Having now pursued our inquiry along several independent lines, and found ourselves led by each to the same conclusion, it remains for us briefly to notice how greatly the argument is augmented by the convergence of its several branches, and what a high degree of moral probability is thereby imparted to the result.
The force which is given to testimony by the coincidence and mutual support of independent witnesses is familiar to every one who has any practical acquaintance with the laws of evidence. A single witness may not improbably be mistaken or false, but that two independent witnesses should concur in the same error or falsehood is extremely unlikely; and with every addition to the number of independent witnesses the improbability of their all agreeing in the same mistake or lie is enormously increased, and soon reaches what we call moral impossibility. The same principle holds good in all investigations into the truth of things: the most surely established facts derive their moral certainty from the coincidence, or convergence, as it has been called, of diverse and independent proofs.
The result of our investigation has been the discovery of four different lines of evidence, each of which conducts us to God.
Viewing the universe in the light of our own consciousness of originating will, the existence of a Supreme Volition is borne in on our minds as the only conceivable cause of its existence.
Viewing nature in the light of our own consciousness of designing intelligence, the existence of a Supreme Mind is borne in on our minds as the only conceivable source of its order, its organisms, and its relationships.
Viewing our own moral faculty as revealed to us by our consciousness, and through observation of its various manifestations, the existence of a Supreme Righteous Lawgiver to whom we are accountable is borne in on our minds as the only sufficient explanation of the voice of conscience, the sense of responsibility, and the working force of the moral sentiment.
Viewing our own spiritual faculty, as revealed to us in our consciousness, through the aspirations which reach out towards the infinite, the affections which yearn for a Supreme Object, and the intuitions which realize the infinite and adorable Goodness, the existence of a Heavenly Father is borne in on our minds as the only satisfactory means of accounting for the phenomena of the spiritual life of mankind.
Here are four separate lines of evidence, originating in as many distinct branches of our consciousness, and leading through the observation of different classes of phenomena to the same great conclusion, namely, that God is. For will, intelligence, morality, and spirituality, taking them in the senses in which they are usually defined, are attributes essentially different from one another, each giving rise to its own series of effects by which our personality exhibits its properties. If then, each by itself is a witness, more or less definite and forcible, by which the existence of God is attested, their agreement in leading to a common conclusion is the convergence of four independent witnesses, and the result has the moral force which we have seen to arise from such a coincidence of testimony.
But the skeptic is not satisfied. He asks for more direct and palpable proof than what is the unfolding of our consciousness. They claim it as subjective fanciful thinking. Here is the unreasonableness of agnosticism. Evidence which in every other province of life is considered sufficient is in this debate about the basis of religion set aside as of no cogency, and a demand is made for proof of a kind which in the nature of things is unattainable.
Sensory proof of God is in the nature of things impossible, and therefore the demand for it must be pronounced unreasonable. Putting aside then the claim of the determined skeptic for either logical demonstration or perceptible manifestation of God as inapplicable and unmeaning, it only remains to fall back on the indirect evidence for God which comes through our consciousness. To enable us fairly to estimate the force of this, two considerations must be borne in mind.
First, that it really is on evidence of this kind that the whole of our practical knowledge is based. There is not a single object outside a man's personality, of the existence of which he is certified either by logical proof or indirect perception. Of his own sensations, feelings, emotions he has direct knowledge, but of nothing else whatsoever. It is from these that he leaps by an instinctive inference to the belief of a world outside him, of fellow men like himself, and even of the identity and permanence of his own individual self. By an instinctive inference, we repeat, not by a process of logic; that certain fact is the key of our whole position.
These primary beliefs are utterly incapable of demonstration; they spring up of themselves in the mind; they are intuitive, indigenous, the offspring of a rational instinct, but no logical justification of them is possible. Yet they are practically irresistible, and no sane person refuses to act upon them. If a metaphysician questions them speculatively in his closet, he does not the less make them the basis of his life, as soon as he steps out to converse with his family or mix with the world. Illogical they are, but inevitable, and ineradicably rooted in human nature. If then it can be shown that belief in God springs up in a similar way, and rests substantially on the same foundation of instinctive inference, it will need no further justification, and the charge brought against it of lacking logical demonstration will be irrelevant.
And secondly, we have before us ample evidence that belief in God actually has that relation to the human mind which we call instinctive or intuitive, in that it springs up or roots itself universally in the consciousness, and takes ever firmer hold in proportion to the growth of man in the higher characteristics of humanity. Moreover, we find that, in seeking for a rational ground for the belief, it is not along one line only, but along four distinct and independent lines that our minds advance to the assured possession of it.
From our own consciousness of will we infer a Supreme Originating Will; of intelligence, a Supreme Constructing Mind; of morality, a Supreme Righteous Lawgiver; of spirituality, a Supreme Father. Thus the instinctive inference of a personal God is woven of four separate strands; the evidence is the coincident testimony of four independent witnesses; the proof is the combination and convergence of four distinct lines of induction. And our conclusion is, that belief in God rests on as trustworthy and practically sure a foundation as any of those primary instinctive beliefs of the reason on which all mankind habitually rely and act.