« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The following pages are confessedly negative. They are so, however, not from choice, but of necessity. They do not constitute an 'attack upon Haeckel,' as may be easily and superficially asserted, but a defence of Christian foundations against already published attacks. These latter, on the part of Professor Haeckel and his admirers, have certainly during recent years lacked nothing in directness, lucidity, and thoroughness. Their object, as stated with refreshing frankness by Mr. McCabe, is to sweep away the whole tottering structure of conventional religion and worship.' Such an avowal does credit to its author's honesty; but no man knows better than he that it is no novelty. Indeed, the knell of Christianity has been so often rung that one can scarcely be surprised at the absence of alarm on the part of believers as they catch once more its familiar tones. They may even be permitted to sympathize with militant disbelievers in their disappointments; for however eagerly these may echo the well-known estimate of Tacitus, it is
abundantly manifest that they are now far less likely than he was to witness the much-desired nemesis of his exitiabilis superstitio.'
Still, the Christian Church cannot honestly profess to have come off scathless in the conflict with disbelief. Many positions formerly accounted strong have been taken by the enemy, and grievous wounds have been inflicted upon the defenders of the Christian citadel. The leaders of the modern antiChristian crusade are welcome to whatever satisfaction this may afford them. Perhaps no propaganda of unbelief in the past has had so great an effect upon so many minds as the issue of these latest works of Professor Haeckel in their cheaper form, popularized and trumpeted as they have also been by means of modern journalism. The reality and extent of this effect can only be questioned by those who take no pains to acquaint themselves with facts. But it is certainly no wisdom on the part of those who wage the good fight of faith' to copy the oft-exemplified British folly of underrating the enemy. The believer who shakes in his shoes immediately an opposing word is uttered is but a spiritual invalid. On the other hand, the "sons of thunder' who would consume incontinently all such as venture to differ from them have no more Christian mission now than when Jesus Himself rebuked them of old. The disciple who has genuinely
learned of His Master will view as calmly as seriously every desperate effort to subvert the foundations of his faith. He knows that it is impossible; but he is also well aware that his own patient watchfulness and earnest effort are necessary elements in the impossibility.
Modern Christianity owes not a little to the ardent advocates of unbelief for correction of mistakes, stimulus to thought, and object-lessons in personal zeal. I hope that the absence in the following pages of anything like personal discourtesy may be regarded as sufficient acknowledgement of such a debt. If the language of condemnation seems sometimes strong, I would plead that it is always impersonal—for the mere recurrence of a does not involve 'personalities'—and occurs only when necessitated, in the interests of truth, by the violence or virulence of ‘monistic' allegations.
In regard to the frequent and well-meaning assertion of believers, that the best way to dispose of error is to "affirm positive truth, I can only say that such an attitude not seldom simply begs the question which requires to be proved. To do that must be wrong, whatever else is right. Granted that the truth of any thesis is demonstrated, and it cannot be too positively affirmed; but to claim a monopoly of truth for oneself, and refuse to pay any heed to the objections or difficulties of others,
is a method of faith as childish as it is unchristian. Such a procedure is far from the mind of the Master (Luke xii. 57), and equally removed from the preaching and practice of the Apostles (Acts xvii. 16, 17; i Pet. iii. 15; &c.).
The Evangelical Churches would do well to remember that it is sometimes as necessary to meet objections, and remove difficulties in the way of sincere belief, as it is to weed a garden with a view to flowers, or to clear a virgin forest before farm buildings and a home can be established. Sir Oliver Lodge has indeed well said, 'to the intelligent artisan or other hard-headed reader who considers that Christian faith is undermined, and the whole religious edifice upset, by the scientific philosophy advocated by Professor Haeckel under the name monism '-'Do not think it, friend; it is. not so.' But there appears to be at present a real necessity to give the plain man, who is neither a physicist nor a biologist, plain reasons whereby he may certify himself that it is not so.' To do this is the purpose of the following chapters.
Now that we have the authoritative summary and final pronouncement of the modern philosophy which, above all other, flouts the very thought of a personal God, and dismisses Christian faith as a pitiful superstition exploded by science, it would seem to be a fitting time to examine such statements, and