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It is, for example, a matter of science that the distance accomplished by a falling body varies as the square of the time; for it not only rests on evidence, but can at any time be tested.
So with the physical properties of a metal or a gas.
But it is matter of faith that God intelligently governs the universe; for though the evidence seems to me irrefragable, I cannot verify it, at least to another, as I can the law of falling bodies. Again, that the properties ascribed to the metal and the gas are actual qualities of an external object, and not modifications of my mind or senses, is matter of belief or, in a broad sense, faith. For however invincible the conviction to me, I cannot verify it by experiment to the questioner. In its most general sense, therefore, faith has a wide range - from the trust we repose in the truthful working of our human faculties up to the surrender of mind and heart to the claims and authority of Jesus Christ. This last is the culmination of all faith, being the supreme movement of the human soul, in its highest humanity, towards the Supreme object of the universe. It is preëminently faith, Christian faith. And this will be the aim and goal of my discussion, while yet I do not exclude from thought all those subordinate exhibitions of belief which lie in the same direction, though in a different plane. For there is a believing spirit, ready to find and receive all truth and to embrace the highest. And there is a spirit of unbelief, doubt, cavil, which notably grows with the greatness of the theme.
I. Now the world is so adjusted in its chief arrangements as to make the believing spirit both a privilege and a duty, a kind of moral necessity. Man, the head of the creation, was made to walk by faith and not, like the animal, only by sense.
It is the prerogative of humanity as rational ; it is the necessity of reason as human.
So are we trained from the cradle to the grave. Faith is both the law and the instinct of childhood. All early knowledge is belief; all early inclination is to trust. Parental authority is the child's law and his gospel ; parental care is his life : “My mother said it”; “my father will do it.” Then follows the inevitable reign of the book and the teacher: “Ipse dixit." The time comes when the man sets up for himself, and for what he calls original research. Is it history? Here his knowledge is testimony or inference, except what is conjecture. Is it science? His scientific knowledge is chiefly a vast mosaic of other men's researches. Is it the field of demonstration ? Every strict demonstration is but the conclusion from an assumption, and every stage of the process necessitates an absolute trust in the truth and trustiness of the memory. In all personal investigation the man falls back on an unverifiable confidence in his faculties and an unprovable persuasion that the unknown is like the known. Throughout his business life, however much he may have been deceived and defrauded, he cannot for an hour escape the necessity of confiding in his fellow-men. Every dollar of the Rothschild's fortune is secure only through the integrity of a multitude of men scattered over the world. All business investment is a trust in the future and often in the antipodes. The traveler from Boston to San Francisco blindly commits himself by day and by night to the skill and fidelity of a great army of engineers, brakemen, switch-tenders, wheel-hammerers, and sectionhands, makers of time-tables and time-keepers, mechanics of wheels and axles and bolts, and manufacturers of forty millions of rails, any one of whom or of which, if untrue, might land him not in San Francisco but in eternity. At home he trusts his life and property all the day and all the night to the hourly integrity of his many neighbors. Or if once in a lifetime he appeal from the conduct of some one of them it is still to the supposed uprightness of courts and truthfulness of witnesses. Some little village lies nestled away among the hills. It is thronged with students. A small cluster of residents, men, women, and children, are in the power of some hundreds of young men in the vigor of youthful strength and of youthful impulse. Do they lie down at night in perpetual anxiety lest their property be destroyed, their houses burned, and themselves abused and outraged ? No; they sleep all the more peacefully, knowing that those young men will on the morrow, if need be, exert their utmost strength to save their homes from the devouring flames, and even give of their scanty means to relieve the sufferers by fire.
Such is the settled and accepted condition of life. With whatever qualifications, we believe the past, we trust the future, we confide in the present. We fling ourselves upon the waves and the winds. We cast our hopes boldly upon the seasons of the year and the ancient promise. We put ourselves in the hands of natural law, of brute force, and of men, individually and by multitudes
we have seen and the men we never saw nor shall see. This vast network of trust and confidence is interwoven with the woof of our life and entwined with the fibers of our being. Our life, and every part of it, like some suspension bridge, swings by a cable in the air, with Niagara rolling beneath; and we ride boldly on.
The attempt to evade it or escape by doubt or suspicion is fruitless. It is as when “one did fee from a lion, and a bear met him.” Abbas Pasha built him a high watch-tower and kept swift dromedaries always saddled for flight; but it could not save him from the hand of the assassin.
We are also inclined, trained, and compelled to live by faith in regard to things less tangible and more supersensual. Men naturally accept implicitly their intuitions and are dominated by their religious convictions. When one asked stout old Samuel Johnson how he would deal with Berkeley's idealism, “Sir," said he, “I refute it thus,” and he brought his foot vigorously against a stone. Neither Johnson nor mankind can be reasoned out of a primary belief, ultimate but unprovable. The agnosticism which would shut out from human purview all that is beyond and above
as much at war with human experience as with reason and revelation.” In token of profound belief in a future life the old Egyptian embalmed his dead and hewed out his vast tombs on the banks of the Nile; and the Indian on the shores of Lake Superior placed food and weapons, apparel and ornaments in
And so resolute has been the faith of the human race in superior beings that “they will worship a stock or a stone sooner than have no God” - will bow their very intellect before the demands of their spirit. Much more will they cleave to the dictates of their moral nature against all puzzling shows of logical acuteness.
It is useless for the metaphysician, whether he be a Tappan or even an Edwards, to say: “Unless you accept this or that theory of the will you cannot hold to human freedom.” I answer him : “My knowledge of my freedom is older, deeper, clearer than your speculations. They may, or may not, go to the winds; my freedom stands on a rock. I know it without you or in spite of you.” Vainly would Clifford or Tyndall parade their theory of necessitated action, and therefore no proper responsibility. We answer: “Your brainspinning can more withstand the instincts and necessities of humanity than any other spider's web. Responsibility is the ultimate fact and settled law of humanity, so all-embracing and inevitable that he who denies it in word will sternly hold all other men responsible to him in fact and will himself be held forever responsible by all other men, and by his Maker too."