Изображения страниц
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

which produce them will go on returning them to us in their well known rotation. This we call, as above, God's general providence. But this is not a necessary succession of the budding spring, the growing summer, the ripened autumn. It is the common, but not the inevitable course of events. It is within God's power to interrupt this arrangement. Suppose, that for moral purposes of chastisement, of national reconstruction, he decides to do as in Egypt, when seven years of fainine were made to follow the seven years of plenty. Such a variation in the order of nature could not reasonably be attributed to accident. It shows a designing will, and an interfering hand. If so, that interposer must be God. But to effect 80 important a departure as this from ordinary courses would not demand any breaking up of physical laws, as that gravitation should not draw, or heat warm, or the soil nourish the deposited seed; nor would it involve any apparent conflict with natural causes and effects. It would only require a different distribution of certain atmospheric and other influences to ensure a seven years' drought and barrenness. This is particular providence. The savant of New York, just now referred to, tells us that this is fetichism, and congratulates his readers that the clergy do not pray for rain in a dry time, in these days, as they used to. If he had employed reporters in our churches during the droughts of the two past seasons, we think that he would have found evidence that, in spite of the new illuminati, "fetichism," as he regards it, is on the increase.

For purposes which God sees to be desirable, he uses the powers of nature, by himself ordained and sustained, to accomplish results which would not otherwise take place. They are his tools with which to build or to cut in pieces. Storms are natural phenomena. They rage along our coasts scattering destruction. Now, suppose that while engaged in our struggle against rebellion, the navies of England and France had combined to make a descent upon our shores, and that just as they were sighting the land, a three days' tempest had broke upon them, hurling them and their munitions and men of war in a miserable wreck against our iron-bound barriers ; as perished once the mighty armada of Papal Spain in the waters of Protestant England ; and again, the fleet of D'Anville on our own

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

coast in colonial times, in answer, as our fathers devoutly believed, to special prayer. What has occurred ? A terrific convulsion of the elements. Very well ; this is a yearly event. But what has it secured just now, which it seldom has effected ? Safety to an imperilled country from invasion by a possibly overwhelming force in the interests of injustice, wrong, impiety. We say, as the Bible in countless places represents : God, who holds the winds in his fists, has loosed them and whirled them upon a specific object, in mercy to some cause of righteousness and truth which he would protect from subversion ; stormy winds thus fulfilling his word. There is no violence to the action of natural laws in this. They do what they always do under given combinations and states : but they do it in a sufficiently unusual way to secure some particular result which otherwise would not be reached.

We have not room to pause upon the side issues which may be raised, some of which would require more space than ability to dispose of; and others of which are, for the present, beyond our reach of solution. The Christian doctrine of providence is, that God upholds all nature by the same will which created it; and that he uses it, as he sees fit, by continual subsidizing of its established laws, to promote the ends and aims of his moral administration. We demand this power and prerogative for the Maker and Owner of the world. " The earth is the Lord's." It is not superior to its author, nor too vast or subtile for his grasp “who taketh up the isles as a very little thing"; "who weigheth the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance” ; “ who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

Dr. Hedge, while affirming the doctrine of providence, objects to this view of it, that it consists “partly in pre-established general laws, and partly in occasional interpositions of divine power

for the sake of certain ends not included in the original plan of creation, and which general laws would not have accomplished"; thus making God sometimes active and sometimes inert, in connection with human affairs. For this he would substitute direct Divine efficiency in the working of every law and force of nature. We accept this last position as

* Reason in Religion. pp. 76-78.

[ocr errors]

the very life of the true doctrine of “ The Regent God"; and hold that only on our philosophy of providence can we get an intelligible idea of this presence and power of God in the earth. But he misstates us as believing that this providential oversight is a device for managing cases not “included in the original plan of creation.” We know of no such cases or ends. We know of no self-acting pre-established laws of the universe. God is in natural causation and results, from beginning to end, never "quiescent,” never moved to “arbitrariness and partiality," acting everywhere freely and supremely. If there be the

appearance” of partial and arbitrary conduct here, does Dr. Hedge get rid of this by his theory of the universe ? He claims that his doctrine is the true biblical and apostolical “ pantheism.” We deny it, and claim his proof-texts for our doctrine as that which rightly sets forth the God “ in whom and through whom are all things"; "in whom we live, and move, and have our being.” His theory of God's presence in nature and the world's life is, to our mind, only a dreamy, poetic, transcendental flourish of rhetoric — the pantheism not of the Bible, but of the imagination ; because, while affirming with great positiveness, the presence and activity of a personal God, he takes out of this all its meaning and value by spiritualizing the fact into an indiscriminating vagueness, a virtual unreality.

The seeming opposition to the established working of natural laws becomes distinct and startling, as we pass from the providential government of God into the sphere

(2) Of his miraculous agency. This takes effect also upon the laws of the material world. It gives them other and more peculiar changes, for the same purpose of moral education, of spiritual well-being. The objection to this agency is, that it is too great a violation of the natural order of things to be credited. Mr. Hume said, that if a miracle should be wrought, it could not be proved, because it would be more likely that a hundred fair-minded men saying that they saw it at mid-day, should be mistaken, or should be liars, though this would be a most violent contradiction to the common course of things, than that, for instance, a dead man should be summoned from the grave by a word of Christ. Doubtless a presumption would lie against the fact thus asserted : 80 would it against the

[ocr errors]

unreliableness of the testimony supporting it. Both are contrary to experience. The question then is this: which of two prodigies shall be believed — the raising of Lazarus for an obviously good and great purpose which a true miracle always presupposes, or this other wonder — that a hundred otherwise credible witnesses, with no conceivable motive, should so violate all the laws of witness-bearing which are laws of nature as well as the others, that they should testify to a falsehood? Ingenious as Mr. Hume's theory is, it would not seem to be very satisfactory, for few choose that footing at the present day. Most impugners of the miraculous are inclining now to deny its possibility, though we observe a vaccillation here, at times, as in the Westminster, as cited by us in a former volume.' The majority of these unbelievers, are going over to the extreme ground. Baden Powell says, that the idea of a miracle is inadmissible, and even if we saw one, we could not feel that it was real. Strauss " holds that miracles are impossible, and that if God were to operate against natural laws, he would be operating against himself.”3 But this is not affirmed by the supernaturalists ; only that there is an apparent operating “ against natural laws.” Mr. Parker asserts that a miracle is as impossible as a round triangle. This is a very narrow and distinct issue. It is based upon “the assumption of absolute determinism,” that is, positive, fatalistic necessity. The course of nature (say they) forbids it. But a question lies back of this ; what is the course, the great, primordial law, of nature ?

If it made and sustains itself, there is nothing more to be said on the subject.

That is bald materialism — the no God folly. But our argument is with theists. We have found in man a personal will which subjects nature to his use and management. We can not find less than a personal will in God, if he be at all our superior. His will acts upon the world of physical laws as does ours. It does infinitely more, inasmuch as he is infinite in all his attributes. The first law of the universe is, therefore, the ordaining will of its Maker. The most stupendous of all miracles was creation itself. There could

The Boston Review, Vol. IV., pp. 44, 45.
Essays and Reviews : American Ed: p.

159. * Hurst's History of Rationalism, p. 277; also, Fisher's Essays, p. 341.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

have been no nature to have an order without the exercise of supernatural power. That which begun in the miraculous, one would think, might, in suitable emergencies, be carried on through the same instrumentality, whenever, to its Maker's eye, there is a sufficient occasion.

It is commonly objected to this doctrine of divine interference in mundane affairs, that it would necessarily produce a disastrous if not ruinous disturbance in the world, as all material things are linked together in one mutually dependent system. To this it has been very well replied that

“If the motions and operations of material things be produced really by the Divine will, then His choosing to change, for a special purpose, the ordinary motion of one part, does not necessarily, or probably, infer his choosing to change the ordinary motions of other parts in a way not at all requisite for the accomplishment of that special purpose. It is as easy for Him to continue the ordinary course of the rest, with the change of one part, as of all the phenomena without any change at all. Thus, though the stoppage of the motion of the earth in the ordinary course of nature, would be attended with terrible convulsions, the stoppage of the earth miraculously, for a special purpose to be served by that only, would not of itself be followed by any such consequences.” That is, the power which works the miracle can prevent damage to other interests such as would result from any deviation from the common order of things, produced in any way other than by the intervention of God, which latter idea is, of course, the supposing of an impossible case.

Next to creation, a superhuman revelation of truth and duty and salvation to mankind, involves our argument. Any thing which is out of the apparent sequence of cause and effect, our opponents contend, is impossible. The Bible then in any peculiar sense as the book of God is not to be received. We “ should recognize the Christian revelation, not as an irregular, extra-historical event, but as lying within the compass of natural and historic law as purely as the development of the Platonic philosophy, or the rise and spread of Mohammedanism." We respond : by general consent our race needs an authenta

[ocr errors]

" 1

[ocr errors]

i Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. II. p. 376. "Miracles." ' North American Review, 1865, p. 608.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »