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-succession of the circumstances, or, at all events, in the vast outnumbering of the unfavourable circumstances by the favourable, but so strong a bias, as to remove the whole process from the accidental to the intentional. The bias* implies the existence of a Law, a Mind, a Will. The process becomes one not of Natural Selection, but of Selection by an Intelligent Will.
In considering the state of things just described, we must also take into the account, that the successive variations of the eye are said to be accidental. What, then, but a constantly exerted Intelligent Will, could cause the occurrence of new surrounding circumstances of such a character as to meet these accidental variations, and concur ultimately to produce a certain definite result, that is to say, an instrument possessing the necessary and truly wonderful contrivances of the Human Eye? But is such a process, the process, that is, of selecting new circumstances adapted to previous accidental variations, to be called Providence, or Miracle, or the Inversion of Providence ?
It is very satisfactory to me to find that since the first publication of these notes, eighteen months ago, the Duke of Argyle in his invaluable and well timed treatise on the Reign of Lawt, by approaching this subject from a different and more general point of view, has arrived at conclusions similar to those enunciated here. This philosophical observer writes as follows:
"If, then, it be true that new species are created out of small variations in the form of old species, and this by way of natural generation, there must be some bond of connexion which determines those variations in a definite direction, and keeps up the external correlations pari passu with the internal correlations. Natural Selection can have no part in this. Natural Selection seizes on these external correlations when they have come to be. But
* On this subject of bias, see a highly philosophical review of 'Quetelet On Probabilities,' in Sir John Herschel's Essays.
+ Reign of Law, p. 273, ed. 3.
Natural Selection cannot enter the secret chambers of the womb, and there shape the new form in harmony with modified conditions of external life. How, then, are these external correlations provided 'for beforehand? There can be but one reply. It is by utility, not acting as a physical cause upon organs already in existence but acting through motive as a mental purpose in contriving organs before they have begun to be. And where obvious utility does result, the only connecting bond which can be conceived as capable of maintaining the internal correlations in harmony with the external correlations, is the bond of creative will, giving to organic forces a foreseen direction. It is, in short, precisely the same bond which in all mechanism produces harof structure with intended function."
On reading Mr Darwin's enchanting volume, we seem to be, as it were, in the hands of a great magician, who leads us up and down the Elysian fields, pointing out to us on this side and on that new aspects of things which, though true, were beyond the reach of our expectations; nevertheless, when as we hope, we are nearing the hill-top and getting a sight of the primordial genesis of organised beings, the chariot on which he has mounted us rolls down the hill like the stone of Sisyphus.
"With hands and feet struggling, he shoved the stone
Up a hill-top; but the steep well-nigh
Vanquished, by some great force repulsed, the mass
Rushed again obstinate down to the plain.
Tall trees, fruit laden, with inflected heads
Stooped to us; pears, pomegranates, apples bright,
The luscious figs, and unctuous olive smooth,
Thus baffled, nothing that I can see remains but that we take our refuge in the magnificent old words,—
IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. HE SPAKE THE WORD AND THEY WERE MADE; HE HATH GIVEN THEM A LAW WHICH SHALL NOT BE BROKEN.
"In it did he live,
And by it did he live; it was his life.
His mind was a thanksgiving to the power
That made him; it was blessedness and love!"
Some months have now elapsed since Professor Tyndall, in one of the public journals, put a question regarding prayer, which at the time excited much attention and some animadversion. In reference to the propriety of prayer to God for the removal of epidemic and other diseases, Dr Tyndall asked whether “Prayer had proved itself a match for vaccination?" Various answers were given to this question, and to other questions which this one essentially involves, I will now endeavour to give my own reply.
In one of those exquisite Dialogues which have come down to us from the wisest of the ancients for an everlasting possession, Socrates is represented as meeting a great statesman in the streets of Athens, on his way to the temple of some god to pray. The nature of his errand was manifest from the chaplet which he carried in his hand, while the gravity with which he kept his eyes fixed upon the ground, indicated that the object of the vow he was about to offer was, in the statesman's thought, one of more than ordinary importance. Whether it was that Socrates well knew the restless ambition of Alcibiades (for that was the statesman's name), and therefore suspected that his friend and disciple, having some unscrupulous project on foot, was now on his way to conciliate the good-will of the god for its accomplishment; or whether the mere sight of the sacrificial chaplet alone, suggested the thought; we are told that the sage immediately stopped the statesman, and, as his wont ever was, began to ply him with a string of questions, the drift of the
questions now being directed to the proper objects and the propriety of prayer. "Do you think," said he, "that the gods sometimes grant and sometimes refuse our prayers? Do you see that there are very many foolish men,—some of them foolish even to madness,—and that such men necessarily offer to the gods very foolish prayers? Do you think there is no danger, that while you ask for what you believe will be for your good, you may inadvertently be seeking for what, if granted, would be your ruin? And then he goes on to ask him what sort of knowledge a man should properly possess before it was safe for him to pray to the gods. Should it not be the knowledge of what is the best? And are they many, or are they few, who possess this knowledge? And if they have not this knowledge, how do they know what they ought to pray for?" Hereupon Alcibiades confesses himself perplexed, and says, "he inclines to leave the choice of blessings to the gods." Socrates then digresses to questions regarding that state of the suppliant's mind which is most agreeable to the god; and after recounting an anecdote or two, of how a certain costly and magnificent national ritual had been disregarded by the gods, while they had lent a propitious ear to a very simple prayer, he quotes a few lines from Homer, to the effect that "the gods care not for our gifts, but they do regard the state of our souls.”
The Sage then proceeds to tell the statesman that there was indeed one prayer which seemed to him both wise and safe; he had learned it, he says, from an old poet, who had recommended it to his friends who were praying unwisely, and it was to the following effect:-" Sovereign Jove, what is good for us, grant, though we ask it not; but from what is dangerous, though we ask for it, O King, deliver us*!” Even to us in this nineteenth century, these are burning words, reminding us of words familiar and more burning still, and one might have supposed they would have satisfied Alcibiades.
* Ζεῦ βασιλεῦ τὰ μὲν ἐσθλὰ καὶ εὐχομένοις καὶ ἀνεύκτοις
He does indeed go so far as to admit that the prayer was both wise and safe, but Alcibiades was an Athenian, and "the Greeks seek after wisdom." To them, all ignorance was, as it still is to some modern philosophers, a positive evil; and this prayer, safe as it was, seemed little better than an appeal to, or it might be even the offspring of, ignorance. Thereupon ensues a series of questions as to human ignorance, but these I omit as not being essential to our present argument; and I now come to a thought which to some of my readers will appear not alone unexpected, but even startling, as proceeding from a heathen philosopher more than two thousand years ago.
Alcibiades, you are perplexed and even disappointed, but you must wait," said Socrates; "you must wait till there comes some one who shall be instructed how to remove this ignorance." "And when will this time come?" asks the statesman; "and who shall be my teacher?" "It is even one who cares for you" replies the sage; "as Homer says that Minerva removed the mist from the eyes of Diomede,
'That he might well discern if the shape were a god or a mortal ;'
so must this teacher remove the mist which now envelopes your mind, that you may discern what is good and what is evil, which at present, methinks, you have no power to see." "Well, then," said Alcibiades, "if only he makes me better, let him remove the mist, or whatever else it may be, and whosoever this man may be." "And he will do it," rejoins Socrates; "for it is marvellous how great is the regard he bears you." "It seems, then," concludes Alcibiades, "that till this teacher comes, I had better defer my prayer.”
Such, then, was the knowledge, such were the hopes, and such was the indecision of the best-informed among the ancients, on the subject of prayer. So deep, so irrepressible, so unsatisfied, appears to have been the longing of the great thinkers of the heathen world for the advent of some teacher who should throw a light upon the relations in which men
* See the Preface; and the quotation before this Sermon.