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taking; but Manchester men were content to act upon the best
opinion, and to stake fortunes on their belief in it. However, it may
be sufficient to have just alluded to the old and unanswered, conten-
tion of Bishop Butler that, even if Christian belief and Christian duty
were mere matters of probable opinion, a man who said in regard to
them, "I do not know, and therefore I will not act," would be
abandoning the first principle of human energy. He might be a
philosopher; but he would not be a man not at least, I fancy,
according to the standard of Lancashire.

But there is another sense of the word "belief," which is of far
more importance for our present subject. There is belief which is
founded on the assurances of another person, and upon our trust in
him. This sort of belief is not opinion, but faith ; and it is this
which has been the greatest force in creating religions, and through
them in molding civilizations. What made the Mohammedan world ?
Trust and faith in the declarations and assurances of Mohammed.
And what made the Christian world ? Trust and faith in the decla-
rations and assurances of Jesus Christ and his apostles. This is not
mere believing about things ; It is believing a man and believing in a
man. Now, the point of importance for the present argument is,
that the chief articles of the Christian creed are directly dependent on
personal assurances and personal declarations, and that our acceptance
of them depends on personal trust. Why do we believe that Jesus
Christ redeemed all mankind ? Because he said so. There is no
other ultimate ground for it. The matter is not one open to the
observation of our faculties; and as a matter of science we are not in
a position to know it. The case is the same with his divine Sonship
and the office of his Spirit. He reveals himself by his words and
acts; and in revealing himself he reveals his Father, and the Spirit
who proceeds from both. His resurrection and his miracles afford us,
as St. Paul says, assurance of his divine mission. But for our knowl-
edge of his offices in relation to mankind, and of his nature in relation
to God, we rest on his own words, confirmed and explained by those
of his apostles. Who can dream of knowing, as a matter of science,
that he is the Judge of quick and dead ? But he speaks himself, in
the Sermon on the Mount, of that day when men will plead before
him, and when he will decide their fate; and Christians include in
their creed a belief in that statement respecting the unseen and future
world.

But if this be so, for a man to urge as an escape from this article oi
belief that he has no means of a scientific knowledge of the unseen
world, or of the future, is irrelevant. His difference from Christians
lies not in the fact that he has no knowledge of these things, but that

6



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. 3.^1

he does not believe the authority on which they are stated. He may
prefer to call himself an agnostic ; but his real name is an older one
he is an infidel ; that is to say, an unbeliever. The word infidel, per-
haps, carries an unpleasant significance. Perhaps it is right that it
should. It is, and it ought to be, an unpleasant thing for a man to
have to say plainly that he does not believe in Jesus Christ. It is,
indeed, an awful thing to say. But even men who are not conscious
of all it involves shrink from the ungraciousness, if from nothing
more, of treating the beliefs inseparably associated with that sacred
Person as an illusion. This, however, is what is really meant by
agnosticism ; and the time seems to have come when it is necessary to
insist upon the fact.

Of course, there may be numberless attempts at respectful excuses
or evasions, and there is one in particular which may require notice.
It may be asked how far we can rely on the accounts we possess of our
Lord's teaching on these subjects. Now it is unnecessary for the
general argument before us to enter on those questions respecting the
authenticity of the Gospel narratives, which ought to be regarded as
settled by M. Kenan's practical surrender of the adverse case. Apart
from all disputed points of criticism, no one practically doubts that
our Lord lived, and that he died on the cross, in the most intense
sense of filial relation to his Father in heaven, and that he bore testi-
mony to that Father's providence, love, and grace toward mankind.
The Lord's Prayer affords sufficient evidence upon these points. If
the Sermon on the Mount alone be added, the whole unseen world, of
which the agnostic refuses to know anything, stands unveiled before
us. There you see revealed the divine Father and Creator of all
things, in personal relation to his creatures, hearing their prayers,
witnessing their actions, caring for them and rewarding them. There
you hear of a future judgment administered by Christ himself and, of
a heaven to be hereafter revealed, in which those who live as the
children of that Father, and who suffer in the cause and for the sake
of Christ himself, will be abundantly rewarded. If Jesus Christ
preached that sermon, made those promises, and taught that prayer,
then any one who says that we know nothing of God, or of a future
life, or of an unseen world, says that he does not believe Jesus Christ.
Since the days when our Lord lived and taught, at all events, agnos-
ticism has been impossible without infidelity.

Let it be observed, moreover, that to put the case in this way is not
merely to make an appeal to authority. It goes further than that.
It is in a vital respect an appeal to experience, and so far to science
itself. It is an appeal to what I hope may be taken as, confessedly,
the deepest and most sacred moral experience which has ever been
known. No criticism worth mentioning doubts the story of the
Passion ; and that story involves the most solemn attestation, again
aud again, of truths of which an agnostic coolly says he knows noth-
ing. An agnosticism which knows nothing of the relation of man to
God must not only refuse belief to our Lord's most undoubted teach-
ing, but must deny the reality of the spiritual convictions in which
he lived and died. It must declare that his most intimate, most
intense beliefs, and his dying aspirations, were an illusion. Is that
supposition tolerable? It is because it is not tolerable that men
would fain avoid facing it, aud would have themselves called agnos-
tics rather than infidels; but I know not whether this cool and



342 BEACON UGHTS OF SCIENCE.

guperoilious disregard of that solemn teaching, and of that sacred life
and death, be not more offensive than the downright denials which
look their responsibility boldly in the face, and say, not only that
they do not know, but that they do not believe. This question of
a living faith in a living God and Saviour, with all it involves, is too
urgent and momentous a thing to be put aside with a philosophical
" I don't know." The best blood of the world has been shed over it ;
the deepest personal, social, and even political problems are still
bound up with it. The intensest moral struggles of humanity have
centered round this question, and it is really intolerable that all this
bitter experience of men and women who have trusted and prayed,
and suffered and died, in faith, should be set aside as not germane to
a philosophical argument.

But, to say the least, from a purely scientific point of view, there is
a portentous fallacy in the manner in which, in agnostic arguments,
the testimony, not only of our Lord, but of psalmists, prophets,
apostles, and saints, is disregarded. So far as the Christian faith can
be treated as a scientific question, it is a question of experience ; and
what is to be said of a science which leaves out of account the most
conspicuous and most influential experience in the matter? One
thing may be said with confidence: that it defeats itself, by disregard-
ing the greatest force with which it has to contend. While philos-
ophers are arguing as to the abstract capacities of human thought, as
though our Lord had never lived and died, he himself is still speak-
ing ; his words, as recorded by his apostles and evangelists, are still
echoing over human hearts, touching their inmost affections, appeal-
ing to their deepest needs, commanding their profoundest trust, and
awakening in them an apprehension of that divine relation and those
unseen realities in which their spirits live. While agnostics are
committing the enormous scientific as well as moral blunder of con-
sidering the relations of men to God and to an unseen world without
taking his evidence into account, and then presuming to judge the
faith he taught by their own partial knowledge, his word is still
heard, in penetrating and comfortable words, bidding men believe in
God and believe also in himself. He, after all, is the one sufficient
answer to agnosticism, and I will take the liberty of adding to
atheism and to pessimism also. Not merely his authority, though
that would be enough, but his life, his soul, himself.

Accordingly, as our object here is to consider how to deal with
these difficulties and objections, what these considerations would
seem to point out is that we should take care to let Christ and Christ's
own message be heard, and not to endure that they should be allowed
to stand aside while a philosophical debate is proceeding. Philos-
ophers are slow in these matters. They are still disputing, after some
twenty five hundred years of discussion, what is the true principle for
determining moral right and wrong. Meanwhile men have been con-
tent to live by the Ten Commandments, and the main lines of duty
are plain. In the same way religion has preceded the philosophy of
religion, and men can be made sensible of their relation to God
whether it can be philosophically explained or not. The Psalms, the
Prophets, and, above all, the Gospels, are plain evidence, in matter
of fact, that men are in relation to God and owe duties to him. Let
men be made to attend to the facts ; let them hear those simple,
plain, and earnest witnesses; above all, let them hear the voice of

8



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. 343

Christ, and they will at least believe, whatever may be the possibilities
of knowledge. In a word, let us imitate St. Paul when his converts
were perplexed by Greek philosophies at Corinth: " I, brethren, when
I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom
declaring unto you the testimony of God; for I determined not to
know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified."



n.
AGNOSTICISM.

BY PROF. THOMAS H. HUXLEY.

WITHIN the last few months the public has received much and
varied information on the subject of agnostics, their tenets, and even
their future. Agnosticism exercised the orators of the Church Con-
gress at Manchester.* It has been furnished with a set of " articles "
fewer, but not less rigid, and certainly not less consistent than the
thirty-nine; its nature has been analyzed, and its future severely
predicted by the most eloquent of that prophetical school whose
Samuel is Auguste Comte. It may still be a question, however,
whether the public is as much the wiser as might be expected, consid-
ering all the trouble that has been taken to enlighten it. Not only
are the three accounts of the agnostic position sadly out of harmony
with one another, but I propose to show cause for my belief that all
three must be seriously questioned by any one who employs the term
" agnostic " in the sense in which it was originally used. The learned
principal of King's College, who brought the topic of agnosticism
before the Church Congress, took a short and easy way of settling the
business :

But if this be so, for a man to urge, as an escape from this article of belief, that he has no mean*
of a scit ntific knowledge of the unseen world, or of the future, is irrelevant. His difference from
Christians lies not in the fact that he has no knowl -dge of these things, but that he does not
believe the authority on which they are stated. He may prefer to call himseif an agnostic; but his
real name is an older one he is an infidel; that is to say. an unbeliever. The word infidel, per-
haps, carries an unpleasant significance. Perhaps it is right that it should. It is. and ought to be,
an unpleasant thing for a man to have to say plainly ihai~he does not believe in Jesus Christ.

And in the course of the discussion which followed, the Bishop of
Peterborough departed so far from his customary courtesy and self-
respect as to speak of " cowardly agnosticism " (p. 262).

80 much of Dr. Wace's address either explicitly or implicitly con-
cerns me, that I take upon myself to deal with it ; but, in so doing, it
must be understood that I speak for myself alone; I am not aware
that there is any sect of Agnostics; and if there be, I am not its
acknowledged prophet or pope. I desire to leave to the Comtists the
entire monopoly of the manufacture of imitation ecclesiasticism.

Let us calmly and dispassionately consider Dr. Wace's appreciation
of agnosticism. The agnostic, according to his view, is a person who
says he has no means of attaining a scientific knowledge of the unseen
world or of the future; by which somewhat loose phraseology Dr.
Wace presumably means the theological unseen world and future. I
can not think this description happy either in form or substance, but

* See the "Official Report of th Church Congress held at Manchester," October, 1888, pp. 359,
964.

9



3 . !4 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

for the present it may pass. Dr. Wace continues, that it is not " his
difference from Christians." Are there, then, any Christians who say
that they know nothing about the unseen world and the future? I
was ignorant of the fact, but I am ready to accept it on the authority
of a professional theologian, and I proceed to Dr. Wace's next propo-
sition.

The real state of the case, then, is that the agnostic "does not
believe the authority" on which "these things" are stated, which
authority is Jesus Christ. He is simply an old-fashioned " infidel "
who is afraid to own to his right name. As " Presbyter is priest writ
large," so is "agnostic" the mere Greek equivalent for the Latin
" infidel." There is an attractive simplicity about this solution of the
problem; and it has that advantage of being somewhat offensive to
the persons attacked, which is so dear to the less refined sort of con-
troversialist. The agnostic says, " I can not find good evidence that
so and so is true." " Ah," says his adversary, seizing his opportunity,
" then you declare that Jesus Christ was untruthful, for he said so
and so"; a very telling method of rousing prejudice. But suppose
that the value of the evidence as to what Jesus may have said and
done, and as to the exact nature and scope of his authority, is just
that which the agnostic finds it most difficult to determine? If I
venture to doubt that the Duke of Wellington gave the command,
"Up, Guards, and at 'em!" at Waterloo, I do not think that even Dr.
Wace would accuse me of disbelieving the duke. Yet it would be just
as reasonable to do this as to accuse any one of denying what Jesus
said before the preliminary question as to what he did say is settled.

Now, the question as to what Jesus really said and did is strictly a
scientific problem, which is capable of solution by no other methods
than those practiced by the historian and the literary critic. It is a
problem of immense difficulty, which has occupied some of the best
heads in Europe for the last century; and it is only of late years that
their investigations have begun to converge toward one conclusion.*

That kind of faith which Dr. Wace describes and lauds is of no use
here. Indeed, he himself takes pains to destroy its evidential value.

"What made the Mohammedan world? Trust and faith in the
declarations and assurances of Mohammed. And what made the
Christian world? Trust and faith in the declarations and asurances
of Jesus Christ and his apostles" (loc. cit., p. 253). The triumphant
tone of this imaginary catechism leads me to suspect that its author
has hardly appreciated its full import. Presumably, Dr. Wace
regards Mohammed as an unbeliever, or, to use the term which
he prefers, infidel ; and considers that his assurances have
given rise to a vast delusion, which has led, and is leading, millions
of men straight to everlasting punishment. And this being
so, the "trust and faith" which have "made the Mohammedan
world," in just the same sense as they have "made the Christian

* Dr. Wace telle us, " It may be asked how far we can rely on the accounts we possess of our
Lord's teaching on these cubjectg." And he seems to think the question appropriately answered
by the assertion that it "ought to be regarded as settled by M. Renan'8 pructical surrender of the
adverse case." I thought I knew M. Kenan's works pretty well, but I have contrived to miss this
" practical " (I wish Dr. Wace had defined the scope of that useful adjective) surrender.
However, as Dr. Wace can find no difficulty in pointing out the passage of M. Kenan's writings, by
which he feels justified in making his statement, I shall wait for further enlightenment, contenting
myself, for the present, with remarking that if M. Kenan were to retract and do penance in Notre
Dame to-morrow for any contributions to Biblical criticism that may be specially his property. th
main results of that criticism as they are set forth in the works of Strauss, Baur, Keuss, and Yolk-
mar, for example, would not be sensibly affected.

10



CHRISTIANITY .L\D AGNOSTICISM. 345

world," must be trust and faith in falsehood. No man who has
studied history, or even attended to the occurrences of every-day life,
can doubt the enormous practical value of trust and faith ; but as
little will he be inclined to deny that this practical value has not the
least relation to the reality of the objects of that trust and faith. In
examples of patient constancy of faith and of unswerving trust, the
" Acta Martyrum " do not excel the aunals of Babism.

The discussion upon which we have now entered goes so thoroughly
to the root of the whole matter; the question of the day is so com-
pletely, as the author of "Robert Elsmere" says, the value of testi-
mony, that I shall offer no apology for following it out somewhat in
detail; and, by way of giving substance to the argument, I shall base
what I have to say upon a case, the consideration of which lies strictly
within the province of natural science, and of that particular part of
it known as the physiology and pathology of the nervous system.

I find, in the second Gospel (chap, v), a statement, to all appearance
intended to have the same evidential value as any other contained in
that history. It is the well-known story of the devils who were cast.
out of a man, and ordered, or permitted, to enter into a herd of swine,
to the great loss and damage of the innocent Gerasene, or Gadarene,
pig-owners. There can be no doubt that the narrater intends to
convey to his readers his own conviction that this casting out and
entering in were effected by the agency of Jesus of Nazareth ; that, by
speech and action, Jesus enforced this conviction ; nor does any ink-
ling of the legal and moral difficulties of the case manifest itself.

On the other hand, everything that I know of physiological and
pathological science leads me to entertain a very strong conviction
that the phenomena ascribed to possession are as purely natural as
those which constitute small-pox; everything that I know of anthro-
pology leads me to think that the belief in demons and demonical
possession is a mere survival of a once universal superstition, and that
its persistence at the present time is pretty much in the inverse ratio
of the general instruction, intelligence, and sound judgment of the
population among whom it prevails. Everything that I know of
law and justice convinces me that the wanton destruction of other
people's property is a misdemeanor of evil example. Again, the study of
history, and especially of that of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seven-
teenth centuries, leaves no shadow of doubt on my mind that the
belief in the reality of possession and of witchcraft, justly based, alike
by Catholics and Protestants, upon this and innumerable other
passages in both the Old and New Testaments, gave rise, through the
special influence of Christian ecclesiastics, to the most horrible perse-
cutions and judicial murders of thousands upon thousands of innocent
men, women, and children. And when I reflect that the record of a
plain and simple declaration upon such an occasion as this, that the
belief in witchcraft and possession is wicked nonsense, would have
rendered the long agony of mediaeval humanity impossible, I am
prompted to reject, as dishonoring, the supposition that such declara-
tion was withheld out of condescension to popular error.

" Come forth, thou unclean spirit, out of the man" (Mark v, 8),*
are the words attributed to Jesus. If I declare, as I have no hesita-
tion in doing, that I utterly disbelieve in the existence of " unclean

* Here, as always, the revised version is cited.
11



346 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

spirits," and, consequently, in the possibility of their " coming forth "
out of a man, I suppose that Dr. Wace will tell me I am disregarding
the "testimony of our Lord" (loc. cit. p. 255). For if these words
were really used, the most resourceful of reconcilers can hardly venture
to affirm that they are compatible with a disbelief in "these things."
As the learned and fair-minded, as well as othodox, Dr. Alexander
remarks, in an editorial note to the article " Demoniacs," in the " Bib-
lical Cyclopaedia" (vol. i, p. 664, note):

. . . On the lowest grounds on which our Lord and his apostles can be placed, they must, at
least, be regarded as honest men. Now, though honest speech does not require that words should
be ni'ed always and only In their etymological sense, it does require that they should not be used
so as to affirm what the speaker knows to be false. While, therefore, our Lord and his apostles
might use the word 6ai/j.ovi^eadai t or the phrase 6aifj.6viov IXEIV, as a popular description of
certain diseases, without giving in to the belief which lay at the ource of such a mode of expres-
sion, they could not speak of nemons entering into a man, or being cast out of him, without pledg-
ing themselves to the belief of an actual possession of I he man by the demons (Campbell, "Prel.
Dius.," vi, 1, 10). If, consequently, they did not hold this belief, they spoke not as honest men.

The story which we are considering does not rest on the authority
of the second Gospel alone. The third confirms the second, especially
in the matter of commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the
man (Luke viii, 29); and, although the first Gospel either gives a
different version of the same story, or tells another of like kind the
essential point remains: "If thou cast us out, send us away into the
herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go!" (Matthew viii, 31, 32).

If the concurrent testimony of the three synoptics, then, is really
sufficient to do away with all rational doubt as to a matter of fact of
the utmost practical and speculative importance belief or disbelief in
which may affect, and has affected, men's lives and their conduct
toward other men in the most serious way then I am bound to
believe that Jesus implicitly affirmed himself to possess a " knowledge
of the unseen world," which afforded full confirmation to the belief in
demons and possession current among his contemporaries. If the
story is true, the mediaeval theory of the invisible world may be, and
probably is, quite correct; and the witch -finders, from Sprenger to
Hopkins and Mather, are much-maligned men.

On the other hand, humanity, noting the frightful consequences of
this belief; common sense, observing the futility of the evidence on
which it is based, in all cases that have been properly investigated;
science, more and more seeing its way to inclose all the phenomena of
so-called "possession" within the domain of pathology, so far as they
are not to be relegated to that of the police all these powerful influ-
ences concur in warning us, at our peril, against accepting the belief
without the most careful scrutiny of the authority on which it rests.

I can discern no escape from this dilemma: either Jesus said what
he is reported to have said, or he did not. In the former case, it is
inevitable that his authority on matters connected with the "unseen



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