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§ 5. The Moral, or Anthropological Argument.
A. Nature of the Argument.
As the image of the sun reflected from a mirror, or the smooth surface of a lake, reveals to us that the sun is, and what it is; so the soul of man, just as clearly, and just as certainly, reveals that God is and what He is. The reflection of the sun does not teach us everything that is true concerning that luminary; it does not reveal its internal constitution, nor tell us how its light and heat are maintained from age to age. In like manner the soul, as the image of God, does not reveal all that God is. In both cases, and equally in both cases, what is revealed is true, that is, trustworthy.
It answers to the objective reality. As we know that the sun really is what its reflection represents him as being, so we know that God is what the nature of the human soul declares Him to be. Doubt in the one case is just as unreasonable, and we may say, just as impossible as in the other.
It has been shown in the preceding chapter that every human has in his own nature the evidence of the existence of God, an evidence which never can be obliterated, and which will force conviction on the most unwilling. It is no less true that every man has in himself the same irresistible evidence that God is an extramundane personal Being; that He is intelligent, voluntary, and moral; that He knows; that He has the right to command; and that He can punish and can save.
It may naturally be asked, If this be so; if every man has in his own nature a witness whose competency he cannot question, and whose testimony he cannot ignore, What is the use of arguing about the matter? For three reasons, first, because even self-evident truths are often denied; and secondly, because men, in their present moral state, are under a strong temptation to deny the existence of a holy and just God; and thirdly, because efforts are constantly made to pervert or contradict the testimony of our nature to the existence and nature of God.
B. Argument from the Existence of the Mind.
Every man has in his own consciousness the evidence of the existence of mind. He knows that he is an intelligent, personal being. He knows that his personality does not reside in his body, but in his soul. It is included in the facts of consciousness that the soul and body are distinct, that they are different substances having not only different but incompatible attributes. That such is the general conviction of men is plain from all languages recognizing the distinction; and from the fact that it is never denied except by speculative or theoretical writers. The common consciousness of men as revealed by their forms of speech, and by their avowals, and by the universal belief, in some form, of a state of conscious existence after death, bears witness to the truth that the soul is something different from, and far superior to the body. How is the existence of this immaterial, thinking, immortal substance which we call self, to be accounted for? That it has not always existed is undeniable. If it began to be, it must have the cause of its existence out of itself. That cause cannot be the soul of the parent, for that also is an effect. It began to be. And it is universally admitted that an infinite series of effects is unthinkable. If the soul cannot be accounted for by derivation in unending series of steps from those who preceded us, neither can it be conceived of as a product of the body, or of physical forces and combinations. It would seem to be a self-evident proposition, that the effect cannot contain in it more than is in its cause; that intelligence cannot be the product of what is unintelligent. This also is confirmed by all experience.
We are conversant in our present state, first, with matter, with its properties and laws or forces; secondly, with vegetable life; thirdly, with animal life; and fourthly, with mind, endowed with a life of a much higher order. These different elements, or kinds of existence, although marvellously combined and intermingled, are distinct. As a fact of experience, mere matter with its physical forces never originates vegetable life; vegetable life of itself never originates or passes over into animal life; and animal life never originates, and is never developed into intellectual or spiritual life. There is an impassable gulf between these several departments of being. As soon as the principle of life leaves a plant or animal, the physical forces belonging to matter work its dissolution. These are facts indelibly impressed on the convictions of the mass of mankind. They are conclusions to which universal experience has led the minds of all men. They are indeed denied by certain scientific men; but the theory on which that denial is founded involves the denial of so many intuitive and necessary truths; it does such violence to the laws of belief impressed upon our nature, and on the validity of which all knowledge depends, that it can never be more than a precarious and temporary belief on the part of those who adopt it, and can never have control over the minds of men. This is not the place to enter upon the discussion of the theory of materialism. We have a right to appeal to the general conviction of mankind that mind cannot be the product of matter. If this be so, as our minds are not self-existent and eternal, it must be true, as even the heathen believed, that our spirits owe their existence to Him who is the Father of spirits.
C. From the Nature of the Soul.
There are two laws, or general facts, which seem to characterize all the works of nature. By nature is here meant all things out of God. The first of these laws is, that whatever capacities, necessities, or desires exist, or are found in any organism, adequate provision is made to meet and satisfy them all. This is obviously true with regard to the vegetable world. Plants have organs for the selection of the materials necessary for their growth and maturity, from the soil; organs for the absorption of carbon from the atmosphere; the capacity of being appropriately affected by light and heat; organs of propagation designed for the continuance of each after its kind. All these necessities are met. Soil, atmosphere, light, heat, and water, are all provided. The same is no less true with regard to the animal world in all its endless variety of forms. Food, light, heat, air, and water, are suited to their several necessities to their organs, and to their instincts. If they have the appetite of hunger, they have organs for the appropriation of their food, and for its digestion; the instinct for its selection, and food suited to each, is ever at hand. So of all the other necessities of their nature.
The second law, or general fact is, that all these living organisms reach perfection, and fully accomplish the end of their being. That is, they become all they are capable of being. All that belongs to their nature is fully developed. All their capacities are fully exercised, and all their wants fully satisfied.
These two things are true of every living creature within the compass of human knowledge, except Man. So far as his body is concerned, they are true in regard to him also. His physical necessities are all met by the present circumstances of his being. His body becomes all that it is capable of being, in this stage of existence. But these things are not true with regard to his soul. It has capacities which are not fully developed in this world, and never can be. It has desires, aspirations, and necessities for which the world does not furnish the appropriate objects. It is, therefore, as evidently designed and adapted for a higher and spiritual state of existence, as his body is adapted to the present order of things. The soul of man has, in the first place, intellectual powers capable of indefinite expansion, which in this world never reach their utmost limit. With these is connected a desire of knowledge which is never satisfied. In the second place, the soul of man has a capacity for happiness which nothing in the world, nor the whole world could it be attained, can by possibility fill. The animal is satisfied. Its capacity for happiness is here fully provided for. In the third place, the soul has aspirations to which nothing in this life corresponds. It longs for fellowship with what is far above itself; what is boundless, and eternal. In the fourth place, with all these powers, desires, and aspirations, it is conscious of its weakness, insufficiency, and dependence. It must have an object to worship, to love, to trust; a Being who can satisfy all its necessities, and under whose guardianship it can be safe from those powers of evil to which it knows that it is on all sides and at all times exposed; a Being whose existence, and whose relation to itself, can explain all the mysteries of its own being, and secure its felicity in the future, on which it knows it must soon enter. Just as certainly as hunger in the animal supposes that there is food adapted to still its cravings, so certainly does this hunger of the soul suppose that there is some Being in the universe to satisfy its necessities. In both cases the craving is natural, universal, and imperative.
It cannot be that man is an exception to the laws above-mentioned; that he alone, of all that lives, has capacities, desires, necessities, for which no provision has been made. God is the correlative of man, in the sense that the existence of such a creature as man necessitates the assumption of such a Being as God.
D. From the Moral Nature of Man.
The familiar facts of consciousness on this subject are, —
1. That we have, by the constitution of our nature, a sense of right and wrong; we perceive or judge some things to be right, and others to be wrong. This perception is immediate. As the reason perceives some things to be true, and others false; and as the senses take immediate knowledge of their appropriate objects, so the soul takes immediate cognizance of the moral character of feelings and acts. The reason, the senses, and the conscience are alike infallible within certain limits, and liable to error beyond those limits.
2. Our moral perceptions or judgments are sui generis. They have their peculiar, distinctive character, which belongs to no other of our states of consciousness. The right is as distinct from the true, the proper, the agreeable, or the expedient, as these latter are from our sensations. The right is that which we are bound to do and to approve; the wrong is that which we are bound to avoid and to disapprove. Moral obligation, as expressed by the word “ought,” is a simple and primary idea. It can be understood only by those who have felt it. And it can be confounded with nothing else.
3. These moral judgments are independent. They are not under the control of the understanding of of the will. No man can will to regard an axiom as false, or think that black is white, or white black. Nor can any sophistry of the understanding lead him to such false judgment. In like manner, no man can will to believe that to be right which his conscience tells him to be wrong; nor can he argue himself into the conviction that he has done right, when his conscience tells him he has done wrong.
4. Our moral judgments, or, in other words, the conscience, has an authority from which we cannot emancipate ourselves. We can neither deny nor ignore it. It has a lordship. It commands, and it forbids. And we are bound to obey. It has power also to enforce its decisions. It can reward and punish. Its rewards are among the greatest blessings we can enjoy. Its punishments are the most intolerable agony the human soul can endure.
5. Our moral judgments involve the idea of law, i.e., of a rule or standard to which we are bound to be conformed. When we judge a thing to be right, we judge it to be conformed to the moral law; when we judge it to be wrong, we judge that is not conformed to that law.
6. This law has an authority which it does not derive from us. It is essentially different from a sense of propriety, or perception of expediency. It is something imposed upon us, and to which we are required to be conformed by an authority out of ourselves.
7. Our moral nature involves, therefore, a sense of responsibility. We must answer for what we are, and for what we do. This responsibility is not to ourselves, not to society, nor to being in general. It must be to a person; that is, to a Being who knows what we are, what we do, and what we ought to be and do; who approves of the right, and disapproves of the wrong; and who has the power and the purpose to reward and punish us according to our character and conduct. Sin, from its very nature, as it reveals itself in our consciousness, involves not only a sense of pollution, or moral degradation, but also a sense of guilt; i.e., a conviction that we deserve punishment, that we ought to be punished, and, therefore, that punishment is inevitable.
If such be the facts of our moral nature, it is plain that we are under the necessity of assuming the existence of an extramundane, personal God, on whom we are dependent, and to whom we are responsible. This is undoubtedly the ground for the conviction of the being of God, which has universally prevailed among men. Having the idea given in the constitution of their nature, or being under an inward necessity of believing in such a Being, cultivated men have sought and found evidence of his existence in the world without them. But these external proofs have neither been as general nor as operative as those derived from what we ourselves are, and from what we know that we deserve. Such men, therefore, as Kant, and Sir William Hamilton, while denying the validity of all other arguments for the existence of God, admit that our nature forces us to believe that He is, and that He is a person.
Our Moral Feelings not due to Education.
It is indeed objected that these phenomena of our moral nature are due to education or to superstition. To this it is answered, first, that moral truths have a self-evidencing light. They can no more be denied than the intuitions of sense and reason. It may even be said that our moral judgments have greater certainty than any other of our convictions. Men believe absurdities. They believe what contradicts the evidence of their senses. But no man ever has, or ever can believe that malignity is a virtue. In the second place, what is universal cannot be accounted for by peculiarities of culture. All men are moral beings; all have this sense of moral obligation, and of responsibility; and no man can free himself from these convictions. The Apostle, therefore, speaking out of the common consciousness of men, as well as under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, speaks of sinners as “knowing the judgment of God" (Rom i. 32); that is, a sense of sin involves the knowledge of a righteous God.
We then are placed in the midst of a vast universe, of which we constitute a part. We are forced not merely by the desire of knowledge, but from the necessities of our nature, to ask, How did this universe originate? How is it sustained? To what does it tend? What are we? Whence did we come? Whither are we going? These questions must be answered. This complicated problem must be solved. To refer everything to chance, is no solution. It is a frivolous denial that any solution is necessary, that such questions need any answer. To refer everything to necessity, is to say that the existence of things as they are is the ultimate fact. The universe is, and always has been, and always must be. It is the evolution of necessary being by necessary laws. This is all we can know, and all that need be known. This, however, is no solution. It is merely the denial that any solution is possible. Could this theory be accepted with regard to the outward world, it leaves all the phenomena of man's nature — intellectual, moral, and religious — unaccounted for. Theism is a solution. It assumes the existence of an eternal and necessary Being; a Spirit, and therefore intelligent, voluntary, self-conscious, and endowed with moral perfections. This hypothesis accounts for the origin of the universe. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This is a satisfactory answer to the first question. It accounts for all the universe is, its immensity, its variety, its order, its numberless organisms, the adaptation of external nature to the wants of all living things. It accounts for the nature of man. It gives what that nature demands, — an infinite object of love, confidence, and adoration. It reveals who it is to whom we are responsible, and on whom we are dependent. We know that this solution is true, because it is a solution. It meets all the facts of the case. And it so meets them that it cannot fail to be accepted as true, either intelligently or blindly. The God whom all men ignorantly worship, the Scriptures reveal, not only in the certainty of his existence, but in the plenitude of his perfections.
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