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doom is already sealed in the counsels of eternity, and dismisses all further concern or effort for his own salvation. chance, he comes to the still more fearful conclusion, that religion is a delusion, immortality but a dream of the imagination. Again, the sinner, by straining the will in the manner above described, unsettles the functions of the nervous system, and thus subjects himself to strange bodily sensations, spectral illusions, etc. And we apprehend the cases are not few, in which the mind, under such circumstances, seizes upon some thrilling sensation pervading the body, or some phantom of a disordered brain, as the evidence of acceptance with God, and rests satisfied with a false and delusive hope.
We have discussed the connection between the will and the emotive states of the mind at greater length, than we intended in commencing this article. But we could not well say upon that point what was necessary to the elucidation of the main subject of this discussion, without subjecting ourselves to the danger of misapprehension, unless we were more full and explicit than we had at first designed. On the other hand, to have answered every objection which might possibly arise in the mind of any, against the views which we have presented, would have been inconsistent with the main design of the discussion, and would have swelled this article to an inmoderate length. We shall therefore hold ourselves in readiness to answer objections when they are offered, or to confess our errors when they are pointed out. We have expressed our views with freedom, but, we trust, candor. However our opinions may be regarded, we trust a candid public will accord to us the merit of calling attention to a subject of vital importance to the cause of truth and piety.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. II.
THE A POSTERIORI ARGUMENT FOR THE BEING OF GOD.
By Rev. L. P. Hickok, Prof. of Theol., West. Res. College, Ohio.
In a former article* we examined the nature and application of the a priori argument to the proof of the being of God; and it is the object of the present, to give a similar attention to the a posteriori argument. We thus follow out our primary design of investigating the nature and validity of all logical proof for the existence of God. Much the same order of investigation will be pursued in this as in the former case,—an examination of the nature of the argument, the methods of its application, and the amount of proof which it affords.
I. The nature of the a posteriori argument for the being of God.
In general it may be said, that it is directly the reverse of the a priori form of argument. Instead of deducing logical consequences from their grounds or causes, it begins with consequences, and reasons upwards to their grounds or causes. It is thus an argument from effect to cause. It necessarily presupposes experience, inasmuch as its data are all empirical. The ultimate principles and absolute truths, which are the elements of an a priori argument for the being of God, are of no use as the materials of an a posteriori argument; but facts of observation, events, changes, phenomena, effects of all kinds are assumed as the data for finding both the existence and the characteristics of their remote origin, ground, or cause. These are all acquired from external nature through the senses, or from our own inward experience through consciousness, and thus belong entirely to our sensitive cognitions ; while the whole field of rational cognition, with its intuitions of universal and necessary truth, lies within the domain of the a priori form of argument alone.
But while all the materials which form the data for an a posteriori argument are given by experience, the principle by which valid conclusions are deduced from these data is itself a rational intuition, and independent of all experience. The vin
* Biblical Repository, April, 1841, p. 273.
culum which is to bind every conclusion to its premise is the axiom that “every event must have an adequate cause." No matter what are the facts or events which we assume, they must be utterly useless for all the purposes of an a posteriori argument, except upon the clear recognition of the necessary truth of this axiom. If events may take place absolutely uncaused and fortuitous, if any thing may spring into being from absolute nihility of both essence and efficiency, then of course no deduction from any event upwards to the cause of that event can be valid; since, instead of its having any cause, it may have come into being with no agency whatever, and thus be evolved from utter emptiness and vacuity. We are then obliged, in order to feel the validity of any a posteriori argument, to obtain settled and clear convictions of the law of causation, which is the only principle by which deductions can be made from facts to their sources.
In the world of both matter and mind we find one event followed by another, and among these cases of succession, the mind recognizes some peculiarity in the case of some of the antecedents, as other than a mere casual succession in their connection with their consequents; and, to mark this peculiarity, the antecedent is called the cause, and the consequent the effect. That which secures the perpetuity of this order of sequences is called power. The main inquiry is in relation to this idea of power. Whence is it derived? What is the ground of conviction that, in like circumstances of the antecedent, this power will secure the consequent? How can we verify the conviction which we feel, that like causes will always produce like effects? These inquiries, which are each of a similar nature, go to the basis of all our confidence in an a posteriori argument.
That philosophy which derives all its ideas from sense and reflection upon the ideas given by sense, has given different answers, and adopted different theories to account for our conviction that there is some necessary connection between a cause and its effect. As experience is the origin of all its ideas, so the idea of power, or necessary connection between cause and effect, must be gained from experience. But as sense or experience can give us nothing but the simple fact of succession, there are found considerable difficulty and diversity, in accounting for the idea of something called power, which is the origin of the expectation or conviction, that whenever we see the antecedent or cause, we shall also always see it accompanied by its consequent or effect. Sense certainly can never find any thing in the cause which we call power ; it can never verify that there is any thing there which makes the effect necessary; it can only recognize the simple fact, that when and where the antecedent is then and there the consequent is.
We can take the theory of Hume, and say that the mind gets this idea of necessary connection by the frequent experience of the repetition of the sequences. The transition of the thought and attention from the antecedent to the consequent gives a peculiar “impression,” exceedingly faint at first, but by repetition growing stronger, until it arises to a definite conviction, a full “ belief” that this connection will be invariable: “Belief being only a more vivid, forcible and steady conception of an object, than what the imagination alone can attain.” There
thus in reality no necessary connection. It is only an imagination at first, and this strengthened to “belief” by frequent repetition. When we reason from effect to cause, therefore, there is only “belief” which has grown out of imagination, as the connecting principle, and which can never verify itself by any proof. It consists with real skepticism as to the fact, though the mind has received by mere repetition“ a vivid impression ” which it calls “belief.”
The theory of Brown is but a modification of the above. There is nothing but mere antecedent and consequent; still the mind of man is so formed that it believes, even from one experience, that the connection will be invariable, and expects it accordingly. But it is all resolved into the nature of the human mind. There is no truth in reality which can by any means be verified; but we are so made as to expect that what has been once seen as an antecedent, will henceforth invariably continue so.
Or it may be assumed that we get the idea from induction. We have found by experience so many facts which imply that there is something in the cause making the effect necessary, that, from this wide induction, we at length feel warranted in deducing a general law, and affirming that all causes are necessarily connected with their effects. All our reasoning from effect to cause can be demonstration, therefore, only in such cases as we can verify by experiment; and as no experience can bring the cause of the universe under human cognition, so we can never reason otherwise than to a probable conclusion, when we attempt, a posteriori, to find the author of the universe.
Lastly, it may be supposed that we get the idea of power, and
thus of cause and effect, from the conscious operation of our own minds. We think, and will, and feel conscious of an energy exerted; and thus learn to consider ourselves as causes of those effects, which follow our conscious energizing of some appropriate faculty. We then transfer this conscious energizing of the faculty in our minds to produce a given result to all external antecedents and consequents, and conceive them, as causes and effects, to be connected by some such energizing of power in the
From analogy therefore we conclude that all causes exert an efficient power which secures the existence of the effect. But while it may be admitted that this last has more plausibility than the former, it is still only an argument of analogy and can only be conclusive to this extent, that if all causes and effects are connected to each other as the mind is to the effects which it produces, then it is safe reasoning from effects to the existence of a cause; but all its conclusiveness
the conviction, that what is true of the mind as a cause must be true of all causes. This last however is what experience can never verify; and thus if we have nothing more conclusive than our own consciousness applied to all causation by experiments, we must fail of demonstration beyond those very causes and effects which take place on the field of our own consciousness.
If then we know nothing of the law of causation but that which sense and experience can give us, we can never use an a posteriori form of argument to the proof of the being of God with any
valid force and conclusiveness. At the highest point it will leave full place for the most incorrigible skepticism.
But, as was noticed in the former article, man is endowed with a far higher and nobler faculty than any thing which is indicated by sense and reflection. He has the power of rational intuition, and can thus see absolute and universal truths in their own light alone, and unhesitatingly affirm what is and eternally must be, independent of all deductions from experience. And in this very position the whole principle of causation, with its power to produce effects and its connection with its effects, is viewed by the mind. Empirical facts have no connection with it, and give no support to it
. The mind intuitively and a priori sees the truth as necessarily and universally existing.
Nothing cannot produce something ; ex nihilo nihil fit. This is a truth seen by the mind to be as necessary and as universal as that “the whole is greater than any of its parts.” It