"God: Conferences delivered at Notre Dame in Paris"
(series begins here)
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
Need I avow it? – Since I have been charged with the work of preaching the divine word, this is the fist time that I have approached this question of the existence of God – if indeed it can be called a question! Hitherto I have disdained it as unnecessary. I have thought it needless to prove to a son the existence of his father, and that he who did not know him was unworthy of such knowledge. But the course of ideas constrains me to touch upon this subject. Nevertheless, in making this concession to logical order, I could not allow you to think that I purposed to satisfy a want of your hearts, or of the people and the age in which we life. God be thanked, we believe in him, and were I to doubt of your faith in him, you would rise and cast me out from amongst you; the doors of this cathedral would open before me of themselves, and the people would need but a look in order to confound me. That same people who in the intoxication of victory, after having overthrown many generations of kings, bore off in their submissive hands, and as the associate of their triumph, the image of the Son of God made man. (Applause.)
Gentlemen, let us not applaud the word of God; let us love it, believe in it, practice it; this is the only applause that mounts to heaven and is worthy of it.
I might here close this discourse since you happily show me that it is needless. Allow me, however, before doing so, to seek why the idea of God is popular, and whether that popularity is but a vain illusion of mankind.
We have said that we possess four means of verifying doctrines; namely: nature, intelligence, conscience, and society. If the idea of God be legitimate, it should derive strength from these four sources of light, whilst pantheism should necessarily find its condemnation in them.
Nature is a grand spectacle which easily exhausts our vision and our imagination; but does it bear the stamp of a being without cause, of a being existing of itself? Can nature say like God, through Moses: EGO SUM QUI SUM – I am who am? Infinity is the first mark of the being without cause; does nature bear this sign? Let us examine it. All that we see there is limited, all is form and movement, form determined, movement calculated; all falls under the straightened empire of measure, even the distances which remain unknown to our instruments, but are by no means unknown to our conceptions. We feel the limit even where our eye does not perceive it; it is enough for us to seize it at one point, to determine it everywhere. The infinite is indivisible, and were but one single atom of the universe submitted to our feeble hands, we should know that nature is finite, and that its immensity is but the splendid veil of its poverty.
God: Conferences - Notre-Dame in Paris (1871)
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