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Divine revelation appeals to preparation in the human spirit, which it explains and accounts for: first, the instinctive (intuitive) and indestructible sense of dependence on a First Cause; secondly, the consciousness of responsibility to a Supreme Authority; and third, the union of these in the deep desire to know and have fellowship with the Source and End of life. This three-one fact in human nature revelation challenges, and here is its first credential. The instinct in man and the response from God meet. From the first word of the Scriptures to the last, the Voice of the Creator speaks to the still, small voice of His creature: the Voice of the All-sufficient answering the cry of dependence, of the Merciful Judge dealing with guilt, and of the Eternal and Invisible conversing as Man with humanity. In the Bible, as completed by Christianity, there is not a possible question of human nature to which a response is not given. The positive strength of this plea will be considered when we come to establish the existence of God. Meanwhile, it may be necessary here to prevent two opposite objections which may be urged against this most mighty presumptive argument.
(1.) Atheistic philosophy of every order is content to assert that the sentiment in human nature is one of the fruits of its own imagination, begotten of fear or hope; and that it has invented a revelation to satisfy the demands of its own delusion: the imaginary revelation from heaven being, like heaven itself, its most consummate (complete) delusion. With such theories of the soul, it is vain to argue, at least, they do not enter into the present discussion. Save, indeed, so far as they sometimes undertake to deny that what we may term this instinct is really universal in the constitution of man. This is simply an appeal to experience and induction. No race of humanity has ever been found, which does not contradict this denial. Among the very lowest tribes, there are traces of a certain sense of dependence on another world: the degraded feeling which looks with awe at some fetish symbol of the unknown is the same tribute at the one pole as the philosophical speculation of Agnosticism is at the opposite pole, to a sense in man of the Infinite. The finite instinct for the Infinite, which is faith, undergoes in them the same degradation which all their other mental and spiritual faculties have undergone: no more, no less. But of this, more will be said hereafter.
(2.) Deism has another and very different kind of counterargument. It sometimes insists that these instinctive preparations for the voice of God are themselves the revelation of the Supreme and that there can be no other: that is to say, a transcendental (supernatural) Deism refuses to allow that there can be any other authenticated revelation of the Infinite to the finite than that which is directly in the consciousness of those who receive it. But it forgets that the very highest religious sentiment in man is only a desire unsatisfied. That, as every strong and universal instinct, has its answer from without, so also must this the strongest and most universal of all. But it may be denied that there is any longing of the human mind for an external revelation. Many who admit that the irrepressible yearning of the human soul towards the Infinite is an argument for the expectation of a secret revelation of God in the depths of the yearning spirit nevertheless refuse to admit the force of this appeal in favor of a revelation coming from above with all the external appendages that belong to the Christian Faith. It is sufficient to reply that this style of argument ignores the fact that the relation of man to God is such as to demand external communication as well as internal. If he were, as he should be, at peace with the Object he seeks, the communion with his Maker might be conducted altogether within. Yet even then, not altogether within; for the whole universe around him would be full of symbols, the visible revelation of His creator. But he is, by the very supposition, estranged from God. The original conditions have ceased to exist, and no argument can be based upon them. The unutterable longing to which Christianity responds is that of a guilty spirit, not only dependent on the Supreme but trembling before Him. Man looks up to heaven—as his Greek name, ἄνθρωπος or ὁ ἄνω ἀθρῶν, testifies, but he looks up to an outward Judge and not within to an interior God, and expects and hopes that the Supreme will appear to him and speak to him by some being, or voice, or token. And this is the germ of all revelation. Moreover, it is undeniable that in every age and in every region, men have longed for and believed in an external expression of the Divine mind. In fact, Christianity is but one of many responses to man’s groaning unutterable towards God. But this leads to a further stage in our credentials, to which what has been said is only introductory.
By William Burt Pope