Puslapio vaizdai

ference with the properties of matter. 4. That by breaking the law of inertia only, man has power to call into play properties which make matter subservient to his objects.

Nor is this man's power only. Inferior animals can also move matter, and by moving it can cause prodigious results. A minute insect, by secreting lime from sea-waters, makes a coral reef, or aids in forming a cliff of chalk. A beaver cuts down a tree, and forms a swamp that changes the climate of a district; a bird carries a seed, and makes a forest on an island. Inanimate life has the same power. The plant opens its leaves to the sun, and abstracts the carbon that forms fruitful soils and beds of coal. Matter itself can by motion work on matter. The great physical powers, heat and electricity, are modes of motion. Radiation of heat causes freezing, and freezing crumbles rocks into soil, or it forms the clouds in the air, whose deluges hollow valleys; while electricity cleaves and splinters the summits of the mountain-peaks. Everywhere motion, sharp or slow, works with matter; everywhere the law of inertia is broken; and everywhere the miracles of nature are wrought out by nature's unbroken laws, set in action or withheld by only the movement which matter has received, be it from will in man or beast, or be it from forces which themselves are part of matter's properties.

Now, since we have started from the assumption that God does exist, it is impossible to make him an exception to the rule which holds of the spirits of inferior creatures, and even of inanimate matter. If, therefore, he can cause or stop movement, he can, without further breach of any law of nature, bring into play the laws of nature. Or, to state the same proposition conversely, we must admit that whatever wonders God may cause by bringing into operation a law of nature through the means of affecting motion in matter, can not be called a breach of the laws of nature. It is, of course, understood that this proposition is limited to the results of motion; it does not affirm that the cause of the motion may not be a breach of a law of nature. This question will remain for future examination; at present it is neither affirmed nor denied.

Let us in the mean time, however, consider what we have reached by the proposition above stated. What are called miracles may be divided into three classes. The first are purely spiritual, affecting mind without the intervention of matter, such as visions (though these may originate in the brain, and therefore belong to the next class), gifts of tongues, inspirations, mental resolutions. The second affect mind in connection with matter, such as, perhaps, the healing of paralytic or epileptic affections, and certainly the

restoration of life to the dead. The third affect matter solely: they include the healing of wounds, or of corporeal disease, such as blindness, or fever; the dividing of waters; the walking on water, or raising an iron axe-head from the bottom of water; the falling of walls or trees; the opening of prison-doors, and such like.

The first two classes we may, in any discussion limited to the laws of nature, leave out of view, because it can not be said that we know any laws of nature affecting mind by itself, or even mind in relation to matter. Metaphysicians have interested themselves in trying to trace the origin or sequence of intellectual processes, but I hardly think any would assert they had discovered or defined what can properly be called a law; and certainly, if any do assert it, the accuracy of the assertion is controverted by as many philosophers on the other side. Any direct influence of God on mind can not, therefore, be charged with being in violation of natural law. Nor can it even be declared to be contrary to universal experience, since in this case the negative evidence of those who have not experienced it would only be set against the positive evidence of innumerable persons who affirm that they have experienced it.

The influence of mind on matter, and matter on mind, are also so obscure, that it can not be affirmed that anything which mental operation can effect on one's own body is contrary to natural law. No physiologist will assert that mental resolution or conviction, tending toward recovery from sickness, is without some power to bring that result to pass. They will admit also that this is peculiarly the case in regard to those disorders which, in pure ignorance of their actual source, they are fain to call hysterical, neuralgic, or generally nervous. They are all acquainted with many cases in their own experience of recovery from such disorders in which no physical cause for recovery can be imagined. If, then, God should convey to the mind of a patient an impression which brings about recovery, there would clearly be no violation of natural law. With regard to the restoration of life, it is quite true that this is beyond the ordinary power of man's volition. Nevertheless, at each moment of our lives there is a communication of life to the dead matter which has formed our food, but which, after digestion, becomes a part of our living organs; and this is true even in the nutrition of plants. How or at what moment the mind enters or becomes capable of affecting our frames, we do not know. But this happens at some moment before or during birth; its doing so at a subsequent period is, therefore, not a breach of natural law, but is only an instance of natural law coming into operation, by the same

cause, at a period differing from that which is customary. The act, whatever it is, is not exceptional, but ordinary. The time is alone exceptional.

We have now to consider the strictly physical phenomena to which the name of miracles is in this discussion confined, and to which the objection that they are contrary to natural laws is commonly stated.

A very large number of these are at first glance seen to be only instances of inertia being affected. To walk on water, to make water stand in a heap, to raise a body from the ground, to cast down walls, or move bolts and doors, are obviously exertions of simple mechanical force such as we ourselves daily employ. Their effective cause is neither more nor less than an interference with the law of inertia, and by the previous demonstration they are therefore not to be reckoned as breaches of any law of nature.

Let us try if this can be made clearer by an example. It has been stated before that if iron were made to swim on water by modification of the law of gravity it would be creation of a new substance differing from iron in being of less specific gravity. At the same time, the original iron of normal specific gravity would have disappeared. These processes of creation and destruction would be so unprecedented that we should justly call them violations of the ordinary laws of nature. But, at least, we should then expect that the light iron thus created would be permanently light, and we should call it another breach of the laws of nature if on lifting it from the water we found it heavy. But, if we were to hold a magnet of suitable power over the original heavy iron when at the bottom of the water, we might see it rise and float, although not touched or upheld by any visible substance, and although its specific gravity remained constant. In this case it would be moved by a power which overcomes gravity, but there would be no creation nor destruction of any property, and no natural law would be broken. But, if now we substitute for "magnetic' divine" power, there is still no breach of a natural law, for no property is created or destroyed. In both cases the acting agent is a power outside the iron, invisible and unknown, except by the effects. The effect of both is the same: it is to give motion to matter, and nothing more. Hence neither violate any law of nature except that of inertia.

[ocr errors]

Proceeding to another class of miracles, which seem at first to be creative, we shall find that they also come within the range of familiar human potentiality. The making of bread, or meal, or oil, or wine, are instances of chemical synthesis. These substances are composed of three or four elements, all gaseous except carbon (to be

absolutely accurate, we must add minute quantities of eight other elements), which no chemist has yet succeeded in uniting in such forms. But chemists have succeeded in forming certain substances by bringing together their elements, of which water is the simplest type, and others of greater complexity are every year being attained. These are formed by moving into proximity, or admixture, the elementary ingredients, under circumstances favorable to their union in the desired combination, and the combination then proceeds by the operation of natural laws. No one would be surprised to hear that some chemist had thus attained to form starch or gluten, the main ingredients of bread, or oil, or spirit, or essences; for, if it were announced, we should all know that he had only discovered some new method of manipulation by which circumstances were arranged so as to favor the natural laws which effect the union of the necessary elements. Therefore, if these substances are formed by divine power, it is not creation—it is only the chemist's work, adopting natural laws for its methods, and bringing them into play by transposition of material substances.

Meteorological processes-such as lightning, rain, drought, winds-are sometimes made the immediate cause of "miracles," as when the wind caused the waters of the Red Sea to flow back, or brought the flights of quails or locusts. These are effects which we know wind is quite capable of producing, and does produce naturally. Was there, then, any breach of natural laws (beyond that of inertia) in causing such winds to blow? or in bringing up thunder-clouds? or in causing an arid season? We can not, indeed, say that there was not; but as little can we say that there was. For, since we ourselves have acquired such power over lightning, the most inscrutable and irresistible of all meteorological agencies, as to be able to lead it where we will, how shall we say that God's infinite knowledge has not the same power over the winds and the clouds, by employing only natural agencies for his work, and employing these only by the operation of motion given to matter?

With regard to the healing of diseased matter, conjectures also can only be offered, because of the source of diseases we know so little. Sight is restored in cataract by simple removal of an abnormal membrane. Many fevers, if the germ theory or the poison theory be correct, are cured when the germs die, or the poison is eliminated. A power that could kill the germs, or remove them or the poison from the system, would then effect immediate cure in accordance with natural laws. It does not seem necessarily beyond man's reach to effect this when he shall understand natural laws more fully; it can not, therefore, be

a breach of natural laws if God should effect it by laws as yet unknown to man, provided they are brought into play with no other agency than the motion of matter.

It would be folly as well as impiety to assert that it is in such ways only that miracles are performed. No such assertion is made. But when, on the other side, it is asserted that the miracles narrated in Scripture can not be true because they must involve a breach of the immutable laws of nature, the answer is justifiable and is sufficient, that they do not necessarily involve any breach of any law, save of that one law of inertia which at every instant is broken by created things, without any disturbances being introduced into the serene march of nature's laws. The scientific revelation is reconciled with the written revelation when it is shown that neither necessarily implies the falsity of the other.

But, supposing the argument thus far to be conceded, it will be urged that the real "miracle" remains yet behind. When man moves matter, his hand is visible; when an animal gnaws a tree, its teeth are seen working; when a river flows down a valley, its force is heard and felt. How different, it will be said, is God's working, where there is no arm of flesh, no sound of power, no sign of presence!

Unquestionably it is a deep marvel and a mystery, that impalpable spirit should act upon gross matter; but it is a mystery of humanity as well as of Godhead. What moves the hand? Contraction of the muscles. But what causes contraction of the muscles? The influence transmitted from the brain by the nerves. But what sends that influence? It is mind, which somewhere, somehow, moves animal tissues-tissues consisting of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulphur. At some point of our frames, we know not yet where, mind does act directly on matter. It is a law of nature that it should so act there. But, if God exists, his mind must, by the same law, act on matter somewhere. Can we call it an offense against law if it acts on matter elsewhere than in that mass of organized pulp which we call brains? If no possibility of communication between mind and matter could anywhere be found in nature, we might call such communication contrary to natural law. In other words, if it were one of the properties of matter that it could not receive motion from that which is not matter, its motion without a material cause would be supernatural. But, since it is of the very essence of existence that matter in certain combinations should be capable of being endowed with life, and by such endowment become capable of being affected in motion by mind, it is indisputable that such capability is one of matter's properties, and that its being so

affected falls within and not without nature's laws.

It may be objected that, since it is only living substance which can be acted on by the human mind, it is contrary to law that dead matter should be acted on by the divine mind. But this is a simple begging of the question at issue. It is constructing a law for the purpose of charging God with breaking it. Where do we find evidence in nature that matter can not be moved by the divine mind? Science reveals no such law. Science is simply silent on the subject; it admits its utter ignorance, and declares the question beyond its scope. Undoubtedly it does not pronounce that God does move matter, but it equally abstains from asserting that God does not. For when it traces back material effects from cause to cause, it comes at last to something for which it has no explanation. When we say that an acid and an alkali combine by the law of affinity, that a stone falls by the law of gravity, we merely generalize facts under a name, we do not account for them. What causes affinity, what causes gravity? Suppose we say the one is polar electricity, the other is the impact of particles in vibration (both of which statements are unproved guesses), what do we gain? The next question is only, what causes electricity and what causes vibration? Suppose, again, we answer that both are modes of motion, we only come to the further question, what causes motion? And since motion is a breach of the law of inertia, what is it that first excited motion in this dead matter? Carry back our analysis as far as we will or can, at last we reach a point where matter must be acted upon by something that is not matter. This something is Mind; and God also is Mind.

Again, when any one affirms that only living matter can be acted on by mind, whether human or divine, we may fairly ask him, not indeed what is life, which is a problem as yet beyond science, but how life changes matter, which is a question strictly within the range of science dealing with matter.

But to this inquiry we shall get no answer. The cells in an organism, the protoplasm in the cells, are living when the organism is living, dead when the organism is dead, and, as matter, no difference is discoverable between them in the state of living and dead. The cells consist of cellulose, the protoplasm of some "proteine" compounds; no element is added or subtracted, no compound is altered, when it lives or when it dies. Nor can science even tell us when an organic compound becomes alive or dead. Every instant crude sap is becoming living plants, every instant crude chyle is becoming living blood, every instant living organisms die and are expelled from plants by the leaves, from animals by the lungs, the skin, and the kidneys.

Yet no physician can say at what moment any of these carbon compounds become living, or when they cease to have life. Since of this perpetual birth and death in all nature we know absolutely nothing, it is manifestly unreasonable to lay down laws respecting them. If life and death make (as far as we can discover) absolutely no immediate physical change in the matter which they affect, how can we propound as a dogma of physical science that God can not move "dead" matter, when our own experience tells us that our spirits can move "living" matter?

It is clear that, if we are not warranted in making a law, we are not warranted in saying that it is broken. Our concern with laws is to see that such as we do know are uniform, for this is the basis of science. But true science repudiates dogmas on subjects of which it avows its ignorance.

Let us sum up the argument as it has now been stated. The propositions are the following:

1. Matter is subject to unalterable laws, which express its properties. No created being can originate, alter, or destroy any of these properties.

2. It is possible, however, for one property to overpower the action of another property, either in the same matter or in other matter.

3. By placing matter in a position in which one or other property has its natural action, man, as well as animals and inanimate matter, can overpower a law of nature with almost boundless power.

4. The sole means by which such results are effected, are by affecting the law of inertia. Therefore, whatever is effected by natural laws, without other interference than by affecting inertia, is consistent with the uniformity of natural law.

5. All strictly physical "miracles" recorded in the Bible are capable of being effected by natural law, without other interference than by affecting inertia, and therefore are consistent with the uniformity of natural law.

6. It is consistent with natural law that created minds should affect the inertia of certain forms of matter directly.

7. It is not inconsistent with natural law that the Divine mind should affect the inertia of other forms of matter directly.

The bearing of these conclusions upon prayer, in so far as it affects physical conditions, may now be briefly shown. It has been argued that, in the light of modern discovery, prayer ought to be restricted to spiritual objects, and that at all events it can have none but spiritual effects. It has, for example, been asserted that to pray

for fine weather, for bodily health, for removal of any plague, for averting of any corporeal danger, is asking God to change the laws of nature for our benefit, that this is what he never does, what would produce endless confusion if he should, and consequently what he certainly will not do.

But, if in point of fact God can confer on us all these gifts which we ask from him without breaking a single law by which nature is bound, we are restored to the older confidence that he will, provided that such gifts are at the same time consonant with our spiritual good.

Now, as it has been shown that God can affect matter to the full extent for which we ever petition by means of nature's own laws, set in operation by no other agency than the mere communication of motion to matter, it has been shown that he will break no law in giving what we ask.

For example, what is fine weather? It is the result of the due motion of the winds, which bear the clouds on their bosom, and carry the warmth of equatorial sunshine to the colder north. It is still as true as eighteen hundred years ago, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and ye hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth." But, if it be no breach of law to give motion to the air, it is in God's power to bring us favorable winds. But the winds we wish are not necessarily moved immediately by God's breath. They depend probably on certain electric repulsions, which make the colder or the warmer current come closer to the surface of the earth. And electricity is motion. It may be directly, it may be indirectly, through electricity; it may be by some cause still further back that God sends forth the winds; but, if he can give motion, he can direct their currents, and by such agency give to his creatures the weather best suited for their wants.

Or what is disease? Probably, in many cases, germs; let us then suppose germs, because it is what the latest science tells us. But germs need a suitable nidus, and we know that merely what we call "change of air" is one of the most potent means of defending or restoring our bodies from the assault of germs to which it is exposed. We change our air by moving to another place; what violation of law would there be if God, to our prayer, were to change our air by moving a different air to us? This is but a rude illustration; the marvelous economy of the body suggests a thousand others, none of which may be true, but which yet all agree in this, that they would work our cure by strictly natural laws, set in action merely by motion given to matter.

That even an impending rock should not fall upon us would be a petition involving no further disturbance of natural law. Had we appliances

to enhance our force, we could uphold it without breaking natural law. God has superhuman force, and, if he upholds it by an arm we can not see, he will break no law.

It were needless to pursue examples; but the subject must not be dismissed without reference to the spiritual laws, which we are bound to regard in praying for aught we may desire.

These are expressed and summed up in the command, "Ask in my name." There is a prevalent misunderstanding of these words, arising out of the theological dogma which interprets them as if they were written, "for my sake." It is unnecessary here to enter into the inquiry how far any prayer is granted because of the merits or for the sake of Christ. It is sufficient that the words here used mean something else. When we desire another person to ask anything from a superior in our name, we mean to ask as if we asked. It must be something, then, which we should ask for personally. Therefore, Christ, desiring us to ask in his name, limits us to ask those things which we can presume he would ask for


It is obvious how this interpretation defines the range of petition. It must be confined to what he, all-knowing, knows to be for our good. It must be, in our ignorance, subject to the condition that he should see it best for us. It utterly excludes all seeking for worldly advantage, for which he would never bid us pray. It equally excludes all spiritual benefits which are not those of a godly, humble spirit. Above all, it excludes all things which would be suggested by Satan as a tempting of the Lord our God. To ask, as

some scientific men would have us do, for something in order to see if God would grant it, would be an experiment which, applied to an earthly superior, would be an insult-to God is impiety. To such prayers as these there is no promise made, for they can not be in Christ's name.

Neither can those prayers be in his name which come from men regardless of his precepts. These are contained in the Book of Nature as well as in the Bible, and to both alike we owe reverence. We are bound to learn his will as far as our powers extend, we are bound to inform ourselves as fully as we can of the physical as well as of the moral laws set for our guidance, and having learned we are bound to obey. It were vain to pray for help in an act of wrongdoing, and equally vain to pray for relief from consequences of our own neglect or defiance of such rules of the government of nature as we have learned, or as with due diligence we might have learned. No man so acting can presume to think that he may ask in Christ's name for succor. Christ could not ask it for such as he.

But to what we can truly ask in his name there is no limit set. We may ask for all worldly and all spiritual good, which we can conceive him to ask for us, in assurance that it will be given, if he sees it really to be for our good. How it may be reconciled with good to other men is not for us to inquire.

The Omnipotent rules all, and he who can do all is able to do what is best for us as well as for every other creature he has made, without breach of one of these laws which he has set as guides for all.

J. BOYD KINNEAR (Contemporary Review).



AM not a traveler or a tourist, but a resident, and I don't sit down to write an article, a journal, or a book; I only feel that I must give expression to my feelings, and therefore I talk on paper.

This life is still new to me; it possesses all the attractions of surprise. The day will come when I shall find it difficult to describe common things around me, because they will appear so common that they will seem to be unworthy of notice. Yet, after all, these common things make up life; and it is precisely these common things which English people want to know, so I write them down while I can appreciate and realize them.

I can not see the sea as I write, because my window looks into the garden, and at the end of the garden there is an artificial bank with a raised walk on the top of it, constructed partly to keep back the waves at high tides, and partly for the sake of the walk, which (placed on the top) gives a good view of the sea. But I am so near to the sea that, whenever I like, I open the garden-door and emerge ready for a plunge into it; only I look out for tides, because at low water there is a quarter of a mile of mud between me and the briny deep. When the tide comes in, it not only covers the mud, but runs up over the beautiful sand which lies outside my garden-gate, where like a merman I can roll and bask and

« AnkstesnisTęsti »