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pated, free, superior; all the things which a thorough materialist is in the eyes of materialists. But I have not yet attained to the perfection of being a hypocrite, of daring to pretend to my own soul that this belief of ours, this truth, is not bitter and abominable, arid and icy to our hearts."
kind to a higher obedience. The loftiest point ever reached, or probably attainable, by this method of religion was the deism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and to reach it two things were needful not included in the problem namely, that those who found so good a God in nature should have looked for him there from the vantage ground of Christian tradition gained by the opposite method; and secondly, that they should have been yet in ignorance concerning much in nature which is now known, and so have raised their induction from imperfect premises. Pope, the typical poet of this deism, could say as the result of his survey of things:
No reader of this thoughtful and powerful paper can fail to see that the indignant antagonism which the earlier blatant atheism called forth, ought now to give place to mournful recognition of the later Agnosticism as a phase through which many of the most luminious intellects of our time are doomed to pass; the light which is in them waning till the thin cres cent disappears. That it will be renewed One truth is clear-whatever is, is right. again in the lustre of its fulness is not to be doubted, for this Agnosticism is no un- Tennyson, on the other hand, who knows faithfulness to the true God of love and somewhat of the doctrines of the "strug righteousness. It is precisely because gle for existence" and the "survival of the Agnostic fails to find that God where the fittest," when he has cast his glance he persists in exclusively looking for him around on nature, "red in tooth and claw -namely, in the order of the physical with ravin," and on all her "secret deeds" world that the darkness has fallen on of wastefulness of the seeds of joy and his soul. Perhaps the example of Agnos-life-feels that he can only "fall"
ticism, as the last result of a logically vicious method of religious inquiry, may not be useless in awaking us to the dangers of that method which has hitherto been used indiscriminately by friends as well as foes of faith.
Upon the great world's altar-stairs Which slope through darkness up to God. The second method of religious inquiry, which seeks for God in the inner world of spirit and conscience, leads to a very dif ferent conclusion, even though it be but "in a glass darkly" that the mirror of the soul receives the divine reflection, and many a blur of human error has been mistaken for a feature of the divine countenance. The prophets of all time who have heard in their souls the voice of God and have cried aloud, "Thus saith the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity," and the faithful who have hearkened to them because their hearts echoed their prophecies, have been together keeping step, till now Christianity in all its more vitalized forms, and theism as everywhere superseding the elder deism, alike affirm the absolute goodness of God, discarding everything in earlier dogmas repugnant thereto. The first method the external-being the one to which Agnostics have exclusively had recourse, it follows inevitably that the result is, as we see, the denial of religion, because they do not find in nature what nature (consulted exclusively) cannot teach.
All methods of religious inquiry resolve themselves into two that which seeks God in the outer world, and that which seeks him in the world within. Out of the first came the old nature-worship, and dim, chaotic gods with myths alternately beautiful and sweet, and lustful, cruel, and grotesque; the Greek stories which Vernon Lee recalls of Zeus and Chronos and Cybele, and the wilder tales of ruder races, of Moloch and Astarte, Woden and Thor. In "the ages before morality," the mixed character of the gods drawn out of nature, and who represented her mixed aspects of good and evil, was not felt to be incongruous or unworthy of worship. As morality dawned more clearly the gods were divided between good and evil, Ormuzd and Ahrimanes, Osiris and Typhon, the Devs and Asuras. Some ages later, in the deeply speculative era of Alexandrian philosophy, the character of the author of nature and creator of the world presented itself as so dark a problem that many schools of Of course the Agnostic may here interGnostics - Basilidians, Marcionites, Va- pose and say that the test of the truth of lentinians deemed him to be an evil or the second method must be to check it by fallen god, against whom the supreme the first, and see whether God, as he actu and good God sent Christ to recall man- | ally works in nature, bears out the char
acter which we derive from the testimony | hereditary conscience; the theory that of our hearts. Such checking is every our sense of right and wrong is nothing way right—nay, it it is inevitable. No more than the inherited set of our brains thoughtful man can avoid doing it, and in favor of the class of actions which have encountering thereby all the strain of been found by our ancestors conducive faith. But the difference lies in this, with to the welfare of the tribe, and against which method do we begin, and to which those of an opposite tendency. Accorddo we assign the primary importance? If ing to this doctrine there is no such thing we first look for God outside of us, we as an "eternal and immutable morality,' shall usually stop at what we find there. but all orders of intelligent beings must If we first look for him within, we may by degrees make for themselves what afterwards face with illumined eyes the Vernon Lee aptly calls a "rule of the mystery of nature's shadows. The man road," applicable to their particular conwho has found his God in conscience and venience. Thus at one and the same in prayer may indeed shudder and trem- blow the moral distinctions of good and ble and "lift lame hands of faith, and evil are exploded, and reduced to the congrope" when he sees all the misery and tingently expedient or inexpedient, and agony of creation. But as he did not first the rank of the faculty whereby we recfind God in nature, neither will he lose ognize them is degraded from that of the hold on God because nature is to him in- loftiest in human nature to that of a mere explicable. He will fall back on the inner inherited prejudice. How this theory worship of God the Holy Ghost, the overturns the foundations of morals, and teacher of all mercy and justice; and by so doing deprives religion of its firmtrust that he who bids him to be merciful est basis, and so clears the way for Ag. and just, cannot be otherwise himself nosticism, will become more evident the than all-merciful, all-righteous. He will, more we reflect on the matter. A better in short, exercise, and can logically exer- example of the working of the doctrine cise, faith, in its simple and essential could not be desired than that afforded formi.e., trust in one who has a claim in a passage in this very article, which to be trusted as a friend already known, bears the stamp of a fragment of autobinot a stranger whom he approaches withography. Baldwin, the character in the out prior acquaintance. But, on the contrary, the man who has even succeeded in constructing some idea of a good God out of the inductions of physical science, has nothing to fall back upon when (as happens to all in our generation) his researches, pushed further, seem to lead him, not to a perfectly benevolent being, but to one whose dealings with his crea tion appear so blended of kindness, and of something that looks like cruelty, that he finds it easiest to leap to the conclusion that he has no existence or no moral nature, rather than that he should be so inconsistent.
dialogue who obviously represents the
myself to doubt and examine all the more; I
* Mr. Darwin himself, in his "Descent of Man,"
These are the obvious results of the use of the two methods of religious inquiry, as used by men in all ages. But I expressly instances the worker bees as a case wherein have attempted to define them here, be. conscience" might approve of the massacre of our brother drones. It may not be inopportune to remind cause I am anxious to draw attention to readers who have not made a study of the philosophy the fact (which I deem to be one of great or history of ethics that the older schools of "indeimportance) that modern Agnosticism, as pendent" morality taught that actions were "right" or wrong," as lines are "right" (ie., straight) or distinguished from earlier forms of disbe-" wrung from" straightness, and that (according to
Clarke's definition of the doctrine) "these eternal difon them an obligation so to do, separate from the will of God and antecedently to any prospect of advantage
ferences make it fit for the creatures so to act, they lay
doctrine and the metaphor. He says:
"Acts are called
lief, has bound itself to the physical-science method, and renounced appeal to the inner witness to the character of God, by adopting the Darwinian theory of the nature of conscience, and thereby discred-good or bad according as they are well or ill adjusted to iting forever its testimony, as regards ends." Now this is exactly what the grand old terms right and wrong do not imply. A line is not "right either morals or religion. This theory, because it runs in a certain direction, but because of its as all the world now knows, is that of character of straightness.
positions of Nature and of man; I began to perceive that the distinction between right and wrong conduct had arisen in the course of the evolution of mankind, that right and wrong meant only that which was conducive or detrimental to the increasing happiness of humanity, that they were referable only to human beings in their various relations with one another; that it was impossible to explain them, except with reference to human society, and that to ask for moral aims and moral methods of mere physical forces, which had no moral qualities, and which were not subject to social relations, or to ask for them of any Will hidden behind those forces, and who was equally independent of those human and social necessities which alone accounted for a distinction between right and wrong, was simply to expect one set of phenomena from objects which could only present a wholly different set of phenomena: to expect sound to be recognized by the eye, and light and color to be perceived by the ear. Why go into details? You know that the school of philosophy to which I adhere has traced all distinctions of right and wrong to the perceptions, enforced upon man by mankind, and upon mankind by man, of the differences between such courses as are conducive to the higher development and greater happi
ness of men, and such other courses as are conducive only to their degradation and extinction (p. 173).
Here is the doctrine of inherited conscience clearly posed as lying at the very root of Vernon Lee's Agnosticism, and closing the door against the longed-for belief that his intuitions of justice and mercy had their origin in the Maker of all. The importance of this matter is so great, and yet has been so little noticed from the theological side, that I trust I shall be pardoned for devoting to it the greater part of the space at my disposal in this
* When Mr. Darwin did me the honor to send me
the advanced sheets of his Descent of Man," wherein he first clearly broached this theory, I wrote to him that, in my humble judgment, the doctrine, if ever generally accepted, would sound the knell of the virtue of mankind. Mr. Darwin smiled in his usual kind way at my fanaticism, as he doubtless deemed it; but so far am I from retracting that judgment, that I am inore than ever convinced, after ten years' observation, that this doctrine is a deadly one, paralyzing moral activity, and, in the long run, bringing on the spiritual death of atheism. It may be of some interest to mention that when preparing this book, Mr. Darwin told me he had never read Kant, and accepted with reluctance the loan which I pressed on him of Semple's translation of the "Metaphysic of Ethics." He returned it in a few days, after, I believe, a cursory inspection.
all hands admitted to be the nearest to God, and the one fittest to bear witness regarding him. "God is with mortals by conscience" has been generally assumed as an axiom in theological argument, and Christianity itself, by its dogma of the Third Person in the Trinity, only consecrated the conviction of the wisest Pagans that there is "a Holy Spirit throned within us, of our good and evil deeds the Guardian and Observer, who draws towards us as we draw towards him."* On the side of philosophy, this same moral faculty was by the long line of noblest teachers, beginning in Plato and culminating in Kant, allotted a place of exceptional honor and security. Moral truths they held to be necessary" truths, and our knowledge of them intuitive and transcendental; and even the lower schools, while making a different test of the morality of actions, uniformly allotted to the sense of moral obligation a supreme place in human na
How changed is the view we are per mitted by Darwinism to take of this crowned and sceptred impostor in our breasts, who claimed so high an origin,
and has so base an one! That "still small voice to which we were wont to hearken reverently, what is it then, but the echo of the rude cheers and hisses wherewith our fathers greeted the acts which they thought useful or the reverse
those barbarous forefathers who howled
for joy round the wicker images wherein the Druids burned their captives, and yelled under every scaffold of the martyrs of truth and liberty? That solid ground of transcendental knowledge, which we imagined the deepest thinker of the world had sounded for us, and proved firm as a rock, what is it but the shifting sand-heaps of our ancestral impressions, - nay, rather let us say, the mental kitchen middens of generations of savages?
Is this revolution in our estimate of
conscience of so little consequence, I ask, that our clergy take so little notice of it? To me it seems that it bears ruinously, and cannot fail so to bear, first on morals, then on religion. With the detection of conscience as a mere prejudice must end the solemn farce of moral struggle, of penitence and of remorse. As well might. we be expected to continue so to struggle and to repent, holding this view of conscience, as the company at a séance might be expected to continue to gape awestruck at an apparition which has been pounced
upon and exposed as a vulgar and igno- governors, indeed, have again and again rant medium! And with the discrediting issued edicts against infanticide as a of conscience as a divinely constituted crime. guide and monitor must end the possibil ity of approaching God through it, and of arguing from its lessons of righteousness that he who made it must be righteous likewise.
tal revolution (rarely effected, I imagine, without the aid of religion) enables us to forgive those whom we have injured. The really childish caricature of the awful phenomena of repentance and remorse which the amiable philosopher, who it would seem never needed repentance, devised out of the depth of the scientific imagination is, I venture to think, a fair specimen of the shallowness of this new theory of ethics.
Thus the doctrine of hereditary conscience fails to explain some of the most salient phenomena for which it proposes to account; nay, even in one of the instances chosen by Mr. Darwin himself, The thinker who will sift this doctrine egregiously misses the mark. In "The of hereditary conscience, and divide the Descent of Man," the author describes grains of truth which it doubtless contains repentance as the natural return of kindly from the large heap of errors and assump. feelings, when anger has subsided. But tions, will do the world a noble service, even his favorite observation of animals and effect more to dispel Agnosticism might have shown him that animosity, than by any other piece of philosophical once excited between dogs or horses, has work. That there is something in our no tendency to subside and give place to consciousness (sometimes confounded friendship, but rather to become more inwith conscience) which may be truly tense; and in the case of men, the old traced to inheritance, is probable - per- Roman knew better when he remarked, haps certain. That there is much else Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem which cannot be so traced is much more læscris. Every bitter word and unkind certain. To prove that such is the case it action (as those who have ever said or would be enough to analyze two well-de-done them know only too well) renders fined and almost universal sentiments. the return to kindly feelings more and One is the anticipation common to man- more difficult, till nothing short of a menkind in all ages, and the motif of half the literature of the world, that justice will be done - done somehow, somewhere, by some power personal as God, or impersonal as the Buddhist karma. Consider ing that no experience of any, even, of the very happiest generation of mankind, can have justified, much less originated, this expectation, it is clear that it must have had some source altogether different from that of an hereditary "set of brains," arising out of accumulated and persistent experience. Another sentiment common to all civilized nations in our day is the duty of preserving human life, even in the case of deformed and diseased infants. This sentiment is not only like the anticipation of justice authorized by experience, and inexplicable by the theory that moral judgments arise out of such experience, but is in diametrical opposition to anything which experience can have taught concerning the welfare of the race, being in precise contradiction of and rebellion against the great Darwinian law of "the survival of the fittest." Were our moral impressions merely the result of ancestral experience, the nations of Europe at this hour must have come to regard the Spartan practice of infanticide as one of the most sacred and imperative of moral obligations. I have never heard, however, that even the Chinese, who have been killing their superfluous babies by thousands for ages, have professed to consider it a duty, or anything better than a convenient practice to do so. Their
It is deeply to be deplored that this doctrine should have found acceptance on the authority of one, who, however great as a naturalist, was neither a moralist nor a metaphysician, at a juncture when the tendencies of the age all drive us only too much in the direction of physical inquiry as the road to truth. The passionate love for nature's beauty, the ardent curiosity concerning her secrets, which belong in these days not only to artists and men of science, but more or less to us all, have turned the whole current of thought towards natural external phenomena. And simultaneously with this set of the tide, the increasing keenness and subtlety of our feelings and width of our sympathies cause us to notice the evil latent among these natural phenomena, as was never done by any previous generation of men. We bring things to the bar of moral judg. ment which our fathers never dreamed of questioning. We writhe as the long panorama of suffering and destruction is unrolled before our eyes from the earliest geologic time to the present; nor can we
large classes of their fellow-creatures included in the stupid, the vulgar, and the disagreeable. Probably every Christian and theist who has tried conscientiously to "love his neighbor as himself" has experienced an imperative necessity to call up ideas and feelings derived from his love of God to help him in the often difficult achievement. It has been the idea of a perfect and all-adorable Being, on which his heart has reposed when sickened with human falsehood and folly. It has been in the remembrance of God's patience and forgiveness to himself that he has learned pity and pardon for his offending brothers. One of the greatest philan
sit down contented as they were with such explanations of it as a reference to "Adam's transgression," or pages of the easy optimism of Archbishop King. Our minds are distracted, our very hearts are wrung by such thoughts as those exposed in Mill's "Essays on Religion," even while we justly charge him with exaggera tion of the evil, and understatement of the happiness of the world. We cannot blink these questions in our generation, and it is a cruel enhancement of our diffi culties that at such a time this hateful doctrine of hereditary conscience should have been broached to drive us out of the best shelter of faith the witness of a reliable moral consciousness to the right-thropists of the past generation, Joseph eousness and mercy of our Maker.
Nor does the evil stop even here, for the action and reaction of morals and religion on one another is interminable. Evolutionism has originated the theory of hereditary conscience, and that theory has had a large share in producing mod ern Agnosticism, and again Agnosticism is undermining practical ethics in all directions. Vernon Lee feels deeply "the responsibilities of unbelief." But are not such sentiments the last failing wail of melody from a chord already snapped? Let me explain why I think that almost every virtue is destined to perish one after another, or at least to shrink and fade, if Agnosticism prevail among mankind.
Tuckerman, told Mary Carpenter that when he saw a filthy, degraded creature in the streets, his feelings of repulsion were almost unconquerable, till he forcibly recalled to mind that God made that miserable man, and that he should meet him hereafter in heaven. Then came always, he said, a revulsion of feeling, and he was enabled to go with a chastened spirit about his work of mercy. The notion (which I have heard a noted atheist expound in a lecture) that we cannot love our brothers thoroughly till we have renounced our Father and our eternal home, seems to me simply absurd. If universal benevolence be the one supreme virtue, then again we may say," Si Dieu n'existait pas il faudrait l'inventer," if it were merely that belief in him should help us to that virtue.
Morality, on the Agnostic projection, of course limits its scope to the field of human relations. It is supposed to have But it is not only on the side of God risen out of them, and to have no mean that the morality of Agnosticism stops ing beyond them. Man has brothers, and short. All the personal duties which, on to them he owes duty. He knows noth- the Kantian system, a man owes to ing of a father, and can owe him no duty. himself," and which were inculcated foreAltruism remains the sole virtue, piety most of all by the older religious ethics, being exploded. In the language of di- because they tended directly to the suvines, the second great commandment of preme end of creation and the approach the law is still in force, but we have dis-of finite souls to divine holiness, these pensed with the first.
lofty personal duties are retained in the new ethics only on the secondary and practically wholly insufficient grounds of their subservience to the general welfare of the community.
Thus, of the three branches of the elder morality corresponding to the threefold aspects of human life-religious duty, which was laid on man as a son of God, personal duty, laid on him as a rational free agent, and social duty, laid on
Here at the starting-point arises a doubt whether Agnosticism does not fling away, with the obligation to love God, the best practical help towards fulfilling his own law and loving our neighbor. The sentiments which religion teaches would ap. pear to be the very best qualified to produce altruism. For one so amiably constituted as Mr. Darwin, ready to love all his neighbors by nature, and where he quarrels with them to return equally nat-him as a member of the community-the urally to friendly sentiments, there are at least ninety-nine persons who "love their friends and hate their enemies," and feel at the best only indifference to those very
last alone survives in Agnostic ethics. Two-thirds of the provinces of morality have been abandoned at one sweep, as by retreating Rome in her decadence. But,