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But while all this is natural and even necessary, it is only so at the beginning, and only so because the first view of evolution is inevitably a half view. For, let it be observed, that in this account which the mind gives to itself of the process, there is one important element left out-an element which, if admitted, would have altered the entire aspect of the subject. It has been altogether overlooked that this process of evolution, so far from being an agency interposed between God and the soul, is really a process which has God for its main factor. What is the doctrine of evolution, as represented by Mr Herbert Spencer, its most advanced and uncompromising advocate? It is not the doctrine that at some distant age of the past a supernatural Power threw down a germ-cell of existence, which by its own inherent strength grew and fructified ; such a statement would, indeed, be tantamount to the interposition of an entire universe between the soul and the object of its worship. But the doctrine of Mr Spencer is, that the universe needs a transcendental Force or Power for every moment of its existence, and for every process of its development. Neither natural selection, nor heredity, nor concomitant variation, nor environment, are with him the sole nor even the main agents in the process of evolution; the main agent is the great primal Force itself, and all other forces and phenomena are but the symbols and
conditions of its acting. It is a point which often escapes our notice, that in the philosophy of Mr Herbert Spencer there is really something which is not evolved. The most advanced disciple of evolution has acknowledged as strongly as the most pronounced theist, that there is a Force in nature at the back of all its other forces which, while itself the agent in the whole evolutionary process, is itself unaffected by any part of that process. The proof of this is, that Mr Spencer declares again and again that this primal Force is persistent, - in other words, that it continues unchanged amidst the constant transmutations of everything around it. Now if this position be accepted, it will follow that the belief in evolution, so far from withdrawing the spirit of man from the presence of that transcendental Power that lies at the basis of the universe, is itself a belief in the perpetual necessity of that presence. Let the doctrine of Mr Spencer be admitted, and whatever else the religious mind may deny, it will be compelled at least to confess that it has found at last in science the need for a Presence which transcends science. Its sense of communion with God will not only be preserved but justified, and justified by that very doctrine of evolution which was hitherto supposed to be the source of its destruction. In that doctrine of evolution the religious man will still find himself in the immediate presence of the great First Cause. He will be forced to feel as powerfully as did the Brahman that there is really no link of the chain between himself and the Divine object of his communion; that he is every instant face to face with a Power which is unsearchable, with a Force which is transcendental, with a Strength which is persistent, with a Mystery which is inscrutable, and that his own individual life is as really and as fully a product of this Mystery as if in all the realm of nature there never had been any life but his own.
We may conclude, then, that the first ground on which the doctrine of evolution is supposed to be adverse to the spirit of religious communion, is a ground which cannot be substantiated in fact. It rests on a mistaken view of the doctrine of evolution itself. If we accept Mr Spencer's explanation of that doctrine, we shall find that, so far from denying a transcendental Presence in the world, it necessitates the acknowledgment of such a Presence; if we refuse to accept Mr Spencer's explanation as the only admissible one, we shall still be compelled to confess that it is at least a possible view; and such a confession is alone sufficient to save the doctrine of evolution from the necessary imputation of leading to practical atheism.
We come now to the second of those reasons on the ground of which it has been thought that the modern doctrine of evolution is at variance with the sense of religious communion. It is the fact that in this doctrine every phenomenon of nature is represented as linked on to some earlier phenomenon. The doctrine of evolution represents all the objects and events of the universe as connected by a principle of continuity. In primitive times the great catastrophes of nature were looked upon as isolated phenomena. The savage crouched before the thunder and the lightning because he deemed the thunder and the lightning to be supramundane manifestations,—the special voices of a creative Power pronouncing a special judgment on humanity. But to the scientific mind the thunder and the lightning have nothing special about them at all; they are manifestations just as natural as the falling of the rain or the melting of the cloud. They are forces of nature which arise from causes that human reason itself can discern, and whose effect might have been predicted by any careful student of the phenomena of physical nature. Therefore it is that to the man of science, and specially to the believer in scientific evolution, all the phenomena of nature, whether great or small, are parts of a united system, and dependent one upon another. Each manifestation of nature is the link of a chain ; each link supports the being of its predecessor, and accounts at the same time for the life of its successor. The result
is, that in the system of nature, as interpreted by the doctrine of evolution, there is no break and no room for spontaneity; every effect can be referred to a preceding cause within the limits of the natural chain. But if it be so, the religious mind asks, where is the ground for its religiousness? If there is no spontaneity in nature, then there is in nature no possibility of change; and if there is no possibility of change, of what use is the soul's effort after Divine communion? At the very root of the idea of communion lies the thought of prayer. If there be no possibility of change in nature, must not the thought of prayer be a delusion? If the natural chain be composed of links which are fixed and immutable,—if the order of nature has followed a course of evolution which my will is powerless to interrupt and impotent to gainsay,—what purpose can then be served by my offering up a petition which will not arrest the development of the predetermined natural law ?
Now there is a point at the outset to which we desire to direct attention, because it is very commonly overlooked by those who cherish fears on this subject. One would imagine from this objection to the doctrine of evolution that it was the doctrine of evolution which first suggested to the believer in Christianity a sense of obstacle to prayer by promulgating the changelessness of nature. The truth is, the changelessness of nature