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the true cause of that occurrence; as, for instance, that the magnet will attract iron, that the heavenly bodies attract each other, that heat expands bodies, that illuminated bodies obscure to the unaided eye are clearly seen through the telescope; that water extinguishes, and the wind fans fire into a flame, or that the dampness of the soil causes germination of seeds; and so on, of things man cannot know with an absolute knowledge.
These are called natural laws, and in all of them man cannot know the really efficient cause. The extent of his knowledge is the fact confirmed by his observation of the occurrences; as, for instance, he knows the fact, but does not know the cause, why different kinds of trees growing in the same soil, or, still better, grafted on the same stock, produce fruit, some sweet, some bitter, and some sour, yet are all nourished, through one root and stem, from the same soil. So he knows not why, in a chemical solution, substances exist, not to be found in its component parts. In like manner, we do not know the certain connection between the form of the ear and the organs of generation: we only know that animals having external ears are viviparous, and all others, poisonous serpents excepted, are oviparous.
The observation of an established custom in these occurrences, constantly repeated, lias led men to look on them as easily understood, though each one of them defies the intellect of the whole race to comprehend it. Indeed fire, one would say, is of all things the most easily understood; yet suppose a people unacquainted with it should be told that a spark of it touching a combustible body, would set it in a blaze and cause a great light, till the body was consumed; that, even if it were a whole city, it would consume it; and that it could burn all the cities of the world, with the forests of the wilderness, till it desolated the face of the whole earth, nothing remaining of all it had touched, but ashes; and no doubt they would pronounce the thing impossible, because it exceeded all their knowledge and experience.
But let us turn from things beyond the power of man to those inventions in which the present age excels its prede
eessors. Look at the galvanic fluid, which produces the movements of life in the muscles of the dead. And what shall wc say of casting a man into a deep sleep simply by the motions and signs of another? And if the words spoken by this sleeper concerning things absent, prove true, would not this be one of the greatest delusions, exceeding human comprehension?
These few things, besides many more not mentioned, are enough to show our inability to comprehend many truths perceived by the senses. The knowledge we have of them is based wholly on analogy. We decide that they are true from our observation of the uniformity of certain events under given conditions, and not from any comprehension of their true nature; for if that uniformity of occurrence should cease, our faith in them would also cease, and they would be non-existent so far as our inability to understand them was concerned, and actually existing so far as relates to their own absolute nature. Many things go to show this which the mind, a priori, pronounces impossible and then decides to be true, the moment it observes them as actually existing.
If then we find in nature laws above human comprehension, the knowledge of most of them remaining wholly mysterious, and yet the mind decides that they must be true when the testimony of the. senses bears witness to some of their manifest results, is it not much more bound to acknowledge the higher laws of him who created nature and gave her laws, and rest in the witness to their truth furnished by the prophecies and miracles of the Bible, and the evident effects it has produced on the character and condition of those who obey it? since there is no people that does not admit the necessity of a Divine law, and confess that their ignorance is the ground of that necessity ; nor can the mode of its emanation hinder its reception, while its tendency to promote the good order of the world constrains our acceptance of this gift of God. For it does not become the exalted glory of the wise and just God, not to show forth his wisdom in the good government of his intelligent creatures, in the exercise of his justice, and in his reducing to or
der the confusion that exists among them. These things cannot take place without the giving of a law, especially since the Divine Wisdom does not leave the inanimate creation, such as the stars and this our earth, without laws which may not be transgressed. Not only so, but man, weak and dependent though he be, yet gives a law to his household for its good order and continued prosperity, that learning the obedience which it owes to his requirements, it may continue to render the service which it owes to him as the provider for its varied wants. How then can it befit the greatness of the Most High, to leave his intelligent creation without a law to secure their good order and prosperity?
Religion is all-important to man; therefore there is no excuse for its neglect.
Error in judgment occasions more or less injury, according to the nature of the thing it concerns; for instance, the unjust sentence which dooms to the payment of a fine, is not so injurious as that which dooms to the loss of our hand1 or our head. And the man who errs in judgment in temporal things, generally finds the evil consequences endurable and perhaps balanced by some good; at the very worst, it cannot be more than the death of the body, and it ends with the close of this fleeting life.
A man therefore should be exceedingly careful not to err in judgment; and this care should be proportioned to the importance of the matter in question. "What, then, should it be in the matter of religion? a subject which no other can equal in importance, much less excel. A wrong judgment here cannot be rectified hereafter; there is no escape from its consequences, however injurious, but they must abide forever, so long as God exists.
If this be so, how careful should we be not to err on such a subject. Since no other interest can be compared with it for a moment, should a prudent man neglect a matter so
1 Tins and similar punishments are inflicted under Mohammedan law.
momentous? Can he return again to this present life to correct previous errors? This could only be through a miracle such as God alone can perform; and then the disbeliever in religion has no faith in miracles or in the resurrection from the dead. If he had, there would be no occasion for this present argument. If he replies by denying the immortality of the soul and future retribution, I ask him, first: Are these things necessarily impossible? and it devolves on him to prove that they are so, or else admit this is nothing more than an opinion of his own. Doubtless he will despair of proving them impossible, and will base his opinion that they are so on the ground that he never saw a dead man rise, or a soul pass either into heaven or into hell. Then it would be proper for me to ask him, secondly: What will become of the man entertaining such an opinion, should the contrary prove to be correct? for mere opinions often turn out to be erroneous, and if the event should prove this so, how could he save himself from the endless misery then actually begun? or how could he be recompensed for the loss of the only soul that he possessed? How can the man who trusts in this opinion, and neglects religion, shut out from his thoughts the possibility that he is mistaken? and that then the believers of the truth of God would be in no danger, neither in this world nor the world to come, while he would be supremely wretched both before death and after?
Besides, what is the advantage of denying the law of God? What evil does it do, that any should labor so to destroy it? If those who speak against the law are true philosophers, let them tell us whether it be the part of a philosopher to labor to destroy it? For even if he thinks it is of no benefit after death, is it not productive of real good at present? It is beyond question that he who seeks to destroy the law, seeks to destroy the good order of the world; for he takes away from it morality and prosperity, and fills it with wickedness and confusion; and he whose conduct has such an issue has lost his wits and deserves the name of fool rather than philosopher; for man is civilized and virtu
ous, or barbarous and vicious in proportion as he observes the law or sets aside its claims. We never see religion lead a man to injure or murder his fellow men, or do anything opposed to the prosperity of nations, but just the reverse.
If, then, man can distinguish the true religion from the false, he can have no excuse for neglecting the investigation of, or failing to embrace, the truth. It is not enough that he is aware of its utility, while he remains without it. As a sick physician who knows the means of cure and does not use it, dies in consequence of such neglect, or if he does not give it to others that are sick, sets a bad example and bears the guilt of all that follow it.
We have seen that reason decides that religion is beneficial; if so, then it is a necessity of our world, and then it follows beyond all question that it is from God; for the most exalted Creator, who is perfectly good and wise, cannot neglect to give a good law when needed for perfecting the good order of his creatures; and this is reason enough to a wise man why he should not slacken in his efforts to know and embrace the true religion. He should offer up his mind to the giver of intellect in lowly obedience, and ask the grace of guidance from his mercy. Then if he devotes himself diligently to the search, renounces prejudice, and seeks the teaching of God in earnest faith, the exalted Creator will condescend to aid his weakness, and so enlighten his conscience as to lead him along the way of truth to everlasting life.
But if he neglects his duty in this matter, then his earthly life is very short, all its pleasures fleeting, and death will come, when he can no longer rectify his errors, and he will suffer immense loss in the destruction of his precious soul, for which there is no compensation. Then he will go down to that infernal pit from which there is no escape forever, where is despair and no mercy, where he will neither find any one to intercede for him or afford him a refuge. Every means of salvation will then be cut off. He will be sorry when sorrow will avail nothing. In place of the glory of heaven, the blessed vision of God, and his justification, he