Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

same, namely, 1023 to 1; for cach one of them would present itself on the average once only in 1024 times.

It is clear, then, that it is not on this side-viz., the chance or physical side-of the problem that we are to seek for any ground of greater likelihood of one of these events over another. It is rather on the "design" or moral side that the difference is to be sought. Out of the whole number of possible throws, two only excite any curiosity, viz., those in which all are alike heads or tails. These two alone, therefore, are generally likely to be designed. As we have already pointed out, other considerations must decide (as well as they can) whether any designed arrangement is likely under the circumstances; but, admitting design at all, we feel little doubt that it would show itself in one of these two ways. In this case it is mere curiosity, so to say, which gives its greater significance, and consequent greater likelihood, to two of the various possible arrangements. In other cases this significance may be brought about by convention. For instance, in cards, “ queen of spades and knave of diamonds” is exactly as uncommon as any other specified pair: moreover, till besique was introduced it offered no superior interest over any other specified pair of cards. But now, since that game has been frequently played, it has been taken up at once into the department of coincidences in which interest is felt; and, given dishonesty amongst the players, its chance of being produced designedly is quite different from what it once was. Returning then to our pyramid, we see good reason to suspect that the ratio offered by the circumference and radius of a circle was designed. Almost every value indeed would correspond to some mathematical ratio ; but most of these offer no kind of popular interest, and could hardly by any possibility have presented themselves to the minds of men in primitive times. But that of a circle, from the simplicity and commonness of the figure, stands on a very different footing. It is the easiest of all figures to produce; and therefore the chance that its ratio, or a method productive of this ratio, should be designed, assumes at once a prominence denied to all others. It occupies, in fact, relative to the other possible values, much the same position that “all heads” occupied amongst the 1024 possible throws.

The fact is, that we ought to distinguish caresully between what is rare and what is remarkable, in the cases in question. People will occasionally ask some such question as this: What is the rarest, or most unlikely deal, that you have ever actually witnessed at a game of whist? So phrased, the question is absurd. The cards being all distinguished from one another, any one hand of thirteen is just as unlikely, neither more nor less, as any other; and one will therefore occur in the long-run as frequently as another. But some hands are decidedly more remarkable than others, in the sense that they strike our fancy more, or are more valuable for purposes of play. It may often be difficult to assign a numerical estimate to this fancy or this value, especially to the former; but the inquiry itself is an essentially reasonable one. It is doubtless in this sense, therefore—viz., as to what is most remarkable—that the question is to be interpreted, though it may have been awkwardly expressed in the form of an inquiry as to what is most rare.

The general problem then before us, when we have to decide between chance and design, is this: On the one side, when we look to statistics, we have a large group of contingencies, each of which, being but one out of the many, is of course very rare, and its occurrence very unlikely. If popular judgment regards all these contingencies with .equal interest or indifference, we have so far no ground to expect that there had been any design displayed in the choice of the particular contingency which experience shows to have occurred. Commonly, however, this is not the case. Popular judgment assigns a peculiar interest or value to one or more of the contingencies, and hence creates a small sub-class amongst these contingencies which stands on a favored footing. We then have to settle the question, What is the chance that people should exercise this kind of design in the case in question? This is, as a rule, a hopeless matter to determine, though we may often be able to assign roughly some limit above or below which we feel sure it will not extend. This done, there remains the arithmetical calculation of the relative frequency of these two classes of cases, which, when the data are assigned, would admit of at any rate an approximate solution.

From the brief remarks which we have been able to make

upon this subject, the reader will be able in some degree to judge of the almost unmeaning vagueness of the inquiry which has been actually raised, and is occasionally repeated, as to whether the world could have been made by chance? In such simple examples as we have just been discussing, both the elements of the inquiry are apt to complicate themselves beyond hope of fruitful treatment; but here they both get into a state far beyond all hope of rational comprehension. As regards the mere numerical side of the question, the calculator of probabilities amongst cards and dice is doubtless fond of disporting himself in the midst of such figures as render an ordinary head dizzy to contemplate ; but what sort of mental audacity must he have who would propose to decide what figure represents the total number of possibilities of creation out of which the existent world is to be regarded as having turned up or been selected ? Such a mind would doubtless feel itself equal to undertaking the other side of the problem—that is, to deciding exactly how likely an omnipotent and omniscient Creator would be to understand and make use of schemes which we should recognize as design. It is almost an insult to ordinary intelligence to remark that figures, or any part of our nature which has to do with figures, are quite out of place in inquiries such as this.

JOHN VENN.

FAITH.

OW can we account for it that Faith, relatively unrec

ognized before, became at once so prominent on the introduction of Christianity ? As a requirement, it was not only made prominent, but essential, both by Christ and his apostles. When asked by the Jews what they should do that they might work the works of God, our Saviour replied : “ This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent.” They were not simply to believe what he said, but were to believe on him ; and that is faith. Identical with this was the direction given by Paul and Silas to the jailer : “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “ Therefore,” says Paul, “ we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” And not only was faith made a condition of salvation as an initiatory step, but it was to be the inspiration of the whole life. Christians were to "walk by faith,” to “fight the good fight of faith ;" the victory by which they were to overcome the world was their faith ; they were to "live by faith."

In making faith thus prominent Christianity was wholly original. Associating, as we do from our earliest years, both the name and the thing with religion, and as we grow up finding it incorporated into all our religious literature, it is difficult for us to realize how original the full adoption of this principle was, and how strange it must have seemed both to the Jews and the Gentiles. Faith was indeed the spiritual element under the Old Testament dispensation, and in that sense its underlying principle, but the system was one requiring legal and ceremonial observances; it was to them that attention was directed, and

through them that faith was to look. In connection with these observances an intense system of ecclesiasticism had grown up, and nothing could have been less likely to occur to a Jew than the possibility of a religion that should retain the principle and drop those rites and forms, divinely appointed, in which it was cmbodied-rites elaborate, magnificent, connecting themselves with the early associations and the national pride of every Jew, and on the maintenance of which the respectability, the livelihood even, of a large and influential class seemed to depend. The prominence of faith in the New Testament cannot therefore be accounted for by the fact that it is, under the name of trust, the spiritual and underlying element of the Old Tes. tament. In that the word itself occurs but twice.

So far, indeed, was it under that from full or even distinct recognition, that the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians speaks of it in contrast with the old dispensation, and as having first come in connection with Christianity. But before faith came," he says, “we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

But if this prominence of faith seemed strange to the Jew, much more must it have seemed so to the Gentile. No heathen religion ever inculcated faith as a duty, or made it a distinctive element of itself in any way. So far as appears, the philosophers had never given attention to the state of mind indicated by the word, they had not recognized it as a principle of action; and certainly, aside from some object of it such as no heathen religion presented, there was nothing in it to awaken the enthusiasm, or attract the attention even, of the common people.

How, then, the question recurs, shall we account for the prompt and full instalment of faith in a position so prominent, and with a function so vital, at the very commencement of Christianity ? We can do it only by supposing that Christianity understood itself as it could not have done if it had not been inspired-and, understanding itself, the prominence and function given to faith were a necessity. The originality of giving this place to faith, great as it was, was not, however, if I may so say, primary. Faith was, indeed, original as a requisition

« PredošláPokračovať »