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recognized; for no notion or conception exists when not recognized, since its very being is in its recognition. The power to form the notion, but not the notion itself, may lie latent, unrecognized in us; and this is all that Descartes teaches, when he calls the idea of God innate, that is, that we have the innate power to rise to a conception of God's existence.
But we must tell Mr. Parker that he not only fails to prove that the idea of God is a fact given us in our nature, that it is a judgment a priori, that it is an intuitive perception, but he does not even show that the existence of God is demonstrable. On his principles of reasoning, from the facts he alleges, we cannot logically even conclude to the existence of God. natural want in our constitution,” he says, “ implies satisfaction in some quarter.” If our constitution be assumed to be the work of an all-wise, powerful, and good creator, we grant the conclusion, - otherwise we deny it; for, till it is known that the author of our nature would not or could not implant in us a want for which he makes no provision, the existence of the want is no evidence of satisfaction.
It implies the need of satisfaction, but not that there is satisfaction. "The tendency to love implies something lovely as its object.” If it is to be satisfied, — otherwise not. But how do you know that it is to be satisfied ? " So the religious sentiment implies its object.” If it is to be satisfied, -not otherwise. In itself considered, taken independently of the assumption of a God who has implanted it, and who would not have implanted it without providing satisfaction for it, it merely proves the need of some object, - not that the object really exists. The argument, then, on which Mr. Parker relies is without validity, and is no demonstration of the existence of God.
But we do not stop here. Granting the religious sentiment and the idea of God, that is, the sense of dependence and idea of its object, are facts, elements, or principles of human nature, we deny that religion is a fact or principle of human nature, or that even then there is any thing in our nature in which religion can be assumed to originate.
Mr. Parker's thesis is not, that the principles of religion may be deduced, by reasoning, from the facts of human nature, but that religion originates spontaneously in those facts, independently of our will or foresight. It is, so to speak, a natural production of the essential facts or elements of human nature. This is his thesis, and to this we hold him.
Now, the two facts, sense of dependence and idea of its object, do not authorize, but impugn, Mr. Parker's own definition of religion. Absolute, that is, perfect religion, he tells us (p. 46), is “voluntary obedience to the law of God, inward and outward obedience to the law he has written on our nature.” Here is an element very essential, namely, voluntary obedience, not included in the sense of dependence and idea of its object, and which they do not and cannot generate. Doubtless, a man, by reasoning upon all the facts of his nature, by ascertaining that he is a dependent being, and that that on which he depends is God, and that God is his rightful lawgiver, his sovereign, may come very legitimately to the conclusion that he ought to obey God; but this is nothing to the purpose. There can be, according to Mr. Parker's thesis, nothing in religion not spontaneously generated by the two facts of human nature assumed. These operate naturally, independently of will and foresight, from their own inherent force. Voluntary obedience, if essential to religion, must be their spontaneous production, to which volition and reasoning are not necessary, nay, from which they are excluded. But this is impossible ; for there is and can be no voluntary obedience, where will and foresight are excluded.
If religion be voluntary obedience, it is not and cannot be a fact of human nature, nor the spontaneous product of a fact of human nature, for it must be a free creation of the human will. If not, the obedience would not be voluntary, but necessary. How, then, obtain the idea of religion as voluntary obedience from the two facts of human nature assumed ? But if it is to be regarded as the sense of dependence and idea of its object, or as growing spontaneously out of them, it cannot be voluntary, but must be necessary. By what right, then, does Mr. Parker define religion to be voluntary obedience ? And wherefore does he labor to prove that religion is all included in the sense of dependence and idea of its object, when he finds himself obliged to include in its definition an element not even implied by them, and repugnant to them as the essential elements of religion ?
But this definition, all too broad as it is for Mr. Parker's thesis, is altogether defective. It has the merit of recognizing the province of the will. In making religion voluntary obedience, Mr. Parker makes it a virtue, and therefore rejects the Transcendental theory, according to which religion is not a virtue, since it recognizes, as essential to it, no actus humanus. This definition shows that he, after all, retains something better than Transcendentalism, and has not quite lost all sense of religion. Nevertheless, the definition is defective, and its rejection of Transcendentalism more in appearance than in reality. The serpent lies coiled at the bottom, ready, if you penetrate too far, to spring upon you. Religion is defined to be voluntary obedience; but obedience to what? Simply to our own nature. Mr. Parker says, obedience to the law of God; but we must not suffer ourselves to be deceived by his rhetorical flourishes. The law of God is, he himself says, simply the law which Almighty God has written on our nature, which is merely the law of our nature, that is, our nature itself. Hence, religion is voluntary obedience to our nature, which means, in the last analysis, that it is the surrender of ourselves up to our instinctive nature, to do simply what it moves or impels us to do. This is Transcendentalism in full bloom, whether Mr. Parker intended it or not.
Now, Mr. Parker, in using the term religion, is bound to use it in its received sense. Saving bis responsibility, he is free to accept or reject that sense, but not free to reject it and still retain the term. If he does not retain, in his definition of religion, all that is essential to religion in its generally received sense, he does not retain religion ; if he rejects what is essential to religion, as the term is generally understood by mankind, he rejects religion. That which he retains may be true, may be all he ought to retain, or it may not be ; but it is not religion, and he has no right to call it religion. Now, religion, in its generally received sense, is the acknowledgment and worship of the Deity. It may mean more than this, but less it cannot. As Mr. Parker will not quarrel with us about the unity of God, we may say the acknowledgment of the Deity is the recognition of, and expression of our belief in, the existence and providence of God; and the worship of God implies not only the acknowledgment of his being and providence, but the performing certain acts or services, external or internal, believed to be his due and because his due. Mr. Parker is familiar enough with the religious history of mankind to know that the race has always meant by religion at least all that is implied in this definition. Then, is what he calls religion does not amount to this, it is not religion. But what he calls religion does not amount to this, and cannot be obtained from the principles which he admits.
In Mr. Parker's definition of religion, not even the being
of God is necessarily implied, but simply the idea of God, which is alleged to be a fact of human nature. But, in this definition, not only the being of God, but his providence, is implied. Now, the idea of the providence of God, essential to religion, is not included in Mr. Parker's definition of religion ; neither when he defines it to be the sense of dependence and idea of its object, nor when he defines it to be voluntary obedience to the law of our nature. Will he tell us how, from the two facts of our nature, or from voluntary obedience, he can then obtain it? The two facts, according to him, ought to generate it spontaneously ; for nothing can be essential to religion but these and their spontaneous productions. But will he show us how, even by logic, we can obtain from these the idea of providence? If not, - and he cannot, — they are not themselves religion, nor able to give us religion ; for there is no religion, where there is no belief in providence.
Moreover, Mr. Parker nowhere in his book recognizes God's providence. None but a personal being, acting voluntarily, and for the sake of an end, can exercise providence, care for, watch over, and provide for his creatures. But Mr. Parker expressly denies the personality of God, speaks of the Divinity as an abstraction, applies to him pronouns of the neuter gender, and even refuses to allow him consciousness, save potentially: “God, as absolute cause,” he says,
"contains in himself” — he should have said itself, to have preserved consistency “potentially the ground of consciousness and personality, yes, and of unconsciousness and impersonality. But to apply these terms to him seems to me a vain attempt to sound the abyss of the Godhead.” - p. 165.
p. 165. He denies, by implication, the propriety of prayer (p. 167), though we have heard that he himself goes, at times, through the form of prayer, whether with “his eyes fixed devoutly on himself” or not, our informants do not report. “God,” he says (p. 170), “is the substantiality of matter” ; p. 182, “as he is the materiality of inatter, so is he the spirituality of spirit.” We do not suppose he understands the full import of the words he uses; but it is evident, that, so far as he conceives of God at all, he conceives of him not as a free, voluntary being, acting with a purpose, and for the sake of an end, but as a mighty force or energy developing itself through all infinities ad finem, it may be, but simply according to its own inherent laws, from the necessity of its own nature, not from freedom of will. He calls him Being, Cause, Knowledge, Love, but never one who is,
causes, knows, loves ; consequently, never represents him as a being who is capable of exercising a providential care. We may say, then, that his notion of religion does not include the idea of providence, and therefore does not include all that is essential to religion.
Again, the definition of religion, as generally received, involves the idea of obligation. We worship God, because we owe him a service. In worshipping him, we are simply rendering him his due, and we worship him for the sake of paying what we owe. But is the conception of obligation, of a debt due and to be paid, contained in the sense of dependence and idea of its object, or even deducible from them? Of course not. No alchemy can transmute either or both of them into the idea of obligation, nor can either or both of them generate it.
These two facts, if obeyed, cannot lead to the worship of God, because what we do in obedience to them we do ex necessitate naturæ, not from reason and will. The acts we should perform would not be acts of worship, because they would not be done for the sake of worshipping God, that is, of rendering him his due. Then, unless they can give us of themselves the idea of obligation, that we owe God a service, they cannot be the essential elements of religion, and we might have them and still have no religion, and nothing able to give us religion. But instinctive, involuntary, themselves, operating without will or foresight, it is evident they do not contain, and cannot give, the idea of obligation, and thus furnish the motive, without which no act is or can be religious.
Mr. Parker nowhere, so far as we have discovered, asserts the obligation to worship God. He does not seem to admit that man is morally bound at all to worship God. The only obligation he seems to recognize is the obligation of man to obey his own nature,
that is, to cease to be man as rapidly as possible, and descend from a person to a thing. God is nowhere represented as demanding any service of man ; man nowhere said to owe God any thing ; man is merely to study nature and himself, - ascertain and act out his own nature. The law in his nature is all the law there is for him, and religion is nothing but the harmonious action of all his faculties (p. 241). But the ground of this obligation is nowhere given, or, if given, is not represented to be the fact that God wills it, and that we are to obey ourselves for the sake of obeying him.