On the Existence and Character of God
Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

I. THE ARGUMENT FOUNDED ON THE PRINCIPLE OF CAUSATION. The belief in causation is one of the primary convictions of the human mind. It will be unnecessary for the purposes of this argument to discuss its origin. It is also certain that this conviction is not the result of any conscious process of reasoning. We acquiesce in it because we cannot help doing so. Anyone may satisfy himself that this is the case, by trying whether it is possible for him to believe that any particular phenomenon has come into existence without a cause. One of these primary beliefs is that every phenomenon must owe its existence to a cause adequate to produce it. This proposition therefore constitutes one of the highest rectitudes which is attainable by man, and lies at the foundation of all reasoned truth. Such being the case, it becomes necessary to determine what we mean by the term "cause," not what philosophers mean by it, but what is the idea which the common sense of mankind attaches to it? Unless we are under the bias of some particular theory, we invariably associate the idea of efficiency with that of cause. We may frequently mistake non-causes for causes, but efficiency, i.e., power to produce the effect, is the fundamental idea which underlies the conception of cause in the minds of ordinary men. This being so, the following important consequences follow.

1. Whatever exists in the effect, must exist either actively or potentially in the cause.

2. The cause of one effect may be the effect of some preceding cause.

3. Various things, which philosophers and men of science have designated causes, are not causes, but necessary conditions of the existence of a particular thing. Thus space is the necessary condition of the existence of extended bodies, but is certainly not the cause of their existence. In a similar manner, in the language of the Darwinian theory, the environment of a thing is frequently spoken of as its cause. It may be the necessary condition of the existence of a thing in that particular form, but to designate it its cause is an inaccuracy of thought. The truth is, necessary conditions limit the action of causes, and may direct their activity into this or that channel; but to treat them as causes is absurd, for they neither do, nor can produce anything.

4. Law is not a cause. The reader's attention cannot be too carefully directed to this fact, for, in scientific language, law is habitually used as the equivalent of force, and the greatest confusion of thought has been the result; nay, more, it is frequently personified even by those who refuse to allow that we have any means of knowing that the First Cause of the universe is a personal Being. Thus even scientific men are constantly in the habit of affirming that the laws of nature effect this or that; and that feeble man is unable to resist their overwhelming power. The truth is, that while the forces of nature effect much, the laws of nature can effect nothing. What are the laws of nature? They are merely expressions of the definite order of the occurrence of phenomena. I must now recur to one more point above referred to, as fraught with consequences of extreme importance. I have observed that the very conception of an efficient cause (and an efficient cause is the only one which satisfies the idea of real causation), involves the consequence that it must contain within itself, either actively or potentially, all the effects of which it is the cause; otherwise, such portions of the effects which are not inherent in the cause must be self-produced, which is a self-contradiction, or be produced by the energy of an independent Creator, a conclusion which the theist will readily accept. This being so, all the effects, or in other words, the phenomena, which exist in the universe, must exist either actively or potentially in its first cause, i.e., in God. Now, one of the phenomena of the universe is intelligence. Intelligence therefore must exist in God. Another of its phenomena is the moral nature of man, and the principles of morality founded on the moral law. God therefore must be a moral Being. Another of its phenomena is free agency as it exists in man. The first cause of man (i.e., God) must therefore be a free agent. Another of its phenomena is will, for it exists in man. Volition therefore must exist in God. Another of its phenomena is personality, for it exists in man. Personality therefore must exist in God. Another of its phenomena is that its forces act in accordance with invariable law, from which action the order of the universe springs. Invariable law therefore must be an expression of the Divine will, and the love of order must exist in God. This argument may be pursued to a much greater length; but this will be sufficient to indicate its character.

II. THE ARGUMENT FOUNDED ON THE ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE. This argument proves that its first cause (i.e., God) must be possessed of intelligence. It is one of the instinctive beliefs of our minds, when our rational powers have attained their full development, that whenever we contemplate an orderly arrangement of a complicated character, we instinctively draw the inference that it denotes the presence of intelligence. We feel that this is an inference which we cannot help drawing, for order and intelligence are in our minds mutually correlated. Observe, I make this affirmation under the qualification that we cannot help drawing this inference when our rational powers have attained to their full development. I do so because I maintain that the ideal of human nature and the testimony which its constitution affords to the realities of things, are to be found in the perfect and not in the imperfect man. The opponents of theism dispute the correlation of order and intelligence on two grounds. First, they affirm that the conception is an anthropomorphic one, inapplicable to the works of nature. Secondly, that the production of all the phenomena of the universe by the unintelligent forces of nature, acting in conformity with laws from which they are incapable of varying, is an adequate account of these orderly arrangements. With respect to the tact of these objections to the validity of our argument, I answer — First, that our belief in this correlation between order and intelligence is not a relative, but an absolute belief, embracing all things, all places, and all times. Secondly, that even if the objection were valid, it makes no attempt to propound an alternative theory of the origin of these orderly arrangements. Thirdly, the affirmation that the alternative theory, viz., that all existing phenomena have been evolved by the action of the unintelligent forces of nature, in conformity with invariable law, — affords an adequate account of the existence of this order, contradicts alike our reason and our experience. First, it contradicts our reason. What, I ask, is the conclusion which we draw, when we contemplate an orderly arrangement of a complicated character? I answer that we cannot help inferring that it has originated in intelligence. If the suggestion is made, that it is due to what is commonly called chance, we reject it with scorn. Scientific unbelief, I know, affirms that there is no such thing as chance. Let me adduce one or two simple illustrations. Suppose a traveller had met in some foreign country a construction (it is my misfortune, and not my fault, that I can only express myself in language which has the appearance of assuming the point at issue), which on examination he found to bear a striking resemblance to the machinery in the arsenal at Woolwich, and that no one could tell him how it had originated. Further, that he succeeded in setting it in motion; and that after carefully observing it, he discovered that all its movements took place in a constantly recurring definite order. Let us also further suppose, that on making inquiry how it got there, he was told that during some distant period of the past, a number of the unintelligent forces of nature, after a prolonged struggle, had succeeded in evolving this singular result. Would he, I ask, consider this an adequate account of its origin, or view it as an attempt to impose on his credulity? Or let us take a case nearer home, the library of the British Museum for example, or its collections of minerals or fossils. On walking round them he could observe that their contents were arranged in a certain definite order, yet he is entirely ignorant how they got arranged in this order. But he would scorn the idea, if it were suggested to him, that these arrangements were the result of the concurrence of a number of unintelligent forces, and would without a moment's hesitation draw the conclusion that they were due to the agency of intelligence. Of this he would feel as certain as of his own existence. These instances will be equally suitable as illustrations of the argument from adaptation. But it will be needless to multiply examples. I therefore ask if in these, and in an indefinite number of similar cases, we esteem this conclusion to be one of the most unquestionable of certitudes, why should the inference become inconclusive, when we observe similar arrangements in the phenomena of nature, the only difference being that the latter are on a vaster scale, and in an endless variety of complication? It follows, therefore, that the alternative suggested by unbelief contradicts the convictions of the reason of an overwhelming majority of civilized men. Secondly, the alternative theory derives no support from experience. No one has ever witnessed an orderly arrangement issue from the meeting together of a number of the unintelligent forces of nature. If on throwing up twelve dice an equal number of times, they invariably fall in the same order, the conclusion is inevitable — they are loaded. In a similar manner the conclusion is equally inevitable, when we contemplate the orderly arrangements of the universe. They are loaded with a Divine intelligence.

III. THE ARGUMENT FOUNDED ON THE INNUMERABLE CORRELATIONS AND ADAPTATIONS WHICH EXIST IN THE UNIVERSE, COMMONLY CALLED THE ARGUMENT FROM FINAL CAUSES. The argument from adaptation may be best exhibited under two heads. First, those adaptations which denote plan, or the realization of an idea through a gradual course of evolution; and, secondly, those adaptations by which a particular result is produced, and which alone render its production possible. To take an example of each. The human hand, if contemplated as a piece of mechanism, is one of the most wonderful of contrivances. We all know the innumerable and the delicate functions which it is capable of executing. It consists of a number of parts marvellously adjusted and correlated together, which, if any one of them had been different from what it is, or had been differently correlated one to the other, the mechanism in question would either never have come into existence, or it would have failed to produce the results which it is now capable of accomplishing. This serves as an illustration of the argument from both kinds of adaptation above referred to. This marvellous instrument, as it exists in man, is found in embryo in the fore feet of the lowest form of vertebrate animals. Its parts are all found there, yet in such a form that they are utterly unable to produce the results which they do in man. They exist there in type only, or idea, of which the human hand is the realization. Before it has attained to this realization it has appeared in different orders of animals, each time making a nearer approach to the realization which the idea has received in the hand of man, and each time correlated to a corresponding advance in mind. Throughout the whole series of these improvements in the instrument, we recognize what in ordinary language we designate a plan, or, the gradual realization of an idea, commencing in a very rudimentary form, and gradually attaining to higher stages of perfection, until it has culminated in the human hand. A process of this kind, when we witness it under ordinary circumstances, we designate a plan. But a plan implies the presence of intelligence. When, therefore, we see such plans carried out in nature, which only differ from ordinary ones in the multitude of the adaptations and correlations which are necessary to enable them to become realities, we may surely draw the inference that they must have originated in intelligence. But the hand forms an apt illustration of the other kind of adaptation. I have already observed that it is admitted on all hands to be a marvellous piece of mechanism, so constituted as to be capable of executing an almost endless variety of functions. The unbeliever, however, asks us to believe that this affords no proof that it has originated in intelligence. But if he were to fall in with an instrument devoid of life, which was capable of executing only ball of the functions which are performed by the human hand, he would not only infer that it had had a contriver, but he would be loud in the praises of his ingenuity. Why then, I ask, should the contemplation of the one piece of mechanism afford unquestionable evidence of the presence of an intelligent contriver, and the contemplation of that of which it is the copy, only far more elaborate and perfect, afford none? The reason why the opponent of theism accepts the one inference, and rejects the other, must be left to him to explain. I will only adduce one further illustration, viz., our faculty of hearing, because this is effected by three sets of adjustments, each of which is entirely independent of the others; and each of which consists of a number of complicated correlations. The first of these adjustments consists of the vocal organs, which form a musical instrument of a far more complicated character than has ever been invented by man. Be it observed also that this musical instrument is so constituted, that it subserves a multitude of purposes beyond the production of noise. Yet exquisite as this instrument is, it never would have produced a single sound unless it had been correlated to the atmospheric air, or the air to it, in such a manner that its waves should correspond with the different movements of the instrument. These correlations, in order theft they may produce musical sounds, must be of the most complicated character; and yet the one set are absolutely independent of the other. Yet both these sets of marvellous adjustments and correlations would fail to produce a single sound, except for the existence of another highly complicated set of correlations and adjustments, independent of both, viz., the human ear, adapted to receive the impressions of the waves of sound, the auric nerves, and the brain to perceive them, and the human mind to interpret their meaning. Each of these is composed of a number of the most complicated adjustments; and unless the entire series, of which all three sets of adaptations are composed, had been mutually correlated the one to the other, with the utmost care, hearing would have been impossible, and the remaining complicated adjustments would have existed in vain. I have only adduced these two examples for the purpose of illustrating the nature of the argument. The reader must estimate its force, remembering only that the universe is admitted on all hands to be full of similar adjustments, in numbers which surpass the powers of the human intellect even to conceive. What then must be the conjoint force of the whole? Let me draw the inference, Reason affirms that the theory that these adaptations, adjustments, and correlations, with which every part of the universe abounds, have originated in an intelligence which possesses a power adequate to their production, is an account of their origin which satisfies the requirements alike of common sense and a sound philosophy; or to employ the metaphor used above, these adjustments, adaptations, and correlations proclaim the fact that the forces of the universe are everywhere loaded with intelligence. This argument acquires an additional conclusiveness, the amount of which it is difficult to estimate, from considerations derived from the mathematical doctrine of chances. I have already observed that these adjustments and correlations are conditioned on a number of the forces of the universe concurring in meeting together at the same time and place; and that if any one of them had failed to do so, the result produced by their correlation would have either not existed at all, or would have been a different one from that which would have been produced by the conjoint action of the whole. Now, it is obvious that if these adaptations, etc., have not been produced by a superintending intelligence, they can only have been the result of that fortuitous concurrence of forces which we have above described as constituting what is popularly designated chance. This being so, the production of those sets of complicated correlations, which I have above described as necessary for the production of that infinite variety of sounds which the ear is capable of distinguishing, by the fortunate meeting together of a number of independent forces at the same time and place, in accordance with the mathematical doctrine of chances, could only be expressed by a fraction, which, if its numerator is unity, its denominator would be some number followed by an array of ciphers, the length of which I must leave to the reader to conjecture. But this is only an inconsiderable part of the difficulty which besets the theory which I am controverting. This process would have to be repeated in the case of every independent correlation in the universe; and to get at the combined result, these fractions would have to be multiplied together; and the result would be a fraction whose numerator is unity, having for its denominator some number followed by an array of ciphers continued ad infinitum. According, then, to the mathematical doctrine of chances, it is an improbability, amounting to an impossibility, that these adaptations and correlations can have been the result of a fortuitous concurrence of the unintelligent forces of nature. They must then originate in intelligence. The theory which opponents of theism ask us to accept, as affording a rational account of the origin of those adaptations and correlations with which the universe is full, is this. The forces of the universe have gone on energizing in conformity with laws from which they cannot deviate during the eternal ages of the past; and in their course have passed through every possible combination. The unstable ones have perished, and the stable ones have survived, and by means of this ever-reiterated process have at length emerged the order and adaptations of that portion of the universe which is destitute of life, without the intervention of intelligence. How these forces originated, and became endowed with their specific qualities, which have rendered them capable of effecting such marvellous results, we are asked to believe to be a secret into which the limitations of the human mind render it impossible for us to penetrate, and which must therefore remain forever unknown. But with respect to the process by which animated existence has been evolved, its language is less vague. Its theory is as follows. The original germs of life, the existence of which it is compelled to postulate, and which, in a manner wholly unaccounted for, became possessed of a most convenient power of generating their like, with a number of inconsiderable variations, produced a progeny greatly in excess of their means of subsistence. Hence originated among them a struggle for life, with the effect that the weaker living forms have perished, and the stronger, i.e., those better adapted to their environment, have survived. This struggle has been continued during an indefinite number of ages. This theory is called the theory of natural selection, or the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence; and modern atheistic unbelief propounds it, aided by another theory, viz., that of sexual selection, and a third, viz., that of the accumulation of habits through a long succession of transmissions from remote ancestors, which have gradually become fixed, as an adequate account of the origin of all the adaptations and correlations which are presented in the existing forms of animal and vegetable life. This theory utterly breaks down, as affording even a specious account of the origin of these adaptations and correlations at several points. First, it fails to account for the origin of life, or to show that it is possible to produce living out of non-living matter. Until it can effect this, it is simply useless for the purposes of atheism. Strange to say, unbelief is now compelled to live by faith. It is confident that the discovery will be made hereafter. Secondly, it fails to give any account of the origin of those qualities, which the original germs of life must have possessed, in order that a starting point may be found for the course of evolution which it propounds. Thirdly, it assumes the concurrence of a multitude of fortunate chances (I use the word "chance" in the sense above described), so numerous as to approximate to the infinite, of what common sense and reason refuse to believe to be possible, and which hopelessly conflicts with the mathematical doctrine of chances and probabilities. Fourthly, it demands an interval of time for the carrying out of this vast process of evolution, which although abstractedly possible, other branches of science refuse to concede to it as lying within the existing order of things. Fifthly, it utterly fails to bridge over that profound gulf which separates the moral from the material universe, the universe of freedom from the universe of necessity. All that it can urge with respect to the origin of life and of free agency, is that it hopes to be able to propound a theory at some future time which shall be able to account for these phenomena. Sixthly, the theory in question, including the Darwinian theory of the production of the entire mass of organisms that have existed in the past, and exist in the present, by the sole agency of natural selection, without the intervention of intelligence, is, in fact, a restatement in a disguised form of the old theory of the production of all the adaptations and correlations in the universe, by the concurrence of an infinite number of fortunate chances — a theory which contradicts the primary intuitions of our intellectual being. Seventhly, as a fact, the recorded observations by mankind for the last, say, four thousand years, show no instance of evolution of one species from another, but display variation, not infinite but limited, and recurrent to the original form. Eighthly, as a fact, geology (Palaeontology) shows the same absence of such evolution and of indefinite variation. Ninthly, all the ascertained facts point only to creation by a plan, or in accordance with a rule, which permits variability within discoverable limits, and requires adaptation, and therefore furnishes no evidence of evolution of species. Let me set before the reader in two sentences the result of the foregoing reasonings. The atheistic theory of evolution utterly breaks down as affording a rational account of the origin of adaptations and correlations with which every region of the universe abounds. Consequently the theistic account of their origin, which satisfies alike sound philosophy and common sense, is the only adequate one; or, in other words, they have originated in an intelligence which is possessed of a power adequate to their production.

IV. THE EVIDENCE WHICH IS FURNISHED BY CONSCIENCE AND THE MORAL NATURE OF MAN. Two universes exist beside each other. One, in which the laws of necessity dominate; the other in which free agency is the essential factor. The first may be designated the material, and the second the moral universe. These are separated from each other by a gulf which no theory of evolution can bridge over. When the first free agent came into existence, a power essentially different from any which had preceded it was introduced into that universe, where necessary law had hitherto reigned supreme. The question therefore presents itself, and demands solution: How did it originate? It could not have produced itself. It therefore issued from a cause adequate to produce it. That cause must ultimately resolve itself into the first cause of the universe, that is, God. From this follow the following conclusions — Man is a free agent; therefore God must be a free agent. Man's free agency is limited by conditions; but God is not limited by conditions. Therefore His free agency is more absolute and perfect than the free agency of man. A moral universe exists. God is the cause of its existence. Therefore the essential principles of morality, as affirmed by conscience, and witnessed by the moral nature of man, must exist in God. Personality exists in man as an essential portion of his moral nature; therefore, He who framed man, i.e., God, must be a person, who is at the same time the Creator, the Upholder, and the moral Governor of the universe which He has created. Such are the inferences which we are entitled to draw by the aid of our reason respecting the existence and the moral character of God.

(Preb. Row, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

WEB: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

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