THE INNATE IDEA AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
Augustine: City of God, IV. xxiv. xxv. xxxi.; V1L vi.; VIII. i.xii. Clement of Alexandria: Miscellanies, V. xiv. Cicero : De Natura Deorum, III. 16-25. Calvin: Institutes, I. iii. iv. x. Cudworth: System, IV. i.-xxviii. More: Antidote to Atheism. Howe: Living Temple, I. ii. Stillingfleet: Natural and Revealed Religion, I. i. Chamocke: Discourses, I. II. Lowman: Hebrew Ritual, I. ii. Bolton: Evidences of Christianity from Christian Apologists. Christlieb: Modern Doubt, II. Buchanan: Modern Atheism. Flint: Theism; Antitheistic Theories. Harris: Theism. Mommsen: Rome, L ii. xii. Curtius: Greece, I. ii. Thirlwall: Greece, XXII. Naville: Modern Atheism. Thompson: Christian Theism. Nagelsbach: Homerische Theologie. Gladstone: Homer, n. 1 seq. Miiller: Science of Language, 2d series, IX X. Bowen: Modern Philosophy, III. Shedd: History of Doctrine, L 61-74; 103-130. Gillett: God in Human Thought. Bawlinson: Egypt, X. Quatrefages: Human Species, XXXV. Fisher: Theistic and Christian Belief.
The term "being," when applied to God, refers to his nature and constitution: quid sit; in opposition to materialistic and pantheistic conceptions of him. The term "existence," when applied to God, refers to the question whether there is any such being: quod sit; in opposition to atheism. We analyze and define God's being; we demonstrate his existence.
The Scriptures contain no formal or syllogistical argument for the Divine existence. The opening sentence: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," supposes that the reader has the idea of God in his mind, and recognizes its validity. The only form of atheism combated in the Bible, is practical atheism. The " fool" says there is no God, Ps. 14:1. In Eph. 2 :12, the aQeot, ev Tu> /coo-fup are the same as the t-evoi T&v Siost/kssv. The Westminster Larger Catechism (105) mentions forty-six sins as varieties of atheism; such as "ignorance of God, forgetfulness, disbelief, carnality, lukewarmness," etc. Milton (Samson Agonistes, 296) describes practical atheism:
"For of such doctrine, never was there school
But the heart of the fool,
And no man therein doctor, but himself."
The reason why the Scriptures make no provision against speculative atheism by syllogistic reasoning is, that syllogistic reasoning starts from a premise that is more obvious and certain than the conclusion drawn from it, and they do not concede that any premise necessary to be laid down in order to draw the conclusion that there is a Supreme being, is more intuitively certain than the conclusion itself. To prove is, "e re certa incerta confirmare." "An argument is something clearer than the proposition to be maintained," says Charnocke. But the judgment, "There is a God," is as universal, natural, and intuitive as the judgment, " There is a cause." The latter judgment has been combated (by Hume, e.g.), as well as the former. And the principal motive for combating the latter is, the invalidation of the former. Men deny the reality of a cause, only for the purpose of disproving the reality of a First Cause.
Another reason for the absence of a syllogistical argument for the Divine existence in scripture, is suggested by Stillingfleet (Origines Sacrae, III. i.). He remarks that in the early ages of the world, the being of God was more universally acknowledged by reason of the proximity in time to the beginning of the world, and to such events as the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Hence Moses found little atheism to contend with. Furthermore, the miracles connected with Moses's own mission rendered arguments for the divine existence unnecessary. Under Sinai, God proved his existence by his miraculous presence to the senses.
The evidence relied upon in the scriptures for the Divine existence is derived from the immediate and universal consciousness of the human soul, as this is awakened and developed by the works of creation and providence. St. Paul has given the fullest account of the subject, of any inspired writer, in Rom. 1:19, 20, compared with Acts 17 : 24-28; 14 : 16, 17. The positions which he lays down are the following:
1. The pagan possesses a knowledge of God as invisible (tcl dopara airrov); as eternal (aifSw? Svvajii<;); as omnipotent (dtSiOi Svvafit<;); as supremo (SetoVr7?)—sovereignty not godhead (A. V.), which would require SeoT^? as in Col. 2: 9; as holy in revealing wrath (opyij) against sin; as one God—there being only one almighty, supreme, and eternal being; as benevolent: Acts 17 : 25; 14 :16; Rom. 2 : 4. Only the more general unanalyzed idea of God is attributed to the pagan, because there are degrees of knowledge, and his is the lowest. The unity, invisibility, omnipotence, eternity, retributive justice, and benevolence of the Divine being are represented by St. Paul as knowable by man as man, and as actually known by him in greater or less degree.
2. The pagan, though having an imperfect, yet has a valid and trustworthy knowledge of God. It is denominated aXrjSeiav, Rom. 1:18. It is sufficient to constitute a foundation for responsibility, and the imputation of sin. Idolatry is charged against the pagan as guilt, because in practising it he is acting against his better knowledge, Rom. 1: 20. Sensuality is guilt for the same reason, Rom. 1: 32. Unthankfulne83 is guilt, Rom. 1: 21. Failure to worship the true God is guilt, Rom. 1: 21. Accordingly, the Westminster Confession (I. i.) affirms that "the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave man inexcusable." Sin is chargeable upon the heathen, because they have not lived up to the light of nature. Any man is guilty who knows more than he performs. The Divine estimate of human duty, and the Divine requirement, proceeds upon the created capacities of the human soul, not upon the use that man makes of them. Because the pagan was originally endowed with the idea of one God, supreme, almighty, and holy, he is said by St. Paul to know God, and is consequently obligated to love and serve him so far as he knows him. The fact that the pagan's sin has vitiated this original idea, does not release him from this obligation, or prove that he is destitute of the idea, any more than the vice of man in Christendom, and the moral ignorance that ensues from it, release him from obligation.
The foundation for these statements of St. Paul is the fact that the idea of God is natural to the human mind, like the ideas of space and time, and the mathematical ideas of a point, a line, a circle, etc. These latter ideas are always assumed as more or less present and valid in human intelligence. The degree of their development in consciousness varies in different races and civilizations; but, in some degree, they are universal ideas. An "innate" idea is one that results from the constitution of the mind. It is not a fixed quantity in human consciousness, but varies with the mental development.
The idea of God is rational in its source. It is a product of the reason, not of the sense. In this respect, it is like the mathematical ideas. It is an intuition of the mind, not a deduction or conclusion from an impression upon the senses by an external object. St. Paul describes the nature of the perception by the participle voovfieva, which denotes the direct and immediate intuition of reason. The invisible attributes of God, which are not objects of the senses, and are not cognizable by them, are clearly seen by the mind (vow), says St. Paul. The reason is stimulated to act by the notices of the senses; but when thus stimulated, it perceives by its own operation truths and facts which the senses themselves never perceive. The earth and sky make the same sensible impression upon the organs of a brute that they do upon those of a man; but the brute never discerns the "invisible things" of God; the "eternal power and godhood."
There must always be something innate and subjective, in order that the objective may be efficient. The objects of sense themselves would make no conscious impression, if tbere were not five senses in man upon which to impress themselves. They make no conscious impression upon a rock. In like manner, the order, design, and unity of external nature would not suggest the idea of a Supreme being, if that idea were not subjective to man. "Unless education and culture were preceded by an innate consciousness of God, as an operative predisposition, there would be nothing for education and culture to work upon." Nitzsch: Christian Doctrine, § 7.
Turrettin (III. ii. 5) asserts that even speculative atheism is only apparent and seeming, because there is in man "an innate knowledge of God, and consciousness of divinity (sensus divinitatis) which can no more be wanting in him, than a rational intellect; and which he can no more get rid of than he can get rid of himself." Calvin (Inst., I. iii.) argues "that the human mind is naturally endowed with the knowledge of God." Compare Charnocke: Discourse I. (in initio). Pearson (Creed, Art. I.) remarks that "we shall always find all nations of the world more prone to idolatry than to atheism, and readier to multiply than to deny the deity." Socrates (Republic, II. 378) would not have the mythological narratives concerning the gods made known to the young, because of their tendency to destroy the natural belief in the deity. "Neither if we mean our future guardians of the state to regard the habit of quarrelling as dishonorable, should anything be said of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and fightings of the gods against one another, which are quite untrue." The second book of the .Republic enunciates very clearly the view of Socrates concerning the Divine nature, and shows that he regarded the knowledge of God as natural to man. See especially, II. 379-383. St. Paul indicates the subjective and innate quality of the idea of God, by employing the verbs diroKakirmo) and (fyavepoio respecting it. These imply that the source of the perception is internal, not external. It is a revelation in the human consciousness, and through the constitutional structure of the human intellect. Such verbs as these are never employed to describe the outward impressions of the senses.
The teaching of St. Paul respecting the innate idea is confirmed by that of the pagan philosophers themselves. Cudworth has discussed the heathen theology, as represented by Greece and Home, with immense learning and great candor. He proves by abundant quotations, 1, That many of the pagan philosophers were " theists," that is, monotheists, and acknowledged one supreme God. 2, That the multiplicity of gods, of which they speak, does not denote many eternal and self-existent deities, but only inferior divinities produced by the Supreme being, and subject to him: the word "gods" being employed by them somewhat as it is in Scripture, to signify angels, princes and magistrates. Intellectual System, L 370 sq. 417 sq. Ed. Tegg.
The Greek and Roman monotheism is well expressed in the following remark of Cicero (De Legibus, I. 8). "There is no animal excepting man that has any notion of God; and among men there is no tribe so uncivilized and savage (fera) which, even if it does not know what kind of a god (qualem deum) it ought to have, does not know that it ought to have one." Thirlwall (History, XXII.) says that "Socrates acknowledged one Supreme being as the framer and preserver of the universe; used the singular and plural number indiscriminately concerning the object of his adoration; and when he endeavored to reclaim one of his friends who had scoffed at sacrifices and divinations, it was, according to Xenophon, by an argument drawn exclusively from the works of one creator."
1. The natural monotheism of the pagan is proved by the names given to the Supreme being. The term for God is identical in languages of the same family. Says Miiller (Science of Language, 2d series, X.), '■ Zeus, the most sacred name in Greek mythology, is the same word as Dyaus in Sanscrit, Jovis or Ju in Jupiter, in Latin, Tiw in AngloSaxon, preserved in Tiwsdaeg, Tuesday, the day of the Eddie god Tyr, and Zio in Old-High German. This word was framed once and once only; it was not borrowed by the Greek from the Hindus, nor by the Romans and Germans from the Greeks. It must have existed before the ancestors of those primeval races became separate in language and religion; before they left their common pastures to migrate to the right hand and to the left." Says De Vere (Studies in English, p. 10), " the term for God is identical in all the Indo-European languages—the Indie, Iranic, Celtic, Hellenic, Italic, Teutonic, and Sclavonic." Grimm and Curtius (Griechische Etymologie, § 269) give this etymology of Zeus. When the name for the Supreme being is different, because the language is of another family, the same attribute or characteristic of superiority and supremacy over inferior divinities is indicated by it. The same deity whom the Greeks and Romans called Zeus or Jupiter, the Babylonians denominated Belus and Bel, the Egyptians Ammon, the Persians Mithras, the North American Indian the Great Spirit. See Studien und Kritiken, 1849.
2. This natural monotheism is proved by the title in the singular number given to the Supreme divinity. Solon (Herodotus, I. 32) denominates him o Seo<;, To &elov. Sophocles speaks of 5 fleya? #eo?. Plato often denominates him 6 5eo?. Other titles are, 6 Srj/juovpyo?, 6 ■fyyefi&v, 6 irpioro? Seo?, o 7rpcoTo? vow, 6 viraro< ; Kpeiovrap (Homer), tj irpovola (Plutarch). Horace (Carm., L xii.) describes the Supreme deity as the universal Father, to whom there is nothing "simile aut secundum." "The name of one Supreme God," says Calvin (Inst., I. x.), "has been universally known and celebrated. For those who used to worship a multitude of deities, whenever they spake according to the genuine sense of nature, used simply the name of God in the singular number, as though they were contented with one God."
The early christian Apologists universally maintained the position, that the human mind is naturally and by creation monotheistic. Tertullian (Apologeticus, 17) says, "God proves himself to be God, and the one only God, by the fact that he is known to all nations. The consciousness of God is the original dowry of the soul; the same in Egypt, in Syria, and in Pontus. For the God of the Jews is the one whom the souls of men call their God. The Christians worship one God, the one whom ye pagans naturally know; at whose lightnings and thunders ye tremble, at whose benefits ye rejoice. We prove the divine existence by the witness of the soul itself, which, although confined in the prison of the body, although enervated by lusts and passions, although made the servant of false goods, yet when it recovers itself as from a surfeit or a slumber, and is in its proper sober condition, calls God by this name [deus, not Jupiter, Apollo, etc.] because it is the proper name of the true God. 'Great God,' 'Good God,' and 'God grant,' are words in every mouth. Finally, in pronouncing these words, it looks not to the Roman capital, but to heaven; for it knows the dwelling-place of the true God, because from him and from thence it descended." Clement of Alexandria, by numerous quotations from pagan writers, proves that there is much monotheism in them; which he denominates " Greek plagiarism from the Hebrews." Stromata, V. xiv. Lactantius (Institutions, I. 5) quotes the Orphic poets, Hesiod, Virgil, and Ovid, in proof that the heathen poets knew the unity of God. He then cites Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, and Seneca, to show that the pagan philosophers had the doctrine. Augustine (De Civitate, IV. xxiv.-xxxi.; VII. vi.; VIII. i.-xii.) takes the same view of pagan theology. "Varro," says Augustine, "while reprobating the popular belief in many divinities, thought that worship should be confined to one God; although he calls this one God the soul of the world." Varro states that the Romans for more than one hundred and seventy years worshipped without images. Minucius Felix (Octavius, 18) argues in a manner like that of Tertullian. "Audio vulgus, cum ad caelum manus tendunt nihil aliud quam deum dicnnt, et: 'Deus magnus est,' et; 'Dens verus est,' et; 'Si deus dederit.' Vulgi iste naturalis sermo est, an cbristiani confitentis oratio? Et qui Jovem principem volunt, falluntur in nomine, sed de una potestate consentiunt." Eusebius (Praeparatio Evangelica, XI. 13) quotes from the Timaeus, to prove that Plato agrees with Moses in teaching the unity of God. In the Praeparatio Evangelica (XI. 1), Ensebius maintains that "Platonis philosophiam, in iis quae omnium maxirne necessaria sunt cum illa Hebraeorum convenire." Modern authorities agree with the Christian apologist. "Among all nations," says Kant (Pure Reason, p. 363), " through the darkest polytheism, glimmer some faint sparks of monotheism, to which these idolaters have been led, not from reflection and profound thought, but by the study and natural progress of the human understanding."
That monotheism prevailed somewhat in Abraham's time in races other than the Hebrew, and in countries other than Palestine, is evident from the following Biblical data. Hagar, the Egyptian, "called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me," Gen. 16:13. Jehovah appears to Abimelech, the Philistine king, and Abimelech said, " Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?" Gen. 20: 3-8. Pharaoh, the Egyptian, speaks of Joseph as "a man in whom the spirit of God is," Gen. 41: 38. Jethro, the priest of Midian, gives to Moses his son-in-law, the counsel of a god-fearing man. Ex. 18: 9-12, 19-23. Balaam, in Mesopotamia, enunciates the doctrine of one God the sovereign ruler of all. Numbers 24:16. Ruth, a Moabitess, speaks of God the Lord. Ruth 1:16, 17. It is true that in some instances, as in those of Hagar and Ruth, this knowledge of God might have been received from those with whom they associated, but after subtracting these, it is still evident that considerable monotheism was current, particularly among the races descending from Shem.
The Persian religion contains many monotheistic elements. Cudworth (Vol. L 471) remarks that upon the authority of Eubulus, cited by Porphyry, " we may conclude that notwithstanding the sun was generally worshipped by the Persians as a god, yet Zoroaster and the ancient Magi, who were best initiated in the Mithraic mysteries, asserted another deity superior to the sun, for the true Mithras, such as was irdvriov iroi/ryrrjs, Kal irari'jp, the maker and father of all things, or of the whole world, whereof the sun is a part." Similarly, Prideaux (Connection, I. iv.) says that Zoroaster reformed the Magian religion, by introducing a principle superior to the two Magian principles of good and evil, namely "one supreme God who created both light and darkness." Prideaux thinks that Zoroaster obtained the suggestion from Isa. 45: 5-7. Herodotus (I. 131) asserts that the Persians have no images of the gods, no temples, no altars, and consider the use of them a sign of folly. Compare Rawlinson: Herodotus I. v. A writer in the Princeton Review, Oct. 1869, affirms that the countrymen of Cyrus and Darius were not polytheists, and did not worship fire, or any other idol, but one almighty God. The Persian monotheism was undoubtedly owing in part to Biblical influences. The captivity of Judah, and the residence of the Jews at Babylon, must have brought the Hebrew religion into contact with those of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. Jewish communities also flourished at several great centres in central Asia, subsequent to the captivity. See Merivale: Roman History, LIV. But while this element of tradition is conceded, it does not explain the entire fact. The natural monotheism of the human mind remains a great and underlying factor in the problem.
According to John 1: 4, there is a natural apprehension of God; and according to John 1: 5, there is a sinful misapprehension of him. The Logos was "the light of men," and "the darkness comprehended not" this light. The first statement relates to the innate idea of God given by creation; the second, to the innate idea as vitiated by sin.
The vitiation of an idea is not the eradication of it. If the idea of God were absolutely extinct in the human spirit, religion would be impossible. But man in all the varieties of his condition, has a religion of some kind in which a superior being is recognized. Hence, St. Paul does not except any portion of the human family from his description of human nature as furnished with religious ideas. His statement is sweeping and universal, that " when men knew God they glorified him not as God," and therefore are without excuse.
It has been objected to this, that some tribes of men have been discovered destitute of the idea of God. But when the alleged fact has been investigated, it has been found that a very low grade of knowledge has been mistaken for blank ignorance. In some instances, the statement is that of an ignorant witness, and is contradicted by an intelligent one. Ben Ali, Livingstone's guide, told Livingstone that the Makondi " had no idea of a deity; that they knew nothing of a deity, or a future state; had no religion except a belief in medicine; and prayed to their mothers when in distress or dying." But Livingstone, on going among the Makondi, found them saying that " in digging for gum-copal, none may be found on one day, but God (Mungu) may give it to us the next." "This showed me," he says, " that the consciousness of God's existence was present to their minds." Livingstone's Last Journals, p. 38. Respecting the African races generally, Macdonald (Af ricana, L 67) remarks: "We should say that their religion and its worship is practically polytheism. Beyond their polytheism, their language contains a few expressions that remind us of pantheism, and a great many that speak of monotheism." Says Quatrefages (Human Species, XXXV.), "the result of my investigations is exactly the opposite to that to which Lubbock and St. Hilaire have arrived. Obliged in the course of my investigation to review all human races, I have sought atheism in the lowest as well as the highest. I have nowhere met it except in individuals, or in more or less limited schools, such as those which existed in Europe in the last century, or which may still be seen at the present day."
The existence of an idea in the mental constitution, and its development in consciousness, must be distinguished from each other. The idea of God is not so fully developed in one man or nation, as it is in another. No two men even in a Christian land are exactly alike in this respect. But their mental constitution is the same. One man has a more impressive sense of the divine justice than another; another has a deeper consciousness of the divine mercy; another of the divine wisdom. The idea of God has immense contents, and the varieties of its unfolding are innumerable. Apostasy from God and sin hinder the evolution of the innate idea. They also confuse and corrupt its development in consciousness, so that a deeply immoral individual or nation, will exhibit less of a true knowledge of the deity than a comparatively moral individual or nation. The difference in the amount of moral intelligence shown in the history of the human family, consequently, is not due to any original difference in the structure of the human spirit, or in the constitutional provision which the Creator has made for a knowledge of himself, but to the greater or less degree of human depravity. In proportion as a people are hostile to the innate idea of God, and do not " like to retain " it in consciousness, they are given over to a reprobate mind, and the idea either slumbers, or is mutilated and altered. The " truth of God," that is, the true view and conception of God, is "changed into a lie;" that is, into polytheism, or pantheism, or atheism. Rom. 1: 25, 28.
The imbrnted condition of the idolatrous world does not disprove the existence of the innate idea of the deity. A fundamental idea in the human constitution may be greatly undeveloped, or vitiated, and still be a reality. No one will deny that the ideas of space and time belong as truly to the rational understanding of a Hottentot, as they did to that of Plato. But it would not follow, that because the Hottentot has not elicited the ideas of space and time by reflection upon their nature and bearings, they are extinct within his mind. The axioms of geometry are as much intuitive truths for the Esquimaux, as they were for Newton; but if they should be stated to the Esquimaux in words, his first look might be that of blank vacancy. In truth, it requires a longer time and more effort to bring the savage man to consciousness respecting geometrical truth, than it does to bring him to consciousness respecting the idea of God. The missionary, contrary to the view of those who assert that civilization must precede evangelization, finds that he can elicit the ideas of God, the soul, of sin and guilt, sooner and easier than he can the ideas of mathematics and philosophy.
Socrates, in the Platonic dialogue entitled Meno, takes a slave-boy who is utterly unacquainted with geometry, and by putting questions to him in his wonderful obstetric method, develops out of the boy's rational intelligence the geometrical proposition and demonstration, that the square of the diagonal contains twice the space of the square of the side. If the proposition had been stated to the boy in this form at first, he would have stared in utter ignorance. But being led along step by step, he comes out into the conclusion with as clear a perception as that of Socrates himself. Compare Cicero: Tusculan Questions, I. 24. To affirm, by reason of the undeveloped condition of the geometrical ideas in this slave's mind, that he was destitute of them, would be as erroneous as it is to deny the existence of the idea of the deity in every human soul, because of the dormant state in which it is sometimes found. Reason is more spontaneously active in some minds than in others; but reason is alike the possession of every man. Pascal at the age of twelve discovered alone by himself, and without any mathematical instruction, the axioms and definitions of geometry, and actually worked out its theorems as far as the thirty-second proposition of Euclid.
The doctrine of an innate idea and knowledge of God does not conflict with that of human depravity, and cannot be adduced in proof of the position that there is some natural holiness in man. Natural religion, or the light of nature, is not of the nature of virtue or holiness. This for two reasons. 1. A rational being may know that there is one God, and that he ought to be obeyed and glorified, and yet render no obedience or worship. The lost angels are an example. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well, the devils also believe and tremble," James 2: 19. This natural knowledge of God is in the understanding only; not in the will and affections. It is consequently not an element in the moral character; but only a characteristic of the rational constitution.
2. Secondly, the idea of God is not man's product, but that of God. St. Paul employs the phrase Seo? ecfxivepoae, respecting it. The Creator is the author and cause of this knowledge in the creature. Whatever worth or merit, therefore, there may be in this mental possession, is due to God not to man. Some theologians have attempted to overthrow the doctrine of depravity, and establish that of natural virtue and merit, upon the ground of the lofty ideas of God, freedom, and immortality, in the human spirit.1 Were these ideas self-originated; did man, being at first a tabula rasa, come by them through a laborious reasoning of his own, there would be some ground for the view. But the idea of God is a gift of God, as truly as any other gift proceeding from the divine hand. "That which may be known of God ;" all the religious knowledge which the human spirit possesses by virtue of its constitution; is a manifestation or revelation, for God has "showed" it unto man. That mode of human consciousness by which man is immediately and intuitively aware of his Maker, is as really the product of God, as is the breath in the nostrils. "Unser Gottesbewustsein ist immer, wenn es ein wahres ist, auch ein von Gott bewirktes," says Twesten. All egotism, therefore, all merit in view of the lofty ideas in human nature, is excluded by the doctrine of creation and providence, as much as it is by the doctrine of justification by grace. A man might as rationally claim that his faculty for perceiving geometrical truths is due to himself, and is of the nature of virtue, and rewardable, as to claim that his intuitive idea of God is a product of his agency for which he deserves the rewards of the future life.
The assertion that the idea of the deity is the product of education, and not innate, is disproved by the following considerations.
1. The savage races have no education in this reference, but they have the idea. 2. If theism conld be taught by priests and interested parties, then atheism could be taught by skeptics. But it has been found impossible to educate any considerable portion of the human family into disbelief of the divine existence. Atheism is sporadic, never general, or even local. 3. The terror before God which man feels as a transgressor, is a strong motive for him to banish the idea from his mind, if it could be done; and it could be
1 Channing is one of the ablest, and most eloquent of them, on Likeness to God.
See his sermon done, if its existence depended merely upon instruction. Cease to instruct, and it would cease to exist. /' The more profoundly and carefully the forms of human consciousness are investigated, the stronger becomes the evidence for the Divine existence. Atheism is refuted by an accurate and exhaustive psychology. This is apparent from an examination of both consciousness and self-consciousness. 1. In the first place, a proof of the Divine existence is found in man's God-consciousness, considered as a universal and abiding form of human consciousness. Consciousness implies a real object that is correlative to it. There cannot be a universal and abiding consciousness of a non-entity. Sensuous consciousness proves the existence of a sensuous object, namely, matter. The shadow implies the substance. The same is true of that particular mode of human consciousness denominated the God-consciousness. If there were no God, this form of consciousness would be inexplicable, except upon the supposition of a mental mockery, or hallucination. There would be consciousness, without an object of consciousness. But it is too universal and constant, to be accounted for by imagination and self-delusion. Consciousness is always upon the side of theism, never upon that of atheism. Multitudes of men have been conscious that there is a God; but not a single individual was ever conscious that there is not a God. Says La Bruyere (Les Caracteres, c. 16), "Je sens qu'il y a un dieu, et je ne sens pas qu'il n'y en ait point."
2. In the second place, a proof of the Divine existence is found in man's self-consciousness. This, also, like man's God-consciousness, logically implies God's objective existence. The reality of man as a finite ego involves that of an infinite ego. When I speak the word " I," I certainly distinguish between my own substance and that of the material world around me, and thereby imply that there is such a world. It would be absurd to distinguish myself from mere non-entity. Now, as in the sense-consciousness the existence of the outer world is necessarily implied, so in the self-consciousness the existence of God is implied. The consciousness of diversity and of alterity, in both cases, supposes the equal reality of the subject that cognizes and the object cognized. If the human spirit, by immediate self-consciousness, knows that it is a distinct individual self, and is not God, this proves not only that it has the idea of God, but that this idea has objective validity; precisely as when the human spirit is immediately conscious that it is another thing than the external world, this proves not only that it possesses the idea of the external world, but that this idea has objective validity.
uSs^-consciousness, therefore, leads inevitably to the belief in the being of God. If I am conscious of myself as a self, it follows that I must be conscious of God as another self. The evolution of the self-consciousness runs parallel, and keeps even pace with the evolution of the God-consciousness. If the former is narrow and meagre, the latter will be so likewise. If self-consciousness and self-knowledge are deep and comprehensive, the consciousness and knowledge of God will agree with them. "Noverim me, noverim te," says Bernard. "If I knew myself better, I should know God better," might be truly said by every human being, from Plato down to the most degraded fetish worshipper. Just as soon as any man can intelligently say, "/ am," he can and logically must say, " God is." Just as soon as he can intelligently say, " /am evil," he can and logically must say, " God is holy." The antithesis and contrast i3 felt immediately, in both cases; and an antithetic contrast implies two antithetic and contrasted objects. The logical implication of the consciousness of a sinful self, is the consciousness of a holy God. He who knows darkness knows light, and he who has the idea of wrong necessarily has the idea of right. The imbruted pagan who is cited to disprove the view we are upholding, has as little knowledge of himself 'as he has of the deity. His self-consciousness is as slightly developed as his God-consciousness. If a low grade of a particular form of human consciousness may be instanced to prove the non-entity of the object correlated to it, then the low form, and often the temporary absence of self-consciousness in the savage, would prove that he is not an ego. Compare Calvin's remarks upon "the connection between a knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves." Instit., I. i.
It follows, therefore, that man has the same kind of evidence for the Divine existence, that he has for his own personal existence: that of immediate consciousness. But this is the most convincing and invincible species of evidence. We have a stronger proof that we ourselves exist, than that the world of matter around us exists; of the existence of the ego than of the non-ego. A man's own existence is the most certain of all things. Berkeley denied that matter is a real entity, but not that his own mind is such. Locke, who was by no means inclined to undervalue the force of arguments derived from matter and sensuous impressions, nevertheless places the evidence of self-consciousness at the highest point in the scale. "The real existence of other things without us can be evidenced to us only by our senses; but our own existence is known to us by a certainty yet higher than our senses can give us of the existence of other things; and this is internal perception, or self-consciousness, or intuition." Locke: Des Cartes'proof of the being of God. Life and Letters, Bonn's Ed., p. 316. In like manner, Smith (Immortality, VI.) contends that" we know a thousand times more distinctly what our souls are, than what our bodies are. For the former we know by an immediate converse with ourselves, and a distinct sense of their operations; whereas all our knowledge of the body is little better than merely historical, which we gather up by scraps and piecemeal from doubtful and uncertain experiments which we make of them. But the notions which we have of a mind, that is, of something that thinks, apprehends, reasons, and discourses, are so clear and distinct from all those notions which we can fasten upon a body, that we can easily conceive that if all body-being in the world were destroyed, we might then as well subsist as we do now." ^ Why then, it will be asked, has the Divine existence been disputed and denied? Men, it is objected, do not dispute or deny their own self-existence. To this we reply, that they do. The reality of an absolutely personal existence for the human spirit not only can be disputed and denied, but has been. Pantheism concedes only a phenomenal and transient reality to the individual ego. The individual man, it is asserted, exists only relatively and apparently, not absolutely and metaphysically. He has no substantial being different from that of the Infinite, but is only a modification of the eternal substance. His experiences; his thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears; in other words, his self-consciousness, is phenomenal, and from the philosophic point of view an illusion. It lasts only seventy years. The individual is not immortal; he is absorbed in the infinite substance of which he is only one out of millions of modes. Now this is really a denial of self-consciousness, and it has been maintained by a dialectics even more acute, and a ratiocination even more concatenated than any that has been employed by atheism in the effort to disprove the Divine existence. Spinoza and Hegel have defended this theory, with an energy of abstraction, and a concentration of mental power, unequalled in the annals of human error. That the denial of a true and real self-consciousness for man has been comparatively an esoteric doctrine, and has not had so much currency as the atheistic doctrine, arises from the fact that man has not so strong a motive for disputing his own existence, as he has for disputing that of the deity. Men are not so afraid of themselves as they are of their Maker, and Judge—although if they were fully aware of the solemn implications of a personal and responsible existence, they would find little to choose between denying their own existence and that of God.
Monotheism was the original form of religion; pantheism and polytheism were subsequent forms. This is proved by the Bible, and the earliest secular records. According to Genesis, man was created a monotheist. His first estate was his best estate. He lapsed from a higher to a lower grade of both character and knowledge.1 Cicero (Tusculan Questions) remarks that "quo proprius homo aberat ab ortu et divinia progenie, hoc melius ea fortasse quae essent vera cernebat." The statements of the early poets and philosophers respecting a golden age, express the belief that the primitive condition of man was a high, not a low one. The earlier Greek poetry is more monotheistic than the later. There is less polytheism in the Homeric theology than in that of Greece at the time of St. Paul. The number of inferior deities is greater in the last age of mythology, than in its first period. Miiller (Literature of Greece, H. 1-3) affirms that " the Homeric poems, though belonging to the first period of Greek poetry, do not, nevertheless exhibit the first form of the Greek religion. The conception of the gods as expressed in the Homeric poems suits a time when war was the occupation of the people, and the age was that of heroes. Prior to this, the nation had been pastoral, and the religion then was that earlier form which was founded upon the same ideas as the deep religions of the East. It was a nature-worship that placed one deity, as the highest of all, at the head of the entire system, viz., the God of heaven and of light y for this is the meaning of Zeus in Greek, and of Diu in Sanscrit." Prideaux (Connection, I. iii.) derives idolatry from a corruption of the doctrine of a mediator, which is contained in the religion of Noah and Abraham. The nations regarded the sun, moon, and stars, as the habitations of intelligences
1 Upon this subject see Van Ooeterzee: Dogmatics, XXV.; Hardwick: Christ and other Masters; Stillingfleet: Origines, III. V.
who were secondary divinities or mediator gods. This was the first stage in the process. As the planets were visible only in the night, they invented images to represent them. This produced image-worship; Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, etc. This was the second and final stage in the process. The religion of the Vedas, puerile as it is in many respects, is superior to the popular religion of India at the present time; showing that there has been a lapse from a higher aud better knowledge. The earlier Varuna-Vedic literature is more spiritual and truthful than the later IndraVedic. See Cook: Origins of Religion, Essay I. Iiawlinson (Egypt, X.) maintains that the "primary doctrine of the esoteric religion of Egypt undoubtedly was, the real essential unity of the Divine nature. The gods of the popular mythology were understood, in the esoteric religion, to be either personified attributes of the Deity, or parts of nature which he had created considered as informed aud inspired by him."
The first step in the corruption of the primitive monotheism, is pantheism. Here the unity of God is still retained, but the difference in essence between him and the universe is denied. The fact that the idea of the Divine unity is preserved proves that this idea is natural to the human mind. The second step in the decline from the primitive monotheism, is polytheism. Here, the unity or the one substance of pantheism is subdivided, and the subdivisions are personified; showing an endeavor to regain the personality of God, which has been lost in pantheism. Pantheism is too abstract and destitute of elements that appeal'to man's feelings, to be a popular religion. It is the idolatry or false worship of the philosopher; while polytheism is that of the common mind. For an account of the modification of monotheism outside of revelation, see Guizot: Meditations, First Series, Vn.
It is an error to represent, as Schelling doesi n his Philosophy of Mythology, the various mythological systems as the normal and necessary action of the human mind working its way up from a lower to a higher form of the religious consciousness. This makes idolatry to be a regular and legitimate step, ordained by the Creator himself, in the progress of the human race toward a perfect religion. St. Paul takes the contrary view. According to him, the human mind is monotheistic by creation and in its structure, and pantheism and polytheism are a progress downward, not upward. Idolatry is sin. But according to Schelling, idolatry is innocent, because it is a necessary movement of the human intellect. The theory taught by Hume in his History of Religion, that polytheism was the primitive religion, and that monotheism is the result of human progress, is part of that general theory of man which holds that he was created low down the scale of existence, perhaps descended from the animal tribes, and through vast ages of time slowly struggles upward of and by himself.
The relics of monotheism found outside of the pale of revelation, in the various countries and civilizations, are traceable to two sources. 1. To the monotheistic structure of the human mind, in the way that has been described. This is the subjective and fundamental requisite. 2. To the influence of the primitive revelation from God, made in the line of Seth, fragments of which have floated down among the races of mankind.1 Both of these sources and causes of monotheism should be recogpized. If only the first is acknowledged, justice is not done to traditional records and data. If only the second is acknowledged, and all the monotheism in human history is referred to a special revelation in early times, justice is not done to the constitution of the human mind. It conflicts, moreover, with St. Paul's representations in Rom. 1.
After this examination of the monotheistic structure of
1 Upon the influence of the patriarchal revelation, see Bolton: Evidences, II.; StiUingfleet: Origines Sacrae, III. v.; Gale: Court of the Gentiles.
the human spirit, considered as the foundation of natural religion, it is important to observe that natural religion is insufficient for human needs. The position of the deist, that the teachings of the human reason concerning the being and attributes of God are adequate, and that revealed religion is superfluous, is untenable because there is nothing redemptive in them. Natural religion manifests the justice of God, but not his mercy. The opjtj Tov Seov is revealed in the common human consciousness, but not the aryuinj Tov Qeov. The God-consciousness includes the Divine holiness, but not the Divine compassion. Natural religion inspires fear, but not hope and trust. The monotheistic idea of the deity contains only such moral attributes as justice, veracity, and immaculate purity. In St. Paul's analysis, mention is made of omnipotence, sovereignty, unity, and retributive displeasure; but no mention is made of the attribute of mercy. The Divine benevolence is indeed displayed to the pagan, in the rain from heaven, and the fruitful seasons, Acts 14: 7; but providential benevolence is not pardoning mercy. The lost man and even the lost angel experiences the benevolence of God. He maketh his sun to shine alike upon the evil and the good. Natural religion, consequently, is not an adequate religion for man, unless it can be proved that he does not need the mercy of God.
The utmost that human reason can say respecting the exercise of Divine mercy is, that it is & possibility. There is no self-contradiction in the proposition that God may show mercy to the guilty. Says Witsius (Apostles' Creed, Dissertation XXV.), " if one carefully consider the all-sufficiency of the Divine perfections, according to that idea of the Supreme being which is impressed by nature upon our minds, we will possibly conclude, or at least conjecture, that it is not altogether beyond the range of possibility, that a just and holy God may be reconciled to a sinner."
But it may be objected that inasmuch as the attribute of mercy necessarily belongs to the Divine nature, a careful analysis of the innate idea of God would yield this attribute to the heathen mind, and in this way the heathen might come to the knowledge that God shows mercy, and so find a redemptive element in natural religion. This objection overlooks the distinction between the existence of an attribute, and its exercise. Some of the Divine attributes are attributes of nature only, and some are attributes of both nature and will. In the former case, an attribute not only necessarily exists in the Divine essence, but it must necessarily be exercised. Truth, or veracity, is an example. God of necessity possesses this quality, and he must of necessity manifest it at all times. Its exercise does not depend upon his sovereign will and pleasure. He may not be truthful or not, as he pleases. The same is true of the Divine justice. But the attribute of mercy is not an attribute of nature only, it is also an attribute of will. Though mercy is an eternal and necessary quality of the Divine nature, and is logically contained in the idea of God as a being possessing all perfections, yet the exercise of it is optional, not necessary. Because God is a merciful being, it does not follow that he must show mercy to every object without exception, without any choice or will of his own. He says, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy," Rom. 9 :15. The exercise of this attribute depends upon the Divine good pleasure. It might have existed as an immanent and eternal attribute in God, and yet not have been extended to a single man. Because God has not shown mercy to Satan and his angels, it does not follow that he is destitute of the attribute. To deny the freeness of mercy, is to annihilate mercy. If mercy is a matter of debt, and God is obliged to show mercy, as he is obliged to be truthful and just, then mercy is no more mercy and grace is no more grace, Rom. 11: 16.1 God's mercy, in this respect, is like God's omnipo
1 It is no reply to say, that although God doe* not owe the exercise of mercy to the sinner, he owes it to himself. For if God owes it to his own attributes and perfection of oharactcr, to pardon sin, a neglect or refusal to do so in a sin
tence. God necessarily has the power to create, but is under no necessity of exerting this power. If he had never created anything at all, he would still have been an omnipotent being. And so, too, if he had never pardoned a single sinner, he would still have been a merciful being in bis own nature.
Now it is because the exercise of mercy, unlike that of truth and justice, is optional with God, that the heathen cannot be certain that mercy will be exercised toward him. In thinking of the subject of sin, his own reason perceives intuitively that God must of necessity punish transgression; and it perceives with equal intuitiveness that there is no corresponding necessity that he should pardon it. He can say with emphasis, "God must be just;" but he can not say, "God must be merciful." Mercy is an attribute whose exercise is sovereign and optional, and therefore man cannot determine by any a priori method whether it will be extended to him. He knows nothing upon this point, until he hears the assurance from the lips of God himself. When God opens the heavens, and speaks to the human creature saying, " I will forgive your iniquity," then, and not till then, does he know the fact. Shedd: Natural Man, Sermon XVIII. Hence the religion of mercy and redemption is historical and promissory in its nature. It contains a testimony respecting God's actual decision and purpose concerning the exercise of compassion. It is a record authenticated and certified of what God has decided and covenanted to do in a given case; and not a deduction from an a priori principle of what he must do of necessity. Natural religion, on the other hand, is neither historical nor promissory. It is not a historical narrative like the Old and New Testament; and it contains no promise or covenant made by God with man. Natural religion is not a series of facts and events, but of truths only.
gle instance would be a dereliction of duty to himself, and a spot on his character. Mercy, on this supposition, as well as on the other, is not grace but debt.
Consequently, natural religion, or the religion of justice, can be constructed in an a priori manner out of the ideas and laws of human intelligence; but the gospel, or the religion of mercy and redemption, can be constructed only out of a special revelation from God. Conscience can give the heathen a punitive, but not a pardoning deity. Man's natural monotheism does not include a knowledge of the Divine mercy, but only of the Divine holiness and displeasure at sin. It is sufficient for man as created and sinless; but not for man as apostate and sinful. It is because the heathen is a " stranger from the covenants of promise," that he " has no hope." Eph. 2:12.