The Existence of God
By Dr. A. C. Dayton
Some years ago a lawyer who professed to be an infidel came one day into the office of a professional man, and seeing a tract lying upon his table, he picked it up and read aloud its title, "The Life of a Christian," and laying it down again immediately, added, "Otherwise the life of a fool."
Some young gentlemen who were present laughed at this and thought it very witty. Witty perhaps it was, but was it true?
Who is the fool?
Even supposing Christianity is false and the Bible an imposture, that there is no God and death is an eternal sleep, it would by no means follow that all who hold the contrary are fools, for it has some times happened that the wisest men have been deceived, and besides, one may be allowed to think that the evidence that was sufficient to enlist the faith of such men as Locke and Newton, Milton and Bacon and others of their stamp, men who, in power of reasoning intellect, in rigid, clear analysis and logical deduction, stand among our modern would-be philosophers like giants among pigmies — the evidence, I say, which was sufficient to convince such men might reasonably be thought sufficient to
justify a common mind in giving its assent without incurring the charge of either silliness or insanity.
No one can prove that there is no God. No one can prove that Christianity is not true. It is impossible in the very nature of things to prove such a negative. All that can by possibility be truly said is that we have not evidence enough to prove its truth. Let us grant this. Its truth is still possible. It may be even probable. Who then is the fool? Let us examine.
Sorrow is in the world; disappointment, distress and grief of heart will come upon us here. This is true whether the Bible be true or false. Now who is best prepared to struggle with this "sea of troubles," he who sees in the events of life the blind, unguided, objectless impulses of ungoverned chance, or he who looks confidingly to Heaven, and hears even in the whirlwind and the storm of sorrow his Father's voice, exclaiming, "All things shall work together for the good of those who love me?"
Death is in the world. Alas, he often strikes the loveliest and the dearest — the friends of our childhood, the companions of our youth. But is there now such proof? Are any men such fools?
"- when night with starry wings
O'ershadows all the earth and skies,
Like some bright, beauteous bird whose wings
Are sparkling with unnumbered eyes."
Look up to the broad blue expanse of Heaven. Count the stars; observe their order; study their
motions. Take with you the astronomer whose patient study has determined beyond all doubt or cavil that each of these glittering points in the infinitude of space is a vast globe like the mighty sun that shines upon our earth. Let him instruct you in the fact that countless millions more of these wondrous orbs of light lie still beyond the range of mortal sight; that each of these is probably like our own sun, the center of a vast system of worlds, revolving round it with their ponderous mass unjarringly and ever in their own appointed track age after age. Then while you look and while you think say if there is no God, if all this came by chance, if all by chance continues. Surely he is a fool who says there is no God.
Look abroad over the earth we dwell on. How admirably it is fitted for the habitation and the sustenance of the thousands of living things that swarm upon its surface, which soar in the air above it and float in the waters beneath it. Each is fitted for the place and the condition in which we find it, and all the arrangements of light and shade, of night and day, of seedtime and harvest, of cold and heat, rain and sunshine, evince the working of a wise, beneficent and all-controlling mind. All that we see in a careless glance, all that we learn by the most careful study of the works of nature shows an intelligent and infinite designer. The world is full of God. God looks down upon us from the wondrous stars. God blows upon us with his mighty winds and breathes upon us with the balmy
breeze. God shines upon us in his glorious sun. God thunders in the storm and rains upon us in the shower. God giveth life and breath to every living thing, and he must be indeed a fool who says there is no God.
Let man but look within himself. Let him consider all the evidences of wise, benevolent designs which his own frame exhibits, and if his mind be right he can not help but feel that such a wondrous structure was not the work of chance. Was it by chance that the brain and other organs, a slight injury of which would seriously affect the whole economy of life, are so carefully protected by their bony coverings? Was it by chance that the arteries which bear to distant parts the lifeblood from the heart are placed in such positions as will expose them least to any injury? Is it by chance that in those parts where they must be exposed, as in the forearm and the hands and feet, they are so multiplied, divided and intermingled, communicating so with one another, the destruction of a part from any accident will not endanger the life of the part?
Was it by chance that the framework of bone was made so as to give the greatest strength in the smallest space?
Was it by chance that those wonderful contrivances, the muscles and tendons and joints, were so arranged as to give him the freest and most perfect control of all his motions with the least expenditure of strength?
Was it by chance that his eye was arranged with such consummate knowledge of the laws of light that it infinitely surpasses, as a mere optical instrument, anything which all the skill and science of the philosopher has been able to suggest?
Was it by chance that the organs of all his other senses are so admirably adapted to the objects of which they are intended to take cognizance?
God shows himself in man. God speaks in every breath. God moves in every motion. God beats in every bounding pulse. The man himself is in a thousand ways a constant living evidence of an all-wise, all-kind and powerful creator. And he is surely a fool who says there is no God.
There is another thought. Man's body is not all of man. He has a mind. He observes. He thinks. He feels. His actions show and his own consciousness declares that his mind is endowed with certain faculties or powers. First among these, exerting over the race of man a more extensive and controlling influence than any other, is his instinctive propensity to worship. His nature is such that he must have a God. In all times and among all people this is a striking and a most wonderful truth. The remains which tell us of the power and opulence of the nations of the olden times are mostly the ruins of their temples. Time has passed along and with his iron heel ground out from the face of the earth every other vestige of their power. Their commerce has left behind no token. Their military prowess has left no fortress where once embattled
hosts engaged in maddening conflict. Their kingly pomp is gone. The palaces of the nobles have crumbled into dust. But there stand still in solitary grandeur the mighty ruins of the temples which they built in honor of what they called God.
I grant you that this instinct to worship is a blind and darkened instinct. But if there be no God to worship whence is this power of the human mind? Nature hath made no otherwhere such blundering work. If she have given us eyes it is because there is also light by which we may see with our eyes. If she have given us ears it is because there are things to hear. If we have love of friends it is because we live in society. If we have conscience it is because there is a right and wrong in human conduct. So if we have the instinct to worship, it is itself a proof that he is a fool who says there is no God for us to worship.
If it be said that it was nature that unrolled the star-bestudded sky; that it was nature that formed the million suns and rolls forever round them their ponderous worlds; that it is nature that controls the ever-varying seasons and endues all living things as best befits their place and object in the universe; that it is nature that formed us as we are, so "fearfully and wonderfully made;" that it is nature teaches us to look above ourselves and search for the superior power that we may worship it — I grant it, if you choose; but tell me now, I pray you, what is nature?
If nature is the cause of all these marvelous
things, tben nature is intelligent, for these things in themselves give evidence of an intelligent first cause; nay, of an infinite intelligence, which sees the end from the beginning and is ignorant of nothing.
If nature is the cause of all these things, then is nature all-powerful, for these things show evidence in themselves that the power which made, continues and controls them is almighty.
If nature is the cause of all these things, then nature is benevolent, for there is evidence in all the arrangements which we can fully understand that the author of them was kind, as it was wise and powerful.
If nature then be infinitely wise and powerful and good, nature is God, and tell me now why should we take the laws by which God manages the universe, the laws which we familiarly call the laws of nature, and weave with them a veil to hang before our vision and hide from our view that God who is the author and the executor of those laws? Nature is nothing but the manifestation of the power and wisdom and benevolence of God. The laws of nature are only the rules by which God works in carrying out his plans. Nature is but the working of nature's mighty God, and he is but a fool who puts the visible effect in place of the almighty Great First Cause.
But there are others to whom we may with strict propriety apply this term. They grant there is a God, wise, powerful and kind, and that he has
placed us here, but has made to us no revelation of his character or will, or of our origin or destiny. He has created us and all the wondrous things above us and about us, and given us, with other qualities of mind, the instinct which forces us to feel there is a God worthy of our worship and requiring our adoration, but left us in utter darkness as to his nature and our relations with him.
These men assert (as Christians do) that God is wise and kind and cares for the welfare of his children. They say (as Christians do) that the whole face of nature abounds with the evidence of his goodness. They see it in the loaded tree, the teeming earth, the fruitful shower and the balmy breeze. They see it in the grassy carpet of the earth. They see it in the beautiful flowers that deck the fields. They see it in the vast variety of hill and dale, of fountain and fresh shade with which he has adorned the earth to render it delightful as the dwelling place of men. They see that he has provided not only for his necessities, but for his pleasures; not only for the continuance of life, but for its enjoyments. They say that God is good. Why then should he not gratify the reasonable desires of his children? While he provides so bountifully for their physical comfort and delight, why should he deprive them of the food of the soul? Why keep them in ignorance of what concerns them more than all things else to know?
Am I to live hereafter, or when I lie down in the grave is that the end of all my joys and sorrows, of all my hopes and fears?
If I am to live hereafter in what condition will it be? And will my conduct now from day to day effect my coming destiny?
What kind of conduct does my God approve and what does he dislike, or is he indifferent as to what I do?
If I have offended him how can I regain his favor and regard? Will he forgive me? If he will, upon what terms? If not, what is to be the consequence of his anger?
These questions and such as these greatly concern the sons of men. It will hardly be pretended that God could not answer them if he would. He might, in many ways we can conceive of, make known to us the truth.
Is he not then a fool who, while he owns that God is good, denies that he would make a revelation of his will?
But if he say he has virtually made such a revelation, but not that which is contained in the Bible of the Christian; that reason is the celestial lamp hung out by the hand of the Almighty to guide us to the truth, reason itself will answer that he is a fool, for all experience shows that reason has never yet been able to illuminate the darkness which, on subjects such as these, covers the human mind. The lamp of reason is too dim; its light is too faint. It required the full splendor of the glorious sun of righteousness to dissipate the mists and clouds that hung about the character of God and the destiny of man.
Even the first great truth which all admit, "That the maker of all things is good;" this fact which no one, Christian or infidel, would in this land now venture to deny, this fact which seems so plainly taught in every page of nature that reason could not fail to read it; even this simple truth reason did not discover. The nations on whom the sunlight of the Bible never shone have never worshiped such a God as ours. Their Gods were the embodiment of power, cruelty, revenge and lust. This was true of the most polished nations of the ancient times. In all their wealth of intellectual lore they never conceived of any such God. He was to them indeed the unknown God till Paul declared him unto them. And it is equally true now. Go to the nations in Asia, in Africa, or in America, who have not learned the character of God directly or indirectly from the Bible, who are still in all the darkness of reason, and ask ten thousand of their wisest men the character of God. and you will not learn as much of truth concerning it as from any little company of poor, unlettered Christians in the land of Bibles. Reason never has taught it, reason could not find it out, and he who trusts to reason only for instruction on these subjects of eternal and overwhelming interest may well be called a fool.
If, then, there is good cause to believe that God would make a revelation of himself, and reason is proved to be an insufficient guide, he is a fool who does not take the Bible as the revelation which it claims to be. There is no other pretended revelation
which can claim to rival it. It stands alone in the lofty purity of its morality, in the stern, unyielding strictness of its laws; in the heavenly sublimity of its conceptions of the Deity. The excellence which other systems have, they have borrowed from this. This is the light of the world. It is here that life and immortality are brought to light. It is here and here alone that we can learn how we may please the God who made us. This is the revelation of his will. Here we can learn and here alone how we may be forgiven for our offenses. How God can be just and yet can justify the sinner who believes and obeys the Gospel. This Bible is the word of God, and he who does not take it for such may well be called a fool.
And, my brethren, is there not in some of us a folly which surpasseth this? We believe there is a God, holy, just and good. We take this book to be a revelation of his will. We believe there is a Heaven. Are we living in such a way as to fit us to enjoy its holy pleasures? We believe there is a hell. Are we not careless whether we shall ever finally escape its tortures? We believe there is an eternity, an endless eternity of perfect joy or terrible distress awaiting us at death. Yet are not many of us such fools as to live here as though we should live always here, and spend our time and employ our labors in laying up treasures upon earth, while we give scarce any attention to the eternity compared to which time is but as a "forgotten circumstance?"
If we believe it, let us live as though we did believe it. Let us give the scoffers no room to say that we are even greater fools than they, even admitting our doctrine to be true.
My dear impenitent and unbelieving friend, there is a God and the Bible is the word of God, whether you believe it or not. Your belief or disbelief will not affect the truth or its results. You may doubt, you may deny; you may even scorn and hate the truth, but it will not help you. There is a God and you can not escape from out his hand. There is a God, and if there be, and this Bible is his word, how fearful is your case.
Here is your folly: If 1 am wrong, if I am deceived; if my reason has been imposed upon; if Bacon and Locke, Newton and Butler and Paley and others of their stamp, philosophers, logicians and reasoners by profession — if these men were imposed upon by cunningly-devised fables, and all the world of Christians are mistaken, we are at least no worse off than you, since the true Christian is a better man and a happier man for being such. He has his pleasant hopes, he has his joyful anticipations, while he lives and dies in the triumphant hope of an eternal weight of glory. He is at death as well off as any of you. He will be no more conscious of disappointment than you are, for by your own admission he will have ceased to be. The worms that feed upon his flesh will no more torture him than you. He will feel the coldness and dampness of the grave no more than you. He
loses nothing which you do not lose, and he gains his present hope and his triumphant death. But if you are wrong and it should at last turn out that he is right — and remember you can not prove that he is not — then where are you? If it should prove true that there is a God, how will you fare who have insulted and despised him? If it should prove true that the Bible is his word, how will you fare who have rejected and ridiculed it ? If Jesus was a Teacher come from God, how will you fare when, as he foretold, he shall come again to judgment?
If death should be no dreamless sleep, but only the door to a more active and never ending life; if it should prove true that there is a glorious Heaven and that there is a fearful hell, how will you fare who are neglecting, ridiculing and despising the only means by which you might escape from one and gain the other?
Oh, you will not call the Christian a fool then; you will not then esteem it folly to have led a godly life, a life of faith and penitence and holiness. You will not then think it folly to have secured an interest in the atoning blood of him whom you now profess to regard as an impostor. Then is it not the part of folly, of the most egregious folly, to live and act in such a way that you may have occasion to lament forever, while you might live so that the chance for life and endless blessedness would be yours, and the worst that could possibly happen would be no worse than what, according to your own belief, must now assuredly happen? ==================
[From Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith, 1900 - jrd
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