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of the fact; and my love for my fellow-countrymen has led me to
reflect with dread on what will happen to them, if any of the laws of
nature ever become so unpopular in their eyes as to be voted down by
the transcendent authority of universal suffrage. If the legion of
demons, before they set out on their journey in the swine, had had
time to hold a meeting and to resolve unanimously, " That the law of
gravitation is oppressive and ought to be repealed," I am afraid it
would have made no sort of difference to the result, when their two
thousand unwilling porters were once launched down the steep slopes
of the fatal shore of Gennesaret.

The question of the place of religion as an element of human nature, as a force of human
society, iis origin, analysis, and Junctions, has never been considered at all from an agnostic
point of view (p. 152).

I doubt not that Mr. Harrison knows vastly more about history
than I do; in fact, he tells the public that some of my friends and I
have had no opportunity of occupying ourselves with that subject. I
dp not like to contradict any statement which Mr. Harrison makes on
his own authority; only, if I may be true to my agnostic principles, I
humbly ask how he has obtained assurance on this head. I do not
profess to know anything about the range of Mr. Harrison's studies;
but as he has thought it fitting to start the subject, I may venture to
point out that, on the evidence adduced, it might be equally permis-
sible to draw the conclusion that Mr. Harrison's absorbing labors as
the pontifex maximus of the positivist religion have not allowed him
to acquire that acquaintance with the methods and results of physical
science, or with the history of philosophy, or of philological and his-
torical criticism, which is essential to any one who desires to obtain a
right understanding of agnosticism. Incompetence in philosophy,
and in all branches of science except mathematics, is the well-known
mental characteristic of the founder of Positivism. Faithfulness in
disciples is an admirable quality in itself; the pity is that it not
nnfrequently leads to the imitation of the weaknesses as well as of the
strength of the master. It is only such over-faithfulness which can

26



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. 361

account for a "strong mind really saturated with the historical
gense" (p. 153) exhibiting the extraordinary forgetfulness of the
historical fact of the existence of David Hume implied by the asser-
tion that

it would be difficult to name a single known agnostic who has given to history anything like th
amount of thought and study which he brings to a knowledge of the physical world (p. 153).

Whoso calls to mind, what I may venture to term, the bright side
of Christianity; that ideal of manhood, with its strength and its
patience; its justice and its pity for human frailty; its helpfulness,
to the extremity of self-sacrifice; its ethical purity and nobility;
which apostles have pictured, in which armies of martyrs have placed
their unshakable faith, and whence obscure men and women, like
Catherine of Sienna and John Knox, have derived the courage to
rebuke popes and kings, is not likely to underrate the importance of
the Christian faith as a factor in human history, or to doubt that if
that faith should prove to be incompatible with our knowledge, or
necessary want of knowledge, some other hypostasis of men's hopes,
genuine enough and worthy enough to replace it, will arise. But that
the incongruous mixture of bad science with eviscerated papistry, out
of which Comte manufactured the positivist religion, will be the heir
of the Christian ages, I have too much respect for the hamanity of
the future to believe. Charles II told his brother, "They will not
kill me, James, to make you king." And if critical science is
remorselessly destroying the historical foundations of the noblest ideal
of humanity which mankind have yet worshiped, it is little likely to
permit the pitiful reality to climb into the vacant shrine.

That a man should determine to devote himself to the service of
humanity including intellectual and moral self-culture umler that
name ; that this should be, in the proper sense of the word, his
religion is not only an intelligible, but, I think, a laudable resolu-
tion. And I am greatly disposed to believe that it is the only religion
which will prove itself to be unassailably acceptable so long as the
human race endures. But when the positivist asks me to worship
"Humanity" that is to say, to adore the generalized conception of
men as they ever have been and probably ever will be I must reply
that I could just as soon bow down and worship the generalized con-
ception of a " wilderness of apes." Surely we are not going back to
the days of paganism, when individual men were deified, and the hard
good sense of a dying Vespasian could prompt the bitter jest, " Ut
puto Deus fio" No divinity doth hedge a modern man, be he even a
sovereign ruler. Nor is there any one, except a municipal magistrate,
who is officially declared worshipful. But if there is no spark of
worship-worthy divinity in the individual twigs of humanity, whence
comes that godlike splendor which "the Moses of positivism fondly
imagines to pervade the whole bush ?

I know no study which is so unutterably saddening as that of the
evolution of humanity, as it is set forth in the annals of history. Out
of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of his
lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent
than the other brutes; a blind prey to impulses, which as often as not
lead him to destruction ; a victim to endless illusions, which make
his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his phys'cal life
with barren toil and battle. He attains a certain degree of physical
comfort, and develops a more or less workable theory of life, in such

27



362 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

favorable situations as the plains of Mesopotamia or of Egypt and
then, for thousands and thousands of years, struggles with varying
fortunes, attended by infinite wickedness, bloodshed, and misery, to
maintain himself at this point against the greed and the ambition of
his fellow-men. He makes a point of killing and otherwise persecut-
ing all those who first try to get him to move on; and when he has
moved on a step, foolishly confers post-mortem deification on his
victims. He exactly repeats the process with all who want to move a
step yet farther. And the best men of the best epochs are simply
those who make the fewest blunders and commit the fewest sins.

That one should rejoice in the good man; forgive the bad man;
and pity and help all men to the best of one's ability, is surely indis-
putable. It is the glory of Judaism and of Christianity to have
proclaimed this truth, through all their aberrations. But the worship
of a God who needs forgiveness and help, and deserves pity every
hour of his existence, is no better than that of any other voluntarily
selected fetich. The Kmperor Julian's project was hopeful, in com-
parison with the prospects of the new anthropolatry.

When the historian of religion in the twentieth century is writing
about the nineteenth, 1 foresee he will say something of this kind :

The most curious and instructive events in the religious history of
the preceding century are the rise and progress of two new sects,
call d Mormons and Positivists. To the student who has carefully
considered these remarkable phenomena nothing in the records of
religious self-delusion can appear improbable.

The Mormons arose in the midst of the great Eepublic, which,
though comparatively insignificant at that time, in territory as in the
number of its citizens, was (as we know from the fragments of the
speeches <-f its orators which have come down to us) no less remark-
able for the native intelligence of its population, than lor the wide
extent of their information, owiug to the activity of their publishers
in diffusing all that they could invent, beg, borrow, or steal. Nor
were they less noted for their perfect freedom from all restraints in
thought or speech or deed; except, to be sure, the beneficent and wise
influence of the majority exerted, in case of need, through an institu-
tion known as " tarring and feathering," the exact nature of which is
now disputed.

There is a complete consensus of testimony that the founder of
Mormonism, one Joseph Smith, was a low-minded, ignorant scamp,
and that he stoie the "Scriptures," which he propounded; not being
clever enough to forge even such contemptible stuff as they contain.
Nevertheless he must have been a man of some force of character,
for a considerable number of di.-ciples soon gathered about him.
In spite of repeated outbursts of p- pular hatred and violence during
one of which persecutions, Smith was brutally murdered the
Mormon body pteadily increased, and became a flourishing commu-
nity. But the Mormon practices being objectionable to the majority,
they were, more than once, without any pretense of law, but by force
of riot,, arson, and minder, driven away from the land they had
occupied. Harrit d by these persecutions, the Mormon body eventu-
ally committed itself to the tender mercies of a desert as barren as
that of Smai; and, after terrible sufferings and privations, reached the
oasis of Utah. Here it grew and flourished, sending out missionaries

28



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. 363

to, and receiving converts from, all parts of Europe, sometimes to the
number of 10,000 in a year; until in 1880, the rich and flourishing
community numbered 110,000 souls m Utah alone, while there were
probably 30,<00 or 40,000 scattered abroad elsewhere. In the whole
history of religions there is no more remarkable example of the power
of faith; and, in this case, the founder of that faith was indubitably
a most despicable creature. It is interesting to observe that the
course taken by the great Republic and its citizens runs exactly
parallel with that taken by the Roman Empire and its citizens toward
the early Christians, except that the Romans had a certain legal
excuse for their acts of violence, inasmuch as the Christian "sodali-
tia" were not licensed, and consequently were, ipso facto, illegal
assemblages. Until, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the
United States Legislature decreed the illegality of polygamy, the
Mormons were wholly within the law.

Nothing can present a greater contrast to all this than the history of
the Positivists. This sect arose much about the same time as that of
the Mormons, in the upper and most instructed stratum of the quick-
witted, skeptical population of Paris. The founder, Auguste Comte,
was a teacher of mathematics, but of no eminence in that department
of knowledge, and with nothing but an amateur's acquaintance with
physical, chemical, and biological science. His works are repulsive on
account of the dull diffuseness of their style, and a certain air, as of a
superior person, which characterizes them; but, nevertheless, they
contain good things here and there. It would take too much space to
reproduce in detail a system which proposes to regulate all human life
by the promulgation of a gentile Leviticus. Suffice it to say that
M. Comte may be described as a syncretic, who, like the gnostics of
early Church history, attempted to combine the substance of imper-
fectly comprehended contemporary science with the form of Roman
Christianity. It may be that this is the reason why his disciples were so
very angry with some obscure people called Agnostics, whose views, if
we may judge by the accounts left in the works of a great positivist
controversial writer, were very absurd.

To put the matter briefly, M. Comte, finding Christianity and
Science at daggers drawn, seems to have said to Science: " You find
Christianity rotten at the core, do you? Well, I will scoop out the
inside of it" And to Romanism: " You find Science mere dry light
cold and bare. Well, I will put your shell over it, and so, as school-
boys make a specter out of a turnip and a tallow candle, behold the
new religion of Humanity complete!"

Unfortunately, neither the Romanists nor the people who were
something more than amateurs in science could be got to worship M.
Comte's new idol properly. In the native country of Positivism, one
distinguished man of letters and one of science, for a time, helped to
make up a roomful of the faithful, but their love soon grew cold. In
England, on the other hand, there appears to be little doubt thrt, in
the ninth decade of the century, the multitude of disciples reached
the grand total of several score. They had the advantage of the
advocacy of one or two most eloquent and learned apostles, and, at
any rate, the sympathy of several persons of liijht and leading and, if
they were not seen, they were heard all over the world. On the other
hand, as a sect, they labored under the prodigious disadvantage of



364 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

being refined, estimable people, living in the midst of the worn-out
civilization of the Old World; where any one who had tried to perse-
cute them, as the Mormons were persecuted, would have been
instantly hanged. But the majority never dreamed of persecuting
them; on the contrary, they were rather given to scold, and other-
wise try the patience of the majority.

The history of these sects in the closing years of the century is
highly instructive. Mormonism ....

But I find I have suddenly slipped off Mr. Harrison's tripod, which
I had borrowed for the occasion. The fact is, I am not equal to the
prophetical business, and ought not to have undertaken it



ra.

AGNOSTICISM.

A REPLY TO PROFESSOR HUXLEY.
BY HENRY WAGE, D. D.

IT would hardly be reasonable to complain of Prof. Huxley's delay
in replying to the paper on "Agnosticism " which I read five months
ago, when, at the urgent request of an old friend, I reluctantly con-
sented to address the Church Congress at Manchester I am obliged
to him for doing it the honor to bring it to the notice of a wider circle
than that to which it was directly addressed; and I fear that, for rea-
sons which have been the occasion of universal regret, he may not have
been equal to literary effort. But, at the same time, it is impossible
not to notice that a writer is at a great advantage in attacking a fugi-
tive essay a quarter of a year after it was made public. Such a lapse
of time ought, indeed, to enable him to apprehend distinctly the argu-
ment with which he is dealing; and it might, at least, secure him
from any such inaccuracy in quotation as greater haste might excuse.
But if either his idiosyncrasy, or his sense of assured superiority,
should lead him to pay no real attention to the argument he is attack-
ing, or should betray him into material misquotation, he may at least
be sure that scarcely any of his readers will care to refer to the orig-
inal paper, or will have the opportunity of doing so. I can scarcely
hope that Prof. Huxley's obliging reference to the " Official Report of
the Church Congress" will induce many of those who are influenced
by his answer to my paper to purchase that interesting volume,
though they would be well repaid by some of its other contents; and
I can hardly rely on their spending even twopence upon the reprint
of the paper, published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowl-
edge. I have therefore felt obliged to ask the editor of this review to
be kind enough to admit to his pages a brief restatement of the posi-
tion which Prof. Huxley has assailed, with such notice of his argu-
ments as is practicable within the comparatively brief space which can
be afforded me. I could not, indeed, amid the pressing claims of a
college like this in term time, besides the chairmanship cf a hospital,
a preachership, and other duties, attempt any reply which would deal
as thoroughly as could be wished with an article of so much skill and
finish. But it is a matter of justice to my cause and to myself to

30



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. . 365

remove at once the unscientific and prejudiced representation of the
case which Prof. Huxley has put forward ; and fortunately there will
be need of no elaborate argument for this purpose. There is no occa-
sion to go beyond Prof. Huxley's own article and the language of my
paper to exhibit his entire misapprehension of the point in dispute;
while I am much more than content to rely for the invalidation of his
own contentions upon the authorities he himself quotes.

What, then, is the position with which Prof. Huxley finds fault?
He is good enough to say that what he calls my " description " of an
agnostic may for the present pass, so that we are so far, at starting, on
common ground. The actual description of an agnostic, which is
given in my paper, is indeed distinct from the words he quotes, and is
taken from an authoritative source. But what I have said is that, as
an escape from such an article of Christian belief as that we have a
Father in heaven, or that Jesus Christ is the Judge of quick and dead,
and will hereafter return to judge the world, an agnostic urges that
** he has no means of a scientific knowledge of the unseen world or of
the future"; and I maintain that this plea is irrelevant. Christians
do not presume to say that they have a scientific knowledge of such
articles of their creed. They say that they believe them, and they
believe them mainly on the assurances of Jesus Christ. Consequently
their characteristic difference from an agnostic consists in the fact
that they believe those assurances, and that he does not Prof. Hux-
ley's observation, " Are there then any Christians who say that they
know nothing about the unseen world and the future? I was igno-
rant of the fact, but I am ready to accept it on the authority of a pro-
fessed theologian," is either a quibble, or one of many indications that
he does not recognize the point at issue. I am speaking, as the sen-
tence shows, of scientific knowledge knowledge which can be
obtained by our own reason and observation alone and no one with
Prof. Huxley's learning is justified in being ignorant that it is not
upon such knowledge, but upon supernatural revelation, that Chris-
tian belief rests. However, as he goes on to say, my view of " the real
state of the case 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-lashioned * infidel* who is afraid to own to his
right name." The argument has nothing to do with the motive,
whether it is being af aid or not. It only concerns the fact that that
by which he is distinctively separated from the Christian is that he
does not believe the assurances of Jesus Christ.

Prof. Huxley thinks there is " an attractive simplicity about this
solution of the problem " he means, of course, this statement of the
case "and it has that advantage of being somewhat offensive to the
persons attacked, which is so dear to the less refined sort of controver-
sialist." I think Prof. Huxley must have forgotten himself and his
own feelings in this observation. There can be no question, of course,
of his belonging himself to the more refined sort of controversialist;
but he has a characteristic fancy for solutions of problems, or state-
ments of cases, which have the -'advantage of being somewhat offensive
to the persons attacked." Without taking this particular phrase into
account, it certainly has " the advantage of being offensive to the per-
sons attacked" that Prof. Huxley should speak in this article of " the
pestilent doctrine on which all the churches have insisted, the honest



3 66 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

disbelief" the word honest is not a misquotation " honest disbelief
in their more or less astonishing creeds is a moral offense, indeed a
sin of the deepest dye, deserving and involving the same future retri-
bution as murder or robbery," or that he should say, " Trip in morals
or in doctrine (especially in doctrine), without due repentance or
retraction, or fail to get properly baptized before you die, and & plebis-
cite of the Christians of Europe, if they were true to their creeds,
w-uld affirm your everlasting damnation by an immense majority."
We have fortunately nothing to do in this argument with plebiscites ;
and as staters ntsof authoritative Christian teaching, the least that
can be said of these allegations is that they are offensive exaggerations.
It had u tUe advantage" again of being "offensive to the persons
attacked." when Prof. Huxley, in an article in this review on " bcience
and the Bishops," in November, 1887, said that " scientific ethics can
and does declare that the profession of belief" in such narratives as
that of t'>e devils entering a herd of swine, or of the fig-tree that was
blasted for bearing no figs, upon the evidence on which multitudes of
Christians believe it, "is immoral"; and the observation which fol-
lowed, that "iheologi'-al apologists would do well to consider the fact
that, in the matter of intellectual veracity, Science is already a long
way ahead of the chu-ches," has the same "advantage." I repeat that
I can not but treat Prof. Huxley as an example of the more refined
sort of controversialist: it must be supposed, therefore, that when he
speaks (f observations or insinuations which are somewhat offensive to
the "persons attacked" being dear to the other sort of controversialist,
lie is unconscious of his own methods of controversy or, shall I say,
his own temptations?

But I desire as far as possible to avoid any rivalry with Prof.
Huxley in these refinements more or less of controversy; and am,
in fact, forced by pressure both of space and of time to keep as rigidly
as possible to the points directly at issue. He proceeds to restate the
case as follows: "The agnostic says, 'I can not find good evidence
th it so and so is true/ 'Ah,' says his adversary, seizing his opportu-
nity, 'then yon declare that Jesus Christ was untruthful, for he said so
and so* a very telling method of rousing prejudice." Now that
superior scientific veracity to which, as we have seen, Prof. Huxley
lays claim, should have prevented him putting such vulgar words into
my mouih. There is not a word in my paper to charge agnostics with
declaring that Jesus Christ was "untruthful." I believe it impossible
in these days for any man who claims attention I might eay, for any
man to declare our Lord untruthful. What 1 said, and what I
repeat, is that the position of an agnostic involves the conclusion that
Jesus Christ was under an ' illusion " in respect to the deepest beliefs
of his life and teaching. The words of my paper are, " An agnosticism
which knows nothing of the relation of man to God must not only
refuse belief to our Lord's most undoubted teaching, but must deny
the reality of the spiritual convictions m which he lived and died.
The point is this that there can, at least, be no reasonable doubt that
Jesus Christ lived, and taught, and died, in the belief of certain great
principles respecting the existence of God, our relation to God, and
his own relation to us, which an agnostic says are beyond the possibil-
ities of human knowledge ; and of course an agnostic regards JesuS
Christ as a man. If so, he must necessarily regard Jesus Christ as

32



CHRISTIANITY AND AGNOSTICISM. 367

mistaken, since the notion of his being untruthful is a supposition
which I could not conceive being suggested. The question I have
put is not, as Prof. Huxley represents, what is the most unpleasant
alternative to belief in the primary truths of the Christian religion,
but what is the least unpleasant; and all I have maintained is that
the least unpleasant alternative necessarily involved is, that Jesus
Christ was under an illusion in his most vital convictions.

I content myself with thus rectifying the state of the case, without
making the comments which I think would be justified on such 2
crude misrepresentation of my argument. But Prof. Huxley goes on
to observe 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."
Undoubtedly, that is a primary question; but who would suppose
from Prof. Huxley's statement of the case that the argument of the
paper he is attacking proceeded to deal with this very point, and that
he has totally ignored the chief consideration it alleged? Almost
immediately after the words Prof. Huxley has quoted, the following



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