Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

not encourage hope, as little does it forbid faith. If the doctrine of evolution has nothing to say on the subject of the Divine personality, it would be highly unscientific in a theologian to claim its testimony as an ally. But on the other hand, it would be equally unscientific, in the face of this silence, to regard the doctrine of Divine personality as opposed by the doctrine of evolution. If there were an opposition between them, there would be no room for agnosticism. The very existence of a feeling of mystery, the very sense of intellectual ignorance which follows a survey of the facts of evolution, is itself a proof that these facts have still left open a door for the entrance of faith. Now if we once allow faith to enter that door-in other words, if we once assume that the Force of Mr Herbert Spencer is a conscious personality-all the rest of the way will be scientifically smooth and easy. The doctrine of evolution will not only not oppose our progress, it will become itself our ally and our friend. We shall thenceforth be able to hold the doctrine of a Divine communion not only on grounds of faith, but on principles of science. We shall no longer deem it unscientific to say that in God we live and move and have our being, for we shall recognise in this sentiment a translation of the Spenserian dictum that at the basis of all things lies the Power that is inscrutable. We shall no longer hold it

superstitious to affirm that there is a Spirit helping our infirmity, and telling us those things which we may ask consistently with nature's law, for we shall find that in point of fact our thoughts are being hourly prompted by the movement of a mysterious principle which underlies and manifests our lives. We shall no longer esteem it credulous to look beyond the operation of finite or material causes, for we shall learn as a verdict of science that the causes which men call finite and material are but the forebodings and manifestations of that great First Cause—the primal Force of the universe.

There is, then, a place in the doctrine of evolution for the existence of Divine communion. Let us suppose that the reality of this communion is conceded, what does it imply? It clearly involves much more than lies on the surface. If man can commune with God, it can only be by having the life of God, for the prerequisite of all communion is essential equality of nature. But if man has the life of God, he must have the immortality of God, for the distinction of the Divine life is its eternity. This brings us, therefore, to the final question between the science of the nineteenth century and the teaching of the old faith—What is the relation of that science to man's hope of a life beyond the grave? To the consideration of this subject we shall now advert.

CHAPTER XIII.

EVOLUTION AND IMMORTALITY.

IN the treatment of this subject we shall be obliged to have recourse to some repetition. We shall need to avail ourselves of some of those facts which have been adverted to in previous chapters, for there is such a close analogy between the Christian doctrine of immortality and the Christian doctrine of God, that the principles which elucidate the one serve also to illustrate the other. Let us at the outset remind the reader that, according to the doctrine of Mr Spencer, there is in the universe something which is immortal. That primal Force which, in his view, underlies all things, persists also through all things, is incapable of either increase or diminution, is absolutely unaffected by the successive changes of its own environment. This statement of Mr Spencer is more suggestive and more important than it might at first sight appear. It has been frequently asked, and commonly with an air of despondency, whether the system of nature, as exhibited by the doctrine of evolution, offers any analogy that would lead to the hope of a life beyond the grave. If we believe Mr Herbert Spencer, it offers something more than an analogy; it presents us with a direct statement of fact. It tells us that the principle of immortality is already in the universe, that it does not need to be imported into it, that it exists now as a law of nature. It tells us that at the root of all changes there is something which is changeless, that at the back of all phenomena there is something which is permanent, that at the base of all evanescence there is something which is abiding. Nature, in the system of Mr Herbert Spencer, which is the most advanced phase of the system of evolution, presents us with the fact of an actually realised immortality.

Now the bearing of all this on the relation of the new creed of science to the old faith in immortality is very remarkable. In the view of the popular mind, there has been frequently drawn a sharp antithesis between the system of nature and the system of revelation, not altogether dissimilar to that which in the creeds of ancient Gnosticism separated the Demiurgus who made the world from the God who ruled in heaven. Nowhere has this imaginary antithesis been more sharply marked than in the relative attitudes which nature and revelation are held to occupy towards the belief in a future state. Man's hope in immortality has been held to consist in his belief that the course of natural law has been interrupted. The supernatural has been looked upon as the equivalent for the unnatural, and the dispensation of Divine grace as the abolition of the order of nature. Christianity, in proclaiming the doctrine of immortal life, has been received rather as an anomaly than as a light. The office of a light is to illuminate things already existing ; the Christian doctrine of immortality has been supposed to destroy the things already existing. It has been taken for granted that within the system of physical science there is no place for the doctrine of a future life; and while the man of science has been suffered at his pleasure to hold that belief, he has only been allowed to do so on the ground of the Baconian principle that there is a separation between matters of science and matters of faith.

But now, for the first time, we are presented with a view of nature which, in relation to the doctrine of immortality, offers us something higher than a mere attitude of indifference towards the old faith. The modern doctrine of evolution is professedly built on the lines of the Baconian principle, and therefore it has pursued the method of science without reference to the conclusions of

« AnteriorContinuar »