Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

germs were those either of some other type of zymotic disease, or of ordinary saprophytes, to which some special conditions had imparted a choleraic potency.

Although, from the time when Sir William Jenner pointed out the marked distinctions between Typhus and Typhoid (or Enteric) fevers, their distinctness has been generally recognised, and any difficulty in diagnosing a case has been commonly set down to ignorance or imperfect observation, yet I have the high authority of the late Sir Robert Christison for stating that these diseases are not at all times, or in all places, so definitely distinguishable. Not long before his death, the Nestor of the medical profession in Scotland emphatically assured me, that looking at this class of diseases from the natural history point of view, he had been led by an experience of half a century to regard them, not as uniformly marked out, one from another, by well-defined boundaries, but as shading off gradationally one into another.'

Being specially anxious that those who are labouring to build up the noble Science of Preventive Medicine should work no unsound material into the fabric they are constructing, I would earnestly press upon them to avoid all exclusive theories, and to take Nature alone as their guide. The broader and deeper the foundation they lay, the more solid and durable will be the edifice that rests upon it.

W. B. CARPENTER.

ADDENDUM.

[SINCE the above was in type, the French Commission which was serit to Egypt to investigate the recent epidemic of Cholera has reported, as the result of its inquiries, that this epidemic was not imported, but was born as well as bred in the country itself; especial stress being laid on the recent prevalence of a cattle-plague, and on the practice of throwing into the rivers and canals the bodies of animals that had died of it. It was, moreover, the opinion of the Commission that the disease was not pure Indian Cholera ; but that in some of its symptoms it rather resembled Plague. These conclusions are entirely in harmony with the views advocated in the latter part of

this paper.

A small treatise has been recently published, on the Evolution of Morbid Gerons, by Mr. Kenneth M. Millican, which contains a body of additional evidence, derived from clinical experience, of the variability in the types of Zymotic diseases propagated by the same contagia ; that of the intercommunicability of Scarlatina and Diphtheria (under certain conditions being peculiarly cogent.-W. B. C.] CHRISTIAN AGNOSTICISM.

The title at the head of this article may appear to some a contradiction in terms. But it is not really so. And no religious man need shrink from saying, 'I am a Christian Agnostic. I hold firmly by the doctrine of St. Paul, who exclaims, in sheer despair of fathoming the unfathomable, “ O the depth of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and inscrutable His ways!” I say, with Job and all the great prophets of the Old Testament, “ Canst thou by searching find out God ?” And I bow to the authority of Christ, who tells me “No man hath seen God at any time;” “God is a Spirit;

» 66 Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." And in so holding, I am in full accord with the Church. I say with her, “ We know Thee now by faith;” “The Father is incomprehensible (im-mensus);” “ There is but one God, eternal, incorporeal, indivisible, beyond reach of suffering, infinite”-in short, a profound and inscrutable Being. Nor do I find that Catholic theology, for 1800 years, has ever swerved from a clear and outspoken confession of this Agnosticism. So early as the second century, we read in Justin Martyr, “ Can a man know God, as he knows arithmetic or astronomy? Assuredly not.” 1 Irenæus, in the same century, repeatedly speaks of God as “indefinable, incomprehensible, invisible." 2 That bold thinker in the third century, Clement of Alexandria, declares (with Mr. Spencer) that the process of theology is, with regard to its doctrine of God, negative and agnostic, always "setting forth what God is not, rather than what He is.”3 All the great Fathers of the fourth century echo the same statement. St. Augustine is strong on the point. John of Damascus, the greatest theologian of the East, says bluntly, “It is impossible for the lower nature to know the higher." 4 Indeed, it would be a mere waste of time to adduce any more of the great Catholic theologians by name. They are all “agnostics” to a man. And M. Emile Burnouf is quite right when he says: “Les docteurs chrétiens sont unanimes à déclarer que leur dieu est caché et incompréhensible, qu'il est plein de mystères, qu'il est l'objet de la foi et non pas de la raison.” ? 5

1 Trypho, 3.

4 De fide, i. 12.

2 iv. 34. 6, &c.

8 Strom. v. 11. 5 Science des Religions, p. 15.

Thus there is nothing new under the sun, not even in the highest flights of modern philosophy; and no man, with all the Fathers of the Church at his back, need hesitate to say "I am a Christian Agnostic. Yet all who concur in this will, I am sure, warmly welcome a powerful auxiliary like Mr. Herbert Spencer, if only he remain true to the principles so lucidly set forth in the last number of this Review. For although he might not bimself care to qualify his philosophy by the adjective Christian, fearing thereby to limit --as a philosopher is bound not to do-his perfect freedom of speculation, still his guidance is none the less valuable to those who are approaching the same subject from a different side. The Christian, indeed, is, of all men, the most absolutely bound-over to be truthful. When, therefore, any great leader of thought arises, whether in the higher or the lower departments of human inquiry, the liegeman of a God of truth' must needs feel such reverence as Dante expressed for Aristotle, the great master of them that know;' and will borrow from the other twin luminary of the Mediæval Church, St. Augustine, that most apt of all mottoes for a really Catholic' philosopher: "The Christian claims as his Master's own possession every broken fragment of truth, wherever it may be found.' In the firm conviction, then, that in Mr. Spencer's works much truth—not in detached fragments merely, but in large coherent masses--is to be found, the present writer hopes to show how little there is to repudiate, how much to accept and to be sincerely grateful for, in his masterly speculations.

1. First of all, Mr. Spencer led us in his interesting article last month to take a retrospective view of religion, in its origin and history. Naturally, he does not approach the question in the oldfashioned way. His purpose is not dogmatic, but analytic. That lovely Hagada, therefore, or religious story whereby, for babes and philosophers alike, the wonderful genius which constructed the Jewish Scriptures has projected, once for all, upon a plane surface (as it were) a picture of the origin of all things—this our man of science properly passes by; and he proceeds to inquire how precisely the beginnings of things, and especially of religion, may be conceived. And since, in these days, we have ail of us 'evolution' upon the brain, it was not to be expected that any other line of thought should be attempted. Indeed, it may be fairly conceded that, amid our modern scientific environment, no other method of inquiry is just at present possible. We belong to our own age. And wbile other ages

have taken grand truths en bloc and have deftly hammered them out into finer shapes for practical use, the special delight and the crowning glory of our own age consist rather in a power of tracking things backward. Hence a hundred books of (so called) "origins' issue annually from the press. Of course, no origin is ever really described; simply because there is no such thing in nature as an origin. If there were, at that point all hunt upon the traces of evolution would abruptly come to an end; whereas, by the usual scientific hypothesis, evolution knows neither beginning nor end. By origins, therefore, can only be meant arbitrary points a little way back, marked (as children or jockeys set up a starting-post) for commencing the inquiry. Indeed, it is very easy to imagine some imperturbable savage-say, a Zulu of Natal or an English schoolboy —asking the most reprehensible questions as to what happened before the origin' began. Such a critic would be sure to express a languid wonder, for instance, as to how the primæval star-mist got there; or he would casually inquire whence the antediluvian thunderbolt, which introduced vegetable life upon this globe, procured its vegetation; or he would ask why Mr. Spencer's aboriginal divine, roused from his post-prandial nightmare, should have selected a ghost,' out of the confused kaleidoscope of his dreams, as the recipient of divine honours. Nay, as was long ago suggested by a much more serious thinker in reply to a similar theory: To stop there is to see but the surface of things ; for it still remains to ask how mankind have effected this transformation of a metaphor (or a dream) into a god, and what mysterious force has pushed them into making the transition. . . . In order to change any sensuous impression into a god, there must have previously existed the idea of a god.? 6 Yes; clearly the latent idea must have been, in some way, already ingrained in human nature, so that it only needed (as Plato would say) an awakening from its hybernation ; else why should human dreams produce a religion and bestial dreams produce none ? The question, therefore, is not fully answered by Mr. Spencer's entertaining speculation, any more than the miracle (as Dr. Büchner all but calls it) of hereditary gout' is explained by the jubilant pæan of the materialist, . Give me but matter and force, and all obscurities instantly vanish away!!? For no reasonable man, who accepts the modern doctrine of the eternity and identity of energy, can entertain a doubt that religion—the most powerful human stimulant we know of-must have pre-existed somehow in the bosom of the unknown, though it only revealed itself at a certain fitting stage in the development of the world. And when we have reached this confession, have we not simply found our way back to that general truth which the Church has couched in every sort of parable and symbol, viz. that (the "how' and the when' being left for history to unravel) religious ideas, especially in their most fruitful and catholic form, are a gift, an unfolding, a revelation from the bosom of the unknown God?

2. There are, however, far more serious and more practical subjects for reflection suggested by Mr. Spencer's paper, than any which relate to the past. Let bygones be bygones! Our contemporaries are an impatient generation, and are very apt to consign to their mental wastepaper-basket anything which they are pleased to * Burnouf, p. 29.

* Büchner, Tic et lumière (French trans.) p. 3.15.

condemn as ancient history. What, then, has Mr. Spencer to tell us about the present state of religion ? and what hopes does he unfold to us as we gaze, under his direction, into the future?

It is truly disappointing to be obliged to say of so devoted a student and so patient a thinker, (1) that he has failed to work his subject out, and (2) that he has fallen into a passion. It would be well worth while to make these two not unfriendly charges, if only they should succeed in inducing this able writer to give to the world some further product of his thinking on the strangely fascinating subject of Religion. For the truth is that, when Mr. Bradlaugh and others proclaim I know not what you mean by God; I am without idea of God, they almost put themselves out of court at once by parading their inherent defect of sympathy with ordinary mental conditions. And when in higher social grades, Dr. Congreve and the Positivists openly substitute Humanity for God,' 10 and refuse the transforming adoration of the heart to any conception which is not level to the bare positive understanding, they also—with all their eloquence and persuasive amiability_charm' their contemporaries utterly in vain. As modern England will never again become Papal and Medieval, so it may be safely predicted) modern England will never become Atheist or Positivist. Our countrymen are in too healthy and vigorous a mental condition to impale themselves on either horn of this uncongenial dilemma. But they may, and it is to be hoped they will, surrender themselves to the far higher and more scientific teaching of men like Mr. Spencer; and will learn from them to think out to just and practical conclusions the deeply interesting—and to some minds the quite absorbing-question of Religion.

But then-with all respect be it said— Mr. Spencer must really help us to think further on than he has yet done; or he will find the Christian clergy (whom he is under temptation to despise) will be beforehand with him. He has most ably purified' for us our idea of God; he has pruned away all kinds of anthropomorphic accretions; he has dressed up and ridiculed afresh the Guy Fawkes crudities of bygone times, which he apparently sees no reason should ever be forgot;' he has reminded the country parsons of a good many scientific facts, which they read, it is true, in every book and review from Monday till Saturday and then so provokingly forget on Sundays; and he has schooled them into the reflection that a Power present in innumerable worlds hardly needs our flattery, or indeed any kind of service from us at all. But then all this is abundantly done already by the steady reading, from every lectern throughout the land, of those grand old Prophets and Apostles of the higher religious thought, who perpetually harp upon this same string. "God, they reiterate, “is not a man,' that He should lie or repent: “Bring no more vain oblations :' * The sacrifices of God are a troubled spirit:' “Thou thoughtest

8 First Principles, p. 115. 9 Plea for Atheism, p. 4. 10 Positivist Prayer-book.

« PredošláPokračovať »