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sidiary ends have had to be attained. These are not merely digestion and brain, but a host of others: e.g., in vertebrates, vertebræ of the right substance, position, form, arrangement, and union. And in the ascending line, for whose highest forms it has continually worked, the difficulties of attaining each subsidiary end have been successively solved, and through this host of subsidiary ends the animal kingdom has advanced straight to its goal of intelligence and righteousness. Now the whole process is a grand argument for design. But I would not emphasize the process so much as the end attained. This especially, when attained by conformity to that environment, demands more than mere mindless atoms in or behind that environment. Can we call the ultimate power which makes for righteousness "it?" Can we call it less than "Him, in whom we live and move and have our being?"
The history of life is a grand drama. "Paradise Lost” and Shakespeare's plays are but fragments of it. But without intelligence they could never have been composed; without a choice of means and ends they could never have been placed upon the stage. Does the plot of this grander drama of evolution demand no intelligence in its ultimate cause and producer? Is the succession of steps, each succeeding the other in such order as to lead to truth and right and continual progress toward a spiritual goal, is this plot possible without a great composer who has seen the end from the beginning? Could it ever have been executed upon the stage of the world, and perhaps of the universe, without an executing will?
Now I freely grant you that this is no mathematical
demonstration. Natural science does not deal in demonstrations, it rests upon the doctrine of probabilities; just as we have to order our whole lives according to this doctrine. Its solution of a problem is never the only conceivable answer, but the one which best fits and explains all the facts and meets the fewest objections. The arguments for the existence of a personal God are far stronger than those in favor of any theory of evolution. But we very rightly test the former arguments, indefinitely more rigidly and severely, just because our very life hangs on them. On the other hand, we should not reject them as useless, because they are not of an entirely different kind from those on which all the actions and beliefs of our common daily life are based. There is a scepticism which is merely a credulity of negations. This also we should avoid.
We have considered a few of the reasons for thinking that, with the material, there must be something spiritual in environment, that if the woof is material the warp is God. Here we need not delay long. Blank atheism seems to be at present unpopular and generally regarded as unscientific. The so-called philosophic materialism of the present day seems to be in general far nearer to pantheism than to the old form of materialism which recognized only atoms and mechanism. Atheism as a power to deform the lives of men has, for the present, lost its hold, and even agnosticism is respectful. The materialism against which we have to struggle is not that of the school, but of the shop, of society, of life. There are comparatively few now who avow a system of philosophy making mindless atoms their first cause.
But there is a far grosser, more deadly materialism of the heart and will. It sits unrebuked in the front pews of our churches and controls alike church and parish, caucus and legislature. It calls on us all to fall down and worship, promising the world if we obey, the cross if we refuse. And we bow to it; and that is all it asks, for a nod on our part makes us its slaves. It is the idolatry of money, position, shrewdness, learning-in one word, of success. It takes all the strength out of our morality, loyalty and obedience to God out of our religion, and makes cowards and liars of us, who should be heroes. It makes our religion a byword with honest unbelievers. And if they are honest scientific minds, waiting for evidence of the practical value of our religion, why should they believe, when we live so successfully down to the religion which we would scorn to openly profess? Our fathers may have been narrow or straight-laced; they were not cross-eyed from trying to keep one eye on God and the other on the main chance. What is the use of whispering, "Lord, Lord," Sundays, if we shout, "Oh, Baal, hear us," all the rest of the week. Let us at least be honest, and "if Baal be god, follow him," and avow it. And worst, and most hideous, of all, we are not so much hypocrites as self-deceived. Let us not forget the old Greek doctrine of Ate, goddess of judicial blindness, sent down only upon those who were living the unpardonable sin of indifference.
But supposing that there is in environment something more and other than material, can we possibly know anything about it?
I am in a boat near the mouth of a river. The boat is tossed by the waves, driven by currents of wind,
and now and then temporarily turned by eddies. I seem to look out upon a chaos of apparently conflicting forces. But all the time the wind and tide are sweeping me homeward. Now the wind, which sometimes indeed does shift, and the great tidal wave are steadily bearing me in a certain direction, though wave and eddy and gust may often make this appear doubtful to me. So, underneath all waves and eddies of environment, there is a great tidal wave, bearing man steadily onward; and I gain a certain amount of valid knowledge of environment from the direction in which it is bearing me.
Let us change the illustration. Man survives as all his ancestors have survived before him, through conformity to environment. Environment has therefore during ages past been continually making impressions upon him. And he can draw valid inferences concerning the one power, which must underlie the apparent host of forces of environment, from the impressions which these have left upon the structure of his mind and character. By studying himself he gains valid knowledge of what is deepest in environment. For man is the most completely and closely conformed thereto of all living beings.
But man is a religious being. This is a fact which demands explanation just as much as bone and muscle. Now no evolutionist would believe that the eye could ever have developed without the stimulus of light acting upon the cells of the skin. Place the animal in darkness and the eye becomes rudimentary and disappears. Could a visual organ for seeing moral and religious truth have ever originated in the mind of man had there been no corresponding pulsation
and thrill of a corresponding reality in environment? Is not the one development just as improbable or inconceivable as the other?
And this is the reason that, when man awakened to himself and his own powers, he knew that there was and must be a God. "Pass over the earth," says Plutarch; "you may discover cities without walls, without literature, without monarchs, without palaces and wealth; where the theatre and the school are not known; but no man ever saw a city without temples and gods, where prayers and oaths and oracles and sacrifices were not used for obtaining pardon or averting evil." Given man and environment as they are, and a belief in God is a necessary result. But you may ask, if we are to worship a personal God, why might not a conscious and religious hydra, with equal right, worship an infinite stomach, and the annelid a god of mere brute force?
There stands in Florence a magnificent statue by Michel Angelo. A human figure is only partially hewn out of the stone. He never finished it. If you could have seen the master hewing the chips with hasty, impatient blows from the shapeless block, you would have been tempted to say that he was but a stonecutter, and but a hasty workman at that. Even now we do not know exactly what form and expression he would have given to the still unfinished head. But no one can examine it and hesitate to pronounce it a grand work of a master-mind. In any manifestly incomplete work you must judge the purpose and character and powers of the workman or artist by its highest possibilities, just so far as you have any reason to believe that