no conditions. It must be immutable because self-existent; for self-existence is necessary existence; it must be infinite because immutable, self-existent and eternal. But matter can be neither; this is plain from the preceding proposition. Again, if matter were self-existent, the order in the material universe must have been necessary, unchangeable, and eternal. But an eternal order is a contradiction, if by order is meant order of events; for events, as we have seen, cannot be eternal.
Again, it is a contradiction because it implies an infinite series of causes and events. But this again is a contradiction; because every event and every cause must belong to time, and cannot be eternal, as we have seen. Again, if matter were self-existent and eternal, neither God nor man could change it in any respect. But we know that we can change the order of events in the material universe, and produce many changes of form and order, which show clearly that the material universe does not exist and act under a law of necessity. For if it did exist and act under a law of eternal necessity, then no supernatural influence could possibly exist that could vary its order. And it is also true, as we have seen, that a self-existent universe, acting under a law of eternal change, is a contradiction, as it implies an eternal series of dependent events; whereas every event, from its definition, must occur in time.
9. A cause must be a free agent exerting his power in action. A cause is a mystery only. But a cause, as we have seen, cannot be an eternal cause. A free being may be an eternal power, as is the case with God; but an eternal cause or power in an eternally-productive action, is a contradiction. It involves no contradiction to speak of a free being self-existent and eternal, who originates his own action and becomes a cause in time; but the supposition of an eternal necessity in nature is not a mere mystery, it is a contradiction, as in that case cause and effect must have been eternal.
10. Again, as we have seen, a cause must be a free agent. We have seen that an agent is an actor. An agent exerting his power in producing actions, is a free, and hence a proper, cause. Again, I am conscious of being a free cause. I am a moral agent and therefore free; I act myself in producing effects. In these actions I am cause; I know myself to be a cause, and a free cause, by being directly conscious of it. Hence I know that I am a supernatural being; in the actions of my will I am not subject to the law of cause and effect; the volitions of my will are causes. Of this I am conscious.
11. Again, we know that matter is not in any case a cause, in the highest sense of the term. It may transmit an influence which it receives; but all that we can know is, that in nature events succeed each other, under a law of necessity. The power cannot reside in matter itself; matter can be only an instrumental cause. An influence may be transmitted from the great First Cause through this chain of material causes, but we have seen that proper causes must be intelligent and free.
But in consciousness we know ourselves as proper causes; that the power by which we become cause is our own; and that we exert it at discretion, and under a law, not of necessity, but of moral responsibility. No intuitive faculty of ours can give us any other cause than that of free power in action; and this cause is directly given in consciousness.
V. ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
The proposition to be proved is the existence of God, first as a First Cause of all finite existences. The method of proof in this case must be a posteriori. But although the method must be a posteriori, it must have an a priori foundation; in other words, we must use two postulates of the reason as the foundation of our argument. The method, therefore, in this case, although called a posteriori, is strictly a combination of the a priori and a posteriori.
Foundation postulate: (1) Every event must have a cause. (2) An eternal series of dependent events is a contradiction. Syllogism — major premise: A series of dependent events implies a First Cause. Minor premise: The universe is a series of dependent events. Conclusion: There must be a First Cause.
1. Proposition: The First Cause must be infinite and perfect. Syllogism — major premise: Whatever is self-existent must be immutable, infinite, and perfect in all its attributes. This we have seen among the postulates of the pure reason. Minor premise: The First Cause must be self-existent, and therefore immutable, infinite, and perfect in all its attributes. Conclusion: God is, and is the First Cause, and therefore infinite and perfect.
2. Proposition: A first cause must be a free cause. Syllogism — major premise: A first cause is an uncaused cause. Minor premise: None but a free cause can be uncaused. Conclusion: Therefore, the first cause must be free.
VI. ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD AS MORAL GOVERNOR.
This, as in proving the existence of God as a First Cause, is to prove his existence in a certain relation. Having proved his existence in certain relations, it is then proper to inquire what attributes are implied as belonging to his nature, and his character. These may be ascertained by an intuitive perception of what is implied in his existence in these relations.
1. God is a moral governor, infinite and perfect. In a former lecture the existence of conscience, as revealed in consciousness, came under consideration. This faculty, as we there saw, and as we are at present aware in consciousness, postulates an authoritative rule of moral action with sanctions. That is, this faculty affirms our obligation to be universally benevolent, and affirms this obligation in the name of God as the moral governor to whom we affirm our accountability. The moral nature of conscience, or in other words the reason in its moral application, is so related to God that it necessarily knows and assumes his existence. Within ourselves we are conscious of subjective moral law in the form of an authoritative rule of action. We are conscious of being amenable to an Author of this law, whom we cannot avoid conceiving to be the Author of our nature. We cannot resist the assumption that this Being has a claim upon our love and obedience; and it is to him that we necessarily regard ourselves as being amenable. In this our moral nature directly assumes and a priori intuits his existence as the Author of our nature, and of the law within us which we necessarily impose upon ourselves.
2. Again, in postulating obligation to universally submit to, obey, and trust him, our conscience or moral nature irresistibly assumes his infinity and perfection, both natural and moral. Did we not necessarily conceive of him as naturally perfect, we might suppose that he might err, and therefore as not worthy of universal confidence and obedience, however well he might intend. If we did not assume his moral infinity and perfection, we could not conceive ourselves under universal obligation to obey, submit to, and trust him. But our conscience or moral nature does unequivocally affirm our obligation to obey him implicitly and universally, to trust him implicitly and universally, and universally to submit to all his dealings. This affirmation being an ultimate fact of consciousness, is conclusive of his existence and perfections.
3. Again, we are aware in consciousness that conscience as truly postulates and assumes the existence of God as consciousness does our own existence. In other words, we are directly conscious of our own existence, and we are directly conscious that conscience assumes the existence of God. The one of these functions is as reliable as the other; they are both intuitive functions. Conscience gives the existence of God as a direct intuition or assumption in postulating our obligation to love and trust him; conscience gives our own existence directly in our internal exercises. So that in postulating the existence of God and my obligation to him by my conscience, I am aware of my own existence in this assumption of my conscience; and thus these two existences, my own and the existence of God, are simultaneously revealed to me — my own directly by consciousness and God’s directly by my conscience or moral nature. Both existences are thus revealed to me in consciousness; my own directly by consciousness, and God’s indirectly through my conscience.
It is in this way, beyond all doubt, that mankind in general first come to the knowledge of the existence of God. It is not by reasoning, but by the a priori intuitions of conscience. He is not first known as a First Cause by the reason and logical faculty co-operating in the demonstration. As a First Cause he is known a posteriori; as a Moral Governor a priori. And indeed, it is impossible that as a Moral Governor he should be known in any other way. As Moral Governor he reveals himself to moral agents by revealing to their intuitive perceptions their obligation to him. Their obligation to him is not an inference from his existence and their relations to him as Creator. For were it admitted that he existed and that he were our Creator, it would not follow that we are under obligation to obey him, unless he be worthy of obedience. But how are we to learn that he is worthy of obedience? This we cannot get at by reasoning as a condition of our moral obligation to obey him.
We know ourselves to have been moral agents antecedent to all reasoning on the subject of the character of God. Every moral agent knows that he assumed from the very beginning of his moral agency his obligation to obey God, and his amendability to him, anterior to all reasoning as it respects the moral character of God, or even of his existence. God’s existence, therefore, and moral character, are directly and intuitively revealed to the moral nature of every moral agent; and it is this intuitive revelation of his existence and character that is the condition of moral obligation to him. Now who does not know that he had the ideas of right and wrong, of moral obligation, of praise or blame-worthiness, before he had ever reasoned either concerning the existence or the attributes of God.
The existence of God, then, as a Moral Governor, is a fact revealed in the conscience, and consequently consciousness, of every moral agent. So true is this that men find it impossible to rid themselves of the idea of his existence in affirming their obligation and amendability to him.
4. Again, no moral agent under the pressure of conscience or standing in the presence of affirmed obligation, ever did or can doubt the existence of God and his amendability to him. It is an absurdity and a contradiction to say that, in the presence of postulated obligation and accountability to God by the conscience, the existence of God should really be doubted.
5. Again, the existence of God is only doubted when by improper methods an attempt is made to prove that he exists; or under the influence of some temptation that diverts the attention for the time being from the authoritative voice of God.
6. Again, the idea of future retribution as it lies in the universal conscience is an assumption of the existence of God. We necessarily conceive of God as just; all sinners are necessarily aware that they have disobeyed him. Now the conception of his moral perfection, and the consciousness that we have disobeyed him, lead to the irresistible assumption of the fact of a future retribution. This assumption of course includes the assumption of God’s existence.
7. Again, it is generally agreed that man has a religious nature, that is, a nature that demands religion. Even atheists admit that man is by nature a superstitious being, which implies that by nature they assume the existence of God, of moral obligation, etc. Now, whether our nature be assumed to be a religious nature or a superstitious nature, it really amounts to the same thing. We have a nature that craves or demands the existence of God, that affirms his existence and our amendability to him. Call this a natural superstition, or a natural assumption, that God exists and claims our obedience — call it what you will, the fact remains that by nature we assume and know the existence of God; and that this assumption is natural, not as a logical deduction, but as an intuitive knowledge. Again, if conscience did not give God as an irresistible conviction, or an intuitive knowledge, guilt and selfishness would reject the fact. But the fact cannot be rejected just because the knowledge is intuitive.
8. Again, moral agency is an ultimate fact of consciousness; moral agency implies moral law and accountability. Accountability implies a Moral Ruler or Governor. Moral government implies moral law; moral law is necessarily perfect and implies a perfect Moral Ruler; and a perfect Moral Ruler must be infinite. Therefore, the moral argument gives God as the infinite and perfect Moral Governor of the universe. (Roman numerals added, some headings added — Gordon Olson). I. ARGUMENT FROM FINAL CAUSES; OR, as it is better expressed, FROM APPARENT ULTIMATE DESIGN.
1. Syllogism — Major premise: Design implies a designing mind. Minor premise: The universe exhibits conclusive proof of design. Conclusion: Therefore the universe is the product of competent designing mind.
2. Second syllogism — Major premise: The mind that designed and created the universe is the first cause. Minor premise: But the first cause must be a self-existent, and therefore, as we have seen, immutable, infinite, and perfect being. Conclusion: Therefore God exists, the infinite and perfect First Cause.
The minor premise of the first of the above syllogisms I have not attempted to prove. If anyone calls in question the fact that the universe presents innumerable and conclusive evidences of benevolent design, this is not the place to enlarge upon a subject so extensive. So many treatises have been written upon this subject, so much has been said in respect to the indubitable evidences of design in the construction and working of the universe, that it were a work of supererogation in this connection to attempt to prove it. Suffice it to say in a word, that the revelations of science are continually pouring floods of additional light upon this question, insomuch that even the rocks speak out and bear their testimony that they were created by a designing mind.
II. FACTS AND SELF-EVIDENT TRUTHS.
1. We have seen that in consciousness we know ourselves to exist; and that we know the existence of that which is not ourselves. I say, we know this in consciousness. It is certain that the very conception of self as self implies also the conception of that which is not self. Should it be said that we are not directly conscious of that which is not self, I answer, that this may be true of the material creation; that is, it may be true and indeed must be true that sense gives the material not self; but it should be remembered that sense is an intuitive faculty and gives its object by a direct beholding of it, just as consciousness gives its object by a direct beholding. The thing of which we are conscious is that we directly behold the not self. It is not so much a matter of consciousness that this beholding is by the faculty of sense; for I am just as conscious of seeing or directly knowing the outward world as I am the inward world. I am just as conscious of knowing the not self as I am of knowing the self. I am conscious of this knowledge, and am just as certain of the existence of the one as of the other. So far as certainty is concerned, therefore, it amounts to the same thing whether it is obtained by one faculty of intuition or the other. The knowledge is intuitive and certain, of this knowledge I am conscious; and whether in strict propriety of speech I am conscious directly of the existence of the not self, or of the outward world, or whether on the other hand, I am conscious of knowing it through the medium of sense, is immaterial so far as the fact of this knowledge is concerned.
But here it should be said, that although it is true in strict propriety of speech that we become conscious of the existence of the outward world only through the intuitions of sense, this is not true in respect to the existence of other beings of whose existence we are directly conscious. In another place I shall endeavor to show that we are directly conscious of the existence of God, and this certainly is not given us through sense. But here I wish to be particularly understood to say, that so far as certainty is concerned, it matters not at all through which of the intuitive functions of the intellect we get at truth. If it be by intuition, the certainty cannot be called in question without denying the validity of all knowledge. If one intuitive function of the intellect may deceive us, in other words, if we are not certain of what we directly behold in consciousness, sense, or reason, if each of these faculties is not to be trusted, neither of them is to be. We can no more doubt the validity of the testimony of one than the other. We are certain of that which we intuit; and if we are not, there is no distinguishing the intuitions of one faculty from another in such a way as to know which is to be trusted. They are all alike veracious, or all alike untrustworthy.
2. There is a material nature.
3. There is an order in this nature.
4. First self-evident truth: This nature and this order in nature has a cause out of itself, or it is self-existent and has the law of its order written within itself. If it is self-existent and has the law of its order written within itself, then it is by a necessity of its own nature eternally just as it is and has been, and therefore immutable, eternal, and infinite.
This we have seen in former propositions, and it needs not to be enlarged upon.
5. Second self-evident truth: Matter cannot be infinite; for it must have a form, and form implies limitation, and therefore finiteness. To speak of matter as having no form is a contradiction. To speak of form as being infinite is also a contradiction. Again, it cannot be infinite, for it is made up of finite parts or particles, and no number of units or finites can ever make an infinite.
Again, it has been shown that if matter is self-existent it must be eternal, infinite, immutable. But it cannot be immutable because we ourselves know that we can introduce many changes in it. That is, if the universe of matter is self-existent and has the law of all its changes inherent in itself, then there is no power that can vary in the least degree these changes; for the law of these changes, if matter be self-existent, must be absolutely omnipotent. In other words, if matter exists and changes under a law of necessity, it is a contradiction to say that any power in the universe, or any conceivable power, can vary the order of these changes.
But as I said, we ourselves know that we change this order, and we know that those around us introduce innumerable variations in the order of changes going on in the material universe around about us.
Dr. Chalmers and others have admitted that without damage to the theistic argument, we may admit that matter is self-existent and therefore eternal. “For,” he says, “we must not necessarily suppose the existence of God to account for the collocation of matter.” But I cannot consent to this, for the reason, that if matter does eternally exist, necessity must be an attribute of its nature, and in every respect in which it does exist it exists by this necessity, and consequently it is necessarily immutable. That is, no change can ever be introduced into it except under the action of its own inherent necessary laws; and these laws must, to all intents and purposes, be omnipotent; that is, they must have power to resist any conceivable power that might set upon them. To suppose the contrary were to deny the self-existence and therefore the necessary existence of matter. If God did not create the materials out of which the universe is formed, if those materials do in fact exist independent of him, that is, if they are self-existent, the supposition that God could form the material universe and locate matter as we find it located out of self-existent materials, is an absurdity.
III. In the light of the above, THE FOLLOWING POSITIONS ARE MANIFEST:
1. A self-existent material universe, having an eternal and necessary order of development, is first an absurdity.
2. It contradicts consciousness, for we are aware ourselves of acting upon it and changing the order of its development, which could not be were it self-existent and under a law of necessary development.
3. It follows that material nature and its order commenced in time. We have seen that order must be made up of succeeding events, for order can belong to nothing else than changes, but changes must occur in time. Should it be said, that nature itself may have been eternal, and its changes have commenced in time; I answer, this is a contradiction, if this nature has the law of its development or changes in itself. If this law is in itself, then these changes must have been coeval with the existence of that in which this law resides. But eternal changes are a contradiction; and an eternal nature having a law of change in itself is a contradiction, because no eternal changes, and consequently no eternal law of change, can possibly exist.
4. The material universe must have had a cause out of and superior to itself; its existence and changes cannot otherwise by any possibility be accounted for. Indeed, it is a contradiction to affirm the existence of nature, and the order of its changes, except upon the admission that it had a cause out of itself.
5. The cause of the material universe must be a self-existent, and therefore an infinite Being. We have seen that a necessary cause is a contradiction; for a self-existent necessary cause must be an eternal cause, or imply eternal acts of causation; for be it remembered that cause is power in producing action. I say, therefore, that the cause of the material universe must be a self-existent, and therefore a necessarily existent, immutable, infinite Being.
6. Again, this Being must be a free and intelligent Being. No being can be free in the proper sense of freedom who is not intelligent; for free will acts only upon conditions of perceived reasons for action; therefore freedom always implies intelligence.
7. Again, this First Cause must be naturally perfect; that is, every attribute which he possesses must be infinite, and therefore perfect in the highest sense of perfection.
8. Again, we have seen in a former lecture that the ideas of the finite and the infinite are contrasts, always exist together in the mind, and that neither can be held without the other. The same we have seen to be true of the ideas of the perfect and the imperfect, and also of the conditioned and the unconditioned, of succession and time, of body and space. One of these ideas, then, implies the other; and where one is the other must be. But does the fact of the existence of the finite imply the existence of the infinite; the existence of the imperfect that of the perfect; the existence of the conditioned that of the unconditioned? I answer, yes. (1) Because no finite being is self-existent. Every finite existence, therefore, must have begun to be in time, must have had a cause; and as an infinite series of causes and effects is a contradiction, there must be a First Cause. (2) An imperfect being cannot be a self-existent being; for whatever is self-existent, we have seen, must be infinite, and therefore every attribute which a self-existent being possesses must be perfect in the highest conceivable sense, since, being infinite, nothing can be conceived to be wanting. If then, there be an imperfect being, it must be a dependent and created being; but this implies the existence of a First Cause, infinite and perfect. (3) The same is true of a conditioned being. The very conception of a conditioned being is that of a dependent being, that is, dependent for existence. Such a being, therefore, cannot be self-existent. But if not self-existent, it must have been created; and there must have been a First Cause, which must be self-existent and unconditioned.
IV. PROPOSITIONS, in the light of the foregoing.
1. First proposition: If any event ever occurred, an infinite and perfect God exists. Syllogism–Major premise: We have seen that events imply the existence of a First Cause. Minor premise: We have seen also that a First Cause must be self-existent and therefore infinite and perfect. Conclusion: Therefore if any event exists, God exists, the infinite and perfect.
2. Second proposition: If any consciousness exists, God exists, the infinite and perfect. Syllogism–Major premise: Consciousness must be either an eternal and infinite, or a finite consciousness. If an infinite consciousness, then it must be the consciousness of God, and God exists; if a finite consciousness, it is an event. Minor premise: But the existence of any event, as we have seen, implies the existence of an infinite and perfect Cause. Conclusion: Therefore if any consciousness exists, God the infinite and perfect exists.
3. Third proposition: If any doubt of the existence of God exists, God must exist. Syllogism–Major premise: The existence of doubt is an event. Minor premise: The existence of any event, as we have seen, implies the existence of an infinite First Cause. Conclusion: Therefore, if any doubt exists of God’s existence, God the infinite and perfect must exist.
4. Fourth proposition: If God’s existence be denied, his existence must be a fact. Syllogism–Major premise: The denial of the existence of God must be an event. Minor premise: The existence of any event implies the existence of an infinite and perfect First Cause. Conclusion: Therefore, if God’s existence was ever denied, his existence must be a fact.
5. Fifth proposition: If atheists exist, God exists. Syllogism–Major premise: the existence of an atheist is an event. Minor premise: The existence of any event implies the divine existence. Conclusion: Therefore, if there be an atheist in existence, God the infinite and perfect exists.
V. STATING THE SUBSTANCE OF THE ABOVE PROPOSITIONS IN ANOTHER FORM.
1. If any event ever occurred, an infinite, free, and perfect Being must exist; showing, if any event ever occurred it must have been finite, dependent, and in time. Finite, because an infinite event is an absurdity; dependent, because whatever is not infinite is not necessary and therefore cannot be independent. That is, it must be dependent in time, because an event is an occurrence, a something that comes to pass, begins to be. An eternal event is impossible and a contradiction; it must, therefore, occur in time.
2. If anything finite, dependent, and commencing in time exists, it must have had a cause out of and superior to itself. This we have abundantly seen. Therefore, if anything finite, dependent, commencing in time, exists, there must be a First Cause; and this Cause must be a self-existent, eternal and necessary Being; that is, his existence must be necessary, or the ground of his existence is in himself. But as a Cause, he must be free. We have seen that a necessary Cause must be an eternal Cause, and that an eternal Cause implies eternal events, which is a contradiction. A First Cause, then, must be a free, intelligent Cause; hence if any event ever occurred, there must be an infinite, free, and perfect Being existing as a First Cause.
But of this First Cause let me further say: We have seen that a First Cause must be a self-existent Being, consequently that he must be immutable in all his attributes; he must therefore be infinite in all his attributes; and an absolutely perfect Being must be perfect in all the attributes which he possesses.
3. Again, we have seen that the existence of atheism as an event implies the divine existence.
4. Again, if the possibility and reality of theism should be denied, the denial itself would be an event and imply the existence of God.
5. From the foregoing propositions, it follows, that if the universe of creatures is all matter, God must exist as the infinite and perfect First Cause.
6. Again, if the universe of creatures is all mind, as the Idealists maintain, God must exist as the First Cause. The same is true if the universe is only thought, as the extreme school of Idealists maintain. The existence of thought is an event, and really implies the existence of an infinite and perfect First Cause.
7. But further, it has been laid down as a self-evident proposition, that whatever is self-existent is infinite. Of matter it should also be said that it cannot be infinite, for since one of its essential properties is form, and whatever has form cannot be infinite, it must therefore be finite and dependent, and imply the existence of a First Cause out of and above itself; which First Cause is self-existent, infinite, and perfect.
8. Again, our own minds we know to be limited or finite. Our conscious existence implies the existence of God.
9. Again, from what has been said it follows, that whether the universe is all matter, or all mind, or only thought, or whether all this matter, mind, and thought exist, God’s existence is equally implied as the infinite and perfect First Cause.
10. Again, knowing ourselves to exist, the nonexistence of God is inconceivable; therefore nihilism is a contradiction and an impossible conception. Suppose any one would say, that he could conceive that nihilism should be true, in the assertion he contradicts himself. He says, I can conceive that there is no existence; but who has this conception? And what is the conception itself? The very existence of the conception shows the absurdity of the statement; and that he who affirms that it is possible that nothing does in fact exist contradicts himself; no such conception is conceivable.
VI. ARGUMENT FROM CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
1. Man is capable of being directly taught of God; this cannot be rationally denied. We are conscious of being spirit, and we necessarily conceive of him as spirit. If any one denies that God as a Spirit can instruct our spirits by a direct communication with us, the burden of proof is certainly on him.
2. Again, man is capable of being conscious that he is taught of God. The prophets were so; and every spiritual mind has this consciousness at times. If it be asked how the prophets knew that they were directly inspired of God, I cannot tell; and perhaps they could not tell how God taught them. But they were distinctly conscious that it was God, and no other than God, that taught them. If it should be objected, as it may be, that they may have been deceived, that the false prophets certainly were deceived and therefore all prophets may have been; I answer, it is true that men may be deceived, as in a dream they may think themselves awake; nevertheless, when they are awake they are aware of it. So if a false prophet may have been deceived, it does not follow that the true prophets were not sure that they were not deceived. If God can directly inspire a man, he can certainly make him aware that he is not deceived; else how could an honest man ever affirm himself to be inspired by God? But if God can directly and personally teach the human mind, and we can be personally aware of it; then we can be conscious of the existence of God in the fact that he personally enlightens and instructs us.
3. But again, man is capable of communion, and sympathy, and moral union with God. If anyone denies this, the burden of proof is upon him. Our necessary conception of God is that he is a mind as we are; that he has intellect, sensibility, and will, as we have. We necessarily conceive ourselves as being in his image. Now this necessary conception which we have of God must be substantially the same conception. To deny it were to call in question our fundamental and irresistible convictions; or in other words, to deny a first truth of reason.
If, then, man is in the image of God, he must be capable of knowing him, of sympathizing with him, and of moral union with him, agreeing with him in design or motive, living for the same end for which he lives. And it is plain that this sympathy may be a sympathy with his views, and therefore intellectual; with his choice, and therefore moral; and with his feelings, and therefore belonging to the sensibility. Thus our whole mind is capable of this communion, and union, and sympathy with God.
4. Again, if we have this communion, and sympathy, and union, we must be conscious of it.
5. Again, millions of the wisest and best of human beings have had this consciousness for years, have avowed this consciousness, have lived in accordance with the existence of such a consciousness. Now, the existence of this consciousness is to the individual a certain knowledge of the existence of God; he is conscious of the existence of God in his personal knowledge of him, communion and sympathy with him. By this I do not mean that he is conscious of his infinity; but he is conscious that he has union with the divine mind, with one whom he certainly regards as infinite and perfect. To the individual, the existence of God is a fact in consciousness.
6. Again, the testimony of those who have this consciousness is valid. They are competent witnesses; they are credible witnesses. Myriads of them in every way, in life and death, give evidence of entire sincerity, and also of being intelligent in their affirmations. Now this testimony is good in its kind; for if one cannot testify to that of which he is conscious, of what can he testify? For this is a certain form of knowledge. The testimony, then, of witnesses who give the highest evidence of sincerity and of virtue in their life and death that can be given, is valid testimony.
To this, it may be, and HAS BEEN OBJECTED, FIRST, that multitudes have evidently been deceived. To this I answer: Evidently been deceived? How has this deception been evident? Has it appeared in their lives or temper? Or, have they testified to contradictions and abnormalities? The objection assumes that there was evidence that they were deceived. Now I admit that many have been deceived, and have given evidence that they were deceived, but this does not begin to prove that all have been deceived. Of many it cannot be said that they have evidently been deceived; for there is no evidence that they were deceived, but the highest evidence that they were not deceived. The fact that many have been deceived does not prove by any means that others may not know that they are not deceived; any more than that a man’s supposing himself to be awake when he is asleep proves that he cannot know when he is awake.
OBJECTION SECOND: This argument from consciousness may be, and is, plead[sic.] by the Spiritists. They affirm that they are conscious of direct communion with spirits. To this I answer (1) That the cases are not parallel. Those who are conscious of communion with God are aware of this communion in its directly transforming influence in giving to them a new inward experience, or a new inward spiritual life, filling them with love, and joy, and peace, and adoring views of his attributes and character; of the purifying and elevating influence of this communion. In short, they are not merely aware of its being communion with a spirit, but with a Divine Spirit; and that this communion is to them a new life, spiritual, heavenly; and that it influences the will, the intellect, and the sensibility, and is transforming in its influence, covering the whole of our inward experience and developing itself in a holy life. Now nothing like this is so much as affirmed by the Spiritists. Most of their affirmations are manifestly inferences which they draw from material facts. They hear a rapping, and infer that it is a spirit. But this is no consciousness; they are only conscious of hearing raps. Again, they profess to hear words; to be taught to write involuntarily, or without knowing what they write; to be taught to speak in an unknown tongue, without knowing what they speak; and sometimes to speak impromptu, not from themselves, but from spirits with them.
Now who does not see that all this is inference? Suppose all the facts which they allege really exist; the testimony is not in point. How do they know that it is a spirit that moves their hand? And that it is such or such a spirit? How do they know that it is a spirit that produces these effects? Are they directly conscious of this spirit within themselves in such a sense as Christians are conscious of communion with God? I am not aware that Spiritists make any such pretensions. But if they do, do they give as high evidence of sincerity, intelligence, and honesty, as spiritual and heavenly minded Christians do? Now I must say that I do not believe that any such testimony in favor of Spiritism exists, or ever did exist.
But (2), If this kind of testimony does in fact exist, which is really the testimony of consciousness, of course it is to be received. The testimony of consciousness is conclusive, and not to be disposed of by such an objection as this. If Spiritists can actually give us the testimony of consciousness that they have had communion with spirits, and know them — if they are directly conscious of this, it must be true. No one surely can affirm that no such communion is possible; but do they have such communion? Do they give so high evidence to others that they have this communion, that their testimony ought to be received by them? I do not believe that any such testimony exists among them.
Again, while I admit that the testimony of consciousness with regard to communion with finite spirits might be valid, yet I do not admit that it could be valid in the same sense in which the testimony of conscious communion with God can be valid. If God communes with us and we with him, he must be interested to make us fully aware of it. He is able to make us fully aware of it, and to render it impossible that we should be deceived; and such in fact has been the consciousness of the inspired writers and of spiritual Christians in all ages. They really no more doubt their communion with God than they doubt their own existence. If you ask them how they know it, they cannot tell how, anymore than they can tell how they can see an object when their eyes are open upon it; nor any more than they can tell how they are conscious of their own existence. But they can tell you that this communion is to them an indubitable reality; that while it exists it cannot be doubted; and that it is only when it has passed away and cannot be renewed in consciousness, that it is possible to doubt it.
7. Again, in the course of theological inquiries it will be seen that the testimony of consciousness is conclusive upon many theological questions. I have been astonished that so little importance seemed to be attached by Christians, and Christian writers, to this form of testimony. I know that it has been objected that it will not be received by skeptics. But why should it not? Skeptics can resist the evidence of miracles, can deny the evidence of their sense, can call in question first truths of reason; but after all they possess minds, and with all their denials it is impossible for them to get rid of the deep conviction that such a testimony ought to be received. I ask, why should not skeptics receive the oral and written testimony of millions of spiritual minds that affirm that they know God by a direct personal knowledge and intercourse with him; that they are aware of communion with him, of being taught by him, of being led, sustained, and saved from sin by him? They have testified that their communion with him has resulted in a radical change of the great end of their being; that it has resulted in the permanent reformation of their lives; that they have for years kept up habitually and more or less constantly this communion with him, the result of which has been evident to all that knew them. Thus they have lived on the comforts of this intercourse with God; thus they have been sustained in holy living and triumphing over the trials of life; and thus they have died, testifying in life and death that God is, that they know him, have communion with him, and walk with him.
Now why should not this testimony be received on this subject? They surely are competent witnesses in the sense that they know what they say and whereof they affirm. They are also credible witnesses; for they give every evidence in life and in death of entire honesty. Again, they are innumerable, and are uniform in their testimony and agree together. No fact then was ever established by so good and so much testimony from human beings as this. Why, then, should infidels not receive it? To say that individuals have been deceived is nothing to the purpose; for in cases where individuals have been deceived, it is admitted that they have given evidence of being deceived. If this were not so, then there is no ground for saying that any ever were deceived. But what shall we say of those who have given no evidence of having been deceived? The fact that others have been deceived on a question of consciousness, in other words, have misinterpreted the facts of consciousness, or have never had in fact any such consciousness, is no ground for the contention that all have been deceived.
In consciousness I know God through my sensibility, and not through my intelligence merely. With my eyes shut I can recognize the presence of heat. I never saw heat. But I know it in feeling. God sheds his love, that is, himself, abroad in my sensibility. I know that this is God’s love, and yet that it is in my heart. I feel it and cannot but know it is God. I cannot tell how I know it; the fact I know. To deny this is to shut us up to speculation, and shut us out from all really transforming knowledge of God. The intuitive function, sense, gets all its intuitions through the sensibility. Sense is spiritual, although the organs of sense are material. In consciousness I seem to have a sense that is related to God. Material objects are revealed to me in and through sensation. I do not infer the existence of the material from sensation, but through sensation I directly behold the material. So in the warmth and light and love and peace and joy of our inward experience I directly and irresistibly recognize God. I feel after God and find him, and I know that I feel and find God. If we can know our organism, or the not me in consciousness, surely we may know God in consciousness. I am conscious of feeling God in my soul. I know it is God and no other than God. The how I do not know. This, like all other knowledge, is a mystery as to the how. (This paragraph added later, in different hand writing, perhaps when he was old — Gordon Olson).
VII. METHOD OF THE NATURAL REASON.
We have seen that the moral function of the reason, conscience, directly assumes the existence of God as Moral Governor. But does the natural reason, or the function of the reason applied to natural objects and truths, as distinguished from moral objects and truths, necessarily assume and affirm the existence of God? I answer, Yes. Our own existence is a fact, an ultimate fact of consciousness. The existence of the human race is itself a fact of consciousness. This fact of our own conscious existence is the platform on which we stand. This fact it assumes; and it is impossible for us to forget it or not to assume it. Now the human reason, assuming as it does its own existence, directly affirms the existence of God as its logical antecedent, or more strictly as the condition of its existence. God’s existence it knows to be implied in the fact of its own existence.
The human reason, therefore, necessarily assumes the existence of God as being implied in its own existence. The fact of its own existence and the existence of God are both intuitively and necessarily affirmed, self-existence in reason implying the existence of God. Therefore, knowing as we do, by an absolute knowledge, that we ourselves exist, it is really a necessary and universal assumption of reason that God exists; and in this sense the existence of God is a first truth of reason, a truth of universal and necessary assumption.
VIII. SUMMARY REMARKS.
Where, then, do we find ourselves at the present stage of our inquiries on the question of the divine existence?
1. His existence has been demonstrated by the argument a posteriori, reasoning from effect to cause.
2. The reality of his existence has been shown to be an a priori knowledge of conscience.
3. The reality of his existence has also been shown to be a necessary assumption of the reason, implied in its existence. That man being conscious of his own existence, and reason necessarily assuming its own existence, affirms the existence of God directly as the logical condition of its own existence.
4. It has been shown that the fact of his existence is, in multitudes of cases, a truth or a fact of direct and personal consciousness.
5. It has been shown that as certain as any fact or event ever existed, whatever that fact or event might be, God exists. If there ever was any event, God exists. If there ever was a phenomenon, God exists. If there ever was an act, or a thought, or a doubt in existence, God exists. If this is not proof sufficient and conclusive, then it is impossible to prove anything. It has been said, and strangely enough, that the existence of God could not be proved. But we have seen the contrary. Indeed, it is easy to prove the existence of God in so many ways and by such an accumulation of evidence, that to deny his existence is simply ridiculous.
6. The testimony from consciousness or experience is, after all, that which will most affect and best satisfy a certain class of skeptics, matter of fact minds. There are certain important though unrecognized distinctions between:
(1) How we know and how to prove to others certain truths, for example, the existence of God. We know by intuition, conscious experience. We prove by demonstration, and by our own testimony. We know a priori, we prove a posteriori.
(2) We know the truths given by reason, consciousness, and sense, by intuition. We prove the truths of reason by a perspicuous statement, of consciousness and sense, either by our own testimony or by appeals to the consciousness and sense of those to be convinced.
(3) We know many things that we cannot prove, that is, our personal identity, our moral liberty or freedom.
(4) He who insists upon proving everything, can prove nothing.
(5) Truths that we know by intuition, either of reason, consciousness, or sense, we cannot prove to ourselves, because there is no truth more certainly known from which to reason. (Section 6 added in less clear writing, perhaps later in life). (In this lecture, Roman numerals and outline headings added, although some were indicated — Gordon Olson).
Lectures by Professor Finney.
Reported for the Evangelist, by Rev. S.D. Cochran.
“So we see that they could not enter in, because of unbelief.”–Heb. 3:19.
In this discourse I shall notice,
I. WHAT UNBELIEF IS NOT.
II. WHAT IT IS.
III. INSTANCES AND EVIDENCE OF UNBELIEF.
IV. THE TENDENCY OF UNBELIEF.
V. THE GUILT OF UNBELIEF.
I. What unbelief is not.
1. It is not a negative state of mind. It is represented in the Bible as sin; it cannot, therefore, be a mere negation.
2. Nor is it ignorance. Ignorance may be caused by unbelief, turning away the attention from the objects of faith. But ignorance itself is not unbelief. Nor is it absence of conviction. This is often an effect of unbelief.
II. What it is.
1. It is represented in the Bible as sin. It must then, be a voluntary state of mind. It cannot belong either to the intelligence or the sensibility. For the action of both these powers is necessary.
2. It is the opposite of faith. Faith is represented as voluntary. It cannot, therefore, be conviction, since this belongs to the intelligence. It is trust or confidence in God; it is a committing of the soul to Him; as Peter says, ‘Commit the keeping of your soul to Him.’
3. Generically, faith as distinguished from everything else, is confidence in God; but specifically, it is confidence in Christ, or in any fact, doctrine, promise, or threatening of the Bible. And I might add, in any truth whatever, historical, philosophical, or mathematical; or even in error. If it respects the promises of God, it is a confident assurance that they will be fulfilled. If it respects facts, it is confidence in the truthfulness of the fact. Unbelief is the opposite of this. It is a withholding of confidence from what God says; it is distrust; it is a refusal to commit or give up the mind to the influence of a truth or promise; it is a rejection of evidence. For example; take any of the facts recorded in the Bible. Unbelief, is a refusal to credit their truthfulness, or to allow them that influence which they deserve. For instance, look at the manner in which the Jews treated the miracles of Christ. Christ claimed to be the Messiah, and in attestation of his claim, performed many wonderful works. Here was evidence that He really was what He professed to be. If He had not furnished such evidence, it would not have been unbelief to reject his claim. He might have lived and died among them, without their incurring any guilt by rejecting Him. But the works which He performed, were such as ought to have secured the confidence of every beholder, and established his claim in every mind. But instead of yielding to the evidence thus presented, they stedfastly resisted Him, and ascribed his miracles to infernal agency; and it would seem, that their disposition to reject Him was so strong, that no amount of evidence which He could place before them, could overcome it. Now this was unbelief. We may apply the same principle to other things. Take, for example, the doctrine of Phrenology. If an individual really lacks evidence of its truth, it is not unbelief to reject it. On the contrary, to receive it without such evidence, would be mere credulity. But just as far as he has evidence of its truth, it is unbelief to refuse to treat it accordingly. So with the doctrines of the Second Advent. If an individual has not such evidence of their truth, as to answer the demands of his intelligence, it is not unbelief to reject them. But if he has such evidence, then to reject them is unbelief. We might apply the same principle to the doctrine of Sanctification, or any other doctrine whatever, whether true or false.
4. But especially is it unbelief, where individuals confess themselves convinced and do not act accordingly. If an individual confesses himself convinced of the truth of the doctrine of the Second Advent, if he does not commit his mind to the full influence of that doctrine, it is unbelief; or if he admits the truth of the doctrine of Entire Sanctification, and does not commit himself to it, and expect to realize it in his own case, he is guilty of unbelief. And it is unbelief, whether he admits it or not, if he has reasonable evidence of its truth, and yet does not yield his whole being up to its influence.
III. Instances and evidences of unbelief.
1. A heathen who never heard the gospel, is not an unbeliever as respects Christ, in any proper sense of the word; He knows nothing about it, and consequently, withholds no confidence from it; but a man who lives under the gospel, and is not controlled by it, is an unbeliever.
2. A want of assurance of salvation through Christ, is unbelief. This must be so, if the Atonement is general, and if faith consists in believing what is said respecting it. The Apostle says, ‘that this is the record which God hath given to us, eternal life, and this life is in his Son.’ Now if it be true that God hath given eternal life to all, then not to possess an assurance of your own salvation through Christ, is unbelief.
3. Not being duly influenced by any perceived truth, is unbelief; no matter what that truth is. Faith is a disposition to be influenced by it, or the committing of the mind to its influence, in exact accordance with its perceived importance.
4. The absence of a firm confidence and expectation, that we shall realize the truth of every promise given to us, is unbelief. For example, God has promised to parents, to bless their children; then, not to have the most confident assurance that He will do so, is unbelief. And the same is true respecting every promise, either of justification or sanctification.
5. God has promised the salvation of all that believe; now, to doubt whether we shall be saved, is both an evidence and an instance of unbelief. Remember too, that the salvation promised, is salvation from both sin and hell. To this, it is objected, that the promise of salvation is conditional; and, says the objector, I have no right to believe that I shall be saved, until I have believed in Christ; for faith, is the condition of the promise, and to require me to believe that I shall be saved, before I believe in Christ, is to require me to believe a fact before it is true. To this, I answer,
(1.) By inquiring of the objector what I am to believe about Christ? Plainly, I am to believe in Him, as the Savior. That is, that He tasted death for every man, and that He hath given us eternal life. Two things, then, I must believe; first, that He died for all, and of course, for me; and secondly, that He will save me. Suppose an angel should believe that Christ died for all the world, would that be faith in Christ? Certainly not, in the sense in which the Bible requires us to believe in Him; and I do not believe, in any proper sense, unless I believe He died for me. I must believe, not only, that He died for all, but for me; not only that justification is offered to all, but to me; and true faith, is accepting of eternal salvation at his hand. Now observe what the objection is; that the realization of the promise, is conditioned on faith, and that the condition must be fulfilled, before I can believe that the promise will be realized, and I shall be saved. This is a mere trick. It is to suppose a promise given, but on a condition that nullifies it. Suppose a rich father should give his son a promise in writing, and under oath, that he would supply all his wants, and should send him abroad, but the condition demanded of the son, was that he should exercise full faith in the promise. He must believe, that it will secure for him a supply of money in any of the banks of Europe, according to the tenor of the writing. Now, I want to know, if this is a condition that would nullify the promise. Plainly not, since the condition is not arbitrary, but naturally essential to its fulfillment. If he does not confide in the promise, and expect its fulfillment it is naturally impossible that it should be fulfilled. On the contrary, how plain it is, that faith in the promise naturally secures its fulfillment. God has given the promise of eternal salvation to all that believe. The condition is not arbitrary, but natural, so that the fulfillment of the promise to each individual necessarily depends on his faith in it. Now is it faith to stand away back, and say, Christ died for everybody else, and will save everybody else, if they will believe, and not believe yourself? What a strange objection! The truth is, if this objection be good, it nullifies every promise in the Bible. God has promised to convert the world, but the fulfillment of this promise, is conditioned on the faith of christians. For them to believe it, is to deliver themselves up to it, and preach the gospel to them. Now does this condition hinder faith? Is it a sly and artful means of evasion, put in by the promiser to prevent the necessity of his ever fulfilling the promise? Nay, but the condition is natural, and involves the expectation of the thing promised. So God has promised to bless the children of believers, if they will believe; that is, if they will give themselves up to this truth. Now to believe, is to fulfill the condition, and for persons to take the ground of the objector, is to stumble themselves. The objection, then, cannot be good.
(2.) In every case, faith expects the fulfillment of the promise, and this expectation is not founded upon the promise itself, but on the general character of the promiser. When God gives any promise, if an individual does not believe in it, because he believes in the general character of God, he cannot believe in it at all. Without confidence in the benevolence and veracity of God, it is impossible to rely upon his promises; but confidence in these, naturally secures such reliance.
(3.) God has promised to justify and sanctify every believer, or every one who will believe and expect this of Him. The condition is natural, and it is nonsense to say, that we cannot expect to be justified and sanctified until after we have believed; for to believe, is to expect. Not to expect, is unbelief; for to expect in this case, is implied in faith. Much has been said about appropriating faith, and I have been struck with the fact, that believers in a limited Atonement, have much to say about appropriating faith. But a limited Atonement and appropriating faith can’t go together. If the former is true, the latter is impossible without a new revelation. For if Christ died for only a part of mankind, and has not revealed who they are, I would ask, how any one can appropriate Him to himself, without a direct revelation that he is one of the elect. But right over against this class, those who believe in a general Atonement, are consistent enough in holding the doctrine of appropriating faith; for to appropriate, is simply to accept of Christ, as presented in the gospel. If Christ died for all, then each may appropriate Him, and this is faith. Whoever does not appropriate Him, just as He is presented, rejects; he is an unbeliever.
(4.) Finally, if this objection is true, salvation is impossible; for if I can never expect to be saved by Christ until after I have believed, I can never expect it at all; for I have said, true faith, and the expectation of salvation by Him, are identical.
IV. The tendency of unbelief.
1. It defeats all God’s efforts to save those who exercise it. As I have said already, faith is the natural condition of salvation, and is a voluntary exercise. It cannot, therefore, be forced; and therefore, if an individual will not believe, he must be damned.
2. It defeats all his efforts to sanctify us. Sanctification is nothing else than delivering up the mind to the truth and promises of God. To think, then, that we can be saved while we reject the promises, is to overlook the very nature of sanctification.
3. It renders heart obedience impossible, for ‘without faith, it is impossible to please God.’
4. It prevents the possibility of true peace. The unbeliever does not know what true peace is. His condition, is in some respects, like that of a person in sleep, who has terrible dreams, who supposes himself surrounded with dangers from flood, or fire, or dreadful circumstances; perhaps suffering shipwreck, and just on the point of being swallowed up in the waves. Perhaps he is struggling to escape from devouring flames, or he walks a miserable outcast from society, troubled on every side, and finding nothing on which he can repose, his agony is indescribable, but in a moment he awakes, and behold, he is in a warm bed in his own secure dwelling. He thanks God it is a dream. How great the contrast between his present state and that in which his dreams placed him. So the convicted unbeliever is tossed with agitation, he looks this way and that, but finds no rest. ‘He is like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.’ ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.’ Now mark; as soon as he believes, what a change comes over him. It is like the sun breaking out in an ocean of storms. He sees promises on every side, like the mountains round about Jerusalem. He sees provisions for all his wants, and why should he be troubled any more. ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul,’ he cries. What is this? Why here, instead of bondage, misery and death, is endless life and peace; and the broad river of love, as pure as that which flows from under the throne of God, begins to pour its current through my soul.
5. Unbelief renders it impossible for Christ to keep us from sin. The Bible, however full of promises, may rot before him, and he go down to hell notwithstanding. Unbelief nullifies them all, and leaves nothing to help him.
6. It delivers the soul over into the hands of the world, the flesh, and the devil. There is no power in the universe can protect him against their influence, without his own consent, for the very reason that he is a free being. Withholding faith from God, and delivering himself up to their influence, he becomes the sport and play of every temptation that besets him.
V. The guilt of unbelief.
1. It is the wilful rejection of the highest evidence God can give. Suppose you had an enemy who always suspected you of an intention to injure him, and although you had often tried to remove his suspicions, he should still hold this opinion. Suppose he should fall into great difficulties, and you should take much pains to help him out, you should relieve the wants of his family, and provide for his children, but still he should suspect you had some sinister end in all this, which would eventually come out; would you not think him vastly unreasonable and guilty in maintaining such prejudices? But suppose, finally, his house should take fire, and he and his family were in an upper story, while it was raging in every apartment below. No one can afford help; there are no ladders and no means of escape. The floor beneath him begins to give way, and the roof is about falling in; they stand at the windows and shriek for help. Suddenly one rushes through the flames, from one flight of stairs to another, with his hair and clothes on fire, till he reaches the miserable family. He instantly seizes him with one strong arm, and his children with the other, and carries them safely below. While he is doing this, the man swoons with terror. As soon as he opens his eyes, he finds himself in the arms of his deliverer, who, with the utmost solicitude and tenderness, is fanning him, and is using means to restore him; and whose first exclamation is, “your children are all safe.” He soon discovers that his benefactor is no other than the object of his former suspicions. Now suppose he should still not be convinced, what an abomination would this be. How every one would execrate such a wilful and unreasonable rejection of the highest evidence you could give of your benevolence towards him. But suppose farther, he were condemned to death, and you should voluntarily step forward and die for him. What an amazing prejudice and obstinacy would be manifest, if he should entertain suspicions of the sincerity of your love. Now let me ask, what further evidence God could give of his love to mankind than He has given? Besides crowning their life with as many blessings as their circumstances render it possible to bestow, He adds the gift of his own Son to die for them; and has thus given the highest possible evidence He could, of his good will towards them. What damning guilt, then, must their unbelief be. Suppose the sovereign of an extensive empire, is seeking to promote the highest possible good of his subjects, through the administration of the most excellent laws. But one province of his empire goes into rebellion. He has power to crush it at once. But suppose, that instead of marching an army, bristling with bayonets, among them, and desolating them with fire and sword, he should lay aside the robes of royalty, and in a most unassuming manner, go among them, and attempt to teach them the nature of his own character and laws, and the importance of conformity to his will, in order to their own highest good. But suppose again, they would not believe him, but suspect him of some sinister motive, how astonishing this would be; and if, to convince them of his love, he should even die for them, who would not expect this to subdue the rebellion? Now see the blessed God administering the law of benevolence impartially, throughout his universe. Our world rebels. He comes in the person of his Son, in the humble guise of humanity; He goes about among mankind, revealing to them the character and will of God, and endeavoring to secure their confidence. And when they reject his instructions and will not believe, rather than fail to accomplish his end, He dies for them on the cross. What higher evidence could God give of his love to man than this? and how outrageous is the unbelief, which wilfully rejects it all? What more could He do? Can you think of anything more? How damning then, must be the guilt of unbelief!
2. It is treating God in the worst possible manner. We never do our friends a worse injury, than when we distrust them without a cause. Should a husband become jealous and distrustful of his wife, without a cause, what greater injury could he do her? It would pierce like a dagger to her heart. Or, should a wife manifest unreasonable suspicions respecting her husband, what more could she do to render him wretched? He would say, have you any reasons for your suspicions? Let me ask that husband who is conscious of his integrity, and has tender sensibilities–let me ask that wife, who is virtuous, and values the confidence of her husband, as she should–how would you feel? How would you expostulate in the circumstances supposed?–and what would be more directly calculated to bring the blight of death upon the peace of a family, than such unreasonable distrust, on the part of a husband or wife? Now look at God’s great family. What family ever had such cause of confidence, as God’s has?–and what father, ever had such cause of complaint? What husband was ever so distrusted, by a wife, as the blessed God, by the Church which He has bought with his own blood? See that husband; he is pouring his complaints all abroad, and loading down the air with his sighs. Now, I ask again, if this want of confidence is not the worst possible kind of treatment? Men naturally feel insulted, whenever their veracity and integrity are called in question. And has God no sensibility? Is it no grief to Him to be treated as a liar, the world over?
3. It is dishonoring God in the highest degree before others. Suppose a father should send his son to a University, and should give him a book of checks, assuring him, that they were good to supply all his wants. But suppose the son should show that he had no confidence in it, and should be seen managing around to meet his expenses, and to obtain his books. Would not this be to publish the worst things, in the most effectual way about his father? What then does unbelief publish about God? See that professor of religion, with the Bible in his hands, full of promises, going all about, complaining and mourning over his spiritual poverty, when God has said, that He is ‘more willing to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask it, than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children.’ And that ‘ his grace shall be sufficient for us.’ What is he doing? Why he is representing God in the worst possible light, as guilty, not only of lying, but of lying under oath; for ‘God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the only hope set before us.’
1. We see what to think of those, who say they cannot realize that the promises will be fulfilled. Can’t realize! Hark! Suppose your child should say, Pa, you promised to give me a New Year’s present, but I can’t realize that you will. You would say, my child, do you think I lie? Have I not given you my word, that I would give you a present? What higher evidence can men have than the solemn word and oath of God? What shall make it more sure? Who shall underwrite for Him? If what He has said does not satisfy you, He can give no security. Can’t realize! Horrible!
2. We see what to think of those who say they believe, but are not duly influenced by their faith. They profess to believe in the necessity of salvation, and in the eternity of hell torments; but then neither act respecting themselves or others, as the magnitude of these truths demand. The fact is, they don’t believe at all.
3. We see, that no doctrine is believed any farther than it influences the conduct. What is faith? It is, as we have shown, the delivering of the mind up to the influence of known truth. It follows, then, that there is no faith where the conduct remains uninfluenced.
4. Heretical conduct proves heretical faith. The truth is, all heresy belongs to the heart; and however holy a man’s creed may be, if his conduct is wrong, he is heretical in heart.
5. We see the wickedness of admitting that the gospel proffers entire sanctification in this life, and yet not expecting it. There are those, as you know who admit that the gospel proffers entire sanctification, on condition of faith–they admit that its provisions are ample, and yet do not expect to possess it in this life. What is that, but unbelief?
6. We see also the wickedness of saying, that the expectation of it is unreasonable and erroneous. They say, that to believe we shall actually attain it in this life is a great, and dangerous error. What is that but unbelief in its worst form?
7. Also the guilt of those, who teach men, that it is an error to expect sanctification in this life, and raise the cry of heresy against those who do teach them to expect it. If it is promised, it must be sheer unbelief and dreadful guilt to doubt it.
8. The good men who formerly rejected this doctrine, did not see, and admit, the fulness of the provisions. President Edwards, for example, did not admit this, and it is manifest, from the account which he gives of his wife’s experience, as well as from his writings generally, that he had no such idea before his mind.
9. But what shall we say of those who make this admission, and yet do not expect the blessing? They do not seem to understand that this is unbelief. They say, they do not distrust God, but they distrust themselves. This is a great mistake. If faith is implicit confidence in God’s promises, and if these promises cover full provisions for sanctification, then there is no room left for self-distrust; and in that case, self-distrust is distrust in God. Take, for example, this promise. ‘And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.’ Here is a promise, covering the wants of our whole nature. Now, I want to know what state of mind that is, which does not expect its realization? Whether it is self-distrust, or distrust in God? It is downright unbelief. It is virtually saying, Lord, Thou hast promised to ‘sanctify me wholly in soul, body, and spirit,’ but I don’t believe it. I don’t believe thou canst, I have such distrust in myself.
10. There is no consistency in making the admission of full provisions, and then rejecting the expectation of being sanctified by them.
11. How can the expectation of being sanctified in this life, be rejected without unbelief, in view of I Thess. 5:23, 24. Suppose I get up, and read over this promise–‘And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it,’ and then turn round and say, now brethren, I warn you against believing that He will sanctify you. But the promise comes thundering back–‘Faithful is He that calleth you who also will do it.’ I rally again, and say, Edwards, and Payson, and Brainerd, were not sanctified, and why should you expect to be? What would that differ from the course adopted by most of the ministers at the present time? But here comes up the old cavil, that although provisions are made, yet they are conditioned on faith, and I have no right to expect sanctification till I believe. I answer, faith and expectation are identical; and if you do not expect sanctification, you do not believe God, and are making Him a liar.
12. To tell men not to expect to be wholly sanctified in this life, and preserved blameless, is to warn them not to believe God.
13. You can see why you do not enter into rest. It is because you have no faith. You have not cast your anchor within the vail. You are like a vessel, drifting along the majestic Niagara, towards the falls, and already approaching destruction; but will not let down its anchor, although it knows the rocks are within reach, upon which it might fasten and be safe. Or, like a man in a dungeon, to whom a golden chain is let down, and who is exhorted to lay hold and be drawn up, but will not.
14. It is wicked to expect to sin all our days. God has said, ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace.’ Therefore, to expect to live, carrying about a load of sin, till you die, is abominable wickedness.
15. The Church is never like[ly] to be holy, while it is exhorted to unbelief, instead of faith. It is a horrible thing, that much of the teaching of the present day, is nothing else than teaching men not to believe God. And lest they should expect sanctification, they are pointed back to those, who profess to come short of it–to antinomian perfectionism–and to every thing which may bring the doctrine into disrepute, and are warned against it, as if it were the pestilence. O, my soul, what is this! Is this the way the Church is to be sanctified? My brethren if you mean to be kept from sin, and antinomianism of every kind, and from every other delusion, take hold of these promises, and believe. Expect them to be fulfilled, and they will be. But if you doubt you shall walk in blindness. For says the Prophet, ‘If ye will not believe, ye shall not be established.’