A COURSE OF
BY REV. C. G. FINNEY
EXISTENCE OF GOD.
FIRST, State the several methods of proof.
SECOND, Show to what they amount.
FIRST. State the several methods of proof.
I. Moral argument, or argument founded in the demand of our moral nature. Short method.
1. I am conscious of feeling moral obligation to do right and avoid wrong.
2. I am conscious of mental states for which I feel praise or blame-worthy, or in other words: I am conscious of having a moral character.
3. Moral character implies a moral nature or constitution.
4. It also implies a law or rule of moral action apprehended by the mind.
5. This law within implies a law without.
6. A moral constitution and moral law imply a creator, law-giver, and judge. This creator or author of my nature; this law-giver and judge, is God.
Again, 1. I cannot resist the conviction that I am accountable for my actions, not merely to myself and society, but to some lawgiver.
2. This irresistible conviction of accountability implies, either that accountability is a dictate of my nature, or that the evidence of it is overwhelming.
3. I am therefore accountable for my conduct, or my moral nature deceives me.
4. But accountability implies a rightful ruler. This ruler is God.
Again, 1. My senses inform me that other men exhibit the same phenomena of which I am conscious.
2. Hence I cannot resist the conviction that they have a moral nature, and are accountable like myself.
3. Hence I cannot but award them praise or blame for their conduct.
4. This is a dictate of my moral constitution.
5. My nature then demands that I should regard them as subjects of moral government.
6. But moral government implies a moral governor. This governor is God.
7. Hence the existence of God is a dictate of my moral nature.
REM. Upon this argument the common convictions of men in regard to the Divine existence seem to be based, as this truth is admitted previous to a knowledge of any theoretic argument whatever.
2. This argument always has insured, and always will insure the conviction of the great mass of men.
II. Physical argument, or argument from the external world. Short method.
1. Every event must have a cause.
2. My senses testify that the universe exists, and is a system of changes or events.
3. These events do not cause themselves. To suppose this were absurd.
4. They have not existed in an eternal series. This supposition were also absurd.
5. There must have been a first cause.
6. The first cause must have been uncaused, self-existent, independent, and eternal. This must be God.
REM. This confirms the moral argument.
For answers to the atheistical objections and their arguments see Atheism.
III. Argument from final causes. Short method.
1. Means imply an end.
2. Existences sustaining the relation of means to an end, imply design.
The highest evidence of design may be manifested in two ways,
(1.) When the greatest number of beneficial results arise from the simplest means. Or from the application of one principle or power, to the production of vast and complicated events. Gravitation is an instance of this.
(2.) Where a vast and complicated mechanism is constructed for the production of a simple but highly important end. Vide. human physiology. The universe abounds with both these extremes of art, and affords a demonstration of design.
3. Design implies a designer.
4. The universe is a system of existences, sustaining the relation of means to an end.
5. It had, therefore, a designer.
6. This designer is God.
REM. This argument sets aside the doctrine of chance or fate.
IV. Historical argument. Short method.
1. Men have intellect and reason.
2. Therefore their opinions are based upon facts real or supposed.
3. The truth of any proposition in which all nations and ages have agreed must be highly probable.
4. But all ages and nations have agreed in the proposition, "There is a God."
5. Therefore his existence is, to say the least, highly probable.
Objection 1. The fact of this coincidence needs proof.
Answer. That this coincidence has been nearly universal is beyond doubt.
Obj. 2. If this coincidence be admitted, it proves nothing, as all men have believed other things that are false.--E.g. that the sun goes round the earth.
Ans. 1. There was high evidence of this, and the conviction was based upon nothing less than the apparent evidence of their senses.
2. The objection only proves that the historical argument may possibly be inconclusive.
3. The historical argument does prove that there is a high degree of evidence everywhere discoverable of the existence of God.
V. Argument direct from consciousness. Short method.
1. I think, therefore I am.
2. I was not always. Of this, there is abundant evidence.
3. I began to be, and did not create myself.
4. I descended from a race like myself.
5. This race is made up of a series of individuals.
A series of dependent events, sustaining to each other the relation of cause and effect, implies an independent first cause, for an infinite number of dependent links without an independent first, is absurd.
6. A series implies a first.
7. There must have been a first man.
8. He must have been self-created, or self-existent, and uncreated, or created by some other being.
9. He could not create himself.
10. Self-existence is necessary existence,
11. He had not a necessary existence, for he is dead.
12. He must have begun to be, and must have been created.
13. His Creator must have been uncaused, and eternally self-existent. This cause is God.
Again, 1. The same must be true of every series of existences.
2. Every series must have had a distinct self-existent cause, or all existences must have had one and the same first cause.
3. One first cause is sufficient, and it is unphilosophical to suppose more without evidence.
4. The universe as a whole is a unit, and most philosophically attributed to one first cause. This cause is God.
VI. Metaphysical argument.
1. All existences are necessary or contingent.
(1.) That existence or being is necessary whose non-existence is naturally impossible.
(2.) That existence is contingent whose non-existence is naturally possible.
2. Ideas of existences are necessary or contingent.
(1.) That idea is necessary, the non-existence of whose object, under the circumstances, cannot be conceived of as possible.
(2.) That idea is contingent, the non-existence of whose object may, under the circumstances, be conceived of as possible.
3. That must be a real existence of which we have a necessary idea, for the idea is necessary only because the non-existence of its object under the circumstances cannot be conceived of as naturally possible.--E. g. space, duration.
4. Necessary ideas need to be suggested to, or developed in the mind.--E. g. the ideas of space and duration and the idea that they are infinite are necessary ideas when once suggested. We cannot conceive that space and duration should not exist, and that they should not be infinite.
5. The idea of causality, or that every event must have a cause, is a necessary idea when once suggested by an event, for the mind in the presence of the event, cannot conceive that its occurrence without a cause, was naturally possible.
6. The idea of my own present existence is a necessary idea when suggested by present consciousness of mental action. I think, therefore, I am, and cannot conceive of my present non-existence as possible.
7. The idea of the present existence of the universe is a necessary idea when suggested or developed by present conscious sensations. With this evidence before me, I cannot conceive of the present non-existence of the universe as possible.
8. The idea of a first cause is a necessary idea when once suggested by the events of the universe. With these events before me I cannot conceive that they had no cause, or that there was not a first cause.
9. The idea that the first cause is eternal, self-existent, and independent, is a necessary idea when once suggested to the mind.
10. The idea that this cause is intelligent is a necessary idea when once suggested by a knowledge of the evidences of design apparent in the universe.
11. The ideas of God's existence and attributes are therefore necessary ideas when suggested or developed by a knowledge of the events of the universe.
12. But necessary ideas, as above defined, are the representatives of realities, therefore God's existence is a reality.
Again, 1. Consciousness is the mind's cognizance of its present state or exercise.
2. We are certain of that of which we are conscious.
3. Hence our mental states or exercises are realities.
4. My existence is an affirmation or inference of reason direct from consciousness. I think, therefore I am.
5. The existence of other beings is also an affirmation of reason direct from consciousness. I am conscious of sensations, the cause of which I must refer to objects external to myself. Therefore these objects exist.
6. The existence of God is an inference or affirmation of reason removed one step back from consciousness.
7. I think, therefore I am. This is the first inference. I am, the universe is, therefore God is, is the second step or affirmation, the second has the same certainty as the first because it is based upon it.
8. The existence of God then is as certain as my own existence, and the existence of the universe.
SECOND.--What these arguments amount to.
1. If they do not amount to a demonstration, it is because the nature of the fact to be proved renders the demonstration of it to our limited faculties impossible.
2. Demonstration is that which shows that the proposition in question cannot but be true.
3. The events of the universe being admitted or proved, it is impossible that God should not exist.
4. The contrary supposition is an absurdity, as it assumes that the universe of events is uncaused, which is absurd.
5. The argument for the existence of God amounts to a demonstration. Other objections will be answered under the head "Atheism."
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