« AnteriorContinuar »
two great laws, as well as from the principle of Continuity, to regard, as at least the most probable solution, that there is an intelligent Agent operating in the universe, one of whose functions it is to develop the universe objectively considered; and also that there is an intelligent Agent, one of whose functions it is to develop intelligence and life. Perhaps we ought rather to say that, if we are not driven to this very conclusion, it appears at least to be that which most simply and naturally satisfies the principle of Continuity.
But this conclusion hardly differs from the Christian doctrine; or, to speak properly, the conclusion, so far as it goes, appears to agree with the Christian doctrine.
In fine, we are led to regard it as one of the great merits of the Christian system, that its doctrine is pre-eminently one of intellectual liberty, and that while theologians on the one hand, and men of science on the other, have each erected their barriers to inquiry, the early Christian records acknowledge no such barrier, but on the contrary assert the most perfect freedom for all the powers of man.
245. We have now reached a stage from which we can very easily dispose of any scientific difficulty regarding miracles. For if the invisible was able to produce the present visible universe with all its energy, it could of course, a fortiori, very easily produce such transmutations of energy from the one universe into the other as would account for the events which took place in Judea. Those events are therefore no longer to be regarded as absolute breaks of continuity, a thing which we have agreed to consider impossible, but only as the result of a peculiar action of the invisible upon the visible universe.
When we dig up an ant-hill, we perform an operation which, to the inhabitants of the hill, is mysteriously perplexing, far transcending their experience, but we know very well that the whole affair happens without any breach of continuity of the laws of the universe. In like manner, the scientific difficulty with regard to miracles will, we think, entirely disappear, if our view of the invisible universe be accepted, or indeed if any view be accepted which implies the presence in it of living beings much more powerful than ourselves. It is of course assumed that the visible and invisible are and have been constantly in a state of intimate mutual relation.
246. We have as yet only replied to the scientific objection, but there are other objections which might be raised. Thus, for instance, it might be said, What occasion was there for the interference implied in miracles? And again, Is the historical testimony in favour of their occurrence conclusive? We must leave the last objection to be replied to by the historian; but with respect to the former, it appears to us as almost self-evident that Christ, if He came to us from the invisible world, could hardly (with reverence be it spoken) have done so without some peculiar sort of communication being established between the two worlds. No doubt we may well imagine that the acts of interference in virtue of this communication were strictly limited; and in proof of this conclusion we may cite the fact that what did occur was sufficiently startling to have secured the ear of humanity ever since, but not sufficiently overwhelming to preclude the exercise of individual faith. The very fact of there being sincere sceptics proves, we think, the
limited extent of these interferences.1 And we must remember, on the other hand, that it is quite possible to accept fully the truth of a statement without the slightest influence resulting as regards modification of our course of action. Perhaps the most terrible portion of the New Testament is the passage (James ii. 19), 'the demons also believe, and tremble.'
247. We have now considered miracles, or those apparent breaks of continuity which have been furnished by history, but our readers are already well aware that equally formidable breaks are brought before us by science. There is, to begin with, that formidable phenomenon, the production in time of the visible universe. Secondly, there is a break hardly less formidable, the original production of life; and there is, thirdly, that break recognised by Wallace and his school of natural history, which seems to have occurred at the first production of man. Greatly as we are indebted to Darwin, Huxley, and those who have prominently advocated the possibility of the present system of things' having been developed by forces and operations such as we see before us, it must be regarded by us, and we think it is regarded by them, as a defect in their system, that these breaks remain unaccounted for. Our readers will now, however, if we mistake not, perceive what is the real source of the perplexity felt by the school of evolutionists. It is that they have been unable to regard an interference of the invisible universe in any other light than as an absolute break of continuity; and holding with justice to the principle of continuity,
1 See Sermon preached at Belfast by Dr. Reichel, August 23, 1874
they have been unable to do more than acknowledge these difficulties and allow them to remain.
But from our point of view these difficulties are by no means impenetrable barriers, barring for ever the progress of research. On the contrary, we assert that, if approached with sufficient boldness, and examined with sufficient care, they will be found to contain avenues leading up to the invisible universe, and directing our inquiries thitherwards. There may be possibly other apparent breaks or barriers, but these appear to be the best established; and, with these exceptions, we may suppose that the visible universe, in so far as we are capable of investigating it, has been left to develop itself in accordance with those laws of energy which we see in operation at the present day.
In fine, the visible universe was plainly intended to be something which we are capable of investigating, and the few apparent breaks are in reality so many partially concealed avenues leading up to the unseen.
248. Our readers must not however infer from what we have now said, that we do not recognise any present points of contact between us and the invisible. There may possibly be (but even of this we are not quite sure) no points of apparent interference between the two, so that the man of science cannot say,—Here is a break;-but nevertheless there may be a close and vital union between the two universes, in those regions into which investigation cannot penetrate, and who shall say that the laws of these regions do not admit of the objective efficacy of prayer? There may be an action of the invisible world upon the individual mind, and there is no reason why there
should not also be an action upon the visible universe, by means of those processes of delicacy which, as we have already seen, obtain in that quarter (Art. 184). Neither the one action nor the other would be detected by science, unless we except certain providential occurrences, which are generally, however, better recognised by the individuals to whom they refer than by the world at large. And just as reversibility (Art. 113) is the stamp of perfection in the inanimate engine, so a similar reversibility may be the stamp of perfection in the living man. He ought to live for the unseen-to carry into it something which may not be wholly unacceptable. But, in order to enable him to do this, the unseen must also work upon him, and its influences must pervade his spiritual nature. Thus a life for the unseen through the unseen is to be regarded as the only perfect life.
249. In fine, the unseen may have a very wide field of influence, but from its very nature its working is not discernible, or at least easily discernible, by the eye of sense, and we are therefore led to consult the Christian records for otherwise unattainable information regarding the reality of a present influence exercised by the invisible universe upon ours.
In the first place, we have the following words of Christ himself (Matt. xiii. 41): The Son of man. shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire : there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.' Again (Matt. xxv. 31): 'When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory and before.