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certain facts and phenomena, and forget that all law is a dead thing except as made and enforced by a power behind. A law of nature is but a mode or method in which some power acts.
What is that power behind ? - that is always the question. Yet this barren word “law" seems to be the unknown god which some men worship.
Another idol, more popular, equally needing to be tested because quite as hollow, as held by some, but not by all, is evolution. If this be held only as the mode in which the Creator has gradually wrought the system of the world and of life, not immediately, but mediately, it is surely harmless; only we may demand the actual proof. But when a man answers the question of absolute origin by saying that all beings were evolved from lower forms he tells me nothing of origin but only of method. What is the force back of this method of working hidden by your empty word ? These marvelous qualities and faculties, these wonderful adjustments and harmonies — whether made at a stroke or opened out through the ages - I ask who made them, not how, nor how long. Thus I gaze on the magnificent cathedral of Cologne and I ask who designed and built it. You answer me, It took six hundred
and many stages of progress. you, trifler! I tell you it was
I tell you it was a surpassing genius devised that finest Gothic building in the world, none the less so though it took six hundred years to carry out the design, and the dull workmen have forgotten his very name. Who built it, I ask you, tell me, who? And you answer me again, Six hundred years and many
stages of labor. You remind me of Wordsworth's Johnny Foy. When men under the cover of a word endeavor to hide the mighty wisdom, skill, and power that have exerted and asserted themselves in all this infinite complexus of contrivances and correspondences, connecting each with each and everything with all, till the little dimmest telescopic star stands related to my eye, and that to all the activities of my frame and the emotions of my soul as well as to the whole outer world, they abdicate, so far forth, the throne of rational thought.
But for its tendencies and applications one might smile at the notion sometimes advanced in this connection, which would annihilate the dividing line between the man made in the image of God and the animal, asserting a natural transition from the one to the other. Without entering on the deeper defects and insuperable difficulties of the notion and the absence of actual evidence, one or two facts are level to the lowest apprehension. One is that from his earliest appearance and faintest traces upon earth man enters
a man, with his weapons, implements, and ornaments, master of the brute creation. Another, that in all his subsequent wanderings his pet animals have followed him, watched him, and shared his companionship and teachings for thousands of years, with greater strength and keener senses; yet never in their companionship or their freedom making an implement, using a weapon, or uttering a connected proposition. Nothing through the ages can make the brute less
essentially a brute. The dog indefinitely changes his structure, but in his function he is everywhere unmistakably a dog. Yet here is a being in human form indeed, but deaf and dumb, sightless, destitute of smell, and almost of taste, shut up, and, as it were, fast locked out from the outer world and from her fellow beings. But oh! wonder of wonders ! by a series of intellectual bounds she learns to converse, to read and write, to compute, — acquiring algebra, geometry, physics, — to investigate, and gradually to use the abstract terms of the language and to deal with the highest human themes. Thought after thought flashes up in that corporeal prison house, illuminating its recesses within, and beaming from her face without, till at length she says to her teacher : "Man has made houses and vessels, but who made the land and the sea?" And when the answer came,
“God made all things,” what a commotion rose in that pent-up soul ! — thought crowding upon thought and question piled upon question : “Where is God?” “What is the soul ?” absorbing the time of her daily lessons and intruding into her walks and talks, till mind and heart found rest in all the hope and trust of an earnest and intelligent piety, brightening her darkened life and saddened lot.
Now one obvious effect, if not aim, of the confusions to which we have alluded is at least in some quarters to confound moral distinctions and obligations. Right and wrong are made factitious things. The highest relationships are shaken by the denial of their sanctity. Human life and hope are cheapened by the alleged meanness of human origin. The grandeur of human destiny is darkened by the eclipse of the future. Free will has been openly denied, and the great God dethroned. When such assertions and denials are brought to the test, however, we find that before men can put in practice these extreme fanaticisms, the good providence of God fortunately puts on the chain and the clog. Society is compelled to trample many of these follies under foot. It cannot even parley with them. Human freedom must be asserted at all hazards; human rights defended at whatever cost; human obligations enforced, and the great human relationships maintained though the heavens fall. Man's life, whatever his pedigree, must be held sacred. Society cannot be held together under the abrogation of the decalogue ; the court needs God for the solemnity of the oath, and the criminal is often overshadowed by a terror more appalling than an instant's pain of the nerves. When man, whether or not under pretense that he has come from the brute, would sink to the level of a brute, God's providence vetoes the movement with its “everlasting No."
III. But the indispensable condition on which we have the privilege and the duty of putting all things to the proof is that we “hold fast that which is good.”
This proposition but brings us face to face with first principles. We are not to be forever filling the same leaky vessel. We are not to be always proving, but to have some things proved and settled, firm and fast. It is the necessity of thought and knowledge. In
reaching to the unknown we must begin from the known. If nothing were settled, nothing could be settled, or unsettled. Holding fast is not only the starting point, but the goal of all investigation, truth certainly attained and firmly held, on which mind and heart and life
We reach out for something which we may grasp and cling to. This it is which alone justifies the expenditure of time and treasure, and sometimes of life, in the struggle, and vindicates the real martyrs of science.
Such again is the law of our nature. It is the solemn prerogative of humanity that it cannot excuse itself from cleaving to the right and the good, once thoroughly apprehended. From Galileo recanting in sackcloth we hide our faces, and Socrates with the hemlock receives the suffrages of the race. There is scarcely a greater curse to humanity or a more lawless brigand in the realm of thought than he who, with brilliant powers and restless activity, spends his whole force of intellect in loosening the foundations and never laying a solid stone.
Do you ask me what is good ? I answer in general, that code of life and conduct which is sustained by evidence, such evidence as forms the basis of all wise human action, especially when it has been not hastily but maturely adopted, overriding objections. It is good, not till some passing cavil be raised, or some novel theory thrust against it, but till it be fairly borne backward and laid low by some mightier array of solid proof. If, moreover, being experimental, it has