Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
Evolution the Method of an Omnipresent Deity
By Benjamin Peirce (18091880)
[Born in Salem, Mass., 1809. Died at Cambridge, Mass., 1880. Ideality in the Physical Sciences. 1881.]
CERTAIN wise and good men, jealous of their religious faith, have feared that the nebular theory is liable to the reproach of being an invention to relieve the Almighty from the incessant care of his creation. We cannot deny that some eyes have been dazzled by it, so as to become insensible to the more needed light of spiritual faith. But how could there be such brilliancy, except in an emanation from divine light? The intellectual force of the conception is consequent upon its verity. Any harm which it may have done is due, not to the impurity or dimness of the light, but to the weakness or disease of the eye.
An undeviating succession of events has been observed. Such a phenomenon is inseparable from uniformity of law and plan, and is the only possible expression of an unchangeable will, which is subject to no caprice. It is the mode of growth adopted by the Creator to accomplish the plan of creation. The universe is a book written for mans reading. If it were destitute of strict logical connection, it would fail of its purpose, and be unintelligible. The luminous order of the pages and the successive introduction of new and strange truths are marvellously adapted to the development and expansion of the created intellect. It is a glorious manifestation of the all-pervading affection and of the fostering care of divine wisdom. Facility of execution was no motive to the Omnipotent, nor transparency of conception to the Omniscient. Our weakness has been consulted in the spiritual food presented to our nutriment.
The divine presence only at the beginning, and the seeming absence of Deity from the actual course of natural events, is a human misconception not easy to be eradicated, for it is one which is incident to our finite nature. Man lives in time and space. It is only through media that he is cognizant of the near and the remote, of the past and the future. Standing on the earth, he sees the distant star by the light which strikes his eye; and, by the aid of the telescope, can see one still more remote. Guided by the law of cause and effect, he traces back events into the past and prophesies the future.
This is mans mode of seeing; but it cannot be Gods. The Omniscient and Omnipresent needs neither created light nor human telescope to penetrate space, nor our logic to connect events. With him there is nothing distant; all objects, celestial and terrestrial, are in immediate proximity, and the past and the future are forever present. Deity does not exist in time and space; but they are in him,they are his inward conceptions, his created conditions, to which man by his will is subject.
This wonderful riddle is at present beyond human conception; it is faintly represented in the mystery of the dream. But it is vain for the finite to strive to comprehend the infinite. We are permitted to know all that we require. The universal plan is apparent to every mind which yields itself to logical induction. The links of the all-embracing chain are in open sight. We need not search the obscure past to find out God. It is not in the first appearance of animal life or of man himself that He need be sought, any more than in the whirlwind or the earthquake. His dwelling is not where the law of continuity is broken. There would be the proper home of some heathen deity, who rejoiced in lawlessness. But our God proclaims himself in the silent law of universal gravitation; He is forever present in the quiet grandeur and intellectual simplicity of the processes of the nebular theory, and in the soul of man, which is fitted to understand the divine harmony. The Creator is not ruled out of the universe by our theory of evolution. That which we call evolution is but the mode in which He is present on whom mortal cannot look with physical eyes and live. It is the manifestation of his paternity. He becomes through it, more legibly than ever, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the eternal I AM, the omnipresent Father, the breath of whose nostrils is wisdom and power and love.