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brush aside the vast mass of testimony that God has answered prayer.
Our argument in brief, then, is this: from any proper definition of science and prayer, we cannot discover anything within them that brings them into conflict. Those who rule out prayer for physical blessings on the ground of the immutability of natural laws must, if consistent, rule out prayer for spiritual blessings also, since law is as fixed in the realm of spirit as in the realm of matter. Confusion often results from a lack of precision in the use of the term law-a physical law being, to our observation, only a process in the material world; but as we see that in the process beneficent ends are reached, that fact suggests that the process may be simply God's method of acting. By these very processes, therefore, God may answer prayer. As men, by adjusting to each other the few immutable laws of the material world which they have laboriously learned, reach all the varied and marvelous results which we see produced by mechanical contriv. ances, so God, who works in and through all the laws of his universe, by their adjustment, without in the slightest degree infringing them, may answer every prayer of his people. Any truly scientific theory of prayer must account for the fact of prayer, and deal dispassionately with the mass of testimony given, down through all the ages, that God has, in almost innumerable instances, answered prayer.
After a calm, dispassionate examination of all that has been written by materialistic scientists about the impotence and folly of prayer, we may, without the slightest danger of being unscientific, still believe and obey Him who, speaking with unerring wisdom, said, “Ask, and it shall be given you."
THEOLOGY is the past tense ; Science is king. Such is the conviction of thousands who lead or hope to lead the world. The reason is, that science has the only verifiable, and therefore the only reliable test of what is true, or good, or beautiful. The practical life of man, the arts, commerce, medicine, law, and even philosophy and ethics, have become firmly established only as they have been founded anew upon scientific methods and results.
Will religion be the exception? Or will science banish theology from that, as it did astrology from astronomy? Will the ultimate, the religious, conceptions of mankind be annexed to the scientific domain ? If so, this new solution of the world will evidently supplant the ancient one and become the creed of the intelligent of the race, the basis of its higher integration, The rapid progress of science toward this result is the most astonishing phase of human history. This new solution of the universe—this idea of law, which is pushing will from the throne - dates not further back than three hundred years (A. D. 1600), when the Copernican astronomy, by the substitution of the heliocentric for the geocentric theory, presented man with a new heaven and a new earth, a new cosmogony, which necessitates a scientific religion, and will leave none other possible.
It may be replied that science cannot for ages reach the masses of the race who are still Fetichists, nor even the majority in civilized countries who are little better. Granted; but knowl. edge is power. Those who have this power will control the earth, although they may not have the numbers to inherit it. In the rational and spiritual world there is not equality. The law of evolution assigns rank according to courage and capacity. When the vanguard waits for the rear all progress will stop. The rear will never move until drawn forward by the advance. The blind will never see without the light. The highest duty is to tell the highest truth.
What, then, is the verdict of science upon prayer? Prayer is the essence of religion; is, indeed, practical religion under theology. But will the coming scientific, intelligent man pray at all? If not, from whence can he derive the reliance, comfort, and discipline that prayer has afforded to the past generations of men? If prayer is not a means of grace under the new and higher integration, what will take its place?
Evidently prayer is useless unless prayer is answered. Does not the scientific proof that prayer is answered wholly fail?
At the very first step, the fundamental laws of modern science seem to render prayer-answer a priori inconceivable. Those laws are: the indestructibility of matter, the correlation and equivalence of forces, gravitation, and the law of evolution. This last law is now recognized as the backbone of the organic, the social, the mental, the moral, and the religious sciences. The old rudimentary beliefs about the uniformity of nature, and
that like causes and conditions produced like effects, have been summed up and verified invincibly in these laws. They are the greatest acquisition of the human race, and together form the new solution of the world. All science is merely their repetition or extension; its literature is their illustration. They are not only drawn from the facts and events of the world inductively, but Mr. Spencer shows (“First Principles," chaps. 4-9) that, at bottom, they rest upon the law of correlation, the contrary of which is from the very constitution of our minds inconceivable. Thus, the indestructibility of matter and the persistence of force are not only proved by every observation and experiment, but upon ultimate analysis are found to be the condition of thought itself. All notions inconsistent with these laws are called by scientists pseudo-conceptions. They have been inherited in vast masses from the unscientific period prior to 1600, when accurate knowledge beyond simple mathematics was practically impossible.
Is prayer-answer, then, one of those pseudo-ideas? The answer is affirmative if prayer involves a break or variation of those laws.
The burden of reconciling prayer with those laws rests upon
cisively, No! In the olden times, nothing was more easy than a belief in prayer-answer and miracles, for nothing was more "natural" under the will, or God, solution of the world. “Sacred”. literatures are full of these events. The old world was plastic material for the working out of divine and human ends. In its will-science, matter and the laws and order of nature were violated, varied, adjusted, or changed for purposes personal or religious. For instance: water was made wine; or five fishes became a hundred; a storm was broken up; iron floated; or a sacrifice was set on fire in answer to Elijah's prayer. Every instance, and they might be collected by thousands, contains the same illusion; that is, that the matter, or forces, of the world may be changed or increased in violation of, or beyond, the correlate order. In that supposition only consists the value of prayer or miracle. But for this notion of power, over or beyond nature, neither would be sought or used. From the slightest glance at the history of prayer-answer and miracle it is plain, therefore, that both were valued only as they were directly in the teeth of the order of nature, and of what are now known to be
VOL. CXXXVII.—NO. 321.
the fundamental laws of science. It follows that this venerable practice will cease in direct proportion as those laws become known and people come to rely on them, instead of on petitions to alter them.
But the pseudo-conceptions of this cbaracter, and their fundamental illusions, are, as we have intimated, ancient, venerable, and hereditary. Immense capital - material, mental, social, and spiritual—is invested in them. The law of evolution, therefore, leads us to expect that instead of any sudden change there will necessarily arise an immense expenditure of ingenuity to make these pseudo-notions appear credible, and a very considerable amount of indignation will be visited upon those who may oppose them.
Let us, then, next examine the most common mode of sustaining this belief. It is simply a part of theology, and is itself unscientific in nature and method. It assumes a God who is anthropomorphic, and yet perfect, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, omniscient, with a will, capacities, and feelings similar to, and yet infinitely beyond those of man. The assumption is that this God, in some way and at some time “in the beginning," created the world out of nothing, or out of his own potency, and has since governed it in a fixed order, according to the laws of his own enactment, now known to us, however, as the laws of correlation above described. These laws, therefore, under the theological interpretation, are always within the control of this supreme will, and he varies, changes, adjusts, or in some way uses them so as to effect answers to prayer.
But this hypothesis of a personal or anthropomorphic God is invoked in vain. It has no weight with pure Theists, Agnostics, Pantheists, or Atheists. All these classes of thinkers unite in showing that the anthropomorphic conception of God is a false one, and without the slightest scientific warrant; that it is a dogma of theology which cannot be conceived, much less understood, but which must be "received by faith" as a “mystery," if it be received at all. When mysteries of this kind (as, for instance, the dogma of transubstantiation) meet the law of correlation, they pass at once beyond the domain of science into that Limbo of Vanity, or of poetry and fancy, known in science as Fable and Myth.
But to those who still retain, or imagine that they retain, a belief in an anthropomorphic Deity, will this hypothesis of a
personal God remove or only increase the difficulty? Plainly the latter. It is as impossible to reconcile prayer-answer or miracle with God's necessary and admitted attributes, which are, his omnipotence, omniscience, and perfection, as it is to reconcile them with the Scientist's laws of Nature. Nor, may we add, does such prayer-answer or miracle remain consistent with any reasonable veneration for a Deity. For if the laws of nature be but the order of continuous manifestations of his power, they are invariable, because they must be perfect, for they are the action of a Perfect Being who omnisciently knew all things for all time, and had infinite power to execute all that he knew or wished. Such a Being is, therefore, commonly and properly described as unchangeable, and “ without a shadow of turning.” To suppose such a Being to alter the order of the world would be to admit that it was not perfectly conceived and ordered in the first place, and that its Maker failed for want of knowledge or power to make it complete. A perfect and invariable God cannot also be imperfect and variable. Such a Being is a bundle of absurd contradictions.
But let us next suppose that prayer was foreknown and foreordained by this Supreme Being, as a thing to happen as a part of his government by which man would procure a benefit that God had fore-ordained thereupon to grant. Then the prayer would be useless; for, the event would happen as a part of the perfect world-order without prayer, or, if prayer were decreed to be inseparably connected with the event, then it would be simply a part of it, a superfluous concomitant of the event and useless, since the event would happen without it. The maker of the prayer would be only an automaton worked for nothing. If this be the plan of the world, it is plain that God has fore-ordained to grant benefits to intelligent people without this needless addition, which they have practically dropped. He has wisely foreordained that people should drop it as they become enlightened.
But suppose that God has fore-ordained some facts to be born as twins. For he may have arranged“ from all eternity," so that a certain event cannot happen without a prayer preceding, which prayer depends upon the volition of some man. Plainly this would be conditioning the order of events, and the order of a perfect world, upon the volition of an imperfect being. This would contradict God's perfection, omniscience, and goodness. The idea that a Perfect Being could let his world be run by im