« PreviousContinue »
The great root passion of normally constituted humanity, the craving to find some One to whom to look up with absolute moral reverence, a passion which even
ronment. The dog has a religion, and his deity is man. Previous to the introduction of man upon the scene, the dog must have been simply dog, minus this quasi-religious faculty. But man appears, and makes his appeal to the dog-nature; in response, a capacity for human fellowship is developed in the dog, and is inherited, so that a craving for such fellowship becomes, thenceforth, part of his nature.
“Now if we imagine some being, some detached intelligence, with power to observe the dog in his development through the ages, but to whom the man, on his introduction, is invisible, what a strange problem would present itself for his solution! Would not the higher development of the dog, as now observed by him, be analogous to the calling forth of the religious instinct in the creature man? The observer would now see with wonder the frequent reference to a seemingly higher will, not always cheerfully yielded to. He would note the upward look, the overcoming of mere animal impulses, the occasional wilful outbreak of the lower nature, bringing with it a sense of guilt, to be followed by shame, penitence and meek submission to chastisement; strangest thing of all, he would see this chastisement seemingly accepted as a medium of reconciliation with some invisible being, whereby peace and contentment are restored to the canine mind.
“Which would be the soundest conclusion for such an observer as I have supposed to come to? That these phenomena of dogconsciousness were self-evolved, mere subjective illusions; or that, outside the range of his vision, there was some real object to call them forth? To the obvious criticism that, as a matter of fact, the dog does apprehend man, his deity, by his senses, while man does not thus apprehend God, the reply is that, though in many cases it may be latent, there is in man a higher sense whereby, and that with an intense reality, the invisible God has been and is apprehended by countless thousands.
“Supposing the evolution theory to be true, the question arises,
within the last few months the greatest thinkers on the agnostic side have one after another admitted to be a fundamental and ineradicable element in our nature,that exalted aspiration can never find the smallest satisfaction in the notion of a Probable God, who is probably more Benevolent than otherwise. Mr. Mill arrives at the conclusion that such lights as we possess "afford no more than a preponderance of probability of the existence of a Creator; of his benevolence a considerably less preponderance; that there is some reason to think that he cares for the pleasure of his creatures, but by no means that this is his sole care, or that other purposes do not often take precedence of it."*
Further on, he grants that the “ideally perfect character .... may have a real existence in a Being to whom we owe all such good as we enjoy.”+ But such an hypothesis can only be admitted on condition of supposing that “his power over his materials was not absolute;" that “his love for his creatures was not his sole actuating inducement;"I and, finally, that even of his "continued existence" we have not a thoroughly satisfactory “guarantee." But as such a Being as this is no God at all to the needs either of the conscience or
when did man, the thinking animal, become man the religious being? May not this example of a somewhat parallel phenomenon in a lower field supply an answer, viz. when his nature, however previously developed, was first consciously acted upon by a higher Nature ?-I am, Sir, &c.,
HENRY F. BATHER.” * P. 208.
+ P. 253. I P. 243. § P. 243.
of the heart, we are consequently not surprised to find Mr. Mill setting Him aside in favour of that “standard of excellence," Jesus Christ. Here is another wonderful exemplification of the eminent presence of the Moral and the total absence of the Spiritual element in this great thinker. He perfectly recognized the moral beauty of Christ's character as transcribed by history, but his inward eye was closed to that supreme Loveliness which is spiritually revealed to every soul which enters into communion with God; and which, shining full into the heart of Christ, made him the mirror wherein humanity has ever since seen it reflected.
The fact that we want a Perfect God does not of course prove that any such Being exists, but it leaves such a Deity as Mr. Mill has propounded for our quasi-belief altogether outside the religious question. If the Intellect or the Fancy may be contented with a Probable God, provisionally accepted as Benevolent, it is certain that the Religious Sentiment can no more attach itself to such a Deity than a man can embrace a cloud. A balance of probabilities may properly determine our choice of an investment for a sum of money; but when it comes to the gift of our heart's allegiance, we need a different kind of assurance. No man can stand by patiently while arguments pro and con. are carefully weighed, and begin to love when the scale turns by a hair on the side of Benevolence, and drop on his knees in reverence as Justice begins to preponderate, and adore when the balance of Good appears finally by some
degrees heavier than that of Evil. If this be so, then it follows that the Inductive Method is for ever inapplicable to the solution of the greater problems of theology, because under the most favourable circumstances it can only give us a balance of more or less probability-a General, not an Universal proposition. We are compelled to seek in some other modes of thought an assurance of quite another kind.
I am far from conceding that no more decisive witness to the Divine Existence and Goodness than Mr. Mill has found in the external world is to be drawn therefrom strictly by the Inductive Method. Respecting God's existence, it seems to me the summary of arguments in Mr. Thornton's recent admirable treatise* leaves the scientific atheist a standing-room so infinitesimally small, that nothing short of one of those angels of whom the Rabbins taught that a legion may rest on the point of a needle could support himself thereon. And regarding the Divine Moral Character, I must protest against the unaccountable manner in which, when the Experience philosophy holds its court, the most important of the witnesses is rarely or ever put in the box. Why is it, I ask, that while every minute fact of organic and inorganic nature is freely cited as bearing testimony more or less important to the character of the Creator—why is the supreme fact—the existence of Man, of a being who loves and who prays, who has, deep set within him, the ideas of Justice and of Duty, a being capable of becoming a hero, a martyr, a saint,—why is this greatest of all the facts of Nature which our globe presents, passed over by the experimentalist with no notice at all so far as it bears on the Theistic argument? Let us waive for a moment all question of personal intuitive or spiritual knowledge. Let us suppose that we, individually, have no such transcendental moral or religious knowledge, and that we are regarding the human race altogether ab extra. Even so, such “facts of experience" as an Isaiah, a Christ, a Buddha, a Plato, a Marcus Aurelius, certainly claim attention as much as any of the facts from which the Creator's indifference to His creatures' welfare, or incapacity to make them happy, has been inductively inferred. After all which has been said of recent years regarding the way in which our moral natures may be supposed to have been developed out of the instincts of the ape, there is nothing so wonderful in all the wide circuit of science as that it should happen that in a world teeming with injustice, and in which Nature's “recklessness” is her prevailing characteristic,* there should exist a being whose brain has acquired such a “set” of passionate love for justice as that for its sake he is often ready to sacrifice happiness and life.
* Old-Fashioned Ethics, &c. Phases of Scientific Atheism.”
See the Chapter on