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which professes to confine itself to experience to dogmatise on what man may or may not possibly know. He who would prove that God cannot be known, must prove that there is something essentially self-contradictory in the very notion of the Divine existence and nature. But that cannot be proved by experience; it can only be proved, if it can be proved at all, by the self-criticism of reason, by the metaphysical process which positivism pronounces worthless.
A simple refutation of the proofs adduced on behalf of the various forms of religion must be admitted to be a more hopeful undertaking, but even it is not one in which positivism has succeeded. It has brought nothing new to light against pantheism. It has favoured materialism instead of overcoming and expelling it. Its arguments against theism have consisted to a large extent of ancient and superficial fallacies, the weight of which are as nothing compared with the reasons in the opposite scale. Before casting aside a belief like that in God—a belief entertained by a long succession of generations, by millions of men, by the noblest intellects which the world has ever known- a belief the most fruitful in great thoughts and great deeds—a belief which could not be displaced without shaking society from top to base,—the examination of its foundations ought to be impartial and profound; but positivism has undertaken no examination of the kind.
The only argument with any claim to be regarded as original or distinctive which positivism has employed against theism, is that which some of its supporters rest on the so-called law of the three states. Comte, as every one knows who knows anything regarding his views, holds that speculation is first theological, then metaphysical, and finally positive; or, in other words, is first a reference of phenomena to supernatural volitions, then to occult causes, and finally the mere arranging of them according to their relations of sequence and coexistence, likeness or unlikeness. He believed that he had established that the progressive march of human thought was from the first to the last of these states, and that when the last was reached, those which preceded it were left behind ; that when positive science was attained, theological and metaphysical speculation were necessarily seen to be illegitimate and worthless. Some, however, who have imagined that they adopted his law—the late Mr J. S. Mill and Mr J. Morley, for example, would ignore its negative bearing, at least towards theology, and suppose it to mean merely that in the positive epoch all phenomena, physical and social, will be looked upon as following a fixed order, although that order may have been ordained by God. With positivists of this class I need here have no controversy. I am only surprised that they should be able to suppose that they accept Comte's law as proposed by himself. If he had seen that positivist thought was not exclusive of theological thought; that when you had reached a law of phenomenon, so far from having done with all questions as to whether or not these phenomena have any relation to God, you were only brought into a position to ask, Is this law not an ordinance of God ?-is it not an expression of His will ?-I should have had nothing to object to him. But had he seen that, he would have seen also that his positivism was a comparatively small and partial thing, however true it might be within the narrow limits in that case assigned to it. Certainly, as a matter of fact, he did not see it. He clearly and explicitly taught the contrary. He distinctly held that positivism so excludes metaphysics and theology, that positivism completed would be metaphysics and theology eliminated from the entire intelligible world.
For this dogma, however, he produced no historical evidence. There was, in fact, none to produce. The scientific proof of law has in no single instance been found to include or involve disproof of a lawgiver. In no nation, and with respect to no single science or even single scientific truth, has the human mind yet reached a position which is beyond or above theism, or from which theism
can be seen to be untrue; so that Comte's law, as propounded by himself, is in its negative reference, in which alone it concerns us here, wholly unwarranted by facts. Comte has mistaken, as I have previously had occasion to prove, in a work on the Philosophy of History in France and Germany,' three coexistent states for three successive stages of thought, three aspects of things for three epochs of time. Theology, metaphysics, and positive science, instead of following only after one another, each constituting an epoch, have each pervaded all epochs—have coexisted from the earliest times to the present day. There has been no passing away of any one of them. Each new positive science brings with it principles which the metaphysician finds it requisite to submit to an analytic examination, and in which he finds new materials for speculation; and also, in the measure of its success, results in which the theologian finds some fresh disclosure of the thoughts and character of God. Underneath all positive or empirical science there is metaphysics ; above all such science there is theology; and these three are so related that every advance of science must extend the spheres both of true metaphysics and true theology. Hence history, far from showing that theology and metaphysics are purely of her domain, merely passing phases of thought preparatory for positive science. illusions of the infancy and youth of humanity through which the mind must pass on its way to maturity, certifies, on the contrary, that all three have constantly existed together,—that while each has been gradually emancipating itself from the interference and control of the others, each has been advancing and evolving within its proper sphere and in due relationship to the others; that they are distinguishable but not divisible; that they represent real aspects of existence and respond to eternal aspirations of the human heart. I do not dwell, however, on this, because I have elsewhere done so. Suffice it to say that the appeal of the positivist to history for a testimony unfavourable to theism, evokes only a declaration on its behalf.1
Let us consider for a moment the positivist appeal to reason. Under this head Comte's fundamental objection to theism and theology is, that they imply that man can attain to a knowledge of causes, whereas causes are, he holds, absolutely inaccessible to the human intellect. He admits that a religious theory of the world, a belief in a divine Author of the world, is inevitable, if reason can rise to causes, but he denies that it can. To deny, however, is always easy; to prove a negative is always difficult. In order to prove the negative in question, M. Comte must have proved that he
1 See Appendix XXI.