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the position of leaders. One of the most remarkable fruits of rational evolution is the production of a medium of revelation. Human language makes it possible for the great seers and prophets of science not only to “think the thoughts of God after Him," but also to proclaim them to a world lying in ignorance.
That such great secrets should suddenly be divulged for the benefit of those who have bestowed no labor on their acquisition must seem at first sight an express contradiction of the method which we have been at such pains to illustrate. It certainly stands in startling contrast to it. But it is, in fact, just that member of our analogy for which we ought to be looking if we would discover a reappearance, in modified forms, of the method of education by revelation. The advanced truths of science, deposited by means of genius, are, as related to the great mass of intelligent minds, the true counterparts of those fundamental postulates of thought which underlie the primal revelation of man to himself. They are intellectual seed grain scattered by the servants of Him who formed the ear for hearing, the eye for seeing, and the mind for thinking. They do not of themselves materially change the intellectual status. Only as minds are stimulated by them, and made to react upon them, can they bear fruit in the uplifting of the race. This invites to a comparison.
Let us bring together, under the unifying idea of evolution, the scientific and the religious revelations, that we may discover whether these can be viewed as homogeneous, consistent elements in one system. In doing this we must be prepared for a considerable modification of current and traditional views. That is, the application of the more comprehensive principle will necessarily bring into greater prominence those features of our conception that assimilate, and correspondingly depress those that differentiate, these two branches of revelation. It is for the reader to judge whether such an adjustment is in the interests of truth.
We have already seen that the claim of Christianity to the communication of advanced truths which the mass of men cannot verify is not peculiar to it. Science does the same through its seers and prophets. But the moment we consider the methods by which these different classes of truths seek to establish their claims we come upon what seems to be a wide divergence. The Christian revelations, it may be said, take their stand upon miracles and infallibility, while the scientific take theirs upon verifiable facts and demonstration. Opposite ways of dealing with the human spirit are, therefore, represented by science and revealed religion. The one, by appealing to reason, develops and strengthens it; the other, by overriding reason, paralyzes the very life-centres of intellectual and moral progress. This is a vital point, and we must examine its claims somewhat in detail.
First, as to the scientific side. What are the methods by which an advanced scientific truth gains admission into the world ? Like other truths, it has to fight its way. Its first reception is often like that which greets advanced positions in religious thoughts. It is to the people foolishness, and to theologians a stumblingblock. It is ridiculed by those who have been at no pains to understand it, and its unsettling effect upon all that has been taught and believed hitherto is taken for granted. For the overcoming of these difficulties the scientific revelation depends first upon the patient and careful investigation of the few who are able to appreciate the evidence upon which it rests. When these, the natural guardians and critics of science, have, one after another, verified the steps indicated, and have indorsed the alleged fact or law, it receives a large accession of believers from intelligent people, who, though not able personally to verify the scientific process, are yet willing to accept its result on what they regard as competent authority. And, lastly, there are signs and wonders which startle into real belief a multitude of minds that otherwise would have remained hostile or indifferent.
When a comet or an eclipse has made its appearance in the heavens, as predicted by astronomers, the incredulous will be turned into believers. And they will believe not only in the truth of the prophets with regard to this particular matter, but they will accept other statements which contradict the testimony of their senses, and which they are utterly unable to verify. They will even believe that the earth is a sphere, and that it moves through space with an inconceivable velocity. The same kind of belief is produced by the illustrations of a scientific lecturer. The chemist who can decompose water, and before our very eyes extract from it a highly inflammable gas, is credited when he further tells us that the amount of energy required to decompose a pound of water into its constituent gases would be adequate to raise a weight of over five million pounds one foot high. And so in all departments of science we accept the apparently impossible in bulk, because our incredulity has been broken through by the transformation of other seeming improbabilities into facts.
Now are we distorting the truth in thus representing the wonders of science as the counterpart of miracles in the sphere of revealed religion? It may be said, The wonders of science are not breaches of the laws of nature; they are the manifestation of them. I reply, The illustration of the chemist is a manifestation of natural laws under peculiar circumstances, — circumstances of his own choosing. It is by virtue of his commanding intelligence that he has the power to so modify the course of nature and specialize its forces as to transform water into an inflammable gas. What improbability is there then in the assumption that the all-wise Instructor of our race has done similar things to attain similar ends ?
All our material civilization is the outcome of innumerable specializations of force and law which are just as reasonably construed as interferences with the course of nature as the healing of one that was born blind or the raising of the dead. The miller who arrests the course of an idle stream, and forces it to accumulate its power that he may conduct it into a channel of his own choosing for the accomplishment of ends not included in the course of nature, is a type of the transforming, miracle-working power of the human mind. The wonders that man has wrought by isolating, combining, concentrating, attenuating, imprisoning, and directing the forces of nature should make it easy to believe that the mind which compasses the whole of that of which we know only the rudiments can bring to pass for the accomplishment of his own ends specializations of force which transcend the limits of our knowledge.
Does the doctrine of evolution forbid us to cherish such a conception ? On the contrary, it compels us to entertain it. It bids us recognize a mighty, all-pervasive energy working for ends by means of never ceasing and infinitely diversified variations, an inscrutable power that is forever creating by adjustments, by adaptations, by specializations of the forces that exist, and by causing to emerge other forces which, to our minds at least, seem absolutely new.
But, having arrived at this point, I am well aware that the analogy which I have drawn from scientific methods in education will seem to have a serious flaw. It will appear that I have set over against each other elements that occupy positions of almost inverse importance in the two departments of thought compared. In the world of the physical sciences the exhibition of extraordinary phenomena to induce belief in advanced positions has only a limited use. It is never relied upon to beget a high degree of conviction aside from the facts immediately concerned. The presentation of such phenomena are useful to rouse the indifferent. as a Factor in Evolution. They effect a lodgment for ideas that would not otherwise gain the attention. They predispose the unscientific to believe in a world of truth that lies beyond their knowledge. But farther than this the method is one that is specially disowned by science in all its branches. Science does not rely upon authority. It does not ask the acceptance of truths that cannot be proved because they have emanated from a particular source. It never asks the mind to rest in that measure of belief that comes from confidence in individuals, but gives its reasons for everything, and invites criticism at every point. The Christian revelation, on the other hand, puts miracles in the fore-front of its appeal and keeps them there. They are not relied upon as the first steps toward belief or as helps by the way toward conviction, but their sufficiency is affirmed ; and, on the strength of it, beliefs that provoke the criticism of the moral reason are said to be beyond its reach. What is a duty in other departments becomes a sin in that of religion.
I am not disposed to question the fairness of this objection. For though Protestant defenders of orthodoxy have differed much in the stress laid upon miracles, they have in many instances assumed for them the importance which it alleges ; and the Roman Church unequivocally takes its stand upon miracles and infallibility as the means which God has ordained for the coercion and subjugation of the human reason. But it is just at this point that the analogies of evolution call upon us to consider most critically a position which makes the Christian revelation an exception to God's method of dealing with man in all other departments. It sends us back to the written record to discover whether this view of miracles originated with it, or with later defenders of the faith. I believe that a candid examination of the teachings of Christ and his apostles will show that they assigned to miracles (considered simply as wonderful works) no higher position than that which the corresponding wonders of science occupy in relation to its advanced truths. I say considered simply as wonderful works, for the miracles of Christ were also parables, weighted with a profound moral significance which it is the task of the race and of individuals to fathom by a progressive realization. But as signs and wonders their place was purely subordinate and provisional. They were adaptations, concessions to the attitude of minds not yet sufficiently developed to grasp high spiritual truths. They were supports to those who were young in the faith, in the midst of a hostile environment.
In the exercise of his wonder-working power our Lord was VOL. V. - NO. 25. 3
largely influenced by the mental attitude of those with whom he came in contact. In the great majority of cases it was elicited in response to a measure of faith already existing. It was his answer to the cry “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” He uniformly refused those who came in a hostile spirit, demanding a sign, and seems to have regarded every such challenge as a temptation to fall back on lower methods than those which He had chosen. He recognized the futility of signs to change the heart and the will. “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” “ If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” He forewarns his disciples that the time is coming when their faith will be sorely tried unless it has found higher ground than that afforded by miracles. “ There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
He repeatedly signified his relatively low estimate of a belief that rested on physical phenomena, and his craving for a higher faith in his followers. To elicit an expression of such a faith He said to one, “ Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” To his disciples He said, “ Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.” To Thomas, believing because he had touched the wounded hands and side, He said, “ Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed : blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” When about to leave his disciples He makes to them this astonishing announcement : “ He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also ; and GREATER works than these shall he do.” Can we believe that the superiority here predicated had reference to the amount and not to the quality of the results to be attained ? As on a former occasion our Saviour had declared the “ least in the kingdom of heaven ” to be greater than John the Baptist, so here also did He not point to the fact that it was to be the privilege of the disciples, through the coöperation of the Spirit, to lead men to a plane of spiritual life more elevated and more stable than could be reached by a mere belief in external phenomena ? The place assigned to miracles by the Apostle Paul is in harmony with this view : “ And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles.”
Some of the miracles recorded in the Bible are signs to the believers of every age and are pledges to all who find their hold on