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Most heartily do I recognise and admire the spiritual radiance, if I may use the term, shed by religion on the minds and lives of many personally known to me. At the same time I cannot but observe how signally, as regards the production of anything beautiful, religion fails in other cases. Its professor and defender is sometimes at bottom a brawler and a clown. These differences depend upon primary distinctions of character which religion does not remove. It may comfort some to know that there are amongst us many
whom the gladiators of the pulpit would call “atheists” and “materialists," whose lives, nevertheless, as tested by any accessible standard of morality, would contrast more than favourably with the lives of those who seek to stamp them with this offensive brand. When I say “offensive," I refer simply to the intention of those who use
uch terms, and not because atheism or materialism, when compared with many of the notions ventilated in the columns of religious newspapers, has any particular offensiveness for me. If I wished to find men who are scrupulous in their adherence to engagements, whose words are their bond, and to whom moral shiftiness of any kind is subjectively unknown ; if I wanted a loving father, a faithful husband, an honourable neighbour, and a just citizen—I should seek him and find him among the band of “atheists” to which I refer. I have known some of the most pronounced among them not only in life but in death—seen them approaching with open eyes the inexorable goal, with no dread of a “hangman's whip,” with no hope of a heavenly crown, and still as mindful of their duties, and as faithful in the discharge of them, as if their eternal future depended upon their latest deeds.
In letters addressed to myself, and in utterances addressed to the public, Faraday is often referred to as a sample of the association of religious faith with moral elevation. I was locally intimate with him for fourteen or fifteen years of my life, and had thus occasion to observe how nearly his character approached what might, without extravagance, be called perfection. He was strong but gentle, impetuous but self-restrained ; a sweet and lofty courtesy marked his dealings with men and women; and though he sprung from the body of the people, a nature so fine might well have been distilled from the flower of antecedent chivalry. Not only in its broader sense was the Christian religion necessary to Faraday's spiritual peace, but in what
many would call the narrow sense held by those described by Faraday himself as “a very small and despised sect of Christians, known, if known at all, as Sandemanians," it constituted the light and comfort of his days.
Were our experience confined to such cases, it would furnish an irresistible argument in favour of the association of dogmatic religion with moral purity and grace. But, as already intimated, our experience is not thus confined. In further illustration of this point we may compare with Faraday a philosopher of equal magnitude, whose character, including gentleness and strength, candour and simplicity, intellectual power and moral elevation, singularly resembles that of the great Sandemanian, but who has neither shared the theologic views nor the religious emotions which formed so dominant a factor in Faraday's life. I allude to Mr. Charles Darwin, the Abraham of scientific men—a searcher as obedient to the command of truth as was the patriarch to the command of God. I cannot, therefore, as so many desire, look upon Faraday's religious belief as the exclusive source of qualities shared so conspicuously by one uninfluenced by that belief. To a deeper virtue belonging to reviled human nature in its purer forms I am disposed to refer the excellence of both.
Superstition may be defined as religion which has grown incongruous with intelligence. “Superstition,” says Fichte,“ has unquestionably constrained its subjects to abandon many pernicious practices and to adopt many useful ones.” The real loss accompanying its decay at the present day has been thus clearly stated by the same philosopher: “In so far as these lamentations do not proceed from the priests themselves—whose grief at the loss of their dominion over the human mind we can well understand—but from the politicians, the whole matter resolves itself into this, that government has thereby become more difficult and expensive. The judge was spared the exercise of his own sagacity and penetration when, by threats of relentless damnation, he could compel the accused to make confession. The evil spirit formerly performed without reward services for which in later times judges and policemen have to be paid."
No man ever felt the need of a high and ennobling religion more thoroughly than this powerful and fervid teacher, who, by the way, did not escape the brand of “ atheist.” But Fichte asserted emphatically the power and sufficiency of morality in its own sphere. “ Let us consider,” he says, “ the highest which man can possess in the absence of religion-I mean pure morality. The moral man obeys the law of duty in his breast absolutely, because it is a law unto him; and he does whatever reveals itself to him as his duty simply because it is duty. Let not the impudent assertion be repeated that such an obedience, without regard for consequences, and without desire for consequences, is in itself impossible and opposed to human nature.” So much for Fichte. I would add that the muse of Tennyson never reached a higher strain than when it embodied the same sentiment in Ænone:
“And, because right is right, to follow right
Not in the way assumed by our dogmatic teachers has the morality of human nature been built up. The power which has moulded us thus far bas worked with stern tools upon a very rigid stuff. What it has done cannot be so readily undone ; and it has endowed us with moral constitutions which take pleasure in the noble, the beautiful, and the true, just as surely as it has endowed us with sentient organisms, which find aloes bitter and sugar sweet. That power did not work with delusions, nor will it stay its hand when such are removed. Facts, rather than dogmas, have been its ministers—hunger and thirst, heat and cold, pleasure and pain, fervour, sympathy, shame, pride, love, hate, terror, awe—such were the forces whose interaction and adjustment throughout an immeasurable past wove the triplex web of man's physical, intellectual, and moral nature, and such are the forces that will be effectual to the end.1 You may retort that even on my own showing “the power
which makes for righteousness” has dealt in delusions; for it cannot be denied that the beliefs of religion, including the dogmas of theology and the freedom of the will, have had some effect in moulding the moral world. Granted; but I do not think that this goes to the root of the matter. Are you quite sure that those beliefs and dogmas
. are primary, and not derived ?—that they are not the products, instead of being the creators, of man's moral nature? I think it is in one of the Latter-Day Pamphlets that Carlyle corrects a reasoner, who deduced the nobility of man from a belief in heaven, by telling him that he puts the cart before the horse, the real truth being that the belief in heaven is derived from the nobility of
The bird's instinct to weave its nest is referred to by Emerson as typical of the force which built cathedrals, temples, and pyramids :
“Knowest thou what wove yon woodbird's nest
Of leaves and feathers from her breast,
(1) My Spectator critic says that I give up approbation and disapprobation ; but, as already indicated, the critic writes hastily. Each of them is a subsection of one or another of the influences mentioned above.
And nature gladly gave them place,
Surely, many utterances which have been accepted as descriptions ought to be interpreted as aspirations, or as having their roots in aspiration instead of in objective knowledge. Does the song of the herald angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men,” express the exaltation and the yearning of a human soul ? or does it describe an optical and acoustical fact—a visible host and an audible song? If the former, the exaltation and the yearning are man's imperishable possession ferment long confined to individuals, but which may by-and-by become the leaven of the race. If the latter, then belief in the entire transaction is wrecked by non-fulfilment. Look to the East at the present moment as a comment on the promise of peace on earth and goodwill towards men. That promise is a dream ruined by the experience of eighteen centuries, and in that ruin is involved the claim of the “heavenly host ” to prophetic vision. But though the mechanical theory proves untenable, the immortal song and the feelings it expresses are still ours, to be incorporated, let us hope, in purer and less shadowy forms in the poetry, philosophy, and practice of the future.
Thus, following the lead of physical science, we are brought without solution of continuity into the presence of problems which, as usually classified, lie entirely outside the domain of physics. To these problems thoughtful and penetrative minds are now applying those methods of research which in physical science have proved their truth by their fruit. There is on all hands a growing repugnance to invoke the supernatural in accounting for the phenomena human life, and the thoughtful minds just referred to, finding no trace of evidence in favour of any other origin, are driven to seek in the interaction of social forces the genesis and development of man's moral nature. If they succeed in their search—and I think they are sure to succeed— social duty will be raised to a higher level of significance, and the deepening sense of social duty will, it is to be hoped, lessen, if not obliterate, the strifes and heartburnings which now beset and disfigure our social life. Towards this great end it behoves us one and all to work; and devoutly wishing its consummation, I have the honour, ladies and gentlemen, to bid you a friendly farewell.
THE VALUE TO THE UNITED KINGDOM OF THE
FOREIGN DOMINIONS OF THE CROWN.
In ancient times the value of a territorial acquisition to the country that obtained it was a very simple affair. The colonies of Greece were considered by the parent state mainly in the light of outlets for the redundant population of a poor and mountainous country. The colonies of Rome were planted almost entirely for military purposes, and, if they answered these, nothing else was demanded from them. But as regards territories acquired by conquest or by cession the case was very different. After undergoing a spoliation more or less complete they settled down into a miserable and abject depend
a ence, a tribute was wrung from them regulated rather by the greed of the exactors than by the ability of the tributaries, and the choicest of their youth were enrolled in the armies of their cruel and rapacious conquerors. The measure of the value of such an acquisition was just what could be wrung from it in men and money without destroying its power of further contribution. The Spaniards did not even observe this rule. In their greed for gold they exterminated the natives of Hispaniola in working the mines, and were thus driven to the humane suggestion of Las Casas, the importation of Africans to supply the race which they had murdered. The value of these acquisitions was therefore the realised property and the labour of the race, whether extorted from them in the character of slaves or tributaries. From this sum there was very little deduction for the expense of government. A few magistrates exercising indiscriminately executive and judicial functions without diligence and without appeal or revision, sufficed for the government of such a society, which may be best described as a state of collective slavery. Whatever may be thought of the morality of such a proceeding, we cannot wonder that the acquisition of a state to be held on such terms was regarded as a source of wealth to the conquerors. What we seek to discover is, what in the absence of all these cruel and unjust means of acquisition, and after allowing for the expense of a thoroughly efficient and good government, is the value to the paramount state of a foreign dependency. We are not aware that such an inquiry has ever been attempted, nor can we regard it as a mere matter of curiosity. Occasions are continually arising when it is of the utmost importance to know accurately the worth of the interests with which we have to deal, and the statesman can no more dispense with this knowledge than the trader can deal with wares of which he has not ascertained the value.