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* " Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Beviews," p. 187.

t Page 87.


says, "' become chiefly absorbed in the immediate and the relative." *
Prof. Huxley admits in effect precisely the same thing when he says
that the tendency of systematic materialism is to "paralyze the
energies of life/' and "to destroy its beauty."

Let us try to put the matter a little more concisely. It is admitted
by our agnostics that the most valuable element in our life is our
sense of duty, coupled with obedience to its dictates; and this sense of
duty derives both its existence and its power over us from religion, and
from religion alone. How it derived them from the Christian religion
is obvious. The Christian religion prescribed it to us as the voice of
God to the soul, appealing as it were to all onr most powerful passions
to our fear, to our hope, and to our love. Hope gave it a meaning
to us, and love and fear gave it a sanction. The agnostics have got rid
of God and the soul together, with the loves, and fears, and hopes by
which the two were connected. The problem before them is to discover
some other considerations that is, some other religion which shall
invest duty with the solemn meaning and authority derivable no longer
from these. Our agnostics, as we know, declare themselves fully able
to solve it. Mr. Spencer and Mr. Harrison, though the solution of
each is different, declare not only that some new religion is ready for
us, but that it is a religion higher and more efficacious than the old;
while Prof. Huxley, though less prophetic and sanguine, rebukes those
"who are alarmed lest man's moral nature be debased," and declares
that a wise man like Hume would merely " smile at their perplexities." f

Let us now consider what this new religion is or rather these new
religions, for we are offered more than one. So far as form goes,
indeed, we are offered several. They can, however, all of them be
resolved into two, resting on two entirely different bases, though
sometimes, if not usually, offered to our acceptance in combination.
One of these, which is called by some of its literary adherents
Positivism or the Religion of Humanity, is based on two propositions
with regard to the human race, The first proposition is that it is
constantly though slowly improving, and will one day reach a condition
thoroughly satisfactory to itself. The second proposition is that this
remote consummation can be made so interesting to the present and to
all intervening generations that they will strain every nerve to bring
it about and hasten it. Thus, though humanity is admitted to be
absolutely a fleeting phenomenon in the universe, it is presented
relatively as of the utmost moment to the individual ; and duty is sup-
plied with a constant meaning by hope, and with a constant motive by
sympathy. The basis of the other religion is not only different from
this, but opposed to it. Just as this demands that we turn away from
the universe, and concentrate our attention upon humanity, so the
other demands that we turn away from humanity and concentrate our
attention on the universe. Mr. Herbert Spencer calls this the
Religion of the Unknowable; and though many agnostics consider the
name fantastic, they one and all of them, if they resign the religion of
humanity, consider and appeal to this as the only possible alternative.

Now I have already in this review, not many months since,
endeavored to show how completely absurd and childish the first of

* " Since the beginning, religion has had the all-essential office of preventing men from being
chiefly absorbed in the relative or the immediate, and of awaking them to a consciousness of
something beyond it."~" First Principles," p. 100.

t" Lay Sermons," pp. 122, 134.


these two religions, the Religion of Humanity, is. I do not propose,
therefore, to discuss it further here, but will beg the reader to consider
that for the purpose of the present argument it is brushed aside like
rubbish, unworthy of a second examination. Perhaps this request will
sound somewhat arbitrary and arrogant, but I have something to add
which will show that it is neither. The particular views which I now
aim at discussing are the views represented by Prof. Huxley; and
Prof. Huxley rejects the Keligion of Humanity as completely as I do,
and with a great deal less ceremony, as the following passage will
demonstrate :

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, as often as
not, make his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his physical 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 favorable situations as the plains of Mesopotamia or Ki?ypt, and, then, for
thousands and thousands of years, struggles with vary ing 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 or otherwise persecuting all those who 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 further. And the
best men of the best epoch are simply those who make the fewest blunders and commit the
fewest sins. ... I know of no study so unutterably saddening as that of the evolution of
humanity as it is set forth in the annals of history ; . . . [and] when the positivists order men to
worship humanity that is to say, to adore the generalized conception of men, as they ever have
been, and probably ever will be mast reply that I could just as soon bow down and worship the
generalized conception of a " wilderness of apes." *

Let us pause here for a moment and look about us, so as to see where
we stand. Up to a certain point the agnostics have all gone together
with absolute unanimity, and I conceive myself to have gone with
them. They have all been unanimous in their rejection of theology,
and in regarding man and the race of men as a fugitive manifestation
of the all-enduring something, which always, everywhere, and in an
equal degree, is behind all other phenomena of the universe. They
are unanimous also in affirming that, in spite of its fugitive character,
life can afford us certain considerations and interests, which will still
make duty binding on us, will still give it a meaning. At this point,
however, they divide into two bands. Some of them assert that the
motive and the meaning of duty is to be found in the history of
humanity, regarded as a single drama, with a prolonged and glorious
conclusion, complete in itself, satisfying in itself, and imparting, by
the sacrament of sympathy, its own meaning and grandeur to the
individual life, which would else be petty and contemptible. This is
what some assert, and this is what others deny. With those who
assert it we have now parted company, and are standing alone with
those others who deny it Prof. Huxley among them, as one of their
chief spokesmen.

And now addressing myself to Prof. Huxley in this character, let
me explain what I shall try to prove to him. If he could believe in
God and in the divine authority of Christ, he admits he could account
for duty and vindicate a meaning for life; but he refuses to believe,
even though for some reasons he might wish to do so, because he holds
that the beliefs in question have no evidence to support them. He
complains that an English bishop has called this refusal "cowardly"
" has so far departed from his customary courtesy and self-respect as
to speak of ' cowardly agnosticism.' " I agree with Prof. Huxley that, on
the grounds advanced by the bishop, this epithet " cowardly " is
entirely undeserved ; but I propose to show him that, if not deserved on



them, it is deserved on others, entirely unsuspected by himself. I
propose to show that his agnosticism is really cowardly, but cowardly
not because it refuses to believe enough, but because, tried by its own
standards, it refuses to deny enough. I propose to show that the same
method and principle, which is fatal to our faith in the God and the
future life of theology, is equally fatal to anything which can give exist-
ence a meaning, or which can to have recourse to Prof. Huxley's own
phrases "prevent our * energies' from being * paralyzed,' and 'life's
beauty* from being destroyed." I propose, in other words, to show
that his agnosticism is cowardly, not because it does not dare to affirm
the authority of Christ, but because it does not dare to deny the
meaning and the reality of duty. I propose to show that the miserabl3
rags of argument with which he attempts to cover the life which he
professes to have stripped naked of superstition, are part and parcel of
the very superstition itself that, though they are not the chasuble
and the embroidered robe of theology, they are its hair-shirt, and its
hair-shirt in tatters utterly useless for the purpose to which it is
despairingly applied, and serving only to make the forlorn wearer
ridiculous. I propose to show that in retaining this dishonored gar-
ment, agnosticism is playing the part of an intellectual Ananias and
Sapphira; and that in professing to give up all that it can not
demonstrate, it is keeping back part, and the larger part of the price
not, however, from dishonesty, but from a dogged and obstinate
cowardice, from a terror of facing the ruin which its own principles
have made.

Some, no doubt, will think that this is a rash undertaking, or else
that I am merely indulging in the luxury of a little rhetoric. I hope to
convince the reader that the undertaking is not rash, and that I mean
my expressions to be taken in a frigid and literal sense. Let me begin
then by repeating one thing, which I have said before. When I say
that agnosticism is fatal to our conception of duty, I do not mean that
it is fatal to those broad rules and obligations which are obviously
necessary to any civilized society, which are distinctly defensible on
obvious utilitarian grounds, and which, speaking generally, can be
enforced by external sanctions. These rules and obligations have
existed from the earliest ages of social life, and are sure to exist as long
as social life exists. But so far are they from giving life a meaning,
that on Prof. Huxley's own showing they nave barely made life
tolerable. A general obedience to them for thousands and thousands
of years has left " the evolution of man, as set forth in the annals of
history," the "most unutterably saddening study " thatProf. Huxley
knows. From the earliest ages to the present Prof. Huxley admits
this the nature of man has been such that, despite their laws and
their knowledge, most men have made themselves miserable by yielding
to " greed " and to " ambition," and by practicing "infinite wickedness."
They have proscribed their wisest when alive, and accorded them a
"foolish" hero-worship when dead. Infinite wickedness, blindness,
and idiotic emotion have, then, according to Prof. Huxley's deliberate
estimate, marked and marred men from the earliest ages to the present;
and he deliberately says also, that "as men ever have been, they
probably ever will be."

To do our duty, then, evidently implies a struggle. The impulses
usually uppermost in us have to be checked, or chastened, by others,
and these other impulses have to be generated, by fixing our attention



on considerations which lie somehow beneath the surface. If this
were not so, men would always have done their duty; and their his-
tory would not have been " unutterably saddening," as Prof. Huxley
says it has been. What sort of considerations, then, must those we
require be? Before answering this question let us pause for a
moment, and, with Prof. Huxley's help, let us make ourselves quite
clear what duty is. I have already shown that it differs from a passive
obedience to external laws, in being a voluntary and active obedience
to a la\v that is internal; but its logical aim is analogous that is to
say, the good of the community, ourselves included. Prof. Huxley
describes it thus "to devote one's self to the service of humanity,
including intellectual and moral self-culture under that name";
" to pity and help all men to the best of one's ability" ; " to be strong
and putient," "to be ethically pure and noble"; and to push our
devotion to others "to the extremity of self-sacrifice." All these
phrases are Prof. Huxley's own. They are plain enough in them-
selves; but, to make what he means yet plainer, he tells us that the
best examples of the duty he h;is been describing are to be found
amo^g Christian martyrs and saints, such as Catherine of Sienna, and
above all in the ideal Christ "the noblest ideal of humanity," he calls
it, "which mankind has yet worshiped." Finally, he says that
" religion, properly understood, is simply the reverence and love for
[this] ethical ideal, and the desire to realize that ideal in life which
every man ought to feel." That man "ought" to feel this desire,
and "ought" to act on it, "is," he says, " surely indisputable," and
"agnosticism has no more to do with it than it has with music or

Here, then, we come to something at last which Prof. Huxley,
despite all his doubts, declares to be certain to a conclusion which
agnosticism its If, according to his view, admits to be "indisputable."
Agnosticism, however, as he has told us already, lays it down as a
" fundamental axiom" that no conclusions are indisputable but cuch
as are "demonstrated or demonstrable." The conclusion, therefore,
that we ought to do our duty, and that we ought to experience what
Prof. Huxley calls " religion," is evidently a conclusion which, in his
opinion, is demonstrated or demonstrable with the utmost clearness
and cogency. Before, however, inquiring how far this is the case, we
must state the conclusion in somewhat different terms, but still in
terms which we have Prof. Huxley's explicit warrant for using. Duty
is a thing which men in general, "as they always have been, and
probably ever will be," have lamentably failed to do, and to do which
is very difficult, going as it does against some of the strongest and
most victorious instincts of our nature. Prof. Hux ey's conclusion,
then, must be expressed thus: "We ought to do something which
most of us do not do, and which we can not do without a severe and
painful struggle, of t n involving the extremity of self-sacrifice."

And now, such being the case, let us proceed to this crucial

?uestion What is the meaning of the all-important word " ought "?
t does not mean merely that on utilitarian grounds the conduct in
question can be defended as tending to certain beneficent results.
This conclusion would be indeed barren and useless. _ It would
merely amount to saying that some people would be happier if other
people would for their sake consent to be miserable; or that men
would be happier as a race if their instincts and impulses were differ-



ent from "what they always have been and probably ever will be."
When we say that certain conduct ought to be followed, we do not
mean that its ultimate results can be shown to be beneficial to other
people, but that they can be exhibited as desirable to the people to
whom the conduct is recommended and not only as desirable, but as
desirable in a pre-eminent degree desirable beyond all other results
that are immediately beneficial to themselves. Now the positivists, or
any other believers in the destinies of humanity, absurd as their
beliefs may be, still have in their beliefs a means by which, theoreti-
cally, duty could be thus recommended. According to them, our
sympathy with others is so keen, and the future in store for our
descendents is so satisfying, that we have only to think of this future
and we shall bnrn with a desire to work for it. But Prof. Huxley,
and those who agree with him, utterly reject both of these supposi-
tions. They say, and very rightly, that our sympathies are limited;
and that the blissful future, which it is supposed will appeal to them,
is moonshine. The utmost, then, in the way of objective results, that
any of us can accomplish by following the path of duty, is not only
little in itself, but there is no reason for supposing that it will con-
tribute to anything great. On the contrary, it will only contribute to
something which, as a whole, is "unutterably saddening."

Let us suppose, then, an individual with two ways of life open to
him the way of ordinary self-indulgence, and the way of pain, effort,
and self-sacrifce. The first seems to him obviously the most advanta-
geous; but he has heard so much fine talk in favor of the second, that
he thinks it at least worth considering. He goes, we will suppose, to'
Prof. Huxley, and asks to have it demonstrated that this way of pain
is preferable. Now what answer to that could Prof. Huxley make
he, or any other agnostic who agrees with him ? He has made several
answers. I am going to take them one by one; and while doing to
each of them, as I hope, complete justice, to show that they are not
only absolutely and ridiculously impotent to prove what is demanded
of them, but they do not even succeed in touching the question at

One of the answers hardly needs considering, except to show to
what straits the thinker must be put who uses it. A man, eays Profc
Huxley, ought to choose the way of pain and duty, because it con-
duces in some small degree to the good of others; and to do good to
others ought to be his predominant desire, or, in other words, his
religion. But the very fact in human nature that makes the question
at issue worth arguing, is the fact that men naturally do not desire the
good of others, or, at least, desire it in a very lukewarm way ; and every
consideration which the positivist school advance to make the good of
others attractive and interesting to ourselves Prof. Huxley dismisses
with what we may call an uproarious contempt. If, then, we are not
likely to be nerved to our duty by a belief that duty done tends to pro-
duce and hasten a change that shall really make the whole human lot
beautiful, we are not likely to be nerved to it by the belief that its
utmost possible result will be some partial and momentary benefit to a
portion of a "wilderness of apes." The positivist says to the men of
the present day: " Work hard at the foundation of things social for on
these foundations one dav will arise a glorious edifice." Prof. Huxley
tells thi MI to work equally hard, only he adds that the foundation will
never support anything better than pip; -ties. His attempt, then, on



social grounds, to make duty binding, and give force to the moral
imperative, is merely a fragment of Mr. Harrison's system, divorced
from anything that gave it a theoretical meaning. Prof. Huxley has
shattered that system against the hard rock of reality, and this is one
of the pieces which he has picked up out of the mire.

The social argument, then, we may therefore put aside, as good per-
haps for showing what duty is, but utterly useless for creating any
desire to do it. Indeed, to render Prof. Huxley justice, it is not the
argument on which he mainly relies. The argument, or rather the
arguments, on which he mainly relies have no direct connection with
things social at all. They seek to create a religion, or to give a mean-
ing to duty, by dwelling on man's connection, not with his fellow-
men, but with the universe, and thus developing in the individual a
certain ethical self- reverence, or rather, perhaps, preserving his exist-
ing self- reverence from destruction. How any human being who
pretends to accurate thinking can conceive that these arguments
would have the effect desired that they would either tend in any way
to develop self- reverence of any kind, or that this self-reverence, if
developed, could connect itself with practical duty passes my com-
prehension. Influential and eminent men, however, declare that such
is their opinion ; and for that reason the arguments are worth ana-
lyzing. Mr. Herbert Spencer is here in almost exact accord with
Prof. Huxley; we will therefore begin by referring to his way of
stating the matter.

" We are obliged," he says, " to regard every phenomenon as a man-
ifestation of some power by which we are acted on; though omni-
presence is unthinkable, yet, as experience discloses no bounds to the
diffusion of phenomena, we are unable to think of limits to the
presence of this power; while the criticisms of science teach us that
this power is incomprehensible. And this consciousness of an incom-
prehensible power, called omnipresent from inability to assign its
limits, is just that consciousness on which religion dwells."* Now
Prof. Huxley, it will be remembered, gives an account of religion
quite different. He says it is a desire to realize a certain ideal in life.
His terminology therefore differs from, that of Mr. Spencer; but of
the present matter, as the following quotation will show, his view is
substantially the same.

" Let us suppose," he says, "that knowledge is absolute, and not
relative, and therefore that our conception of matter represents that
which really is. Let us suppose further that we do know more of
cause and effect than a certain succession; and I for my part do not
see what escape there is from utter materialism and necessarianism."
And this materialism, were it really what science forces on us, he
admits would amply justify the darkest fears that are entertained of
it. It would "drown man's soul," " impede his freedom," "paralyze
his energies," " debase his moral nature," and "destroy the beauty of
his life." f But, Prof. Huxley assures ns, these dark fears are ground-
less. There is indeed only one avenue of escape from them; but that
avenue truth opens to us.

"For," he says, " after all, what do we know of this terrible ' matter,' except as a name for th
unknown and hypothetical cause of states of onr own consciousness ? And what do we know of
that ' spirit ' over whose extinction by matter a great lamentation is arising, . . . except that It
also is a name for an unknown and hypothetical cause or condition of states of consciousness?

* "First Principles," p. 99.

t "Lay Sermons." pp. 12?, 188, 127,



. . . And what IB the dire necessity and iron law under which men groan ? Truly, mort gratui-
tously invented bugbears. I suppose if there be an * iron ' law it is that of gravitation ; and if
there be a physical necessity it is that a stoue unsupported must fall to the ground. But what is
all wo really know and can know about the latter phenomena ? Simply that in all human experi-
ence stones have fallen to the ground under these conditions; that we have not the smallest rea-
eon for believing that any stone eo circumstanced will not fall to the ground ; and that we have,
on the contrary, every reason to believe that It will so fall. . . . But when, as commonly happens,
we change wVl into mutt, we introduce an idea of necei-sity which . . . has no warranty that 1 can
discover anywhere. . . . Force I know, ani Law I know; buc who is this Necessity, save an
empty shadow of my own mind's throwing ? "

Let us now compare the statements of these two writers. Each
states that the reality of the universe is unknowable; that just as
surely as matter is always one aspect of mind, so mind is equally one
aspect of matter; and that if it is true to say that the thoughts of
man are material, it is equally true to say that the earth from which
man is taken is spiritual. Further, from these statements each
writer deduces a similar moral. The only difference between them is,
that Mr. Spencer puts it positively, and Prof. Huxley negatively. Mr.
Spencer says that a consciousness of the unknowable nature of the uni-
verse fills the mind with religious emotion. Prof. Huxley says that
the same consciousness will preserve from destruction the emotion
that already exists in it. We will examine the positive and negative
propositions in order, and see what bearing, if any, they have on prac-
tical life.

Mr. Spencer connects his religion with practical life thus: The

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