RPM, Volume 16, Number 32, August 3 to August 9, 2014

Systematic Theology

Hebrews 2:5-9

By R. L. Dabney, D. D., LL. D.

Chapter 1: The Existence of God

What is Theology?
Its Divisions.
Is Natural Theology a Science?
Two Arguments for God's Existence.
Argument of S. Clarke, of J. Howe, of Breckinridge.
Teleological Argument. Teleological Argument applied in instances.
Ethical Argument Consensus Popularum Universe a Singular effect.
Atheistic theory of Infinite Series.

[Lectures 1 & 2]

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 1: The Existence of God

Syllabus for Lecture 1 & 2:

1. What is Theology; and what its Divisions? Prove that there is a Science of Natural Theology.
Turrettin, Loc. i, Qu. 2-3. Thornwell, Collected Works, Vol. i. Lecture I, pp. 25-36.

2. What two Lines of Argument to prove the Existence of a God? What the a priori arguments? Are they valid?
Stillingfleet, Origines Sacree, book. iii, ch. i. Thornwell, Lecture ii, p. 51, etc. Dr. Samuel Clarke. Discourse of the Being and Attributes of God, c. l-12. Chalmers' Nat. Theol., Lecture iii. Dick. Lecture xvi. Cudworth's Intellect.

3. State the Arguments of Clarke. Of Howe. Are they sound? Are they a priori?
Dr. S. Clarke, as above. J. Howe's Living Temple, ch. 2, & 9 to end. Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding. book. iv. ch. 10.

4. State the Argument of Breckinridge's Theology. Is it valid?
"Knowledge of God Objective," book. i, ch 5. Review of Breck. Theol. in Central Presbyterian, March to April, 1858.

5. Give an outline of the Argument from Design. Paley, Nat. Theol. ch. i, 2.
Xenophon's Memorabilia, lib. I, ch. v. Cicero De Natura Deorum, lib. ii Sect. 2-8. Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. I. Theological Treatises generally.

6. Show in a few instances how the Argument from Design is drawn from Animal Organisms, from Man's Mental and Emotional Structure, and from the Adaptation of Matter to our Mental Faculties.
See Paley, Nat. Theol. book. iv, ch. iii, 16. Chalmers' Nat. Theol. book. iv, ch. i, 2-5.

7. Can the being of God be argued from the existence of Conscience?
Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. I, Section14 15. Hodge, Syst. Theol. part i, ch. ii, as Alexander's Moral Science ch. xii. Chalmers' Nat. Theol. book. iii, ch. 2.
Charnock Attributes, Discourse i, Sect. 3. Kant, Critique of the Practical Reason. Thornwell, Lecture ii.

8. What the value of the Argument from the Consensus Populorum?
Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. i, Sections 16-18. Dick, Lecture xvii. Cicero de Nat. Deorum lib. i. Charnock, Discourse i, Section 1.

9. Refute the evasion of Hume: That the Universe is a Singular Effect.

Alexander's Moral Science, ch. xxviii. Chalmer's Nat. Theol. book. i, ch. 4.
Watson's Theo. Institutes, pt ii, ch. i. Hodge, pt. i, ch. ii. Sect. 4. Reign of Law, Duke of Argyle, ch. iii.

10. Can the Universe be accounted for without a Creator, as an infinite series of Temporal Effects?
Alexander's Moral Science, ch. xxviii. Turrettin, as above, Sections 6-7. Dr. S. Clarke's Discourse Section 2. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1st Antinomy.

11. Refute the Pantheistic Scheme of the Universe.
Thornwell, Lecture ix. Alex. Moral Science, ch. xxviii. Dr. S. Clarke's Discourse, etc. Section 3, 7, 9, etc. Chalmers' Nat Theol., book. i, ch. v. Hodge, pt. i, ch. iii Sect. 5, Thornwell, "Personality of God," in Works, vol. i, p. 490.

What Is Theology?

It is justly said: Every science should begin by defining its terms, in order to shun verbal fallacies. The word Theology, (qeou logo"), has undergone peculiar mutations in the history of science. The Greeks often used it for their theories of theogony and cosmogony. Aristotle uses it in a more general form, as equivalent to all metaphysics; dividing theoretical philosophy into physical, mathematical, and theological. Many of the early Christian fathers used it in the restricted sense of the doctrine of Christ's divinity: (SCIL. Iwannh" oqeologo"), But now it has come: to be used commonly, to describe the whole science of God's being and nature, and relations to the creature. The name is appropriate: "Science of God." Thomas Aquinas: "Theologia a Theo docetur, Deum docet, ad Deum ducit," God its author, its subject, its end.

Its Divisions.

The distribution of Theology into didactic, polemic, and practical, is sufficiently known. Now, all didactic inculcation of truth is indirect refutation of the opposite error. Polemic Theology has been defined as direct refutation of error. The advantage of this has been supposed to be, that the way for easiest and most thorough refutation is to systematize the error, with reference to its first principle, or prwton yeudo". But the attempt to form a science of polemics, different from Didactic Theology fails; because error never has true method. Confusion is its characteristic. The system of discussion, formed on its false method, cannot be scientific. Hence, separate treatises on polemics have usually slidden into the methods of didactics; or they have been confused. Again: Indirect refutation is more effectual than direct. There is therefore, in this course, no separate polemic; but what is said against errors is divided between the historical and didactic.

Is There A Natural Theology?

Theology is divided into natural and revealed, according to the sources of our knowledge of it; from natural reason; from revelation. What is science? Knowledge demonstrated and methodized. That there is a science of Natural Theology, of at least some certain and connected propositions, although limited, and insufficient for salvation at best, is well argued from Scripture, e. g., (Ps. 19:1-7. Acts 14:15; or 17:23. Rom. 1:19; 2:14, etc.); and from the fact that nearly all heathens have religious ideas and rites of worship. Not that religious ideas are innate: but the capacity to establish some such ideas, from natural data, is innate. Consider further: Is not this implied in man's capacity to receive a revealed theology? Does revelation demonstrate God's existence; or assume it? Does it rest the first truths on pure dogmatism, or on evidence which man apprehends? The latter; and then man is assumed to have some natural capacity for such apprehension. But if nature reflects any light concerning God, (as Scripture asserts), then man is capable of deriving some theology from nature.

Why Denied?

Some old divines were wont to deny that there was any science of Natural Theology, and to say that without revelation, man would not naturally learn its first truth. They attribute the grains of truth, mixed with the various polytheisms to the remnants of tradition descending from Noah's family. They urge that some secluded tribes, Hottentots, Australians, have no religious ideas; that some men are sincere atheists after reflection; and that there is the wildest variety, yea contradiction, between the different schools of heathens. These divines seem to fear lest, by granting a Natural Theology, they should grant too much to natural reason; a fear ungrounded and extreme. They are in danger of a worse consequence; reducing man's capacity for receiving divine verities so low, that the rational skeptic will be able to turn upon them and say: "Then by so inept a creature, the guarantees of a true revelation cannot be certainly apprehended."


To reply more in detail; I grant much influence to primeval traditions, (a subject of great interest learnedly discussed in Theo. Gale's Court of the Gentiles). But that so inconstant a cause is able to perpetuate in men these fixed convictions of the invisible, shows in man a natural religious capacity. That there have been atheistic persons and tribes, is inconclusive. Some tribes deduce no science of geometry, statics, or even numbers; but this does not prove man non-logical. Some profess to disbelieve axioms, as Hume that of causation; but this is far from proving man incapable of a natural science of induction. Besides, the atheism of these tribes is doubtful; savages are shrewd, suspicious, and fond of befooling inquisitive strangers by assumed stupidity. And last: the differences of Natural theology among polytheists are a diversity in unity; all involve the prime truths; a single first cause, responsibility, guilt, a future life, future rewards and punishments.

Existence of God: How Known?

2. The first truth of theology is the existence of God. The first question which meets us is: How man learns the existence of God? Dr. Charles Hodge states and argues that the knowledge of it is "innate." This assertion he explains by saying that it is "intuitive." [Systematic Theology, part 1 chapter 1]. It must be understood, however, that he also employs this term in a sense of his own. With him, any truth is intuitive, which is immediately perceived by the mind. He dissents from the customary definition of philosophers, [as Sir W. Hamilton] which requires simplicity, or primariness, as the trait of an intuitive judgment, He explains himself by saying, that to Newton, all the theorems of Euclid's first book were as immediately seen as the axioms; and therefore, to him, intuitions. We shall see, in a subsequent lecture, the dangers of this view. I hold, with the current of philosophers, that an intuitive truth is [a] one that is seen true without any premise, [b] so seen by all minds which comprehend its terms, [c] necessarily seen. Strictly, it cannot be said, that any intuitive truth is innate. The power of perceiving it is innate. The explanation of the case of Newton and of similiar ones, is easy: To his vigorous mind, the step from an intuitive premise to a near conclusion, was so prompt and easy as to attract no attention. Yet, the step was taken. When Dr. Hodge calls men's knowledge that there is a God "innate," i. e., "intuitive," his mistake is in confounding a single, short, clear step of deduction, made by common sense, with an intuition. He, very properly, exalts the ethical evidence into the chief place. But the amount of it is this: "The sentiment of responsibility (which is immediate) is intuitive." This implies an Obligator. True. But what is the evolution of this implication, save (e short, easy, and obvious step of) reasoning?

Divines and Christian philosophers, in the attempt to explain the belief in a God, which all men have, as a rational process, have resolved it into the one or the other of two modes of argument, the a priori and a posteriori. The latter infers a God by reasoning backwards from effects to cause. The former should accordingly mean reasoning downwards from cause to effect; the meaning attached to the phrase by Aristotle and his followers. But now the term a priori reasoning is used, in this connection, to denote a conclusion gained without the aid of experience, from the primary judgments, and especially, the attempt to infer the truth of a notion, directly from its nature or condition in the mind.

A Priori Argument. What, and By Whom Urged?

It appears to be common among recent writers (as Dick, Chalmers' Natural Theology), to charge Dr. Samuel Clarke as the chief asserter of the a priori argument among Englishmen. This is erroneous. It may be more correctly said to have been first intimated by Epicurus (whose atomic theory excluded the a posteriori argument;) as appears from a curious passage in Cicero, de natura Deorum, Lib. I. c. 16. It was more accurately stated by the celebrated DesCartes in his meditations; and naturalized to the English mind rather by Bishop Stillingfleet than by Dr. Clarke. The student may find a very distinct statement of it in the Origines Sacrae of the former, book III, chapter 1, § 14: while Dr. Clarke, § 8 of his Discourse, expressly says that the personal intelligence of God must be proved a posteriori, and not a priori. But DesCartes having founded his psychology on the two positions: 1st. Cogito; ergo sum; and 2nd. The Ego is spirit, not matter; proceeds to ask: Among all the ideas in the consciousness, how shall the true be distinguished from the false, seeing all are obviously not consistent? As to primary ideas, his answer is; by the clearness with which they commend themselves to our consciousness as immediate truths. Now, among our ideas, no other is so clear and unique as that of a first Cause, eternal and infinite. Hence we may immediately accept it as consciously true. Moreover, that we have this idea of a God, proves there must be a God; because were there none, the rise of His idea in our thought could not be accounted for; just as the idea of triangles implies the existence of some triangle. Now the a priori argument of Stillingfleet is but a specific application of DesCartes' method. We find, says he, that in thinking of a God we must think Him as eternal, self-existent, and necessarily existent. But since we indisputably do think a God, it is impossible but that God is. Since necessary existence is unavoidably involved in our idea of a God, therefore His existence must necessarily be granted.

Its Defect.

Now surely this process is not necessarily inconclusive, because it is a priori; there are processes, in which we validly determine the truth of a notion by simple inspection of its contents and conditions. But the defect of Stillingfleet's reasoning is, that it does not give the correct account of our thought. If the student will inspect the two propositions, which form an enthymeme, he will see that the conclusion depends on this assumption, as its major premise; That we can have no idea in our consciousness, for which there is not an answering objective reality. (This is, obviously, the assumed major; because without it the ethymeme can only contain the conclusion, that God, if there is one, necessarily exists.) But that major premise is, notoriously, not universally true.

Argument of Dr. S. Clarke.

Now, instead of saying that Dr. Clarke's method, in the Discourse of the Being, etc., of God, is the a priori, it is more correct to say (with Hamilton's Reid) that it is an a posteriori argument, or with Kant, Cosmological, inferring the existence of God from His effects; but disfigured at one or two points by useless Cartesian elements. His first position is: Since something now exists, something has existed from eternity. This, you will find, is the starting point of the argument, with all reasoners; and it is solid. For, if at any time in the past eternity, there had been absolutely nothing, since nothing cannot be a cause of existence, time and space must have remained forever blank of existence. Hence, 2d., argues Dr. Clarke: there has been, from eternity, some immutable and independent Being: because an eternal succession of dependent beings, without independent first cause, is impossible. 3d. This Being; as independent eternally, must be self-existent, that is, necessarily existing. For its eternal independence shows that the spring, or causative source of its existence, could not be outside of itself; it is therefore within itself forever. But the only true idea of such self-existence is, that the idea of its non-existence would be an express contradiction. And here, Dr. Clarke very needlessly adds: our notion that the existence is necessary, proves that it cannot but exist. He reasons also: our conceptions of infinite time and infinite space are necessary: we cannot but think them. But they are not substance: they are only modes of substance. Unless some substance exists of which they are modes, they cannot exist, and so, would not be thought. Hence, there must be an infinite and eternal substance. 4th. The substance of this Being is not comprehensible by us: but this does not make the evidence of its existence less certain. For, 5th. Several of its attributes are demonstrable; as that it must be, 6th, Infinite and omnipresent; 7th, that it must be One, and 8th, that it must be intelligent and free, etc.. The conclusion is that this Being must be Creator and God, unless the universe can itself fulfil the conditions of eternity, necessary self-existence, infinitude, and intelligence and free choice. This is Pantheism: which he shows cannot be true.

Valid, Because A Posteriori.

His argument as a whole is mainly valid, because it is in the main a posteriori: it appeals to the intuitive judgment of cause, to infer from finite effects an infinite first cause. The Cartesian features attached to the ad proposition are an excrescence; but we may remove them, and leave the chain adamantine. We will prune them away, not for the reasons urged by Dr. Chalmers, which are in several particulars as invalid as Dr. Clarke; but for the reason already explained on pages 8 and 9. I only add, it seems to argue that time and space can only be conceived by us as modes of substance; and therefore infinite and eternal substance must exist. The truth here is: that we cannot conceive of finite substance or events, without placing it in time and space; a different proposition from Dr. Clarke's.

Howe's Demonstration.

I think we have the metaphysical argument for the being of a God, stated in a method free from these objections, by the great Puritan divine, John Howe. He flourished about 1650, A. D., and prior to Dr. Clarke. See his Living Temple, chapter 2. He begins hence: 1. Since we now exist, something has existed from eternity. 2. Hence, at least, some uncaused Being, for the eternal has nothing prior to it. 3. Hence some independent Being. 4. Hence that Being exists necessarily; for its independent, eternal, inward spring of existence cannot be conceived as possibly at any time inoperative. 5. This Being must be self-active; active, because, if other beings did not spring from its action, they must all be eternal, and so independent, and necessary, which things are impossible for beings variously organized and changeable; and self-active, because in eternity nothing was before Him to prompt His action. 6. This Being is living; for self-prompted activity is our very idea of life. 7. He is of boundless intelligence, power, freedom, etc.

What Needed To Complete It?

This argument is in all parts well knit. But it is obviously a posteriori; for all depends from a simple deduction, from a universe of effects, back to their cause; and in the same way are inferred the properties of that cause. The only place where the argument needs completion, is at the fifth step. So far forth, the proof is perfect, that some eternal, uncaused, necessary Being exists. But how do we prove that this One created all other Beings? The answer is: these others must all be either eternal or temporal. May it be, all are eternal and one? then all are uncaused, independent, self-existent, and necessary. This, we shall see, is Pantheism. If the rest are temporal, then they were all caused, but by what? Either by the one uncaused, eternal Being; or by other similar temporal beings generating them. But the latter is the theory of an infinite, independent series of finite organisms, each one dependent. When, therefore, we shall have stopped these two breaches, by refuting Pantheism and the hypothesis of infinite series, the demonstration will be perfect.

Cavil of Kant.

Kant has selected this cosmological argument, as one of his "antinomies," illustrating the invalidity of the a priori reason, when applied to empirical things. His objection to its validity seems to amount to this: That the proposition "Nothing can exist without a cause out of itself," cannot be absolute: For if it were, then a cause must be assigned for the First Cause himself.

But let us give the intuition in more accurate form: "Nothing can begin to exist, without a cause out of itself." Kant's cavil has now disappeared, as a moment's consideration will show. The necessary step of the reason from the created things up to a creator, is now correctly explained. "Every effect must have a cause." True. An effect is an existence or phenomenon which has a beginning. Such, obviously, is each created thing. Therefore, it must have proceeded from a cause which had no beginning, i. e., a God. Moreover: I cannot too early utter my protest against Kant's theory, that our regulative, intuitive principles of reason are merely suggestive, (while imperative,) and have no objective validity. Were this true, our whole intelligence would be a delusion. On the other hand, every law of thought is also a law of existence and of reality. Knowledge of this fact is original with every mind when it begins to think, is as intuitive as any other principle of theological reason, and is an absolutely necessary condition of all other knowledge. Moreover: the whole train of man's a posteriori knowledge is a continual demonstration of this principle, proving its trustworthiness by the perfect correspondence between our subjective intuitions and empirical truths.

Platonic Scheme.

Now Platonism held that all substance is uncaused and eternal as to its being. All finite, rational spirits, said this theology, are emanations of To ON, the eternal intelligence; and all matter has been from eternity, as inert, passive chaotic Ulh. Platonism referred all organization, all fashioning (the only creation it admitted), all change, however either directly or indirectly, to the intelligent First Cause. This scheme does not seem very easily refuted by natural reason. Let it be urged that the very notion of the First Cause implies its singleness; and, more solidly, that the unity of plan and working seen in nature, points to only one, single, ultimate cause; Plato could reply that he made only one First Cause, To ON, for ulh is inert, and only the recipient of causation. Let that rule be urged, which Hamilton calls his "law of parsimony," that hypotheses must include nothing more than is necessary to account for effects: Plato could say: No: the reason as much demands the supposition of a material pre-existing, as of an almighty Workman; for even omnipotence cannot work, with nothing to work on. Indeed, so far as I know, all human systems, Plato's "Enicurus" Zeno's "Pythagoras the Peripatetic" had this common feature; that it is self-evident, substance cannot rise out of nihil into esse; that ex nihilo nihil fit. And we shall see how obstinate is the tendency of philosophy to relapse to this maxim in the instances of Spinoza's Pantheism, and Kant's and Hamilton's theory of causation. Indeed it may be doubted whether the human mind, unaided by revelation, would ever have advanced farther than this. It was from an accurate knowledge of the history of philosophy, that the apostle declared, (Hebrews 11:3) the doctrine of an almighty creation out of nothing is one of pure faith.

Can the Platonic Doctrine of the Eternity of All Substances Be Refuted By Reason?

Dr. Clarke does indeed attempt a rational argument that the eternity of matter is impossible The eternal must be necessary; therefore an eternal cause must necessarily be. So, that which can possibly be thought as existing and yet not necessary, cannot be eternal. Such is his logic. I think inspection will show you a double defect. The first enthymeme is not conclusive; and the second, even if the first were true, would be only inferring the converse; which is not necessarily conclusive.

Howe states a more plausible argument, at which Dr. Clarke also glances. Were matter eternal, it must needs be necessary. But then it must be ubiquitous, homogeneous, immutable, like God's substance; because this inward eternal necessity of being cannot but act always and everywhere alike. Whereas, we see matter diverse, changing and only in parts of space. I doubt whether this is solid; or whether from the mere postulate of necessary existence, we can infer anything more than Spinoza does: that eternal matter can possibly exist in no other organisms and sequences of change, than those in which it actually exists. Our surest refutation of this feature of Platonism is God's word. This heathen theology is certainly nearest of any to the Christian, here, and less repugnant than any other to the human reason and God's honor.

Dr. Breckinridge.

Dr. R. J. Breckinridge, (vol. I, p. 56. etc.) constructs what he assures us is an argument of his own, for the being of a God. A brief inspection of it will illustrate the subject. 1. Because something now is—at least the mind that reasons—therefore something eternal is. 2. All known substance is matter or spirit. 3. Hence only three possible alternatives; either, (a.) some matter is eternal; and the source of all spirit and all other matter, Or, (b.) some being composed of matter and spirit is the eternal one, and the source of all other matter and spirit. Or, (c.) some spirit is eternal, and produced all other spirit and matter. The third hypothesis must be the true one: not the second because we are matter and spirit combined, and, consciously, cannot create; and moreover the first Cause must be single. Not the first, because matter is inferior to mind; and the inferior does not produce the superior.

Its Defects.

The objections to this structure begin at the second part, where the author leaves the established form of Howe and Clarke. First: the argument cannot apply, in the mind of a pure idealist, or of a materialist. Second: it is not rigidly demonstrated that there can be no substance but matter and spirit; all that can be done is to say, negatively, that no other is known to us. Third: the three alternative propositions do not exhaust the case; the Pantheist and the Peripatetic, of eternal organization, show us that others are conceivable, as obviously does the Platonic. Fourth: that we, combined of matter and spirit, consciously cannot create, is short of proof that some higher being, hence constituted, cannot. Christ could create, if He pleased; He is hence constituted. Last: it is unfortunate that an argument, which aims to be so expert mental, should have the analogy of our natural experience so much against it. For we only witness human spirits producing effects, when incorporate. As soon as they are disembodied, (at death,) they totally cease to be observed causes of any effects.

Teleological Argument.

The teleological argument for the being and attributes of a God has been so well stated by Paley, in his Natural Theology, that though as old as Job and Socrates, it is usually mentioned as Paley's argument. I refer you especially to his first three chapters. Beginning from the instance of a peasant finding a watch on a common, and although not knowing how it came there, concluding that some intelligent agent constructed it; he applies the same argument, with great beauty and power, to show that man and the universe have a Maker. For we see everywhere intelligent arrangement; as the eye for seeing, the ear for hearing, etc. Nor is the peasant's reasoning to a watchmaker weakened, because he never saw one at work, or even heard of one; nor because a part of the structure is not understood; nor because some of the adjustments are seen to be imperfect; nor, if you showed the peasant, in the watch, a set of wheels for reproducing its kind, would he be satisfied that there was no watchmaker: for he would see that this reproductive mechanism could not produce the intelligent arrangements. Nor would he be satisfied with a "law of nature," or a "physical principle of order," as the sole cause.

Are the Two, Rival Lines of Proof?

It is a fact, somewhat curious, that the metaphysical and the teleological arguments have each had their exclusive advocates in modern times. The applauders of Paley join Dr. Thomas Brown in scouting the former as shadowy and inconclusive. The supporters of the metaphysical divines depreciate Paley, as leading us to nothing above a mere Demiurgis. In truth, both lines of reasoning are valid; and each needs the other. Dr. Brown, for instance, in carrying Paley's argument to its higher conclusions, must tacitly borrow some of the very metaphysics which he professes to disdain. Otherwise it remains incomplete, and leads to no more than a sort Artifex Mundi, whose existence runs back merely to a date prior to human experience, and whose being, power and wisdom are demonstrated to extend only as far as man's inquiries have gone. But that He is eternal, immutable, independent, immense, infinite in power or wisdom; it can never assure us. True, in viewing the argument, your mind did leap to the conclusion that the artifices of nature's contrivances is the Being of "eternal power and godhead," but it was only because you passed, almost unconsciously, perhaps, through that metaphysical deduction, of which Howe gives us the exact description. Howe's is the comprehensive, Paley's the partial (but very lucid) display of the a posteriori argument. Paley's premise; that every contrivance must have an intelligent contriver, is but an instance under the more general one, that every effect must have a cause. The inadequacy of Paley's argument may be illustrated in this: that he seems to think the peasant's discovery of a stone, instead of a watch, could not have led his mind to the same conclusion, whereas a pebble as really, though not so impressively, suggests a cause, as an organized thing. For even the pebble should make us think either that it is such as can have the ground of its existence in its present form in itself; and so, can be eternal, self-existent, and necessary; or else, that it had a Producer, who does possess these attributes.

Its Value.

But, on the other hand, this argument from contrivance has great value, for these reasons. It is plain and popular. It enables us to evince the unity of the first cause through the unity of purpose and convergence of the consequences of creation. It aids us in showing the personality of God, as a being of intelligence and will; and it greatly strengthens the assault we shall be enabled to make on Pantheism, by showing, unless there is a personal and divine first Cause prior to the universe, this must itself be, not only uncaused, eternal, independent, necessarily existent, but endued with intelligence.

Instances of Contrivances To An End.

A single instance of intelligent contrivance in the works of creation would prove an intelligent Creator. Yet, it is well to multiply these proofs, even largely: for they give us then a wider foundation of deduction, stronger views of the extent of the creative wisdom and power; and better evidence of God's unity.

From Organs of Animals.

Hence, as instances, showing how the argument is constructed: If the design is to produce the physical part of the sensation of vision; the eye is obviously an optical instrument, contrived with lenses to refract, expedients for obtaining an achromatic spectrum, adjustments for distance and quantity of light, and protection of the eye, by situation, bony socket, brow, lids, lubricating fluids; and in birds, the nictitating membrane. Different creatures also have eyes adapted to their lives and media of vision; as birds, cats, owls, fishes. So, the ear is an auditory apparatus, with a concha to converge the sound-waves, a tube, a tympanum to transmit vibration, the three bones ( malleus, stipes and incus) in instable equilibrium, to convey it to the sensorium, etc.

From Spiritual Structure of Man.

The world of spirit is just as full of evident contrivances. See (e. g.) the laws of habit and imitation, exactly adjusted to educate and to form the character; and the faculties of memory, association, taste, etc. The evidences of contrivance are, if possible, still more beautiful in our emotional structure; e. g., in the instincts of parental love, sympathy, resentment and its natural limits, sexual love, and its natural check, modesty; and above all, conscience, with its self-approval and remorse. All these are adjusted to obvious ends.

In Compensating Arrangements.

We see marks of more recondite design, in the natural compensation for necessary defects. The elephant's short neck is made up by a lithe proboscis. Birds' heads cannot carry teeth: but they have a gizzard. Insects with fixed heads, have a number of eyes to see around them. Brutes have less reason, but more instinct; and so on goes the argument.

In Adaptations.

The adaptations of one department of nature to another show at once contrivance, selecting will and unity of mind. Hence, the media and the organs of sense are made for each other. The forms and colours of natural objects are so related to taste; the degree of fertility imparted to the earth, to man's necessity for labour; the stability of physical law, to the necessary judgments of the reason thereabout. So all nature, material and spiritual, animal, vegetable, inorganic, on our planet, in the starry skies, are full of wise contrivance.

Argument From Conscience.

The moral phenomena of conscience present a twofold evidence for the being of a God, worthy of fuller illustration than space allows. This faculty is a most ingenious spiritual contrivance, adjusted to a beneficent end: viz., the promotion of virtuous acts, and repression of wicked. As such, it proves a contriver, just as any organic adjustment does. But second: we shall find, later in the course, that our moral judgments are intuitive, primitive, and necessary; the most inevitable functions of the reason. Now, the idea of our acts which have rightness is unavoidably attended with the judgment that they are obligatory. Obligation must imply an obliger. This is not always any known creature: hence, we arrive at the Creator. Again, our conscience of wrong-doing unavoidably suggests fear but fear implies an avenger. The secret sinner, the imperial sinner above all creature-power, shares this dread. Now, one may object, that this process is not valid, unless we hold God's mere will the sole source of moral distinctions: which we do not teach, since an atheist is reasonably compelled to hold them. But the objection is not just. The primitive law of the reason must be accepted as valid to us, whatever its source. For parallel: The intuitive belief in causation is found on inspection, to contain the proposition, "There is a first Cause." But in order for the validity of this proposition, it is not necessary for us to say that this intuition is God's arbitrary implantation. It is intrinsically true to the nature of things; and the argument to a first Cause therefore only the more valid.

This moral argument to the being of a God, as it is immediate and strictly logical, is doubtless far the most practical. Its force is seen in this, that theoretical atheists, in danger and death, usually at the awakening of remorse, acknowledge God.

3. Argument From Universal Consent.

You find the argument from the Consensus Populorum, much elaborated by your authorities. I conclude that it gives a strong probable evidence for the being of a God, hence: The truth is abstract; its belief would not have been so nearly universal, nor so obviously essential to man's social existence, did not a valid ground for it exist in man's laws of thought. For it can be accounted for neither by fear, policy, nor self-interest.

4. Objected That Contrivance Betrays Limitation.

From the affirmative argument, we return to evasions. An objection is urged, that the argument from design, if valid, proves only a creature of limited powers. For contrivance is the expedient of weakness. For instance, one constructs a derrick, because, unlike Samson, he is too weak to lift an impossible load. If the Creator has eternal power and godhead, why did He not go straight to His ends, without means, as in Ps. 33:9? I answer, design proves a designer, though in part unintelligible. 2nd. It would not be unworthy of the Almighty to choose this manner of working, in order to leave His signature on it for man to read. 3d. Chiefly: Had God employed no means to ends, he must have remained the only agent; there would have been no organized nature; but only the one supernatural agent.

Hume Objects That the World Is A Singular Effect.

Hume strives to undermine the argument from the creation to a Creator, by urging that, since only experience teaches us the uniformity of the tie between effect and cause, it is unwarranted to apply it farther than experience goes with us. But no one has had any experience of a world-maker, as we have of making implements in the arts. The universe, if an effect at all, is one wholly singular: the only one anybody has known, and from the earliest human experience, substantially as it is now. Hence the empirical induction to its first Cause is unauthorized.

Dr. Alexander's Answer.

Note first: this is from the same mint with his argument against miracles. Creation is simply the first miracle; the same objection is in substance brought; viz: no testimony can be weighty enough to prove, against universal experience, that a miracle has occured. Next, Dr. Alexander, to rebut, resorts to an illustration; a country boy who had seen only ploughs and horse-carts, is shown a steam-frigate; yet he immediately infers a mechanic for it. The fact will be so; but it will not give us the whole analysis. True, the frigate is greatly larger and more complicated than a horse cart; (as the universe is than any human machine). But still, Hume might urge that the boy would see a thousand empirical marks, cognizable to his experiences, (timber with marks of the plane on it, as on his plough-beam, the cable as evidently twisted of hemp, as his plough-lines; the huge anchor with as evident dints of the hammer, as his plough-share,) which taught him that the wonderful ship was also a produced mechanism. Astonishing as it is to him, compared with the plough, it is experimentally seen to be not natural, like the universe,

Chalmers' Answer.

Chalmers, in a chapter full of contradictions, seems to grant that experience alone teaches us the law of causation, and asserts that still the universe is not "a singular effect." To show this, he supposes, with Paley, the peasant from a watch inferring a watch-maker: and then by a series of abstractions, he shows that the logical basis of the inference is not anything peculiar to that watch, as that it is a gold, or a silver, a large, a small, or a good watch, or a machine to measure time at all; but simply the fact that it is a manifest contrivance for an end. The effect then, is no longer singular; yet the inference to some adequate agent holds. To this ingenious process, Hume would object that it is experience alone which guides in making those successive abstractions, by which we separate the accidental from the essential effect and cause. This, Chalmers himself admits. Hence, as we have no experience of world-making, no such abstraction is here allowable, to reduce the world to the class of common effects. Besides; has Hume admitted that it is an effect at all? In fine, he might urge this difference, that the world is native, while the watch, the plough, the ship bears, to the most unsophisticated observer, empirical marks of being made, and not native.

True Answer.

Let us not then refute Hume from his own premises; for they are false. It is not experience which teaches us that every effect has its cause, but the a priori reason. (This Chalmers first asserts, and then unwisely surrenders.) Neither child nor man believes that maxim to be true in the hundredth case, because he has experienced its truth in ninety-nine; he instinctively believed it in the first case. It is not a true canon of inductive logic, that the tie of cause and effect can be asserted only so far as experience proves its presence. If it were, would induction ever teach us anything we did not know before? Would there be any inductive science? Away with the nonsense! Grant that the world is a "singular effect." It is a phenomenon, it could not be without a cause of its being, either extrinsic, or intrinsic. And this we know, not by experience, but by one of those primitive judgments of the reason, which alone make experience intelligible and valid.

Can the Present Universe Be the Result of Infinite Series of Organisms?

But may not this universe have the ground of its being in itself? This is another evasion of the atheists. Grant, they say, that nothing cannot produce something. Theists go outside the universe to seek its cause; and when they suppose they have found it in a God, they are unavoidably driven to represent Him as uncaused from without, eternal, self-existent, and necessary. Now it is a simpler hypothesis, just to suppose that the universe which we see, is the uncaused, eternal, self-existent, necessary Being. Why may we not adopt it? Seeing we must run back to the mystery of some uncaused, eternal being, why may we not accept the obvious teaching of nature and experience and conclude that this is it? Since the organisms which adorn this universe are all temporal, and since the earth and other stars move in temporal cycles, we shall then have to suppose that the infinite past eternity, through which this self-existent universe has existed, was made up of an infinite succession of these organisms and cycles, each previous one producing the. next: as the infinite future eternity which will be. But what is absurd in such a hypothesis?

Metaphysical Answers.

Now I will not reply, with Dr. Clarke and others, that if the universe is eternal, it must be necessary; and this necessity must make its substance homogeneous and unchangeable throughout infinite time and space. It might be plausibly retorted, that this tendency to regular, finite organisms, which we see, was the very necessity of nature inherent in matter. Nor does it seem to me solid to say, with Robert Hall in his sermon, Turrettin, and others, that an eternal series of finite durations is impossible; because if each particular part had a beginning, while the series had none, we should have the series existing before its first member; the chain stretching farther back than its farthest link. The very supposition was, that the series had no first member. Is a past eternity any more impossible to be made up of the addition of an infinite number of finite parts, than an abstract infinite future? Surely not. Now there is to be just such an infinite future: namely, your and my immortality, which, although it may not be measured by solar days and years, will undoubtedly be composed of parts of successive time infinitely multiplied. But to this future eternity, it would be exactly parallel to object, that we make each link in it have an end, while the whole is endless; which would involve the same absurdity, of a chain extended forward after the last link was ended. The answer again is: that according to the supposition, there is no last link, the number thereof being infinite. In a word, what mathematician does not know that infinitude may be generated by the addition of finites repeated an infinite number of times?

Turretin's Argument From Unequal Infinites.

Turrettin, among many ingenious arguments, advances another which seems more respectable It is in substance this: If this universe has no Creator, then its past duration must be a proper and absolute infinity. But created things move or succeed each other in finite times. See, for instance, the heavenly bodies: The sun revolves on its axis daily; around its orbit, annually. If this state of things has been eternal, there must have been an infinite number of days, and also an infinite number of years. But since it requires three hundred and sixty-five days to a year, we have here two temporal infinities, both proper and absolute, yet one three hundred and sixty-five times as large as the other! Now, the mathematicians tell us, that proper infinities may be unequal; that an infinite plane, for instance, may be conceived as constituted of infinite straight lines infinitely numerous; and an infinite solid, of an infinite number of such planes, superposed the one on the other. But it is at least questionable, whether the evasion is valid against Turrettin's argument. For these differing infinities are in different dimensions. of length, breadth and thickness. Can there be, in the same dimension, two lines, each infinite in length, and yet the one three hundred and sixty-five as great as the other, in length?

Turrettin attempts to reply to the answer drawn from the eternity a parte post, against the metaphysical argument. The atheist asks us: Since (as theists say) a finite soul is to be immortal, there will be a specimen of a temporal infinity formed of finite times infinitely repeated: Why may there not have been a similar infinite duration a parte ante? Because, says our Textbook: That which was, but is past, cannot be fairly compared with a future which will never be past. Again: a thing destined never to end may have a beginning; but it is impossible to believe that a thing which actually has ended, never had a beginning. Because, the fact that the thing came to an end proves that its cause was outside of itself. The last remark introduces us to a solid argument, and it is solid, because it brings us out of the shadowy region of infinity to the solid ground of causation. It is but another way of stating the grand, the unanswerable refutation of this atheistic theory: a series composed only of contingent parts must be, as a whole, contingent. But the contingent cannot be eternal, because it is not self-existent. This argument is explicated in the following points:

(1.) Take any line of generative organisms, for instance: (oak trees bearing acorns, and those acorns rearing oaks, e. g.) the being of each individual in the series demands an adequate cause. When we push the inquiry back one step, and ask the cause of the parent which (seemingly) caused it, we find precisely the same difficulty unanswered. Whatever distance we run back along the line, we clearly see no approach is made towards finding the adequate cause of the series, or of the earliest individual considered. Hence it is wholly unreasonable to suppose that the introduction of infinitude into the series helps to give us an adequate cause. We only impose on ourselves with an undefined idea. Paley's illustration here is as just as beautiful. Two straight parallel lines pursued, ever so far, make no approximation; they will never meet, though infinitely extended.

(2.) An adequate cause existing at the time the phenomenon arises, must be assigned for every effect. For a cause not present at the rise of the effect, is no cause. Now then; when a given oak was sprouted, all the previous oaks and acorns of its line, save one or two, had perished. Was this acorn, even with its parent oak, the adequate cause of the whole structure of the young tree, including the ingenious contrivances thereof? Surely not. But the previous dead oaks and acorns are no cause; for they are not there. An absent cause is no cause. The original cause of this oak is not in the series at all.

(3.) Even if we permit ourselves to be dazzled with the notion that somehow the infinitude of the series can account for its self-productive power; this maxim is obvious: that in a series of transmitted causes, the whole power of the cause must be successively in each member of the series. For each one could only transmit what power it received from its immediate predecessor; and if at any stage, any portion of the causative power were lost, all subsequent stages must be without it. But evidently no one generation of acorns ever had power or intelligence to create the subtle contrivances of vegetable life in their progeny; and to suppose that all did, is but multiplying the absurdity.

(4) This question should be treated according to the atheist's point of view, scientifically: Science always accepts testimony in preference to hypothesis. Now there is a testimony, that of the Mosaic Scripture, as supported by universal tradition, which says that all series of organisms began in the creative act of an intelligent first Cause. The atheist may object, that men, as creatures themselves, have no right of their own knowledge, to utter such traditionary testimony; for they could not be present before the organisms existed to witness how they were brought into existence. The only pretext for such tradition would be that some prior superhuman Being, who did witness man's production, revealed to him how he was produced: but whether any such prior Being existed, is the very thing in debate, and so may not be taken for granted.

True; but the existence of the testimony must be granted; for it is a fact that it exists, and it must be accounted for. And the question is, whether the only good account is not, that the universe did have an intelligent Cause, and that this Cause taught primeval man regarding his origination. Otherwise, not only is the universe left unaccounted for, but the universal tradition.

(5) Science exalts experience above hypothesis even more than testimony. Now, the whole state of the world bears the appearance of recency. The recent discovery of new continents, the great progress of new arts since the historic era began, and the partial population of the earth by man, all belie the eternity of the human race. But stronger still, geology proves the creation, in time, of race after race of animals, and the comparatively recent origin of man, by her fossil records. These show the absolute beginning of genera. And the attempt to account for them by the development theory (Chambers or Darwin) is utterly repudiated by even the better irreligious philosophers; for if there is anything that Natural History has established, it is that organic life is separated from inorganic forces, mechanical, chemical, electrical or other, by inexorable bounds; and that genera may begin or end, but never transmute themselves into other genera.


As I pointed out, there are but two hypotheses by which the demonstration of an eternal, intelligent, personal first Cause can be evaded. The one has just been discussed; the other is the pantheistic. No separate first Cause of the universe need be assigned, it says, because the universe is God. The first Cause and the whole creation are supposed to be one substance, world-god, possessing all the attributes of both. As extremes often meet, pantheism leads to the same practical results with atheism. Aristotle, perhaps the most sagacious of pagan thinkers, was willing to postulate the eternity, a parte ante, of the series of organisms. But he, none the less, taught the existence of a God who, though in a sense an Anima Mundi, was yet an intelligent and active infinite Cause.

Peripatetic Pantheism.

The ancient form of pantheism, probably Aristotelian in its source, admitted that matter, dead, senseless, divisible, cannot be the proper seat of intelligence and choice, which are indivisible; and that the universe is full of marks of intelligent design, so that an Anita Mundi, an intelligent Principle, must be admitted in the universe. Yes, I reply, it must, and that personal. Because it obviously has intelligence, choice, and will; and how can personality be better defined? Nor can it inhabit the universe as a soul its body, not being limited to it in time or space, nor bearing that relation to it. Not in time; because, being eternal, it existed a whole past eternity before it; for we have proved the latter temporal. Not in space; for we have seen this Intelligence eternal ages not holding its ubi in space by means of body; and there is not a single reason for supposing that it is now limited to the part of space which bodies occupy. It is not connected with matter by any tie of animality; because immensely the larger part of matter is inanimate.

Pantheism of Spinoza.

Modern pantheism appears either in the hypothesis of Spinoza, the Jew, or in that of the later German idealists. Both see that even the material universe teems with intelligent contrivances: and more, that the nobler part, that known by consciousness, and so, most immediately known, is a world of thought and feeling in human breasts. Hence intelligence and will must be accounted for, as well as matter. Now, Spinoza's first position is: There can be no real substance, except it be self-existent, and so, eternal. That is; it is incredible that any true substance can pass from nihil into esse. 2nd. All the self-existent must be one; this is unavoidable from the unity of its characteristic attribute. 3rd. The one real substance must therefore be eternal, infinite, and necessarily existent. 4th. all other seeming beings are not real substance, but modes of existence of this sole being. 5th. All possible attributes, however seemingly diverse, must be modes, nearer or remote, of this Being; and it is necessary therefore to get rid of the prejudice, that modes of thought and will and modes of extension cannot be referred to the same substance This is the true account of the universe. All material bodies (so called) are but different modes of extension, in which the necessary substance projects himself; and all personal spirits (so called) are but modes of thought and will, in which the same being pulsates.

Now you see that the whole structure rests on two unproved and preposterous assumptions: that real substance cannot be except it be self-existent; and that the self-existent can be but one. The human mind is incapable of demonstrating either.

Pantheism of the Modern Idealist.

Says the modern idealist: Let the mind take nothing for granted, except the demonstrated; and it will find that it really knows nothing save its consciousnesses. Of what is it conscious? Only of its own subjective states. Men fancy that these must be referred to a subject called mind, spirit, self; as the substance of which they are states. So they fancy that they find objective sources for their sensations, and objective limits to their volitions; but if it fancies it knows either, it is only by a subjective consciousness. These, after all, are its only real possessions. Thus, it has no right to assert either substantive self or objective matter; it only knows, in fact, a series of self-consciousnesses. Therefore, our thinking and willing constitute our being. Thus, too, the whole ostensibly apparent and objective world is only evinced from non-existence as it is thought by us. The total residuum then, is an impersonal power of thought, only existing as it exerts its self-consciousness in the various beings of the universe, (if there is a universe) and in God. Its subjective consciousnesses constitute spiritual substance (so-called,) self, fellowman, God; and its objective, the seeming objective material bodies of the universe.

Refutation. 1. Intuition Must Be Accepted As Valid.

Against both these forms of pantheism, I present the following outline of a refutation.

(1.) If the mind may not trust the intuition which refers all attributes and affections to their substances, and which gives real objective sources for sensations, it may not believe in its intuitive self-consciousness, nor in that intuition of cause for every phenomenon, on which Spinoza founds the belief in his One Substance. Falsus in uno; Falsus in omnibus. There is an end of all thinking. That the intuitions above asserted, are necessary and primary, I prove by this: that every man, including the idealist, unavoidably makes them.

Consciousness Implies My Personality.

(2.) We are each one conscious of our personality. You cannot pronounce the words "self," Ego, self-consciousness; but that you have implied it. Hence, if we think according to our own subjective law, we cannot think another intelligence and will, without imputing to it a personality. Least of all, the supreme intelligence and will. To deny this is to claim to be more perfect than God. But worse yet; if I am not a person, my nature is a lie, and thinking is at an end. If I am a person, and as the pantheist says, I am God, and God is I, then he is a person; and the pantheistic system is still self-contradicted.

Extension and Thought Cannot Be Referred To A Common Substance.

(3.) Modes of extension and modes of thought and will cannot be attributes of one substance. Matter is divisible: neither consciousness, nor thought, nor feeling is; therefore the substance which thinks is indivisible. Matter is extended; has form; has relative bulk and weight. All these properties are impossible to be thought of any function of spirit, as relevant to them. Who can conceive of a thought triturated into many parts, as a stone into grains of sand; of a resentment split into halves; of a conception which is so many fractions of an inch longer or thicker than another; of an emotion triangular or circular, of the top and bottom of a volition?

If Spinoza True, To Pan Cannot Vary.

(4.) If there is but one substance To Pan, the eternal, selfexistent, necessary; then it must be homogeneous and indivisible. This is at least a just argumentum ad hominem for Spinoza. Did he not infer the necessary unity of all real substance, from the force of its one characteristic attribute, self and necessary existence? Now, this immanent necessity, which is so imperative as to exclude plurality; must it not also exclude diversity; or at least contrariety? How then can this one, unchangeable substance exist at the same time in different and even contradictory states; motion and rest; heat and cold; attraction and repulsion? How can it, in its modes of thought and will, at the same time love in one man, and hate in another, the same object? How believe and disbelieve the same thing?

No Evil Nor Good.

(5.) On this scheme, there can be no responsibility, moral good or evil, guilt, reward, righteous penalty, or moral government of the world. All states of feeling, and all volitions are those of To Pan. Satan's wrong volitions are but God willing, and his transgressions, God acting. By what pretext can the Divine Will be held up as a moral standard? Anything which a creature wills, is God's will.


(6.) And this because, next, pantheism is a scheme of stark necessity. Necessity of this kind is inconsistent with responsibility. But again; it contradicts our consciousness of free agency. We know, by our consciousness, that in many things we act freely, we do what we do, because we choose; we are conscious that our souls determine themselves. But if Pantheism were true, every volition, as well as every other event, would be ruled by an iron fate. So avowed stoicism, the pantheism of the Old World: so admits Spinoza. And consistently; for To Pan, impersonal, developing itself according to an immanent, eternal necessity, must inevitably pass through all those modifications of thought and extension, which this necessity dictates, and no others; and the acts of God are as fated as ours.

God Would Have All Sin and Woe.

(7.) I retort upon the pantheist that picture which he so much delights to unfold in fanciful and glowing guise. Pantheism, says he, by deifying nature, clothes everything which is sweet or grand with the immediate glory of divinity, and ennobles us by placing us perpetually in literal contact with God. Do we look without on the beauties of the landscape? Its loveliness is but one beam of the multiform smile upon His face. The glory of the sun is the flash of His eye. The heavings of the restless sea are but the throbs of the divine bosom, and the innumerable stars are but the sparkles of His eternal brightness. And when we look within us, we recognize in every emotion which ennobles or warms our breasts, the aspirations, the loves, the gratitudes which bless our being, the pulses of God's own heart beating through us. Nay, but, say I, are the manifestations of the universal Being, all lovely and good? If pantheism is true, must we not equally regard all that is abhorrent in nature, the rending thunder, and the rushing tornado, the desolating earthquake and volcanos, the frantic sea lashing helpless navies into wreck, as the throes of disorder or ruin in God? And when we picture the scenes of sin and woe, which darken humanity, the remorse of the villain's privacy, the orgies of crime and cruelty hidden beneath the veil of night, the despairing deathbeds, the horrors of battle fields, the wails of nations growing pale before the pestilence, the din of burning and ravaged cities, and all the world of eternal despair itself, we see in the whole but the agony and crime of the divine Substance. Would it then be best called Devil or God? Since suffering and sin are so prevalent in this world, we may call it Pan-diabolism, with more propriety than pantheism. Nor is it any relief to this abhorrent conclusion, to say that pain and evil are necessitated, and are only seeming evils. Consciousness declares them real.

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