« EelmineJätka »
his meanness and littleness, and reveals to him his true greatness.
It comes to him—
"oppressed by sense
in a world of which the fashion passeth away, and sets before him the true life of his life, an immortal hope. It comes to him as he realizes the great truth that "human life is insufficient to satisfy human aspirations,"* and proposes to him a perfect ideal, in the Word made Flesh, supplying an indefectible standard of right action, and an adequate motive to it, drawing the hearts of men "in funiculis Adam, in vinculis charitatis," "with cords of a man, with bands of love," calling forth in them those "strange yearnings" which no abstraction, no didactic moralizing will ever arouse.
Surely I do not exaggerate. The experience of eighteen centuries, the experience of millions in this age of ours, of all nations, kindreds, and tongues, of all sorts and conditions, is my warrant for what I have said, and for far more which the time would fail me to speak of. The religion of Jesus Christ has done, and is doing, all this and much more to make men accept the conditions of human life and to find their blessedness in so doing. Can Naturalism do as much? Can the work of the world be done, the burden of life sustained upon it? Is not Pascal's saying abundantly verified, that " Nature offers nothing but matter of doubt and disquietude?'' Can physical science— claiming to be the only science—supply ethical sanctions? If matter be the sole reality, and physical and mathematical laws rule everything, and men are mere automata, the only power left in the world is brute force. The sense of obligation is of the very essence of morality: good and bad, in the last resort, mean not conformity or nonconformity with our own petty interests, personal or social, but conformity or nonconformity with a law above us and divine. Efface from man's mind the belief in that law, shut off from him the ideas of God, eternity, free will, of "justice, chastity, and judgment to come," and what remains of him is a mere animal, r< more subtle than any beast of the field, but likewise cursed above any beast of the field," and as incapable of political liberty. Christianity is a unique pledge of civil freedom because it is an incomparable instrument of morality. But at the touch of Materialism, as Luthardt has said with equal pungency and truth, "morality ceases to exist; ethics are converted into a bill of fare." Alas for the masses, born to toil and suffer, if they are to live and die on this Gospel, the last word of which, in practice, is wealth, physical comfort, self; a Gospel sad enough in any age of the world, saddest in this when the most notable result of our much vaunted progress is to make life softer for the few but ever harder for the many, to reduce the
* Mill's "Three Essays on Religion," p. 104. VOL. XLIIt. R
workman to a mere machine—there is a world of meaning in the
term "hand," so often applied to designate him—wearing out his
life to produce luxuries which he may not share, in those grim
temples of industrialism,
"where is offered up
An accomplished contemporary writer has spoken, with reason, of the
"complacent religiosity of the prosperous" as an " execrable emotion."
More execrable still is the full-fed optimism of the materialist—
"An eye well practised in nature, a spirit bounded and poor"—
discoursing to the pale mechanic of the glories of " a scientific creed" which takes from him every motive for contentment in life or hope in death; which kills for him the one ideal that can sweeten and redeem his existence of dull monotonous toil. Rough the outer world will always be for him. What matter, if, by one effectual fervent prayer, he may pass from the beggarly elements of physical phenomena to the great First Cause—Causa Causarum; if by one act of faith, hope, or charity he may in a moment transport himself beyond the veil, where the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the Mediator of the new Covenant, are his companions; a true Garden of Eden, where, after his dreary day is done, he may walk with God in the cool of the evening. Naturalism drives him out from that Paradise, and shuts against him the 6Soc aw, as Plato calls it, that upward path which leads to God. And the one thing which remains for him to render life endurable is to drown in his Sunday's drunkenness the remembrance of his week of travail and sorrow. As I write, the rollicking tunes of the Salvationists fall upon my ears—happily from a distance. I do not greatly admire or willingly encounter those shrill religionists. The clown's valediction to the two pages, " God be with you, and God mend your voices," substantially represents my personal feelings about them, although, indeed, I could well desire that their religious conceptions should be mended too. But when I think of what life actually is to those whom "General" Booth and his " Army" go forth to seek and to save, I am forced to own that these ignorant and discordant fanatics are doing a better, a nobler, and a more practically useful work than all the professors of physics in the world put together.
I believe, then, that the future of the world is with Christianity, and I believe this, for the reasons which I have sought to present in the way in which they appear to my own mind: that is to say, because Christianity teaches nothing unworthy of the character which it claims as the highest and most perfect revelation of God ever given to man, and because it supremely corresponds with the facts of human nature and the facts of human life. Therefore it is that, apart from the certitude resting upon the pledge of Him whose words shall not pass away, I have no thought of fear for His religion, or for His Church. Hence my deep conviction that the issue, the eventual issue, however long deferred, of the religious crisis through which the world is passing, will be that man will "find a stronger faith his own/' It was well said, thirty years ago, by the most eloquent of living lips—and I the more gladly use these words of Victor Hugo, spoken in the maturity of his incomparable genius, to conclude this article, because of the decadence, intellectual as well as moral, which seems to me to be stamped upon his later writings—
"Il y a un malheur dans notre temps, je dirais presqu'il n'y a qu'un malheur, c'est une certaine tendance à tout mettre dans cette vie. En donnant à l'homme pour fin et pour but la vie terrestre et matérielle, ou aggrave toutes les misères par la négation qui est au bout, on ajoute a l'accablement des malheureux le poids insupportable du néant; et de ce qui n'était que la souffrance, c'est-à-dire la loi de Dieu, on fait le désespoir, c'està-dire la loi de l'enfer. De là de profondes convulsions sociales. Certes, je suis de ceux qui veulent, et personne n'en doute dans cette enceinte, je suis de ceux qui veulent je ne dis pas avec sincérité, le mot est trop faible, je veux avec une inexprimable ardeur, et par tous les moyens possibles, améliorer dans cette vie le sort matériel de ceux qui souffrent; mais la première des améliorations, c'est de leur donner l'espérance. Combien s'amoindrissent nos misères finies quand il s'y mêle une espérance infinie! Notre devoir à tous, qui que nous soyons, les legislateurs comme les écrivains, c'est de répandre, c'est de dépenser, c'est de prodiguer, sous toutes les formes, toute l'énergie sociale pour combattre et détruire la misère, et en môme temps de faire lever toutes les tttes vers le ciel, de diriger toutes les âmes, de tourner toutes les attentes vers une vie ultérieure, où justice sera faite et où justice sera rendue. Disonsle bien haut, personne n'aura injustement ni inutilement souffert. La mort est une restitution. La loi du monde matériel, c'est l'équilibre; la loi du monde moral, c'est l'équité. Dieu se retrouve à la fin de tout. Ne l'oublions pas, et enseignons-le à tous; il n'y aurait aucune dignité à vivre, et cela n'en vaadrait pas la peine, si nous devions mourir tout entiers. Ce qui allège le labeur, ce qui sanctifie le travail, ce qui rend l'homme fort, bon, sage, patient, bienveillant, juste, à la fois humble et grand, digne de l'intelligence, digne de la liberté, c'est d'avoir devant soi la perpétuelle vision d'un monde meilleur rayonnant à travers les ténèbres de cette vie."*
W. S. LlLLV.
* Speech in the debate on the Falloux Law (1850).
THE "SILVER STREAK" AND THE
THE popular ideas that Britain was always an island, and that the "Silver Streak" has ever been where it is now, are, like many other popular ideas, wholly without foundation. , The British isles in remote times formed part of the mainland, and owe their present configuration to a series of changes the history of which falls strictly within the field of geological inquiry. In the present essay I propose to deal with continental Britain, and to trace the gradual development of the " Silver Streak" and its effect on the national character. Then I shall review the various schemes for connecting Britain with the Continent, ending with the Channel tunnel enterprise and the present position of affairs. In dealing with my subject I shall have to discuss several points which have not as yet been placed before the public by any of the writers who have rushed into the burning controversy of the Channel tunnel.
Britain formed part of the Continent in the remote age known'by the geologists as pleistocene or quaternary, and the ancestors of our present wild animals, such as foxes, wild cats, martins, stags, and roe-deer, passed freely into it from the adjacent regions of Prance and Germany, along with others which have been exterminated here within the historic period, but which still live on the mainland, such as the bear, wolf, and beaver. The land then stood six hundred feet above its present level, and the seaboard now marked by the sunken cliffs at the hundred-fathom line reached some two hundred miles to the west of Ireland, passing northwards so as to include the Hebrides and Shetlands, hugging closely the shores of the Scandinavian peninsula, and forming a narrow fiord to the north of Denmark. Southwards it swept across the mouth of the present English Channel, past the mouth of the Loire and the Garonne, till it came close to the precipitous shores of the Bay of Biscay. To the west was the Atlantic, and to the east and south the land extended as far as the Mediterranean and the steppes of Asiatic Russia. The North Sea was a broad open valley studded with a few fresh-water lakes, like the meres of East Anglia, traversed by the Thames and other eastern rivers, as well as by the Rhine and the Elbe, all of which discharged their waters northwards into the Scandinavian Gulf, as it may be termed. A long line of chalk downs, reaching from Folkestone and Margate across to St. Pot and Sangatte, formed the watershed separating the valley of the North Sea from that of the Channel, through which the rivers of the southern counties and of northern France poured their waters into the Atlantic. A broad valley, too, stretched between Ireland and our western coast, with a deep and narrow loch, some hundred and fifty fathoms deep, severing it from Scotland. The wild animals of the Continent, tempted by the woodlands and pastures of these fertile valleys, freely passed into Britain, and have left their remains in the river beds of gravel and loam, not merely on the land, but under the sea, from which they have been dredged in vast numbers.* Besides the familiar animals above-mentioned, there were lions, panthers, hyaenas, hippopotami, and others now only met with in warm countries j reindeer, musksheep, and wolverenes, now only found in the far north; horses, bisons, and elks, now living in temperate regions, as well as strange extinct animals, such as the mammoth, the woolly rhinoceros, and the cave bear. These animals migrated north and south, according to the season, across the valleys of the North Sea and of the Channel; and, just as the migratory herds in America are followed by the Red Indian, and those of northern Asia by the Siberian hunters, so were they followed by the River-drift hunter, whose implements lie scattered over the whole of Europe south of the latitude of Yorkshire. In the course of time, too, the more highly equipped Cave-man crossed over to this country, and used the caverns for habitations. While southern and eastern Britain was the home of inan and the animals he hunted, the higher parts of Wales, Cambria, and of Scotland, and the greater portion of Ireland, were covered by glaciers, which crept down into the lower grounds, offering an impenetrable barrier to migration, and leaving behind the transported blocks and grooved rock-surfaces which enable us to map their ancient extent.
We come now to the time when the western coast-land of Europe became almost, but not quite, what it is now. At the close of the pleistocene age the area of the British isles gradually sank, and the Atlantic slowly crept up the lower portions of the valley of the English Channel and swept round Ireland, and beat against the rocky shores of Scotland, very nearly as at the present day. The Scandinavian Gulf, too gradually encroached on the bottom of the valley of
* la the North Sea.