Infomotions, Inc.Probabilities The Complete Prose Works of Tupper, Volume 6 (of 6) / Tupper, Martin Farquhar, 1810-1889



Author: Tupper, Martin Farquhar, 1810-1889
Title: Probabilities The Complete Prose Works of Tupper, Volume 6 (of 6)
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Title: Probabilities
       The Complete Prose Works of Tupper, Volume 6 (of 6)

Author: Martin Farquhar Tupper

Release Date: October 13, 2005 [EBook #16857]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK PROBABILITIES ***




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PROBABILITIES;




AN AID TO FAITH.




BY

Martin Farquhar Tupper, A.M., F.R.S.

THE AUTHOR OF

"PROVERBIAL PHILOSOPHY."


"ALMOST THOU PERSUADEST ME TO BE A CHRISTIAN."




HARTFORD:

PUBLISHED BY SILAS ANDRUS & SON.

1851.





PROBABILITIES.




AN AID TO FAITH.


The certainty of those things which most surely are believed among us,
is a matter quite distinct from their antecedent probability or
improbability. We know, and take for facts, that Cromwell and Napoleon
existed, and are persuaded that their characters and lives were such as
history reports them: but it is another thing, and one eminently
calculated to disturb any disbeliever of such history, if a man were
enabled to show, that, from the condition of social anarchy, there was
an antecedent likelihood for the use of military despots; that, from the
condition of a popular puritanism, or a popular infidelity, it was
previously to have been expected that such leaders should have the
several characteristics of a bigoted zeal for religion, or a craving
appetite for worldly glory; that, from the condition liable to
revolutions, it was probable to find such despots arising out of the
middle class; and that, from the condition of reaction incidental to all
human violences, there was a clear expectability that the power of such
military monarchs should not be continued to their natural heirs.

Such a line of argument, although in no measure required for the
corroboration of facts, might have considerable power to persuade _a
priori_ the man, who had not hitherto seen reason to credit such facts
from posterior evidence. It would have rolled away a great stone, which
to such a mind might otherwise have stood as a stumbling-block on the
very threshold of truth. It would have cleared off a heavy mist, which
might prevent him from discerning the real nature of the scene in which
he stood. It would have shown him that, what others know to be fact, is,
even to him who does not know it, become antecedently probable; and that
Reason is not only no enemy to Faith, but is ready and willing to
acknowledge its alliance.

Take a second illustration, by way of preliminary. A woodman, cleaving
an oak, finds an iron ball in its centre; he sees the fact, and of
course believes; some others believing on his testimony. But a certain
village-pundit, habitually sceptical of all marvels, is persuaded that
the wonder has been fabricated by our honest woodman; until the parson,
a good historian, coming round that way, proclaims it a most interesting
circumstance, because it was one naturally to have been expected; for
that, here was the spot where, two hundred years ago, a great battle had
been fought: and it was no improbability at all that a carbine-bullet
should have penetrated a sapling, nor that the tree should thereafter
have grown old with the iron at its heart. How unreasonable then would
appear the pundit's incredulity, if persisted in: how suddenly
enlightened the rational faith of the rustic: how seasonable would be
felt the useful learning of him, whose knowledge well applied can thus
unfetter truth from the bandages of ignorance.

Illustrations, if apt, are so well adapted to persuade towards a
particular line of argument, that, at the risk of diffuseness, and
because minds being various are variously touched, one by one thought
and one by another, I think fit to add yet more of a similar tendency:
in the hope that, by a natural induction, such instances may smoothe our
way.

When an eminent living geologist was prosecuting his researches at
Kirkdale cave, Yorkshire, he had calculated so nicely on the antecedent
probabilities, that his commands to the labourers were substantially
these: "Take your mattocks, and pick up that stone flooring; then take
your basket, and fill it--with the bones of hyaenas and other creatures
which you will find there." We may fancy the ridicule wherewith
ignorance might have greeted science: but lo, the triumph of philosophy,
when its mandate soon assumed a bodily shape in--bushels of bones gnawed
as by wild beasts, and here and there a grinning skull that looked like
a hyaena's! Do we not see how this bears on our coming argument? Such a
deposit was very unlikely to be found there in the eyes of the
unenlightened: but very likely to the wise man's ken. The real
probabilities were in favour of a strange fact, though the seeming
probabilities were against it.

Take another. We are all now convinced of the existence of America; and
so, some three or four hundred years back, was Christopher Columbus--but
nobody else. Alone, he proved that mighty continent so probable, from
geometrical measurements, and the balance of the world, and tides, and
trade-winds, and casual floatsams driven from some land beneath the
setting sun, that he was antecedently convinced of the fact: and it
would have been a shock to his reason, as well as to his faith, had he
found himself able to sail due west from Lisbon to China, without having
struck against his huge probability. I purposely abstain from applying
every illustration, or showing its specific difference regarding our
theme. It is better to lead a mind to think for itself than to endeavour
to forestall every notion.

Another. A Kissoor merchant in Timbuctoo is told of the existence of
water hard and cold as marble. All the experience of his nation is
against it. He disbelieves. However, after no long time, the testimony
of two native princes who have been _feted_ in England, and have seen
ice, shakes his once not unreasonable incredulity: and the additional
idea brought soon to his remembrance, that, as lead cools down from hot
fluidity to a solid lump, so, in the absence of solar heat, in all
probability would water--corroborates and makes acceptable by analogous
likelihood the doctrine simultaneously evidenced by credible witnesses.

Yet one more illustration for the last. Few things in nature appear more
unlikely to the illiterate, than that a living toad should be found
prisoned in a block of limestone; nevertheless, evidence goes to prove
that such cases are not uncommon. Now, if, instead of limestone, which
is a water-product, the creature had been found embedded in granite,
which is a fire-product; although the fact might have been from
eye-sight equally unimpeachable, how much more unlikely such a
circumstance would have appeared in the judgment of science. To the
rustic, the limestone case is as stout a puzzle as the granite one; but
_a priori_, the philosopher--taking into account the aqueous fluidity of
such a matrix at a period when reptiles were abundant, the torpid
qualities of the toad itself, and the fact that time is scarcely an
element in the absence of air--arrives at an antecedent probability,
which comforts his acceptance of the fact. The granite would have
staggered his reason, even though his own experience or the testimony of
others were sufficient, nay, imperative, to assure his faith: but in the
case of limestone, Reason even helps Faith; nay, anticipates and leads
it in, by suggesting the wonder to be previously probable. How truly,
and how strongly this bears upon our theme, let any such philosophizing
mind consider.

But enough of illustrations: although these, multipliable to any amount,
might bring, each in its own case, some specific tendency to throw light
upon the path we mean to tread: it is wiser perhaps, as implying more
confidence in the reader's intellectual powers, to leave other analogous
cases to the suggestion of his own mind; also, not to vex him in every
instance with the intrusive finger of an obvious application.
Meanwhile, it is a just opportunity to clear the way at once of some
obstructions, by disposing of a few matters personal to the writer; and
by touching upon sundry other preliminary considerations.

1. The line of thought proposed is intended to show it probable that any
thing which has been or is, might, viewed antecedently to its existence,
by an exercise of pure reason, have by possibility been guessed: and on
the hypothesis of sufficient keenness and experience, that this idea may
be carried even to the future. Any thing, meaning every thing, is a word
not used unadvisedly; for this is merely a suggestive treatise, starting
a rule capable of infinite application: and, notwithstanding that we
have here and now confined its elucidation to some matters of religious
moment only, as occupying a priority of importance, and at all times
deserving the lead; still, if knowledge availed, and time and space
permitted, I scarcely doubt that a vigorous and illuminated intellect
might so far enlarge on the idea, as to show the antecedent probability
of every event which has happened in the kingdoms of nature, providence,
and grace: nay, of directing his guess at coming matters with no
uncertain aim into the realms of the immediate future. The perception of
cause in operation enables him to calculate the consequence, even
perhaps better than the prophecy of cause could in the prior case enable
him to suspect the consequence. But, in this brief life, and under its
disturbing circumstances, there is little likelihood of accomplishing in
practice all that the swift mind sees it easy to dream in theory: and if
other and wiser pens are at all helped in the good aim to justify the
ways of God with man, and to clear the course of truth, by some of the
notions broadcast in this treatise, its errand will be well fulfilled.

2. Whether or not the leading idea, so propounded, is new, or is new in
its application as an auxiliary to Christian evidences, the writer is
unaware: to his own mind it has occurred quite spontaneously and on a
sudden; neither has he scrupled to place it before others with whatever
ill advantage of celerity, because it seemed to his own musings to shed
a flood of light upon deep truths, which may not prove unwelcome nor
unuseful to the doubting minds of many. It is true that in this, as in
most other human efforts, the realization of idea in concrete falls far
short of its abstract conception in the mind: there, all was clear,
quick, and easy; here, the necessity of words, and the constraints of an
unwilling perseverance, clog alike the wings of fancy and the feet of
sober argument: insomuch that the difference is felt to be quite
humiliating between the thoughts as they were thought, and the thoughts
as they are written. Minerva, springing from the head of Jove, is not
more unlike the heavily-treading Vulcan.

3. Necessarily, that the argument be (so to speak) complete, and on the
wise principle that no fortresses be left untaken in the rear, it must
be the writer's fate to attempt a demonstration of the anterior
probability of truths, which a child of reason can not only now never
doubt as fact, but never could have thought improbable. Instance the
first effort, showing it to have been expectable that there should, in
any conceived beginning, have existed a Something, a Great Spirit, whom
we call God. To have to argue of the mighty Maker, that HE was an
antecedent probability, would appear a most needless attempt; if it did
not occur as the first link in a chain of arguments less open to
objection by the thoughtless. With our little light to try to prove _a
priori_ the dazzling mystery of a Divine Tri-unity, might (unreasonably
viewed) be assailed as a presumptuous and harmful thing; but it is our
wise prerogative, if and when we can, to "Prove all things." Moreover,
we live in a world wherein Truth's greatest enemy is the man who shrinks
from endeavouring at least to clear away the mists and clouds that veil
her precious aspect; and at a time when it behooves the reverent
Christian to put on his panoply of faith and prayer, and meet in
argument, according to the grace and power given to him--not indeed the
blaspheming infidel, for such a foe is unreasonable and unworthy of an
answer, but--the often candid, anxious, and involuntary doubter; the
mind, which, righteously vexed with the thousand corruptions of truth,
and sorely disappointed at the conduct of its herd of false disciples,
from a generous misconception is embracing error: the mind, never enough
tenderly treated, but commonly taunted as a sceptic which yet with a
natural manliness asserts the just prerogative of thinking for itself:
fairly enough requiring, though rarely finding, evidence either to prop
the weakness of a merely educational faith, or to argue away the
objections to Christianity so rife in the clashing doctrines and unholy
lives of its pseudo-sectaries. One of our poets hath said, "He has no
hope who never had a fear:" it is quite as true (and take this saying
for thy comfort, any harassed misbelieving mind), He has no faith, who
never had a doubt. There is hope of a mind which doubts, because it
thinks; because it troubles itself to think about what the mass of
nominal Christians live threescore years and die of very mammonism,
without having had one earnest thought about one difficulty, or one
misgiving: there is hope of a man, who, not licentious nor scornful,
from simple misconception, misbelieves; there is just and reasonable
hope that (the misconception once removed) his faith will shine forth
all the warmer for a temporary state of winter. To such do I address
myself: not presumptuously imagining that I can satisfy by my poor
thoughts all the doubts, cavils and objections of minds so keen and
curious; not affecting to sail well among the shoals of metaphysics, nor
to plumb unerringly the deeper gulphs of reason; but asking them for
awhile to bear with me and hear me to the end patiently; with me,
convinced of what ([Greek: kat' exochen]) is Truth, by far surer and
stronger arguments than any of the less considerations here expounded as
auxiliary thereto; to bear with me, and prove for themselves at this
penning of my thoughts (if haply I am helped in such high enterprise),
whether indeed those doctrines and histories which the Christian world
admit, were antecedently improbable, that is, unreasonable: whether, on
the contrary, there did not exist, prior to any manifestation of such
facts and doctrines, an exceeding likelihood that they would be so and
so developed: and whether on the whole, led by reason to the threshold
of faith, it may be worth while to encounter other arguments, which have
rendered probabilities now certain.

4. It is very material to keep in memory the only scope and object of
this essay. We do not pretend to add one jot of evidence, but only to
prepare the mind to receive evidence: we do not attempt to prove facts,
but only to accelerate their admission by the removal of prejudice. If a
bed-ridden meteorologist is told that it rains, he may or he may not
receive the fact from the force of testimony; but he will certainly be
more predisposed to receive it, if he finds that his weatherglass is
falling rather than rising. The fact remains the same, it rains; but the
mind--precluded by circumstances from positive personal assurance of
such fact, and able only to arrive at truth from exterior evidence--is
in a fitter state for belief of the fact from being already made aware
that it was probable. Let it not then be inferred, somewhat perversely,
that because antecedent probabilities are the staple of our present
argument, the theme itself, Religion, rests upon hypotheses so slender:
it rests not at all upon such straws as probabilities, but on posterior
evidence far more firm. What we now attempt is not to prop the ark, but
favourably to predispose the mind of any reckless Uzzah, who might
otherwise assail it; not to strengthen the weak places of religion, but
to annul such disinclination to receive Truth, as consists in prejudice
and misconception of its likelihood. The goodly ship is built upon the
stocks, the platforms are reared, and the cradle is ready; but mistaken
preconceptions may scatter the incline with gravel-stones rather than
with grease, and thus put a needless hindrance to the launching: whereas
a clear idea that the probabilities are in favour, rather than the
reverse, will make all smooth, lubricate, and easy. If, then, we fail in
this attempt, no disservice whatever is done to Truth itself; no breach
is made in the walls, no mine sprung, no battlement dismantled; all the
evidences remain as they were; we have taken nothing away. Even granting
matters seemed anteriorily improbable, still, if evidence proved them
true, such anterior unlikelihood would entirely be merged in the stoutly
proven facts. Moreover, if we be adjudged to have succeeded, we have
added nothing to Truth itself; no, nor to its outworks. That sacred
temple stands complete, firm and glorious from corner-stone to
top-stone. We do but sweep away the rubbish at its base; the drifting
desert sands that choke its portals. We only serve that cause (a most
high privilege), by enlisting a prejudgment in its favour. We propose
herein an auxiliary to evidence, not evidence itself; a finger-post to
point the way to faith; a little light of reason on its path. The risk
is really nothing; but the advantage, under favour, may be much.

5. It is impossible to elude the discussion of topics, which in their
direct tendencies, or remoter inferences, may, to the author at least,
prove dangerous or disputable ground. If a "great door and effectual" is
opened to him, doubtless he will raise or meet with many adversaries.
Besides mere haters of his creed, despisers of his arguments, and
protestors, loud and fierce against his errors; he may possibly fall
foul of divers unintended heresies; he may stumble unwittingly on the
relics of exploded schisms; he may exhume controversies in metaphysical
or scholastical polemics, long and worthily extinct. If this be so, he
can only plead, _Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa_. But it is
open to him also to protest against the common critical folly of making
an offender for a word: of driving analogies on all four feet, and
straining thoughts beyond their due proportions. Above all, never let a
reader stir one inch beyond, far less against, his own judgment: if
there seem to be sufficient reasons, well: if otherwise, let me walk
uncompanied. The first step especially is felt to be a very difficult
one; perhaps very debatable: for aught I know, it may be merely a vain
insect caught in the cobweb of metaphysics, soon to be destroyed, and
easily to be discussed at leisure by some Aranean logician. However, it
seemed to my midnight musings a probable mode of arriving at truth,
though somewhat unsatisfactorily told from poverty of thought and
language. Moreover, it would have been, in such _a priori_ argument,
ridiculous to have commenced by announcing a posterior conclusion: for
this cause did I do my humble best to work it out anew: and however
supererogatory it may seem at first sight to the majority of readers,
those keener minds whom I mainly address, and whose interests I wish to
serve, will recognise the attempt as at least consistent: and will be
ready to admit that if the arduous effort prove anteriorly a First Great
Cause, and His attributes, be futile (which, however, I do not admit),
it was an attempt unneeded on the score of its own merits; albeit, with
an obvious somewhat of justice, pure reason may desire to begin at the
beginning. No one, who thinks at all upon religion, however
misbelieving, can entertain any mental prejudice against the existence
of a Deity, or against the received character of His attributes. Such a
man would be merely in a savage state, irrational: whilst his own mind,
so speculating, would stand itself proof positive of an Intellectual
Father; either immediately, as in the first man's case, or mediately, as
in our own, it must have sprung out of that Being, who is emphatically
the Good One--God. But if, as is possible, a mind, capable of thinking,
and keen to think on other themes, from any cause, educational or moral,
has neglected this great track of mediation, has "forgotten God," and
"had him _not_ in all his thoughts," such an one I invite to walk with
me; and, in spite of all incompleteness and insufficiency, uncaptious of
much that may haply be fanciful or false, briefly and in outline to test
with me sundry probabilities of the Christian scheme, considered
antecedently to its elucidation.




A GOD: AND HIS ATTRIBUTES.


I will commence with a noble, and, as I believe, an inspired sentence:
than which no truth uttered by philosophers ever was more clearly or
more sublimely expressed. "In the beginning was the Word: and the Word
was with God; and the Word was God." In its due course, we will consider
especially the difference between the Word and God; likewise the seeming
contradiction, but true concord, of being simultaneously God, and with
God. At present, and previously to the true commencement of our _a
priori_ thoughts, let us, by a word or two, paraphrase that brief but
comprehensive sentence, "In the beginning was the Word." Eternity has no
beginning, as it has no end: the clock of Time is futile there: it
might as well attempt to go in vacuo. Nevertheless, in respect to
finite intelligences like ourselves, seeing that eternity is an idea
totally inconceivable, it is wise, nay it is only possible, to be
presented to the mind piecemeal. Even our deepest mathematicians do not
scruple to speak of points "infinitely remote;" as if in that phrase
there existed no contradiction of terms. So, also, we pretend in our
emptiness to talk of eternity past, time present, and eternity to come;
the fact being that, muse as a man may, he can entertain no idea of an
existence which is not measurable by time: any more than he can conceive
of a colour unconnected with the rainbow, or of a musical note beyond
the seven sounds. The plain intention of the words is this: place the
starting-post of human thought as far back into eternity as you will, be
it what man counts a thousand ages, or ten thousand times ten thousand,
or be these myriads multiplied again by millions, still, in any such
Beginning, and in the beginning of all beginnings (for so must creatures
talk)--then was God. He Was: the scholar knows full well the force of
the original term, the philological distinctions between [Greek: eimi]
and [Greek: gignomai]: well pleased, he reads as of the Divinity [Greek:
en], He self-existed; and equally well pleased he reads of the humanity
[Greek: egennethe], he was born. The thought and phrase [Greek: en]
sympathizes, if it has not an identity, with the Hebrew's unutterable
Name. HE then, whose title, amongst all others likewise denoting
excellence supreme and glory underivative, is essentially "I am;" HE
who, relatively to us as to all creation else, has a new name wisely
chosen in "the Word,"--the great expression of the idea of God; this
mighty Intelligence is found in any such beginning self-existent. That
teaching is a mere fact, known posteriorly from the proof of all things
created, as well as by many wonderful signs, and the clear voice of
revelation. We do not attempt to prove it; that were easy and obvious:
but our more difficult endeavour at present is to show how antecedently
probable it was that God should be: and that so being, He should be
invested with the reasonable attributes, wherewithal we know His
glorious Nature to be clothed.

Take then our beginning where we will, there must have existed in that
"originally" either Something, or Nothing. It is a clear matter to
prove, _a posteriori_, that Something did exist; because something
exists now: every matter and every derived spirit must have had a
Father; _ex nihilo nihil fit_, is not more a truth, than that creation
must have had a Creator. However, leaving this plain path (which I only
point at by the way for obvious mental uses), let us now try to get at
the great antecedent probability that in the beginning Something should
have been, rather than Nothing.

The term, Nothing, is a fallacious one: it does not denote an existence,
as Something does, but the end of an existence. It is in fact a
negation, which must presuppose a matter once in being and possible to
be denied; it is an abstraction, which cannot happen unless there be
somewhat to be taken away; the idea of vacuity must be posterior to that
of fullness; the idea of no tree is incompetent to be conceived without
the previous idea of _a_ tree; the idea of nonentity suggests, _ex vi
termini_, a pre-existent entity; the idea of Nothing, of necessity,
presupposes Something. And a Something once having been, it would still
and for ever continue to be, unless sufficient cause be found for its
removal; that cause itself, you will observe, being a Something. The
chances are forcibly in favour of continuance, that is of perpetuity;
and the likelihoods proclaim loudly that there should be an Existence.
It was thus, then, antecedently more probable, than in any imaginable
beginning from which reason can start, Something should be found
existent, rather than Nothing. This is the first probability.

Next; of what nature and extent is this Something, this Being, likely to
be?--There will be either one such being, or many: if many, the many
either sprang from the one, or the mass are all self-existent; in the
former case, there would be a creation and a God: in the latter, there
would be many Gods. Is the latter antecedently more probable?--let us
see. First, it is evident that if many are probable, few are more
probable, and one most probable of all. The more possible gods you take
away, the more do impediments diminish; until, that is to say, you
arrive at that One Being, whom we have already proved probable.
Moreover, many must be absolutely united as one; in which case the many
is a gratuitous difficulty, because they may as well be regarded for all
purposes of worship or argument as one God: or the many must have been
in essence more or less disunited; in which case, as a state of any
thing short of pure concord carries in itself the seeds of dissolution,
needs must that one or other of the many (long before any possible
beginnings, as we count beginnings, looking down the past vista of
eternity), would have taken opportunity by such disturbing causes to
become absolute monarch: whether by peaceful persuasion, or hostile
compulsion, or other mode of absorbing disunions, would be indifferent;
if they were not all improbable, as unworthy of the God. Perpetuity of
discord is a thing impossible; every thing short of unity tends to
decomposition. Any how then, given the element of eternity to work in,
a one great Supreme Being was, in the created beginning, an _a priori_
probability. That all other assumptions than that of His true and
eternal Oneness are as false in themselves as they are derogatory to the
rational views of deity, we all now see and believe; but the direct
proofs of this are more strictly matters of revelation than of reason:
albeit reason too can discern their probabilities. Wise heathens, such
as Socrates and Cicero, who had not our light, arrived nevertheless at
some of this perception; and thus, through conscience and intelligence,
became a law unto themselves: because that, to them, as now to any one
of us who may not yet have seen the light, the anterior likelihood
existed for only one God, rather than more; a likelihood which prepares
the mind to take as a fundamental truth, "The Lord our God is one
Jehovah."

Next; Self-existence combined with unity must include the probable
attribute, or character, Ubiquity; as I now proceed to show. On the same
principle as that by which we have seen Something to be likelier than
Nothing, we conclude that the same Something is more probable to be
every where, than the same Nothing (if the phrase were not absurd), to
be any where: we may, so to speak, divide infinity into spaces, and
prove the position in each instance: moreover, as that Something is
essentially--not a unit as of many, but--unity involving all, it follows
as most probable that this Whole Being should be ubiquitous; in other
parlance, that the one God should be every where at once: also, there
being no limit to what we call Space, nor any imaginable hostile power
to place a constraint upon the One Great Being, this Whole Being must be
ubiquitous to a degree strictly infinite: "HE is in every place,
beholding the evil and the good."

Such a consideration (and it is a perfectly true one) renders necessary
the next point, to wit, that God is a Spirit. No possible substance can
be every where at once: essence may, but not substance. Corporeity in
any shape must be local; local is finite; and we have just proved the
anterior probability of a One great Existence being (notwithstanding
unity of essence) infinite. Illocal and infinite are convertible terms:
spirit is illocal; and, as God is infinite--that is, illocal--it is
clear that "God is a Spirit."

We have thus (not attempting to build up faith by such slight tools, but
only using them to cut away prejudice) arrived at the high probability
of a God invested with His natural qualities or attributes;
Self-existence, Unity, the faculty of being every where at once and that
every where Infinitude; and essentially of a Spiritual nature, not
material. His moral, or accidental attributes (so to speak), were,
antecedently to their expression, equally easy of being proved
probable. First, with respect to Power: given no disturbing cause--(we
shall soon consider the question of permitted evil, and its origin; but
this, however disturbing to creatures, will be found not only none to
God, but, as it were, only a ray of His glory suffered to be broken for
prismatic beauty's sake, a flash of the direction of His energies
suffered to be diverted for the superior triumph of good in that day
when it shall be shown that "God hath made all things for himself, yea,
even the wicked for the time of visitation")--with the _datum_ then of
no disturbing cause obstructing or opposing, an infinite being must be
able to do all things within the sphere of such infinity: in other
phrase, He must be all-powerful. Just so, an impetus in vacuity suffers
no check, but ever sails along among the fleet of worlds; and the innate
Impulse of the Deity must expand and energize throughout that
infinitude, Himself. For a like reason of ubiquity, God must know all
things: it is impossible to escape from the strong likelihood that any
intelligent being must be conversant of what is going on under his very
eye. Again; in the case both of Power and Knowledge, alike with the
coming attributes of Goodness and Wisdom--(wisdom considered as morally
distinct from mere knowledge or awaredness; it being quite possible to
conceive a cold eye seeing all things heedlessly, and a clear mind
knowing all things heartlessly)--in the case, I say, of all these
accidental attributes, there recurs for argument, one analogous to that
by which we showed the anterior probability of a self-existence. Things
positive must precede things negative. Sight must have been, before
blindness is possible; and before we can arrive at a just idea of no
sight. Power must be precursor to an abstraction from power, or
weakness. The minor-existence of ignorance is an impossibility, unless
you preallow the major-existence of wisdom; for it amounts to a debasing
or a diminution of wisdom. Sin is well defined to be, the transgression
of law; for without law, there can be no sin. So, also, without wisdom,
there can be no ignorance; without power, there can be no weakness;
without goodness, there can be no evil.

Furthermore. An affirmative--such as wisdom, power, goodness--can exist
absolutely; it is in the nature of a Something: but a negative--such as
ignorance, weakness, evil--can only exist relatively; and it would,
indeed, be a Nothing, were it not for the previous and now simultaneous
existence of its wiser, stronger, and better origin. Abstract evil is as
demonstrably an impossibility as abstract ignorance, or abstract
weakness. If evil could have self-existed, it would in the moment of its
eternal birth have demolished itself. Virtue's intrinsic concord tends
to perpetual being: vice's innate discord struggles always with a force
towards dissolution. Goodness, wisdom, power have existences, and have
had existences from all eternity, though gulphed within the Godhead; and
that, whether evidenced in act or not: but their corruptions have had no
such original existence, but are only the same entities perverted. Love
would be love still, though there were no existent object for its
exercise: Beauty would be beauty still, though there were no created
thing to illustrate its fairness: Power would be power still, though
there be no foe to combat, no difficulty to be overcome. Hatred,
ill-favour, weakness, are only perversions or diminutions of these.
Power exists independently of muscles or swords or screws or levers;
love, independently of kind thoughts, words, and actions; beauty,
independently of colours, shapes, and adaptations. Just so is Wisdom
philosophically spoken of by a truly royal and noble author:

"I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out the knowledge of clever
inventions. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding; I
have strength. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before
his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or
ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth;
before the mountains were fixed, or the hills were made. When He
prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face
of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened
the foundations of the deep: Then was I by him, as one brought up with
him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing
in the habitable parts of his earth; and my delights were with the sons
of men."

King Solomon well knew of Whom he wrote thus nobly. Eternal wisdom,
power, and goodness, all prospectively thus yearning upon man, and
incorporate in One, whose name, among his many names, is Wisdom. Wisdom,
as a quality, existed with God; and, constituting full pervasion of his
essence, was God.

But to return, and bind to a conclusion our ravelled thoughts. As,
originally, the self-existent being, unbounded, all-knowing, might take
up, so to speak, if He willed, these eternal affirmative excellences of
wisdom, power, and goodness; and as these, to every rational
apprehension, are highly worthy of his choice, whereas their derivative
and inferior corruptions would have been most derogatory to any
reasonable estimate of His character; how much more likely was it that
He should prefer the higher rather than the lower, should take the
affirmative before the negative, should "choose the good, and refuse the
evil,"--than endure to be endowed with such garbled, demoralizing,
finite attributes as those wherewith the heathen painted the Pantheon.
What high antecedent probability was there, that if a God should be (and
this we have proved highly probable too)--He should be One, ubiquitous,
self-existent, spiritual: that He should be all-mighty, all-wise, and
all-good?




THE TRIUNITY.


Another deep and inscrutable topic is now to engage our thoughts--the
mystery of a probable Triunity. While we touch on such high themes, the
Christian's presumption ever is, that he himself approaches them with
reverence and prayer; and that, in the case of an unbeliever, any such
mind will be courteous enough to his friendly opponent, and wise enough
respecting his own interest and safety lest these things be true, to
enter upon all such subjects with the seriousness befitting their
importance, and with the restraining thought that in fact they may be
sacred.

Let us then consider, antecedently to all experience, with what sort of
deity pure reason would have been satisfied. It has already arrived at
Unity, and the foregoing attributes. But what kind of Unity is probable?
Unity of Person, or unity of Essence? A sterile solitariness, easily
understandable, and presumably incommunicative? or an absolute oneness,
which yet relatively involves several mysterious phases of its own
expansive love? Will you think it a foregone conclusion, if I assert the
superior likelihoods of the latter, and not of the former? Let us come
then to a few of many reasons. First: it was by no means probable to be
supposed anteriorly, that the God should be clearly comprehensible: yet
he must be one: and oneness is the idea most easily apprehended of all
possible ideas. The meanest of intellectual creatures could comprehend
his Maker, and in so far top his heights, if God, being truly one in one
view, were yet only one in every view: if, that is to say, there existed
no mystery incidental to his nature: nay, if that mystery did not
amount to the difficulty of a seeming contradiction. I judge it likely,
and with confidence, that Reason would prerequire for his God, a Being,
at once infinitely easy to be apprehended by the lowest of His spiritual
children, and infinitely difficult to be comprehended by the highest of
His seraphim. Now, there can be guessed only two ways of compassing such
a prerequirement: one, a moral way; such as inventing a deity who could
be at once just and unjust, every where and no where, good and evil,
powerful and weak; this is the heathen phase of Numen's character, and
is obviously most objectionable in every point of view: the other would
be a physical way; such as requiring a God who should be at once
material and immaterial, abstraction and concretion; or, for a still
more confounding paradox to Reason (considered as antagonist to Faith,
in lieu of being strictly its ally), an arithmetical contradiction, an
algebraic mystery, such as would be included in the idea of Composite
Unity; one involving many, and many collapsed into one. Some such enigma
was probable in Reason's guess at the nature of his God. It is the
Christian way; and one entirely unobjectionable: because it is the only
insuperable difficulty as to His Nature which does not debase the notion
of Divinity. But there are also other considerations.

For, secondly. The self-existent One is endowed, as we found probable,
with abundant loving-kindness, goodness overflowing and perpetual. Is it
reasonable to conceive that such a character could for a moment be
satisfied with absolute solitariness? that infinite benevolence should,
in any possible beginning, be discovered existent in a sort of selfish
only-oneness? Such a supposition is, to the eye of even unenlightened
Reason, so clearly a _reductio ad absurdum_, that men in all countries
and ages have been driven to invent a plurality of Gods, for very
society sake: and I know not but that they are anteriorly wiser and more
rational than the man who believes in a Benevolent Existence eternally
one, and no otherwise than one. Let me not be mistaken to imply that
there was any likelihood of many coeexistent gods: that was a reasonable
improbability, as we have already seen, perhaps a spiritual
impossibility: but the anterior likelihood of which I speak goes to
show, that in One God there should be more than one coeexistence: each,
by arithmetical mystery, but not absurdity, pervading all, coeequals,
each being God, and yet not three Gods, but one God. That there should
be a rational difficulty here--or, rather, an irrational one--I have
shown to be Reason's prerequirement: and if such a one as I, or any
other creature, could now and here (ay, or any when or any where, in
the heights of highest heaven, and the far-stretching distance of
eternity) solve such intrinsic difficulty, it would demonstrably be one
not worthy of its source, the wise design of God: it would prove that
riddle read, which uncreate omniscience propounded for the baffling of
the creature mind. No. It is far more reasonable, as well as far more
reverent, to acquiesce in Mystery, as another attribute inseparable from
the nature of the Godhead; than to quibble about numerical puzzles, and
indulge unwisely in objections which it is the happy state of nobler
intelligences than man on earth is, to look into with desire, and to
exercise withal their keen and lofty minds.

But we have not yet done. Some further thoughts remain to be thrown out
in the third place, as to the preconceivable fitness or propriety of
that Holy Union, which we call the trinity of Persons who constitute the
Self-existent One. If God, being one in one sense, is yet likely to
appear, humanly speaking, more than one in another sense; we have to
inquire anteriorly of the probable nature of such other intimate Being
or Beings: as also, whether such addition to essential oneness is likely
itself to be more than one or only one. As to the former of these
questions: if, according to the presumption of reason (and according
also to what we have since learned from revelation; but there may be
good policy in not dotting this book with chapter and verse)--if the
Deity thus loved to multiply Himself; then He, to whom there can exist
no beginning, must have so loved, so determined, and so done from all
eternity. Now, any conceivable creation, however originated, must have
had a beginning, place it as far back as you will. In any succession of
numbers, however infinitely they may stretch, the commencement at least
is a fixed point, one. But, this multiplication of Deity, this complex
simplicity, this intricate easiness, this obvious paradox, this
sub-division and con-addition of a One, must have taken place, so soon
as ever eternal benevolence found itself alone; that is, in eternity,
and not in any imaginable time. So then, the Being or Beings would
probably not have been creative, but of the essence of Deity. Take also
for an additional argument, that it is an idea which detracts from every
just estimate of the infinite and all-wise God to suppose He should take
creatures into his eternal counsels, or consort, so to speak, familiarly
with other than the united sub-divisions, persons, and coeequals of
Himself. It was reasonable to prejudge that the everlasting companions
of Benevolent God, should also be God. And thus, it appears antecedently
probable that (what from the poverty of language we must call) the
multiplication of the one God should not have been created beings; that
is, should have been divine; a term, which includes, as of right, the
attribution to each such Holy Person, of all the wondrous
characteristics of the Godhead.

Again: as to the latter question; was it probable that such so-called
sub-divisions should be two, or three, or how many? I do not think it
will be wise to insist upon any such arithmetical curiosity as a perfect
number; nor on such a toy as an equilateral triangle and its properties;
nor on the peculiar aptitude for sub-division in every thing, to be
discerned in a beginning, a middle, and an end; nor in the consideration
that every fact had a cause, is a constancy, and produces a consequence:
neither, to draw any inferences from the social maxim that for counsel,
companionship, and conversation, the number three has some special
fitness. Some other similar fancies, not altogether valueless, might be
alluded to. It seems preferable, however, on so grand a theme, to
attempt a deeper dive, and a higher flight. We would then, reverently as
always, albeit equally as always with the free-born boldness of God's
intellectual children, attempt to prejudge how many, and with what
distinctive marks, the holy beings into whom (Greek: ost epos eipein)
God, for very Benevolence sake, pours out Essential Unity, were likely
to be.

Let us consider what principles, as in the case of a forthcoming
creation, would probably be found in action, to influence such
creation's Author.

First of all, there would be Will, a will energized by love, disposing
to create: a phase of Deity aptly and comprehensively typified to all
minds by the name of a universal Father: this would be the primary
impersonation of God. And is it not so?

Secondly: there would be (with especial reference to that idea of
creation which doubtless at most remote beginnings occupied the Good
One's contemplation), there would be next, I repeat, in remarkable
adaptation to all such benevolent views, the great idea of principle,
Obedience; conforming to a Father's righteous laws, acquiescing in his
just will, and returning love for love: such a phase could not be better
shadowed out to creatures than by an Eternal Son; the dutiful yet
supreme, the subordinate yet coeequal, the amiable yet exalted Avatar of
our God. This was probable to have been the second impersonation of
Deity. And is it not so?

Thirdly: Springing from the conjoint ideas of the Father and the Son,
and with similar prospection to such instantly creative universe, there
would occur the grand idea of Generation; the mighty coeequal, pure, and
quickening Impulse: aptly announced to men and angels as the Holy
Spirit. This was to have been the third impersonation of Divinity. And
is it not so?

Of all these--under illumination of the fore-known fact, I speak, in
their aspect of anterior probability. With respect to more possible
Persons, I at least cannot invent one. There is, to my reflection,
neither need nor fitness for a fourth, or any further Principle. If
another can, let him look well that he be not irrationally demolishing
an attribute and setting it up as a principle. Obedience is not an
attribute; nor Generation; nor Will: whilst the attribute of Love,
pervading all, sets these only possible three Principles going together
as One in a mysterious harmony. I would not be misunderstood; persons
are not principles; but principles may be illustrated and incorporative
in persons. Essential Love, working distinctively throughout the Three,
unites them instinctively as One: even as the attribute Wisdom designs,
and the attribute Power arranges all the scheme of Godhead.

And now I ask Reason, whether, presupposing keenness, he might not have
arrived by calculation of probabilities at the likelihood of these great
doctrines: that the nature of God would be an apparent contradiction:
that such contradiction should not be moral, but physical; or rather
verging towards the metaphysical, as immaterial and more profound: that
God, being One, should yet, in his great Love, marvellously have been
companioned from eternity by Himself: and that such Holy and United
Confraternity should be so wisely contrived as to serve for the bright
unapproachable exemplar of love, obedience, and generation to all the
future universe, such Triunity Itself existing uncreated.




THE GODHEAD VISIBLE.


We have hitherto mused on the Divinity, as on Spirit invested with
attributes: and this idea of His nature was enough for all requirements
antecedently to a creation. At whatever beginning we may suppose such
creation to have commenced, whether countless ages before our present
[Greek: kosmos], or only a sufficient time to have prepared the crust of
earth; and to whatever extent we may imagine creation to have spread,
whether in those remote periods originally to our system alone and at
after eras to its accompanying stars and galaxies and firmaments; or at
one and the same moment to have poured material existence over space to
which our heavens are as nothing: whatever, and whenever, and wherever
creation took place, it would appear to be probable that some one person
of the Deity should, in a sort, become more or less concretely
manifested; that is, in a greater or a minor degree to such created
minds and senses visible. Moreover, for purposes at least of a
concentrated worship of such creatures, that He should occasionally, or
perhaps habitually, appear local. I mean, that the King of all spiritual
potentates and the subordinate Excellencies of brighter worlds than
ours, the Sovereign of those whom we call angels, should will to be
better known to and more aptly conceived by such His admiring creatures,
in some usual glorious form, and some wonted sacred place. Not that any
should see God, as purely God; but, as God relatively to them, in the
capacity of King, Creator, and the Object of all reasonable worship. It
seems anteriorly probable that one at least of the Persons in the
Godhead should for this purpose assume a visibility; and should hold His
court of adoration in some central world, such as now we call
indefinitely Heaven. That such probability did exist in the human
forecast, as concerns a heaven and the form of God, let the testimony of
all nations now be admitted to corroborate. Every shape from a cloud to
a crocodile, and every place from AEther to Tartarus, have been peopled
by man's not quite irrational device with their so-called gods. But we
must not lapse into the after-argument: previous likelihood is our
harder theme. Neither, in this section, will we attempt the
probabilities of the place of heaven: that will be found at a more
distant page. We have here to speak of the antecedent credibility that
there should be some visible phase of God; and of the shape wherein he
would be most likely, as soon as a creation was, to appear to such his
creatures. With respect, then, to the former. Creatures, being finite,
can only comprehend the infinite in his attribute of unity: the other
attributes being apprehended (or comprehended partially) in finite
phases. But, unity being a purely intellectual thought, one high and dry
beyond the moral feelings, involves none of the requisites of a
spiritual, that is an affectionate, worship; such worship as it was
likely that a beneficent Being would, for his creatures' own elevation
in happiness, command and inspire towards Himself. In order, therefore,
to such worship and such inspiration acting through reason, it would
appear fitting that the Deity should manifest Himself especially with
reference to that heavenly Exemplar, the Three Divine Persons of the
One Supreme Essence already shown to have been probable. And it seems
likeliest and discreetest to my thinking, that, with this view, the
secondary phase, loving Obedience, under the dictate of the primary
phase, a loving Will, and energized by the tertiary or conjoining phase
a loving Quickening Entity, should assume the visible type of Godhead,
and thus concentrate unto Himself the worship of all worlds. I can
conceive no scheme more simply profound, more admirably suited to its
complex purposes, than that He, in whom dwelt the fullness of the
Godhead, bodily, should take the form of God, in order that unto Him
every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and
things in regions under the earth. Was not all this reasonably to have
been looked for? and tested afterwards by Scripture, in its frequent
allusions to some visible phase of Deity, when the Lord God walked with
Adam, and Enoch, and Abraham, and Peter, and James, and John--I ask, is
it not the case?

The latter point remaining to be thus briefly touched upon, respects the
probable shape to be assumed and worn, familiarly enough to be
recognised as His, by Deity thus vouchsafing Himself visible. And here
we must look down the forward stream of Time, and search among the
creatures whom thereafter God should make, to arrive at some good reason
for, some antecedent probability of, the form which he should thus
frequently inhabit. Fire, for example, a pure and spirit-like nature,
would not have been a guess unworthy of reason: but this, besides its
humbler economic uses, would endanger an idolatry of the natural emblem.
So also would light be no irrational thought. And it is true that God
might, and probably would, invest Himself in one or both of these pure
essences, so seemingly congenial to a nature higher than ours: but then
there would be some nucleus to the brilliancy and the burning; these
would be as a veil to the Divinity; we should have need, before He were
truly visible, that the veil were laid aside: we should have to shred
away to the nucleus, which (and not the fire or light) would be the form
of God. Similar objections, in themselves or in their idolatrizing
tendencies, would lie against any such shape as a cloud, or a rainbow,
or an angel (whatever such a being may resemble), or in fact any other
conceivable creature, whether good as the angelic case or indifferent as
that of the cloud, which the Deity, though assuming often, would
nevertheless in every instance assume in conjunction with such his
ordinary creature, and could not entirely monopolize. I mean; if God had
the shape of a cloud, or of a rainbow, common clouds and rainbows would
come to be thought gods too. Reason would anticipate this objection to
such created and too-favoured shapes: more; in every case, but one, he
would be quite at a loss to look for some type, clearly apt and
probable. That one case he might discern to be this. Known unto God are
all things from the beginning to the end: and, in His fore-knowledge,
Reason might have been enlightened to prophesy (as we shall hereafter
see) that for certain wise and good ends one great family out of the
myriads who rejoice in being called God's children, would in a most
marked manner fall away from Him through disobedience; and should
thereby earn, if not the annihilation of their being, at least its
endless separation from the Blessed. Manifestly, the wisdom and
benevolence of God would be eager and swift to devise a plan for the
redemption of so lost a race. Why He should permit their fall at all
will be reverentially descanted on in its proper section; meanwhile, how
is it probable that God, first, by any theory consistently with truth
and justice, could, and next by power and contrivance actually would,
lift up again this sinful family from the pit of condemnation? Reason is
to search the question well: and after much thought, you will arrive at
the truth that there was but one way probable. Rebellion against the
Great and Self-existent Author of all things, must needfully involve
infinite punishment; if only because He is infinite, and his laws of an
eternal sanction. The problem then was, how to inflict the unbounded
punishment thus claimed by justice for a transgressional condition, and
yet at love's demand to set the prisoner free: how to be just, and
simultaneously justifier of the guilty. That was a question
magnificently solved by God alone: magnificently about to be solved, as
according to our argument seemed probable, by God Triune, in wondrous
self-involving council. The solution would be rationally this. Himself,
in his character of filial obedience, should pay the utter penalty to
Himself in his character of paternal authority, whilst Himself in the
character of quickening spirit, should restore the ransomed family from
death to life, from the power of evil unto good. Was not this a most
probable, a most reasonably probable scheme? was it not altogether wise
and philosophical, as well as entirely generous and kind to wretched
men?

And (returning to our present topic), was it not antecedently to have
been expected that God the Son (so to put it) should, in the shape He
was thereafter to assume upon earth, appear upon the eternal throne of
heaven? In a shape, however glorified and etherealized, with glistening
countenance and raiment bright as the light, nevertheless resembling
that more humble form, the Son of Man, who was afterwards thus by a
circle of probabilities to be made in the form of God; in a shape, not
liable, from its very sinfulness, to the deification either of other
worlds or of this [hero-worship is another and a lower thing altogether;
we speak here of true idolatries:]--was it unlikely, I say, that in such
a shape Deity should have deigned to become visible, and have blazed
Manifested God, the central Sun of Heaven?--This probability, prior to
our forth-flowing thoughts on the Incarnation, though in some measure
anticipating them, will receive further light from the views soon to be
set forth. I know not but that something is additionally due to the
suggestion following; namely: that, raise our swift imagination to what
height we may, and stretch our searching reason to the uttermost, we
cannot, despite of all inventive energies and powers of mind, conceive
any shape more beautiful, more noble, more worthy for a rational
intelligence to dwell in, more in one Homeric word [Greek: theoeides],
than the glorified and etherealized human form divine. Let this serve as
Reason's short reply to any charge of anthropomorphism in the doctrines
of his creed: it was probable that God should be revealed to His
creation; and as to the form of any such revealed essence in any such
infinite beginnings of His work, the most likely of all would appear to
be that one, wherein He, in the ages then to come, was well resolved to
earn the most glorious of all triumphs, the merciful reconciliation of
everlasting justice with everlasting love, the wise and wondrous scheme
of God forgiving sinners.




THE ORIGIN OF EVIL.


It will now be opportune to attempt elucidation of one of the darkest
and deepest riddles ever propounded to the finite understanding; the _a
priori_ likelihood of evil: not, mind, its eternal existence, which is a
false doctrine; but its probable procession from the earliest created
beings, which is a true one.

At first sight, nothing could appear more improbable: nothing more
inconsistent with the recognised attributes of God, than that error,
pain, and sorrow should be mingled in His works. These, the spontaneous
offspring of His love, one might (not all wisely) argue, must always be
good and happy--because perfect as Himself. Because perfect?--Therein
lies the fallacy, which reason will at once lay bare. Perfection is
attributable to no possible creature: perfection argues infinity, and
infinity is one of the prerogatives of God. However good, "very good," a
creation may be found, still it must, from essential finitude, fall
short of that Best, which is in effect the only state purely
unexceptionable. For instance, no creature can be imagined of a wisdom
undiminished from the single true standard, God's wisdom: in other
phrase, every creature must be more or less departed from wisdom, that
is, verging towards folly. Again; no creature can be presumed of a
purity so spotless as to rank in an equality with that of the Almighty:
in other words, neither man, nor angel, nor any other creature, can
exist who is not more or less--I will not say impure, positively,
but--unpure negatively. Thus, the birth-mark of creation must have been
an inclination towards folly, and from purity. The mere idea of
creatures would involve, as its great need-be, the qualifying clause
that these emanations from perfection be imperfect; and that these
children of purity be liable to grow unpure. They must either be thus
natured, or exist of the essence of God, that is, be other persons and
phases of the Deity: such a case was possible certainly; but, as we have
already shown, not probable. And it were possible, that, in consequence
of some redemption such as we have spoken of, creatures might by
ingraftation into God become so entirely part of Him--bone of bone, and
flesh of flesh, and spirit of spirit--that an exhortation to such blest
beings should reasonably run, "Be ye perfect." But this infinite
munificence of the Godhead in redemption was not to be found among His
bounties as Creator. It might indeed arise afterwards, as setting up
again the fallen creature in some safe niche of Deity: and we now know
it has arisen: "we are complete in Him."

But this, though relevant, is a digression. Returning, and to produce
some further argument against all creature perfectness; let us consider
how rational it seems to presuppose that the mighty Maker in his
boundless love should have willed to form a long chain of classes of
existence more and more subordinated each to the other, each good of its
kind and happy in its way, but yet all needfully more or less removed
from the high standard of uncreate Perfection. These descending links,
these graduations downwards, must involve a nearer or remoter approach
to evil. Now, we must bear in mind that Evil is not a principle, but a
perversion: it amounts merely to a denial, a limitation, a corruption of
good, not to the dignity of its abstract antagonism. Familiarly, but
fallaciously, we talk of the evil principle, the contradictory to good:
we might as well talk of the nosologic principle, the contradictory to
health; or the darkness principle, the contradictory to light. They are
contraries, but not contradictories: they have no positive, but only a
relative existence. Good and evil are verily foes, but originally there
was one cemented friendship: slender beginnings consequent on a
creation, began to cause the breach: the civil war arose out of a state
of primitive peace: images betray us into errors, or I might add with a
protest against the risk of being misinterpreted, that like brothers
turned to a deadly hate, they nevertheless sprang not originally out of
two hostile and opposite hemispheres, but from one paternal hearth. Not,
however, in any sense that God is the author of evil; but that God's
workmanship, the finite creature, needfully perverted good.

The origin of evil--that is, its birth--is a term true and clear:
original evil--that is, giving it no birth but an antedate to all
created things, suffering it to run parallel with God and good from all
eternity--this is a term false and misty. The probability that good
would be warped, and grow deteriorate; that wisdom would be dwindled
down into less and less wisdom, or foolishness; and power degenerated
more and more towards imbecility; must arise, directly a creature should
spring out of the Creator; and that, let astronomy or geology name any
date they will: Adam is a definite date; perhaps also the first
day's--or period's--work: but the Beginning of Creation is undated. It
would then, under this impression of the necessary defalcation of the
creature from the strict straight line, be rational to look for
deviations: it would be rational to presuppose that God--just, and good,
and pure, and wise--should righteously be able to "charge his angels
with folly," should verily declare that "the heavens are not pure in his
sight."

Further; it would be a possible chance (which considerations soon
succeeding would render even probable) that for a wise humiliation of
the reasoning creature, and a just exaltation of the only Source of life
and light and all things, one or more of such first created beings, or
angels, should be suffered to fall, possibly from the vastest height,
and at first by the slenderest beginnings, lower and lower into folly,
impurity, and all other derelictions from the excellence of God. The
lines, once unparalleled, would, without a check, go further apart for
all eternity; albeit, the primal deviation arose in time. The aerolite,
dropping slowly at first, increases in swiftness as it multiplies the
fathoms of descent: and if the abyss be really bottomless, how
impossible a check or a return.

Some such terrible example would amount to a reasonable likelihood, if
only for a lesson and a warning: to all intelligent hierarchs, be not
high-minded, but fear; to all responsible beings, keep righteousness and
reverence, and tempt not God; to all the Virtues, Dominations,
Obediences, and due Subordinations of unknown glorious worlds, a loud
and living exhortation to exercise, and not to let grow dim their
spiritual energies, in efforts after goodness, wisdom, and purity. A
creature state, to be happy, must be a progressive state: the capability
of progression argues lack, or a tendency from good: and progression
itself needs a spur, lest indolence relapse towards evil.

Additionally: we must remember that a creature's excellence before God
is the reasonable service which he freely renders: freedom, dangerous
prerogative, involves choice: and choice necessitates the possibility of
error. The command to a rational intelligence would be, do this, and
live; do it not, and die: if thou doest, it is well done, good and
faithful servant; thou hast mounted by thine own heaven-blest exertions
to a higher approach towards infinite perfection; enter thou into the
joy, not merely of a creature, but of thy Lord. But, if thou doest not,
it is wo to thee, unworthy hireling; thou hast broken the tie that bound
thee to thy Maker--obedience, the root of happiness; thou livest on
indeed, because the Former of all things cancelleth not nor endeth his
beginning; but henceforth thine existence is, as a river which
earthquakes have divorced from its bed, and instead of flowing on for
ever through the fair pastures of peace and among the mountain roots of
everlasting righteousness, thy downward course is shattery, headlong,
turbulent, and destructive; black-throated whirlpools here, miasmatic
marshes there, a cataract, a shoal, a rapid; until the remorseless
stream, lashing among rocks which its own riot rendered sterile, pours
its unresting waters into the thirsty sands of the Sahara.

It was indeed probable (as since we know it to be true) that the
generous Giver of all things would in the vast majority of cases
minister such secret help to His weaker spiritual children, that, far
from failing of continuous obedience, they should find it so unceasingly
easier and happier that their very natures would soon come to be imbued
with that pervading habit: and that thus, the longer any creature stood
upright, the stronger should he rest in righteousness; until, at no very
distant period, it should become morally impossible for him to fall.
Such would soon be the condition of myriads, perhaps almost the whole,
of heaven's innumerable host: and with respect to any darker Unit in
that multitude, for the good of all permitted to make early shipwreck
of himself, simply by leaving his intelligence to plume its wings into
presumptuous flight, and by allowing his pristine goodness or wisdom to
grow rusty from non-usage until that sacred panoply were eaten into
holes; with respect to any such unhappy one, and all others (if others
be) who should listen to his glozing, and make a common cause in his
rebellion, where, I ask, is any injustice, or even unkindness done to
him by Deity? Where is any moral improbability that such a traitor
should be; or any just inconsistency chargeable on the attributes of God
in consequence of such his being? Whom can he in reason accuse but
himself for what he is? And what misery can such a one complain of,
which is not the work of his own hands? And lest the Great Offender
should urge against his God, why didst thou make me thus?--Is not the
answer obvious, I made thee, but not thus. And on the rejoinder, Why
didst thou not keep me as thou madest me? Is not the reply just, I made
thee reasonable, I led thee to the starting place, I taught thee and set
thee going well in the beginning; thou art intelligent and free, and
hast capacities of Mine own giving: wherefore didst thou throw aside My
grace, and fly in the face of thy Creator?

On the whole; consider that I speak only of probabilities. There is a
depth in this abyss of thought, which no human plummet is long enough to
sound; there is a maze in this labyrinth to be tracked by no mortal
clue. It involves the truth, How unsearchable are his judgments: Thou
hidest thy ways in the sea, and thy paths in the deep waters, and thy
footsteps are not known. The weak point of man's argument lies in the
suggested recollection, that doubtless the Deity could, if He would,
have upheld all the universe from falling by his gracious power; and
that the attribute of love concludes that so He would. However, these
three brief considerations further will go some way to solve the
difficulty, and to strengthen the weak point; first, there are other
attributes besides love to run concurrently with it, as truth, justice,
and unchangeableness:--Secondly, that grace is not grace, if manifested
indiscriminately to all: and thirdly, that to our understanding at least
there was no possible method of illustrating the amiabilities of
Goodness, and the contrivances of Wisdom, but by the infused permission
of some physical and moral evils: Mercy, benevolence, design, would in a
universe of best have nothing to do; that universe itself would grow
stagnant, as incapable of progress; and the principal record of God's
excellences, the book of redemption, would have been unwritten. Is not
then the existence of evil justified in reason's calculation? and was
not such existence an antecedent probability?

Of these matters, thus curtly: it is time, in a short recapitulation, to
reflect, that, from foregoing causes, mysteries were probable around the
throne of heaven: and, as I have attempted to show, the mystery of
imperfection, a concrete not an abstract, was likely to have sprung out
of any creature universe. Reason perceives that a Gordion knot was
likely to have become entangled; in the intricate complexities of
abounding good to be mingled needfully with its own deficiencies,
corruptions, and perversions: and this having been shown by Reason as
anteriorly probable, its difficult involvements are now since cut by the
sword of conquering Faith.




COSMOGONY.


These deep themes having been descanted on, however from their nature
unsatisfactorily and with whatever human weakness, let us now endeavour
mentally to transport ourselves to a period immediately antecedent to
our own world's birth. We should then have been made aware that a great
event was about to take place; whereat, from its foreseen consequences,
the hierarchies of heaven would be prompt to shout for joy, and the holy
ones of God to sing for gratitude. It was no common case of a creation;
no merely onemore orb, of third-rate unimportance, amongst the million
others of higher and more glorious praise: but it was a globe and a race
about to be unique in character and fate, and in the far-spread results
of their existence. On it and of its family was to be contrived the
scene, wherein, to the admiration of the universe, God himself in Person
was going visibly to make head against corruption in creation, and for
ever thus to quench that possibility again: wherein He was marvellously
to invent and demonstrate how Mercy and Truth should meet together, how
Righteousness and Peace should kiss each other. There, was going to be
set forth the wonderfully complicated battle-plan, by which, force
countervailing force, and design converging all things upon one fixed
point, Good, concrete in the creature, should overwhelm not without
strife and wounds Evil concrete in the creature, and all things, "even
the wicked," should be seen harmoniously blending in the glory of the
attributes of God. The mythologic Pan, [Greek: to pan] the great
Universal All, was deeply interested in the struggle: for the seed of
the woman was to bruise the serpent's head; not merely as respected the
small orb about to be, but concerning heaven itself, the unbounded
"haysh hamaim," wherefrom dread Lucifer was thus to be ejected. On the
earth, a mere planet of humble lustre, which the prouder suns around
might well despise, was to be exhibited this noble and analogous result;
the triumph of a lower intelligence, such as man, over a higher
intelligence, such as angel: because, the former race, however frail,
however weak, were to find their nature taken into God, and should have
for their grand exemplar, leader and brother, the Very Lord of all
arrayed in human guise; while the latter, the angelic fallen mass, in
spite of all their pristine wisdom and excellency, were to set up as
their captain him, who may well and philosophically be termed their
Adversary.

This dark being, probably the mightiest of all mere creatures as the
embodiment of corrupted good and perversion of an archangelic wisdom,
was about to be suffered to fall victim to his own overtopping
ambitions, and to drag with him a third part of the heavenly host--some
tributary monarchs of the stars: thus he, and those his colleagues,
should become a spectacle and a warning to all creatures else; to stand
for spirits' reading in letters of fire a deeply burnt-in record how
vast a gulf there is between the Maker and the made; how impassable a
barrier between the derived intelligence and its infinite Creator. Such
an unholy leader in rebellion against good--let us call him _A_ or _B_,
or why not for very euphony's sake Lucifer and Satanas?--such a
corrupted excellence of heaven was to meet his final and inevitable
disgrace to all eternity on the forthcoming battle-field of earth. Would
it not be probable then that our world, soon to be fashioned and stocked
with its teeming reasonable millions, should concentrate to itself the
gaze of the universe, and, from the deeds to be done in it, should
arrogate towards man a deep and fixed attention: that "the morning stars
should sing together, and all the sons of God should shout for joy." Let
us too, according to the power given to us, partake of such attention
antecedently in some detail: albeit, as always, very little can be
tracked of the length and breadth of our theme.

What would probably be the nature of such world and of such creatures,
in a physical point of view? and what, in a moral point of view? It is
not necessary to divide these questions: for the one so bears upon the
other, or rather the latter so directs and pervades the former, that we
may briefly treat of both as one.

The first probability would be, that, as the creature Man so to be
abased and so to be exalted must be a responsible and reasonable being,
every thing--with miraculous exceptions just enough to prove the
rule--every thing around him should also be responsible and reasonable.
In other words, that, with such exceptions as before alluded to, the
whole texture of this world should bear to an inquisitive intellect the
stamp of cause and effect: whilst for the mass, such cause and effect
should be so little intrusive, that their easier religion might
recognise God in all things immediately, rather than mediately. For
instance: take the cases of stone, and of coal; the one so needful for
man's architecture, the other for his culinary warmth. Now, however
simple piety might well thank the Maker for having so stored earth with
these for necessary uses; they ought, to a more learned, though not less
pious ken, to seem not to have been created by an effort of the Great
Father _qua stone_, or _qua coal_. Such a view might satisfy the
ordinary mind: but thinkers would see no occasion for a miracle; when
Christ raises Lazarus from the dead, it would have been a philosophical
fault to have found the grave-clothes and swathing bandages ready
loosened also. Unassisted man can do that: and unhelped common causes
can generate stone and coal. The deposits of undated floods, the
periodical currents of lava, the still and stagnant lake, and the
furious up-bursting earthquake; all these would be called into play, and
not the unrequired, I had almost said unreasonable, energies, which we
call miracle. An agglutination of shells, once peopled with life; a
crystallized lump of segregate minerals, once in a molten state; a mass
of carbonated foliage and trunks of tropical trees, buried by long
changes under the soil, whereover they had once waved greenly luxuriant;
these, and no other, should have been man's stone and coal. This
instance affects the reasonableness of such material creation. Take
another, bearing upon its analogous responsibilities. As there was to be
warred in this world the contest between good and evil, it would be
expectable that the crust of man's earth, anteriorly to man's existence
on it, should be marked with some traces that the evil, though newly
born so far as might regard man's own disobedience, nevertheless had
existed antecedently. In other words: it was probable that there should
exist geological evidences of suffering and death: that the gigantic
ichthyosaurus should be found fixed in rock with his cruel jaws closed
upon his prey: that the fearful iguanodon should leave the tracks of
having desolated a whole region of its reptile tribes: that volcanoes
should have ravaged fair continents prolific of animal and vegetable
life: that, in fine, though man's death came by man's sin, yet that
death and sin were none of man's creating: he was only to draw down upon
his head a preexistent wo, an ante-toppling rock. Observe then, that
these geological phenomena are only illustrations of my meaning: and
whether such parables be true or false, the argument remains the same:
we never build upon the sand of simile, but only use it here and there
for strewing on the floor. Still, I will acknowledge that the
introduction of such fossil instances appears to me wisely thrown in as
affects their antecedent probability, because ignorant comments upon
scriptural cosmogony have raised the absurdest objections against the
truth of scriptural science. There is not a tittle of known geological
fact, which is not absolutely reconcilable with Genesis and Job. But
this is a word by the way: although aimed not without design against one
of the poor and paltry weak-holds of the infidel.




ADAM.


Remembering, then, that these are probabilities, and that the whole
treatise purports to be nothing but a sketch, and not a finished
picture, we have suggestively thus thrown out that the material world,
man's home as man, was likely to have been prepared, as we posteriorly
know it to be. Now, what of man's own person, circumstances, and
individuality? Was it likely that the world should be stocked at once
with many several races, or with one prolific seed? with a specimen of
every variety of the genus man, or with the one generic type capable of
forming those varieties?--Answer. One is by far the likelier in itself,
because one thing must needs be more probable than many things:
additionally; Wisdom and Power are always economical, and where one will
suit the purpose, superfluities are rejected. That this one seed,
covering with its product a various globe under all imaginable
differences of circumstance and climate, should, in the lapse of ages,
generate many species of the genus Man, was antecedently probable. For
example, morality, peace and obedience would exercise transforming
powers: their opposites the like in an opposite way. We can well fancy a
mild and gentle race, as the Hindoo, to spring from the former
educationals: and a family with flashing eyes and strongly-visaged
natures, as the Malay, from a state of hatred, war, and license. We can
well conceive that a tropical sun should carbonize some of that tender
fabric the skin, adding also swift blood and fierce passions: while an
arctic climate would induce a sluggish, stunted race. And, when to these
considerations we add that of promiscuous unions, we arrive at the just
likelihood that the whole family of man, though springing from one root,
should, in the course of generations, be what now we see it.

Further. How should this prolific original, the first man, be created?
and for a name let us call him Adam; a justly-chosen name enough, as
alluding to his medium colour, ruddiness. Should he have been cast upon
the ground an infant, utterly helpless, requiring miraculous aid and
guidance at every turn? Should he be originated in boyhood, that hot and
tumultuous time, when the creature is most rash, and least qualified for
self-government? or should he be first discerned as an adult, in his
prime, equal alike to obedience and rule, to moral control and moral
energy?

Add also here; is it probable there would be any needless interval
placed to proecreations? or rather, should not such original seed be able
immediately to fulfil the blank world call upon him, and as the
greatly-teeming human father be found fitted from his birth to propagate
his kind? The questions answer themselves.

Again. Should this first man have been discovered originally surrounded
with all the appliances of an after-civilization, clad, and housed, and
rendered artificial? nor rather, in a noble and naturally royal aspect
appear on the stage of life as king of the natural creation, sole warder
of a garden of fruits, with all his food thus readily concocted, and an
eastern climate tempered to his nakedness?

Now, as to the solitariness of this one seed. From what we have already
mused respecting God's benevolence, it would seem probable that the
Maker might not see it good that man should be alone. The seed,
originally one, proved (as was likely) to resemble its great parent,
God, and to be partitionable, or reducible into persons; though with
reasonable differences as between creature and Creator. Woman--Eve, the
living or life-giving--was likely to have sprung out of the composite
seed, Man, in order to companionship and fit society. Moreover, it were
expectable that in the pattern creature, composite man, there should be
involved some apt, mysterious typification of the same creature, after a
fore-known fall restored, as in its perfect state of reunion with its
Maker. _A posteriori_, the figurative notion is, that the Redeemed
family, or mystical spouse, is incorporated in her husband, the
Redeemer: not so much in the idea of marriage, as (taking election into
view) of a coecreation; as it were rib of rib, and life woven into life,
not copulated or conjoined, but immingled in the being. This is a
mystery most worthy of deep searching; a mystery deserving philosophic
care, not less than the more unilluminate enjoyment of humble and
believing Christians. I speak concerning Christ and his church.




THE FALL.


There is a special fitness in the fact, long since known and now to be
perceived probable, that if mankind should fail in disobedience, it
should rather be through the woman than through the man. Because, the
man, _qua man_, and the deputed head of all inferior creatures, was
nearer to his Creator, than the woman; who, _qua woman_, proceeded out
of man. She was, so to speak, one step further from God, _ab origine_,
than man was; therefore, more liable to err and fall away. To my own
mind, I confess, it appears that nothing is more anteriorly probable
than the plain, scriptural story of Adam and Eve: so simple that the
child delights in it; so deep that the philosopher lingers there with an
equal, but more reasonable joy.

For, let us now come to the probabilities of a temptation; and a fall;
and what temptation; and how ordered.

The heavenly intelligences beheld the model-man and model-woman,
rational beings, and in all points "very good." The Adversary panted for
the fray, demanding some test of the obedience of this new, favourite
race. And the Lord God was willing that the great controversy, which he
fore-knew, and for wise purposes allowed, should immediately commence.
Where was the use of a delay? If you will reply, To give time to
strengthen Adam's moral powers: I rejoin, he was made with more than
enough of strength infused against any temptation not entering by the
portal of his will: and against the open door of will neither time nor
habits can avail. Moreover, the trial was to be exceedingly simple; no
difficult abstinence, for man might freely eat of every thing but one;
no natural passion tempted; no exertion of intelligence requisite. Adam
lived in a garden; and his Maker, for proof of reasonable obedience,
provides the most easy and obvious test of it--do not eat that apple.
Was it, in reality, an improbable test; an unsuitable one? Was it not,
rather, the likeliest in itself, and the fittest as addressed to the
new-born, rational animal, which imagination could invent, or an amiable
fore-knowledge of all things could desire? Had it been to climb some
arduous height without looking back, or on no account to gaze upon the
sun, how much less apt and easy of obedience! Thus much for the test.

Now, as to the temptation and its ordering. A creature, to be tempted
fairly, must be tempted by another equal or lower creature; and through
the senses. If mere spirit strives with spirit, plus matter, the strife
is unequal: the latter is clogged; he has to fight in the net of
Retiarius. But if both are netted, if both are spirit plus matter, (that
is, material creatures,) there is no unfairness. Therefore, it would
seem reasonable that the Adversary in person should descend from his
mere spirituality into some tangible and humbled form. This could not
well be man's, nor the semblance of man's: for the first pair would well
know that they were all mankind: and, if the Lord God himself was
accustomed to be seen of them as in a glorified humanity, it would be
manifestly a moral incongruity to invest the devil in a similar form. It
must, then, be the shape of some other creature; as a lion, or a lamb,
or--why not a serpent? Is there any improbability here? and not rather
as apt an avatar of the sinuous and wily rebel, the dangerous,
fascinating foe, as poetry at least, nay, as any sterner contrivance
could invent? The plain fact is, that Reason--given keenness--might have
guessed this also antecedently a likelihood.

A few words more on other details probable to the temptation. Wonderful
as it may seem to us with our present experience, in the case of the
first woman it would scarcely excite her astonishment to be accosted in
human phrase by one of the lower creatures; and in no other way could
the tempter reach her mind. Much as Milton puts it, Eve sees a beautiful
snake, eating, not improbably, of the forbidden apple. Attracted by a
natural curiosity, she would draw near, and in a soft sweet voice the
serpent, _i.e._ Lucifer in his guise, would whisper temptation. It was
likely to have been keenly managed. Is it possible, O fair and favoured
mistress of this beautiful garden, that your Maker has debarred you from
its very choicest fruit? Only see its potencies for good: I, a poor
reptile, am instantly thereby endued with knowledge and the privilege of
speech. Am I dead for the eating?--ye shall not surely die; but shall
become as gods yourselves; and this your Maker knoweth.

The marvellous fruit, invested thus with mystery, and tinctured with
the secret charm of a thing unreasonably, nay, harmfully, forbidden,
would then be allowed silently to plead its own merits. It was good for
food: a young creature's first thought. It was pleasant to the eyes:
addressing a higher sense than mere bodily appetite, than mental
predilection for form and colour which marks fine breeding among men. It
was also to be desired to make one wise; here was the climax, the great
moral inducement which an innocent being might well be taken with;
irrespectively of the one qualification that this wisdom was to be
plucked in spite of God. Doubtless, it were probable, that had man not
fallen, the knowledge of good would never have been long withheld: but
he chose to reap the crop too soon, and reaped it mixed with tares,
good, and evil.

I need not enlarge, in sermon form, upon the theme. It was probable that
the weaker creature, Woman, once entrapped, she would have charms enough
to snare her husband likewise: and the results thus perceived to have
been likely, we have long since known for fact. That a depraved
knowledge should immediately occasion some sort of clothing to be
instituted by the great moral Governor, was likely: and there would be
nothing near at hand, in fact nothing else suitable, but the skins of
beasts. There is also a high probability that some sort of slaying
should take place instantly on the fall, by way of reference to the
coming sacrifice for sin; and for a type of some imputed righteousness.
God covered Man's evil nakedness with the skins of innocent slain
animals: even so, Blessed is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven, and
whose sin is covered.

With respect to restoration from any such fall. There seems a remarkable
prior probability for it, if we take into account the empty places in
heaven, the vacant starry thrones which sin had caused to be untenanted.
Just as, in after years, Israel entered into the cities and the gardens
of the Canaanite and other seven nations, so it was anteriorly likely,
would the ransomed race of Men come to be inheritors of the mansions
among heavenly places, which had been left unoccupied by the fallen host
of Lucifer. There was a gap to be filled: and probably there would be
some better race to fill it.




THE FLOOD.


Themes like those past and others still to come, are so immense, that
each might fairly ask a volume for its separate elucidation. A few
seeds, pregnant with thought, are all that we have here space, or time,
or power to drop beside the world's highway. The grand outlines of our
race command our first attention: we cannot stop to think and speak of
every less detail. Therefore, now would I carry my companion across the
patriarchal times at once to the era of the Deluge. Let us speculate, as
hitherto, antecedently, throwing our minds as it were into some angelic
prior state.

If, as we have seen probable, evil (a concretion always, not an
abstraction) made some perceptible ravages even in the unbounded sphere
of a heavenly creation, how much more rapid and overwhelming would its
avalanche (once ill-commenced) be seen, when the site of its infliction
was a poor band of men and women prisoned on a speck of earth. How
likely was it that, in the lapse of no long time, the whole world should
have been "corrupt before God, and filled with wickedness." How
probable, that taking into account the great duration of pristine human
life, the wicked family of man should speedily have festered up into an
intolerable guiltiness. And was this dread result of the primal curse
and disobedience to be regarded as the Adversary's triumph? Had this
Accuser--the Saxon word is Devil--had this Slanderer of God's attribute
then really beaten Good? or was not rather all this swarming sin an
awful vindication to the universe of the great need-be that God
unceasingly must hold his creature up lest he fall, and that out of Him
is neither strength nor wisdom? Was Deity, either in Adam's case or
this, baffled--nor rather justified? Was it an experiment which had
really failed; nor rather one which, by its very seeming failure, proved
the point in question, the misery of creatures when separate from God?
Yea, the evil one was being beaten down beneath his very trophies in sad
Tarpeian triumph: through conquest and his children's sins heightening
his own misery.

Let us now advert to a few of the anterior probabilities affecting this
evil earth's catastrophe. It is not competent to us to trench upon such
ulterior views as are contained in the idea of types relatively to
anti-types. Neither will we take the fanciful or poetical aspect of
coming calamity, that earth, befouled with guilt, was likely to be
washed clean by water. It is better to ask, as more relevant, in what
other way more benevolent than drowning could, short of miracle, the
race be made extinct? They were all to die in their sins, and swell in
another sphere the miserable hosts of Satan. There was no hope for them,
for there was no repentance. It was infinitely probable that God's
long-suffering had worn out every reasonable effort for their
restoration. They were then to die; but how?--in the least painful
manner possible. Intestine wars, fevers, famines, a general burning-up
of earth and all its millions, were any of these preferable sorts of
death to that caused by the gradual rise of water, with hope of life
accorded still even to the last gurgle? Assuredly, if "the tender
mercies of the wicked are cruel," the judgments of the Good one are
tempered well with mercy.

Moreover, in the midst of this universal slaughter there was one good
seed to be preserved: and, as Heaven never works a miracle where common
cause will suit the present purpose, it would have been inconsistent to
have extirpated the wicked by any such means as must demonstrate the
good to have been saved only by super-human agency.

The considerations of humanity, and of the divine less-intervention, add
that of the natural and easy agency of a long-commissioned comet. No
"_Deus e machina_" was needed for this effort: one of His ministers of
flaming fire was charged to call forth the services of water. This was
an easy and majestic interference. Ever since man fell--yea, ages before
it--the omniscient eye of God had foreseen all things that should
happen: and his ubiquity had, possibly from The Beginning, sped a comet
on its errant way, which at a calculated period was to serve to wash the
globe clean of its corruptions: was to strike the orbit of earth just in
the moment of its passage, and disturbing by attraction the fountains of
the great deep, was temporarily to raise their level. Was not this a
just, a sublime, and a likely plan? Was it not a merciful, a perfect,
and a worthy way? Who should else have buried the carcases on those
fierce battle-fields, or the mouldering heaps of pestilence and
famine?--But, when at Jehovah's summons, heaving to the comet's mass,
the pure and mighty sea rises indignant from its bed, by drowning to
cleanse the foul and mighty land--how easy an engulfing of the corpses;
how awful that universal burial; how apt their monumental epitaph
written in water, "The wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot
rest;" how dread the everlasting requiem chanted for the whelmed race by
the waves roaring above them: yea, roaring above them still! for in
that chaotic hour it seems probable to reason that the land changed
place with ocean; thus giving the new family of man a fresh young world
to live upon.




NOAH.


When the world, about to grow so wicked, was likely thus to have been
cleansed, and so renewed, the great experiment of man's possible
righteousness was probable to be repeated in another form. We may fancy
some high angelic mind to have gone through some such line of thought as
this, respecting the battle and combatants. Were those champions,
Lucifer and Adam, really fit to be matched together? Was the tourney
just; were the weapons equal; was it, after all, a fair fight?--on one
side, the fallen spirit, mighty still, though fallen, subtlest, most
unscrupulous, most malicious, exerting every energy to rear a rebel
kingdom against God; on the other, a new-born, inexperienced, innocent,
and trustful creature, a poor man vexed with appetites, and as naked for
absolute knowledge in his mind as for garments on his body. Was it, in
this view of the case, an equal contest? were the weapons of that
warfare matched and measured fairly?

Some such objection, we may suppose, might seem to have been admissible,
as having a show at least of reason: and, after the world was to have
been cleansed of all its creatures in the manner I have mentioned, a new
champion is armed for the conflict, totally different in every respect;
and to reason's view vastly superior.

This time, the Adam of renewed earth is to be the best and wisest, nay,
the only good and wise one of the whole lost family: a man, with the
experience of full six hundred years upon his hoary brow, with the
unspeakable advantage of having walked with God all those long-drawn
centuries, a patriarch of twenty generations, recognised as the one
great and faithful witness, the only worshipper and friend of his
Creator. Could a finer sample be conceived? was not Noah the only spark
of spiritual "consolation" in the midst of earth's dark death? and was
not he the best imaginable champion to stand against the wiles of the
devil? Verily, reason might have guessed, that if Deity saw fit to renew
the fight at all, the representative of man should have been Noah.

Before we touch upon the immediate fall of this new Adam also, at a time
when God and reason had deserted him, it will be more orderly to allude
to the circumstances of his preservation in the flood. How, in such a
hurlyburly of the elements, should the chosen seed survive? No house,
nor hill-top, no ordinary ship would serve the purpose: still less the
unreasonable plan of any cavern hermetically sealed, or any aerial
chariot miraculously lifted up above the lower firmament. To use plain
and simple words, I can fancy no wiser method than a something between a
house and a diving-bell; a vessel, entirely storm-tight and water-tight,
which nevertheless for necessary air should have an open window at the
top: say, one a cubit square. This, properly hooded against deluging
rain, and supplied with such helps to ventilation as leathern pipes, air
tunnels and similar appliances, would not be an impracticable method.
However, instead of being under water as a diving-bell, the vessel would
be better made to float upon the rising flood, and thus continually
keeping its level, would be ready to strike land as the waters assuaged.

Now, as to the size of this ark, this floating caravan, it must needs be
very large; and also take a great time in building. For, suffering cause
and effect to go on without a new creation, it was reasonable to suppose
that the man, so launching as for another world on the ocean of
existence, would take with him (especially if God's benevolence so
ordered it) all the known appliances of civilized life; as well as a
pair or two of every creature he could collect, to stock withal the
renewed earth according to their various excellences in their kinds. The
lengthy, arduous, and expensive preparation of this mighty ark--a vessel
which must include forests of timber and consume generations in
building; besides the world-be-known collection of all manner of strange
animals for the stranger fancy of a fanatical old man; not to mention
also the hoary Preacher's own century of exortations: with how great
moral force all this living warning would be calculated to act upon the
world of wickedness and doom! Here was the great ante-diluvian
potentate, Noah, a patriarch of ages, wealthy beyond our
calculations--(for how else without a needless succession of miracles
could he have built and stocked the ark?)--a man of enormous substance,
good report, and exalted station, here was he for a hundred and twenty
years engaged among crowds of unbelieving workmen, in constructing a
most extravagant ship, which, forsooth, filled with samples of all this
world's stores, was to sail with our only good family in search of a
better. Moreover, Noah here declares that our dear old mother-earth is
to be destroyed for her iniquities by rain and sea: and he exhorts us by
a solid evidence of his own faith at least, if by nothing else, to
repent, and turn to him, whom Abel, Seth, and Enoch, as well as this
good Noah, represent as our Maker. Would not such sneers and taunts be
probable: would they not amply vindicate the coming judgment? Was not
the "long-suffering of God" likely to have thus been tried "while the
ark was preparing?" and when the catastrophe should come, had not that
evil generation been duly warned against it? On the whole, it would have
been Reason's guess that Noah should be saved as he was; that the ark
should have been as we read of it in Genesis; and that the very
immensity of its construction should have served for a preaching to
mankind. As to any idea that the ark is an unreasonable (some have even
said ridiculous) incident to the deluge, it seems to me to have
furnished a clear case of antecedent probability.

Lastly: Noah's fall was very likely to have happened: not merely in the
theological view of the matter, as an illustration of the truth that no
human being can stand fast in righteousness: but from the just
consideration that he imported with him the seeds of an impure state of
society, the remembered luxuries of that old world. For instance, among
the plants of earth which Noah would have preserved for future insertion
in the soil, he could not have well forgotten the generous, treacherous
Vine. That to a righteous man, little used to all unhallowed sources of
exhilaration, this should have been a stepping-stone to a defalcation
from God, was likely. It was probable in itself, and shows the honesty
as well as the verisimilitude of Scripture to read, that "Noah began to
be a husbandman, and planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and
was drunken." There was nothing here but what, taking all things into
consideration, Reason might have previously guessed. Why then withhold
the easier matter of an afterward belief?




BABEL.


This book ought to be read, as mentally it is written, with at the end
of every sentence one of those _et ceteras_, which the genius of a Coke
interpreted so keenly of the genius of a Littleton: for, far more
remains on each subject to be said, than in any one has been attempted.

Let us pass on to the story of Babel: I can conceive nothing more _a
priori_ probable than the account we read in Scripture. Briefly consider
the matter. A multitude of men, possibly the then whole human family,
once more a fallen race, emigrate towards the East, and come to a vast
plain in the region of Shinar, afterwards Chaldaea. Fertile,
well-watered, apt for every mundane purpose, it yet wanted one great
requisite. The degenerate race "put not their trust in God:" they did
not believe but that the world might some day be again destroyed by
water: and they required a point of refuge in the possible event of a
second deluge from the broken bounds of ocean and the windows of the
skies. They had come from the West; more strictly the North-west, a land
of mountains, as they deemed them, ready-made refuges: and their scheme,
a probable one enough, was to construct some such mountain artificially,
so that its top might reach the clouds, as did the summit of Ararat.
This would serve the twofold purpose of outwitting any further attempt
to drown them, and of making for themselves a proud name upon the earth.
So, the Lord God, in his etherealized human form (having taken counsel
with His own divine compeers), coming in the guise wherein He was wont
to walk with Adam and with Enoch and his other saints of men, "came down
and saw the tower:" truly, He needed not have come, for ubiquity was
his, and omniscience; but in the days when God and man were (so to
speak) less chronologically divided than as now, and while yet the
trial-family was young, it does not seem unlikely that He should. God
then, in his aspect of the Head of all mankind, took notice of that
dangerous and unholy combination: and He made within His Triune Mind the
wise resolve to break their bond of union. Omniscience had herein a view
to ulterior consequences benevolent to man, and He knew that it would be
a wise thing for the future world, as well as a discriminative check
upon the race then living, to confuse the universal language into many
discordant dialects. Was this in any sense an improbable or improper
method of making "the devices of the wicked to be of none effect, and of
laughing to scorn the counsels of the mighty?" Was it not to have been
expected that a fallen race should be disallowed the combinative force
necessary to a common language, but that such force should be dissipated
and diverted for moral usages into many tongues?--There they were, all
the chiefs of men congregated to accomplish a vast, ungodly scheme: and
interposing Heaven to crush such insane presumption--and withal
thereafter designing to bless by arranging through such means the future
interchange of commerce and the enterprise of nationalities--He, in his
Trinity, was not unlikely to have said, "Let us go down, and confound
their language." What better mode could have been devised to scatter
mankind, and so to people the extremities of earth? In order that the
various dialects should crystallize apart, each in its discriminative
lump, the nucleus of a nation; that thereafter the world might be able
no longer to unite as one man against its Lord, but by conflicting
interests, the product of conflicting languages, might give to good a
better chance of not being altogether overwhelmed; that, though many "a
multitude might go to do evil," it should not thenceforward be the whole
consenting family of man; but that, here by one and there by one, the
remembrance of God should be kept extant, and evil no longer acquire an
accumulated force, by having all the world one nation.




JOB.


Every scriptural incident and every scriptural worthy deserves its own
particular discussion: and might easily obtain it. For example; the
anterior probability that human life in patriarchal times should have
been very much prolonged, was obvious; from consideration of--1, the
benevolence of God; 2, the inexperience of man; and 3, the claim so
young a world would hold upon each of its inhabitants: whilst Holy Writ
itself has prepared an answer to the probable objection, that the years
were lunar years, or months; by recording that Arphaxad and Salah and
Eber and Peleg and Reu and Serug and Nahor, descendants of Shem, each
had children at the average age of two-and-thirty, and yet the lives of
all varied in duration from a hundred and fifty years to five hundred.
And many similar credibilities might be alluded to: what shall I say of
Abraham's sacrifice, of Moses and the burning bush, of Jonah also, and
Elisha, and of the prophets? for the time would fail me to tell how
probable and simple in each instance is its deep and marvellous history.
There is food for philosophic thought in every page of ancient Jewish
Scripture scarcely less than in those of primitive Christianity: here,
after our fashion, we have only touched upon a sample.

The opening scene to the book of Job has vexed the faith of many very
needlessly: to my mind, nothing was more likely to have literally and
really happened. It is one of those few places where we get an insight
into what is going on elsewhere: it is a lifting off the curtain of
eternity for once, revealing the magnificent simplicities constantly
presented in the halls of heaven. And I am moved to speak about it
here, because I think a plain statement of its sublime probabilities
will be acceptable to many: especially if they have been harassed by the
doubts of learned men respecting the authorship of that rare history. It
signifies nothing who recorded the circumstances and conversations, so
long as they were true, and really happened: given power, opportunity,
and honesty, a life of Dr. Johnson would be just as fair in fact, if
written by Smollett, as by Boswell, or himself. Whether then Job, the
wealthy prince of Uz, or Abraham, or Moses, or Elisha, or Eliphaz, or
whoever else, have placed the words on record, there they stand, true;
and the whole book in all its points was anteriorly likely to have been
decreed a component part of revelation. Without it, there would have
been wanting some evidence of a godly worship among men through the long
and dreary interval of several hundred years: there would never have
been given for man's help the example of a fortitude, and patience, and
trust in God most brilliant; of a faith in the resurrection and
redeemer, signal and definite beyond all other texts in Jewish
Scripture: as well as of a human knowledge of God in his works beyond
all modern instance. However, the excellences of that narrative are
scarcely our theme: we return to the starting-post of its probability,
especially with reference to its supernatural commencement. What we have
shown credible, many pages back, respecting good and evil and the
denizens of heaven, finds a remarkable after-proof in the two first
chapters of Job; and for some such reason, by reference, these two
chapters were themselves anteriorly to have been expected.

Let us see what happened:

"There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before
the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan,
whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going
to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the
Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is
none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that
feareth God and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said,
Doth Job fear God for naught? Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and
about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast
blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the
land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all he hath, and he will
curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that
he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So
Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord."--[Job 1. 6-13.]

It is a most stately drama: any paraphrase would spoil its dignity, its
quiet truth, its unpretending, yet gigantic lineaments. Note: in
allusion to our views of evil, that Satan also comes among the sons of
God: note, the generous dependence placed by a generous Master on his
servant well-upheld by that Master's own free grace: note, Satan's
constant imputation against piety when blessed of God with worldly
wealth, Doth he serve for naught? I can discern no cause wherefore all
this scene should not have truly happened; not as in vision of some holy
man, but as in fact. Let us read on, before further comment:

"Again, there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves
before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself
before the Lord. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? And
Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth,
and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast
thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the
earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth
evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me
against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the Lord,
and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his
life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh,
and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan,
Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So Satan went forth from
the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils, from the sole
of his foot unto his crown."

Some such scene, displaying the devil's malice, slandering sneers, and
permitted power, recommends itself to my mind as antecedently to have
been looked for: in order that we might know from what quarter many of
life's evils come; with what aims and ends they are directed; what
limits are opposed to our foe; and Who is on our side. We needed some
such insight into the heavenly places; some such hint of what is
continually going on before the Lord's tribunal; we wanted this plain
and simple setting forth of good and evil in personal encounter, of
innocence awhile given up to malice for its chastening and its triumph.
Lo, all this so probable scene is here laid open to us, and many,
against reason, disbelieve it!

Note, in allusion to our after-theme, the _locus_ of heaven, that there
is some such usual place of periodical gathering. Note, the open
unchiding loveliness dwelling in the Good One's words, as contrasted
with the subtle, slanderous hatred of the Evil. And then the vulgar
proverb, Skin for skin: this pious Job is so intensely selfish, that let
him lose what he may, he heeds it not; he cares for nothing out of his
own skin. And there are many more such notabilities.

Why did I produce these passages at length? For their Doric simplicity;
for their plain and masculine features; for their obvious truthfulness;
for their manifest probability as to fact, and expectability previously
to it. Why on earth should they be doubted in their literal sense? and
were they not more likely to have happened than to have been invented?
We have no such geniuses now as this writer must have been, who by the
pure force of imagination could have created that tableau. Milton had
Job to go to. Simplicity is proof presumptive in favour of the plain
inspiration of such passages: for the plastic mind which could conceive
so just a sketch, would never have rested satisfied, without having
painted and adorned it picturesquely. Such rare flights of fancy are
always made the most of.

One or two thoughts respecting Job's trial. That he should at last give
way, was only probable: he was, in short, another Adam, and had another
fall; albeit he wrestled nobly. Worthy was he to be named among God's
chosen three, "Noah, Daniel, and Job:" and worthy that the Lord should
bless his latter end. This word brings me to the point I wish to touch
on; the great compensation which God gave to Job.

Children can never be regarded as other than individualities: and
notwithstanding Eastern feelings about increase in quantity, its quality
is, after all, the question for the heart. I mean that many children to
be born, is but an inadequate return for many children dying. If a
father loses a well-beloved son, it is small recompense of that aching
void that he gets another. For this reason of the affections, and
because I suppose that thinkers have sympathized with me in the
difficulty, I wish to say a word about Job's children, lost and found.
It will clear away what is to some minds a moral and affectionate
objection. Now, this is the state of the case.

The patriarch is introduced to us as possessing so many camels, and
oxen, and so forth; and ten children. All these are represented to him
by witnesses, to all appearance credible, as dead; and he mourns for his
great loss accordingly. Would not a merchant feel to all intents and
purposes a ruined man, if he received a clear intelligence from
different parts of the world at once that all his ships and warehouses
had been destroyed by hurricanes and fire? Faith given, patience
follows: and the trial is morally the same, whether the news be true or
false. Remarkably enough, after the calamitous time is past, when the
good man of Uz is discerned as rewarded by heaven for his patience by
the double of every thing once lost--his children remain the same in
number, ten. It seems to me quite possible that neither camels, &c., nor
children, really had been killed. Satan might have meant it so, and
schemed it; and the singly-coming messengers believed it all, as also
did the well-enduring Job. But the scriptural word does not go to say
that these things happened; but that certain emissaries said they
happened. I think the devil missed his mark: that the messengers were
scared by some abortive diabolic efforts; and that, (with a natural
increase of camels, &c., meanwhile,) the patriarch's paternal heart was
more than compensated at the last, by the restoration of his own dear
children. They were dead, and are alive again; they were lost, and are
found. Like Abraham returning from Mount Calvary with Isaac, it was the
Resurrection in a figure.

If to this view objection is made, that, because the boils of Job were
real, therefore, similarly real must be all his other evils; I reply,
that in the one temptation, the suffering was to be mental; in the
other, bodily. In the latter case, positive, personal pain, was the gist
of the matter: in the former, the heart might be pierced, and the mind
be overwhelmed, without the necessity of any such incurable affliction
as children's deaths amount to. God's mercy may well have allowed the
evil one to overreach himself; and when the restoration came, how double
was the joy of Job over those ten dear children.

Again, if any one will urge that, in the common view of the case, Job at
the last really has twice as many children as before, for that he has
ten old ones in heaven, and ten new ones on earth: I must, in answer,
think that explanation as unsatisfactory to us, as the verity of it
would have been to Job. Affection, human affection, is not so
numerically nor vicariously consoled: and it is, perhaps, worth while
here to have thrown out (what I suppose to be) a new view of the case,
if only to rescue such wealth as children from the infidel's sneer of
being confounded with such wealth as camels. Moreover, such a paternal
reward was anteriorly more probable.




JOSHUA.


How many of our superficial thinkers have been staggered at the great
miracle recorded of Joshua; and how few, even of the deeper sort,
comparatively, may have discerned its aptness, its science, and its
anterior likelihood: "Sun! stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, moon,
in the valley of Ajalon." Now, consider, for we hope to vindicate even
this stupendous event from the charge of improbability.

Baal and Ashtaroth, chief idols of the Canaanites, were names for sun
and moon. It would manifestly be the object of God and His ambassador to
cast utter scorn on such idolatry. And what could be more apt than that
Joshua, commissioned to extirpate the corrupted race, should
miraculously be enabled, as it were, to bind their own gods to aid in
the destruction of such votaries?

Again: what should Joshua want with the moon for daylight, to help him
to rout the foes of God more fiercely? Why not, according to the
astronomical ignorance of those days, let her sail away, unconsorted by
the sun, far beyond the valley of Ajalon? There was a reason, here, of
secret, unobtruded science: if the sun stopped, the moon must stop too;
that is to say, both apparently: the fact being that the earth must, for
the while, rest on its axis. This, I say, is a latent, scientific hint;
and so, likewise, is the accompanying mention as a fact, that the Lord
immediately "rained great stones out of heaven" upon the flying host.
For would it not be the case that, if the diurnal rotation of earth were
suddenly to stop, the impetus of motion would avail to raise high into
the air by centrifugal force, and fling down again by gravity, such
unanchored things as fragments of rock?

Once more: our objector will here perhaps inquire, Why not then command
the earth to stop--and not the sun and moon? if thus probably Joshua or
his Inspirer knew better? Answer. Only let a reasonable man consider
what would have been the moral lesson both to Israelite and to
Canaanite, if the great successor of Moses had called out,
incomprehensibly to all, "Earth, stand thou still on thine axis;"--and
lo! as if in utter defiance of such presumption, and to vindicate openly
the heathen gods against the Jewish, the very sun and moon in heaven
stopped, and glared on the offender. I question whether such a noon-day
miracle might not have perverted to idolatry the whole believing host:
and almost reasonably too. The strictly philosophical terms would have
entirely nullified the whole moral influence. God in his word never
suffers science to hinder the progress of truth: a worldly philosophy
does this almost in every instance, darkening knowledge with a cloud of
words: but the science of the Bible is usually concealed in some
neighbouring hint quite handy to the record of the phenomena expressed
in ordinary language. In fact, for all common purposes, no astronomer
finds fault with such phrases as the moon rising, or the sun setting: he
speaks according to the appearance, though he knows perfectly well that
the earth is the cause of it, and not the sun or moon. Carry this out in
Joshua's case.

On the whole, the miracle was very plain, very comprehensible, and very
probable. It had good cause: for Canaan felt more confidence in the
protection of his great and glorious Baal, than stiff-necked Judah in
his barely-seen divinity: and surely it was wise to vindicate the true
but invisible God by the humiliation of the false and far-seen idol.
This would constitute to all nations the quickly-rumoured proof that
Jehovah of the Israelites was God in heaven above as well as on the
earth beneath. And, considering the peculiar idolatries of Canaan, it
seems to me that no miracle could have been better placed and better
timed--in other words, anteriorly more probable--than the command of
obedience to the sun and to the moon. I suppose that few persons who
read this book will be unaware, that the circumstance is alluded to as
well in that honest heathen, old Herodotus, as in the learned Jew
Josephus. The volumes are not near me for reference to quotations: but
such is fact: it will be found in Herodotus, about the middle of
Euterpe, connected with an allusion to the analogous case of Hezekiah.

No miracles, on the whole (to take one after-view of the matter), could
have been better tested: for two armies (not to mention all surrounding
countries) must have seen it plainly and clearly: if then it had never
occurred, what a very needless exposure of the falsity of the Jewish
Scriptures! These were open, published writings, accessible to all:
Cyrus and Darius and Alexander read them, and Ethiopian eunuchs;
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, with all other nations of the earth, had
free access to those records. Only imagine if some recent history of
England, Adolphus's, or Stebbing's, contained an account of a certain
day in George the Fourth's reign having had twenty-four hour's daylight
instead of the usual admixture; could the intolerable falsehood last a
minute? Such a placard would be torn away from the records of the land
the moment a rash hand had fixed it there. But, if the matter were
fact, how could any historian neglect it?--In one sense, the very
improbability of such a marvel being recorded, argues the probability of
it having actually occurred.

Much more might here be added: but our errand is accomplished, if any
stumbling-block had been thus easily removed from some erring thinker's
path. Surely, we have given him some reason for faith's due acceptance
of Joshua's miracle.




THE INCARNATION.


In touching some of the probabilities of our blessed Lord's career, it
would be difficult to introduce and illustrate the subject better, than
by the following anecdote. Whence it is derived, has escaped my memory;
but I have a floating notion that it is told of Socrates in Xenophon or
Plato. At any rate, by way of giving fixity thereto and picturesqueness,
let us here report the story as of the Athenian Solomon:

Surrounded by his pupils, the great heathen Reasoner was being
questioned and answering questions: in particular respecting the
probability that the universal God would be revealed to his creatures.
"What a glorious King would he appear!" said one, possibly the brilliant
Alcibiades: "What a form of surpassing beauty!" said another, not
unlikely the softer Crito. "Not so, my children," answered Socrates.
"Kings and the beautiful are few, and the God, if he came on earth as an
exemplar, would in shape and station be like the greater number."
"Indeed, Master? then how should he fail of being made a King of men,
for his goodness, and his majesty, and wisdom?" "Alas! my children," was
pure Reason's just rejoinder, "[Greek: oi pleiones kakoi], most men are
so wicked that they would hate his purity, despise his wisdom, and as
for his majesty, they could not truly see it. They might indeed admire
for a time, but thereafter (if the God allowed it), they would even hunt
and persecute and kill him." "Kill him!" exclaimed the eager group of
listeners; "kill Him? how should they, how could they, how dare they
kill God?" "I did not say, kill God," would have been wise Socrates's
reply, "for God existeth ever: but men in enmity and envy might even be
allowed to kill that human form wherein God walked for an ensample. That
they could, were God's humility: that they should, were their own
malice: that they dared, were their own grievous sin and peril of
destruction. Yea," went on the keen-eyed sage, "men would slay him by
some disgraceful death, some lingering, open, and cruel death, even such
as the death of slaves!"--Now slaves, when convicted of capital crime,
were always crucified.

Whatever be thought of the genuineness of the anecdote, its uses are the
same to us. Reason might have arrived at the salient points of Christ's
career, and at His crucifixion!

I will add another topic: How should the God on earth arrive there? We
have shown that His form would probably be such as man's; but was he to
descend bodily from the atmosphere at the age of full-grown perfection,
or to rise up out of the ground with earthquakes and fire, or to appear
on a sudden in the midst of the market-place, or to come with legions of
his heavenly host to visit his Temple? There was a wiser way than these,
more reasonable, probable, and useful. Man required an exemplar for
every stage of his existence up to the perfection of his frame. The
infant, and the child, and the youth, would all desire the human-God to
understand their eras; they would all, if generous and such as he would
love, long to feel that He has sympathy with them in every early trial,
as in every later grief. Moreover, the God coming down with supernatural
glories or terrors would be a needless expense of ostentatious power.
He, whose advent is intended for the encouragement of men to exercise
their reason and their conscience; whose exhortation is "he that hath
ears to hear, let him hear;" that pure Being, who is the chief preacher
of Humility, and the great teacher of man's responsible
condition--surely, he would hardly come in any way astoundingly
miraculous, addressing his advent not to faith, but to sight, and
challenging the impossibility of unbelief by a galaxy of spiritual
wonders. Yet, if He is to come at all--and a word or two of this
hereafter--it must be either in some such strange way; or in the usual
human way; or in a just admixture of both. As the first is needlessly
overwhelming to the responsible state of man, so the second is
needlessly derogatory to the pure essence of God; and the third idea
would seem to be most probable. Let us guess it out. Why should not this
highest Object of faith and this lowest Subject of obedience be born,
seemingly by human means, but really by divine? Why should there not be
found some unspotted holy virgin, betrothed to a just man and soon to be
his wife, who, by the creative power of Divinity, should miraculously
conceive the shape divine, which God himself resolved to dwell in? Why
should she not come of a lineage and family which for centuries before
had held such expectation? Why should not the just man, her affianced,
who had never known her yet, being warned of God in a dream of this
strange, immaculate conception, "fear not to take unto him Mary his
wife," lest the unbelieving world should breathe slander on her purity,
albeit he should really know her not until after the Holy Birth. There
is nothing unreasonable here; every step is previously credible: and
invention's self would be puzzled to devise a better scheme. The
Virgin-born would thus be a link between God and man, the great
Mediator: his natures would fulfil every condition required of their
double and their intimate conjunction. He would have arrived at humanity
without its gross beginnings, and have veiled his Godhead for a while in
a pure though mortal tenement. He would have participated in all the
tenderness of woman's nature, and thus have reached the keenest
sensibilities of men.

Themes such as these are inexhaustible: and I am perpetually conscious
of so much left unsaid, that at every section I seem to have said next
to nothing. Nevertheless, let it go; the good seed yet shall germinate.
"Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shall find it after many
days."

It may to some minds be a desideratum, to allude to the anterior
probability that God should come in the flesh. Much of this has been
anticipated under the head of Visible Deity and elsewhere; as this
treatise is so short, one may reasonably expect every reader to take it
in regular course. For additional considerations: the Benevolent Maker
would hardly leave his creatures to perish, without one word of warning
or one gleam of knowledge. The question of the Bible is considered
further on: but exclusively of written rules and dogmas, it was likely
that Our Father should commission chosen servants of his own, orally to
teach and admonish; because it would be in accordance with man's
reasonable nature, that he should best and easiest learn from the
teaching his brethren. So then, after all lesser ambassadors had failed,
it was to be expected that He should send the highest one of all,
saying, "They will reverence my Son." We know that this really did occur
by innumerable proofs, and wonderful signs posterior: and now, after the
event, we discern it to have been anteriorly probable.

It was also probable in another light. This world is a world of
incarnations; nothing has a real and potential existence, which is not
embodied in some form. A theory is nothing; if no personal philosopher,
no sect, or school of learners, takes it up. An opinion is mere air;
without the multitude to give it all the force of a mighty wind. An
idea is mere spiritual light; if unclad in deeds, or in words written or
spoken. So, also, of the Godhead: He would be like all these. He would
pervade words spoken, as by prophets or preachers: He would include
words written, as in the Bible: He would influence crowds with
spirit-stirring sentiments: He would embody the theory of all things in
one simple, philosophic form. As this material world is constituted, God
could not reveal himself at all, excepting by the aid of matter. I mean;
even granting that He spiritually inspired a prophet, still the man was
necessary: he becomes an inspired man; not mere inspiration. So, also,
of a book; which is the written labour of inspired men. There is no
doing without the Humanity of God, so far as this world is concerned,
any more than His Deity can be dispensed with, regarding the worlds
beyond worlds, and the ages of ages, and the dread for ever and ever.




MAHOMETANISM.


It seems expedient that, in one or two instances, I should attempt the
illustration of this rule of probability in matters beyond the Bible. As
very fair ones, take Mahometanism and Romanism. And first of the former.

At the commencement of the seventh century, or a little previously to
that era, we know that a fierce religion sprang up, promulgated by a
false prophet. I wish briefly to show that this was antecedently to have
been expected.

In a moral point of view, the Christian world, torn by all manner of
schisms, and polluted by all sorts of heresies, had earned for the human
race, whether accepting the gospel or refusing it, some signal and
extensive punishment at the hands of Him, who is the Great Retributor as
well as the Munificent Rewarder. In a physical point of view, the
civilized kingdoms of the earth had become stagnant, arguing that
corrupt and poisonous calm which is the herald of a coming tempest. The
heat of a true religion had cooled down into lukewarm disputations about
nothings, scholastical and casuistic figments; whilst at the same time
the prevalence of peaceful doctrines had amalgamated all classes into a
luxurious indolence. Passionate Man is not to be so satisfied; and the
time was fully come for the rise of some fierce spirit, who should
change the tinsel theology of the crucifix for the iron religion of the
sword: who should blow in the ears of the slumbering West the shrill
war-blast of Eastern fervencies; who should exchange the dull rewards of
canonization due to penance, or an after-life voluntary humiliation
under pseudo-saints and angels, for the human and comprehensible joys of
animal appetite and military glory: who should enlist under his banner
all the frantic zeal, all the pent-up licentiousness, all the
heart-burning hatreds of mankind, stifled either by a positive
barbarism, or the incense-laden cloud of a scarcely-masked idolatry.

Thus, and then, was likely to arise a bold and self-confiding hero,
leaning on his own sword: a man of dark sentences, who, by judiciously
pilfering from this quarter and from that shreds of truth to jewel his
black vestments of error, and by openly proclaiming that Oneness of the
object of all worship which besotted Christendom had then, from undue
reverence to saints and martyrs, virgins and archangels, well nigh
forgotten; a man who, by pandering to human passions and setting wide as
virtue's avenue the flower-tricked gates of vice; should thus, like
Lucifer before him, in a comet-like career of victory, sweep the
startled firmament of earth, and drag to his erratic orbit the stars of
heaven from their courses.

Mahomet; his humble beginnings; his iron perseverance under early
probable checks; his blind, yet not all unsublime, dependence on
fatality; his ruthless, yet not all undeserved, infliction of fire and
sword upon the cowering coward race that filled the western
world;--these, and all whatever else besides attended his train of
triumphs, and all whatever besides has lasted among Moors, and Arabs,
and Turks, and Asiatics, even to this our day--constitute to a thinking
mind (and it seems not without cause) another antecedent probability.
Let the scoffer about Mahomet's success, and the admirer of his hotchpot
Koran; let him to whom it is a stumbling-block that error (if indeed,
quoth he, it be more erroneous than what Christendom counts truth)
should have had such free course and been glorified, while so-called
Truth, _pede claudo_, has limped on even as now cautiously and
ingloriously through the well-suspicious world; let him who thinks he
sees in Mahomet's success an answer to the foolish argument of some, who
test the truth of Christianity by its Gentile triumphs; let him ponder
these things. Reason, the God of his idolatry, might, with an
archangel's ken, have prophesied some Mahomet's career: and, so far from
such being in the nature of any objection to Faith, the idea thus thrown
out, well-mused upon, will be seen to lend Faith an aid in the way of
previous likelihood.

"There is one God, and Mahomet is his prophet!" How admirably calculated
such a war-cry would be for the circumstances of the seventh century.
The simple sublimity of Oneness, as opposed to school-theology and
catholic demons: the glitter of barbaric pomp, instead of tame
observances: the flashing scimetar of ambition to supersede the cross: a
turban aigretted with jewels for the twisted wreath of thorns. As human
nature is, and especially in that time was, nothing was more expectable
(even if prophetic records had not taught it), than the rise and
progress of that great False Prophet, whose waving crescent even now
blights the third part of earth.




ROMANISM.


We all know how easy it is to prophesy after the event: but it would be
uncandid and untrue to confound this remark with another, cousin-germane
to it; to wit: how easy it is to discern of any event, after it has
happened, whether or not it were antecedently likely. When the race is
over, and the best horse has won (or by clever jockey-management, the
worst), how obviously could any gentleman on the turf, now in possession
of particulars, have seen the event to have been so probable, that he
would have staked all upon its issue.

Carry out this familiar idea; which, as human nature goes, is none the
weaker as to illustration, because it is built upon the rule "_parvis
componere magna_." Let us sketch a line or two of that great
fore-shadowing cartoon, the probabilities of Romanism.

That our blessed Master, even in His state as man, beheld its evil
characteristics looming on the future, seems likely not alone from both
His human keenness and His divine omniscience, but from here and there a
hint dropped in his biography. Why should He, on several occasions, have
seemed, I will say with some apparent sharpness, to have rebuked His
virgin mother.--"Woman, what have I to do with thee?"--"Who are my
mother and my brethren?"--"Yea--More blessed than the womb which bare
me, and the paps that I have sucked, is the humblest of my true
disciples." Let no one misunderstand me: full well I know the just
explanations which palliate such passages; and the love stronger than
death which beat in that Filial heart. But, take the phrases as they
stand; and do they not in reason constitute some warning and some
prophecy that men should idolize the mother? Nothing, in fact, was more
likely than that a just human reverence to the most favoured among women
should have increased into her admiring worship: until the humble and
holy Mary, with the sword of human anguish at her heart, should become
exaggerated and idealized into Mother of God--instead of Jesus's human
matrix, Queen of heaven, instead of a ransomed soul herself, the joy of
angels--in lieu of their lowly fellow-worshipper, and the Rapture of the
blessed--thus dethroning the Almighty.

Take a second instance: why should Peter, the most loving, most
generous, most devoted of them all, have been singled out from among the
twelve--with a "Get thee behind me, Satan?"--it really had a harsh
appearance; if it were not that, prophetically speaking, and not
personally, he was set in the same category with Judas, the "one who was
a devil." I know the glosses, and the contexts, and the whole amount of
it. Folios have been written, and may be written again, to disprove the
text; but the more words, the less sense: it stands, a record graven in
the Rock; that same Petra, whereon, as firm and faithful found, our Lord
Jesus built his early Church: it stands, a mark indelibly burnt into
that hand, to whom were intrusted, not more specially than to any other
of the saintly sent, the keys of the kingdom of heaven: it stands, along
with the same Peter's deep and terrible apostacy, a living witness
against some future Church, who should set up this same Peter as the
Jupiter of their Pantheon: who should positively be idolizing now an
image christened Peter, which did duty two thousand years ago as a
statue of Libyan Jove! But even this glaring compromise was a matter
probable, with the data of human ambitions, and a rotten Christianity.

Examples such as these might well be multiplied: bear with a word or two
more, remembering always that the half is not said which might be said
in proof; nor in answering the heap of frivolous objections.

Why, unless relics and pseudo-sacred clothes were to be prophetically
humbled into their own mere dust and nothing-worthiness, why should the
rude Roman soldiery have been suffered to cast lots for that vestment,
which, if ever spiritual holiness could have been infused into mere
matter, must indeed have remained a relic worthy of undoubted worship?
It was warm with the Animal heat of the Man inhabited by God: it was
half worn out in the service of His humble travels, and had even, on
many occasions, been the road by which virtue had gone out; not of it,
but of Him. What! was this wonderful robe to work no miracles? was it
not to be regarded as a sort of outpost of the being who was Human-God?
Had it no essential sacredness, no _noli-me-tangere_ quality of shining
away the gambler's covetous glance, of withering his rude and venturous
hand, or of poisoning, like some Nessus' shirt, the lewd ruffian who
might soon thereafter wear it? Not in the least. This woven web, to
which a corrupted state of feeling on religion would have raised
cathedrals as its palaces, with singing men and singing women, and
singing eunuchs too, to celebrate its virtues; this coarse cloth of some
poor weaver's, working down by the sea of Galilee or in some lane of
Zion, was still to remain, and be a mere unglorified, economical, useful
garment. Far from testifying to its own internal mightiness, it probably
was soon sold by the fortunate Roman die-thrower to a second-hand shop
of the Jewish metropolis; and so descended from beggar to beggar till it
was clean worn out. We never hear that, however easy of access so
inestimable relic might then have been considered, any one of the
numerous disciples, in the fervour of their earliest zeal, threw away
one thought for its redemption. Is it not strange that no St. Helena was
at hand to conserve such a desirable invention? Why is there no St.
Vestment to keep in countenance a St. Sepulchre and a St. Cross? The
poor cloth, in primitive times, really was despised. We know well enough
what happened afterwards about handkerchiefs imbued with miraculous
properties from holy Paul's body for the nonce: but this is an inferior
question, and the matter was temporary; the superior case is proved, and
besides the rule _omne majus continet in se minus_ there are differences
quite intelligible between the cases, whereabout our time would be less
profitably employed than in passing on and leaving them unquestioned.
Suffice it to say, that "God worked those special miracles," and not the
unconscious "handkerchiefs or aprons." "Te Deum laudamus!" is
Protestantism's cry; "Sudaria laudemus!" would swell the Papal choirs.

Let such considerations as these then are in sample serve to show how
evidently one might prove from anterior circumstances, (and the canon of
Scripture is an anterior circumstance,) the probability of the rise and
progress of the Roman heresies. And if any one should ask, how was such
a system more likely to arise under a Gentile rather than a Jewish
theocracy? why was a St. Paul, or a St. Peter, or a St. Dunstan, or a
St. Gengulphus, more previously expectable than a St. Abraham, a St.
David, a St. Elisha, or a St. Gehazi? I answer, from the idea of
idolatry, so adapted to the Gentile mind, and so abhorrent from the
Jewish. Martyred Abel, however well respected, has never reached the
honours of a niche beside the altar. Jephtha's daughter, for all her
mourned virginity, was never paraded, (that I wot of,) for any other
than a much-to-be-lamented damsel. Who ever asked, in those old times,
the mediation of St. Enoch? Where were the offerings, in jewels or in
gold, to propitiate that undoubted man of God and denizen of heaven, St.
Moses? what prows, in wax, of vessels saved from shipwreck, hung about
the dripping fane of Jonah? and where was, in the olden time, that
wretched and insensate being, calling himself rational and godly, who
had ventured to solicit the good services of Isaiah as his intercessor,
or to plead the merits of St. Ezekiel as the make-weight for his sins?

It was just this, and reasonably to have been expected; for when the Jew
brought in his religion, he demolished every false god, broke their
images, slew their priests, and burnt their groves with fire. But, when
a worldly Christianity came to be in vogue, when emperors adorned their
banners with the cross, and the poor fishermen of Galilee, (in their
portly representatives,) came to be encrusted with gems, and rustling
with seric silk; then was made that fatal compromise; then it was likely
to have been made, which has lasted even until now: a compromise which,
newly baptizing the damned idols of the heathen, keeps yet St. Bacchus
and St. Venus, St. Mars and St. Apollo, perched in sobered robes upon
the so-called Christian altar; which yet pays divine honours to an
ancyle or a rusty nail; to the black stones at Delphi, or the
gold-shrined bones at Aix; which yet sanctifies the chickens of the
capitol, or the cock that startled Peter; which yet lets a wealthy
sinner, by his gold, bribe the winking Pythoness, or buy dispensing
clauses from "the Lord our God, the Pope."

There is yet a swarm of other notions pressing on the mind, which tend
to prove that Popery might have been anticipated. Take this view. The
religion of Christ is holy, self-denying; not of this world's praise,
and ending with the terrible sanction of eternity for good or evil: it
sets up God alone supreme, and cuts down creature-merit to a point
perpetually diminishing; for the longer he does well, the more he owes
to the grace which enabled him to do it.

Now, man's nature is, as we know, diametrically opposite to all this:
and unable to escape from the conviction of Christian truth in some
sense, he would bend his shrewd invention to the attempt of warping
that stern truth to shapes more consistent with his idiosyncrasies. A
religious plan might be expected, which, in lieu of a difficult, holy
spirituality, should exact easy, mere observances; to say a thousand
Paters with the tongue, instead of one "Our Father," from the heart; to
exact genuflections by the score, but not a single prostration of the
spirit; to write the cross in water on the forehead often-times, but
never once to bear its mystic weight upon the shoulder. In spite of
self-denial, cleverly kept in sight by means of eggs, and pulse, and
hair-cloth, to pamper the deluded flesh with many a carnal holiday; in
contravention of a kingdom not of this world, boldly to usurp the
temporal dominion of it all: instead of the overwhelming
incomprehensibility of an eternal doom, to comfort the worst with false
assurance of a purgatory longer or shorter; that after all, vice may be
burnt out; and who knows but that gold, buying up the prayers and
superfluous righteousness of others, may not make the fiery ordeal an
easy one? In lieu of a God brought near to his creatures, infinite
purity in contact with the grossest sin, as the good Physician loveth;
how sage it seemed to stock the immeasurable distance with intermediate
numia, cycle on epicycle, arc on arc, priest and bishop and pope, and
martyr, and virgin, and saint, and angel, all in their stations, at due
interval soliciting God to be (as if His blessed Majesty were not so of
Himself!) the sinner's friend. How comfortable this to man's sweet
estimation of his own petty penances; how glorifying to those "filthy
rags," his so-called righteousness: how apt to build up the hierarchist
power; how seemingly analogous with man's experience here, where clerks
lay the case before commissioners, and commissioners before the
government, and the government before the sovereign.

All this was entirely expectable: and I can conceive that a deep
Reasoner among the first apostles, even without such supernal light as
"the Spirit speaking expressly," might have so calculated on the
probabilities to come, as to have written, long ago, words akin to
these: "In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving
heed to seductive doctrines, and fanciful notions about intermediate
deities, ([Greek: daimonion],) perverting truth by hypocritical
departures from it, searing conscience against its own cravings after
spiritual holiness, forbidding marriage, (to invent another virtue,) and
commanding abstinence from God's good gifts, as a means of building up a
creature-merit by voluntary humiliation." At the likelihood that such
"profane and old wives' fables" should thereafter have arisen, might
Paul without a miracle have possibly arrived.

Yet again: take another view. The Religion of Christ, though intended
to be universal in some better era of this groaning earth, was, until
that era cometh, meant and contrived for any thing rather than a
Catholicity. True, the Church is so far Catholic that it numbers of its
blessed company men of every clime and every age, from righteous Abel
down to the last dear babe christened yester-morning; true, the
commission is "to all nations, teaching them:" but, what mean the
simultaneous and easily reconciled expressions--come out from among
them, little flock, gathered out of the Gentiles, a peculiar people, a
church militant, and not triumphant, here on earth? Thus shortly of a
word much misinterpreted: let us now see what the Romanist does, what,
(on human principles,) he would be probable to do, with this
discriminating religion. He, chiefly for temporal gains, would make it
as expansive as possible: there should be room at that table for every
guest, whether wedding-garmented or not; there would be sauces in that
poisonous feast, fitted to every palate. For the cold, ascetical mind, a
cell and a scourge, and a record kept of starving fancies as calling
them ecstatic visions vouchsafed by some old Stylite to bless his
favoured worshipper; for the painted demirep of fashionable life, there
would be a pretty pocket-idol, and the snug confessional well tenanted
by a not unsympathizing father; for the pure girl, blighted in her
heart's first love, the papist would afford that seemingly merciful
refuge, that calm and musical and gentle place, the irrevocable nunnery;
a place, for all its calmness, and its music, and its gentle
reputations, soon to be abhorred of that poor child as a living tomb,
the extinguisher of all life's aims, all its duties, uses and delights:
for the bandit, a tythe of the traveller's gold would avail to pay away
the murder, and earn for him a heap of merits kept within the cash-box:
the educated, high-born and finely-moulded mind might be well amused
with architecture, painting, carving, sweet odours, and the most
wondrous music that has ever cheated man, even while he offers up his
easy adorations, and departs, equally complacent at the choral remedies
as at the priestly absolution; while, for those good few, the truly
pious and enlightened children of Rome, who mourn the corruptions of
their church, and explain away, with trembling tongue, her obvious
errors and idolatries, for these the wily scheme, so probable, devised
an undoubted mass of truth to be left among the rubbish. True doctrines,
justly held by true martyrs and true saints, holy men of God who have
died in that communion; ordinances and an existence which creep up,
(heedless of corruption though,) step by step, through past antiquity,
to the very feet of the Founder; keen casuists, competent to prove any
point of conscience or objection, and that indisputably, for they climax
all by the high authority of Popes and councils that cannot be deceived:
pious treatises and manuals, verily of flaming heat, for they mingle the
yearnings of a constrained celibacy with the fervencies of worship and
the cravings after God. Yes, there is meat here for every human mouth;
only that, alas for men! the meat is that which perisheth, and not
endureth unto everlasting life. Rome, thou wert sagely schemed; and if
Lucifer devised thee not for the various appetencies of poor,
deceivable, Catholic Man, verily it were pity, for thou art worthy of
his handiwork. All things to all men, in any sense but the right,
signifies nothing to anybody: in the sense of falsehoods, take the
former for thy motto; in that of single truth, in its intensity, the
latter.

Let not then the accident--the probable accident--of the Italian
superstition place any hindrance in the way of one whose mind is all at
sea because of its existence. What, O man with a soul, is all the world
else to thee? Christianity, whatever be its broad way of pretences, is
but in reality a narrow path: be satisfied with the day of small things,
stagger not at the inconsistencies, conflicting words, and hateful
strifes of those who say they are Christians, but "are not, but are of
the synagogue of Satan." Judge truth, neither by her foes nor by her
friends but by herself. There was one who said (and I never heard that
any writer, from Julian to Hobbes, ever disputed his human truth or
wisdom) "Needs must that offences come; but wo be to that man by whom
the offence cometh. If they come, be not shaken in faith: lo, I have
told you before. And if others fall away, or do ought else than my
bidding, what is that to thee? follow thou ME."




THE BIBLE.


Whilst I attempt to show, as now I desire to do, that the Bible should
be just the book it is, from considerations of anterior probability, I
must expand the subject a little; dividing it, first, into the
likelihood of a revelation at all; and secondly, into that of its
expectable form and character.

The first likelihood has its birth in the just Benevolence of our
heavenly Father, who without dispute never leaves his rational creatures
unaided by some sort of guiding light, some manifestation of himself so
needful to their happiness, some sure word of consolation in sorrow, or
of brighter hope in persecution. That it must have been thus an _a
priori_ probability, has been all along proved by the innumerable
pretences of the kind so constant up and down the world: no nation ever
existed in any age or country, whose seers and wise men of whatever name
have not been believed to hold commerce with the Godhead. We may judge
from this, how probable it must ever have been held. The Sages of old
Greece were sure of it from reason: and not less sure from accepted
superstition those who reverenced the Brahmin, or the priest of
Heliopolis, or the medicine-man among the Rocky Mountains, or the Llama
of old Mexico. I know that our ignorance of some among the most
brutalized species of mankind, as the Bushmen in Caffraria, and the
tribes of New South Wales, has failed to find among their rites any
thing akin to religion: but what may we not yet have to learn of good
even about such poor outcasts? how shall we prove this negative? For
aught we know, their superstitions at the heart may be as deep and as
deceitful as in others; and, even on the contrary side, the exception
proves the rule: the rule that every people concluded a revelation so
likely, that they have one and all contrived it for themselves.

Thus shortly of the first: and now, secondly, how should God reveal
himself to men? In such times as those when the world was yet young, and
the Church concentrated in a family or an individual, it would probably
be by an immediate oral teaching; the Lord would speak with Adam; He
would walk with Enoch; He would, in some pure ethereal garb, talk with
Abraham, as friend to friend. And thereafter, as men grew, and
worshippers were multiplied, He would give some favoured servant a
commission to be His ambassador: He would say to an Ezekiel, "Go unto
the house of Israel, and speak my words to them:" He would bid a
Jeremiah "Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words
that I have spoken to thee:" He would give Daniel a deep vision, not to
be interpreted for ages, "Shut up the words, and seal the book even to
the time of the end:" He would make Moses grave His precepts in the
rock, and Job record his trials with a pen of iron. For a family, the
Beatic Vision was enough: for a congregated nation, as once at Sinai,
oral proclamations: for one generation or two around the world, the zeal
and eloquence of some great "multitude of preachers:" but, indubitably,
if God willed to bless the universal race, and drop the honey of his
words distilling down the hour-glass of Time from generation to
generation even to the latter days, there was no plan more probable,
none more feasible, than the pen of a ready writer.

Further: and which concerns our argument: what were likely to be the
characteristic marks of such a revelation? Exclusively of a pervading
holiness, and wisdom, and sublimity, which could not be dispensed with,
and in some sort should be worthy of the God; there would be, it was
probable, frequent evidences of man's infirmity, corrupting all he
toucheth. The Almighty works no miracles for little cause: one miracle
alone need be current throughout Scripture: to wit, that which preserves
it clean and safe from every perilous error. But, in the succession of a
thousand scribes each copying from the other, needs must that the tired
hand and misty eye would occasionally misplace a letter: this was no
nodus worthy of a God's descent to dissipate by miracle.

Again: the original prophets themselves were men of various characters
and times and tribes. God addresses men through their reason; he bound
not down a seer "with bit and bridle, like the horse that has no
understanding"--but spoke as to a rational being--"What seest thou?"
"Hear my words;"--"Give ear unto my speech." Was it not then likely that
the previous mode of thought and providential education in each holy man
of God should mingle irresistibly with his inspired teaching? Should not
the herdsman of Tehoa plead in pastoral phrase, and the royal son of
Amoz denounce with strong authority? Should not David whilst a shepherd
praise God among his flocks, and when a king, cry "Give the King thy
judgments?" The Bible is full of this human individuality; and nothing
could be thought as humanly more probable: but we must, with this
diversity, connect the other probability also, that which should show
the work to be divine; which would prove (as is literally the case)
that, in spite of all such natural variety, all such unbiassed freedom
both of thought and speech, there pervades the whole mass a oneness, a
marvellous consistency, which would be likely to have been designed by
God, though little to have been dreamt by man.

Once more on this full topic. Difficulties in Scripture were expectable
for many reasons; I can only touch a few. Man is rational as he is
responsible: God speaks to his mind and moral powers: and the mind
rejoices, and moralities grow strong in conquest of the difficult and
search for the mysterious. The muscles of the spiritual athlete pant for
such exertion; and without it, they would dwindle into trepid
imbecility. Curious man, courageous man, enterprising, shrewd, and
vigourous man, yet has a constant enemy to dread in his own indolence:
now, a lion in the path will wake up Sloth himself: and the very
difficulties of religion engender perseverance.

Additionally: I think there is somewhat in the consideration, that, if
all revealed truth had been utterly simple and easy, it would have
needed no human interpreter; no enlightened class of men, who, according
to the spirit of their times, and the occasions of their teaching, might
"in season and out of season preach the word, reprove, rebuke, exhort,
with all long-suffering and doctrine." I think there existed an anterior
probability that Scripture should be as it is, often-times difficult,
obscure, and requiring the aid of many wise to its elucidation; because,
without such characteristic, those many wise and good would never have
been called for. Suppose all truth revealed as clearly and indisputably
to the meanest intellect as a sum in addition is, where were the need or
use of that noble Christian company who are every where man's almoners
for charity, and God's ambassadors for peace?

A word or two more, and I have done. The Bible would, as it seems to me
probable, be a sort of double book; for the righteous, and for the
wicked: to one class, a decoy, baited to allure all sorts of generous
dispositions: to the other, a trap, set to catch all kinds of evil
inclinations. In these two senses, it would address the whole family
man: and every one should find in it something to his liking. Purity
should there perceive green pastures and still waters, and a tender
Shepherd for its innocent steps: and carnal appetite should here and
there discover some darker spot, which the honesty of heaven had filled
with memories of its chiefest servants' sins; some record of adultery or
murder wherewith to feast his maw for condemnation. While the good man
should find in it meat divine for every earthly need, the sneerer should
proclaim it the very easiest manual for his jests and lewd profanities.
The unlettered should not lack humble, nay vulgar, images and words, to
keep himself in countenance: neither should the learned look in vain for
reasonings; the poet for sublimities; the curious mind for mystery; nor
the sorrowing heart for prayer. I do discern, in that great book, a
wondrous adaptability to minds of every calibre: and it is just what
might antecedently have been expected of a volume writ by many men at
many different eras, yet all superintended by one master mind; of a
volume meant for every age, and nation, and country, and tongue, and
people; of a volume which, as a two-edged sword, wounds the good man's
heart with deep conviction, and cuts down "the hoary head of him who
goeth on still in his wickedness."

On the whole, respecting faults, or incongruities, or objectionable
parts in Scripture, however to have been expected, we must recollect
that the more they are viewed, the more the blemishes fade, and are
altered into beauties.

A little child had picked up an old stone, defaced with time-stains: the
child said the stone was dirty, covered with blotches and all colours:
but his father brings a microscope, and shows to his astonished glance
that what the child thought dirt, is a forest of beautiful lichens,
fruited mosses, and strange lilliputian plants with shapely animalcules
hiding in the leaves, and rejoicing in their tiny shadow. Every blemish,
justly seen, had turned to be a beauty: and Nature's works are
vindicated good, even as the Word of Grace is wise.




HEAVEN AND HELL.


Probably enough, the light which I expect to throw upon this important
subject will, upon a cursory criticism, be judged fanciful, erroneous,
and absurd; in parts, quite open to ridicule, and in all liable to the
objection of being wise, or foolish, beyond what is written.
Nevertheless, and as it seems to me of no small consequence to reach
something more definite on the subject than the Anywhere or Nowhere of
common apprehensions, I judge it not amiss to put out a few thoughts,
fancies, if you will, but not unreasonable fancies, on the localities
and other characteristics of what we call heaven and hell: in fact, I
wish to show their probable realities with somewhat approaching to
distinctness. It is manifest that these places must be somewhere; for,
more especially of the blest estate, whither did Enoch, and Elijah, and
our risen Lord ascend to? what became of these glorified humanities when
"the chariot of fire carried up Elijah by a whirlwind into heaven;" and
when "HE was taken up, and a cloud received him?" Those happy mortals
did not waste away to intangible spiritualities, as they rose above the
world; their bodies were not melted as they broke the bonds of
gravitation, and pierced earth's swathing atmosphere: they went up
somewhither; the question is where they went to. It is a question of
great interest to us; however, among those matters which are rather
curious than consequential; for in our own case, as we know, we that are
redeemed are to be caught up, together with other blessed creatures, "in
the clouds, to meet our coming Saviour in the air, and thereafter to be
ever with the Lord." I wish to show this to be expected as in our case,
and expectable previously to it.

We have, in the book of Job, a peep at some place of congregation: some
one, as it is likely, of the mighty globes in space, set apart as God's
especial temple. Why not? they all are worlds; and the likelihood being
in favour of overbalancing good, rather than of preponderating evil from
considerations that affect God's attributes and the happiness of his
creatures, it is probable that the great majority of these worlds are
unfallen mansions of the blessed. Perhaps each will be a kingdom for one
of earth's redeemed, and if so, there will at last be found fulfilled
that prevailing superstition of our race, that each man has his star:
without insisting upon this, we may reflect that there is no one
universal opinion which has not its foundation in truth. Tradition may
well have dropped the thought from Adam downwards, that the stars may
some day be our thrones. We know their several vastness, and can guess
their glory: verily a mighty meed for miserable services on earth, to
find a just ambition gladdened with the rule of spheres, to which Terra
is a point; while that same ambition is sanctified and legalized by
ruling as vicegerent of Jehovah.

Is this unlikely, or unworthy of our high vocation, our immortality, and
nearness unto, nay communion with God? The idea is only suggested: let a
man muse at midnight, and look up at the heavens hanging over all; let
him see, with Rosse and Herschell, that, multiply power as you will,
unexhausted still and inexhaustible appear the myriads of worlds
unknown. Yea, there is space enow for infinite reward; yea, let every
grain of sand on every shore be gathered, and more innumerable yet
appear that galaxy of spheres. Let us think that night looks down upon
us here, with the million eyes of heaven. And for some focus of them
all, some spot where God himself enthroned receives the homage of all
crowns, and the worship of all creature service, what is there
unreasonable in suggesting for a place some such an one as is instanced
below?

I have just cut the following paragraph out of a newspaper: Is this the
ridiculous tripping up the sublime? I think otherwise: it is honest to
use plain terms. I speak as unto wise men--judge ye what I say. With
respect to the fact of information, it may or it may not be true; but
even if untrue, the idea is substantially the same, and I cannot help
supposing that with angels and archangels and the whole company of
heaven, such bodily saints as Enoch is, (and similar to him all risen,
holy men will be,) meet for happy sabbaths in some glorious orb akin or
superior to the following:

"A CENTRAL SUN.--Dr. Madier, the Professor of Astronomy at Dorpat, has
published the results of the researches pursued by him uninterruptedly
during the last sixty years, upon the movements of the so-called fixed
stars. These more particularly relate to the star Alcyone, (discovered
by him,) the brightest of the seven bright stars of the group of the
Pleiades. This star he states to be the central sun of all the systems
of stars known to us. He gives its distance from the boundaries of our
system at thirty-four million times the distance of the sun from our
earth, a distance which it takes five hundred and thirty-seven years for
light to traverse. Our sun takes one hundred and eighty-two million
years to accomplish its course round this central body, whose mass is
one hundred and seventeen million times larger than the sun."

One hundred and seventeen million times larger than the Sun! itself, for
all its vastness, not more than half one million times bigger than this
earth. To some such globe we may let our fancies float, and anchor there
our yearnings after heaven. It is a glorious thought, such as
imagination loves; and a probable thought, that commends itself to
reason. Behold the great eye of all our guessed creation, the focus of
its brightness, and the fountain of its peace.

A topic far less pleasant, but alike of interest to us poor men, is the
probable home of evil; and here I may be laughed at--laugh, but listen,
and if, listening, some reason meets thine ear, laugh at least no
longer.

We know that, for spirit's misery as for spirit's happiness, there is no
need of place: "no matter where, for I am still the same," said one most
miserable being. More--in the case of mere spirits, there is no need for
any apparatus of torments, or fires, or other fearful things. But, when
spirit is married to matter, the case is altered; needs must a place to
prison the matter, and a corporal punishment to vex it.

Nothing is unlikely here; excepting--will a man urge?--the dread
duration of such hell. This is a parenthesis; but it shall not be
avoided, for the import of that question is deep, and should be answered
clearly. A man, a body and soul inmixt, body risen incorruptible, and
soul rested from its deeds, must exist for ever. I touch not here the
proofs--assume it. Now, if he lives for ever, and deliberately chooses
evil, his will consenting as well as his infirmity, and conscience
seared by persisted disobedience, what course can such a wilful,
rational, responsible being pursue than one perpetually erratic? How
should it not be that he gets worse and worse in morals, and more and
more miserable in fact? and when to this we add, that such wretched
creatures are to herd together, continually flying further away from the
only source of Happiness and Good; and to this, that they have earned by
sin, remorses and regrets, and positive inflictions; how probable seems
a hell, the sinner's doom eternal. The apt mathematical analogy of lines
thrown out of parallel, helps this for illustration: for ever and for
ever they are stretching more remote, and infinity itself cannot reunite
their travel.

This, then, as a passing word; a sad one. Honest thinker, do not scorn
it, for thine own soul's sake. "Now is the time of grace, now is the day
of salvation." To return. A place of punishment exists; to what quarter
shall we look for its anterior probability? I think there is a
likelihood very near us. There may be one, possibly, beneath us, in the
bowels of this fiery-bursting earth; whither went Korah and his company?
This idea is not without its arguments, just analogies, and scriptural
hints. But my judgment inclines towards another. This trial-world, we
know, is to be purified and restored, and made a new earth: it was even
to be expected that Redemption should do this, and I like not to imagine
it the crust and case of hell, but rather, as thus: At the birth of this
same world, there was struck off from its burning mass at a tangent, a
mournful satellite, to be the home of its immortal evil; the convict
shore for exiled sin and misery; a satellite of strange differences, as
guessed by Virgil in his musings upon Tartarus, where half the orb is,
from natural necessities, blistered up by constant heats, the other half
frozen by perennial cold. A land of caverns, and volcanoes, miles deep,
miles high; with no water, no perceptible air: imagine such a dreadful
world, with neither air nor water! incapable of feeding life like ours,
but competent to be a place where undying wretchedness may struggle for
ever. A melancholy orb, the queen of night, chief nucleus of all the
dark idolatries of earth; the Moon, Isis, Hecate, Ashtaroth, Diana of
the Ephesians!

This expression of a thought by no means improbable, gives an easy
chance to shallow punsters; but ridicule is no weapon against reason.
Why should not the case be so? Why should not Earth's own satellite,
void, as yet, be on the resurrection of all flesh, the raft whereon to
float away Earth's evil? Read of it astronomically; think of it as
connected with idols; regard it as the ruler of earth's night; consider
that the place of a Gehenna must be somewhere; and what is there in my
fancy quite improbable? I do not dogmatize as that the fact is so, but
only suggest a definite place at least as likely as any other hitherto
suggested. Think how that awful, melancholy eye looks down on deeds of
darkness how many midnight crimes, murders, thefts, adulteries, and
witchcrafts, that would have shrunk into nonentity from open, honest
day, have paled the conscious Moon! Add to all this, it is the only
world, besides our own, whereof astronomers can tell us, It is fallen.




AN OFFER.


Nothing were easier than to have made this book a long one; but that was
not the writer's object: as well because of the musty Greek proverb
about long books; which in every time and country are sure never to be
read through by one in a thousand; as because it is always wiser to
suggest than to exhaust a topic; which may be as "a fruit-tree yielding
fruit after its kind whose seed is in itself." The writer then intended
only to touch upon a few salient points, and not to discuss every
question, however they might crowd upon his mind: time and space alike
with mental capabilities forbade an effort so gigantic: added to which,
such a course seemed to be unnecessary, as the rule of probability, thus
illustrated, might be applied by others in every similar instance.
Still, as the errand of this book is usefulness, and its author's hope
is, under Heaven, to do good, one personal hint shall here be thrown
upon the highway. Without arrogating to myself the wisdom or the
knowledge to solve one in twenty of the doubts possible to be
propounded; without also designing even to attempt such solutions,
unless well assured of the genuine anxiety of the doubter; and
preliminarizing the consideration, that a fitting diffidence in the
advocate's own powers is no reason why he should not make wide efforts
in his holy cause; that, such reasonable essays to do good have no sort
of brotherhood with a fanatical Spiritual Quixotism; and that, to my own
apprehensions, the doubts of a rationalizing mind are in the nature of
honourable foes, to be treated with delicacy, reverence, and kindness,
rather than with a cold distance and an ill-concealed contempt;
preliminarizing, lastly, the thought--"Who is sufficient for these
things?"--I nevertheless thus offer, according to the grace and power
given to me, my best but humble efforts so far to dissipate the doubts
of some respecting any scriptural fact, as may lie within the province
of showing or attempting to show its previous credibility. This is not a
challenge to the curious casuist or the sneering infidel; but an
invitation to the honest mind harassed by unanswered queries: no
gauntlet thrown down, but a brother's hand stretched out. Such
questions, if put to the writer, through his publisher by letter, may
find their reply in a future edition: supposing, that is to say, that
they deserve an answer, whether as regards their own merits or the
temper of the mind who doubts; and supposing also that the writer has
the power and means to answer them discreetly. It is only a fair rule of
philanthropy (and that without arrogating any unusual "strength") to
"bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves:" and
nothing would to me give greater happiness than to be able, as I am
willing, to remove any difficulties lying in the track of Faith before a
generous mind. I hang out no glistening holly-bush a-flame with its
ostentatious berries as promising good wine; but rather over my portal
is the humbler and hospitable mistletoe, assuring every wearied pilgrim
in the way, that though scanty be the fare, he shall find a hearty
welcome.




CONCLUSION.


I have thus endeavoured (with solicited help of Heaven) to place before
the world anew a few old truths: truths inestimably precious. Remember,
they cannot have lost by any such advocacy as is contained in the idea
of their being shown antecedently probable; for this idea affects not at
all the fact of their existence; the thing is; whether probable or not;
there is, in esse, an ornithorhyncus; its posse is drowned in esse:
there exists no doubt of it: evidence, whether of senses physical, or of
considerations moral, puts the circumstance beyond the sphere of
disputation. But such truths as we have spoken of do, nevertheless, gain
something as to--not their merits, these are all their own
substantially; nor their positive proofs, these are adjectives properly
attendant on them, but as to--their acceptability among the incredulous
of men; they gain, I say, even by such poor pleading as mine, from being
shown anteriorly probable. Take an illustration in the case of that
strange and anomalous creature mentioned just above. Its habitat is in a
land where plums grow with the stones outside, where aboriginal dogs
have never been heard to bark, where birds are found covered with hair,
and where mammals jump about like frogs! If these are shown to be
literal facts, the mind is thereby well prepared for any animal
monstrosity: and it staggers not in unbelief (on evidence of honest
travellers) even when informed of a creature with a duck's bill and a
beaver's body: it really amounted in Australia to an antecedent
probability.

Carry this out to matters not a quarter so incredible, ye thinkers, ye
free-thinkers; neither be abashed at being named as thinking freely:
were not those Bereans more noble in that they searched to see? For my
humble part, I do commend you for it: treacherous is the hand that roots
up the inalienable right of private judgment; the foundation-stone of
Protestantism, the great prerogative of reason, the key-note of
conscience, the sole vindex of a man's responsibility: evil and false is
the so-called reverential wisdom which lays down in place of the truth
that each man's conscience is a law unto himself, the tyranny of other
men's authority. Cheap and easy and perilled is the faith, which clings
to the skirt of others; which leans upon the broken staff of
priestcraft, until those poisoned splinters pierce the hand.

Prove all things; holding fast that which is good: good to thine own
reasonable conscience, if unwarped by casuistries, and unblinded by
licentiousness. Prove all things, if you can, "from the egg to the
apple:" he is a poor builder of his creed, who takes one brick on
credit. Be able, as you can be, (if only you are willing so far to be
wisely inconsistent, as to bend the stubborn knee betimes, and though
with feeble glance to look to heaven, and though with stammering tongue
to pray for aid,) be able, as it is thy right, O man of God--to give a
Reason for the faith that is in thee.


                             THE END.





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