Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

opposite qualities have survived in the struggle for existence, if there has been such struggle? The strong and the weak, the swift and the slow, hard and soft, clever and stupid, light and heavy, active and sluggish, black and white, transparent and opaque, and so on :-all these and many more we are assured are the fittest to have survived. This, then, is what it all comes to: The creatures that have survived are the fittest because they have survived, and they have survived because they are the fittest to have survived—such is the fact, if it is a fact; and the law, if it is a law. But I venture to suggest that the advocates of the new law have yet to point out the particular characters which have rendered those creatures which have not survived unfit to have survived. So far no evolutionist appears to have considered this very important part of the general question.

What is there, we may ask, to induce a being who can think, to love, honor, or obey in that undemonstrable, unknowable abstraction, destitute of power to ordain, create, design, or change, which it is now the fashion to call law? Can law love or be loved? How can law forgive us our sins ? What hope of peace or rest is offered by the contemplation of law ? Fancy a little child saying its prayers to law, or a grown man putting trust in blind, passive, unintelligent and unalterable law. What a consolation to the sick to be assured that their illnesses are due to law, and how comforting to the unfortunate person experiencing exquisite pain to be assured that in obedience to law certain nerve-currents are taking the course of a right-handed spiral instead of painlessly spiralling towards the left!

And now comes a consideration of the greatest practical importance. The clergy have been told by very high authority that their great duty“ at this period is to contend against infi. delity.” Shall I be considered too presumptuous if I submit that, in order to carry out this injunction, the exact nature of this infidelity ought to be ascertained, and the causes of its revival and spread carefully sought for? Perhaps, after all, the infidelity may be found to be of the weak and contemptible sort, an absurd rather than a serious form of infidelity, a form of infidelity that may be dissipated more effectually by a little gentle critical dissection than by too serious and solemn treatment, or by the thunders of anathema. May it not then possibly be the wiser as well as the more rational course to take: To inquire concerning the dicta and arguments advanced in favor of infidelity, to examine them carefully, and sift thoroughly the facts which are supposed to justify them, rather than simply to condemn and to preach against things which some at least suppose to be founded upon truth? Surely the first course is likely to be of more use than an attempt to qualify or modify the views upon which materialism is supposed to be based ; and more advantageous to other people than it would be to assume a shocked or deploring attitude, or to sigh at the power and success of the Evil One. What if it turns out after all that the infidelity of our time rests upon absurd conjectures and groundless assertions ?

But if, on the other hand, the views favoring materialism be founded upon fact and truth, they will certainly spread, and their reception by the thoughtful is only a question of time. And let it not be supposed that I would, in the slightest degree, support those who would impede inquiry.

The tendency of much that I have written will have been misinterpreted if any one has been led to think that I am not ready to go any lengths, if only I have the support of facts. Nay, I would stake all and dare all. I may shock some by the confession that my belief would be shattered if the means of making a living particle even less than the one ten-thousandth of an inch were discovered.

Such an admission will perhaps lead many to mistrust me altogether; but I cannot help that. I feel perfectly safe in my view, and I make the avowal without the slightest misgiving, for if the faith runs no risk except in the event of that contingency, it is, I am confident, secure indeed; for is not the suggestion of the possibility of the production of such a particle as monstrous as it would be to pronounce as possible the formation of a living man direct from the lifeless elements of which man's body is composed ?

Whether Christianity is to be advanced by changing the views concerning some of the so-called stumbling-blocks, such as the miracles, it is not for me to decide. Whether it is the duty of men supposed to be thoughtful and religious to modify, ignore, or despise the conclusions accepted and cherished by

[ocr errors]

the best intellects the world has produced in the course of many centuries, in order that they may be made to fit in with, or, at least, not clash with the mere dicta of authorities skilled in framing conjectures, is a question in the settlement of which

a not a few among the laity as well as the clergy—and not only of this country (England)—will probably insist upon having a voice.

What I now venture to submit to my readers' serious consideration is this: Whether, instead of defending the faith, it might not be the better and the wiser course to attack those who are assailing it. Instead of defending religion, the right course, as it seems to me, is to attack materialism. Instead of deploring the spread of infidelity, to expose the absurd fallacies continually put forward in the name of science, but utterly unscientific. Instead of trying to determine exactly how much may be conceded and modified without altogether abandoning Christian belief, we ought to dissect and analyze the ridiculous propositions some suppose to be sufficiently cogent to subvert truth.

It is not for me, taking up the subject from the scientific side, to say one word in defence of religious truth ; but I may without hesitation express my conviction that the main arguments adduced by materialists against religion will scarcely bear thoughtful examination. Many of the more recent observations are very audacious, but that is all. Of the so-called facts upon which some of the arguments are said to rest, many are not facts at all, and the less said about them the better. Still, I

suppose that some who disbelieve entirely in religion could clearly state the grounds of their unbelief; but I am sure that many who have discarded religious belief because they fancied that materialism was true, or because they believed and desired that it might turn out to be true, have been misled or have deluded themselves into the belief that certain things are demonstrable and true which are neither. Such persons have unquestionably accepted doctrines as true which can be clearly proved to rest upon erroneous and unsound data only, and have abandoned what, at any rate, has not been and cannot be demon

strated to be untrue.

I am aware that in this paper I have gone further in attack

ing some materialistic doctrines than several distinguished theologians will consider discreet or justifiable. Many may possibly concur in this opinion ; but it must be borne in mind that in the remarks I have made I have not permitted myself to be influenced in the least degree by the consideration of expediency. I have simply stated what I believe to be true, and have recounted the facts and arguments which have influenced my judgment, and I think I might have gone further along the same lines of thought than I have done, and yet have found myself in company with fact and observation, following closely upon reason, and thoroughly supported by truth.

LIONEL S. BEALE.

THE SON OF MAN.

of

A ,

years ago a eminent men, most of them decided antagonists of religion and Christianity, was assembled in a drawing-room in Paris. Again, as it was customary in that circle, Holy Scripture had been the general drudge ; from all sides the sharp and envenomed arrows of mockery being aimed at its seemingly weakest and most vulnerable points. At once one of the boldest among these free-thinkers, the famous Diderot, rose from his seat, and, to the general amazement of the company, in a tone which put a stop to the discussion, uttered these remarkable words :

All right, gentlemen, all right ! I am ready to declare all of you are clever writers and competent judges, and few in France or abroad would be able to speak or write better than you do. But still, notwithstanding all the evil we have just been saying about this accursed Book, and which no doubt serves it right, still I think I might defy any of you to compose a historical tale so ingenuous and at the same time so sublime, so touching and fit to produce such a deep and lasting influence for centuries to come, as the gospel relation of Christ's suffering and death." No wonder, indeed, an unwonted but most significant silence followed this quite unexpected utterance in Baron de Holbach's salon.

Wherefore, it may be asked, this anecdote as introduction to a new research concerning that vital question for Christian truth and conscience, “What think ye of Christ ? Whose Son is He?" For this reason too that it reminds us how unbelief itself can be urged to acknowledge the undeniable greatness of our Lord, and how, this being the case, Christian faith must

« PredošláPokračovať »