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The Visible Reveals the Invisible

The Visible Reveals the Invisible

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Published by glennpease
BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET
BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 29, 2013
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08/05/2014

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THE VISIBLE REVEALS THE INVISIBLEBY JOSEPH AGAR BEETTHE first object which attracts the thought of manis the VISIBLE WORLD around him consistingof objects lifeless and living and rational in endlessvariety, many of them clothed in a beauty whichenchants us and others revealing an adaptation touseful ends which evokes our highest admiration. Continued observation increases our wonder. Wherever welook we see objects which promise to repay abundantlyour most careful study.The complexity and the constant change of theuniverse suggest very strongly, or compel us to believe,that it is NOT SELF-EXISTENT, BUT DERIVED. Weeagerly ask, Whence came this wonderful panoramawhich fills us with delight?Amid natural objects which no human hand hasmade, we notice the works of man. And of these lastwe notice that the best are produced only by deliberatedesign. They existed first as a subjective thought inthe mind before they became objective and outwardactualities. In many cases the thought was graduallyLECT. II.] THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE. 11developed before its realisation began. Examples of this are seen in the successive sketches preparatory toa great picture, and in the gradually evolved plan of a great literary work. All the best works of man areproducts of careful thought as well as of patient toil.And in every case the worker is immensely greaterthan his best work. Our admiration of the pictureis always admiration of the painter.We now ask, Is the material universe an exceptionto this universal generalisation? Are the natural ob jects which evoke a wonder surpassing that with whichwe view the noblest works of man themselves productsof intelligence and therefore a WORK OF ART, or onlyresults of the operation of BLIND AND UNCONSCIOUSFORCES ? Do they reveal the hand of a Worker asmuch greater than man as the universe around ussurpasses the noblest works of man, or have theyno significance beyond their mere utility and pleasantness? Is the man of genius himself an offspring of senseless forces ? If so, man s study of nature, soelevating to that in him which is noblest and best,is but a contemplation of something infinitely inferiorto himself.Against this supposition, every instinct of our naturerebels. The splendour of nature, surpassing all thatman can make and prompting his own best thoughtsand works, proclaims in words we cannot misunderstandthat behind and above the material world is a Workeras much above Nature as the artist is greater than hispicture and as much above man as the vast and glorious12 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.universe is greater than the noblest works of man.The edifice itself bears witness to the resources and
 
the skill of the Architect.This testimony is not weakened by the fact that theDEVELOPMENT of living objects is going on beforeour eyes, and can be in some measure explained by theoperation of known and constant forces. We alreadyknow something about the reproduction of flowers.And the above argument will remain in full force evenif it be proved that all varieties of flowers have beenproduced by the operation of natural forces ; just asour wonder at a manufactured article is not lessenedwhen we see the automatic machine by which it wasmade. We ask at once, Who made the machine?And we wonder at his skill. The theologian asks,Whence came the natural forces which produced thebeautiful world around us ? Who gave them theiroriginal impulse, and directed the mode of their operation ? To these questions, Nature s only answer isthat the MAKER must be GREATER than all that Hehas MADE.The presumption thus elicited is strengthened byother facts recently observed. The rocks beneath ourfeet afford complete proof that our planet was notalways as it is now, that animals existed long beforeman, that to speak generally the lower forms of animaland vegetable life are earlier than the higher, and thatthere was a time when our planet was destitute of eventhe lowest forms of Life. In other words, the broaddivisions of LIFELESS, LIVING, and RATIONAL, soLECT. II.] THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE. 13conspicuous in the world to-day, mark off in theirappearance on the scene three great epochs in thehistory of our globe.Another great fact in the realm of Natural Sciencedemands attention. The most careful scrutiny hasfailed to detect a TRANSITION now from the LIFELESSto the LIVING. So far as has yet been observed,wherever there is life it has been derived from preexisting life. And the known forces of nature areutterly inadequate either to produce out of inorganicmatter the mysterious chemical compounds whichmake up living bodies, or to form them into organiccells, or to endow them with the functions of life. Inother words, in the present and observed order of theuniverse, the forces of nature never break through orbridge over the barrier which separates the livingfrom the lifeless ; and seem, so far as we understandthem, utterly incapable of doing so. But indisputablythis barrier has been broken through. And thepresence of life now in what was once a lifeless worldreveals unmistakably the operation of a Power infinitelygreater than the forces observed in nature. It thusconfirms the strong presumption already derived fromthe beauty and the adaptation of the material world.The same presumption is further confirmed by thephenomena of MIND. For human intelligence, (andeven that of animals,) so vastly superior to its materialsurroundings, cannot possibly be explained by theoperation of the unconscious forces of nature. It bearswitness to the intelligence of its source.14 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.
 
Not only are natural forces unable to explain theorigin of life and of intelligence, but they cannotexplain THEIR OWN ORIGIN. Take, for instance,Gravitation, the simplest and best understood of theseforces. Although its operation is so uniform and sowell known, none can tell us why a stone falls to theground, and why it falls sixteen feet in the first second.These are questions which elude utterly all scientificresearch. As we pursue them, they retire into theUnseen, and thus point to their origin. NaturalScience does but tabulate phenomena in their coexistence and sequence. It does nothing whatever totrace them to their ultimate source. To do this, is thetask of Theology. It thus enters and pursues a pathopened for it by man s observation of nature and bythe more careful researches of Natural Science, andseeks a goal to which Natural Science can never lead.Nor can natural forces explain the ORIGIN OFMOTION. For the forces inherent in matter, such asgravitation and chemical affinity, tend always towardsequilibrium and rest. The various movements in theworld to-day reveal some primal impulse acting ina direction different from that of the inherent forces.That first impulse, whether or not it was simultaneouswith the creation of matter, marks off what may becalled the first moment of time. It cannot beaccounted for by any of the known forces of the universe around us. Therefore, like the universe itself with its inherent forces, and like the origin of life, itreveals the operation of a higher Power.LECT. II.] THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE. 15Our study of the material world leads us one stepfurther. All observation assures us that the variousnatural forces are closely related. Indeed their harmony suggests that they are but various forms of someone mysterious force. From the manifest unity of nature we infer with confidence that its SOURCE is ONE.And that Source must be higher and better than thehighest derived from it.Another phenomenon demands attention. Whilewe contemplate the beauty of the universe and studythe wonderful adaptation of its parts, their exhaustlessvariety, and their profound unity, the eye which contemplates gains immensely in clearness and penetrationand width of view. The visible world is a great lessonbook spread out before us. And the lessons it teachesDEVELOP THE INTELLIGENCE that learns them, andthus give to human life ever-increasing pleasure andworth. So wonderful and important is this development that it cannot be accidental. The value of thelesson reveals the presence 01 a Teacher infinitely wise.Man s own thoughts about nature suggest irresistiblythat nature itself is a realisation of still higher thought.In other words, the effect of nature on man s intelligence proves, in agreement with our previous inference,that the Author of nature is Himself intelligent.It is now evident that the visible universe is notcomplete in itself, but is only a PART OF A LARGERWHOLE. For it fails utterly to account for itself ; andthus points to a source other than itself. This Sourcemust be in every respect superior to everything derived16 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.

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