« PreviousContinue »
theism supplies. It does well to insist on the omnipresence of God, and on the complete and ceaseless dependence of the universe on His power. But all true theism does the same. There is no pantheism in the Bible, yet no book is more thoroughly pervaded and inspired by the thought that finite things are not self-existent, nor self-sustained, nor selfevolved, but that God is over all and in all, the ground of existence, the source of life, the giver of every good. This thought is implied on each page. It is strikingly expressed in the words of the Psalmist when he says,—" If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me:" of the Prophet,—" Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord: do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord:" of the Apostle Paul,—" For in God we live, and move, and have our being:" and of the Apostle John,—" He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." To call language of this kind pantheistic has no warrant in reason, and no other tendency than to mislead. The truth that " of God, and through Him, and to Him, are all things," is common to pantheism and theism, and distinguishes both from deism. There is more, however, than this to be said. Pantheism is, in fact, far from teaching the full truth even as to God's presence. It cannot consistently conceive of it as a personal and spiritual, but only as a natural and necessary, presence. It tells us that God is in all that we see and touch and hear,—in the light of day, the springing grass, and whispering breeze; but it tells us too that the God who is there is present only as substance, force, and law, not as reason, love, and will. If so—if God is only thus present to us in the elements and agencies of nature,—-His presence is, in reality, only their presence. It adds nothing to their presence. Were it withdrawn, if the things themselves existed, there would be no difference. Imagination and poetry may endeavour to make something of the distinction between the presence of a merely impersonal God in nature and the mere presence of nature, but I do not see how either reason or a reasonable faith, either philosophy or religion, can attach any importance to it. If the God who is in the sunbeam can only be present as its light and heat, the sunbeam without God must be equivalent to the sunbeam with God. Only when God is felt to be the creative and legislative Reason — the supreme Will, free, righteous, and loving,—can His presence in the objects and processes of nature acquire a real religious significance. If He is even only so present in ourselves that there is no distinction between Him and us, between His power and our power, His presence with us is not distinguishable from His absence from us. Another sort of presence is needed before the soul can be satisfied,—the presence of one spirit with another spirit. Religion implies, undoubtedly, that we realise God's presence with us; but it equally implies, what pantheism denies, that He is personally distinct from us; that He can have affection and compassion towards us, and that we can love Him with an unselfish love; that He can guide and help us, and that we may trust Him as we cannot trust ourselves; and that we may fear Him as one whom we can offend, and pray to Him as one who can hear and answer us.
Religion supposes faith, love, hope; but pantheism when it denies the personality of God refuses to these affections an appropriate object. It withholds from the view of the spirit what can alone satisfy its best and deepest feelings. The less of determinate personal character God is regarded as having, the less is it possible to love or trust Him. When supposed to be wholly indeterminate and impersonal, no room at all is left for a religion characterised by the personal affections. To a necessarily self-evolving impersonal God— whether conceived of as substance, identity, force, law, process, or idea—the only worship which can reasonably be offered is a cold, passionless resignation, which submits because it must, which bows not to love but to power, and which looks forward to the eternal loss of individual existence as the inevitable destination of man. The soul craves for union with God, and can have no healthy spiritual life except through union with Him; but the value, and even possibility, of such union must depend not only on the disposition of man, but on the character of God. Pantheism, however, would divest God of character: it denies to Him selfconsciousness, fatherly love, providential care, redeeming mercy: under pretence of exalting Him above all categories of thought and existence it reduces Him to the level of dead things, of necessary processes, of abstract ideas, or even to the still lower level of the unknowable and non-existent; and it thereby leaves no room for that union with God in rational, pure, and holy love, which is the only basis, the grand distinction, the power, and the glory of true religion. It offers to enable us to realise better than any other theory the omnipresence of God, but it represents Him as in reality inaccessible either to intelligence or affection. It keeps the word of promise to the ear, but breaks it to the heart.
History confirms what has just been said. It shows that pantheism can only find room for a religion of affectionate devotion by being untrue to its distinctive principles. The more consistent it is, the less religious it is. In Brahminism and Buddhism we perceive how a deep sense of the evils of the present life, and a vivid fear of the evils which may be endured in the future phases of existence, may cause men to yearn intensely and to labour earnestly for the extinction of personality, or even for utter annihilation, but the absolute Being of the one system and the absolute Fate of the other are alike unloved. The mystical piety of India, when strictly pantheistic, knows nothing of the gratitude for Divine mercy and the trust in Divine righteousness which characterise evangelical piety. Instead of love and communion in love, it can only commend to us the contemplation of an object which is incomprehensible, devoid of all affections, and indifferent to all actions. When feelings like love, gratitude, and trust are expressed in the hymns and prayers of Hindu worship, it is in consequence of a virtual denial of the principles of pantheism; it is because the mind has consented to regard as real what it had previously pronounced illusory, and to personify what it had declared to be impersonal. Hinduism holds it to be a fundamental truth that the absolute Being can have no personal attributes, and yet it has not only to allow but to encourage its adherents to invest that Being with these attributes, in order that by thus tern