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The Natural Theology of the Future

Read at Sion College, January 10th, 1871.

When I accepted the unexpected and undeserved honour of being allowed to lecture here, the first subject which suggested itself to me was Natural Theology.

It is one which has taken up much of my thought for some years past, [313] which seems to me more and more important, and which is just now somewhat forgotten; I therefore determined to say a few words on it to-night. I do not pretend to teach but only to suggest; to point out certain problems of Natural Theology, the further solution of which ought, I think, to be soon attempted.

I wish to speak, remember, not on natural religion, but on natural theology. By the first, I understand what can be learned from the physical universe of man's duty to God and to his neighbour; by the latter, I understand what can be learned concerning God Himself. Of natural religion I shall say nothing. I do not even affirm that a natural religion is possible: but I do very earnestly believe that a natural theology is possible; and I earnestly believe also that it is most important that natural theology should, in every age, keep pace with doctrinal or ecclesiastical theology.

Bishop Butler certainly held this belief. His "Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature"--a book for which I entertain the most profound respect--is based on a belief that the God of Nature and the God of Grace are one; and that, therefore, the God who satisfies our conscience ought more or less to satisfy our reason also. To teach that was Butler's mission, and he fulfilled it well. But it is a mission which has to be re-filled again and again, as human thought changes and human science develops; for if in any age or country the God who seems to be revealed by Nature seems different from the God who is revealed by the then popular religion, then that God, and the religion which tells of that God, will gradually cease to be believed in.

For the demands of Reason (as none knew better than good Bishop Butler) must be and ought to be satisfied. And when a popular war arises between the reason of a generation and its theology, it behoves the ministers of religion to inquire, with all humility and godly fear, on which side lies the fault: whether the theology which they expound is all that it should be, or whether the reason of those who impugn it is all that it should be.

For me, as (I trust) an orthodox priest of the Church of England, I believe the theology of the National Church of England, as by law established, to be eminently rational as well as scriptural. It is not, therefore, surprising to me that the clergy of the Church of England, since the foundation of the Royal Society in the seventeenth century, have done more for sound physical science than the clergy of any other denomination; or that the three greatest natural theologians with which I, at least, am acquainted--Berkeley, Butler, and Paley--should have belonged to our Church. I am not unaware of what the Germans of the eighteenth century have done. I consider Goethe's claims to have advanced natural theology very much over-rated: but I do recommend to young clergymen Herder's "Outlines of the Philosophy of the History of Man" as a book (in spite of certain defects) full of sound and precious wisdom. But it seems to me that English natural theology in the eighteenth century stood more secure than that of any other nation, on the foundation which Berkeley, Butler, and Paley had laid; and that if our orthodox thinkers for the last hundred years had followed steadily in their steps, we should not be deploring now a wide, and as some think increasing, divorce between Science and Christianity.

But it was not so to be. The impulse given by Wesley and Whitfield turned (and not before it was needed) the earnest mind of England almost exclusively to questions of personal religion; and that impulse, under many unexpected forms, has continued ever since. I only state the fact--I do not deplore it; God forbid! Wisdom is justified of all her children, and as, according to the wise American, "it takes all sorts to make a world," so it takes all sorts to make a living Church. But that the religious temper of England for the last two or three generations has been unfavourable to a sound and scientific development of natural theology, there can be no doubt.

We have only, if we need proof, to look at the hymns--many of them very pure, pious, and beautiful--which are used at this day in churches and chapels by persons of every shade of opinion. How often is the tone in which they speak of the natural world one of dissatisfaction, distrust, almost contempt. "Disease, decay, and death around I see," is their key-note, rather than "O all ye works of the Lord, bless Him, praise Him, and magnify Him together." There lingers about them a savour of the old monastic theory, that this earth is the devil's planet, fallen, accursed, goblin-haunted, needing to be exorcised at every turn before it is useful or even safe for man. An age which has adopted as its most popular hymn a paraphrase of the mediaeval monk's "Hic breve vivitur," and in which stalwart public-school boys are bidden in their chapel worship to tell the Almighty God of Truth that they lie awake weeping at night for joy at the thought that they will die and see Jerusalem the Golden--is doubtless, a pious and devout age; but not--at least as yet--an age in which natural theology is likely to attain a high, a healthy, or a scriptural development.

Not a scriptural development. Let me press on you, my clerical brethren, most earnestly this one point. It is time that we should make up our minds what tone Scripture does take toward Nature, natural science, natural theology. Most of you, I doubt not, have made up your minds already, and in consequence have no fear of natural science, no fear for natural theology. But I cannot deny that I find still lingering here and there certain of the old views of nature of which I used to hear but too much here in London some five-and-thirty years ago; not from my own father, thank God! for he, to his honour, was one of those few London clergy who then faced and defended advanced physical science; but from others--better men too than I shall ever hope to be--who used to consider natural theology as useless, fallacious, impossible, on the ground that this Earth did not reveal the will and character of God, because it was cursed and fallen; and that its facts, in consequence, were not to be respected or relied on. This, I was told, was the doctrine of Scripture, and was therefore true. But when, longing to reconcile my conscience and my reason on a question so awful to a young student of natural science, I went to my Bible, what did I find? No word of all this. Much--thank God, I may say one continuous undercurrent--of the very opposite of all this. I pray you bear with me, even though I may seem impertinent. But what do we find in the Bible, with the exception of that first curse? That, remember, cannot mean any alteration in the laws of nature by which man's labour should only produce for him henceforth thorns and thistles. For, in the first place, any such curse is formally abrogated in the eighth chapter and twenty-first verse of the very same document--"I will not again curse the earth any more for man's sake. While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease." And next, the fact is not so; for if you root up the thorns and thistles, and keep your land clean, then assuredly you will grow fruit-trees and not thorns, wheat and not thistles, according to those laws of Nature which are the voice of God expressed in facts.

And yet the words are true. There is a curse upon the earth, though not one which, by altering the laws of nature, has made natural facts untrustworthy. There is a curse on the earth; such a curse as is expressed, I believe, in the old Hebrew text, where the word "adamah" (correctly translated in our version "the ground") signifies, as I am told, not this planet; but simply the soil from whence we get our food; such a curse as certainly is expressed by the Septuagint and the Vulgate versions: "Cursed is the earth"-- [Greek]; "in opere tuo," as the Vulgate has it--"in thy works." Man's work is too often the curse of the very planet which he misuses. None should know that better than the botanist, who sees whole regions desolate, and given up to sterility and literal thorns and thistles, on account of man's sin and folly, ignorance and greedy waste. Well said that veteran botanist, the venerable Elias Fries, of Lund:

"A broad band of waste land follows gradually in the steps of cultivation. If it expands, its centre and its cradle dies, and on the outer borders only do we find green shoots. But it is not impossible, only difficult, for man, without renouncing the advantage of culture itself, one day to make reparation for the injury which he has inflicted: he is appointed lord of creation. True it is that thorns and thistles, ill-favoured and poisonous plants, well named by botanists rubbish plants, mark the track which man has proudly traversed through the earth. Before him lay original Nature in her wild but sublime beauty. Behind him he leaves the desert, a deformed and ruined land; for childish desire of destruction, or thoughtless squandering of vegetable treasures, has destroyed the character of nature; and, terrified, man himself flies from the arena of his actions, leaving the impoverished earth to barbarous races or to animals, so long as yet another spot in virgin beauty smiles before him. Here again, in selfish pursuit of profit, and consciously or unconsciously following the abominable principle of the great moral vileness which one man has expressed-- 'Apres nous le Deluge'--he begins anew the work of destruction. Thus did cultivation, driven out, leave the East, and perhaps the deserts formerly robbed of their coverings; like the wild hordes of old over beautiful Greece, thus rolls this conquest with fearful rapidity from East to West through America; and the planter now often leaves the already exhausted land, and the eastern climate, become infertile through the demolition of the forests, to introduce a similar revolution into the Far West." [320]

As we proceed, we find nothing in the general tone of Scripture which can hinder our natural theology being at once scriptural and scientific.

If it is to be scientific, it must begin by approaching Nature at once with a cheerful and reverent spirit, as a noble, healthy, and trustworthy thing: and what is that, save the spirit of those who wrote the 104th, 147th, and 148th Psalms--the spirit, too, of him who wrote that Song of the Three Children, which is, as it were, the flower and crown of the Old Testament, the summing up of all that is most true and eternal in the old Jewish faith; and which, as long as it is sung in our churches, is the charter and title-deed of all Christian students of those works of the Lord, which it calls on to bless Him, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever?

What next will be demanded of us by physical science? Belief, certainly, just now, in the permanence of natural laws. Why, that is taken for granted, I hold, throughout the Bible. I cannot see how our Lord's parables, drawn from the birds and the flowers, the seasons and the weather, have any logical weight, or can be considered as aught but capricious and fanciful illustrations--which God forbid--unless we look at them as instances of laws of the natural world, which find their analogues in the laws of the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. I cannot conceive a man's writing that 104th Psalm who had not the most deep, the most earnest sense of the permanence of natural law. But more: the fact is expressly asserted again and again. "They continue this day according to Thine ordinance, for all things serve Thee." "Thou hast made them fast for ever and ever. Thou hast given them a law which shall not be broken--"

Let us pass on, gentlemen. There is no more to be said about this matter.

But next, it will be demanded of us that natural theology shall set forth a God whose character is consistent with all the facts of nature, and not only with those which are pleasant and beautiful. That challenge was accepted, and I think victoriously, by Bishop Butler as far as the Christian religion is concerned. As far as the Scripture is concerned, we may answer thus:

It is said to us--I know that it is said: You tell us of a God of love, a God of flowers and sunshine, of singing birds and little children. But there are more facts in nature than these. There is premature death, pestilence, famine. And if you answer: Man has control over these; they are caused by man's ignorance and sin, and by his breaking of natural laws--what will you make of those destructive powers over which he has no control; of the hurricane and the earthquake; of poisons, vegetable and mineral; of those parasitic Entozoa whose awful abundance, and awful destructiveness in man and beast, science is just revealing--a new page of danger and loathsomeness? How does that suit your conception of a God of love?

We can answer: Whether or not it suits our conception of a God of love, it suits Scripture's conception of Him. For nothing is more clear--nay, is it not urged again and again, as a blot on Scripture?--that it reveals a God not merely of love, but of sternness--a God in whose eyes physical pain is not the worst of evils, nor animal life (too often miscalled human life) the most precious of objects--a God who destroys, when it seems fit to Him, and that wholesale, and seemingly without either pity or discrimination, man, woman and child, visiting the sins of the fathers on the children, making the land empty and bare, and destroying from off it man and beast! This is the God of the Old Testament. And if any say (as is often too rashly said): This is not the God of the New: I answer, but have you read your New Testament? Have you read the latter chapters of St. Matthew? Have you read the opening of the Epistle to the Romans? Have you read the Book of Revelations? If so, will you say that the God of the New Testament is, compared with the God of the Old, less awful, less destructive, and therefore less like the Being--granting always that there is such a Being--who presides over nature and her destructive powers? It is an awful problem. But the writers of the Bible have faced it valiantly. Physical science is facing it valiantly now. Therefore natural theology may face it likewise. Remember Carlyle's great words about poor Francesca in the Inferno: "Infinite pity, yet also infinite rigour of law. It is so Nature is made. It is so Dante discerned that she was made."

There are two other points on which I must beg leave to say a few words. Physical science will demand of our natural theologians that they should be aware of their importance, and let (as Mr. Matthew Arnold would say) their thoughts play freely round them. I mean questions of Embryology and questions of Race.

On the first there may be much to be said, which is for the present best left unsaid, even here. I only ask you to recollect how often in Scripture those two plain old words, beget and bring forth, occur, and in what important passages. And I ask you to remember that marvellous essay on Natural Theology, if I may so call it in all reverence, the 139th Psalm, and judge for yourself whether he who wrote that did not consider the study of Embryology as important, as significant, as worthy of his deepest attention, as an Owen, a Huxley, or a Darwin. Nay, I will go farther still, and say, that in those great words--"Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them,"- -in those words, I say, the Psalmist has anticipated that realistic view of embryological questions to which our most modern philosophers are, it seems to me, slowly, half unconsciously, but still inevitably, returning.

Next, as to Race. Some persons now have a nervous fear of that word, and of allowing any importance to difference of races. Some dislike it, because they think that it endangers the modern notions of democratic equality. Others because they fear that it may be proved that the negro is not a man and a brother. I think the fears of both parties groundless. As for the negro, I not only believe him to be of the same race as myself, but that--if Mr. Darwin's theories are true--science has proved that he must be such. I should have thought, as a humble student of such questions, that the one fact of the unique distribution of the hair in all races of human beings, was full moral proof that they had all had one common ancestor. But this is not matter of natural theology. What is matter thereof, is this:

Physical science is proving more and more the immense importance of Race; the importance of hereditary powers, hereditary organs, hereditary habits, in all organised beings, from the lowest plant to the highest animal. She is proving more and more the omnipresent action of the differences between races; how the more favoured race (she cannot avoid using the epithet) exterminates the less favoured, or at least expels it, and forces it, under penalty of death, to adapt itself to new circumstances; and, in a word, that competition between every race and every individual of that race, and reward according to deserts, is (as far as we can see) an universal law of living things. And she says--for the facts of history prove it-- that as it is among the races of plants and animals, so it has been unto this day among the races of men.

The natural theology of the future must take count of these tremendous and even painful facts: and she may take count of them. For Scripture has taken count of them already. It talks continually--it has been blamed for talking so much--of races, of families; of their wars, their struggles, their exterminations; of races favoured, of races rejected, of remnants being saved to continue the race; of hereditary tendencies, hereditary excellences, hereditary guilt. Its sense of the reality and importance of descent is so intense, that it speaks of a whole tribe or a whole family by the name of its common ancestor, and the whole nation of the Jews is Israel, to the end. And if I be told this is true of the Old Testament, but not of the New, I must answer: What! does not St. Paul hold the identity of the whole Jewish race with Israel their forefather, as strongly as any prophet of the Old Testament? And what is the central historic fact, save One, of the New Testament, but the conquest of Jerusalem--the dispersion, all but destruction of a race, not by miracle, but by invasion, because found wanting when weighed in the stern balances of natural and social law?

Gentlemen, think of this. I only suggest the thought; but I do not suggest it in haste. Think over it--by the light which our Lord's parables, His analogies between the physical and social constitution of the world, afford--and consider whether those awful words, fulfilled then and fulfilled so often since--"The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits hereof"--may not be the supreme instance, the most complex development of a law which runs through all created things, down to the moss which struggles for existence on the rock!

Do I say that this is all? That man is merely a part of Nature, the puppet of circumstances and hereditary tendencies? That brute competition is the one law of his life? That he is doomed for ever to be the slave of his own needs, enforced by an internecine struggle for existence? God forbid. I believe not only in Nature, but in Grace. I believe that this is man's fate only as long as he sows to the flesh, and of the flesh reaps corruption. I believe that if he will

Strive upward, working out the beast, And let the ape and tiger die;

if he will be even as wise as the social animals; as the ant and the bee, who have risen, if not to the virtue of all-embracing charity, at least to the virtues of self-sacrifice and patriotism, [326] then he will rise towards a higher sphere; toward that kingdom of God of which it is written: "He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."

Whether that be matter of natural theology, I cannot tell as yet. But as for all the former questions--all that St. Paul means when he talks of the law, and how the works of the flesh bring men under the law, stern and terrible and destructive, though holy and just and good,--they are matter of natural theology; and I believe that on them, as elsewhere, Scripture and science will be ultimately found to coincide.

But here we have to face an objection which you will often hear now from scientific men, and still oftener from non-scientific men; who will say: It matters not to us whether Scripture contradicts or does not contradict a scientific natural theology; for we hold such a science to be impossible and naught. The old Jews put a God into Nature, and therefore of course they could see, as you see, what they had already put there. But we see no God in Nature. We do not deny the existence of a God; we merely say that scientific research does not reveal Him to us. We see no marks of design in physical phenomena. What used to be considered as marks of design can be better explained by considering them as the results of evolution according to necessary laws; and you and Scripture make a mere assumption when you ascribe them to the operation of a mind like the human mind.

Now, on this point I believe we may answer fearlessly: If you cannot see it we cannot help you. If the heavens do not declare to you the glory of God, nor the firmament show you His handy-work, then our poor arguments about them will not show it. "The eye can only see that which it brings with it the power of seeing." We can only reassert that we see design everywhere, and that the vast majority of the human race in every age and clime has seen it. Analogy from experience, sound induction (as we hold) from the works not only of men but of animals, has made it an all but self-evident truth to us, that wherever there is arrangement, there must be an arranger; wherever there is adaptation of means to an end, there must be an adapter; wherever an organisation, there must be an organiser. The existence of a designing God is no more demonstrable from Nature than the existence of other human beings independent of ourselves, or, indeed, the existence of our own bodies. But, like the belief in them, the belief in Him has become an article of our common sense. And that this designing mind is, in some respects, similar to the human mind, is proved to us (as Sir John Herschel well puts it) by the mere fact that we can discover and comprehend the processes of Nature.

But here again, if we be contradicted, we can only reassert. If the old words, "He that made the eye, shall He not see? He that planted the ear, shall He not hear?" do not at once commend themselves to the intellect of any person, we shall never convince that person by any arguments drawn from the absurdity of conceiving the invention of optics by a blind race, or of music by a deaf one.

So we will assert our own old-fashioned notion boldly; and more: we will say, in spite of ridicule, that if such a God exists, final causes must exist also. That the whole universe must be one chain of final causes. That if there be a Supreme Reason, He must have a reason, and that a good reason, for every physical phenomenon.

We will tell the modern scientific man--You are nervously afraid of the mention of final causes. You quote against them Bacon's saying, that they are barren virgins; that no physical fact was ever discovered or explained by them. You are right as far as regards yourselves; you have no business with final causes, because final causes are moral causes, and you are physical students only. We, the natural theologians, have business with them. Your duty is to find out the How of things; ours, to find out the Why. If you rejoin that we shall never find out the Why, unless we first learn something of the How, we shall not deny that. It may be most useful, I had almost said necessary, that the clergy should have some scientific training. It may be most useful, I sometimes dream of a day when it will be considered necessary, that every candidate for ordination should be required to have passed creditably in at least one branch of physical science, if it be only to teach him the method of sound scientific thought. But our having learnt the How, will not make it needless, much less impossible, for us to study the Why. It will merely make more clear to us the things of which we have to study the Why; and enable us to keep the How and the Why more religiously apart from each other.

But if it be said: After all, there is no Why; the doctrine of evolution, by doing away with the theory of creation, does away with that of final causes--let us answer, boldly: Not in the least. We might accept all that Mr. Darwin, all that Professor Huxley, has so learnedly and so acutely written on physical science, and yet preserve our natural theology on exactly the same basis as that on which Butler and Paley left it. That we should have to develop it, I do not deny. That we should have to relinquish it, I do.

Let me press this thought earnestly on you. I know that many wiser and better men than I have fears on this point. I cannot share in them.

All, it seems to me, that the new doctrines of Evolution demand is this. We all agree, for the fact is patent, that our own bodies, and indeed the body of every living creature, are evolved from a seemingly simple germ by natural laws, without visible action of any designing will or mind, into the full organisation of a human or other creature. Yet we do not say, on that account: God did not create me; I only grew. We hold in this case to our old idea, and say: If there be evolution, there must be an evolver. Now the new physical theories only ask us, it seems to me, to extend this conception to the whole universe: to believe that not individuals merely, but whole varieties and races, the total organised life on this planet, and it may be the total organisation of the universe, have been evolved just as our bodies are, by natural laws acting through circumstance. This may be true, or may be false. But all its truth can do to the natural theologian will be to make him believe that the Creator bears the same relation to the whole universe as that Creator undeniably bears to every individual human body.

I entreat you to weigh these words, which have not been written in haste; and I entreat you also, if you wish to see how little the new theory, that species may have been gradually created by variation, natural selection, and so forth, interferes with the old theory of design, contrivance, and adaptation, nay, with the fullest admission of benevolent final causes--I entreat you, I say, to study Darwin's "Fertilisation of Orchids"--a book which (whether his main theory be true or not) will still remain a most valuable addition to natural theology.

For suppose, gentlemen, that all the species of Orchids, and not only they, but their congeners--the Gingers, the Arrowroots, the Bananas--are all the descendants of one original form, which was most probably nearly allied to the Snowdrop and the Iris. What then? Would that be one whit more wonderful, more unworthy of the wisdom and power of God, than if they were, as most believe, created each and all at once, with their minute and often imaginary shades of difference? What would the natural theologian have to say, were the first theory true, save that God's works are even more wonderful than he always believed them to be? As for the theory being impossible: we must leave the discussion of that to physical students. It is not for us clergymen to limit the power of God. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" asked the prophet of old: and we have a right to ask it as long as time shall last. If it be said that natural selection is too simple a cause to produce such fantastic variety: that, again, is a question to be settled exclusively by physical students. All we have to say on the matter is, that we always knew that God works by very simple, or seemingly simple, means; that the whole universe, as far as we could discern it, was one concatenation of the most simple means; that it was wonderful, yea, miraculous in our eyes, that a child should resemble its parents, that the raindrops should make the grass grow, that the grass should become flesh, and the flesh sustenance for the thinking brain of man. Ought God to seem less or more august in our eyes, when we are told that His means are even more simple than we supposed? We held Him to be Almighty and Allwise. Are we to reverence Him less or more, if we hear that His might is greater, His wisdom deeper, than we ever dreamed? We believed that His care was over all His works; that His Providence watched perpetually over the whole universe. We were taught--some of us at least--by Holy Scripture, to believe that the whole history of the universe was made up of special Providences. If, then, that should be true which Mr. Darwin writes: "It may be metaphorically said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up that which is good, silently and incessantly working whenever and wherever opportunity offers at the improvement of every organic being"--if that, I say, were proven to be true, ought God's care and God's providence to seem less or more magnificent in our eyes? Of old it was said by Him without whom nothing is made: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Shall we quarrel with Science if she should show how those words are true? What, in one word, should we have to say but this?--We knew of old that God was so wise that He could make all things; but behold, He is so much wiser than even that, that He can make all things make themselves.

But it may be said: These notions are contrary to Scripture. I must beg very humbly, but very firmly, to demur to that opinion. Scripture says that God created. But it nowhere defines that term. The means, the How of Creation, is nowhere specified. Scripture, again, says that organised beings were produced each according to their kind. But it nowhere defines that term. What a kind includes, whether it includes or not the capacity of varying (which is just the question in point), is nowhere specified. And I think it a most important rule in scriptural exegesis, to be most cautious as to limiting the meaning of any term which Scripture itself has not limited, lest we find ourselves putting into the teaching of Scripture our own human theories or prejudices. And consider, Is not man a kind? And has not mankind varied, physically, intellectually, spiritually? Is not the Bible, from beginning to end, a history of the variations of mankind, for worse or for better, from their original type?

Let us rather look with calmness, and even with hope and good will, on these new theories; for, correct or incorrect, they surely mark a tendency toward a more, not a less, scriptural view of nature. Are they not attempts, whether successful or unsuccessful, to escape from that shallow mechanical notion of the universe and its Creator which was too much in vogue in the eighteenth century among divines as well as philosophers; the theory which Goethe (to do him justice), and after him Mr. Thomas Carlyle, have treated with such noble scorn; the theory, I mean, that God has wound up the universe like a clock, and left it to tick by itself till it runs down, never troubling Himself with it, save possibly--for even that was only half believed--by rare miraculous interferences with the laws which He Himself had made? Out of that chilling dream of a dead universe ungoverned by an absent God, the human mind, in Germany especially, tried during the early part of this century to escape by strange roads; roads by which there was no escape, because they were not laid down on the firm ground of scientific facts. Then, in despair, men turned to the facts which they had neglected, and said: We are weary of philosophy; we will study you, and you alone. As for God, who can find Him? And they have worked at the facts like gallant and honest men; and their work, like all good work, has produced, in the last fifty years, results more enormous than they even dreamed. But what are they finding, more and more, below their facts, below all phenomena which the scalpel and the microscope can show? A something nameless, invisible, imponderable, yet seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent, retreating before them deeper and deeper, the deeper they delve: namely, the life which shapes and makes--that which the old school-men called "forma formativa," which they call vital force and what not--metaphors all, or rather counters to mark an unknown quantity, as if they should call it x or y. One says: It is all vibrations; but his reason, unsatisfied, asks: And what makes the vibrations vibrate? Another: It is all physiological units; but his reason asks: What is the "physis," the nature and "innate tendency" of the units? A third: It may be all caused by infinitely numerous "gemmules;" but his reason asks him: What puts infinite order into those gemmules, instead of infinite anarchy? I mention these theories not to laugh at them. No man has a deeper respect for those who have put them forth. Nor would it interfere with my theological creed, if any or all of them were proven to be true to-morrow. I mention them only to show that beneath all these theories--true or false--still lies the unknown x. Scientific men are becoming more and more aware of it; I had almost said ready to worship it. More and more the noblest-minded of them are engrossed by the mystery of that unknown and truly miraculous element in Nature, which is always escaping them, though they cannot escape it. How should they escape it? Was it not written of old: "Whither shall I go from Thy presence, or whither shall I flee from Thy spirit?"

Ah that we clergy would summon up courage to tell them that! Courage to tell them--what need not hamper for a moment the freedom of their investigations, what will add to them a sanction, I may say a sanctity--that the unknown x which lies below all phenomena, which is for ever at work on all phenomena, on the whole and on every part of the whole, down to the colouring of every leaf and the curdling of every cell of protoplasm, is none other than that which the old Hebrews called--(by a metaphor, no doubt--for how can man speak of the unseen, save in metaphors drawn from the seen?--but by the only metaphor adequate to express the perpetual and omnipresent miracle)- -The Breath of God; The Spirit who is The Lord and Giver of Life.

In the rest, gentlemen, let us think, and let us observe. For if we are ignorant, not merely of the results of experimental science, but of the methods thereof, then we and the men of science shall have no common ground whereon to stretch out kindly hands to each other.

But let us have patience and faith; and not suppose in haste, that when those hands are stretched out it will be needful for us to leave our standing-ground, or to cast ourselves down from the pinnacle of the temple to earn popularity; above all, from earnest students who are too high-minded to care for popularity themselves.

True, if we have an intelligent belief in those Creeds and those Scriptures which are committed to our keeping, then our philosophy cannot be that which is just now in vogue. But all we have to do, I believe, is to wait. Nominalism, and that "Sensationalism" which has sprung from nominalism, are running fast to seed; Comtism seems to me its supreme effort: after which the whirligig of Time may bring round its revenges; and Realism, and we who own the Realist creeds, may have our turn. Only wait. When a grave, able, and authoritative philosopher explains a mother's love of her newborn babe, as Professor Bain has done, in a really eloquent passage of his book on the "Emotions and the Will" (Second Edition, pp. 78, 79), then the end of that philosophy is very near; and an older, simpler, more human, and, as I hold, more philosophic explanation of that natural phenomenon, and of all others, may get a hearing.

Only wait; and fret not yourselves, else shall you be moved to do evil. Remember the saying of the wise man: "Go not after the world. She turns on her axis; and if thou stand still long enough she will turn round to thee."

[313] Novalis, I think, says that one's own thought gains quite infinitely in value as soon as one finds it shared by even one other human being. The saying has proved true, at least, to me. The morning after this paper was read, I received a book, "The Genesis of Species, by St. George Mivart, F.R.S." The name of the author demanded all attention and respect; and as I read on, I found him, to my exceeding pleasure, advocating views which I had long held, with a learning and ability to which I have no pretensions. The book will, doubtless, excite much useful criticism and discussion in the scientific world. I hope that it may do the same in the clerical world; and I earnestly beg those clergymen who heard me with so much patience and courtesy at Sion College, to ponder well Mr. Mivart's last chapter, on "Theology and Evolution."

[320] Quoted from Schleiden's "The Plant, a Biography."--Lecture XI. in fine.

[326] I am well aware what a serious question is opened up in these words. The fact that the great majority of workers among the social insects are barren females or nuns, devoting themselves to the care of other individuals' offspring, by an act of self-sacrifice, and that by means of that self-sacrifice these communities grow large and prosperous, ought to be well weighed just now; both by those who hold that morality has been evolved from perceptions of what was useful or pleasurable, and by those who hold as I do that morality is one, immutable and eternal. Those who take the former view (confounding, as Mr. Mivart well points out in his Genesis of Species, "material" and "formal" morality) have no difficulty in tracing the germs of the highest human morality in animals; for self-interest is, in their eyes, the ultimate ground of morality, and the average animal is utterly selfish. But certain animals perform acts, as in the case of working bees and ants, and (as I hold) in the case of mothers working for and protecting their offspring, which at least seem formally moral; because they seem founded on self-sacrifice. I am well aware, I say again, of the very serious admissions which we clergymen should have to make if we confessed that these acts really are that which they seem to be. But I do not see why we should not be as just to an ant as to a human being; I am ready, with Socrates, to follow the Logos whithersoever it leads; and I hope that Mr. Mivart will reconsider the two latter paragraphs of p. 196, and let his "thoughts play freely" round this curious subject. Perhaps, in so doing, he may lay his hand on an even sharper weapon than those which he has already used against the sensationalist theory of morals.


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Charles Kingsley

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