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THE THREE BARRIERS.
1. Thoughtful working men of the north of Scotland, of whom not a few are here to-night, will not be slow to feel, with the present speaker, how much has been lost to the subject-matter of this address in the loss of one who commenced his memorable career in the north of Scotland as a working man. On first glancing over Mr. Darwin's pages, I could not help saying to myself, — What a pity Hugh Miller is dead! It was easy to see that this, in its patient ingenuity and probable influence, was no common book; and as natural to reflect that, had he been alive, it would have been met and sifted to the core by no common man. Of all our contemporaries, working men of the north, it was one who rose from your ranks-one whose hands were horny with hard mechanic toil—that was best fitted to grapple with this special task; and to render that crowning service
to the exposition of the harmony between Science and Faith for which all would have instinctively turned to him. But the contest has again come, and this champion is missing We shall have no sequel from that pen, unrivalled in its combination of mastery of detail with felicity of treatment, to the legacy left us in the * Testimony of the Rocks,” and the “Footprints of the Creator.”
2. Not that there are not now living in this land men amply equipped to meet those shapes of scepticism which are the special danger of the present day. A genius of the order to which Hugh Miller belonged is not, indeed, born twice in a century. But Scotland is still worthily represented in the study of the Creative and Providential record. 1 So, too, in the south, one great English seat of learning counts among her most honoured names a name not unknown to the unknown author of the “ Vestiges ;” and has likewise arrayed, in “Indications of the Creator,” her profoundest knowledge and her most masterly faculty in league against the dreams of pantheistic development. In days when a voice from Oxford, of ominous strangeness, makes haste to hail a predicted “revolution of opinion in favour of the self-evolving powers of nature,” 2 Cambridge “owes us that counterpoise.” To the latter University also are we incidentally indebted for that luminous survey of Transmutation of Species which exhibits Mr. Darwin in direct antagonism to the authority of the first comparative anatomist in the world.
3. From those head-quarters of learned leisure, the detailed scrutiny of the new views, and of the promised elucidation of them, will doubtless, in due time, come.4 To appraise aright observations and experiments in the more occult nooks of so vast a field, belongs to those who have made Mr. Darwin's speciality and the kindred branches of knowledge, the study and business of a lifetime. To them, in so far, we must defer; on them, in so far, rely. Pending their decision, however, on points of minor interest, it is not to be forgotten that there are certain broad inductions and governing facts which may be grasped at a cost of study and reflection short of lifelong. “Origin of Species" is one of those subjects on which, if a man has no fixed belief, and no good reason to offer for such belief, he must have been neglecting a culture which lies, in these days, at his very door. This is not a question for savans merely ; it is a question for all men, in that they are men. As such let us look at it. In the first place, let us endeavour to seize distinctly Mr. Darwin's meaning, and allow all due weight to his arguments. The bird that buries its own eyes does not blind the hunters ; nor will all the prejudice or prepossession that ever lodged in the human breast alter the nature of physical truth, or strip facts of the least particle of reality. On the other hand, let us be clearly apprised whither these arguments, if they stand the test, must lead us, in order that we may appreciate to the full our interest in the issue raised. To prove the origin of the higher animals from the lower, and of man himself from both,—this, in all its sweep of inference, not attempted to be masked, save by the flimsiest and most transparent of veils, is the true drift and purport of Mr. Darwin's book. “Come," the poet Rogers used to say, as he bent his steps to the monkey department of the Zoological Gardens,—“Come, let us see our poor relations.” The words might serve for a motto to the
Origin of Species.” What the poet meant in questionable jest, the naturalist means in downright earnest.
4. Reserving the mystery of the first spark of life, Creation, it seems, is its own Creator. Animals, from the least to the greatest, and plants as well, from the fungus to the oak, and from the ant to the elephant, have not been made, but have simply grown. All living things have an immensely ancient, but a nearly, or, more probably, a strictly common ancestry. “Descent with modification” is the clue to the whole. The dairymaid and the animal she milks, the angler and the trout he captures, are strictly consanguineous, and sprung from a single stock. Nay, these are comparatively near "relations :” there is a cousinhood equally real, though more remote, between the angler and the tobacco he smokes, or the cow and the cowslip it is cropping." The pedigree may not be recoverable, for its ramifications are prodigious; but a common pedigree there is. Lapse of ages, by the myriad, by the million, has left scope for innumerable divergent sproutings from the wide-spreading tree of Terrestrial Life ; but these, diverse as they are, all spring from the stem, and are fed from the roots, of that one tree.
5. Seemingly a strain on faith ; but an illustration is at hand to help us. Certain forms of human speech are so palpably of kin that their common source is selfevident. The dialect of Aberdeenshire is not that of Ayrshire ; but even its most salient and formidable peculiarities-a hopeless puzzle across the border-would be no enigma to a native of the west. At a wider remove, a Spaniard and a Portuguese might have harder