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nothing. But a God with nothing to do is no God. The mind refuses to entertain the conception. Therefore the “ High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity” disappears under the strongly evaporating heats of this sublimating sophistry. There is no personal, Divine will and soul; no superintending care; no strengthening hand; no teaching, saving Word; nothing but nature personified for us to love and worship. This faith, which is no faith, but the blankest nihilism, needs no sanctuary for its devotions, for the whole out-of-doors is its temple; no Sabbath, for it literally esteemeth every day alike. It has no Bible of more authority than its Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, its Plato or Shakespeare. This is the infidelity of the second half of the nineteenth century.
“Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos, is restored.” The organ of a religious denomination which has no creed writes of “that Christian modification of heathenism which is called Calvinism.” But here we have a “ modification of heathenism” which is not Christian at all, whatever be its antecedents or surroundings. It has a learned, scientific, selfsufficient air ; knocks at the doors of our universities, schools, reading-clubs, and intelligent families for admittance; boasts of the patronage of popular magazines, heavier quarterlies, and distinguished scholars ; puts crosses sometimes on its churches ;
a winged but a thieving Mercury, talkative, disputatious, plausible, false.
Its deliverances and tactics regarding the Christian faith, not unfrequently remind one of the Jesuit Huc's account of the light-fingered gentry in Thibet. He says : •
“ The robbers of these countries are in general remarkable for the politeness with which they flavor their address. They do not put a pistol to your head, and cry roughly : “ your money or your life ! but they say in the most courteous tone; 'my eldest brother, I am weary of walking on foot; be so good as to lend me your horse': or, “I am without money; will you not lend me your purse?' or, • it is
very cold to-day ; be kind enough to lend me your coat.' If the eldest brother be charitable enough to comply, he receives thanks. If not, the request is enforced by two or three blows of the cudgel, or if that is not sufficient, recourse is had to the sabre,”
Christian Examiner, September, 1865, p. 181.
In noticing the relations which man sustains to the outlying world, we have seen that, while he can not reverse or set aside the laws of physical nature, he can and does continually bend them to his purposes. We claim on behalf of the Maker of all things, that he can, at least, do as much as this; that having himself built the universe, he has not deliberately and helplessly shut himself out of it as a directing power. That is, we maintain the reality of his actual government of the creation through the medium
(1) Of providential intervention. Let us get a definite idea of what is thus signified. We take up again the uniform action of natural agents and forces. We observe, for example, that fire burns, that cold chills and freezes. They do this everywhere. We can reckon upon the certainty of it in all latitudes and longitudes. We say they do this because it is their nature to do so.
But they do not exercise any will in the matter. They know nothing about it. Whose will then determines these results ? God's, we answer. He thus has constituted these things. And he provides that they shall so operate with a constancy which may be depended on by all. Is it said, that, having been so set agoing in the origin of our world, they have only to keep doing as they have done? But consider a moment that we are talking of what has not even an animal life in it — no self-sustaining energy of any sort.
These laws of nature demand a will and a power to hold them up,
perpetuate their uniform movement, as much as they did to begin their action. This regulated and universal order of nature is only the steady control which Omnipotence keeps of what would have had no existence but for the Divine ordination.
To this general superintendence or providence of God, let us now add another thought. While maintaining these great forces of matter in their appointed sway, the Divine will is not confined to any invariable method of procedure. To illustrate : the four seasons of the year are the results of a certain uniformity in the action of the mechanical and chemical laws of nature, under the oversight of God. They are the subject of a direct promise on his part — that to the end of time they shall not fail. We expect them in accordance with this constituted order of the earth : that is, we anticipate that the natural causes
which produce them will go on returning them to us in their well known rotation. This we call, as above, God's general providence. But this is not a necessary succession of the budding spring, the growing summer, the ripened autumn. It is the common, but not the inevitable course of events. It is within God's power to interrupt this arrangement. Suppose, that for moral purposes of chastisement, of national reconstruction, he decides to do as in Egypt, when seven years of famine were made to follow the seven years of plenty. Such a variation in the order of nature could not reasonably be attributed to accident. It shows a designing will, and an interfering hand. If so, that interposer must be God. But to effect so important a departure as this from ordinary courses would not demand any breaking up of physical laws, as that gravitation should not draw, or heat warm, or the soil nourish the deposited seed; nor would it involve any apparent conflict with natural causes and effects. It would only require a different distribution of certain atmospheric and other influences to ensure a seven years' drought and barrenness. This is particular providence. The savant of New York, just now referred to, tells us that this is fetichism, and congratulates his readers that the clergy do not pray for rain in a dry time, in these days, as they used to. If he had employed reporters in our churches during the droughts of the two past seasons, we think that he would have found evidence that, in spite of the new illuminati, "fetichism," as he regards it, is on the increase.
For purposes which God sees to be desirable, he uses the powers of nature, by himself ordained and sustained, to accomplish results which would not otherwise take place. They are his tools with which to build or to cut in pieces. Storms are natural phenomena. They rage along our coasts scattering destruction. Now, suppose that while engaged in our struggle against rebellion, the navies of England and France had combined to make a descent upon our shores, and that just as they were sighting the land, a three days' tempest had broke upon them, hurling them and their munitions and men of war in a miserable wreck against our iron-bound barriers ; as perished once the mighty armada of Papal Spain in the waters of Protestant England ; and again, the fleet of D'Anville on our own coast in colonial times, in answer, as our fathers devoutly believed, to special prayer. What has occurred ? A terrific convulsion of the elements. Very well ; this is a yearly event. But what has it secured just now, which it seldom has effected ? Safety to an imperilled country from invasion by a possibly overwhelming force in the interests of injustice, wrong, impiety. We say, as the Bible in countless places represents: God, who holds the winds in his fists, has loosed them and whirled them upon a specific object, in mercy to some cause of righteousness and truth which he would protect from subversion; stormy winds thus fulfilling his word. There is no violence to the action of natural laws in this. They do what they always do under given combinations and states : but they do it in a sufficiently unusual way to secure some particular result which otherwise would not be reached.
We have not room to pause upon the side issues which may be raised, some of which would require more space than ability to dispose of; and others of which are, for the present, beyond our reach of solution. The Christian doctrine of providence is, that God upholds all nature by the same will which created it; and that he uses it, as he sees fit, by continual subsidizing of its established laws, to promote the ends and aims of his moral administration. We demand this power and prerogative for the Maker and Owner of the world. “ The earth is the Lord's." It is not superior to its author, nor too vast or subtile for his grasp “who taketh up the isles as a very little thing”; “who weigheth the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance” ; “ who worketh all things after the counsel of his
Dr. Hedge, while affirming the doctrine of providence, objects to this view of it, that it consists “partly in pre-established general laws, and partly in occasional interpositions of divine power for the sake of certain ends not included in the original plan of creation, and which general laws would not have accomplished ";' thus making God sometimes active and sometimes inert, in connection with human affairs. For this he
. would substitute direct Divine efficiency in the working of every law and force of nature. We accept this last position as
* Reason in Religion. pp. 76–78.
the very life of the true doctrine of “ The Regent God”; and hold that only on our philosophy of providence can we get an intelligible idea of this presence and power of God in the earth. But he misstates us as believing that this providential oversight is a device for managing cases not “included in the original plan of creation.” We know of no such cases or ends. We know of no self-acting pre-established laws of the universe. God is in natural causation and results, from beginning to end, never “quiescent,” never moved to "arbitrariness and partial
ity,” acting everywhere freely and supremely. If there be the * “ appearance” of partial and arbitrary conduct here, does Dr.
Hedge get rid of this by his theory of the universe ? He claims that his doctrine is the true biblical and apostolical “ pantheism.” We deny it, and claim his proof-texts for our doctrine as that which rightly sets forth the God “ in whom and through whom are all things”; “in whom we live, and move, and have our being." His theory of God's presence in nature and the world's life is, to our mind, only a dreamy, poetic, transcendental flourish of rhetoric — the pantheism not of the Bible, but of the imagination ; because, while affirming with great positiveness, the presence and activity of a personal God, he takes out of this all its meaning and value by spiritualizing the fact into an indiscriminating vagueness, a virtual unreality.
The seeming opposition to the established working of natural laws becomes distinct and startling, as we pass from the providential government of God into the sphere
(2) Of his miraculous agency. This takes effect also upon the laws of the material world. It gives them other and more peculiar changes, for the same purpose of moral education, of spiritual well-being. The objection to this agency is, that it is too great a violation of the natural order of things to be credited. Mr. Hume said, that if a miracle should be wrought, it could not be proved, because it would be more likely that a hundred: fair-minded men saying that they saw it at mid-day, should be mistaken, or should be liars, though this would be a most violent contradiction the cominon course of things, than that, for instance, a dead man should be summoned from the grave by a word of Christ. Doubtless a presumption would lie against the fact thus asserted : so would it against the