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'Are God and Nature then at strife
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
"So careful of the type"? but no.
O life as futile, then, as frail !
O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
In another passage of equal beauty the same poet expresses his conviction
'That nothing walks with aimless feet :
That not a worm is cloven in vain ;
Is shrivel'd in a fruitless fire,
Professor Jevons, again, in his Principles of Science (vol. ii. p. 468) alludes in the following terms to this difficulty: The hypothesis, that there is a Creator, at once all-powerful and all-benevolent, is surrounded, as it must seem to every candid investigator, with difficulties verging closely upon logical contradiction. The existence of the smallest amount of pain and evil would seem to show that He is either not perfectly benevolent, or not all-powerful. No one can have lived long without experiencing sorrowful events of
which the significance is inexplicable. But if we cannot succeed in avoiding contradiction in our notions of elementary geometry, can we expect that the ultimate purposes of existence shall present themselves to us with perfect clearness? I can see nothing to forbid the notion that in a higher state of intelligence much that is now obscure may become clear. We perpetually find ourselves in the position of finite minds attempting infinite problems, and can we be sure that where we see contradiction an infinite intelligence might not discover perfect logical harmony?'
252. Before we leave this subject there is one consideration which ought not to be forgotten. It is evident that the development of the visible universe is of such a nature that we can understand it, and to a great extent explain it by means of laws and processes with which we are familiar: nay, the order of the universe is something which it is our very duty to investigate. But the result of our inquiry is, and can only be, the appretiation of general laws of action. The working out of these laws can have, from this point of view, no possible reference to individual interests. If gravity acted sometimes, and at other times refrained from acting, we could derive no certain information from our experience; we could not advance in art or science, and should infallibly be plunged into speedy confusion. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that the occurrences which take place through the action of gravity may, after all, be so arranged as to have reference to the real welfare of individuals, although this reference may not be apparent because we are not in a position to recognise it, and it is not intended that we should do so, at least
in this life. The ability to do so would be a very dangerous gift, and would go far to upset the present economy. We know very little about the bearings of events on our own best interests, and nothing at all about their bearings on those of our neighbour. We may, however, believe with Jevons, that in a future state the adaptation between the two may become apparent to us, even if we do not ourselves become instruments in bringing this adaptation about.
253. The outcome of all these speculations would thus lead us to regard the Christian system as affording a full scope for development in all respects, whether of the universe or of the individual. Its law is pre-eminently that of liberty, and it has conducted us to the conclusion that the doctrine of the Trinity, or something analogous to it, forms, as it were, the avenue through which the universe itself leads us up to the conception of the infinite and eternal One.
Nevertheless, not a few of our readers may be disinclined to entertain any precise conception of the Divine nature. Neither atheists nor theists, they simply dismiss the Deity as being quite above their comprehension, and all doctrines founded upon definite conceptions of the Deity, as superstructures without foundation.
Now, the results regarding a future state at which we have arrived are, as we think, and as we have said in our introduction, capable of being very nearly, if not altogether, detached from all conceptions regarding the Divine essence.
We have merely to take the universe as it is, and, adopting the principle of Continuity, insist upon an endless chain of events, all fully conditioned, however
far we go either backwards or forwards. This process leads us at once to the conception of an invisible universe, and to see that immortality is possible without a break of continuity.
We have, however, no physical proof in favour of it, unless we allow that Christ rose from the dead. But it will be admitted that, if Christ rose from the dead, a future state becomes more than possible; it becomes probable; and we do not see that this conclusion is, in itself, greatly modified by differences in our mode of regarding the exact nature of Christ.
Again, the production of the visible universe in time leads us, by the principle of Continuity, to the conception of a fully conditioned intelligent universe, existing prior to the production of the visible. And furthermore, we are induced by our argument (Art. 218) to regard the production of the visible universe as the work of an intelligent agency residing in the invisible. If, then, such an agency could produce the visible universe, it could certainly accomplish the resurrection of Christ, without any break of continuity, so far as the whole universe is concerned.
254. The joys of the Christian Heaven are celebrated in Hymns which are frequently very beautiful, even if they do not mount to the sublimity of the ancient Hebrew ode. One of the finest of these is the free translation by Pope of the Latin (not originally Christian) ode standing at the commencement of this volume. It runs thus :—
'Vital spark of heavenly flame!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Death! where is thy sting?'
Many specimens might be given if our object were to collect together the Christian Hymns relating to Heaven. Sometimes, too, we have beautiful descriptions not in verse, and Bunyan's account of the reception of Christian and Hopeful at the Celestial City will at once occur to the reader as not inferior in the claims of true poetry to anything that we have in verse.
255. Now, if we analyse such hymns of joy, we find in them two prominent chords, one or other of which is always struck. The first expresses the Christian's sense of relief from sorrow and death, and the second his joy in the anticipated presence of Christ—his intense desire to behold the King in his beauty.
These chords are struck together by St. John, when he says (Rev. xxi. 3, 4), And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God. is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away