Imagens das páginas

supernatural given by the writer to the Hebrews, because we are disposed to think that it is the only exhaustive definition that ever has been given. By this definition, in our opinion, the modern belief in the supernatural must stand or fall. If we define the supernatural to be that which violates the law of nature, we have defined not the supernatural but only a mode of supernaturalism. If any such violation of law were observed, it would of course be evidence for the existence of a Power behind nature, for that which can violate a law must transcend the law which it violates. But in point of fact it becomes more and more evident in modern times that the system of nature as now constituted does not admit of such a mode of supernaturalism. The question is not, whether a supernatural Power could violate the laws which He has made. There is not a scientific man in the world who would for a moment deny that if there be a Power which transcends nature, that Power can at any time alter nature. It could not even be said that such an alteration would be an unscientific act, for it is ever scientifically a natural principle that the greater should dominate the less. But the question with which the modern scientist has to do is not whether a supreme Power could, but whether in point of fact He does, interfere with the sequence of natural law. It is not with him a question of philosophy but a question of observation. He sees a thunderstorm, and he asks, whence came it? He would not for a moment dispute that if there be a Divine Power behind nature, this thunder might be His direct voice. But what the man of science asks is not what the thunder might be, but what it is. He asks whether he can refer it to any antecedent causes in nature itself; and when he finds that he can, he inquires no further. He is absolved from investigating what any power could do, by discovering what the power existent in nature has actually done.

The scientific spirit, then, is opposed to that sense of the word “miracle” which regards it as a violation of the law of nature by a Power behind nature. But there is another sense of the word “miracle” which looks upon it, not as a violation of law, but as a manifestation that the law does proceed from something that is behind it,-a revelation that it is not self-constituted, but constituted by a Divine Power. This is the view of the supernatural which is adopted by the writer to the Hebrews, and the view which we believe to be the deepest and the soundest. The supernatural is here regarded not as that which breaks through nature, but simply as that which lies above nature. It is here looked upon not as something which occasionally manifests itself by the destruction or the suspension of the laws which it has made, but as something which reveals itself always and everywhere in the executing and in the sustaining of these laws. In the view of this ancient writer, faith is not a state of mind which is to be called up only for special occasions, for startling events or for sudden catastrophes; it is a state of mind which is to exist habitually and unceasingly. And the reason why it is to exist habitually and unceasingly is a remarkable one: it is not because faith is to avert its eyes from the search for the supernatural, but because it is to see the supernatural in everything. To faith, as here defined, all things alike are to be revelations of the supernatural; every event is in this sense to be startling, every sight in this sense miraculous. The object of faith is to be the supernatural in the natural, or rather behind the natural. Its materials are to be derived not from that which sets aside but from that which vindicates the existing law, and it is to find its evidence for the unseen and eternal in its very study of the limits of the seen and temporal.

Now the question is, Can this view of faith stand the test of modern times? We have said that the conception of miracle which regards it as a violation of law is a thought inconsistent with the system of nature expounded by modern science : can the same be affirmed of that other conception of miracle which regards it not as a violation but as a transcending of law? Is there anything in the facts of modern science which militates against that view of nature expounded by the writer to the Hebrews, whereby the visible order is made the expression of an invisible order, and faith finds her province in discovering that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear?

It will not be maintained by any scientist that there is. The most advanced evolutionism of the nineteenth century does not contend that the facts of nature are adverse to the belief that there is something which transcends nature. The most that such evolutionists do contend for is, that we cannot know from nature whether there be or be not anything behind it; it is on this ground that in all religious questions they take the name of Agnostics. The most advanced unbelief of our day does not go so far as to say, There is no God; it would hold such a statement to be in the highest degree unscientific. The doctrine of Agnosticism is the doctrine of human ignorance ; its leading article is the duty of humility. It warns man to affirm nothing and to deny nothing concerning that which transcends experience. It does not say that there is nothing which transcends experience, nor yet does it say that there is anything; it maintains that the existence or the non-existence of such a supersensuous region is alike unknowable, and that being unknowable, it is not a subject either for belief or disbelief. Under these circumstances the Agnostic recommends to the minds of men an ignoring of the whole question. He advises them to confine themselves to the limits of the positive, by which he understands the limits of the five senses. He cautions them not to attempt to go beyond the range of experience, to keep within that margin which nature has prescribed to human knowledge, and to avoid inquiring whether in the infinite possibilities of the universe there be or be not any higher knowledge than the human.

It will be evident from this that the religious belief in something which transcends nature is not in our age called to contend with any positive argument to the contrary ; it is only called to contend with the assertion that there is no ground for argument on either side. Modern belief is no longer met by disbelief, but simply by unbelief : that which it has to encounter is not a positive but a negative. Agnosticism does not say, You are believing in a fallacy; it merely says, You are believing in something which cannot be verified. It asks, What is the use of opening up a region of faith when we have no evidence that it exists anywhere outside of our own imagining, and when all the time we have at the very door of our being a region of practical certainty accessible to observation and verifiable in actual experience? This, then,

« AnteriorContinuar »