The Inner Proofs of God
Psalm 83:18
That men may know that you, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, are the most high over all the earth.

The age in which we live is frequently characterized as an age of unbelief. Certainly it is an age in which much unbelief comes to the front, aggressively; and hence it is an age of conflict in regard to fundamental verities. The question raised, then, is whether the possible God is unknowable. Is the Absolute unthinkable? From one quarter the response is affirmative. An innumerable host out of all kindreds, tongues, and nations confess that the thought of God is the strongest force in life, the purest comfort in sorrow, the one rock-idea which no storm shakes, as true, as real, as natural, as fruitful as any thought, and more. To them history without that word is a riddle, being a mystery, life a torment, and death a horror. The concurrent testimony of millions affirms the central fact that God is, and the affirmation rests upon the experimental knowledge that He is. The fact is the reality; the knowledge is man's recognition of the reality. Only the unreal is unknowable. It is not, however, a question of majorities. The real point involved is, why does the great mass of mankind think that they can and do cognize God as the focal reality, the spiritual sun in the firmament of being? The data of the theistic argument are all to be found in man. Mr. Morell, adverting to this fact in his "History of Philosophy," asks, "Do we wish the argument from being? Man in his own conscious dependence has the deepest conviction of that Independent and Absolute One on Whom his own being reposes. Do we wish the argument from design? Man has the most wonderful and perfect of all known organizations. Do we wish the argument from reason and morals? The mind or soul of man is the only accessible repository of both, Man is a microcosm, a world in himself; and contains in himself all the essential proof which the world furnishes of Him who made it." And to those who with Schleiermacher accept the doctrine of immediateness, that is, the consciousness of God as an original and primary act of the soul antecedent to reflection or reasoning, man stands forth as the mirror of God, for it is in the depths of his nature that the two meet face to face. Man looks at himself, into himself, and by studied processes of thought or by sudden leaps of unconscious induction, he arrives at a knowledge of himself. He is not looking to see God in any mystic sense, but he is looking to see proofs of God. We come to the knowledge of God in much the same way as we come to the knowledge of our fellow-men. You could never know me if you did not first know yourself. The proof that I exist is in your existence. The evidence that I think is in your thought. That is to say, from the ascertained premise that you think you draw the conclusion that I think. "The Father in heaven," says Dr. Flint, "is known just as a father on earth is known." The latter is as unseen as the former. No human being has really ever seen another. No sense has will, or wisdom, or goodness for its object. Man must infer the existence of his fellow-men, for he can have no immediate perception of it; he must become acquainted with their character through the use of his intelligence, because character cannot be heard with the ear, or looked upon with the eye, or touched with the finger. Yet a child is not long in knowing that a spirit is near it. As soon as it knows itself it easily detects a spirit like its own, yet other than itself, when the signs of a spirit's activity are presented to it. The process of inference by which it ascends from the works of man to the spirit which origin-ares them is not more legitimate, more simple, and more natural than that by which it rises from nature to nature's God. The argument for God is many-sided, but the one determining force in us is that which seems like an instinct, which is original, primary, universal. No formal demonstration of God by trains of syllogistic reasoning could maintain theism through the ages but for the help of this implanted aptitude of the soul to respond to the thought of God. Anselms a priori, beautiful as it is, belongs to trained thinkers, while the millions assert their knowledge of God with the same spontaneous confidence with which a child trusts the proof of parental love. Nature is clearer-headed than philosophy. And is so because Nature looks with all her faculties at the broad landscape of truth, and believes that she sees it, every cliff and scar, every bend of the river and flowery meadow, every forest and nestling cottage. Philosophy, meanwhile, is busy with the mechanism of the eye, and announces that the landscape is a miniature picture painted on the retina — a scientific truth, no doubt! But we are not fashioned to contemplate objects under the lead of a single faculty. We could not appreciate beauty if we should always keep the structure of the organ of vision in mind. We look — we see — we rejoice; we believe that we see what we see, we know that we see, and we know that. all men excepting those who have lost the organ of vision see; and if at any time the thought comes to us that what we see is a picture on the retina, we accept the reflection as demonstrating the reality of the landscape, which, however, we did not doubt existed in all its beauty. It was not necessary to corroborate the fact. From the data before us we naturally inferred the reality of the scene by the same law of thought as that by which we rise from the phenomena of our consciousness to the reality of God. Now let us examine some of these phenomena.

1. The great mass of mankind think that they can and do know that there is a God, because they find themselves reaching out into the realm of spirit after a power that is above them in the oft-recurring exigencies of their life, temporal and spiritual, in which they realize their own limitations in respect of strength, wisdom and foresight. This is not a mere impulse of unintelligent despair; it is quite as often the calm instinct of deliberation as the last resort of one who has no other source of help left. It is the refuge alike of childhood and age.

2. Another fact in our self-consciousness presents itself. When we walk out into a public park, the eye falls upon a splendid green sward, smooth as velvet, swelling into graceful curves, with head lands of noble forests jutting out, and islands of rarest flowers dotting its surface. The picture charms us and we seat ourselves in some shady spot to enjoy the Elysian scene. But we resume our stroll, and enter a densely populated slum of the city where the atmosphere is laden with poison, and where crime and vice eat like gangrenes into the souls and bodies of the miserable host. We hasten away with horror from the spot. The impression made upon us by either is distinct and influential, because there is in us an inherent capacity of admiring the beautiful and disliking the hideous. The same capacity exists in regard to the moral quality of things. Some things we plainly perceive to be right and some to be wrong. Being wrong as an idea wears a storm-cloud on its brow, and when it passes into a concrete shape and becomes in us doing wrong, then the storm bursts upon the soul, and it trembles to think that it will be called to account. Deeply implanted in the solid rock of man's nature, these two granite columns ought and ought not rise and form the gateway, through which we pass up to the cognition of an Infinite Judge.

3. How unlike is man to the brutes beneath him! They have their planes, fixed and uniform as a floor of rock, and thereon, through all the circuit of their tame existence, they fulfil their simple destiny. They do not hunger for that which is beyond their reach, but are content to live and die just as they live and die. No dream of happier climes or kindlier destinies ever disturbs them. The fledgling is satisfied with the bough where he was hatched. The lion seeks no other lair than that where he was born. But the soul of man soon gives token of a strange discontent, and when he thinks to settle down, a dream of other things stirs his blood and disturbs his repose. It is as true in the spiritual as in the secular life. Men aspire to higher planes of moral attainment, and even sainthood forgets its grace as it presses on to sublimer achievements in the imitation of God. Does it impair this majestic argument of God drawn from the depths of human consciousness that it does not formulate its postulates in the language of metaphysics? Heine tells us that it was while he was climbing the dizzy heights of dialectics, that "the divine homesickness" came over him, and led him down to the levels of his kind, where he found God. There is a meadow-land of common-sense realism from which God has chosen to be more distinctly seen, and it is to that familiar spot we have led you to-day. It is there that our analysis of consciousness has revealed the indubitable phenomena that enables us to know that there is a God. The sense of dependence has led us up to a Power above us; the sense of obligation has pointed to an Authority above us; the sense of imperfection has ushered us into the presence of the Perfect Ideal, and the sublime inference of the race — the inference which has controlled history, created civilization, brightened the world with every virtue and grace of true nobility, thrown itself like a rainbow upon the storm of human sorrow, spanned the gulf of eternity with the bridge of hope, that inference is Jehovah.

(Bp. W. E. McLaren.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

WEB: that they may know that you alone, whose name is Yahweh, are the Most High over all the earth. For the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. A Psalm by the sons of Korah.

The Issue of Divine Judgments on the Wicked
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