« PreviousContinue »
or 20° below zero. The physiological fact of evaporation, and the theory of animal combustion, which supplies the alpha and omega of materialism, fails to explain the problem. Combustion cannot exist without fire; and that the fire of life is not derived from the sun is clear from the fact that it burns fiercest where the action of the sun is weakest. Moreover, if it were owing to the sun, why is it not observable in dead, equally with living organisms? Why should the living body preserve its temperature in a heat sufficient to roast meat, or a degree of cold which congeals the fluids of a carcase to solid ice? If the materialist tells us it is organization that makes all the difference, he only removes the difficulty a stage, but is equally remote from solving it. The question still recurs, Why does not the sun organize all matter? Its action, when not counterbalanced by life within a subject, is however to dissipate its parts, not to construct. It rays hasten corruption instead of arresting it.
From the considerations presented above, then, it is evident that two streams of life are indispensable to organic existence, one entering through an inner channel into the organism itself, and the other by an external way to surround it with conditions suited to its developments. It thus both permeates and environs its subjects; and remembering that the great fountain of life is God, intelligent beings may recognize the philosophical as well as spiritual force of the Apostle's words, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being."
One more point demands our attention. It has been shown how essential the existence of a world of living forces is to call into active life the dead substances in this sphere; but the Scripture tells us that "God created not the earth in vain," whence it follows that it forms an indispensable part of the economy of creation; and the terms under which it is spoken of indicate its position as a link in the great chain of being. One of those terms by which inspiration has characterized its use, is that where it is designated "God's Footstool,"the basis on which all His operations rest. All creation involves finiteness, and finiteness limitations. It is the Creator who alone is infinite, His created works are finite images of Himself.1
1 It is usual to speak of space as infinite; but boundless extent, although it may shadow forth the immensity of Deity, is not to be confounded with infinity. To think of God as infinite in size would present the idea of His being diffused throughout space, and commensurate with it, which would destroy our conception of a personal God, and impel our thoughts to Naturalism or Pantheism. Our highest conceptions of Him are not associated with size; we do not think of Him as infinite in magnitude, but infinite in perfection, quality, or attributes. All in
The universal boundary in which creation terminates is the material universe. In the absence of this provision the creative activities would fly off without resulting in permanent embodiment, the activities of spiritual substances would dissipate their subjects by the active forces which are proper to them. Something analogous to this is seen in Nature. The solar rays, for instance, produce no tangible effect in their passage through the atmospheres, till they impinge on the solid earth. It is at the point of reaction that sensible warmth is perceived. Hence the material universe itself is graduated, till at its ultimate in the "everlasting hills" and rocks,-the great framework of the world, its inertia terminates in fixedness. We thus find the unchangeableness of God shadowed forth at the very omega of creation, in the unchanging strata which form the basis of the earth. Whilst then the active forces of creation come from above, the inert substances of matter supply the elements that give them fixedness. Earth then is the footstool of the Divine operations, where they rest, and whence they ascend like the ladder of Jacob through spirit back to their Divine source.1
An objection may possibly arise, which it will be well to anticipate. By some it may be thought that the views here explained militate in some degree against the Omnipotence of God. Against the popular impression held by some that Omnipotence implies the power of producing results without means, I grant it does. What is creation
Him is infinite; but if space were infinite in quality, as it is boundless in extent, every point in it would be infinitely distant from every other; but no part of space is infinitely distant from any other part however remote. Similar remarks are applicable to time and eternity. Time is no more eternal in the sense in which God is than space is infinite. Time consists simply of periodical changes produced by the mechanical revolutions of the planetary bodies. It does not therefore obtain with the spirit. Our mental perception of time is altogether dependent on the state of our affections; and every idea of it would be obliterated were we not reminded of it by our clocks, and the periodical recurrence of morning, noon, evening, and night. In the unchangeableness of the Divine State there are no periods,—it is one eternal Now; and there can be no common ratio between the two. As no part of space is an infinite distance from another, so no period of time is eternally distant from another; and every attempt to conceive of eternity, by heaping years on years and ages on ages, only leads the mind away from the true conception of the subject, and must end in failure.
1 Should the line of argument employed in this chapter convey the impression, that it favours the hypothesis of those who hold that on the dissolution of the body the soul is dissipated, the reader is requested to suspend his decision on the point till he has perused the next chapter, where the consideration of the subject will more appropriately come.
but a stupendous series of agencies for the accomplishment of the purposes of Divine Love? Creation, moreover, involves conditions. The only unconditioned existence is that of God Himself; and Divine power, in operating into the conditioned, must act according to the conditions inseparable from created subjects. No power for instance is adequate to create and uncreate being, or bestow infinity; nor can any cause produce an effect equal to itself. Neither can any Divine power act contrary to the Divine Nature. The character of these conditions will, however, come under consideration at a future stage of our researches. For the present, therefore, suffice it to remark, that God so created the universe that He can both be present and operate in every part of it, and that, although the Divine power is limited by the order introduced from Himself in creation, it is nevertheless infinite, there being no limits to the extension of His goodness in His intelligent creatures.
Before finally dismissing this subject, a brief digression explaining the bearing which the principles here laid down have on the subject of Scripture miracles may not be out of place.
A very prevalent impression in regard to the miraculous occurrences recorded by the writers of the Old and New Testaments is that they are to be considered as "violations of the laws of Nature," and some have argued that, as "unalterable experience has established these laws," this circumstance presents a "proof against miracles" which, "from the nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined." Such are the sentiments of Hume, from whose Essay on Miracles the above quotation has been extracted. There are others who do not take so extreme a view, yet conceive them to involve a suspension of natural laws. If, however, the data on which the remarks in this chapter have been founded are correct, they supply a solution on grounds which demand neither the violation nor suspension of any natural law.
To take the case of the Lord's miracles, they imply nothing beyond a change in the mode of accomplishing ends which continually are effected in the common course of things. He changed water into wine; He fed 5000 with two loaves and a few fishes; He imparted health to the afflicted, and even raised the dead. All these or analogous results are continually produced. Water becomes wine by the ordinary process of the produce of the vine and fermentation; not only 5000, but myriads on myriads are daily fed and sustained by the same hand; health is restored by what has been termed the "vis medicatrix
naturæ;" and life is continually being imparted to new organizations. Passing by the fact that He who is adequate to performing the greater must be equal to the accomplishment of the less, that He who provides wine for the whole human family could supply sufficient for a marriage feast in a small village in Galilee,-that He who perpetually sustains the beings that people myriads of worlds could supply sufficient for the temporary wants of a few thousands,—that He who is the saving health of all nations could impart soundness to a few sick folk in Palestine; and He who first gives life can, where He sees fit, restore it where its action has been suspended. Assuredly the greater power must be admitted to include the less, but passing this by, the ordinary processes of Nature, as has been shown, result from, or rather through, the operation of spiritual causes into natural, primarily from the Divine. Hence the forces whereby these effects are, in their usual course, produced, are identical with those operating in the miraculous effects under consideration. The same laws are consequently in operation; the difference is in their relative action, whereby the higher laws of the more active were brought into operation into the lower, so as by overcoming the inertia of the lower to bring these into closer analogy with themselves; and exhibit in the plane of nature similar phenomena as those common in the sphere of spirit.
The only instance which appears to involve a violation of natural laws is that in which the sun and moon are said to have stood still at the command of Joshua. But the statement is based on astronomical appearances, since the progress of science has demonstrated in later times that the motion of the sun is but the appearance produced by the axillary revolution of the earth. That the appearance of the sun being arrested in its course was actual there is no question in my own mind; but that it was provided for by other means than disturbing the order of the universe I feel equally convinced. Moreover the Hebrew term used in this instance does not mean the body of the sun but its heat and light.
It may be asked, To what purpose were these miracles wrought? answer, that they might supply the ultimate bases of Divine truth in God's Word. That they have an analogy to Divine things has been recognized. Especially that the miraculous beneficence of our blessed Saviour was in keeping with His character as the Emmanuel-God with us. This brings them in closer alliance and unison with the phenomena of the spiritual world, which are evidently based on the universal law of that world, by which the outward, both in form and action, effigy the essences which they respectively clothe.
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL AND THE CHURCH.
ANY idea we have formed for ourselves of the scope and objects of the Sunday School will be generally included in the definition that it is intended to be a nursery for the Church of God. It is so commonly and naturally expected to be such a nursery, that to dilate upon this subject will doubtless seem to many like a needless or a profitless task. But, after much thought, I have come to the conclusion that this task may be both useful and necessary;-that there is a tendency to arrive at results in these matters from very imperfect knowledge, and to believe complacently that we are effecting a positive good without inquiry as to its extent or quality. I am fain to hope that our Sunday schools are nurseries of the Church, but when, after a seventeen years' experience in Sunday school teaching, I look around upon the field of labour, in one small corner of which I have been working, I feel that I have grave reason to fear that Sunday schools are far from being such nurseries as they ought to be. I know this assertion is calculated to give pain to many earnest and thoughtful labourers in this great vineyard, but I am satisfied that it is a duty of Christian fellowship to state what appears to me to be true, and to strive to suggest means of improvement, rather than to flatter with a vain assurance that no need for such improvement exists.
Many friends, in various New Church Societies, ardent lovers of the Sunday School, whenever such a question as the one I am discussing is raised, will mention, with honest pride, the fact that a large number of the scholars in the schools with which they have been connected have grown up intelligent and thoughtful,-that they have become respectable members of society, and eventually members of the Church itself, as it is outwardly constituted. This is well so far as it goes, but it only tells one-half of the story, and that the most favourable half. The question for the Sunday school teacher to answer before he can satisfy himself that the school is a nursery of the Church is— How many are there, in proportion to the number educated, who grow up careless about religion, both in profession and practice?—still worse, how many are there, even, who overstep the chaste line that virtue draws, who become imprudent, dishonest, degraded, miserable? In his beautiful account of the vision of "Mirza," which is a parable of human life, Addison describes a bridge across a great tide of water, the road over which, he tells us, was studded with innumerable trap-doors, that lay concealed until the unwary traveller stepped on them. He saw multitudes of people passing over this bridge; but so many of