Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

modern science presents any barrier to the doctrine of the old faith. Modern science, in her principle of evolution, has indeed proclaimed the impossibility of any interference with the course of nature, or of the inspiration of any form of life not produced by the factors of natural development. But modern science admits that one of these factors, nay, the only real agent of them all, is just that great primal and basal Force which the Christian reverences under the name of God. Christianity, like science, admits that if God be recognised as one of the factors in the natural process of development, there can indeed be no interference with the laws of nature, and no inspiration of any form of life, which is not produced by the process of evolution. Christianity, like science, believes in the ultimate inviolability of natural law, because it believes the most natural of all laws to be that law of the Spirit of life which science in its own language describes as the action of a Force that is inscrutable. Christianity, therefore, would repudiate the imputation of having chosen an unscientific position in recognising as a historic possibility the resurrection of the Son of Man. It would deny that in so doing it has called in the aid of any new factor or of any novel agency. It would point to the fact that it has sought for the cause of life in no other quarter than that wherein evolution itself has declared its source, like the source of all other things, to lie—in the presence and potency of that inscrutable Force which, itself incomprehensible, comprehends all.

But there is a resurrection of Christ which is a matter not of testimony but of experience—the inspiration of that new life which His death brought into the world. Explain it as we may, it remains a fact of history that at the very moment when the spirit of Christianity seemed crushed by the older forces of nature, it suddenly, and, from the standpoint of these forces, unaccountably burst into fresh and irrepressible vitality-a vitality which, through all the changes and vicissitudes of subsequent time, has been steadily intensifying and progressively deepening. The life which Christianity brought into the world has been gradually vanquishing the older forces of nature-not indeed by annihilating them, but by assimilating them to itself. No evolutionist would deny, no Comtist even would refuse to admit, that this life is now at least itself one of the forces of nature, itself the most powerful agent in the development and the preservation of European culture and morals. The spirit of Christianity, in whatever form it may have come into the world, has, now that it is in the world, submitted to become a part of the world's natural law, and elected to follow that order prescribed by

[graphic][graphic]

the principle of mental evolution. We have better means of tracing the evolutionary order followed by the spirit of Christianity, than we have of determining the evolutionary order observed by the spirit of nature, for the spirit of Christianity begins, continues, and ends its development within the circle of the individual consciousness. A consideration of that process of individual development will engage our attention in the succeeding chapter.

CHAPTER XI.

EVOLUTION AND THE WORK OF THE

EVOLUTION AND THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT.1

PIRITI

“THE law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Such are the words in which the Apostle of the Gentiles describes the process of the new dispensation. They are words which, on the very face of them, reveal the presence of the most startling paradox. That the new life should be subject to law at all, is itself a fact different from our natural expectation; that the law of any life should be the source of freedom, is contrary to the usual mode of human thinking. Yet it is the express design of St Paul to emphasise both of these points as characteristics of the new dispensation. He declares that the new spirit which has burst upon the world is not to be distinguished from the old spirit by the absence of a process of development, —that, on the contrary, the spirit of the Christian life is to submit itself to a form of law. The choice which a man is to receive in passing from the life of nature into the life of grace is not the choice between law and licence, but the choice between a lower and a higher law. The difference between the higher and the lower is not that the former is to display less order than the latter, but rather that the former is to manifest such a perfect order that its effect upon the human soul shall be a sense of perfect freedom.

1 Throughout this chapter we assume—what has never been ques. tioned that there is an evolution of individual life within its own limits.

[graphic]
[graphic]

Let us devote a few moments to an examination of the points of contrast which were probably present in the apostle's mind when he distinguished between the old law and the new,-between the law of that downward evolution which, on its moral side, had followed the order of sin and death, and the law of that upward development which had received its initiating movement in the birth of that new Spirit which had emanated from the cross of Christ. His idea evidently is, that the new law of evolution was to be distinguished from the old law of evolution precisely by those marks which indicate the difference between the physical effects of life and the physical effects of death. Let us see what are those marks of difference.

The first thing which strikes us is this, that the energy exerted by the forces of death moves in a

« AnteriorContinuar »