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accordance with his own experience, but with the nature of power and of action..
And so the two powers being established, the matter of discussion is changed from the old ground-which was, whether the Will was self-omnipotent entirely, or entirely a slave to circumstances--to a new ground, which, instead of denying one force or the other to exist, and arguing for the irresistibility of that which it supposes, admits both to exist, and then discusses their relative powers and effect. This new ground having taken, and thus fairly opened the subject, we shall leave our readers to meditate upon it, and go on to another chapter, wherein we shall discuss the meaning and purport of this that we call “circumstance.”
The meaning of “Circumstance.”—It does not imply Doom or Physical
Necessity, but an ever-present God acting upon us, according to the Laws of his nature and the laws established for us by Him, and therefore good -The question of Freedom different from that of Power.
In the last chapter, we have shown that in each and every human action, two forces conspire—the internal power and the external “circumstance." It is manifestly necessary to discuss the meaning of this thing “ circumstance.”
Now the origin of the word, I believe, is not classical, but of the Lower Ages, and it implies “things standing around” us, not simply "things" that exist, but things that are around and act
And I conceive that the word, whosoever invented it, is a good and an useful one, for, from birth to death, we find that the “I," the being to which we apply “Personality,” is ever brought in contact with external forces that act upon it, modifying circumstances itself, and being modified by them. And howsoever men may exaggerate the one force or the other, this is true,--in our being, the internal force exists, nay, is at the centre of the sphere; and the external force of “circumstances,”—“circum stat,
“stands around,” is everywhere in contact with us. So much for the meaning of the word.
For the meaning of the thing, how are we to interpret it ? Circumstances are manifold, various, innumerable. Are we to take it, that by chance and accident they roll upon us, as the seaweed and marine rubbish from the storm rolls upon the rock, and along with the fortuitous sand surrounds it? Are circumstances the product of chance ?
Certainly not. The same marks of design, of purpose, of will, which we discern in the acts that spring from ourselves, and which manifest them to be those of a person—those same evidences we see in the circumstances that operate upon us.
If our own acts are those of a Person, the influences that act upon us show “Will” and “Personality" as much. In fact, by the unanimous agreement and sense of all men, by all the indications that we have from the thing itself, external Circumstance is taken to manifest an external personal agent. The internal power by which we act upon outward things, this is so far analogous to that external power, that we feel personality as ours is, to be its natural explanation.
And corresponding unto this interpretation is the Revelation primevally given, and thence passing downward through the channel of the knowledge of all nations, of a Being that wields that external power that we find to bear upon us; against whom we can raise no ramparts or circling fortress strong enough to keep Him out: for, from the Heavens above, He shall rush down upon us; from the earth beneath, He shall rise up against us: nay, the very armour with which we gird and enclose ourselves against that Power, becomes means and ways of access against us to that Power.
Yes,--let man as he will cut himself away from Christianity, and from Revelation, and still, in the sphere of Circumstance by which he is enclosed and environed, he has evidence of another power than his own, that works upon and modifies his action. And even he who in fact has left God, he shall be forced to say,
Who can feel and dare to say, I believe him not?
Even such a man as the writer* of this, from the bare consideration of the relation of an external power to the internal force, had to confess an “All-embracer," an "All-sustainer.”
But to the Christian, and, in fact, to all men, save those that have of set design placed themselves apart from knowledge, this fact and feeling receives its true interpretation, in the belief of a Personal, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient God, surrounding each man, embracing each man within the sphere of Circumstance.
Such, of the two facts of the internal force and of Circumstance,” is the interpretation given by the primeval revelation, and henceforth, in the Tradition of the Nations, taught by one generation perpetually to another.
But, more than this, the World, as I have shown, is a school of probation, and teaches us this eternally, by the one great idea of Law perpetually suggested—the Law of the Affections, that is, of Love in the Family; of Justice and Equity in the Nation; of Holiness in the Church: and so are 66 Circumstances” arranged under these three natural organizations, that not as a God of Power only He appears, but a Being of Love, of Justice, of Holiness; for all these moral qualities we, by the fact that the world is a “School of Probation,” must attribute to the Almighty, in addition to that of Personality. God is Good, both in name and in reality, and each idea of Him that Society or Nature awakens in our Reason,--each manifestation of his glory that He makes unto man,----at the same time enables us to see in Him a higher degree of goodness, to feel it, and to reach after it. The interpretation, then, that we give to the action of Circumstance upon us, is this:
First, that “God is not absent," that he has not made the world to go by the machinery of an all-embracing Fate, or of an universal physical law or system of laws embracing all possible contingencies, and then has departed, having by his own machinery filled up the world he had made so that he no longer works personally therein, or is therein present, save by the Decree or by the Law. But, on the contrary, that he is here, present, acting, and that all power comes from him. This is the doctrine of the Scriptures as to God and his acting, plainly and manifestly laid down.
+ The reader will remember that it is with regard to the physical system of the universe that I speak here, and not in reference to the acts of intelligent beings. All personal agents have the capability of exerting self-derive power by their own being. The evil, then, that they do, they do themselves : God does not do it. Spiritual beings, of their own nature and constitution, as formed by the Almighty, have the capability of originating power, separate and apart from material and physical causation.
And he that shall take it and the objections against it, and then take the mechanical theory,-whether the fatalistic one of Doom, or the other of a machinery of Physical Laws,--and the objections against them,-he shall find more objections against the Unchristian* than the Christian doctrine.
The objections which may be brought against the Christian doctrine of an ever-present God, are such as this: “I see the phenomena to be regular, and therefore I argue that they are effected by a law, and not by the direct action of a personal being.”
To this the answer is easy: Such arguments will exclude a finite personal being, not an Infinite. The action of an Infinite Being is and must be regular, according to the laws of Infinite Perfection. · Man's action is and must be irregular; but the action of God upon the physical world is, and must be by his nature, regular, according to the law of his perfection. To see, then, the world so regular that we can express some sequences of its events in regular geometrical formulas, which we call “ Laws," this shows the presence of an “Infinite Cause,” whose acts are regular. And to be incapable of expressing all, but day by day to be attaining new perceptions of regularity, this expresses the same idea of one cause working in manifold ways. The sense of regularity excludes a finite personal agent, but not an Infinite
Again, it will be said, “When a personal being acts, we see Will, but not here."
Will, we answer, in all finite beings, is more or less Selfwill, more or less capricious, unsteady, faulty; but the more perfect it is, the more it approaches to a Law. And God's Will is and must be a Law, not capricious, not Self-willed as is man's Will, but uniform. Hence, the actions of God's Will are not arbitrary decrees, but uniform laws. That no “Self-will,” or “arbitrariness,” or capriciousness, is seen, this is so far from arguing against an Infinite Agent, that it argues for it. . He whose eternal decrees are determined by the eternal laws of his nature,-justice, holiness, and truth, --his Will must act regularly, and without variableness, caprice, or shadow of turning.
Unchristian," because Fatalism, in its perfection, has been held only in Mohammedan or in pagan countries.
* I say
But in reference to all theories that suppose a machinery of Doom or of Physical Law, the grand reply is, that this supposes mere power, but that our own constant feeling is not of mere power, but of gentleness, kindness, mercy, benevolence, wisdom, forethought,-in short, not of Power only, but of all and every one of the moral powers; to beings possessed of which alone we attribute personality. In each “ circumstance” that is brought to bear upon the life of man, we see moral influence in manifold ways, not power only, and therefore we naturally conclude the presence of an Infinite Moral Being—that is, God.
This, then, is our estimate of “Circumstance:"--In reference to its agent, it is the external force of the Will of an Infinite Moral Being, Personal and Ever-Present, applied unto Man. And this not according to arbitrary decrees, or the caprice of self-will, having no other motive but its own consciousness of power, but according to the eternal laws of a Being infinitely good, just, gracious, holy, mercifulma Father, a moral Governor, a God to be worshipped, -and not merely a being conceived as possessing only the one attribute of Infinite Power and Will omnipotent and unchecked.
This, then, is the interpretation :- That not the machinery of an Infinite Doom, or of an all-embracing physical law, but an ever-present God, Father, and Moral Governor, with a Will so determined, creates all Circumstances surrounding me, and by them exerts, in all things, upon each action of mine, an influence whose extent I cannot comprehend nor measure; which yet I know is not an influence contradictory to his nature, and, although I see not its end or extent, still must consider it to be good and to tend to good.
And while with regard to the material world I may form systems, and say that events are bound together by Physical Laws, but with regard to my own voluntary action I must suppose it above Physical Law, and to be expressed by no formula; so with regard to the Circumstances that bear upon me, no formula will express