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source; and more probable still, the harmony of all these moving causes and their apparent converging tendencies to one grand consummation in their future progress bespeak a unity of design and purpose, as if all were the plan of one great master
But here is the utmost we can make of the argument. We cannot demonstrate any thing more than unity of design, which, so far as an a posteriori argument can go, is consistent with the existence of many intelligences who are agreed in plan and operation. And if we were to assume one mind as the source of all this consecutive series of means to an end, we could not stop at this point. Our argument is that all adaptation involves intelligence as a cause; and with only an a posteriori process we can find no stopping point. For if a watch involves an intelligent man as its maker, we go to the man and find him adapted to make watches and we infer a designer; the man had an intelligent maker. But we must not stop here; the maker of the man is adapted to make men and worlds; and we are compelled by the argument to find again a higher intelligent cause. Moreover, should we predicate absolute unity of this intelligent cause, and stop the progress of our argument in him, we have not yet found a being which answers to the idea of God. We have found nothing in kind distinguishing him from the animal. There is a superior degree of intelligence; but animals have contrivance, design, power of adapting means to ends, and changing their means with changing circumstances, and often exhibit surprising art and skill. We may stand by an ant-heap or a beaver-dam, and find intelligence of precisely the same kind and exhibiting itself in precisely the same manner of skill, as when we look at man himself," so fearfully and wonderfully made," or at all the traces of design in the world around him. The difference is nothing but degree. But must we not prove for the being of God something more and something other than the kind of intelligence which may belong to some great animal?
We proceed therefore to a higher form of the argument.
3. The exhibitions of an intuitive cognition of absolute truth. There may be as clear evidences in things themselves of the presence of absolute truth as of design; and the deduction from these traces in the effect to the possession of a capacity for rational intuition in the cause may be as valid and conc.usive as that of intelligence from the fact of adaptation. If
we see an orrery or planetarium philosophically constructed, or a Gunter's scale, or a gauging-rod, we intuitively perceive the necessity of a cause which comprehends a priori principles, and ultimate truths. Or if we see a system of regulations and influences founded upon and embodying moral principles, we know that its author had the capacity to see the right as an ultimate truth, and to comprehend the absolute law of moral distinctions. We shall recognize in this the possession of a faculty which discriminates between rational and animal intelligence in kind and not merely in degree. Whenever we find the exhibition of any such universal and necessary truths as the principle and guide of the action, we know that the agent possessed powers of mind which mark an everlasting distinction in kind, between him and that intelligence which all the traces of adaptation to an end in the animal can manifest. Here, therefore, is the same sound principle for a demonstration, as in the former methods of a posteriori argument.
We look abroad then in nature, and the data for these deductions abound. The laws of planetary motion, the ratio of the distance and force of gravitation, and the collocation of the heavenly bodies in accordance therewith, the laws of crystallization, etc., etc., furnish the elements of an irrefragable deduction that there exists a rational mind as the author of these arrangements, who, intuitively and independently of all experience, comprehends abstract principles, and necessary truths, and universal verities, and to which no augmentation of the powers of an animal can approach.
Moreover, we are conscious of the perception of right and wrong, and the feeling of moral accountability, and experience the retributions of good and evil within us in accordance with our moral conduct, and are thus obliged to infer that our maker knows and regards the principles of moral rectitude. We see around us the indications of a widely extended moral system of which we are component parts; all the workings of which are evidently securing the moral trial and discipline of its subjects, and all tending onward to some great moral consummation; and we know that there must be a moral maker and governor, who will hold all responsible to a righteous tribunal. We have the data for a complete demonstration that there is in being a rational and moral cause.
There is but one source of difficulty in coming to this conclusion which needs to be obviated. We have assumed as a
necessary truth, that the manifestation of ultimate principles in the effects produced involves the power of rational intuition in the agent; and that this distinguishes him from all animals. But there is at least one animal whose works are in accordance with the strictest mathematical principles. The bee forms its cells with the most rigid mathematical precision, adapted to the greatest economy in space, strength and materials. The celebrated Colin Maclaurin, a mathematician of the early part of the eighteenth century, demonstrated, by the most exact calculation, that the angles and parallelograms in the cells of the honey-comb were always invariably the same; and precisely such as, with the greatest room, secured also the greatest strength with the least material. Has the bee, then, a perception of the ultimate truths of mathematics?
Past all doubt, had we discovered these properties in the cell of the bee, and knew nothing of its maker, we must have referred it to a cause possessing the attributes of rational intuition. But when we now know the immediate architect, and thus determine its destitution of all mathematical science, we must refer this instinctive skill to a higher source, and predicate rational intuition of that mind which made the bee, and fitted her to work after this rule, unconsciously, through all her generations. Just as in the case of the mariner, who, mechanically, with quadrant and tables made and calculated to his hand, can determine his latitude and longitude, but knows nothing of the principles involved. While we know his ignorance, we know also that some mind has left here the undoubted traces of its philosophic powers and clear and certain intuitions. Thus, what at first might seem a violation of the principle, on the necessity and universality of which we had laid the validity of our demonstrations, is found, by further attention, ultimately to confirm the position which has been taken.
By an a posteriori argument from the exhibitions of an intuition of absolute truths in the works of nature, we obtain more than an intelligence which like the animal can adapt means to ends with the design of gaining the ends. There is the demonstration of a cause directing itself in its action by the absolute truth in necessary and universal principles. We can also say that, following these causes, in which are the traces of ultimate truth, as they retrograde from the present, they converge toward unity, and looking at the harmony of their adaptations and tendencies to the same ultimate result, there is an evidence of unity
of design, and thus a probable indication of one rational de
signer. But here is our limit. We cannot a posteriori demonstrate absolute unity of cause; nor, if we assume that the author of this universe of effect and design and intuition is one, can we stop with him, and demonstrate that he has no external cause of being. The argument is the same in relation to ultimate principles as to adaptation. It must take every thing that it finds as an effect and thus demanding a cause, and consequently pursuing an infinite series in the line of causes which indicate intuition, as certainly and necessarily as in those which indicate design, or those of simple efficiency to produce effects. As the mathematics of the bee is instinctive, so may that of the maker of the bee also be instinctive, and thus demanding a higher origin. Yea, from the very nature and law of an a posteriori argument, we must seek as necessarily for an author to the maker of the heavens as to the maker of the honey-comb. And here the a posteriori argument stops in its development of any thing new in its results. Henceforth it must go backwards to infinity, finding nothing but a mere antecedent link as the cause of the consequent, and differing in nothing from the consequent but mere priority of existence and action.
III. The extent to which the mere a posteriori argument for the existence of God reaches.
1. It finds a cause for all that has a beginning, except for this ultimate cause itself. In this respect it is powerless, and can never find any data to remove the exception. In mere efficiency it can never find any thing by which, as an effect, it can make the deduction that this deficiency originates itself. A posteriori reasoning knows nothing of self-existence, but only of derived existence. So in design and rational intuition, it can find no effects by which it can determine that the design and intuition are self-originated. It demands for them a cause, and it knows no other way of finding a cause than by a deduction ab extra.
2. It proves for this cause unity of design and counsel. The operation of the moving adaptations of nature may be put forth, and directed by many contemporary causes; and an a posteriori argument can never demonstrate that, at any period backward, there was in existence more than one cause. It can only prove that there is agreement or harmony of plan and operation, but not absolute unity of being in the cause.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. II.
3. It can prove that this adequate cause of all things now exists, and that from eternity an adequate cause for all things must have had a being, but it cannot reach into the future, and prove that this cause will exist the next hour. All its deductions are from events and facts of present or past being. In their case there is or has been a reality of existence, and hence a reality of their cause. But future existences, either as effects or causes, are not given, and cannot therefore be assumed as the data for any deductions. We must have the effect or we cannot infer the cause. An a posteriori argument goes back, but never can reach before.
4. It can prove the existence of the cause to be as extensive as the effects; but it can never prove absolute immensity for this cause, neither in presence nor agency. Wherever there are effects a cause must have energized; and as mighty as is the effect produced, so powerful must have been the energizing of the cause. But unless effects fill immensity, they can never prove the immensity of their cause, nor that there is a power which can reach beyond what has actually been accomplished.
An a posteriori argument, therefore, is utterly inadequate to demonstrate the being of an absolute, free and self-existent God. It finds a cause, and demonstrates the possession by that cause of efficiency adequate to the production of all that is in being below itself, but it fails utterly in elevating that cause to an identity with that which conforms to the complete idea of God.
By combining both the a posteriori and the a priori forms of argument, we can at least advance very far in the demonstration. The result will evince how conclusive this combined argument may be made. In our own view it fails in no point necessary to the proof of the being of God, though it should fail in identifying the immediate author of the universe as God. The following are the several steps in the process we would pursue.
1. We would assume the very fact of the last and highest demonstration obtained by the a posteriori argument, as our position for a new process of reasoning. An intelligent and rational causation, with unity of design, if not of existence, is in being, adequate to the production of whatever is, beside itself. This is the extent of the a posteriori reasoning, but it is absolute demonstration so far. We therefore take solid ground when we assume this position. From this point we exclude all a pos