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determined as easily as the rain and the sunshine. Lastly, this nineteenth century has brought a yet more exhaustive view of the universality of law; it has come by the discovery of that doctrine called the correlation of forces. That doctrine has not only abolished the distinction between great and small, but it has broken down the middle wall of partition which at one time was supposed to render the acts of the mind wholly independent of bodily influences. It has established the fact that between the life-force and the other forces of nature there is going on a constant action and reaction, so that they can no longer be regarded as occupying independent provinces, and the result has been that the domain of natural law has threatened to extend itself beyond the boundaries of nature, and to claim a sovereignty over that empire which has always been allotted to the rule of a spiritual agency.
Now the effect of all this has been that it has seemed to narrow, and ultimately threatened to destroy, the sphere of religion. Religion is essentially based upon the belief in the existence of something which transcends the world. It is not difficult to see that if the domain of natural law were to be extended universally and to be stretched out beyond phenomena, there would in the nature of things be no further possibility for the existence of religion. Religion is based upon the belief that
there is a Presence behind law, a Presence which gives to law at once its existence and its vindication. If we adopt the view that there is no room for such a Presence, if we deny that there is anywhere in the universe of being aught that transcends law, we have thereby committed ourselves to the position that the principle which regulates nature is a purely mechanical principle, and that the actions and events of nature are the product of a blind necessity. It is in this sense that the idea of religion is still bound up with the idea of miracle. We call that miraculous which transcends the order of nature; we ought not to limit the word to that which supersedes the order of nature. To supersede the order of nature is to violate it, but to transcend it may be to manifest it. If we believe in the existence of a Power behind nature, then the manifestation of nature itself is a revelation of that which transcends it, because it is a revelation of the existence of that Power which lies at the back of that order which it originates. Miracle, therefore, is involved in the notion of any religion. It cannot be escaped either by the Deist, the Theist, or the Pantheist. Whosoever believes that the laws of nature are the expression of a life behind them, has thereby signed his confession of faith in the existence of a perpetual miracle, for he has acknowledged his belief in the existence of a Power which, by his own admission, transcends all that he sees. The question then narrows itself to this, Can our age any longer believe in miracle—in the existence of that which transcends nature ? If it can, religion is still a possibility ; if it cannot, religion must cease to be an element in human thought. This is the preliminary question in any inquiry concerning the relation of the old faith to the new. If this question be answered in the affirmative, we have a right to proceed in such an investigation; if it be answered in the negative, our way is for ever barred on the very threshold of the inquiry. We shall accordingly devote the following chapter to an examination of this important subject.
THE PLACE FOR FAITH IN THE SYSTEM
THE writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews defines faith to be the evidence of things not seen; he declares it to be that faculty whereby we understand “that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The definition is a most remarkable because a most philosophical one; it is comprehensive in its very simplicity. It states that the essence of the religious faculty is its power to discover that there is something which transcends nature,—that the very existence of a visible order presupposes the existence of something which is not visible. We should not have been surprised to find that a period so primitive and unscientific as that in which the writer to the Hebrews wrote should have given birth to a very different definition of the word faith. We should naturally have expected to hear him say, “By faith we understand that the word of God has power to break through the visible order of things.” Such a definition of the province of faith would have been harmonious with the view popularly entertained of the nature of miracle. A miracle, in the popular use of the word, is that which either violates or suspends a law of nature. The supernatural is here contemplated as consisting in antagonism to the natural. Viewed in this light, an age of scientific law must prove destructive to the existence of religion, for just in proportion as violations of nature cease to be conceivable, will the evidence for such supernaturalism become fainter and more inadequate. But so far from basing his belief in the supernatural on the possibility of seeing changes in the order of nature, the writer to the Hebrews professes to find his evidence for the supernatural in the order of nature itself; it is through the things that are seen that he reaches his conviction of the existence of that which is not seen. It is not by an interruption of the visible order that he comes to the recognition of a Power and Presence behind it: on the contrary, it is by the recognition of the visible order itself that he is impelled to recognise the being of a Power not itself; it is by the sight of the visible order that he finds it to be inadequate to the explanation of its own existence.