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revealed to themselves like the Afreet out of the smoke. Of this book I must speak presently. Let it be remarked in passing that Mr. Mill has not unnaturally read all the religious history of mankind in the peculiar light of his own exceptional mental experience, and has taken it for granted that men have in all ages constructed a God by the method of the inductive philosophy. I venture to think that an entirely opposite rationale of religious development is the true one, and that by recognizing it we may exactly perceive how it happens that we have arrived at our present pass.
Mankind, I believe, from the hour when Humanity arose out of its purely animal origin, has felt some vague stirrings of aspiration and awe—some infant-like liftings-up of the hands for help and pity to something greater, stronger, wiser than itself-some dim consciousness (enough at least to guide its funeral rites) that it is not all of a man which perishes in the grave. Long ages and millenniums doubtless passed away during which these vague sentiments fastened on some fetich, or on the orbs of heaven, at first without ascribing any definite individuality or personality to the object, and then again without attributing to it any moral character. In the “ ages before morality" the gods were necessarily unmoral; for man could no more invent morality to give his god, than he could invent for him a bodily sense which he did not himself possess. But with the dawnings of the ethical sentiment in man came simultaneously the conviction,-nay, rather, the consciousness —that the Unseen Power was also Just (so far as the man yet apprehended justice). Thenceforward the moral ideal of God continued to rise, century after century, in exact proportion to the moral development of mankind; and the “Lord” was a pillar of cloud and fire, moving before the moving nations, guiding them towards the Holy Land.
It mattered little that it was, for the masses, in the shape of the intuitions of dead prophets and apostles, which were called Divine inspirations (and were so in truth, albeit mixed with endless fables), that Jews and Zoroastrians, Christians and Moslems, accepted this inward idea of God, and only a few of the “strongest souls” received (as the old Chaldæan oracle has it) “light through themselves.” Practically, mankind at large held, more or less imperfectly, the notion of Deity reflected from the highest consciousness yet developed at each stage; and poor as it often was, it was the brightest which could filter through the dim windows of their souls. The work of correcting this ideal by reference to the phenomena of nature, instead of being the normal process, hardly seems to have occurred to any one save Lucretius. When these phenomena were beneficent and beautiful, men sung psalms and proclaimed that the Heavens declared the glory of God, and the earth was full of His goodness. When plague and earthquake, flood and famine, ravaged the world, they attributed the evil to the wrath of the higher Powers, brought down by the offences of mankind, of which there never was an insufficient store to serve for such explanation. It is
even surprising in our day to note how very remote it was from the spirit of old philosophers or theologians to put aside à priori doctrines about the gods, and learn from Nature herself concerning Nature's Authorship. Even down to the days of Paley and the Bridgewater Treatises, it is clear that, when they applied to Nature at all, it was as a French judge sometimes interrogates a prisoner, to compel her to corroborate their foregone conclusions respecting a series of “ Attributes" either apprehended by the religious sentiment or logically deduced by the à priori arguments of the Schoolmen. There were doubtless abundant reasons for this state of things. The poets, the artists, the sages of old, cared comparatively little about Nature, and centred all their interest in man. As it has been wittily said, “Nature was only discovered in our generation.” It followed obviously, then, that the theologians of former times should concern themselves almost exclusively with the human aspects of Religion and the notions of dead thinkers, and that only now and then some great teacher arose to rebuke the servile repetition of what was "said by them of old time," and to point to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air as evidence of the Father's love.
But our age witnesses a new tendency of thought altogether, the genuine application of the Inductive Philosophy to Theology. With the vast and sudden influx of knowledge concerning the outer world, has come a greatly enhanced sense of the importance of the inferences to be drawn therefrom regarding the character of its Author and the purpose of His work. Some of us are now at the stage of seeking in Nature the corroboration of our intuitive faith ; others, of painfully balancing the two revelations; and others, yet again, have gone so far as to look exclusively to astronomy and geology and chemistry and physiology to afford them indications of who or what the Originator of the universe may be, and have come to regard with mistrust, as wholly unreliable bases of argument, those moral and religious phenomena of their own and other men's souls, which may, after all, they hold, be only the results of the “set of the brain" determined by the accidents of their ancestors' condition; “psychical habits” conveyed by hereditary transmission, but having no validity whatever as indicators of any external reality.
Now, even in the first of these stages, where we only interrogate Nature to confirm the yet undimmed faith of our hearts, there comes undoubtedly to us a chill when she returns her stammering reply, instead of the loud and glad response which we had been taught by the shallow old Natural Theology to expect with confidence. Instead of the “one chorus” which “all being” should, as we trusted, raise to the Maker of all, we hear an inarticulate mingling of psalms of joy with funeral dirges; the morning song of the bird with the death-cry of the hunted brute ; the merry hum of the bee in the rose with the shrivelling of the moth in its “fruitless fire.” Nature's incense rises one hour in balm and perfume to the skies, and the next steals along the ground, foul with the smell of blood and corruption.
We cannot shut out these things from our thought by any effort. We climb the mountains, where the “empty sky, the world of heather" seem all full of God, and we find beside the warbling brook a harmless sheep dying in misery, and its little lamb plaining and starving beside it. We wander through the holy cloisters of the woods till we have forgotten the world's sin and toil, and the scattered feathers and mangled breast of some sweet bird lie in our path, desecrating all the forest. We turn to the books which in former years used to expound to us the marvellous and beneficent mechanism of the Almighty Anatomist, and we grow sick as we read of the worse than devilish cruelties whereby Science has purchased her evermore unholy secrets. when we seek to reconcile the responses of the religious sentiment with those of the Nature “red in tooth and claw," who shrieks against our creed that Love is “creation's final law,” and treat them as two equally valid sources of knowledge, the riddle grows yet more terrible, till at last, when we discard the inward testimony to the Maker's character as unreliable, and look to the external world alone to tell us what He may be, we obtain the heart-chilling reply which Mr. Mill has left us as his last sad word: “A Mind whose power over the materials was not absolute, whose love for his creatures was not his sole actuating inducement, but who nevertheless desired their good."* “The scheme of Nature, regarded
* Essays on Religion, p. 243.