Page images

sophical materialism, which does not admit the existence of such a power. The great scientific doctrine of evolution, which is revolutionizing so many theories of philosophy and religion, demands an eternal evolving force or agency. Herbert Spencer, the prince of agnostics, calls it the "Ultimate Reality," and, more descriptive still, "an Infinite and Eternal Energy, from which all things proceed." This is "the Eternal" of the Hebrew, the very meaning of the word "Jehovah,” the "I am that I am." These are all names or phrases demanded in the name of science or even of the crudest reasoning faculty for that primal Reality without which nothing that we see, or know, or that anywhere exists, could ever have been. When Spencer calls it "an Infinite and Eternal Energy, from which all things proceed," he describes it in the bare prose of scientific statement. Yet, when he speaks of man as ever, by an absolute certainty, in the presence of the mystery of this Infinite and Eternal Energy, we begin to have, even when thus expressed with logical bareness, that feeling of its truth which approaches religion. Now, add to the same thought the sentiment of poetry in the expression of it, with no added attribute of character whatever, and we have Wordsworth's

"Sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,—
A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things."

This is only "the Infinite and Eternal Energy, from which all things proceed," depicted with no conscious intelligence nor purpose, but only as universal motive power; yet, in the guise of poetic sentiment, the conception rises into the realm of religion.

But the Hebrew poet went further. In describing God under the phrase "my Shepherd," he depicted the Eternal Energy as acting with intelligence and a good purpose. He meant to declare that the Eternal Power was to be trusted to guide man through all trials and perplexities to the happiest results, because it was united with attributes of infinite Wisdom and Righteousness. Can we say that modern scientific and philosophical thought as confidently indorses this second point of Hebrew faith as it indorses the first? Frankly we must admit that as yet it does not. Science here becomes agnostic. For settling questions of infinite personality and of an eternal, conscious, purposive intelligence apart from finite intelligence, scientists, for the most part, declare that they have no data. If they believe that the Eternal has these attributes, they will say they hold their belief on other than strictly scientific grounds. Philosophy, too, is hesitating, uncertain, and variant in its voices on these intricate problems; and

even theology, once claiming that here was her special field of revelation, has lost a good deal of her old positiveness, has become apologetic. What shall we say, then? Is the Eternal merely blind, unintelligent power with no moral aim, no purpose wise and beneficent in its scope? If so, then we must part company with the Psalmist's thought of the Eternal as our our Shepherd; and we may as well let the pretty sentiment of it go, too, if we cannot with mental integrity keep the thought. But, for one, But, for one, I believe that we may rationally hold to the thought that the Eternal Power shepherds mankind and all creatures.

For proof of this belief I am not going into any questions, subtle and metaphysical, concerning Infinite Personality and Eternal Conscious Intelligence. I am ready to accept such beliefs as philosophical inferences, provided that I am not required to define these alleged attributes of Absolute Being too closely by their human and finite counterparts. But for proof of my belief in a wise. and beneficent activity interfused with Eternal Power I do not begin at the infinite side of the universe. I begin just where science begins,among finite things. Leave, if you please, for the moment at least, infinite intelligence out of account; and begin with the lowest terms of rational knowledge. What then? We find, first, that the world in all its knowable parts and operations is an intelligible world, part adapted to part and force adjusted to force, in an order and har

[ocr errors]

mony productive of certain results, upon which our intelligence can certainly calculate. Were the world a mere medley of aimless forces, operating by chance and whim and at cross-purposes, human beings could not with all their intelligence adjust themselves to it, and life would become impossible. That the world is intelligible gives us all the effects and benefits of purpose and aim and law, whether we affirm or not an infinite conscious intelligence pervading and governing it. And in all practical accomplishment of the ends of his existence it is vastly more important for man rationally to adjust himself to a world of intelligible forces, laws, and activities than to try to conceive and adore a being of infinite intelligence in a vague somewhere above the universe. And, second, we find the known and knowable universe to be not only intelligible, but to be subject in its own activities and unfoldings to amelioration. It is an improvable universe. There is a mounting from low and crude forms of life to something higher and better. The very power of life itself tends to eliminate the evil, which resists its aims and destiny. That is the very meaning of evil,- resistance to the power and aim of life. Hence the law of life is from bad to good, and from good to better and Best; that is, ever toward fairer and nobler forms and organisms of life. And man, through his rational and moral consciousness and his consequent intelligent purpose and moral endeavor, is made a helper in this ameliorating and

ascending process. Nothing is better established by the evidence of history than that the Law of Righteousness greatens in its authority and in its results both in respect to nations and individuals with the lapse of centuries. But, third, according to the doctrine of evolution it is the Eternal Power itself that is actively and organically manifest in the intelligible order, law, harmony of the world-forces, and in all the meliorating and ascending activities of those forces, and in the mind. and heart, in the moral will and righteous deed of man. And, consequently, all this ascent which is open to us human beings into larger and richer realms of life above mere material existence, and the very impulse toward the ascent, as also that inward faculty of adjustment to circumstances, whether they seem favorable or unfavorable, so as to turn them into some kind of benefit,- all these dominant factors in the conduct of life we owe to the actual leadership of the Power Eternal. Therefore, I can say the Eternal is my Shepherd. And, with this present fact underneath me and expressing the innermost reality and meaning of my existence to-day, I have as little interest to prove as to deny that in the primeval eras, before the first whirl in the fire-mist whence our solar universe had its origin, this Eternal Power must have existed in a personal entity together with Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Beneficence. There you carry me off to a distant metaphysical question. It may have an interest for the logician, but I prefer to

« PreviousContinue »