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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

The Moral and Spiritual Aspects of the Question

page 45

The Moral and Spiritual Aspects of the Question.

When we pass from the mental to the moral and spiritual senses of man, inherited variations, natural selection, and all the puny artillery of the evolutionist are trundled off the battle-field. They cannot explain the power of thought, how much less can they approach that "still small voice" of conscience which is unwearying in its protests against all the animal instincts, the sharp claws, the ruthless crushing down of weaker members, which is the essence of evolutionary ethics, and is elevated by its philosophy into a divine law. If Darwinism, as interpreted by its advanced exponents, is true, the conscious instinct of immortality, constant and universal in the human mind, is alike a fraud and an inexplicable phenomenon. Grant the widest latitude to every evolutionary principle, and it is incapable of generating aught that is not purely physical—nothing that is beyond material causation. Cold, dead, senseless matter could never have originated a spiritual essence distinct from itself; and with the return of the original elements to the dust must go for ever the influence of heredity, natural selection, tendency, and all the laws or processes which originally fashioned and developed the perfect being. There is no logical escape from this position except by the admission of miracle at some stage, and the supervising control of a personal Deity. And where does the doctrine of Evolution, viewed in its strictly logical and materialistic sense, land its votaries, save in the presence of the Infinite and Unknowable. Eloquently declaimed that eminent French physiologist, M. Pasteur, upon this subject at a meeting of the French Academy on the 27th of April last; "He who proclaims the existence of an infinite—and no one can evade it—asserts more of the supernatural in that affirmation than exists in all the miracles of all religions; for the notion of the infinite has the twofold character of being irresistible and incomprehensible. When this notion surges on the mind there is nothing left but to bend the knee. In that anxious moment all the springs of intellectual life threaten to snap, find one feels near being seized with the sublime madness of Pascal."

Of what possible use is this doctrine of Evolution to a to a humanity which craves for living realities to quicken its pulses of action and Impel it, onward to a higher destiny? If we want brute types we have not, alas, to seek for them in fossil bones. It has been vauntingly said that science is to regenerate the world and create the religion of the future. The veneration and humility of a Newton and a Herschel might have done this, but what has the world ever owed to the arrogant exponents of Darwinism? To the true workers in mechanics and science—the Watts, the Arkwrights, the Stephensons, the Faradays, the Davys, the the Morses, the Edisons, and hundreds of others who are workers, not talkers, the world owes much, and will yet owe more. But what is the page 46 amount of its debt to the Darwins, the Hæckels, and the Huxleys that we should acknowledge their claims to fill the whole field in science, in religion, and philosophy? Look around on the crushed-down masses struggling sorrowfully but bravely amid the weight of inequable surroundings for some glimpse of the noble and divine. What consolation, what hope is there for them in this creed, which makes the instruments of success in a fight for brute supremacy its Alpha and Omega, and selfishness the governing law of life? Read by its light, philanthropy, patriotism, and all those deeds of self-sacrifice which give nobility to the soul, are amiable weaknesses. Is this the creed that is destined to regenerate the world, and achieve what the inculcation of virtue as a duty alike to God and man has failed in accomplishing? Let those who believe it go on searching with their mole-like eyes for some new bone to link man to the brutes: what can they know of those higher truths that are revealed, not to the intellect, but direct to the heart—the indwelling spirit of man? Still will there be thousands, with quickened spiritual insight, seeking after some new trace of the God-like in humanity, and carrying with them the panting heart of the people. Still will the conscious living presence of God's spirit in the soul of man bring to him a perfect rest, lifting him above and beyond the mournful incongruities of his material circumstances, and nerving him to the endurance of those human cares, and the performance of those hard, unyielding human duties, which fall to the lot of mankind. Still will humanity draw new hopes, new aspirations, new impulses to virtue, and new consolation from that image of the Infinite Spirit reflected in a perfect humanity. And when Darwin and his apostles shall have been forgotten, still will be heard, in ever-growing fervour, welling up from the depths of man's spiritual nature, the song and the prayer—

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.


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Auckland, N.Z.,

H. Brett, Commercial and General Printer, "Star" Office, Wyndham Street, Near National Bank.