The interest which Evolution has awakened in the minds of the most acute and profound thinkers in the scientific and religious world, shows its intimate connection with the growing tendency to regard all things as connected, and related, and moving on in the paths of an immutable order. It is the effect of this intelligent, scientific spirit brooding over the chaotic theories of creation, causing a deeper penetration into its mysteries, and a more determined effort to solve the enigmas of the universe. That great good must result from this more extensive and accurate knowledge of the material world, and its relations to man and all the forms of life which exist in it, is evident to every one who is acquainted with the history of human progress in the knowledge of nature and man.
But the first effect of this awakened interest in, the laws and processes of creation seems to be injurious to religion and the belief in the existence of a supreme, intelligent, and personal Creator who controls and guides all things to effect the purposes of His love, according to the methods of His wisdom. The scientist gets so near to nature, and becomes so absorbed in watching the complex but orderly processes by which all things are created and sustained, that he has no thought of anything above and beyond what is cognizable by his senses. The causes he discovers are so powerful and specific in their application that they seem to him to be adequate to the effects. He sees law, order, the immutable relation of cause and effect existing in everything around him. He finds abundant evidence of the slow but gradual changes which have been constantly going on in the material world; he can trace the natural connection between one thing and another, and he concludes that he has discovered all the substances that' exist, and all the forces that operate in the creation.
He sees that every step in the ascent from lower to higher forms, in the
production of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and in the development of human
intelligence, has been taken by means of a preceding one. Why should he admit
that this universe was created in a moment of time by a spoken word? He sees a
chain of living creatures, with but few missing links, running through the
creation from the lowest to the highest forms of life; he has abundant
testimony that the lowest was first created, and he naturally concludes that
each link in the chain was formed from it. The scientist has all the appearances
of nature in his favor. All his senses testify to the truth of his theory. He
can count the factors; he can see the process of creation. Why should he admit
the existence of an unknown factor?
It seems to be taken for granted by many Christian scientists that we must adhere to the commonly-received doctrine that the material universe was created out of nothing by a spoken word, by the fiat of omnipotent power, or give up the idea that it is the product of an intelligent, personal, Divine Being. This is the reason why the doctrines of Evolution are regarded with so much suspicion, and are so strenuously opposed by theologians. They cannot surrender the idea of a personal and omnipotent Creator. This would banish the Lord from the universe and practically deny His existence. They acknowledge that the scientist reasons logically from his premises; but they deny the premises. This is a fatal mistake. They would be in a much better position to discover the truth, if they accepted his premises and his facts, but denied his conclusions. The scientist arms himself with a vast number of familiar and indisputable facts. He traces the progress of creation from step to step; he shows the agency of natural causes in the products of life and the development of living beings. He sees no need of an intelligent Creator, and, therefore; he rules Him out of the universe and denies His existence. His fatal mistake consists in taking a part of the premises for the whole. He draws his conclusions from the appearances disclosed to the senses whose testimony is known to be unsafe and illusory in the most common things.
The Christian can accept all the facts of the scientist. He could do it if there were no " missing links" in the chain of natural causes and effects from the lowest plane of creation to the highest, and find increasing confirmation at every step of the presence of a Divine power and the guiding hand of a Divine wisdom. There is no ground for conflict between a true science and a true theology. They are the essential parts of a true knowledge of God and His works. They are a light to each other, which is essential to a correct understanding of both. Science without God is but half of the truth. It is a body without a soul; and God, without a true knowledge of the functions of nature and of human life is but a formless, substanceless abstraction. Science needs theology to lift it above the low level and the narrow limits of the material world, the theatre of natural causes and effects. Theology needs the aid of science to bring it down from the abstract and formless to, the concrete, and give it body, form, substance, conceivable qualities and relations. Science ought to be the handmaid of theology, and it is due to the misconceptions or ignorance of both scientist and theologian that she is not. The facts of Evolution which science has discovered and brought to general notice, when correctly understood and divested of the false conclusions to which its ardent votaries have blindly rushed, will establish upon the basis of immutable law the principles which a superficial and partial knowledge assumes to have disproved. They will bring the Lord near to man as a personal and constant factor in the creation, instead of banishing Him from it. They will teach man how to see the Lord's love and wisdom and constant care for His children in all the works of His hands.
Evolution has forced Christianity into a false position, or taken advantage of a false position already assumed, and with the adroitness of a special advocate, or the unconsciousness of the full force of its testimony, it has gained acceptance for witnesses which do not testify in its favor. This is a fact which should be clearly understood. For the want of it many misconceptions about the theory have gained credence. Many honest minds have been led to believe that it was established beyond doubt, and even its most ardent advocates seem to have been deceived by it. The essential principle of Evolution, which distinguishes it from all other theories, is that matter has no origin, and that it contains within itself all the substances and forces, and all the organic forms and qualities of plants, animals, and men. Growth, development, and progress of all kinds are cited as examples of Evolution, and proof of its essential principle. It evolves the spiritual and supernatural from dreams and natural phenomena of whose causes men in their undeveloped state were ignorant. The idea of God and the obligation to worship and obey Him are evolved from reverence and regard for ancestors who had been removed by death. All that the evolutionist needs to create a religion, a spiritual world, and a Supreme Being, is some hint or fancy of an ignorant savage. We have lectures on the evolution of the steam-engine, of the various sciences and of Revelation in the Sacred Scriptures. Indeed, evolution is driving the old words, progress, improvement, development, out of use and usurping their places. If it simply took their place and meaning, there would be no serious objection to the change. But it carries with it a principle or an assumption which does not belong to the common words, and then cites them as witnesses in favor of a doctrine which they never taught. There is a fallacy in this method of proof which has deceived. many Christians, and probably many of ,the scientists themselves. Progress in knowledge upon any subject, natural or spiritual, is not the evolution of some indistinct hint or vague fancy about it. It is made by gaining new ideas; by the light of new truths which did not originate in the imperfect notions of ignorance. It is as impossible to evolve knowledge from ignorance as it is to gain light from darkness. Knowledge upon any subject is enlarged and perfected by more knowledge. The supposition that ignorance or error can by any process of increase or development or evolution, become truth, is as absurd as the doctrine of the creation of the universe out of nothing. Improvement in the arts and industries and methods of business and mechanical appliances is not the evolution of any principle or force that was inherent in them. It has been made by the application of truths and forces which were not in them. The promise and potency of the steam-engine do not exist in iron, or of a palace in clay and marble. A vast number of the facts which are cited in proof of evolution are of this nature. They are not germane to the subject, and should be ruled out of court.
If we admit the premises that every step in the progress of creation is taken by causes which inhere in matter, and that the highest is evolved from the lowest, as power from inertia, life from death, there is no escape from the testimony of the facts. But we are not compelled to admit the premises or deny the facts. We admit, without hesitation or exception, that creation is a gradual process, in which natural means co-operate with other forces; that every step in it is connected and related as cause and effect; and still we emphatically deny the fundamental principle a Evolution. Gradual advancement by natural instrumentalities is not limited to any special theory of the first cause and origin of creation. It is valid against the doctrine of instantaneous creation by omnipotent fiat; but it applies with equal, if not more, convincing power to the idea of an intelligent, personal and Divine Author, who acts from the ends of infinite love, and creates and employs an infinite variety of means to accomplish. His purposes. Those who believe in the Divine origin of the creation may frankly admit all the facts of the advocates of Evolution. They may even gratefully accept them as a most important service to religion, and beautiful illustrations of the methods of infinite wisdom, while they utterly repudiate the essential theory they are summoned to prove. The theory leaves out of account the most important factor, the constant presence and persistent action of the spiritual and Divine substances and forces from which matter itself and all its forces are evolved, and by which it is constantly moved to action and molded into form. Still we believe that the scientist has rendered an invaluable service to an intelligent and undoubting belief in the existence of a supreme, personal Being, by demonstrating the manifold, infinitely complex and orderly means by which He manifests His love and wisdom and attains His ends. The scientist himself is a most important agent in this work, and he is rendering a service 'to humanity of which he is wholly unconscious.
There is another principle which has led to man misconceptions and errors concerning the constant agency of the Lord in the creation; and that is, the nature and, functions of law. Law is regarded as a force in itself; as having some independent and self-derived power of creating and destroying. Men talk of the laws of nature as though they were independent powers which controlled and guided all the movements of material substances. Even those who believe in the existence of an intelligent and personal Creator, practically admit that He has committed the universe of matter and mind to the government of certain laws, while He stands, as it were, aloof, like an inventor from his machine, and only interferes to prevent its destruction when it becomes deranged, or to destroy it when it ceases to perform the use for which he made it. Law is endowed with intelligence and power; and, in the minds of those who regard everything from a material point of view, and measure everything by the appearances of the senses, it is put in the place of the Creator. The Lord is banished from the universe, and law is elevated to His throne.
But the truth is that law possesses no power, and consequently does no work. Law
is simply the way in which an intelligent power acts. Civil law has no power of
its own inherent in it. It is a direction of the manner in which the members of
a community or nation must act. It points out their relations to one another,
and makes known the penalties of violating them. It possesses no more power in
itself than a machine or an iron railway. All its power lies in the minds of
intelligent beings who enacted it. In the same manner the laws of matter and
spirit are the ways in which the Creator works to accomplish His purposes. They
are the paths in which He moves; the methods of His infinite wisdom, by which He
attains the ends of His infinite love. Instead of banishing Him from the
universe, therefore, they are the paths in which He enters it, and they are the
evidence of His constant presence and active energy in creating and sustaining
His works. Instead of removing Him to some immeasurable distance from men and
nature, where He sits in solitary grandeur, contemplating an accomplished
purpose, they are testimony presented even to the senses, that He is actively
present in the least as well as in the greatest things, creating, sustaining,
and perfecting His work. He is revealing to men His love and wisdom in the
order, harmony, and infinite variety of His methods; in the beauty and grandeur
of the universe, and the boundless wealth of His provision for human happiness.
He is brought near to us. We see. Him acting in every movement; we see Him
working in every flower that blossoms, and in every human effort to enlighten
and improve the condition of humanity.
By this practical denial of an intelligent Creator, the essential factor in the creation is rejected, and the attempt is made to account for the existence of all things and beings without any purpose or adequate cause. This attempt to account for the creation without a Creator, is as irrational and absurd as it would be to account for a machine while denying the existence of a mechanic, or a house, by describing how one brick was placed upon another and beam was fitted to beam, without a builder; or for all the works of human intelligence and power, without the agency of an intelligent human being.
Everything is regarded from the circumference, and judged by its appearance to the senses. The centre is formed from the circumference, which is contrary to all the laws of order in the creation. The principle is as absurd as it would be to deduce the sun from the planets, heat, from cold, and light from darkness. There are many plausible and attractive features in this theory of creation. But to accept it we must ignore facts and principles which have been recognized by a common perception in all ages and among all nations; we must reverse the order of logical thinking, and banish from the universe all intelligible purpose, all love and wisdom in its creation. This would make it truly blank and desolate.
The doctrines of the New Church give us a theory of evolution which is free from any of these defects. It begins at the highest and describes every step of descent to the lowest. It takes its position in the centre; in the first untreated and infinite Cause which is adequate to every possible effect, and traces the evolution of every plane and link in the creation, shows the relation of the whole to every part, and of the least part to the whole. While it shows the ineradicable and infinite difference between' the Creator and His works, it points out with equal clearness His intimate and constant connection with them. It contains the " new doctrine of discrete degrees or planes of substance and forces by which the creation descends by distinct steps from its origin in God to its lowest forms; but shows that there are no breaks, no missing links, no impassable gulfs which separate one degree 'of the creation from another. Everything is created with. a definite purpose and has a distinct meaning. It avoids the absurdity of an instantaneous creation by a dictate of omnipotent power, and demonstrates in the most logical manner, that the universe of matter and ,mind, and everything and being organized for the reception of life, is evolved from the Creator by vast and complicated processes, extending through many ages; and that this evolution has been effected, according to the laws of an immutable order, by a wisdom which sees the end from the beginning and in the beginning, and the relation of every force and substance and act and infinitesimal part to the whole.
The following lectures were written for the purpose of stating some of the fundamental points in this theory, and giving some illustrations of its truth by facts and forces which lie within the limits of common observation. They were written from week to week amid the pressure of many duties, and sent to the printer immediately after delivery. No one can be more sensible of their imperfections than the author. The themes are too great and involve too-many profound problems, to be fully set forth in a few discourses. The most that the author has been able to do is to give some hints of a theory which he believes meets every demand of science, of reason, and every devout believer in the existence of a Divine, personal Being, who is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. It does not reject any natural fact, or deny the relations of cause and effect on the natural plane of creation. On the contrary, it accepts them all, throws new light upon them, and uses their testimony to confirm its own principles. It does more than this. It supplies the missing links which science has not been able to discover, between the distinct planes of creation; and, what is of infinitely greater value to science and theology, it discloses the intimate and inseparable connection between the Creator and the universe. If these discourses should be instrumental in leading any number of those who have become interested in the profound problems of the creation, which Evolution has brought into conspicuous notice, to learn more of the principles briefly and imperfectly stated in them, the author will have accomplished all he could reasonably expect. He only desires to complete the service by referring them to a small work by Swedenborg, called Divine Love And Wisdom, in which he will find the origin of the universe, and the processes and order by which it is evolved from the Creator, set forth in a clear, logical, and masterly manner.