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Title: Lectures and Essays
Author: Huxley, Thomas Henry, 1825-1895
Language: English
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Lectures and Essays








Twelve vols. Globe 8vo, 4s. net each.

     X. }
   XII. }

       *       *       *       *       *

HENRIETTA A. HUXLEY. With Portrait. Pott 8vo, _2s. 6d._ net. Also cloth
elegant, _2s. 6d._ net. Limp Leather, _3s. 6d._ net. _Golden Treasury

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Pott 8vo, _1s. 6d._




PHYSIOGRAPHY. A New Edition. Revised and partly re-written by R.A.
GREGORY. Globe 8vo, _4s. 6d._

SOCIAL DISEASES AND WORSE REMEDIES. Crown 8vo. Sewed, _1s._ net.

LECTURES AND ESSAYS. 8vo. Sewed. _6d._


LIFE OF HUME. Crown 8vo. Library Edition. _2s._ net. Popular Edition,
_1s. 6d._ Sewed. _1s._ F'cap 8vo. Pocket Edition. _1s._ net. _English
Men of Letters._

By Prof. T.H. HUXLEY, assisted by Prof. H.N. MARTIN.

extended by G.B. HOWES and D.H. SCOTT. Crown 8vo, _10s. 6d._







AUTOBIOGRAPHY                                       5

LECTURES ON EVOLUTION                              11

ON THE PHYSICAL BASIS OF LIFE                      45



AGNOSTICISM                                        83

  CHRISTIANITY                                     96

AGNOSTICISM AND CHRISTIANITY                      108

_First Edition, February_ 1902.
_Reprinted, December_ 1902, 1903, 1904, 1910.


I was born about eight o'clock in the morning on the 4th of May, 1825,
at Ealing, which was, at that time, as quiet a little country village
as could be found within half-a-dozen miles of Hyde Park Corner. Now it
is a suburb of London with, I believe, 30,000 inhabitants. My father was
one of the masters in a large semi-public school which at one time had a
high reputation. I am not aware that any portents preceded my arrival in
this world, but, in my childhood, I remember hearing a traditional
account of the manner in which I lost the chance of an endowment of
great practical value. The windows of my mother's room were open, in
consequence of the unusual warmth of the weather. For the same reason,
probably, a neighbouring beehive had swarmed, and the new colony,
pitching on the window-sill, was making its way into the room when the
horrified nurse shut down the sash. If that well-meaning woman had only
abstained from her ill-timed interference, the swarm might have settled
on my lips, and I should have been endowed with that mellifluous
eloquence which, in this country, leads far more surely than worth,
capacity, or honest work, to the highest places in Church and State. But
the opportunity was lost, and I have been obliged to content myself
through life with saying what I mean in the plainest of plain language,
than which, I suppose, there is no habit more ruinous to a man's
prospects of advancement.

Why I was christened Thomas Henry I do not know; but it is a curious
chance that my parents should have fixed for my usual denomination upon
the name of that particular Apostle with whom I have always felt most
sympathy. Physically and mentally I am the son of my mother so
completely--even down to peculiar movements of the hands, which made
their appearance in me as I reached the age she had when I noticed
them--that I can hardly find any trace of my father in myself, except an
inborn faculty for drawing, which unfortunately, in my case, has never
been cultivated, a hot temper, and that amount of tenacity of purpose
which unfriendly observers sometimes call obstinacy.

My mother was a slender brunette, of an emotional and energetic
temperament, and possessed of the most piercing black eyes I ever saw in
a woman's head. With no more education than other women of the middle
classes in her day, she had an excellent mental capacity. Her most
distinguishing characteristic, however, was rapidity of thought. If one
ventured to suggest she had not taken much time to arrive at any
conclusion, she would say, "I cannot help it, things flash across me."
That peculiarity has been passed on to me in full strength; it has often
stood me in good stead; it has sometimes played me sad tricks, and it
has always been a danger. But, after all, if my time were to come over
again, there is nothing I would less willingly part with than my
inheritance of mother wit.

I have next to nothing to say about my childhood. In later years my
mother, looking at me almost reproachfully, would sometimes say, "Ah!
you were such a pretty boy!" whence I had no difficulty in concluding
that I had not fulfilled my early promise in the matter of looks. In
fact, I have a distinct recollection of certain curls of which I was
vain, and of a conviction that I closely resembled that handsome,
courtly gentleman, Sir Herbert Oakley, who was vicar of our parish, and
who was as a god to us country folk, because he was occasionally visited
by the then Prince George of Cambridge. I remember turning my pinafore
wrong side forwards in order to represent a surplice, and preaching to
my mother's maids in the kitchen as nearly as possible in Sir Herbert's
manner one Sunday morning when the rest of the family were at church.
That is the earliest indication I can call to mind of the strong
clerical affinities which my friend Mr. Herbert Spencer has always
ascribed to me, though I fancy they have for the most part remained in a
latent state.

My regular school training was of the briefest, perhaps fortunately, for
though my way of life has made me acquainted with all sorts and
conditions of men, from the highest to the lowest, I deliberately affirm
that the society I fell into at school was the worst I have ever known.
We boys were average lads, with much the same inherent capacity for good
and evil as any others; but the people who were set over us cared about
as much for our intellectual and moral welfare as if they were
baby-farmers. We were left to the operation of the struggle for
existence among ourselves, and bullying was the least of the ill
practices current among us. Almost the only cheerful reminiscence in
connection with the place which arises in my mind is that of a battle I
had with one of my classmates, who had bullied me until I could stand it
no longer. I was a very slight lad, but there was a wild-cat element in
me which, when roused, made up for lack of weight, and I licked my
adversary effectually. However, one of my first experiences of the
extremely rough-and-ready nature of justice, as exhibited by the course
of things in general, arose out of the fact that I--the victor--had a
black eye, while he--the vanquished--had none, so that I got into
disgrace and he did not. We made it up, and thereafter I was unmolested.
One of the greatest shocks I ever received in my life was to be told a
dozen years afterwards by the groom who brought me my horse in a
stable-yard in Sydney that he was my quondam antagonist. He had a long
story of family misfortune to account for his position, but at that time
it was necessary to deal very cautiously with mysterious strangers in
New South Wales, and on inquiry I found that the unfortunate young man
had not only been "sent out," but had undergone more than one colonial

As I grew older, my great desire was to be a mechanical engineer, but
the fates were against this, and, while very young, I commenced the
study of medicine under a medical brother-in-law. But, though the
Institute of Mechanical Engineers would certainly not own me, I am not
sure that I have not all along been a sort of mechanical engineer _in
partibus infidelium_. I am now occasionally horrified to think how very
little I ever knew or cared about medicine as the art of healing. The
only part of my professional course which really and deeply interested
me was physiology, which is the mechanical engineering of living
machines; and, notwithstanding that natural science has been my proper
business, I am afraid there is very little of the genuine naturalist in
me. I never collected anything, and species work was always a burden to
me; what I cared for was the architectural and engineering part of the
business, the working out the wonderful unity of plan in the thousands
and thousands of diverse living constructions, and the modifications of
similar apparatuses to serve diverse ends. The extraordinary attraction
I felt towards the study of the intricacies of living structure nearly
proved fatal to me at the outset. I was a mere boy--I think between
thirteen and fourteen years of age--when I was taken by some older
student friends of mine to the first _post-mortem_ examination I ever
attended. All my life I have been most unfortunately sensitive to the
disagreeables which attend anatomical pursuits, but on this occasion my
curiosity overpowered all other feelings, and I spent two or three hours
in gratifying it. I did not cut myself, and none of the ordinary
symptoms of dissection-poison supervened, but poisoned I was somehow,
and I remember sinking into a strange state of apathy. By way of a last
chance, I was sent to the care of some good, kind people, friends of my
father's, who lived in a farmhouse in the heart of Warwickshire. I
remember staggering from my bed to the window on the bright spring
morning after my arrival, and throwing open the casement. Life seemed to
come back on the wings of the breeze, and to this day the faint odour of
wood-smoke, like that which floated across the farm-yard in the early
morning, is as good to me as the "sweet south upon a bed of violets." I
soon recovered, but for years I suffered from occasional paroxysms of
internal pain, and from that time my constant friend, hypochondriacal
dyspepsia, commenced his half century of co-tenancy of my fleshly

Looking back on my "Lehrjahre," I am sorry to say that I do not think
that any account of my doings as a student would tend to edification. In
fact, I should distinctly warn ingenuous youth to avoid imitating my
example. I worked extremely hard when it pleased me, and when it did
not--which was a very frequent case--I was extremely idle (unless making
caricatures of one's pastors and masters is to be called a branch of
industry), or else wasted my energies in wrong directions. I read
everything I could lay hands upon, including novels, and took up all
sorts of pursuits to drop them again quite as speedily. No doubt it was
very largely my own fault, but the only instruction from which I ever
obtained the proper effect of education was that which I received from
Mr. Wharton Jones, who was the lecturer on physiology at the Charing
Cross School of Medicine. The extent and precision of his knowledge
impressed me greatly, and the severe exactness of his method of
lecturing was quite to my taste. I do not know that I have ever felt so
much respect for anybody as a teacher before or since. I worked hard to
obtain his approbation, and he was extremely kind and helpful to the
youngster who, I am afraid, took up more of his time than he had any
right to do. It was he who suggested the publication of my first
scientific paper--a very little one--in the _Medical Gazette_ of 1845,
and most kindly corrected the literary faults which abounded in it,
short as it was; for at that time, and for many years afterwards,
I detested the trouble of writing, and would take no pains over it.

It was in the early spring of 1846, that having finished my obligatory
medical studies and passed the first M.B. examination at the London
University--though I was still too young to qualify at the College of
Surgeons--I was talking to a fellow-student (the present eminent
physician, Sir Joseph Fayrer), and wondering what I should do to meet
the imperative necessity for earning my own bread, when my friend
suggested that I should write to Sir William Burnett, at that time
Director-General for the Medical Service of the Navy, for an
appointment. I thought this rather a strong thing to do, as Sir William
was personally unknown to me, but my cheery friend would not listen to
my scruples, so I went to my lodgings and wrote the best letter I could
devise. A few days afterwards I received the usual official circular of
acknowledgment, but at the bottom there was written an instruction to
call at Somerset House on such a day. I thought that looked like
business, so at the appointed time I called and sent in my card, while I
waited in Sir William's ante-room. He was a tall, shrewd-looking old
gentleman, with a broad Scotch accent--and I think I see him now as he
entered with my card in his hand. The first thing he did was to return
it, with the frugal reminder that I should probably find it useful on
some other occasion. The second was to ask whether I was an Irishman. I
suppose the air of modesty about my appeal must have struck him. I
satisfied the Director-General that I was English to the backbone, and
he made some inquiries as to my student career, finally desiring me to
hold myself ready for examination. Having passed this, I was in Her
Majesty's Service, and entered on the books of Nelson's old ship, the
_Victory_, for duty at Haslar Hospital, about a couple of months after I
made my application.

My official chief at Haslar was a very remarkable person, the late Sir
John Richardson, an excellent naturalist, and far-famed as an
indomitable Arctic traveller. He was a silent, reserved man, outside the
circle of his family and intimates; and, having a full share of youthful
vanity, I was extremely disgusted to find that "Old John," as we
irreverent youngsters called him, took not the slightest notice of my
worshipful self either the first time I attended him, as it was my duty
to do, or for some weeks afterwards. I am afraid to think of the lengths
to which my tongue may have run on the subject of the churlishness of
the chief, who was, in truth, one of the kindest-hearted and most
considerate of men. But one day, as I was crossing the hospital square,
Sir John stopped me, and heaped coals of fire on my head by telling me
that he had tried to get me one of the resident appointments, much
coveted by the assistant-surgeons, but that the Admiralty had put in
another man. "However," said he, "I mean to keep you here till I can get
you something you will like," and turned upon his heel without waiting
for the thanks I stammered out. That explained how it was I had not been
packed off to the West Coast of Africa like some of my juniors, and why,
eventually, I remained altogether seven months at Haslar.

After a long interval, during which "Old John" ignored my existence
almost as completely as before, he stopped me again as we met in a
casual way, and describing the service on which the _Rattlesnake_ was
likely to be employed, said that Captain Owen Stanley, who was to
command the ship, had asked him to recommend an assistant surgeon who
knew something of science; would I like that? Of course I jumped at the
offer. "Very well, I give you leave; go to London at once and see
Captain Stanley." I went, saw my future commander, who was very civil to
me, and promised to ask that I should be appointed to his ship, as in
due time I was. It is a singular thing that, during the few months of my
stay at Haslar, I had among my messmates two future Directors-General of
the Medical Service of the Navy (Sir Alexander Armstrong and Sir John
Watt-Reid), with the present President of the College of Physicians and
my kindest of doctors, Sir Andrew Clark.

Life on board Her Majesty's ships in those days was a very different
affair from what it is now, and ours was exceptionally rough, as we were
often many months without receiving letters or seeing any civilised
people but ourselves. In exchange, we had the interest of being about
the last voyagers, I suppose, to whom it could be possible to meet with
people who knew nothing of fire-arms--as we did on the south Coast of
New Guinea--and of making acquaintance with a variety of interesting
savage and semi-civilised people. But, apart from experience of this
kind and the opportunities offered for scientific work, to me,
personally, the cruise was extremely valuable. It was good for me to
live under sharp discipline; to be down on the realities of existence by
living on bare necessaries; to find out how extremely well worth living
life seemed to be when one woke up from a night's rest on a soft plank,
with the sky for canopy and cocoa and weevilly biscuit the sole prospect
for breakfast; and, more especially, to learn to work for the sake of
what I got for myself out of it, even if it all went to the bottom and I
along with it. My brother officers were as good fellows as sailors ought
to be and generally are, but, naturally, they neither knew nor cared
anything about my pursuits, nor understood why I should be so zealous in
pursuit of the objects which my friends, the middies, christened
"Buffons," after the title conspicuous on a volume of the "Suites à
Buffon," which stood on my shelf in the chart room.

During the four years of our absence, I sent home communication after
communication to the "Linnean Society;" with the same result as that
obtained by Noah when he sent the raven out of his ark. Tired at last of
hearing nothing about them, I determined to do or die, and in 1849 I
drew up a more elaborate paper and forwarded it to the Royal Society.
This was my dove, if I had only known it. But owing to the movements of
the ship, I heard nothing of that either until my return to England in
the latter end of the year 1850, when I found that it was printed and
published, and that a huge packet of separate copies awaited me. When I
hear some of my young friends complain of want of sympathy and
encouragement, I am inclined to think that my naval life was not the
least valuable part of my education.

Three years after my return were occupied by a battle between my
scientific friends on the one hand and the Admiralty on the other, as to
whether the latter ought, or ought not, to act up to the spirit of a
pledge they had given to encourage officers who had done scientific work
by contributing to the expense of publishing mine. At last the
Admiralty, getting tired, I suppose, cut short the discussion by
ordering me to join a ship, which thing I declined to do, and as
Rastignac, in the "Père Goriot," says to Paris, I said to London, "_à
nous deux_." I desired to obtain a Professorship of either Physiology or
Comparative Anatomy, and as vacancies occurred I applied, but in vain.
My friend, Professor Tyndall, and I were candidates at the same time, he
for the Chair of Physics and I for that of Natural History in the
University of Toronto, which, fortunately, as it turned out, would not
look at either of us. I say fortunately, not from any lack of respect
for Toronto, but because I soon made up my mind that London was the
place for me, and hence I have steadily declined the inducements to
leave it, which have at various times been offered. At last, in 1854, on
the translation of my warm friend Edward Forbes, to Edinburgh, Sir Henry
De la Beche, the Director-General of the Geological Survey, offered me
the post Forbes vacated of Paleontologist and Lecturer on Natural
History. I refused the former point blank, and accepted the latter only
provisionally, telling Sir Henry that I did not care for fossils, and
that I should give up Natural History as soon as I could get a
physiological post. But I held the office for thirty-one years, and a
large part of my work has been paleontological.

At that time I disliked public speaking, and had a firm conviction that
I should break down every time I opened my mouth. I believe I had every
fault a speaker could have (except talking at random or indulging in
rhetoric), when I spoke to the first important audience I ever
addressed, on a Friday evening: at the Royal Institution, in 1852. Yet,
I must confess to having been guilty, _malgré moi_, of as much public
speaking as most of my contemporaries, and for the last ten years it
ceased to be so much of a bugbear to me. I used to pity myself for
having to go through this training, but I am now more disposed to
compassionate the unfortunate audiences, especially my ever-friendly
hearers at the Royal Institution, who were the subjects of my oratorical

The last thing that it would be proper for me to do would be to speak of
the work of my life, or to say at the end of the day whether I think I
have earned my wages or not. Men are said to be partial judges of
themselves. Young men may be; I doubt if old men are. Life seems
terribly foreshortened as they look back, and the mountain they set
themselves to climb in youth turns out to be a mere spur of immeasurably
higher ranges when, with failing breath, they reach the top. But if I
may speak of the objects I have had more or less definitely in view
since I began the ascent of my hillock, they are briefly these: To
promote the increase of natural knowledge and to forward the application
of scientific methods of investigation to all the problems of life to
the best of my ability, in the conviction which has grown with my growth
and strengthened with my strength, that there is no alleviation for the
sufferings of mankind except veracity of thought and of action, and the
resolute facing of the world as it is when the garment of make-believe
by which pious hands have hidden its uglier features is stripped off.

It is with this intent that I have subordinated any reasonable, or
unreasonable, ambition for scientific fame which I may have permitted
myself to entertain to other ends; to the popularisation of science; to
the development and organisation of scientific education; to the
endless series of battles and skirmishes over evolution; and to untiring
opposition to that ecclesiastical spirit, that clericalism, which in
England, as everywhere else, and to whatever denomination it may belong,
is the deadly enemy of science.

In striving for the attainment of these objects, I have been but one
among many, and I shall be well content to be remembered, or even not
remembered, as such. Circumstances, among which I am proud to reckon the
devoted kindness of many friends, have led to my occupation of various
prominent positions, among which the Presidency of the Royal Society is
the highest. It would be mock modesty on my part, with these and other
scientific honours which have been bestowed upon me, to pretend that I
have not succeeded in the career which I have followed, rather because I
was driven into it than of my own free will; but I am afraid I should
not count even these things as marks of success if I could not hope that
I had somewhat helped that movement of opinion which has been called the
New Reformation.



[NEW YORK; 1876]



We live in and form part of a system of things of immense diversity and
perplexity, which we call Nature; and it is a matter of the deepest
interest to all of us that we should form just conceptions of the
constitution of that system and of its past history. With relation to
this universe, man is, in extent, little more than a mathematical point;
in duration but a fleeting shadow; he is a mere reed shaken in the winds
of force. But as Pascal long ago remarked, although a mere reed, he is a
thinking reed; and in virtue of that wonderful capacity of thought, he
has the power of framing for himself a symbolic conception of the
universe, which, although doubtless highly imperfect and inadequate as a
picture of the great whole, is yet sufficient to serve him as a chart
for the guidance of his practical affairs. It has taken long ages of
toilsome and often fruitless labour to enable man to look steadily at
the shifting scenes of the phantasmagoria of Nature, to notice what is
fixed among her fluctuations, and what is regular among her apparent
irregularities; and it is only comparatively lately, within the last few
centuries, that the conception of a universal order and of a definite
course of things, which we term the course of Nature, has emerged.

But, once originated, the conception of the constancy of the order of
Nature has become the dominant idea of modern thought. To any person who
is familiar with the facts upon which that conception is based, and is
competent to estimate their significance, it has ceased to be
conceivable that chance should have any place in the universe, or that
events should depend upon any but the natural sequence of cause and
effect. We have come to look upon the present as the child of the past
and as the parent of the future; and, as we have excluded chance from a
place in the universe, so we ignore, even as a possibility, the notion
of any interference with the order of Nature. Whatever may be men's
speculative doctrines, it is quite certain that every intelligent person
guides his life and risks his fortune upon the belief that the order of
Nature is constant, and that the chain of natural causation is never

In fact, no belief which we entertain has so complete a logical basis as
that to which I have just referred. It tacitly underlies every process
of reasoning; it is the foundation of every act of the will. It is based
upon the broadest induction, and it is verified by the most constant,
regular, and universal of deductive processes. But we must recollect
that any human belief, however broad its basis, however defensible it
may seem, is, after all, only a probable belief, and that our widest and
safest generalisations are simply statements of the highest degree of
probability. Though we are quite clear about the constancy of the order
of Nature, at the present time, and in the present state of things, it
by no means necessarily follows that we are justified in expanding this
generalisation into the infinite past, and in denying, absolutely, that
there may have been a time when Nature did not follow a fixed order,
when the relations of cause and effect were not definite, and when
extra-natural agencies interfered with the general course of Nature.
Cautious men will allow that a universe so different from that which we
know may have existed; just as a very candid thinker may admit that a
world in which two and two do not make four, and in which two straight
lines do inclose a space, may exist. But the same caution which forces
the admission of such possibilities demands a great deal of evidence
before it recognises them to be anything more substantial. And when it
is asserted that, so many thousand years ago, events occurred in a
manner utterly foreign to and inconsistent with the existing laws of
Nature, men who without being particularly cautious are simply honest
thinkers, unwilling to deceive themselves or delude others, ask for
trustworthy evidence of the fact.

Did things so happen or did they not? This is a historical question, and
one the answer to which must be sought in the same way as the solution
of any other historical problem.

       *       *       *       *       *

So far as I know, there are only three hypotheses which ever have been
entertained, or which well can be entertained, respecting the past
history of Nature. I will, in the first place, state the hypotheses, and
then I will consider what evidence bearing upon them is in our
possession, and by what light of criticism that evidence is to be

Upon the first hypothesis, the assumption is, that phenomena of Nature
similar to those exhibited by the present world have always existed; in
other words, that the universe has existed, from all eternity, in what
may be broadly termed its present condition.

The second hypothesis is that the present state of things has had only a
limited duration; and that, at some period in the past, a condition of
the world, essentially similar to that which we now know, came into
existence, without any precedent condition from which it could have
naturally proceeded. The assumption that successive states of Nature
have arisen, each without any relation of natural causation to an
antecedent state, is a mere modification of this second hypothesis.

The third hypothesis also assumes that the present state of things has
had but a limited duration; but it supposes that this state has been
evolved by a natural process from an antecedent state, and that from
another, and so on; and, on this hypothesis, the attempt to assign any
limit to the series of past changes is, usually, given up.

It is so needful to form clear and distinct notions of what is really
meant by each of these hypotheses that I will ask you to imagine what,
according to each, would have been visible to a spectator of the events
which constitute the history of the earth. On the first hypothesis,
however far back in time that spectator might be placed, he would see a
world essentially, though perhaps not in all its details, similar to
that which now exists. The animals which existed would be the ancestors
of those which now live, and similar to them; the plants, in like
manner, would be such as we know; and the mountains, plains, and waters
would foreshadow the salient features of our present land and water.
This view was held more or less distinctly, sometimes combined with the
notion of recurrent cycles of change, in ancient times; and its
influence has been felt down to the present day. It is worthy of remark
that it is a hypothesis which is not inconsistent with the doctrine of
Uniformitarianism, with which geologists are familiar. That doctrine was
held by Hutton, and in his earlier days by Lyell. Hutton was struck by
the demonstration of astronomers that the perturbations of the planetary
bodies, however great they may be, yet sooner or later right themselves;
and that the solar system possesses a self-adjusting power by which
these aberrations are all brought back to a mean condition. Hutton
imagined that the like might be true of terrestrial changes; although no
one recognised more clearly than he the fact that the dry land is being
constantly washed down by rain and rivers and deposited in the sea; and
that thus, in a longer or shorter time, the inequalities of the earth's
surface must be levelled, and its high lands brought down to the ocean.
But, taking into account the internal forces of the earth, which,
upheaving the sea bottom, give rise to new land, he thought that these
operations of degradation and elevation might compensate each other; and
that thus, for any assignable time, the general features of our planet
might remain what they are. And inasmuch as, under these circumstances,
there need be no limit to the propagation of animals and plants, it is
clear that the consistent working-out of the uniformitarian idea might
lead to the conception of the eternity of the world. Not that I mean to
say that either Hutton or Lyell held this conception--assuredly not;
they would have been the first to repudiate it. Nevertheless, the
logical development of some of their arguments tends directly towards
this hypothesis.

The second hypothesis supposes that the present order of things, at some
no very remote time, had a sudden origin, and that the world, such as it
now is, had chaos for its phenomenal antecedent. That is the doctrine
which you will find stated most fully and clearly in the immortal poem
of John Milton--the English _Divina Commedia_--"Paradise Lost." I
believe it is largely to the influence of that remarkable work, combined
with the daily teachings to which we have all listened in our childhood,
that this hypothesis owes its general wide diffusion as one of the
current beliefs of English-speaking people. If you turn to the seventh
book of "Paradise Lost," you will find there stated the hypothesis to
which I refer, which is briefly this: That this visible universe of ours
came into existence at no great distance of time from the present; and
that the parts of which it is composed made their appearance, in a
certain definite order, in the space of six natural days, in such a
manner that, on the first of these days, light appeared; that, on the
second, the firmament, or sky, separated the waters above, from the
waters beneath, the firmament; that, on the third day, the waters drew
away from the dry land, and upon it a varied vegetable life, similar to
that which now exists, made its appearance; that the fourth day was
signalised by the apparition of the sun, the stars, the moon, and the
planets; that, on the fifth day, aquatic animals originated within the
waters; that, on the sixth day, the earth gave rise to our four-footed
terrestrial creatures, and to all varieties of terrestrial animals
except birds, which had appeared on the preceding day; and, finally,
that man appeared upon the earth, and the emergence of the universe from
chaos was finished. Milton tells us, without the least ambiguity, what a
spectator of these marvellous occurrences would have witnessed. I doubt
not that his poem is familiar to all of you, but I should like to recall
one passage to your minds, in order that I may be justified in what I
have said regarding the perfectly concrete, definite, picture of the
origin of the animal world which Milton draws. He says:--

    "The sixth, and of creation last, arose
    With evening harps and matin, when God said,
    'Let the earth bring forth soul living in her kind,
    Cattle and creeping things, and beast of the earth,
    Each in their kind!' The earth obeyed, and, straight
    Opening her fertile womb, teemed at a birth
    Innumerous living creatures, perfect forms,
    Limbed and full-grown. Out of the ground uprose,
    As from his lair, the wild beast, where he wons
    In forest wild, in thicket, brake, or den;
    Among the trees in pairs they rose, they walked;
    The cattle in the fields and meadows green;
    Those rare and solitary; these in flocks
    Pasturing at once, and in broad herds upsprung.
    The grassy clods now calved; now half appears
    The tawny lion, pawing to get free
    His hinder parts--then springs, as broke from bonds,
    And rampant shakes his brinded mane; the ounce,
    The libbard, and the tiger, as the mole
    Rising, the crumbled earth above them threw
    In hillocks; the swift stag from underground
    Bore up his branching head; scarce from his mould
    Behemoth, biggest born of earth, upheaved
    His vastness; fleeced the flocks and bleating rose
    As plants; ambiguous between sea and land,
    The river-horse and scaly crocodile.
    At once came forth whatever creeps the ground,
    Insect or worm.

There is no doubt as to the meaning of this statement, nor as to what a
man of Milton's genius expected would have been actually visible to an
eye-witness of this mode of origination of living things.

The third hypothesis, or the hypothesis of evolution, supposes that, at
any comparatively late period of past time, our imaginary spectator
would meet with a state of things very similar to that which now
obtains; but that the likeness of the past to the present would
gradually become less and less, in proportion to the remoteness of his
period of observation from the present day; that the existing
distribution of mountains and plains, of rivers and seas, would show
itself to be the product of a slow process of natural change operating
upon more and more widely different antecedent conditions of the mineral
framework of the earth; until, at length, in place of that framework, he
would behold only a vast nebulous mass, representing the constituents of
the sun and of the planetary bodies. Preceding the forms of life which
now exist, our observer would see animals and plants, not identical with
them, but like them, increasing their differences with their antiquity
and, at the same time, becoming simpler and simpler; until, finally, the
world of life would present nothing but that undifferentiated
protoplasmic matter which, so far as our present knowledge goes, is the
common foundation of all vital activity.

The hypothesis of evolution supposes that in all this vast progression
there would be no breach of continuity, no point at which we could say
"This is a natural process," and "This is not a natural process;" but
that the whole might be compared to that wonderful operation of
development which may be seen going on every day under our eyes, in
virtue of which there arises, out of the semi-fluid comparatively
homogeneous substance which we call an egg, the complicated organisation
of one of the higher animals. That, in a few words, is what is meant by
the hypothesis of evolution.

I have already suggested that, in dealing with these three hypotheses,
in endeavouring to form a judgment as to which of them is the more
worthy of belief, or whether none is worthy of belief--in which case our
condition of mind should be that suspension of judgment which is so
difficult to all but trained intellects--we should be indifferent to all
_a priori_ considerations. The question is a question of historical
fact. The universe has come into existence somehow or other, and the
problem is, whether it came into existence in one fashion, or whether it
came into existence in another; and, as an essential preliminary to
further discussion, permit me to say two or three words as to the nature
and the kinds of historical evidence.

The evidence as to the occurrence of any event in past time may be
ranged under two heads which, for convenience' sake, I will speak of as
testimonial evidence and as circumstantial evidence. By testimonial
evidence I mean human testimony; and by circumstantial evidence I mean
evidence which is not human testimony. Let me illustrate by a familiar
example what I understand by these two kinds of evidence, and what is to
be said respecting their value.

Suppose that a man tells you that he saw a person strike another and
kill him; that is testimonial evidence of the fact of murder. But it is
possible to have circumstantial evidence of the fact of murder; that is
to say, you may find a man dying with a wound upon his head having
exactly the form and character of the wound which is made by an axe,
and, with due care in taking surrounding circumstances into account, you
may conclude with the utmost certainty that the man has been murdered;
that his death is the consequence of a blow inflicted by another man
with that implement. We are very much in the habit of considering
circumstantial evidence as of less value than testimonial evidence, and
it may be that, where the circumstances are not perfectly clear and
intelligible, it is a dangerous and unsafe kind of evidence; but it must
not be forgotten that, in many cases, circumstantial is quite as
conclusive as testimonial evidence, and that, not unfrequently, it is a
great deal weightier than testimonial evidence. For example, take the
case to which I referred just now. The circumstantial evidence may be
better and more convincing than the testimonial evidence; for it may be
impossible, under the conditions that I have defined, to suppose that
the man met his death from any cause but the violent blow of an axe
wielded by another man. The circumstantial evidence in favour of a
murder having been committed, in that case, is as complete and as
convincing as evidence can be. It is evidence which is open to no doubt
and to no falsification. But the testimony of a witness is open to
multitudinous doubts. He may have been mistaken. He may have been
actuated by malice. It has constantly happened that even an accurate man
has declared that a thing has happened in this, that, or the other way,
when a careful analysis of the circumstantial evidence has shown that it
did not happen in that way, but in some other way.

We may now consider the evidence in favour of or against the three
hypotheses. Let me first direct your attention to what is to be said
about the hypothesis of the eternity of the state of things in which we
now live. What will first strike you is, that it is a hypothesis which,
whether true or false, is not capable of verification by any evidence.
For, in order to observe either circumstantial or testimonial evidence
sufficient to prove the eternity of duration of the present state of
nature, you must have an eternity of witnesses or an infinity of
circumstances, and neither of these is attainable. It is utterly
impossible that such evidence should be carried beyond a certain point
of time; and all that could be said, at most, would be, that so far as
the evidence could be traced, there was nothing to contradict the
hypothesis. But when you look, not to the testimonial evidence--which,
considering the relative insignificance of the antiquity of human
records, might not be good for much in this case--but to the
circumstantial evidence, then you find that this hypothesis is
absolutely incompatible with such evidence as we have; which is of so
plain and simple a character that it is impossible in any way to escape
from the conclusions which it forces upon us.


You are, doubtless, all aware that the outer substance of the earth,
which alone is accessible to direct observation, is not of a homogeneous
character, but that it is made up of a number of layers or strata, the
titles of the principal groups of which are placed upon the accompanying
diagram. Each of these groups represents a number of beds of sand, of
stone, of clay, of slate, and of various other materials.

On careful examination, it is found that the materials of which each of
these layers of more or less hard rock are composed are, for the most
part, of the same nature as those which are at present being formed
under known conditions on the surface of the earth. For example, the
chalk, which constitutes a great part of the Cretaceous formation in
some parts of the world, is practically identical in its physical and
chemical characters with a substance which is now being formed at the
bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and covers an enormous area; other beds of
rock are comparable with the sands which are being formed upon
sea-shores, packed together, and so on. Thus, omitting rocks of igneous
origin, it is demonstrable that all these beds of stone, of which a
total of not less than seventy thousand feet is known, have been formed
by natural agencies, either out of the waste and washing of the dry
land, or else by the accumulation of the exuviæ of plants and animals.
Many of these strata are full of such exuviæ--the so-called "fossils."
Remains of thousands of species of animals and plants, as perfectly
recognisable as those of existing forms of life which you meet with in
museums, or as the shells which you pick up upon the sea-beach, have
been imbedded in the ancient sands, or muds, or limestones, just as they
are being imbedded now, in sandy, or clayey, or calcareous subaqueous
deposits. They furnish us with a record, the general nature of which
cannot be misinterpreted, of the kinds of things that have lived upon
the surface of the earth during the time that is registered by this
great thickness of stratified rocks. But even a superficial study of
these fossils shows us that the animals and plants which live at the
present time have had only a temporary duration; for the remains of such
modern forms of life are met with, for the most part, only in the
uppermost or latest tertiaries, and their number rapidly diminishes in
the lower deposits of that epoch. In the older tertiaries, the places of
existing animals and plants are taken by other forms, as numerous and
diversified as those which live now in the same localities, but more or
less different from them; in the mesozoic rocks, these are replaced by
others yet more divergent from modern types; and, in the palæozoic
formations the contrast is still more marked. Thus the circumstantial
evidence absolutely negatives the conception of the eternity of the
present condition of things. We can say, with certainty, that the
present condition of things has existed for a comparatively short
period; and that, so far as animal and vegetable nature are concerned,
it has been preceded by a different condition. We can pursue this
evidence until we reach the lowest of the stratified rocks, in which we
lose the indications of life altogether. The hypothesis of the eternity
of the present state of nature may therefore be put out of court.

We now come to what I will term Milton's hypothesis--the hypothesis that
the present condition of things has endured for a comparatively short
time; and, at the commencement of that time, came into existence within
the course of six days. I doubt not that it may have excited some
surprise in your minds that I should have spoken of this as Milton's
hypothesis, rather than that I should have chosen the terms which are
more customary, such as "the doctrine of creation," or "the Biblical
doctrine," or "the doctrine of Moses," all of which denominations, as
applied to the hypothesis to which I have just referred, are certainly
much more familiar to you than the title of the Miltonic hypothesis. But
I have had what I cannot but think are very weighty reasons for taking
the course which I have pursued. In the first place, I have discarded
the title of the "doctrine of creation," because my present business is
not with the question why the objects which constitute Nature came into
existence, but when they came into existence, and in what order. This is
as strictly a historical question as the question when the Angles and
the Jutes invaded England, and whether they preceded or followed the
Romans. But the question about creation is a philosophical problem, and
one which cannot be solved, or even approached, by the historical
method. What we want to learn is, whether the facts, so far as they are
known, afford evidence that things arose in the way described by Milton,
or whether they do not; and, when that question is settled, it will be
time enough to inquire into the causes of their origination.

In the second place, I have not spoken of this doctrine as the Biblical
doctrine. It is quite true that persons as diverse in their general
views as Milton the Protestant and the celebrated Jesuit Father Suarez,
each put upon the first chapter of Genesis the interpretation embodied
in Milton's poem. It is quite true that this interpretation is that
which has been instilled into every one of us in our childhood; but I do
not for one moment venture to say that it can properly be called the
Biblical doctrine. It is not my business, and does not lie within my
competency, to say what the Hebrew text does, and what it does not
signify; moreover, were I to affirm that this is the Biblical doctrine,
I should be met by the authority of many eminent scholars, to say
nothing of men of science, who, at various times, have absolutely denied
that any such doctrine is to be found in Genesis. If we are to listen to
many expositors of no mean authority, we must believe that what seems so
clearly defined in Genesis--as if very great pains had been taken that
there should be no possibility of mistake--is not the meaning of the
text at all. The account is divided into periods that we may make just
as long or as short as convenience requires. We are also to understand
that it is consistent with the original text to believe that the most
complex plants and animals may have been evolved by natural processes,
lasting for millions of years, out of structureless rudiments. A person
who is not a Hebrew scholar can only stand aside and admire the
marvellous flexibility of a language which admits of such diverse
interpretations. But assuredly, in the face of such contradictions of
authority upon matters respecting which he is incompetent to form any
judgment, he will abstain, as I do, from giving any opinion.

In the third place, I have carefully abstained from speaking of this as
the Mosaic doctrine, because we are now assured upon the authority of
the highest critics, and even of dignitaries of the Church, that there
is no evidence that Moses wrote the Book of Genesis, or knew anything
about it. You will understand that I give no judgment--it would be an
impertinence upon my part to volunteer even a suggestion--upon such a
subject. But, that being the state of opinion among the scholars and the
clergy, it is well for the unlearned in Hebrew lore, and for the laity,
to avoid entangling themselves in such a vexed question. Happily, Milton
leaves us no excuse for doubting what he means, and I shall therefore be
safe in speaking of the opinion in question as the Miltonic hypothesis.

Now we have to test that hypothesis. For my part, I have no prejudice
one way or the other. If there is evidence in favour of this view, I am
burdened by no theoretical difficulties in the way of accepting it; but
there must be evidence. Scientific men get an awkward habit--no, I won't
call it that, for it is a valuable habit--of believing nothing unless
there is evidence for it; and they have a way of looking upon belief
which is not based upon evidence, not only as illogical, but as immoral.
We will, if you please, test this view by the circumstantial evidence
alone; for, from what I have said, you will understand that I do not
propose to discuss the question of what testimonial evidence is to be
adduced in favour of it. If those whose business it is to judge are not
at one as to the authenticity of the only evidence of that kind which is
offered, nor as to the facts to which it bears witness, the discussion
of such evidence is superfluous.

But I may be permitted to regret this necessity of rejecting the
testimonial evidence the less, because the examination of the
circumstantial evidence leads to the conclusion, not only that it is
incompetent to justify the hypothesis, but that, so far as it goes, it
is contrary to the hypothesis.

The considerations upon which I base this conclusion are of the simplest
possible character. The Miltonic hypothesis contains assertions of a
very definite character relating to the succession of living forms. It
is stated that plants, for example, made their appearance upon the third
day, and not before. And you will understand that what the poet means
by plants are such plants as now live, the ancestors, in the ordinary
way of propagation of like by like, of the trees and shrubs which
flourish in the present world. It must needs be so; for, if they were
different, either the existing plants have been the result of a separate
origination since that described by Milton, of which we have no record,
nor any ground for supposition that such an occurrence has taken place;
or else they have arisen by a process of evolution from the original

In the second place, it is clear that there was no animal life before
the fifth day, and that, on the fifth day, aquatic animals and birds
appeared. And it is further clear that terrestrial living things, other
than birds, made their appearance upon the sixth day and not before.
Hence, it follows that, if, in the large mass of circumstantial evidence
as to what really has happened in the past history of the globe we find
indications of the existence of terrestrial animals, other than birds,
at a certain period, it is perfectly certain that all that has taken
place, since that time, must be referred to the sixth day.

In the great Carboniferous formation, whence America derives so vast a
proportion of her actual and potential wealth, in the beds of coal which
have been formed from the vegetation of that period, we find abundant
evidence of the existence of terrestrial animals. They have been
described, not only by European but by your own naturalists. There are
to be found numerous insects allied to our cockroaches. There are to be
found spiders and scorpions of large size, the latter so similar to
existing scorpions that it requires the practised eye of the naturalist
to distinguish them. Inasmuch as these animals can be proved to have
been alive in the Carboniferous epoch, it is perfectly clear that, if
the Miltonic account is to be accepted, the huge mass of rocks extending
from the middle of the Palæozoic formations to the uppermost members of
the series, must belong to the day which is termed by Milton the sixth.
But, further, it is expressly stated that aquatic animals took their
origin on the fifth day, and not before; hence, all formations in which
remains of aquatic animals can be proved to exist, and which therefore
testify that such animals lived at the time when these formations were
in course of deposition, must have been deposited during or since the
period which Milton speaks of as the fifth day. But there is absolutely
no fossiliferous formation in which the remains of aquatic animals are
absent. The oldest fossils in the Silurian rocks are exuviæ of marine
animals; and if the view which is entertained by Principal Dawson and
Dr. Carpenter respecting the nature of the _Eozoön_ be well-founded,
aquatic animals existed at a period as far antecedent to the deposition
of the coal as the coal is from us; inasmuch as the _Eozoön_ is met with
in those Laurentian strata which lie at the bottom of the series of
stratified rocks. Hence it follows, plainly enough, that the whole
series of stratified rocks, if they are to be brought into harmony with
Milton, must be referred to the fifth and sixth days, and that we cannot
hope to find the slightest trace of the products of the earlier days in
the geological record. When we consider these simple facts, we see how
absolutely futile are the attempts that have been made to draw a
parallel between the story told by so much of the crust of the earth as
is known to us and the story which Milton tells. The whole series of
fossiliferous stratified rocks must be referred to the last two days;
and neither the Carboniferous, nor any other, formation can afford
evidence of the work of the third day.

Not only is there this objection to any attempt to establish a harmony
between the Miltonic account and the facts recorded in the fossiliferous
rocks, but there is a further difficulty. According to the Miltonic
account, the order in which animals should have made their appearance in
the stratified rocks would be this: Fishes, including the great whales,
and birds; after them, all varieties of terrestrial animals except
birds. Nothing could be further from the facts as we find them; we know
of not the slightest evidence of the existence of birds before the
Jurassic, or perhaps the Triassic, formation; while terrestrial animals,
as we have just seen, occur in the Carboniferous rocks.

If there were any harmony between the Miltonic account and the
circumstantial evidence, we ought to have abundant evidence of the
existence of birds in the Carboniferous, the Devonian, and the Silurian
rocks. I need hardly say that this is not the case, and that not a trace
of birds makes its appearance until the far later period which I have

And again, if it be true that all varieties of fishes and the great
whales, and the like, made their appearance on the fifth day, we ought
to find the remains of these animals in the older rocks--in those which
were deposited before the Carboniferous epoch. Fishes we do find, in
considerable number and variety; but the great whales are absent, and
the fishes are not such as now live. Not one solitary species of fish
now in existence is to be found in the Devonian or Silurian formations.
Hence we are introduced afresh to the dilemma which I have already
placed before you: either the animals which came into existence on the
fifth day were not such as those which are found at present, are not the
direct and immediate ancestors of those which now exist; in which case,
either fresh creations of which nothing is said, or a process of
evolution, must have occurred; or else the whole story must be given up,
as not only devoid of any circumstantial evidence, but contrary to such
evidence as exists.

I placed before you in a few words, some little time ago, a statement of
the sum and substance of Milton's hypothesis. Let me now try to state,
as briefly, the effect of the circumstantial evidence bearing upon the
past history of the earth which is furnished, without the possibility of
mistake, with no chance of error as to its chief features, by the
stratified rocks. What we find is, that the great series of formations
represents a period of time of which our human chronologies hardly
afford us a unit of measure. I will not pretend to say how we ought to
estimate this time, in millions or in billions of years. For my purpose,
the determination of its absolute duration is wholly unessential. But
that the time was enormous there can be no question.

It results from the simplest methods of interpretation, that leaving out
of view certain patches of metamorphosed rocks, and certain volcanic
products, all that is now dry land has once been at the bottom of the
waters. It is perfectly certain that, at a comparatively recent period
of the world's history--the Cretaceous epoch--none of the great physical
features which at present mark the surface of the globe existed. It is
certain that the Rocky Mountains were not. It is certain that the
Himalaya Mountains were not. It is certain that the Alps and the
Pyrenees had no existence. The evidence is of the plainest possible
character, and is simply this:--We find raised up on the flanks of these
mountains, elevated by the forces of upheaval which have given rise to
them, masses of Cretaceous rock which formed the bottom of the sea
before those mountains existed. It is therefore clear that the elevatory
forces which gave rise to the mountains operated subsequently to the
Cretaceous epoch; and that the mountains themselves are largely made up
of the materials deposited in the sea which once occupied their place.
As we go back in time, we meet with constant alternations of sea and
land, of estuary and open ocean; and, in correspondence with these
alternations, we observe the changes in the fauna and flora to which I
have referred.

But the inspection of these changes give us no right to believe that
there has been any discontinuity in natural processes. There is no
trace of general cataclysms, of universal deluges, or sudden
destructions of a whole fauna or flora. The appearances which were
formerly interpreted in that way have all been shown to be delusive, as
our knowledge has increased and as the blanks which formerly appeared to
exist between the different formations have been filled up. That there
is no absolute break between formation and formation, that there has
been no sudden disappearance of all the forms of life and replacement of
them by others, but that changes have gone on slowly and gradually, that
one type has died out and another has taken its place, and that thus, by
insensible degrees, one fauna has been replaced by another, are
conclusions strengthened by constantly increasing evidence. So that
within the whole of the immense period indicated by the fossiliferous
stratified rocks, there is assuredly not the slightest proof of any
break in the uniformity of Nature's operations, no indication that
events have followed other than a clear and orderly sequence.

That, I say, is the natural and obvious teaching of the circumstantial
evidence contained in the stratified rocks. I leave you to consider how
far, by any ingenuity of interpretation, by any stretching of the
meaning of language, it can be brought into harmony with the Miltonic

There remains the third hypothesis, that of which I have spoken as the
hypothesis of evolution; and I purpose that, in lectures to come, we
should discuss it as carefully as we have considered the other two
hypotheses. I need not say that it is quite hopeless to look for
testimonial evidence of evolution. The very nature of the case precludes
the possibility of such evidence, for the human race can no more be
expected to testify to its own origin, than a child can be tendered as a
witness of its own birth. Our sole inquiry is, what foundation
circumstantial evidence lends to the hypothesis, or whether it lends
none, or whether it controverts the hypothesis. I shall deal with the
matter entirely as a question of history. I shall not indulge in the
discussion of any speculative probabilities. I shall not attempt to show
that Nature is unintelligible unless we adopt some such hypothesis. For
anything I know about the matter, it may be the way of Nature to be
unintelligible; she is often puzzling, and I have no reason to suppose
that she is bound to fit herself to our notions.

I shall place before you three kinds of evidence entirely based upon
what is known of the forms of animal life which are contained in the
series of stratified rocks. I shall endeavour to show you that there is
one kind of evidence which is neutral, which neither helps evolution nor
is inconsistent with it. I shall then bring forward a second kind of
evidence which indicates a strong probability in favour of evolution,
but does not prove it; and, lastly, I shall adduce a third kind of
evidence which, being as complete as any evidence which we can hope to
obtain upon such a subject, and being wholly and strikingly in favour of
evolution, may fairly be called demonstrative evidence of its



In the preceding lecture I pointed out that there are three hypotheses
which may be entertained, and which have been entertained, respecting
the past history of life upon the globe. According to the first of these
hypotheses, living beings, such as now exist, have existed from all
eternity upon this earth. We tested that hypothesis by the
circumstantial evidence, as I called it, which is furnished by the
fossil remains contained in the earth's crust, and we found that it was
obviously untenable. I then proceeded to consider the second
hypothesis, which I termed the Miltonic hypothesis, not because it is of
any particular consequence whether John Milton seriously entertained it
or not, but because it is stated in a clear and unmistakable manner in
his great poem. I pointed out to you that the evidence at our command as
completely and fully negatives that hypothesis as it did the preceding
one. And I confess that I had too much respect for your intelligence to
think it necessary to add that the negation was equally clear and
equally valid, whatever the source from which that hypothesis might be
derived, or whatever the authority by which it might be supported. I
further stated that, according to the third hypothesis, or that of
evolution, the existing state of things is the last term of a long
series of states, which, when traced back, would be found to show no
interruption and no breach in the continuity of natural causation. I
propose, in the present and the following lecture, to test this
hypothesis rigorously by the evidence at command, and to inquire how far
that evidence can be said to be indifferent to it, how far it can be
said to be favourable to it, and, finally, how far it can be said to be

From almost the origin of the discussions about the existing condition
of the animal and vegetable worlds and the causes which have determined
that condition, an argument has been put forward as an objection to
evolution, which we shall have to consider very seriously. It is an
argument which was first clearly stated by Cuvier in his criticism of
the doctrines propounded by his great contemporary, Lamarck. The French
expedition to Egypt had called the attention of learned men to the
wonderful store of antiquities in that country, and there had been
brought back to France numerous mummified corpses of the animals which
the ancient Egyptians revered and preserved, and which, at a reasonable
computation, must have lived not less than three or four thousand years
before the time at which they were thus brought to light. Cuvier
endeavoured to test the hypothesis that animals have undergone gradual
and progressive modifications of structure, by comparing the skeletons
and such other parts of the mummies as were in a fitting state of
preservation, with the corresponding parts of the representatives of the
same species now living in Egypt. He arrived at the conviction that no
appreciable change had taken place in these animals in the course of
this considerable lapse of time, and the justice of his conclusion is
not disputed.

It is obvious that, if it can be proved that animals have endured,
without undergoing any demonstrable change of structure, for so long a
period as four thousand years, no form of the hypothesis of evolution
which assumes that animals undergo a constant and necessary progressive
change can be tenable; unless, indeed, it be further assumed that four
thousand years is too short a time for the production of a change
sufficiently great to be detected.

But it is no less plain that if the process of evolution of animals is
not independent of surrounding conditions; if it may be indefinitely
hastened or retarded by variations in these conditions; or if evolution
is simply a process of accommodation to varying conditions; the argument
against the hypothesis of evolution based on the unchanged character of
the Egyptian fauna is worthless. For the monuments which are coeval with
the mummies testify as strongly to the absence of change in the physical
geography and the general conditions of the land of Egypt, for the time
in question, as the mummies do to the unvarying characters of its living

The progress of research since Cuvier's time has supplied far more
striking examples of the long duration of specific forms of life than
those which are furnished by the mummified Ibises and Crocodiles of
Egypt. A remarkable case is to be found in your own country, in the
neighbourhood of the falls of Niagara. In the immediate vicinity of the
whirlpool, and again upon Goat Island, in the superficial deposits
which cover the surface of the rocky subsoil in those regions, there are
found remains of animals in perfect preservation, and among them, shells
belonging to exactly the same species as those which at present inhabit
the still waters of Lake Erie. It is evident, from the structure of the
country, that these animal remains were deposited in the beds in which
they occur at a time when the lake extended over the region in which
they are found. This involves the conclusion that they lived and died
before the falls had cut their way back through the gorge of Niagara;
and, indeed, it has been determined that, when these animals lived, the
falls of Niagara must have been at least six miles further down the
river than they are at present. Many computations have been made of the
rate at which the falls are thus cutting their way back. Those
computations have varied greatly, but I believe I am speaking within the
bounds of prudence, if I assume that the falls of Niagara have not
retreated at a greater pace than about a foot a year. Six miles,
speaking roughly, are 30,000 feet; 30,000 feet, at a foot a year, gives
30,000 years; and thus we are fairly justified in concluding that no
less a period than this has passed since the shell-fish, whose remains
are left in the beds to which I have referred, were living creatures.

But there is still stronger evidence of the long duration of certain
types. I have already stated that, as we work our way through the great
series of the Tertiary formations, we find many species of animals
identical with those which live at the present day, diminishing in
numbers, it is true, but still existing, in a certain proportion, in the
oldest of the Tertiary rocks. Furthermore, when we examine the rocks of
the Cretaceous epoch, we find the remains of some animals which the
closest scrutiny cannot show to be, in any important respect, different
from those which live at the present time. That is the case with one of
the cretaceous lamp-shells (_Terebratula_) which has continued to exist
unchanged, or with insignificant variations, down to the present day.
Such is the case with the _Globigerinæ_, the skeletons of which,
aggregated together, form a large proportion of our English chalk. Those
_Globigerinæ_ can be traced down to the _Globigerinæ_ which live at the
surface of the present great oceans, and the remains of which, falling
to the bottom of the sea give rise to a chalky mud. Hence it must be
admitted that certain existing species of animals show no distinct sign
of modification, or transformation, in the course of a lapse of time as
great as that which carries us back to the Cretaceous period; and which,
whatever its absolute measure, is certainly vastly greater than thirty
thousand years.

There are groups of species so closely allied together, that it needs
the eye of a naturalist to distinguish them one from another. If we
disregard the small differences which separate these forms, and consider
all the species of such groups as modifications of one type, we shall
find that, even among the higher animals, some types have had a
marvellous duration. In the chalk, for example, there is found a fish
belonging to the highest and the most differentiated group of osseous
fishes, which goes by the name of _Beryx_. The remains of that fish are
among the most beautiful and well-preserved of the fossils found in our
English chalk. It can be studied anatomically, so far as the hard parts
are concerned, almost as well as if it were a recent fish. But the genus
_Beryx_ is represented, at the present day, by very closely allied
species which are living in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. We may go
still farther back. I have already referred to the fact, that the
Carboniferous formations, in Europe and in America, contain the remains
of scorpions in an admirable state of preservation and, that those
scorpions are hardly distinguishable from such as now live. I do not
mean to say that they are not different, but close scrutiny is needed in
order to distinguish them from modern scorpions.

More than this. At the very bottom Of the Silurian series, in beds which
are by some authorities referred to the Cambrian formation, where the
signs of life begin to fail us--even there, among the few and scanty
animal remains which are discoverable, we find species of molluscous
animals which are so closely allied to existing forms that, at one time,
they were grouped under the same generic name. I refer to the well known
_Lingula_ of the _Lingula_ flags, lately, in consequence of some slight
differences, placed in the new genus _Lingulella_. Practically, it
belongs to the same great generic group as the _Lingula_, which is to be
found at the present day upon your own shores and those of many other
parts of the world.

The same truth is exemplified if we turn to certain great periods of the
earth's history--as, for example, the Mesozoic epoch. There are groups
of reptiles, such as the _Ichthyosauria_ and the _Plesiosauria_, which
appear shortly after the commencement of this epoch, and they occur in
vast numbers. They disappear with the chalk and, throughout the whole of
the great series of Mesozoic rocks, they present no such modifications
as can safely be considered evidence of progressive modification.

Facts of this kind are undoubtedly fatal to any form of the doctrine of
evolution which postulates the supposition that there is an intrinsic
necessity, on the part of animal forms which have once come into
existence, to undergo continual modification; and they are as distinctly
opposed to any view which involves the belief, that such modification as
may occur, must take place, at the same rate, in all the different types
of animal or vegetable life. The facts, as I have placed them before you
obviously directly contradict any form of the hypothesis of evolution
which stands in need of these two postulates.

But, one great service that has been rendered by Mr. Darwin to the
doctrine of evolution in general is this: he has shown that there are
two chief factors in the process of evolution: one of them is the
tendency to vary, the existence of which in all living forms may be
proved by observation; the other is the influence of surrounding
conditions upon what I may call the parent form and the variations which
are thus evolved from it. The cause of the production of variations is a
matter not at all properly understood at present. Whether variation
depends upon some intricate machinery--if I may use the phrase--of the
living organism itself, or whether it arises through the influence of
conditions upon that form, is not certain, and the question may, for the
present, be left open. But the important point is that granting the
existence of the tendency to the production of variations; then, whether
the variations which are produced shall survive and supplant the parent,
or whether the parent form shall survive and supplant the variations, is
a matter which depends entirely on those conditions which give rise to
the struggle for existence. If the surrounding conditions are such that
the parent form is more competent to deal with them, and flourish in
them than the derived forms, then, in the struggle for existence, the
parent form will maintain itself and the derived forms will be
exterminated. But if, on the contrary, the conditions are such as to be
more favourable to a derived than to the parent form, the parent form
will be extirpated and the derived form will take its place. In the
first case, there will be no progression, no change of structure,
through any imaginable series of ages; in the second place there will be
modification of change and form.

Thus the existence of these persistent types, as I have termed them, is
no real obstacle in the way of the theory of evolution. Take the case of
the scorpions to which I have just referred. No doubt, since the
Carboniferous epoch, conditions have always obtained, such as existed
when the scorpions of that epoch flourished; conditions in which
scorpions find themselves better off, more competent to deal with the
difficulties in their way, than any variation from the scorpion type
which they may have produced; and, for that reason, the scorpion type
has persisted, and has not been supplanted by any other form. And there
is no reason, in the nature of things, why, as long as this world
exists, if there be conditions more favourable to scorpions than to any
variation which may arise from them, these forms of life should not

Therefore, the stock objection to the hypothesis of evolution, based on
the long duration of certain animal and vegetable types, is no objection
at all. The facts of this character--and they are numerous--belong to
that class of evidence which I have called indifferent. That is to say,
they may afford no direct support to the doctrine of evolution, but they
are capable of being interpreted in perfect consistency with it.

There is another order of facts belonging to the class of negative or
indifferent evidence. The great group of Lizards, which abound in the
present world, extends through the whole series of formations as far
back as the Permian, or latest Palæozoic, epoch. These Permian lizards
differ astonishingly little from the lizards which exist at the present
day. Comparing the amount of the differences between them and modern
lizards, with the prodigious lapse of time between the Permian epoch and
the present age, it may be said that the amount of change is
insignificant. But, when we carry our researches farther back in time,
we find no trace of lizards, nor of any true reptile whatever, in the
whole mass of formations beneath the Permian.

Now, it is perfectly clear that if our palæontological collections are
to be taken, even approximately, as an adequate representation of all
the forms of animals and plants that have ever lived; and if the record
furnished by the known series of beds of stratified rock covers the
whole series of events which constitute the history of life on the
globe, such a fact as this directly contravenes the hypothesis of
evolution; because this hypothesis postulates that the existence of
every form must have been preceded by that of some form little different
from it. Here, however, we have to take into consideration that
important truth so well insisted upon by Lyell and by Darwin--the
imperfection of the geological record. It can be demonstrated that the
geological record must be incomplete, that it can only preserve remains
found in certain favourable localities and under particular conditions;
that it must be destroyed by processes of denudation, and obliterated by
processes of metamorphosis. Beds of rock of any thickness, crammed full
of organic remains, may yet, either by the percolation of water through
them, or by the influence of subterranean heat, lose all trace of these
remains, and present the appearance of beds of rock formed under
conditions in which living forms were absent. Such metamorphic rocks
occur in formations of all ages; and, in various cases, there are very
good grounds for the belief that they have contained organic remains,
and that those remains have been absolutely obliterated.

I insist upon the defects of the geological record the more because
those who have not attended to these matters are apt to say, "It is all
very well, but, when you get into a difficulty with your theory of
evolution, you appeal to the incompleteness and the imperfection of the
geological record;" and I want to make it perfectly clear to you that
this imperfection is a great fact, which must be taken into account in
all our speculations, or we shall constantly be going wrong.

You see the singular series of footmarks, drawn of its natural size in
the large diagram hanging up here (Fig. 2), which I owe to the kindness
of my friend Professor Marsh, with whom I had the opportunity recently
of visiting the precise locality in Massachusetts in which these tracks
occur. I am, therefore, able to give you my own testimony, if needed,
that the diagram accurately represents what we saw. The valley of the
Connecticut is classical ground for the geologist. It contains great
beds of sandstone, covering many square miles, which have evidently
formed a part of an ancient sea-shore, or, it may be, lake-shore. For a
certain period of time after their deposition, these beds have remained
sufficiently soft to receive the impressions of the feet of whatever
animals walked over them, and to preserve them afterwards, in exactly
the same way as such impressions are at this hour preserved on the
shores of the Bay of Fundy and elsewhere. The diagram represents the
track of some gigantic animal, which walked on its hind legs. You see
the series of marks made alternately by the right and by the left foot;
so that, from one impression to the other of the three-toed foot on the
same side, is one stride, and that stride, as we measured it, is six
feet nine inches. I leave you, therefore, to form an impression of the
magnitude of the creature which, as it walked along the ancient shore,
made these impressions.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--TRACKS OF BRONTOZOUM.]

Of such impressions there are untold thousands upon these sandstones.
Fifty or sixty different kinds have been discovered, and they cover vast
areas. But, up to this present time, not a bone, not a fragment, of any
one of the animals which left these great footmarks has been found; in
fact, the only animal remains which have been met with in all these
deposits, from the time of their discovery to the present day--though
they have been carefully hunted over--is a fragmentary skeleton of one
of the smaller forms. What has become of the bones of all these animals?
You see we are not dealing with little creatures, but with animals that
make a step of six feet nine inches; and their remains must have been
left somewhere. The probability is, that they have been dissolved away,
and completely lost.

I have had occasion to work out the nature of fossil remains, of which
there was nothing left except casts of the bones, the solid material of
the skeleton having been dissolved out by percolating water. It was a
chance, in this case, that the sandstone happened to be of such a
constitution as to set, and to allow the bones to be afterward dissolved
out, leaving cavities of the exact shape of the bones. Had that
constitution been other than what it was, the bones would have been
dissolved, the layers of sandstone would have fallen together into one
mass, and not the slightest indication that the animal had existed would
have been discoverable.

I know of no more striking evidence than these facts afford, of the
caution which should be used in drawing the conclusion, from the absence
of organic remains in a deposit, that animals or plants did not exist at
the time it was formed. I believe that, with a right understanding of
the doctrine of evolution on the one hand, and a just estimation of the
importance of the imperfection of the geological record on the other,
all difficulty is removed from the kind of evidence to which I have
adverted; and that we are justified in believing that all such cases are
examples of what I have designated negative or indifferent
evidence--that is to say, they in no way directly advance the hypothesis
of evolution, but they are not to be regarded as obstacles in the way of
our belief in that doctrine.

I now pass on to the consideration of those cases which, for reasons
which I will point out to you by and by, are not to be regarded as
demonstrative of the truth of evolution, but which are such as must
exist if evolution be true, and which therefore are, upon the whole,
evidence in favour of the doctrine. If the doctrine of evolution be
true, it follows, that, however diverse the different groups of animals
and of plants may be, they must all, at one time or other, have been
connected by gradational forms; so that, from the highest animals,
whatever they may be, down to the lowest speck of protoplasmic matter in
which life can be manifested, a series of gradations, leading from one
end of the series to the other, either exists or has existed.
Undoubtedly that is a necessary postulate of the doctrine of evolution.
But when we look upon living Nature as it is, we find a totally
different state of things. We find that animals and plants fall into
groups, the different members of which are pretty closely allied
together, but which are separated by definite, larger or smaller,
breaks, from other groups. In other words, no intermediate forms which
bridge over these gaps or intervals are, at present, to be met with.

To illustrate what I mean: Let me call your attention to those
vertebrate animals which are most familiar to you, such as mammals,
birds, and reptiles. At the present day, these groups of animals are
perfectly well-defined from one another. We know of no animal now living
which, in any sense, is intermediate between the mammal and the bird, or
between the bird and the reptile; but, on the contrary, there are many
very distinct anatomical peculiarities, well-defined marks, by which the
mammal is separated from the bird, and the bird from the reptile. The
distinctions are obvious and striking if you compare the definitions of
these great groups as they now exist.

The same may be said of many of the subordinate groups, or orders, into
which these great classes are divided. At the present time, for example,
there are numerous forms of non-ruminant pachyderms, or what we may call
broadly, the pig tribe, and many varieties of ruminants. These latter
have their definite characteristics, and the former have their
distinguishing peculiarities. But there is nothing that fills up the gap
between the ruminants and the pig tribe. The two are distinct. Such also
is the case in respect of the minor groups of the class of reptiles. The
existing fauna shows us crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and tortoises; but
no connecting link between the crocodile and lizard, nor between the
lizard and snake, nor between the snake and the crocodile, nor between
any two of these groups. They are separated by absolute breaks. If,
then, it could be shown that this state of things had always existed,
the fact would be fatal to the doctrine of evolution. If the
intermediate gradations, which the doctrine of evolution requires to
have existed between these groups, are not to be found anywhere in the
records of the past history of the globe, their absence is a strong and
weighty negative argument against evolution; while, on the other hand,
if such intermediate forms are to be found, that is so much to the good
of evolution; although for reasons which I will lay before you by and
by, we must be cautious in our estimate of the evidential cogency of
facts of this kind.

It is a very remarkable circumstance that, from the commencement of the
serious study of fossil remains, in fact from the time when Cuvier began
his brilliant researches upon those found in the quarries of Montmartre,
palæontology has shown what she was going to do in this matter, and what
kind of evidence it lay in her power to produce.

I said just now that, in the existing Fauna, the group of pig-like
animals and the group of ruminants are entirely distinct; but one of the
first of Cuvier's discoveries was an animal which he called the
_Anoplotherium_, and which proved to be, in a great many important
respects, intermediate in character between the pigs on the one hand,
and the ruminants on the other Thus, research into the history of the
past did, to a certain extent, tend to fill up the breach between the
group of ruminants and the group of pigs. Another remarkable animal
restored by the great French palæontologist, the _Palæotherium_,
similarly tended to connect together animals to all appearance so
different as the rhinoceros, the horse, and the tapir. Subsequent
research has brought to light multitudes of facts of the same order;
and, at the present day, the investigations of such anatomists as
Rütimeyer and Gaudry have tended to fill up, more and more, the gaps in
our existing series of mammals, and to connect groups formerly thought
to be distinct.

But I think it may have an especial interest if, instead of dealing with
these examples, which would require a great deal of tedious osteological
detail, I take the case of birds and reptiles; groups which, at the
present day, are so clearly distinguished from one another that there
are perhaps no classes of animals which, in popular apprehension, are
more completely separated. Existing birds, as you are aware, are covered
with feathers; their anterior extremities, specially and peculiarly
modified, are converted into wings, by the aid of which most of them are
able to fly; they walk upright upon two legs; and these limbs, when they
are considered anatomically, present a great number of exceedingly
remarkable peculiarities, to which I may have occasion to advert
incidentally as I go on, and which are not met with, even approximately,
in any existing forms of reptiles. On the other hand, existing reptiles
have no feathers. They may have naked skins, or be covered with horny
scales, or bony plates, or with both. They possess no wings; they
neither fly by means of their fore-limbs, nor habitually walk upright
upon their hind-limbs; and the bones of their legs present no such
modifications as we find in birds. It is impossible to imagine any two
groups more definitely and distinctly separated, notwithstanding certain
characters which they possess in common.

As we trace the history of birds back in time, we find their remains,
sometimes in great abundance, throughout the whole extent of the
tertiary rocks; but, so far as our present knowledge goes, the birds of
the tertiary rocks retain the same essential characters as the birds of
the present day. In other words, the tertiary birds come within the
definition of the class constituted by existing birds, and are as much
separated from reptiles as existing birds are. Not very long ago no
remains of birds had been found below the tertiary rocks, and I am not
sure but that some persons were prepared to demonstrate that they could
not have existed at an earlier period. But, in the course of the last
few years, such remains have been discovered in England; though,
unfortunately, in so imperfect and fragmentary a condition, that it is
impossible to say whether they differed from existing birds in any
essential character or not. In your country the development of the
cretaceous series of rocks is enormous; the conditions under which the
later cretaceous strata have been deposited are highly favourable to the
preservation of organic remains; and the researches, full of labour and
risk, which have been carried on by Professor Marsh in these cretaceous
rocks of Western America, have rewarded him with the discovery of forms
of birds of which we had hitherto no conception. By his kindness, I am
enabled to place before you a restoration of one of these extraordinary
birds, every part of which can be thoroughly justified by the more or
less complete skeletons, in a very perfect state of preservation, which
he has discovered. This _Hesperornis_ (Fig. 3), which measured between
five and six feet in length, is astonishingly like our existing divers
or grebes in a great many respects; so like them indeed that, had the
skeleton of _Hesperornis_ been found in a museum without its skull,
improbably would have been placed in the same group of birds as the
divers and grebes of the present day.[1] But _Hesperornis_ differs from
all existing birds, and so far resembles reptiles, in one important
particular--it is provided with teeth. The long jaws are armed with
teeth which have curved crowns and thick roots (Fig. 4), and are not set
in distinct sockets, but are lodged in a groove. In possessing true
teeth, the _Hesperornis_ differs from every existing bird, and from
every bird yet discovered in the tertiary formations, the tooth-like
serrations of the jaws in the _Odontopteryx_ of the London clay being
mere processes of the bony substance of the jaws, and not teeth in the
proper sense of the word. In view of the characteristics of this bird we
are therefore obliged to modify the definitions of the classes of birds
and reptiles. Before the discovery of _Hesperornis_, the definition of
the class Aves based upon our knowledge of existing birds might have
been extended to all birds; it might have been said that the absence of
teeth was characteristic of the class of birds; but the discovery of an
animal which, in every part of its skeleton, closely agrees with
existing birds, and yet possesses teeth, shows that there were ancient
birds, which, in respect of possessing teeth, approached reptiles more
nearly than any existing bird does, and, to that extent, diminishes the
_hiatus_ between the two classes.

[Illustration: FIG. 3--HESPERORNIS REGALIS (Marsh).]

The same formation has yielded another bird _Ichthyornis_ (Fig. 5),
which also possesses teeth; but the teeth are situated in distinct
sockets, while those of _Hesperornis_ are not so lodged. The latter also
has such very small, almost rudimentary wings, that it must have been
chiefly a swimmer and a diver like a Penguin; while _Ichthyornis_ has
strong wings and no doubt possessed corresponding powers of flight.
_Ichthyornis_ also differed in the fact that its vertebræ have not the
peculiar characters of the vertebræ of existing and of all known
tertiary birds, but were concave at each end. This discovery leads us to
make a further modification in the definition of the group of birds, and
to part with another of the characters by which almost all existing
birds are distinguished from reptiles.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--HESPERORNIS REGALIS (Marsh).

Side and upper views of half the lower jaw; side and end views of a
vertebra and a separate tooth.]

Apart from the few fragmentary remains from the English greensand, to
which I have referred, the Mesozoic rocks, older than those in which
_Hesperornis_ and _Ichthyornis_ have been discovered have afforded no
certain evidence of birds, with the remarkable exception of the
Solenhofen slates. These so-called slates are composed of a fine grained
calcareous mud which has hardened into lithographic stone, and in which
organic remains are almost as well preserved as they would be if they
had been imbedded in so much plaster of Paris. They have yielded the
_Archæopteryx_, the existence of which was first made known by the
finding of a fossil feather, or rather of the impression of one. It is
wonderful enough that such a perishable thing as a feather, and nothing
more, should be discovered; yet for a long time, nothing was known of
this bird except its feather. But by and by a solitary skeleton was
discovered which is now in the British Museum. The skull of this
solitary specimen is unfortunately wanting, and it is therefore
uncertain whether the _Archæopteryx_ possessed teeth or not.[2] But the
remainder of the skeleton is so well preserved as to leave no doubt
respecting the main features of the animal, which are very singular. The
feet are not only altogether bird-like, but have the special characters
of the feet of perching birds, while the body had a clothing of true
feathers. Nevertheless, in some other respects, _Archæopteryx_ is unlike
a bird and like a reptile. There is a long tail composed of many
vertebræ. The structure of the wing differs in some very remarkable
respects from that which it presents in a true bird. In the latter, the
end of the wing answers to the thumb and two fingers of my hand; but the
metacarpal bones, or those which answer to the bones of the fingers
which lie in the palm of the hand, are fused together into one mass; and
the whole apparatus, except the last joints of the thumb, is bound up in
a sheath of integument, while the edge of the hand carries the principal
quill feathers. In the _Archæopteryx_, the upper-arm bone is like that
of a bird; and the two bones of the fore-arm are more or less like those
of a bird, but the fingers are not bound together--they are free. What
their number may have been is uncertain; but several, if not all, of
them were terminated by strong curved claws, not like such as are
sometimes found in birds, but such as reptiles possess; so that, in the
_Archæopteryx_, we have an animal which, to a certain extent, occupies a
midway place between a bird and a reptile. It is a bird so far as its
foot and sundry other parts of its skeleton are concerned; it is
essentially and thoroughly a bird by its feathers; but it is much more
properly a reptile in the fact that the region which represents the hand
has separate bones, with claws resembling those which terminate the
fore-limb of a reptile. Moreover, it had a long reptile-like tail with a
fringe of feathers on each side; while, in all true birds hitherto
known, the tail is relatively short, and the vertebræ which constitute
its skeleton are generally peculiarly modified.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--ICHTHYORNIS DISPAR (Marsh).

(Side and upper views of half the lower jaw; and side and end views of a

Like the _Anoplotherium_ and the _Palæotherium_, therefore,
_Archaopteryx_ tends to fill up the interval between groups which, in
the existing world, are widely separated, and to destroy the value of
the definitions of zoological groups based upon our knowledge of
existing forms. And such cases as these constitute evidence in favour of
evolution, in so far as they prove that, in former periods of the
world's history, there were animals which overstepped the bounds of
existing groups, and tended to merge them into larger assemblages. They
show that animal organisation is more flexible than our knowledge of
recent forms might have led us to believe; and that many structural
permutations and combinations, of which the present world gives us no
indication, may nevertheless have existed.

But it by no means follows, because the _Palæotherium_ has much in
common with the horse, on the one hand, and with the rhinoceros on the
other, that it is the intermediate form through which rhinoceroses have
passed to become horses, or _vice versa_; on the contrary, any such
supposition would certainly be erroneous. Nor do I think it likely that
the transition from the reptile to the bird has been effected by such a
form as _Archæopteryx_. And it is convenient to distinguish these
intermediate forms between two groups, which do not represent the actual
passage from the one group to the other, as _intercalary_ types, from
those _linear_ types which, more or less approximately, indicate the
nature of the steps by which the transition from one group to the other
was effected.

I conceive that such linear forms, constituting a series of natural
gradations between the reptile and the bird, and enabling us to
understand the manner in which the reptilian has been metamorphosed into
the bird type, are really to be found among a group of ancient and
extinct terrestrial reptiles known as the _Ornithoscelida_. The remains
of these animals occur throughout the series of Mesozoic formations,
from the Trias to the Chalk, and there are indications of their
existence even in the later Palæozoic strata.

Most of these reptiles, at present known, are of great size, some having
attained a length of forty feet or perhaps more. The majority resembled
lizards and crocodiles in their general form, and many of them were,
like crocodiles, protected by an armour of heavy bony plates. But, in
others, the hind-limbs elongate and the fore-limbs shorten, until their
relative proportions approach those which are observed in the
short-winged, flightless, ostrich tribe among birds.

The skull is relatively light, and in some cases the jaws, though
bearing teeth, are beak-like at their extremities and appear to have
been enveloped in a horny sheath. In the part of the vertebral column
which lies between the haunch bones and is called the sacrum, a number
of vertebræ may unite together into one whole, and in this respect, as
in some details of its structure, the sacrum of these reptiles
approaches that of birds.

But it is in the structure of the pelvis and of the hind limb that some
of these ancient reptiles present the most remarkable approximation to
birds, and clearly indicate the way by which the most specialised and
characteristic features of the bird may have been evolved from the
corresponding parts in the reptile.

In Fig. 6, the pelvis and hind-limbs of a crocodile, a three-toed bird,
and an ornithoscelidan are represented side by side; and, for facility
of comparison, in corresponding positions; but it must be recollected
that, while the position of the bird's limb is natural, that of the
crocodile is not so. In the bird, the thigh-bone lies close to the body,
and the metatarsal bones of the foot (ii., iii., iv., Fig. 6) are,
ordinarily, raised into a more or less vertical position; in the
crocodile, the thigh-bone stands out at an angle from the body, and the
metatarsal bones (i., ii., iii., iv., Fig. 6) lie flat on the ground.
Hence, in the crocodile, the body usually lies squat between the legs,
while, in the bird, it is raised upon the hind legs, as upon pillars.

In the crocodile, the pelvis is obviously composed of three bones on
each side: the ilium (_Il._), the pubis (_Pb._), and the ischium
(_Is._). In the adult bird there appears to be but one bone on each
side. The examination of the pelvis of a chick, however, shows that
each half is made up of three bones, which answer to those which remain
distinct throughout life in the crocodile. There is, therefore, a
fundamental identity of plan in the construction of the pelvis of both
bird and reptile; though the difference in form, relative size, and
direction of the corresponding bones in the two cases are very great.


(The letters have the same signification in all the figures. _Il._,
Ilium; _a_, anterior end; _b_, posterior end _Is._, ischium; _Pb._,
pubis; _T_, tibia; _F_, fibula; _As._, astragalus; _Ca._, calcaneum;
_i_, distal portion of the tarsus; i., ii., iii., iv., metatarsal

But the most striking contrast between the two lies in the bones of the
leg and of that part of the foot termed the tarsus, which follows upon
the leg. In the crocodile, the fibula _(F)_ is relatively large and its
lower end is complete. The tibia _(T)_ has no marked crest at its upper
end, and its lower end is narrow and not pulley-shaped. There are two
rows of separate tarsal bones _(As., Ca., &c.)_ and four distinct
metatarsal bones, with a rudiment of a fifth.

In the bird the fibula is small and its lower end diminishes to a point.
The tibia has a strong crest at its upper end and its lower extremity
passes into a broad pulley. There seem at first to be no tarsal bones;
and only one bone, divided at the end into three heads for the three
toes which are attached to it, appears in the place of the metatarsus.

In a young bird, however, the pulley-shaped apparent end of the tibia is
a distinct bone, which represents the bones marked _As., Ca._, in the
crocodile; while the apparently single metatarsal bone consists of three
bones, which early unite with one another and with an additional bone,
which represents the lower row of bones in the tarsus of the crocodile.

In other words it can be shown by the study of development that the
bird's pelvis and hind limb are simply extreme modifications of the same
fundamental plan as that upon which these parts are modelled in

On comparing the pelvis and hind limb of the ornithoscelidan with that
of the crocodile, on the one side, and that of the bird, on the other
(Fig. 6), it is obvious that it represents a middle term between the
two. The pelvic bones approach the form of those of the birds, and the
direction of the pubis and ischium is nearly that which is
characteristic of birds; the thigh bone, from the direction of its head,
must have lain close to the body; the tibia has a great crest; and,
immovably fitted on to its lower end, there is a pulley-shaped bone,
like that of the bird, but remaining distinct. The lower end of the
fibula is much more slender, proportionally, than in the crocodile. The
metatarsal bones have such a form that they fit together immovably,
though they do not enter into bony union; the third toe is, as in the
bird, longest and strongest. In fact, the ornithoscelidan limb is
comparable to that of an unhatched chick.


Taking all these facts together, it is obvious that the view, which was
entertained by Mantell and the probability of which was demonstrated by
your own distinguished anatomist, Leidy, while much additional evidence
in the same direction has been furnished by Professor Cope, that some of
these animals may have walked upon their hind legs, as birds do,
acquires great weight. In fact, there can be no reasonable doubt that
one of the smaller forms of the _Ornithoscelida, Compsognathus_, the
almost entire skeleton of which has been discovered in the Solenhofen
slates, was a bipedal animal. The parts of this skeleton are somewhat
twisted out of their natural relations, but the accompanying figure
gives a just view of the general form of _Compsognathus_ and of the
proportions of its limbs; which, in some respects, are more completely
bird-like than those of other _Ornithoscelida_.

We have had to stretch the definition of the class of birds so as to
include birds with teeth and birds with paw-like fore-limbs and long
tails. There is no evidence that _Compsognathus_ possessed feathers;
but, if it did, it would be hard indeed to say whether it should be
called a reptilian bird or an avian reptile.

As _Compsognathus_ walked upon its hind legs, it must have made tracks
like those of birds. And as the structure of the limbs of several of the
gigantic _Ornithoscelida_, such as _Iguandon_, leads to the conclusion
that they also may have constantly, or occasionally, assumed the same
attitude, a peculiar interest attaches to the fact that, in the Wealden
strata of England, there are to be found gigantic footsteps, arranged in
order like those of the _Brontozoum_, and which there can be no
reasonable doubt were made by some of the _Ornithoscelida_, the remains
of which are found in the same rocks. And, knowing that reptiles that
walked upon their hind legs and shared many of the anatomical characters
of birds did once exist, it becomes a very important question whether
the tracks in the Trias of Massachusetts, to which I referred some time
ago, and which formerly used to be unhesitatingly ascribed to birds may
not all have been made by Ornithoscelidan reptiles; and whether, if we
could obtain the skeletons of the animals which made these tracks, we
should not find in them the actual steps of the evolutional process by
which reptiles gave rise to birds.

The evidential value of the facts I have brought forward in this Lecture
must be neither over nor under estimated. It is not historical proof of
the occurrence of the evolution of birds from reptiles, for we have no
safe ground for assuming that true birds had not made their appearance
at the commencement of the Mesozoic epoch. It is in fact, quite possible
that all these more or less aviform reptiles of the Mesozoic epoch are
not terms in the series of progression from birds to reptiles at all,
but simply the more or less modified descendants of Palæozoic forms
through which that transition was actually effected.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.--PTERODACTYLUS SPECTABILIS (Von Meyer).]

We are not in a position to say that the known _Ornithoscelida_ are
intermediate in the order of their appearance on the earth between
reptiles and birds. All that can be said is that, if independent
evidence of the actual occurrence of evolution is producible, then these
intercalary forms remove every difficulty in the way of understanding
what the actual steps of the process, in the case of birds, may have

That intercalary forms should have existed in ancient times is a
necessary consequence of the truth of the hypothesis of evolution; and,
hence, the evidence I have laid before you in proof of the existence of
such forms, is, so far as it goes, in favour of that hypothesis.

There is another series of extinct reptiles which may be said to be
intercalary between reptiles and birds, in so far as they combine some
of the characters of these groups; and which, as they possessed the
power of flight, may seem, at first sight, to be nearer representatives
of the forms by which the transition from the reptile to the bird was
effected, than the _Ornithoscelida_.

These are the _Pterosauria_, or Pterodactyles, the remains of which are
met with throughout the series of Mesozoic rocks, from the lias to the
chalk, and some of which attain a great size, their wings having a span
of eighteen or twenty feet. These animals, in the form and proportions
of the head and neck relatively to the body, and in the fact that the
ends of the jaws were often, if not always, more or less extensively
ensheathed in horny beaks, remind us of birds. Moreover, their bones
contained air cavities, rendering them specifically lighter, as is the
case in most birds. The breast-bone was large and keeled, as in most
birds and in bats, and the shoulder girdle is strikingly similar to that
of ordinary birds. But it seems to me that the special resemblance of
pterodactyles to birds ends here, unless I may add the entire absence of
teeth which characterises the great pterodactyles (_Pteranodon_)
discovered by Professor Marsh. All other known pterodactyles have teeth
lodged in sockets. In the vertebral column and the hind-limbs there are
no special resemblances to birds, and when we turn to the wings they are
found to be constructed on a totally different principle from those of

There are four fingers. These four fingers are large, and three of them,
those which answer to the thumb and two following fingers in my
hand--are terminated by claws, while the fourth is enormously prolonged
and converted into a great jointed style. You see at once, from what I
have stated about a bird's wing, that there could be nothing less like a
bird's wing than this is. It was concluded by general reasoning that
this finger had the office of supporting a web which extended between it
and the body. An existing specimen proves that such was really the case,
and that the pterodactyles were devoid of feathers, but that the fingers
supported a vast web like that of a bat's wing; in fact, there can be no
doubt that this ancient reptile flew after the fashion of a bat.

Thus, though the pterodactyle is a reptile which has become modified in
such a manner as to enable it to fly, and therefore, as might be
expected, presents some points of resemblance to other animals which
fly; it has, so to speak, gone off the line which leads directly from
reptiles to birds, and has become disqualified for the changes which
lead to the characteristic organisation of the latter class. Therefore,
viewed in relation to the classes of reptiles and birds, the
pterodactyles appear to me to be, in a limited sense, intercalary forms;
but they are not even approximately linear, in the sense of exemplifying
those modifications of structure through which the passage from the
reptile to the bird took place.



The occurrence of historical facts is said to be demonstrated, when the
evidence that they happened is of such a character as to render the
assumption that they did not happen in the highest degree improbable;
and the question I now have to deal with is, whether evidence in favour
of the evolution of animals of this degree of cogency is, or is not,
obtainable from the record of the succession of living forms which is
presented to us by fossil remains.

Those who have attended to the progress of palæontology are aware that
evidence of the character which I have defined has been produced in
considerable and continually-increasing quantity during the last few
years. Indeed, the amount and the satisfactory nature of that evidence
are somewhat surprising, when we consider the conditions under which
alone we can hope to obtain it.

It is obviously useless to seek for such evidence except in localities
in which the physical conditions have been such as to permit of the
deposit of an unbroken, or but rarely interrupted, series of strata
through a long period of time in which the group of animals to be
investigated has existed in such abundance as to furnish the requisite
supply of remains; and in which, finally, the materials composing the
strata are such as to ensure the preservation of these remains in a
tolerably perfect and undisturbed state.

It so happens that the case which, at present, most nearly fulfils all
these conditions is that of the series of extinct animals which
culminates in the horses, by which term I mean to denote not merely the
domestic animals with which we are all so well acquainted, but their
allies, the ass, zebra, quagga, and the like. In short, I use "horses"
as the equivalent of the technical name _Equidæ_, which is applied to
the whole group of existing equine animals.

The horse is in many ways a remarkable animal; not least so in the fact
that it presents us with an example of one of the most perfect pieces of
machinery in the living world. In truth, among the works of human
ingenuity it cannot be said that there is any locomotive so perfectly
adapted to its purposes, doing so much work with so small a quantity of
fuel, as this machine of Nature's manufacture--the horse. And, as a
necessary consequence of any sort of perfection, of mechanical
perfection as of others, you find that the horse is a beautiful
creature, one of the most beautiful of all land animals. Look at the
perfect balance of its form, and the rhythm and force of its action. The
locomotive machinery is, as you are aware, resident in its slender fore
and hind limbs; they are flexible and elastic levers, capable of being
moved by very powerful muscles; and, in order to supply the engines
which work these levers with the force which they expend, the horse is
provided with a very perfect apparatus for grinding its food and
extracting therefrom the requisite fuel.

Without attempting to take you very far into the region of osteological
detail, I must nevertheless trouble you with some statements respecting
the anatomical structure of the horse; and, more especially, will it be
needful to obtain a general conception of the structure of its fore and
hind limbs, and of its teeth. But I shall only touch upon those points
which are absolutely essential to our inquiry.

Let us turn in the first place to the fore-limb. In most quadrupeds, as
in ourselves, the fore-arm contains distinct bones called the radius and
the ulna. The corresponding region in the horse seems at first to
possess but one bone. Careful observation, however, enables us to
distinguish in this bone a part which clearly answers to the upper end
of the ulna. This is closely united with the chief mass of the bone
which represents the radius, and runs out into a slender shaft which may
be traced for some distance downwards upon the back of the radius, and
then in most cases thins out and vanishes. It takes still more trouble
to make sure of what is nevertheless the fact, that a small part of the
lower end of the bone of the horse's fore-arm, which is only distinct in
a very young foal, is really the lower extremity of the ulna.

What is commonly called the knee of a horse is its wrist. The "cannon
bone" answers to the middle bone of the five metacarpal bones, which
support the palm of the hand in ourselves. The "pastern," "coronary,"
and "coffin" bones of veterinarians answer to the joints of our middle
fingers, while the hoof is simply a greatly enlarged and thickened nail.
But if what lies below the horse's "knee" thus corresponds to the middle
finger in ourselves, what has become of the four other fingers or
digits? We find in the places of the second and fourth digits only two
slender splint-like bones, about two-thirds as long as the cannon-bone,
which gradually taper to their lower ends and bear no finger joints, or,
as they are termed, phalanges. Sometimes, small bony or gristly nodules
are to be found at the bases of these two metacarpal splints, and it is
probable that these represent rudiments of the first and fifth toes.
Thus, the part of the horse's skeleton which corresponds with that of
the human hand contains one overgrown middle digit, and at least two
imperfect lateral digits; and these answer, respectively, to the third,
the second, and the fourth fingers in man.

Corresponding modifications are found in the hind limb. In ourselves,
and in most quadrupeds, the leg contains two distinct bones, a large
bone, the tibia, and a smaller and more slender bone, the fibula. But in
the horse, the fibula seems, at first, to be reduced to its upper end; a
short slender bone united with the tibia, and ending in a point below,
occupying its place. Examination of the lower end of a young foal's
shin-bone, however, shows a distinct portion of osseous matter, which
is the lower end of the fibula; so that the apparently single lower end
of the shin-bone is really made up of the coalesced ends of the tibia
and fibula, just as the apparently single lower end of the fore-arm bone
is composed of the coalesced radius and ulna.

The heel of the horse is the part commonly known as the hock. The hinder
cannon-bone answers to the middle metatarsal bone of the human foot, the
pastern, coronary, and coffin bones, to the middle toe bones; the hind
hoof to the nail, as in the fore-foot. And, as in the fore-foot, there
are merely two splints to represent the second and the fourth toes.
Sometimes a rudiment of a fifth toe appears to be traceable.

The teeth of a horse are not less peculiar than its limbs. The living
engine, like all others, must be well stoked if it is to do its work;
and the horse, if it is to make good its wear and tear, and to exert the
enormous amount of force required for its propulsion, must be well and
rapidly fed. To this end, good cutting instruments and powerful and
lasting crushers are needful. Accordingly, the twelve cutting teeth of a
horse are close-set and concentrated in the fore-part of its mouth, like
so many adzes or chisels. The grinders or molars are large, and have an
extremely complicated structure, being composed of a number of different
substances of unequal hardness. The consequence of this is that they
wear away at different rates; and, hence, the surface of each grinder is
always as uneven as that of a good millstone.

I have said that the structure of the grinding teeth is very
complicated, the harder and the softer parts being, as it were,
interlaced with one another. The result of this is that, as the tooth
wears, the crown presents a peculiar pattern, the nature of which is not
very easily deciphered at first; but which it is important we should
understand clearly. Each grinding tooth of the upper jaw has an _outer
wall_ so shaped that, on the worn crown, it exhibits the form of two
crescents, one in front and one behind, with their concave sides turned
outwards. From the inner side of the front crescent, a crescentic _front
ridge_ passes inwards and backwards, and its inner face enlarges into a
strong longitudinal fold or _pillar_. From the front part of the hinder
crescent, a _back ridge_ takes a like direction, and also has its

The deep interspaces or _valleys_ between these ridges and the outer
wall are filled by bony substance, which is called _cement_, and coats
the whole tooth.

The pattern of the worn face of each grinding tooth of the lower jaw is
quite different. It appears to be formed of two crescent-shaped ridges,
the convexities of which are turned outwards. The free extremity of each
crescent has a _pillar_, and there is a large double _pillar_ where the
two crescents meet; The whole structure is, as it were, imbedded in
cement, which fills up the valleys, as in the upper grinders.

If the grinding faces of an upper and of a lower molar of the same side
are applied together, it will be seen that the apposed ridges are
nowhere parallel, but that they frequently cross; and that thus, in the
act of mastication, a hard surface in the one is constantly applied to a
soft surface in the other, and _vice versa_. They thus constitute a
grinding apparatus of great efficiency, and one which is repaired as
fast as it wears, owing to the long-continued growth of the teeth.

Some other peculiarities of the dentition of the horse must be noticed,
as they bear upon what I shall have to say by and by. Thus the crowns of
the cutting teeth have a peculiar deep pit, which gives rise to the
well-known "mark" of the horse. There is a large space between the outer
incisors and the front grinder. In this space the adult male horse
presents, near the incisors on each side, above and below, a canine or
"tush," which is commonly absent in mares. In a young horse, moreover,
there is not unfrequently to be seen in front of the first grinder, a
very small tooth, which soon falls out. If this small tooth be counted
as one, it will be found that there are seven teeth behind the canine on
each side; namely, the small tooth in question, and the six great
grinders, among which, by an unusual peculiarity, the foremost tooth is
rather larger than those which follow it.

I have now enumerated those characteristic structures of the horse which
are of most importance for the purpose we have in view.

To any one who is acquainted with the morphology of vertebrated animals,
they show that the horse deviates widely from the general structure of
mammals; and that the horse type is, in many respects, an extreme
modification of the general mammalian plan. The least modified mammals,
in fact, have the radius and ulna, the tibia and fibula, distinct and
separate. They have five distinct and complete digits on each foot, and
no one of these digits is very much larger than the rest. Moreover, in
the least modified mammals, the total number of the teeth is very
generally forty-four, while in horses, the usual number is forty, and in
the absence of the canines, it may be reduced to thirty-six; the incisor
teeth are devoid of the fold seen in those of the horse: the grinders
regularly diminish in size from the middle of the series to its front
end; while their crowns are short, early attain their full length, and
exhibit simple ridges or tubercles, in place of the complex foldings of
the horse's grinders.

Hence the general principles of the hypothesis of evolution lead to the
conclusion that the horse must have been derived from some quadruped
which possessed five complete digits on each foot; which had the bones
of the fore-arm and of the leg complete and separate; and which
possessed forty-four teeth, among which the crowns of the incisors and
grinders had a simple structure; while the latter gradually increased in
size from before backwards, at any rate in the anterior part of the
series, and had short crowns.

And if the horse has been thus evolved, and the remains of the different
stages of its evolution have been preserved, they ought to present us
with a series of forms in which the number of the digits becomes
reduced; the bones of the fore-arm and leg gradually take on the equine
condition; and the form and arrangement of the teeth successively
approximate to those which obtain in existing horses.

Let us turn to the facts, and see how far they fulfil these requirements
of the doctrine of evolution.

In Europe abundant remains of horses are found in the Quaternary and
later Tertiary strata as far as the Pliocene formation. But these
horses, which are so common in the cave-deposits and in the gravels of
Europe, are in all essential respects like existing horses. And that is
true of all the horses of the latter part of the Pliocene epoch. But, in
deposits which belong to the earlier Pliocene and later Miocene epochs,
and which occur in Britain, in France, in Germany, in Greece, in India,
we find animals which are extremely like horses--which, in fact, are so
similar to horses, that you may follow descriptions given in works upon
the anatomy of the horse upon the skeletons of these animals--but which
differ in some important particulars. For example, the structure of
their fore and hind limbs is somewhat different. The bones which, in the
horse, are represented by two splints, imperfect below, are as long as
the middle metacarpal and metatarsal bones; and, attached to the
extremity of each, is a digit with three joints of the same general
character as those of the middle digit, only very much smaller. These
small digits are so disposed that they could have had but very little
functional importance, and they must have been rather of the nature of
the dew-claws, such as are to be found in many ruminant animals. The
_Hipparion_, as the extinct European three-toed horse is called, in
fact, presents a foot similar to that of the American _Protohippus_
(Fig. 9), except that, in the _Hipparion_, the smaller digits are
situated farther back, and are of smaller proportional size, than in the

The ulna is slightly more distinct than in the horse; and the whole
length of it, as a very slender shaft, intimately united with the
radius, is completely traceable. The fibula appears to be in the same
condition as in the horse. The teeth of the _Hipparion_ are essentially
similar to those of the horse, but the pattern of the grinders is in
some respects a little more complex, and there is a depression on the
face of the skull in front of the orbit, which is not seen in existing

In the earlier Miocene, and perhaps the later Eocene deposits of some
parts of Europe, another extinct animal has been discovered, which
Cuvier, who first described some fragments of it, considered to be a
_Palæotherium_. But as further discoveries threw new light upon its
structure, it was recognised as a distinct genus, under the name of

In its general characters, the skeleton of _Anchitherium_ is very
similar to that of the horse. In fact, Lartet and De Blainville called
it _Palæotherium equinum_ or _hippoides_; and De Christol, in 1847, said
that it differed from _Hipparion_ in little more than the characters of
its teeth, and gave it the name of _Hipparitherium_. Each foot possesses
three complete toes; while the lateral toes are much larger in
proportion to the middle toe than in _Hipparion_, and doubtless rested
on the ground in ordinary locomotion.

The ulna is complete and quite distinct from the radius, though firmly
united with the latter. The fibula seems also to have been complete. Its
lower end, though intimately united with that of the tibia, is clearly
marked off from the latter bone.

There are forty-four teeth. The incisors have no strong pit. The canines
seem to have been well developed in both sexes. The first of the seven
grinders, which, as I have said, is frequently absent, and, when it does
exist, is small in the horse, is a good-sized and permanent tooth, while
the grinder which follows it is but little larger than the hinder ones.
The crowns of the grinders are short, and though the fundamental pattern
of the horse-tooth is discernible, the front and back ridges are less
curved, the accessory pillars are wanting, and the valleys, much
shallower, are not filled up with cement.

Seven years ago, when I happened to be looking critically into the
bearing of palæontological facts upon the doctrine of evolution, it
appeared to me that the _Anchitherium_, the _Hipparion_, and the modern
horses, constitute a series in which the modifications of structure
coincide with the order of chronological occurrence, in the manner in
which they must coincide, if the modern horses really are the result of
the gradual metamorphosis, in the course of the Tertiary epoch, of a
less specialised ancestral form. And I found by correspondence with the
late eminent French anatomist and palæontologist, M. Lartet, that he had
arrived at the same conclusion from the same data.

That the _Anchitherium_ type had become metamorphosed into the
_Hipparion_ type, and the latter into the _Equine_ type, in the course
of that period of time which is represented by the latter half of the
Tertiary deposits, seemed to me to be the only explanation of the facts
for which there was even a shadow of probability.[3]

And, hence, I have ever since held that these facts afford evidence of
the occurrence of evolution, which, in the sense already defined, may be
termed demonstrative.

All who have occupied themselves with the structure of _Anchitherium_,
from Cuvier onwards, have acknowledged its many points of likeness to a
well-known genus of extinct Eocene mammals, _Palæotherium_. Indeed, as
we have seen, Cuvier regarded his remains of _Anchitherium_ as those of
a species of _Palæotherium_. Hence, in attempting to trace the pedigree
of the horse beyond the Miocene epoch and the Anchitheroid form, I
naturally sought among the various species of Palæotheroid animals for
its nearest ally, and I was led to conclude that the _Palæotherium
minus_ (_Plagiolophus_) represented the next step more nearly than any
form then known.

I think that this opinion was fully justifiable; but the progress of
investigation has thrown an unexpected light on the question, and has
brought us much nearer than could have been anticipated to a knowledge
of the true series of the progenitors of the horse.

You are all aware that, when your country was first discovered by
Europeans, there were no traces of the existence of the horse in any
part of the American continent. The accounts of the conquest of Mexico
dwell upon the astonishment of the natives of that country when they
first became acquainted with that astounding phenomenon--a man seated
upon a horse. Nevertheless, the investigations of American geologists
have proved that the remains of horses occur in the most superficial
deposits of both North and South America, just as they do in Europe.
Therefore, for some reason or other--no feasible suggestion on that
subject, so far as I know, has been made--the horse must have died out
on this continent at some period preceding the discovery of America. Of
late years there has been discovered in your Western Territories that
marvellous accumulation of deposits, admirably adapted for the
preservation of organic remains, to which I referred the other evening,
and which furnishes us with a consecutive series of records of the fauna
of the older half of the Tertiary epoch, for which we have no parallel
in Europe. They have yielded fossils in an excellent state of
conservation and in unexampled number and variety. The researches of
Leidy and others have shown that forms allied to the _Hipparion_ and the
_Anchitherium_ are to be found among these remains. But it is only
recently that the admirably conceived and most thoroughly and patiently
worked-out investigations of Professor Marsh have given us a just idea
of the vast fossil wealth, and of the scientific importance, of these
deposits. I have had the advantage of glancing over the collections in
Yale Museum; and I can truly say that, so far as my knowledge extends,
there is no collection from any one region and series of strata
comparable, for extent, or for the care with which the remains have been
got together, or for their scientific importance, to the series of
fossils which he has deposited there. This vast collection has yielded
evidence bearing upon the question of the pedigree of the horse of the
most striking character. It tends to show that we must look to America,
rather than to Europe, for the original seat of the equine series; and
that the archaic forms and successive modifications of the horse's
ancestry are far better preserved here than in Europe.

Professor Marsh's kindness has enabled me to put before you a diagram,
every figure in which is an actual representation of some specimen which
is to be seen at Yale at this present time (Fig. 9).

The succession of forms which he has brought together carries us from
the top to the bottom of the Tertiaries. Firstly, there is the true
horse. Next we have the American Pliocene form of the horse
(_Pliohippus_); in the conformation of its limbs it presents some very
slight deviations from the ordinary horse, and the crowns of the
grinding teeth are shorter. Then comes the _Protohippus_, which
represents the European _Hipparion_, having one large digit and two
small ones on each foot, and the general characters of the fore-arm and
leg to which I have referred. But it is more valuable than the European
_Hipparion_, for the reason that it is devoid of some of the
peculiarities of that form--peculiarities which tend to show that the
European _Hipparion_ is rather a member of a collateral branch, than a
form in the direct line of succession. Next, in the backward order in
time, is the _Miohippus_, which corresponds pretty nearly with the
_Anchitherium_ of Europe. It presents three complete toes--one large
median and two smaller lateral ones; and there is a rudiment of that
digit, which answers to the little finger of the human hand.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.]

The European record of the pedigree of the horse stops here; in the
American Tertiaries, on the contrary, the series of ancestral equine
forms is continued into the Eocene formations. An older Miocene form,
termed _Mesohippus_, has three toes in front, with a large splint-like
rudiment representing the little finger; and three toes behind. The
radius and ulna, the tibia and the fibula, are distinct, and the short
crowned molar teeth are anchitherold in pattern.

But the most important discovery of all is the _Orohippus_, which comes
from the Eocene formation, and is the oldest member of the equine series
as yet known. Here we find four complete toes on the front limb, three
toes on the hind-limb, a well-developed ulna, a well-developed fibula,
and short-crowned grinders of simple pattern.

Thus, thanks to these important researches, it has become evident that,
so far as our present knowledge extends, the history of the horse-type
is exactly and precisely that which could have been predicted from a
knowledge of the principles of evolution. And the knowledge we now
possess justifies us completely in the anticipation, that when the still
lower Eocene deposits, and those which belong to the cretaceous epoch,
have yielded up their remains of ancestral equine animals, we shall
find, first, a form with four complete toes and a rudiment of the
innermost or first digit in front, with probably a rudiment of the fifth
digit in the hind foot;[4] while, in still older forms, the series of
the digits will be more and more complete, until we come to the
five-toed animals, in which, if the doctrine of evolution is well
founded, the whole series must have taken its orgin.

That is what I mean by demonstrative evidence of evolution. An inductive
hypothesis is said to be demonstrated when the facts are shown to be in
entire accordance with it. If that is not scientific proof, there are no
merely inductive conclusions which can be said to be proved. And the
doctrine of evolution, at the present time, rests upon exactly as secure
a foundation as the Copernican theory of the motions of the heavenly
bodies did at the time of its promulgation. Its logical basis is
precisely of the same character--the coincidence of the observed facts
with theoretical requirements.

The only way of escape, if it be a way of escape, from the conclusions
which I have just indicated, is the supposition that all these different
equine forms have been created separately at separate epochs of time;
and, I repeat, that of such an hypothesis as this there neither is, nor
can be, any scientific evidence; and, assuredly so far as I know, there
is none which is supported, or pretends to be supported, by evidence or
authority of any other kind. I can but think that the time will come
when such suggestions as these, such obvious attempts to escape the
force of demonstration, will be put upon the same footing as the
supposition made by some writers, who are I believe not completely
extinct at present, that fossils are mere simulacra, are no indications
of the former existence of the animals to which they seem to belong; but
that they are either sports of Nature, or special creations,
intended--as I heard suggested the other day--to test our faith.

In fact, the whole evidence is in favour of evolution, and there is none
against it. And I say this, although perfectly well aware of the seeming
difficulties which have been built up upon what appears to the
uninformed to be a solid foundation. I meet constantly with the argument
that the doctrine of evolution cannot be well founded, because it
requires the lapse of a very vast period of time; while the duration of
life upon the earth thus implied is inconsistent with the conclusions
arrived at by the astronomer and the physicist. I may venture to say
that I am familiar with those conclusions, inasmuch as some years ago,
when President of the Geological Society of London, I took the liberty
of criticising them, and of showing in what respects, as it appeared to
me, they lacked complete and thorough demonstration. But, putting that
point aside, suppose that, as the astronomers, or some of them, and some
physical philosophers, tell us, it is impossible that life could have
endured upon the earth for as long a period as is required by the
doctrine of evolution--supposing that to be proved--I desire to be
informed, what is the foundation for the statement that evolution does
require so great a time? The biologist knows nothing whatever of the
amount of time which may be required for the process of evolution. It is
a matter of fact that the equine forms which I have described to you
occur, in the order stated, in the Tertiary formations. But I have not
the slightest means of guessing whether it took a million of years, or
ten millions, or a hundred millions, or a thousand millions of years, to
give rise to that series of changes. A biologist has no means of
arriving at any conclusion as to the amount of time which may be needed
for a certain quantity of organic change. He takes his time from the
geologist. The geologist, considering the rate at which deposits are
formed and the rate at which denudation goes on upon the surface of the
earth, arrives at more or less justifiable conclusions as to the time
which is required for the deposit of a certain thickness of rocks; and
if he tells me that the Tertiary formations required 500,000,000 years
for their deposit, I suppose he has good ground for what he says, and I
take that as a measure of the duration of the evolution of the horse
from the _Orohippus_ up to its present condition. And, if he is right,
undoubtedly evolution is a very slow process and requires a great deal
of time. But suppose, now, that an astronomer or a physicist--for
instance, my friend Sir William Thomson--tells me that my geological
authority is quite wrong; and that he has weighty evidence to show that
life could not possibly have existed upon the surface of the earth
500,000,000 years ago, because the earth would have then been too hot to
allow of life, my reply is: "That is not my affair; settle that with the
geologist, and when you have come to an agreement among yourselves I
will adopt your conclusion." We take our time from the geologists and
physicists; and it is monstrous that having taken our time from the
physical philosopher's clock, the physical philosopher should turn round
upon us, and say we are too fast or too slow. What we desire to know is,
is it a fact that evolution took place? As to the amount of time which
evolution may have occupied, we are in the hands of the physicist and
the astronomer, whose business it is to deal with those questions.

I have now, ladies and gentlemen, arrived at the conclusion of the task
which I set before myself when I undertook to deliver these lectures. My
purpose has been, not to enable those among you who have paid no
attention to these subjects before, to leave this room in a condition to
decide upon the validity or the invalidity of the hypothesis of
evolution; but I have desired to put before you the principles upon
which all hypotheses respecting the history of Nature must be judged;
and furthermore, to make apparent the nature of the evidence and the
amount of cogency which is to be expected and may be obtained from it.
To this end, I have not hesitated to regard you as genuine students and
persons desirous of knowing the truth. I have not shrunk from taking you
through long discussions, that I fear may have sometimed tried your
patience; and I have inflicted upon you details which were
indispensable, but which may well have been wearisome. But I shall
rejoice--I shall consider that I have done you the greatest service
which it was in my power to do--if I have thus convinced you that the
great question which we have been discussing is not one to be dealt with
by rhetorical flourishes, or by loose and superficial talk; but that it
requires the keen attention of the trained intellect and the patience of
the accurate observer.



In order to make the title of this discourse generally intelligible, I
have translated the term "Protoplasm," which is the scientific name of
the substance of which I am about to speak, by the words "the physical
basis of life." I suppose that, to many, the idea that there is such a
thing as a physical basis, or matter, of life may be novel--so widely
spread is the conception of life as a something which works through
matter, but is independent of it; and even those who are aware that
matter and life are inseparably connected, may not be prepared for the
conclusion plainly suggested by the phrase, "_the_ physical basis or
matter of life," that there is some one kind of matter which is common
to all living beings, and that their endless diversities are bound
together by a physical, as well as an ideal, unity. In fact, when first
apprehended, such a doctrine as this appears almost shocking to common

What, truly, can seem to be more obviously different from one another,
in faculty, in form, and in substance, than the various kinds of living
beings? What community of faculty can there be between the
brightly-coloured lichen, which so nearly resembles a mere mineral
incrustation of the bare rock on which it grows, and the painter, to
whom it is instinct with beauty, or the botanist, whom it feeds with

Again, think of the microscopic fungus--a mere infinitesimal ovoid
particle, which finds space and duration enough to multiply into
countless millions in the body of a living fly; and then of the wealth
of foliage, the luxuriance of flower and fruit, which lies between this
bald sketch of a plant and the giant pine of California, towering to the
dimensions of a cathedral spire, or the Indian fig, which covers acres
with its profound shadow, and endures while nations and empires come and
go around its vast circumference. Or, turning to the other half of the
world of life, picture to yourselves the great Finner whale, hugest of
beasts that live, or have lived, disporting his eighty or ninety feet of
bone, muscle, and blubber, with easy roll, among waves in which the
stoutest ship that ever left dockyard would flounder hopelessly; and
contrast him with the invisible animalcules--mere gelatinous specks,
multitudes of which could, in fact, dance upon the point of a needle
with the same ease as the angels of the Schoolmen could, in imagination.
With these images before your minds, you may well ask, what community of
form, or structure, is there between the animalcule and the whale; or
between the fungus and the fig-tree? And, _a fortiori_, between all

Finally, if we regard substance, or material composition, what hidden
bond can connect the flower which a girl wears in her hair and the blood
which courses through her youthful veins; or, what is there in common
between the dense and resisting mass of the oak, or the strong fabric of
the tortoise, and those broad disks of glassy jelly which may be seen
pulsating through the waters of a calm sea, but which drain away to
mere films in the hand which raises them out of their element?

Such objections as these must, I think, arise in the mind of every one
who ponders, for the first time, upon the conception of a single
physical basis of life underlying all the diversities of vital
existence; but I propose to demonstrate to you that, notwithstanding
these apparent difficulties, a threefold unity--namely, a unity of
power or faculty, a unity of form, and a unity of substantial
composition--does pervade the whole living world.

No very abstruse argumentation is needed, in the first place, to prove
that the powers, or faculties, of all kinds of living matter, diverse as
they may be in degree, are substantially similar in kind.

Goethe has condensed a survey of all powers of mankind into the
well-known epigram:--

  "Warum treibt sich das Volk so und schreit?
                Es will sich ernähren
    Kinder zeugen, und die nähren so gut es vermag.

         *       *       *       *       *

    Weiter bringt es kein Mensch, stell' er
                sich wie er auch will."

In physiological language this means, that all the multifarious and
complicated activities of man are comprehensible under three categories.
Either they are immediately directed towards the maintenance and
development of the body, or they effect transitory changes in the
relative positions of parts of the body, or they tend towards the
continuance of the species. Even those manifestations of intellect, of
feeling, and of will, which we rightly name the higher faculties, are
not excluded from this classification, inasmuch as to every one but the
subject of them, they are known only as transitory changes in the
relative positions of parts of the body. Speech, gesture, and every
other form of human action are, in the long run, resolvable into
muscular contraction, and muscular contraction is but a transitory
change in the relative positions of the parts of a muscle. But the
scheme which is large enough to embrace the activities of the highest
form of life, covers all those of the lower creatures. The lowest plant,
or animalcule, feeds, grows, and reproduces its kind. In addition, all
animals manifest those transitory changes of form which we class under
irritability and contractility; and, it is more than probable, that when
the vegetable world is thoroughly explored, we shall find all plants in
possession of the same powers, at one time or other of their existence.

I am not now alluding to such phænomena, at once rare and conspicuous,
as those exhibited by the leaflets of the sensitive plants, or the
stamens of the barberry, but to much more widely spread, and at the same
time, more subtle and hidden, manifestations of vegetable contractility.
You are doubtless aware that the common nettle owes its stinging
property to the innumerable stiff and needle-like, though exquisitely
delicate, hairs which cover its surface. Each stinging-needle tapers
from a broad base to a slender summit, which, though rounded at the end,
is of such microscopic fineness that it readily penetrates, and breaks
off in, the skin. The whole hair consists of a very delicate outer case
of wood, closely applied to the inner surface of which is a layer of
semi-fluid matter, full of innumerable granules of extreme minuteness.
This semi-fluid lining is protoplasm, which thus constitutes a kind of
bag, full of a limpid liquid, and roughly corresponding in form with the
interior of the hair which it fills. When viewed with a sufficiently
high magnifying power, the protoplasmic layer of the nettle hair is seen
to be in a condition of unceasing activity. Local contractions of the
whole thickness of its substance pass slowly and gradually from point to
point, and give rise to the appearance of progressive waves, just as the
bending of successive stalks of corn by a breeze produces the apparent
billows of a cornfield.

But, in addition to these movements, and independently of them, the
granules are driven, in relatively rapid streams, through channels in
the protoplasm which seem to have a considerable amount of persistence.
Most commonly, the currents in adjacent parts of the protoplasm take
similar directions; and, thus, there is a general stream up one side of
the hair and down the other. But this does not prevent the existence of
partial currents which take different routes; and sometimes trains of
granules may be seen coursing swiftly in opposite directions within a
twenty-thousandth of an inch of one another; while, occasionally,
opposite streams come into direct collision, and, after a longer or
shorter struggle, one predominates. The cause of these currents seems to
lie in contractions of the protoplasm which bounds the channels in which
they flow, but which are so minute that the best microscopes show only
their effects, and not themselves.

The spectacle afforded by the wonderful energies prisoned within the
compass of the microscopic hair of a plant, which we commonly regard as
a merely passive organism, is not easily forgotten by one who has
watched its display, continued hour after hour, without pause or sign of
weakening. The possible complexity of many other organic forms,
seemingly as simple as the protoplasm of the nettle, dawns upon one; and
the comparison of such a protoplasm to a body with an internal
circulation, which has been put forward by an eminent physiologist,
loses much of its startling character. Currents similar to those of the
hairs of the nettle have been observed in a great multitude of very
different plants, and weighty authorities have suggested that they
probably occur, in more or less perfection, in all young vegetable
cells. If such be the case, the wonderful noonday silence of a tropical
forest is, after all, due only to the dulness of our hearing; and could
our ears catch the murmur of these tiny Maelstroms, as they whirl in the
innumerable myriads of living cells which constitute each tree, we
should be stunned, as with the roar of a great city.

Among the lower plants, it is the rule rather than the exception, that
contractility should be still more openly manifested at some periods of
their existence. The protoplasm of _Algæ_ and _Fungi_ becomes, under
many circumstances, partially, or completely, freed from its woody case,
and exhibits movements of its whole mass, or is propelled by the
contractility of one, or more, hair-like prolongations of its body,
which are called vibratile cilia. And, so far as the conditions of the
manifestation of the phænomena of contractility have yet been studied,
they are the same for the plant as for the animal. Heat and electric
shocks influence both, and in the same way, though it may be in
different degrees. It is by no means my intention to suggest that there
is no difference in faculty between the lowest plant and the highest, or
between plants and animals. But the difference between the powers of the
lowest plant, or animal, and those of the highest, is one of degree, not
of kind, and depends, as Milne-Edwards long ago so well pointed out,
upon the extent to which the principle of the division of labour is
carried out in the living economy. In the lowest organism all parts are
competent to perform all functions, and one and the same portion of
protoplasm may successfully take on the function of feeding, moving, or
reproducing apparatus. In the highest, on the contrary, a great number
of parts combine to perform each function, each part doing its allotted
share of the work with great accuracy and efficiency, but being useless
for any other purpose.

On the other hand, notwithstanding all the fundamental resemblances
which exist between the powers of the protoplasm in plants and in
animals, they present a striking difference (to which I shall advert
more at length presently), in the fact that plants can manufacture fresh
protoplasm out of mineral compounds, whereas animals are obliged to
procure it ready made, and hence, in the long run, depend upon plants.
Upon what condition this difference in the powers of the two great
divisions of the world of life depends, nothing is at present known.

With such qualification as arises out of the last-mentioned fact, it may
be truly said that the acts of all living things are fundamentally one.
Is any such unity predicable of their forms? Let us seek in easily
verified facts for a reply to this question. If a drop of blood be drawn
by pricking one's finger, and viewed with proper precautions, and under
a sufficiently high microscopic power, there will be seen, among the
innumerable multitude of little, circular, discoidal bodies, or
corpuscles, which float in it and give it its colour, a comparatively
small number of colourless corpuscles, of somewhat larger size and very
irregular shape. If the drop of blood be kept at the temperature of the
body, these colourless corpuscles will be seen to exhibit a marvellous
activity, changing their forms with great rapidity, drawing in and
thrusting out prolongations of their substance, and creeping about as if
they were independent organisms.

The substance which is thus active is a mass of protoplasm, and its
activity differs in detail, rather than in principle, from that of the
protoplasm of the nettle. Under sundry circumstances the corpuscle dies
and becomes distended into a round mass, in the midst of which is seen a
smaller spherical body, which existed, but was more or less hidden, in
the living corpuscle, and is called its _nucleus_. Corpuscles of
essentially similar structure are to be found in the skin, in the lining
of the mouth, and scattered through the whole framework of the body.
Nay, more; in the earliest condition of the human organism, in that
state in which it has but just become distinguishable from the egg in
which it arises, it is nothing but an aggregation of such corpuscles,
and every organ of the body was, once, no more than such an aggregation.

Thus a nucleated mass of protoplasm turns out to be what may be termed
the structural unit of the human body. As a matter of fact, the body, in
its earliest state, is a mere multiple of such units; and in its perfect
condition, it is a multiple of such units, variously modified.

But does the formula which expresses the essential structural character
of the highest animal cover all the rest, as the statement of its powers
and faculties covered that of all others? Very nearly. Beast and fowl,
reptile and fish, mollusk, worm, and polype, are all composed of
structural units of the same character, namely, masses of protoplasm
with a nucleus. There are sundry very low animals, each of which,
structurally, is a mere colourless blood-corpuscle, leading an
independent life. But at the very bottom of the animal scale, even this
simplicity becomes simplified, and all the phænomena of life are
manifested by a particle of protoplasm without a nucleus. Nor are such
organisms insignificant by reason of their want of complexity. It is a
fair question whether the protoplasm of those simplest forms of life,
which people an immense extent of the bottom of the sea, would not
outweigh that of all the higher living beings which inhabit the land put
together. And in ancient times, no less than at the present day, such
living beings as these have been the greatest of rock builders.

What has been said of the animal world is no less true of plants.
Embedded in the protoplasm at the broad, or attached, end of the nettle
hair, there lies a spheroidal nucleus. Careful examination further
proves that the whole substance of the nettle is made up of a repetition
of such masses of nucleated protoplasm, each contained in a wooden case,
which is modified in form, sometimes into a woody fibre, sometimes into
a duct or spiral vessel, sometimes into a pollen grain, or an ovule.
Traced back to its earliest state, the nettle arises as the man does, in
a particle of nucleated protoplasm. And in the lowest plants, as in the
lowest animals, a single mass of such protoplasm may constitute the
whole plant, or the protoplasm may exist without a nucleus.

Under these circumstances it may well be asked, how is one mass of
non-nucleated protoplasm to be distinguished from another? why call one
"plant" and the other "animal"?

The only reply is that, so far as form is concerned, plants and animals
are not separable, and that, in many cases, it is a mere matter of
convention whether we call a given organism an animal or a plant. There
is a living body called _Æthalium septicum_, which appears upon decaying
vegetable substances, and, in one of its forms, is common upon the
surfaces of tan-pits. In this condition it is, to all intents and
purposes, a fungus, and formerly was always regarded as such; but the
remarkable investigations of De Bary have shown that, in another
condition, the _Æthalium_ is an actively locomotive creature, and takes
in solid matters, upon which, apparently, it feeds, thus exhibiting the
most characteristic feature of animality. Is this a plant; or is it an
animal? Is it both; or is it neither? Some decide in favour of the last
supposition, and establish an intermediate kingdom, a sort of biological
No Man's Land for all these questionable forms. But, as it is admittedly
impossible to draw any distinct boundary line between this no man's land
and the vegetable world, on the one hand, or the animal, on the other,
it appears to me that this proceeding merely doubles the difficulty
which, before, was single.

Protoplasm, simple or nucleated, is the formal basis of all life. It is
the clay of the potter: which, bake it and paint it as he will, remains
clay, separated by artifice, and not by nature, from the commonest brick
or sun-dried clod.

Thus it becomes clear that all living powers are cognate, and that all
living forms are fundamentally of one character. The researches of the
chemist have revealed a no less striking uniformity of material
composition in living matter.

In perfect strictness, it is true that chemical investigation can tell
us little or nothing, directly, of the composition of living matter,
inasmuch as such matter must needs die in the act of analysis,--and upon
this very obvious ground, objections, which I confess seem to me to be
somewhat frivolous, have been raised to the drawing of any conclusions
whatever respecting the composition of actually living matter, from that
of the dead matter of life, which alone is accessible to us. But
objectors of this class do not seem to reflect that it is also, in
strictness, true that we know nothing about the composition of any body
whatever, as it is. The statement that a crystal of calc-spar consists
of carbonate of lime, is quite true, if we only mean that, by
appropriate processes, it may be resolved into carbonic acid and
quicklime. If you pass the same carbonic acid over the very quicklime
thus obtained, you will obtain carbonate of lime again; but it will not
be calc-spar, nor anything like it. Can it, therefore, be said that
chemical analysis teaches nothing about the chemical composition of
calc-spar? Such a statement would be absurd; but it is hardly more so
than the talk one occasionally hears about the uselessness of applying
the results of chemical analysis to the living bodies which have yielded

One fact, at any rate, is out of reach of such refinements, and this is,
that all the forms of protoplasm which have yet been examined contain
the four elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, in very
complex union, and that they behave similarly towards several reagents.
To this complex combination, the nature of which has never been
determined with exactness, the name of Protein has been applied. And if
we use this term with such caution as may properly arise out of our
comparative ignorance of the things for which it stands, it may be truly
said, that all protoplasm is proteinaceous, or, as the white, or
albumen, of an egg is one of the commonest examples of a nearly pure
proteine matter, we may say that all living matter is more or less

Perhaps it would not yet be safe to say that all forms of protoplasm are
affected by the direct action of electric shocks; and yet the number of
cases in which the contraction of protoplasm is shown to be affected by
this agency increases every day.

Nor can it be affirmed with perfect confidence, that all forms of
protoplasm are liable to undergo that peculiar coagulation at a
temperature of 40°-50° centigrade, which has been called
"heat-stiffening," though Kühne's beautiful researches have proved this
occurrence to take place in so many and such diverse living beings, that
it is hardly rash to expect that the law holds good for all.

       *       *       *       *       *

Enough has, perhaps, been said to prove the existence of a general
uniformity in the character of the protoplasm, or physical basis, of
life, in whatever group of living beings it may be studied. But it will
be understood that this general uniformity by no means excludes any
amount of special modifications of the fundamental substance. The
mineral, carbonate of lime, assumes an immense diversity of characters,
though no one doubts that, under all these Protean changes, it is one
and the same thing.

And now, what is the ultimate fate, and what the origin, of the matter
of life?

Is it, as some of the older naturalists supposed, diffused throughout
the universe in molecules, which are indestructible and unchangeable in
themselves; but, in endless transmigration, unite in innumerable
permutations, into the diversified forms of life we know? Or, is the
matter of life composed of ordinary matter, differing from it only in
the manner in which its atoms are aggregated? Is it built up of ordinary
matter, and again resolved into ordinary matter when its work is done?

Modern science does not hesitate a moment between these alternatives.
Physiology writes, over the portals of life--

     "Debemur morti nos nostraque,"

with a profounder meaning than the Roman poet attached to that
melancholy line. Under whatever disguise it takes refuge, whether fungus
or oak; worm or man, the living protoplasm not only ultimately dies and
is resolved into its mineral and lifeless constituents, but is always
dying, and, strange as the paradox may sound, could not live unless it

In the wonderful story of the "Peau de Chagrin," the hero becomes
possessed of a magical wild ass' skin, which yields him the means of
gratifying all his wishes. But its surface represents the duration of
the proprietor's life; and for every satisfied desire the skin shrinks
in proportion to the intensity of fruition, until at length life and the
last hand-breadth of the _peau de chagrin_, disappear with the
gratification of a last wish.

Balzac's studies had led him over a wide range of thought and
speculation, and his shadowing forth of physiological truth in this
strange story may have been intentional. At any rate, the matter of life
is a veritable _peau de chagrin_, and for every vital act it is somewhat
the smaller. All work implies waste, and the work of life results,
directly or indirectly, in the waste of protoplasm.

Every word uttered by a speaker costs him some physical loss; and, in
the strictest sense, he burns that others may have light--so much
eloquence, so much of his body resolved into carbonic acid, water, and
urea. It is clear that this process of expenditure cannot go on for
ever. But, happily, the protoplasmic _peau de chagrin_ differs from
Balzac's in its capacity of being repaired, and brought back to its full
size, after every exertion.

For example, this present lecture, whatever its intellectual worth to
you, has a certain physical value to me, which is, conceivably,
expressible by the number of grains of protoplasm and other bodily
substance wasted in maintaining my vital processes during its delivery.
My _peau de chagrin_ will be distinctly smaller at the end of the
discourse than it was at the beginning. By and by, I shall probably have
recourse to the substance commonly called mutton, for the purpose of
stretching it back to its original size. Now this mutton was once the
living protoplasm, more or less modified, of another animal--a sheep. As
I shall eat it, it is the same matter altered, not only by death, but by
exposure to sundry artificial operations in the process of cooking.

But these changes, whatever be their extent, have not rendered it
incompetent to resume its old functions as matter of life. A singular
inward laboratory, which I possess, will dissolve a certain portion of
the modified protoplasm; the solution so formed will pass into my veins;
and the subtle influences to which it will then be subjected will
convert the dead protoplasm into living protoplasm, and transubstantiate
sheep into man.

Nor is this all. If digestion were a thing to be trifled with, I might
sup upon lobster, and the matter of life of the crustacean would undergo
the same wonderful metamorphosis into humanity. And were I to return to
my own place by sea, and undergo shipwreck, the crustacean might, and
probably would, return the compliment, and demonstrate our common nature
by turning my protoplasm into living lobster. Or, if nothing better were
to be had, I might supply my wants with mere bread, and I should find
the protoplasm of the wheat-plant to be convertible into man, with no
more trouble than that of the sheep, and with far less, I fancy, than
that of the lobster.

Hence it appears to be a matter of no great moment what animal, or what
plant, I lay under contribution for protoplasm, and the fact speaks
volumes for the general identity of that substance in all living beings.
I share this catholicity of assimilation with other animals, all of
which, so far as we know, could thrive equally well on the protoplasm of
any of their fellows, or of any plant; but here the assimilative powers
of the animal world cease. A solution of smelling-salts in water, with
an infinitesimal proportion of some other saline matters, contains all
the elementary bodies which enter into the composition of protoplasm;
but, as I need hardly say, a hogshead of that fluid would not keep a
hungry man from starving, nor would it save any animal whatever from a
like fate. An animal cannot make protoplasm, but must take it ready-made
from some other animal, or some plant--the animal's highest feat of
constructive chemistry being to convert dead protoplasm into that living
matter of life which is appropriate to itself.

Therefore, in seeking for the origin of protoplasm, we must eventually
turn to the vegetable world. A fluid containing carbonic acid, water,
and nitrogenous salts, which offers such a Barmecide feast to the
animal, is a table richly spread to multitudes of plants; and, with a
due supply of only such materials, many a plant will not only maintain
itself in vigour, but grow and multiply until it has increased a
million-fold, or a million million-fold, the quantity of protoplasm
which it originally possessed; in this way building up the matter of
life, to an indefinite extent, from the common matter of the universe.

Thus, the animal can only raise the complex substance of dead protoplasm
to the higher power, as one may say, of living protoplasm; while the
plant can raise the less complex substances--carbonic acid, water, and
nitrogenous salts--to the same stage of living protoplasm, if not to the
same level. But the plant also has its limitations. Some of the fungi,
for example, appear to need higher compounds to start with; and no known
plant can live upon the uncompounded elements of protoplasm. A plant
supplied with pure carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, phosphorus,
sulphur, and the like, would as infallibly die as the animal in his bath
of smelling-salts, though it would be surrounded by all the
constituents of protoplasm. Nor, indeed, need the process of
simplification of vegetable food be carried so far as this, in order to
arrive at the limit of the plant's thaumaturgy. Let water, carbonic
acid, and all the other needful constituents be supplied except
nitrogenous salts, and an ordinary plant will still be unable to
manufacture protoplasm.

Thus the matter of life, so far as we know it (and we have no right to
speculate on any other), breaks up, in consequence of that continual
death which is the condition of its manifesting vitality, into carbonic
acid, water, and nitrogenous compounds, which certainly possess no
properties but those of ordinary matter. And out of these same forms of
ordinary matter, and from none which are simpler, the vegetable world
builds up all the protoplasm which keeps the animal world a-going.
Plants are the accumulators of the power which animals distribute and

But it will be observed, that the existence of the matter of life
depends on the pre-existence of certain compounds; namely, carbonic
acid, water, and certain nitrogenous bodies. Withdraw any one of these
three from the world, and all vital phænomena come to an end. They are
as necessary to the protoplasm of the plant as the protoplasm of the
plant is to that of the animal. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen
are all lifeless bodies. Of these, carbon and oxygen unite in certain
proportions and under certain conditions, to give rise to carbonic acid;
hydrogen and oxygen produce water; nitrogen and other elements give rise
to nitrogenous salts. These new compounds, like the elementary bodies of
which they are composed, are lifeless. But when they are brought
together, under certain conditions, they give rise to the still more
complex body, protoplasm, and this protoplasm exhibits the phænomena of

I see no break in this series of steps in molecular complication, and I
am unable to understand why the language which is applicable to any one
term of the series may not be used to any of the others. We think fit to
call different kinds of matter carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen,
and to speak of the various powers and activities of these substances as
the properties of the matter of which they are composed.

When hydrogen and oxygen are mixed in a certain proportion, and an
electric spark is passed through them, they disappear, and a quantity of
water, equal in weight to the sum of their weights, appears in their
place. There is not the slightest parity between the passive and active
powers of the water and those of the oxygen and hydrogen which have
given rise to it. At 32° Fahrenheit, and far below that temperature,
oxygen and hydrogen are elastic gaseous bodies, whose particles tend to
rush away from one another with great force. Water, at the same
temperature, is a strong though brittle solid, whose particles tend to
cohere into definite geometrical shapes, and sometimes build up frosty
imitations of the most complex forms of vegetable foliage.

Nevertheless we call these, and many other strange phænomena, the
properties of the water, and we do not hesitate to believe that, in some
way or another, they result from the properties of the component
elements of the water. We do not assume that a something called
"aquosity" entered into and took possession of the oxidated hydrogen as
soon as it was formed, and then guided the aqueous particles to their
places in the facets of the crystal, or amongst the leaflets of the
hoarfrost. On the contrary, we live in the hope and in the faith that,
by the advance of molecular physics, we shall by and by be able to see
our way as clearly from the constituents of water to the properties of
water, as we are now able to deduce the operations of a watch from the
form of its parts and the manner in which they are put together.

Is the case in any way changed when carbonic acid, water, and
nitrogenous salts disappear, and in their place, under the influence of
pre-existing living protoplasm, an equivalent weight of the matter of
life makes its appearance?

It is true that there is no sort of parity between the properties of the
components and the properties of the resultant, but neither was there in
the case of the water. It is also true that what I have spoken of as the
influence of pre-existing living matter is something quite
unintelligible; but does anybody quite comprehend the _modus operandi_
of an electric spark, which traverses a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen?

What justification is there, then, for the assumption of the existence
in the living matter of a something which has no representative, or
correlative, in the not living matter which gave rise to it? What better
philosophical status has "vitality" than "aquosity"? And why should
"vitality" hope for a better fate than the other "itys" which have
disappeared since Martinus Scriblerus accounted for the operation of the
meat-jack by its inherent "meat-roasting quality," and scorned the
"materialism" of those who explained the turning of the spit by a
certain mechanism worked by the draught of the chimney.

If scientific language is to possess a definite and constant
signification whenever it is employed, it seems to me that we are
logically bound to apply to the protoplasm, or physical basis of life,
the same conceptions as those which are held to be legitimate elsewhere.
If the phenomena exhibited by water are its properties, so are those
presented by protoplasm, living or dead, its properties.

If the properties of water may be properly said to result from the
nature and disposition of its component molecules, I can find no
intelligible ground for refusing to say that the properties of
protoplasm result from the nature and disposition of its molecules.

But I bid you beware that, in accepting these conclusions, you are
placing your feet on the first rung of a ladder which, in most people's
estimation, is the reverse of Jacob's, and leads to the antipodes of
heaven. It may seem a small thing to admit that the dull vital actions
of a fungus, or a foraminifer, are the properties of their protoplasm,
and are the direct results of the nature of the matter of which they are
composed. But if, as I have endeavoured to prove to you, their
protoplasm is essentially identical with, and most readily converted
into, that of any animal, I can discover no logical halting-place
between the admission that such is the case, and the further concession
that all vital action may, with equal propriety, be said to be the
result of the molecular forces of the protoplasm which displays it. And
if so, it must be true, in the same sense and to the same extent, that
the thoughts to which I am now giving utterance, and your thoughts
regarding them, are the expression of molecular changes in that matter
of life which is the source of our other vital phænomena.

Past experience leads me to be tolerably certain that, when the
propositions I have just placed before you are accessible to public
comment and criticism, they will be condemned by many zealous persons,
and perhaps by some few of the wise and thoughtful. I should not wonder
if "gross and brutal materialism" were the mildest phrase applied to
them in certain quarters. And, most undoubtedly, the terms of the
propositions are distinctly materialistic. Nevertheless two things are
certain; the one, that I hold the statements to be substantially true;
the other, that I, individually, am no materialist, but, on the
contrary, believe materialism to involve grave philosophical error.

This union of materialistic terminology with the repudiation of
materialistic philosophy I share with some of the most thoughtful men
with whom I am acquainted. And, when I first undertook to deliver the
present discourse, it appeared to me to be a fitting opportunity to
explain how such a union is not only consistent with, but necessitated
by, sound logic. I purposed to lead you through the territory of vital
phænomena to the materialistic slough in which you find yourselves now
plunged, and then to point out to you the sole path by which, in my
judgment, extrication is possible.

An occurrence of which I was unaware until my arrival here last night
renders this line of argument singularly opportune. I found in your
papers the eloquent address "On the Limits of Philosophical Inquiry,"
which a distinguished prelate of the English Church delivered before the
members of the Philosophical Institution on the previous day. My
argument, also, turns upon this very point of the limits of
philosophical inquiry; and I cannot bring out my own views better than
by contrasting them with those so plainly and, in the main, fairly
stated by the Archbishop of York.

But I may be permitted to make a preliminary comment upon an occurrence
that greatly astonished me. Applying the name of the "New Philosophy" to
that estimate of the limits of philosophical inquiry which I, in common
with many other men of science, hold to be just, the Archbishop opens
his address by identifying this "New Philosophy" with the Positive
Philosophy of M. Comte (of whom he speaks as its "founder"); and then
proceeds to attack that philosopher and his doctrines vigorously.

Now, so far as I am concerned, the most reverend prelate might
dialectically hew M. Comte in pieces, as a modern Agag, and I should not
attempt to stay his hand. In so far as my study of what specially
characterises the Positive Philosophy has led me, I find therein little
or nothing of any scientific value, and a great deal which is as
thoroughly antagonistic to the very essence of science as anything in
ultramontane Catholicism. In fact, M. Comte's philosophy, in practice,
might be compendiously described as Catholicism _minus_ Christianity.

But what has Comtism to do with the "New Philosophy," as the Archbishop,
defines it in the following passage?

     "Let me briefly remind you of the leading principles of this new

     "All knowledge is experience of facts acquired by the senses. The
     traditions of older philosophies have obscured our experience by
     mixing with it much that the senses cannot observe, and until these
     additions are discarded our knowledge is impure. Thus metaphysics
     tell us that one fact which we observe is a cause, and another is
     the effect of that cause; but, upon a rigid analysis, we find that
     our senses observe nothing of cause or effect: they observe, first,
     that one fact succeeds another, and, after some opportunity, that
     this fact has never failed to follow--that for cause and effect we
     should substitute invariable succession. An older philosophy
     teaches us to define an object by distinguishing its essential from
     its accidental qualities: but experience knows nothing of essential
     and accidental; she sees only that, certain marks attach to an
     object, and, after many observations, that some of them attach
     invariably, whilst others may at times be absent.... As all
     knowledge is relative, the notion of anything being necessary must
     be banished with other traditions." [5]

There is much here that expresses the spirit of the "New Philosophy," if
by that term be meant the spirit of modern science; but I cannot but
marvel that the assembled wisdom and learning of Edinburgh should have
uttered no sign of dissent, when Comte was declared to be the founder of
these doctrines. No one will accuse Scotchmen of habitually forgetting
their great countrymen; but it was enough to make David Hume turn in his
grave, that here, almost within ear-shot of his house, an instructed
audience should have listened, without a murmur, while his most
characteristic doctrines were attributed to a French writer of fifty
years later date, in whose dreary and verbose pages we miss alike the
vigour of thought and the exquisite clearness of style of the man whom I
make bold to term the most acute thinker of the eighteenth century--even
though that century produced Kant.

But I did not come to Scotland to vindicate the honour of one of the
neatest men she has ever produced. My business is to point out to you
that the only way of escape out of the "crass materialism" in which we
just now landed, is the adoption and strict working out of the very
principles which the Archbishop holds up to reprobation.

Let us suppose that knowledge is absolute, and not relative, and
therefore, that our conception of matter represents that which it really
is. Let us suppose, further, that we do know more of cause and effect
than a certain definite order of succession among facts, and that we
have a knowledge of the necessity of that succession--and hence, of
necessary laws--and I, for my part, do not see what escape there is from
utter materialism and necessarianism. For it is obvious that our
knowledge of what we call the material world is, to begin with, at least
as certain and definite as that of the spiritual world, and that our
acquaintance with law is of as old a date as our knowledge of
spontaneity. Further, I take it to be demonstrable that it is utterly
impossible to prove that anything whatever may not be the effect of a
material and necessary cause, and that human logic is equally
incompetent to prove that any act is really spontaneous. A really
spontaneous act is one which, by the assumption, has no cause; and the
attempt to prove such a negative as this is, on the face of the matter,
absurd. And while it is thus a philosophical impossibility to
demonstrate that any given phænomenon is not the effect of a material
cause, any one who is acquainted with the history of science will admit,
that its progress has, in all ages, meant, and now, more than ever,
means, the extension of the province of what we call matter and
causation, and the concomitant gradual banishment from all regions of
human thought of what we call spirit and spontaneity.

I have endeavoured, in the first part of this discourse, to give you a
conception of the direction towards which modern physiology is tending;
and I ask you, what is the difference between the conception of life as
the product of a certain disposition of material molecules, and the old
notion of an Archæus governing and directing blind matter within each
living body, except this--that here, as elsewhere, matter and law have
devoured spirit and spontaneity? And as surely as every future grows out
of past and present, so will the physiology of the future gradually
extend the realm of matter and law until it is co-extensive with
knowledge, with feeling, and with action.

The consciousness of this great truth weighs like a nightmare, I
believe, upon many of the best minds of these days. They watch what they
conceive to be the progress of materialism, in such fear and powerless
anger as a savage feels, when, during an eclipse, the great shadow
creeps over the face of the sun. The advancing tide of matter threatens
to drown their souls; the tightening grasp of law impedes their freedom;
they are alarmed lest man's moral nature be debased by the increase of
his wisdom.

If the "New Philosophy" be worthy of the reprobation with which it is
visited, I confess their fears seem to me to be well founded. While, on
the contrary, could David Hume be consulted, I think he would smile at
their perplexities, and chide them for doing even as the heathen, and
falling down in terror before the hideous idols their own hands have

For, after all, what do we know of this terrible "matter," except as a
name for the unknown and hypothetical cause of states of our own
consciousness? And what do we know of that "spirit" over whose
threatened extinction by matter a great lamentation is arising, like
that which was heard at the death of Pan, except that it is also a name
for an unknown and hypothetical cause, or condition, of states of
consciousness? In other words, matter and spirit are but names for the
imaginary substrata of groups of natural phænomena.

And what is the dire necessity and "iron" law under which men groan?
Truly, most gratuitously 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 stone, unsupported, must fall to the ground. But
what is all we really know, and can know, about the latter phænomena?
Simply, that, in all human experience, stones have fallen to the ground
under these conditions; that we have not the smallest reason for
believing that any stone so circumstanced will not fall to the ground;
and that we have, on the contrary, every reason to believe that it will
so fall. It is very convenient to indicate that all the conditions of
belief have been fulfilled in this case, by calling the statement that
unsupported stones will fall to the ground, "a law of Nature." But when,
as commonly happens, we change _will_ into _must_, we introduce an idea
of necessity which most assuredly does not lie in the observed facts,
and has no warranty that I can discover elsewhere. For my part, I
utterly repudiate and anathematise the intruder. Fact I know; and Law I
know; but what is this Necessity, save an empty shadow of my own mind's

But, if it is certain that we can have no knowledge of the nature of
either matter or spirit, and that the notion of necessity is something
illegitimately thrust into the perfectly legitimate conception of law,
the materialistic position that there is nothing in the world but
matter, force, and necessity, is as utterly devoid of justification as
the most baseless of theological dogmas. The fundamental doctrines of
materialism, like those of spiritualism, and most other "isms," lie
outside "the limits of philosophical inquiry," and David Hume's great
service to humanity is his irrefragable demonstration of what these
limits are. Hume called himself a sceptic and therefore others cannot be
blamed if they apply the same title to him; but that does not alter the
fact that the name, with its existing implications, does him gross

If a man asks me what the politics of the inhabitants of the moon are,
and I reply that I do not know; that neither I, nor any one else, has
any means of knowing; and that, under these circumstances, I decline to
trouble myself about the subject at all, I do not think he has any right
to call me a sceptic. On the contrary, in replying thus, I conceive that
I am simply honest and truthful, and show a proper regard for the
economy of time. So Hume's strong and subtle intellect takes up a great
many problems about which we are naturally curious, and shows us that
they are essentially questions of lunar politics, in their essence
incapable of being answered, and therefore not worth the attention of
men who have work to do in the world. And he thus ends one of his

     "If we take in hand any volume of Divinity, or school metaphysics,
     for instance, let us ask, _Does it contain any abstract reasoning
     concerning quantity or number?_ No. _Does it contain any
     experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?_
     No. Commit it then to the flames; for it can contain nothing but
     sophistry and illusion." [6]

Permit me to enforce this most wise advice. Why trouble ourselves about
matters of which, however important they may be, we do know nothing, and
can know nothing? We live in a world which is full of misery and
ignorance, and the plain duty of each and all of us is to try to make
the little corner he can influence somewhat less miserable and somewhat
less ignorant than it was before he entered it. To do this effectually
it is necessary to be fully possessed of only two beliefs: the first,
that the order of Nature is ascertainable by our faculties to an extent
which is practically unlimited; the second, that our volition[7] counts
for something as a condition of the course of events.

Each of these beliefs can be verified experimentally, as often as we
like to try. Each, therefore, stands upon the strongest foundation upon
which any belief can rest, and forms one of our highest truths. If we
find that the ascertainment of the order of nature is facilitated by
using one terminology, or one set of symbols, rather than another, it is
our clear duty to use the former; and no harm can accrue, so long as we
bear in mind, that we are dealing merely with terms and symbols.

In itself it is of little moment whether we express the phænomena of
matter in terms of spirit; or the phænomena of spirit in terms of
matter: matter may be regarded as a form of thought, thought may be
regarded as a property of matter--each statement has a certain relative
truth. But with a view to the progress of science, the materialistic
terminology is in every way to be preferred. For it connects thought
with the other phænomena of the universe, and suggests inquiry into the
nature of those physical conditions, or concomitants of thought, which
are more or less accessible to us, and a knowledge of which may, in
future, help us to exercise the same kind of control over the world of
thought, as we already possess in respect of the material world;
whereas, the alternative, or spiritualistic, terminology is utterly
barren, and leads to nothing but obscurity and confusion of ideas.

Thus there can be little doubt, that the further science advances, the
more extensively and consistently will all the phænomena of Nature be
represented by materialistic formulæ and symbols.

But the man of science, who, forgetting the limits of philosophical
inquiry, slides from these formulæ and symbols into what is commonly
understood by materialism, seems to me to place himself on a level with
the mathematician, who should mistake the _x_'s and _y_'s with which he
works his problems, for real entities--and with this further
disadvantage, as compared with the mathematician, that the blunders of
the latter are of no practical consequence, while the errors of
systematic materialism may paralyse the energies and destroy the beauty
of a life.



There is a single problem with different aspects of which thinking men
have been occupied, ever since they began seriously to consider the
wonderful frame of things in which their lives are set, and to seek for
trustworthy guidance among its intricacies.

Experience speedily taught them that the shifting scenes of the world's
stage have a permanent background; that there is order amidst the
seeming contusion, and that many events take place according to
unchanging rules. To this region of familiar steadiness and customary
regularity they gave the name of Nature. But at the same time, their
infantile and untutored reason, little more, as yet, than the playfellow
of the imagination, led them to believe that this tangible, commonplace,
orderly world of Nature was surrounded and interpenetrated by another
intangible and mysterious world, no more bound by fixed rules than, as
they fancied, were the thoughts and passions which coursed through their
minds and seemed to exercise an intermittent and capricious rule over
their bodies. They attributed to the entities, with which they peopled
this dim and dreadful region, an unlimited amount of that power of
modifying the course of events of which they themselves possessed a
small share, and thus came to regard them as not merely beyond, but
above, Nature.

Hence arose the conception of a "Supernature" antithetic to
"Nature"--the primitive dualism of a natural world "fixed in fate" and a
supernatural, left to the free play of volition--which has pervaded all
later speculation, and, for thousands of years, has exercised a profound
influence on practice. For it is obvious that, on this theory of the
Universe, the successful conduct of life must demand careful attention
to both worlds; and, if either is to be neglected, it may be safer that
it should be Nature. In any given contingency, it must doubtless be
desirable to know what may be expected to happen in the ordinary course
of things; but it must be quite as necessary to have some inkling of the
line likely to be taken by supernatural agencies able, and possibly
willing, to suspend or reverse that course. Indeed, logically developed,
the dualistic theory must needs end in almost exclusive attention to
Supernature, and in trust that its over-ruling strength will be exerted
in favour of those who stand well with its denizens. On the other hand,
the lessons of the great school-master, experience, have hardly seemed
to accord with this conclusion. They have taught, with considerable
emphasis, that it does not answer to neglect Nature; and that, on the
whole, the more attention paid to her dictates the better men fare.

Thus the theoretical antithesis brought about a practical antagonism.
From the earliest times of which we have any knowledge, Naturalism and
Supernaturalism have consciously, or unconsciously, competed and
struggled with one another; and the varying fortunes of the contest are
written in the records of the course of civilisation from those of Egypt
and Babylonia, six thousand years ago, down to those of our own time and

These records inform us that, so far as men have paid attention to
Nature, they have been rewarded for their pains. They have developed the
Arts which have furnished the conditions of civilised existence; and the
Sciences, which have been a progressive revelation of reality, and have
afforded the best discipline of the mind in the methods of discovering
truth. They have accumulated a vast body of universally accepted
knowledge; and the conceptions of man and of society, of morals and of
law, based upon that knowledge, are every day more and more, either
openly or tacitly, acknowledged to be the foundations of right action.

History also tells us that the field of the supernatural has rewarded
its cultivators with a harvest, perhaps not less luxuriant, but of a
different character. It has produced an almost infinite diversity of
Religions. These, if we set aside the ethical concomitants upon which
natural knowledge also has a claim, are composed of information about
Supernature; they tell us of the attributes of supernatural beings, of
their relations with Nature, and of the operations by which their
interference with the ordinary course of events can be secured or
averted. It does not appear, however, that supernaturalists have
attained to any agreement about these matters or that history indicates
a widening of the influence of supernaturalism on practice, with the
onward flow of time. On the contrary, the various religions are, to a
great extent, mutually exclusive; and their adherents delight in
charging each other, not merely with error, but with criminality,
deserving and ensuing punishment of infinite severity. In singular
contrast with natural knowledge, again, the acquaintance of mankind with
the supernatural appears the more extensive and the more exact, and the
influence of supernatural doctrines upon conduct the greater, the
further back we go in time and the lower the stage of civilisation
submitted to investigation. Historically, indeed, there would seem to
be an inverse relation between supernatural and natural knowledge. As
the latter has widened, gained in precision and in trustworthiness, so
has the former shrunk, grown vague and questionable; as the one has more
and more filled the sphere of action, so has the other retreated into
the region of meditation, or vanished behind the screen of mere verbal

Whether this difference of the fortunes of Naturalism and of
Supernaturalism is an indication of the progress, or of the regress, of
humanity; of a fall from, or an advance towards, the higher life; is a
matter of opinion. The point to which I wish to direct attention is that
the difference exists and is making itself felt. Men are growing to be
seriously alive to the fact that the historical evolution of humanity
which is generally, and I venture to think not unreasonably, regarded as
progress, has been, and is being, accompanied by a co-ordinate
elimination of the supernatural from its originally large occupation of
men's thoughts. The question--How far is this process to go?--is in my
apprehension, the Controverted Question of our time.

Controversy on this matter--prolonged, bitter, and fought out with the
weapons of the flesh, as well as with those of the spirit--is no new
thing to Englishmen. We have been more or less occupied with it these
five hundred years. And, during that time, we have made attempts to
establish a _modus vivendi_ between the antagonists, some of which have
had a world-wide influence; though, unfortunately, none have proved
universally and permanently satisfactory.

In the fourteenth century, the controverted question among us was,
whether certain portions of the Supernaturalism of mediæval Christianity
were well-founded. John Wicliff proposed a solution of the problem
which, in the course of the following two hundred years, acquired wide
popularity and vast historical importance: Lollards, Hussites,
Lutherans, Calvinists, Zwinglians, Socinians, and Anabaptists, whatever
their disagreements, concurred in the proposal to reduce the
Supernaturalism of Christianity within the limits sanctioned by the
Scriptures. None of the chiefs of Protestantism called in question
either the supernatural origin and infallible authority of the Bible, or
the exactitude of the account of the supernatural world given in its
pages. In fact, they could not afford to entertain any doubt about these
points, since the infallible Bible was the fulcrum of the lever with
which they were endeavouring to upset the Chair of St. Peter. The
"freedom of private judgment" which they proclaimed, meant no more, in
practice, than permission to themselves to make free with the public
judgment of the Roman Church, in respect of the canon and of the meaning
to be attached to the words of the canonical books. Private
judgment--that is to say, reason--was (theoretically, at any rate) at
liberty to decide what books were and what were not to take the rank of
"Scripture"; and to determine the sense of any passage in such books.
But this sense, once ascertained to the mind of the sectary, was to be
taken for pure truth--for the very word of God. The controversial
efficiency of the principle of biblical infallibility lay in the fact
that the conservative adversaries of the Reformers were not in a
position to contravene it without entangling themselves in serious
difficulties; while, since both Papists and Protestants agreed in taking
efficient measures to stop the mouths of any more radical critics, these
did not count.

The impotence of their adversaries, however, did not remove the inherent
weakness of the position of the Protestants. The dogma of the
infallibility of the Bible is no more self-evident than is that of the
infallibility of the Pope. If the former is held by "faith," then the
latter may be. If the latter is to be accepted, or rejected, by private
judgment, why not the former? Even if the Bible could be proved anywhere
to assert its own infallibility, the value of that self-assertion to
those who dispute the point is not obvious. On the other hand, if the
infallibility of the Bible was rested on that of a "primitive Church,"
the admission that the "Church" was formerly infallible was awkward in
the extreme for those who denied its present infallibility. Moreover, no
sooner was the Protestant principle applied to practice, than it became
evident that even an infallible text, when manipulated by private
judgment, will impartially countenance contradictory deductions; and
furnish forth creeds and confessions as diverse as the quality and the
information of the intellects which exercise, and the prejudices and
passions which sway, such judgments. Every sect, confident in the
derivative infallibility of its wire-drawing of infallible materials,
was ready to supply its contingent of martyrs; and to enable history,
once more, to illustrate the truth, that steadfastness under persecution
says much for the sincerity and still more for the tenacity, of the
believer, but very little for the objective truth of that which he
believes. No martyrs have sealed their faith with their blood more
steadfastly than the Anabaptists.

Last, but not least, the Protestant principle contained within itself
the germs of the destruction of the finality, which the Lutheran,
Calvinistic, and other Protestant Churches fondly imagined they had
reached. Since their creeds were professedly based on the canonical
Scriptures, it followed that, in the long run, whoso settled the canon
defined the creed. If the private judgment of Luther might legitimately
conclude that the epistle of James was contemptible, while the epistles
of Paul contained the very essence of Christianity, it must be
permissible for some other private judgment, on as good or as bad
grounds, to reverse these conclusions; the critical process which
excluded the Apocrypha could not be barred, at any rate by people who
rejected the authority of the Church, from extending its operations to
Daniel, the Canticles, and Ecclesiastes; nor, having got so far, was it
easy to allege any good ground for staying the further progress of
criticism. In fact, the logical development of Protestantism could not
fail to lay the authority of the Scriptures at the feet of Reason; and
in the hands of latitudinarian and rationalistic theologians, the
despotism of the Bible was rapidly converted into an extremely limited
monarchy. Treated with as much respect as ever, the sphere of its
practical authority was minimised; and its decrees were valid only so
far as they were countersigned by common sense, the responsible

The champions of Protestantism are much given to glorify the Reformation
of the sixteenth century as the emancipation of Reason; but it may be
doubted if their contention has any solid ground; while there is a good
deal of evidence to show, that aspirations after intellectual freedom
had nothing whatever to do with the movement. Dante, who struck the
Papacy as hard blows as Wicliff; Wicliff himself and Luther himself,
when they began their work; were far enough from any intention of
meddling with even the most irrational of the dogmas of mediæval
Supernaturalism. From Wicliff to Socinus, or even to Münzer, Rothmann,
and John of Leyden, I fail to find a trace of any desire to set reason
free. The most that can be discovered is a proposal to change masters.
From being the slave of the Papacy the intellect was to become the serf
of the Bible; or, to speak more accurately, of somebody's interpretation
of the Bible, which, rapidly shifting its attitude from the humility of
a private judgment to the arrogant Cæsaro-papistry of a state-enforced
creed had no more hesitation about forcibly extinguishing opponent
private judgments and judges, than had the old-fashioned

It was the iniquities, and not the irrationalities, of the Papal system
that lay at the bottom of the revolt of the laity; which was,
essentially, an attempt to shake off the intolerable burden of certain
practical deductions from a Supernaturalism in which everybody, in
principle, acquiesced. What was the gain to intellectual freedom of
abolishing transubstantiation, image worship, indulgences,
ecclesiastical infallibility; if consubstantiation, real-unreal presence
mystifications, the bibliolatry, the "inner-light" pretensions, and the
demonology, which are fruits of the same supernaturalistic tree,
remained in enjoyment of the spiritual and temporal support of a new
infallibility? One does not free a prisoner by merely scraping away the
rust from his shackles.

It will be asked, perhaps, was not the Reformation one of the products
of that great outbreak of many-sided free mental activity included under
the general head of the Renascence? Melanchthon, Ulrich von Hutten,
Beza, were they not all humanists? Was not the arch-humanist, Erasmus,
fautor-in-chief of the Reformation, until he got frightened and basely
deserted it?

From the language of Protestant historians, it would seem that they
often forget that Reformation and Protestantism are by no means
convertible terms. There were plenty of sincere and indeed zealous
reformers, before, during, and after the birth and growth of
Protestantism, who would have nothing to do with it. Assuredly, the
rejuvenescence of science and of art; the widening of the field of
Nature by geographical and astronomical discovery; the revelation of the
noble ideals of antique literature by the revival of classical learning;
the stir of thought, throughout all classes of society, by the printers'
work, loosened traditional bonds and weakened the hold of mediæval
Supernaturalism. In the interests of liberal culture and of national
welfare, the humanists were eager to lend a hand to anything which
tended to the discomfiture of their sworn enemies, the monks, and they
willingly supported every movement in the direction of weakening
ecclesiastical interference with civil life. But the bond of a common
enemy was the only real tie between the humanist and the protestant;
their alliance was bound to be of short duration, and, sooner or later,
to be replaced by internecine warfare. The goal of the humanists,
whether they were aware of it or not, was the attainment of the complete
intellectual freedom of the antique philosopher, than which nothing
could be more abhorrent to a Luther, a Calvin, a Beza, or a Zwingli.

The key to the comprehension of the conduct of Erasmus, seems to me to
lie in the clear apprehension of this fact. That he was a man of many
weaknesses may be true; in fact, he was quite aware of them and
professed himself no hero. But he never deserted that reformatory
movement which he originally contemplated; and it was impossible he
should have deserted the specifically Protestant reformation in which he
never took part. He was essentially a theological whig, to whom
radicalism was as hateful as it is to all whigs; or to borrow a still
more appropriate comparison from modern times, a broad churchman who
refused to enlist with either the High Church or the Low Church zealots,
and paid the penalty of being called coward, time-server and traitor, by
both. Yet really there is a good deal in his pathetic remonstrance that
he does not see why he is bound to become a martyr for that in which he
does not believe; and a fair consideration of the circumstances and the
consequences of the Protestant reformation seems to me to go a long way
towards justifying the course he adopted.

Few men had better means of being acquainted with the condition of
Europe; none could be more competent to gauge the intellectual
shallowness and self-contradiction of the Protestant criticism of
Catholic doctrine; and to estimate, at its proper value, the fond
imagination that the waters let out by the Renascence would come to
rest amidst the blind alleys of the new ecclesiasticism. The bastard,
whilom poor student and monk, become the familiar of bishops and
princes, at home in all grades of society, could not fail to be aware of
the gravity of the social position, of the dangers imminent from the
profligacy and indifference of the ruling classes, no less than from the
anarchical tendencies of the people who groaned under their oppression.
The wanderer who had lived in Germany, in France, in England, in Italy,
and who counted many of the best and most influential men in each
country among his friends, was not likely to estimate wrongly the
enormous forces which were still at the command of the Papacy. Bad as
the churchmen might be, the statesmen were worse; and a person of far
more sanguine temperament than Erasmus might have seen no hope for the
future, except in gradually freeing the ubiquitous organisation of the
Church from the corruptions which alone, as he imagined, prevented it
from being as beneficent as it was powerful. The broad tolerance of the
scholar and man of the world might well be revolted by the ruffianism,
however genial, of one great light of Protestantism, and the narrow
fanaticism, however learned and logical, of others, and to a cautious
thinker, by whom, whatever his short-comings, the ethical ideal of the
Christian evangel was sincerely prized, it really was a fair question
whether it was worth while to bring about a political and social deluge,
the end of which no mortal could foresee, for the purpose of setting up
Lutheran, Zwinglian, and other Peterkins, in the place of the actual
claimant to the reversion of the spiritual wealth of the Galilean

Let us suppose that, at the beginning of the Lutheran and Zwinglian
movement, a vision of its immediate consequences had been granted to
Erasmus; imagine that to the spectre of the fierce outbreak of
Anabaptist communism which opened the apocalypse had succeeded, in
shadowy procession, the reign of terror and of spoliation in England,
with the judicial murders of his friends, More and Fisher; the bitter
tyranny of evangelistic clericalism in Geneva and in Scotland; the long
agony of religious wars, persecutions, and massacres, which devastated
France and reduced Germany almost to savagery; finishing with the
spectacle of Lutheranism in its native country sunk into mere dead
Erastian formalism, before it was a century old; while Jesuitry
triumphed over Protestantism in three-fourths of Europe, bringing in its
train a recrudescence of all the corruptions Erasmus and his friends
sought to abolish; might not he have quite honestly thought this a
somewhat too heavy price to pay for Protestantism; more especially,
since no one was in a better position than himself to know how little
the dogmatic foundation of the new confessions was able to bear the
light which the inevitable progress of humanistic criticism would throw
upon them? As the wiser of his contemporaries saw, Erasmus was, at
heart, neither Protestant nor Papist, but an "Independent Christian";
and, as the wiser of his modern biographers have discerned, he was the
precursor, not of sixteenth century reform, but of eighteenth century
"enlightenment"; a sort of broad-church Voltaire, who held by his
"Independent Christianity" as stoutly as Voltaire by his Deism.

In fact, the stream of the Renascence, which bore Erasmus along, left
Protestanism stranded amidst the mudbanks of its articles and creeds:
while its true course became visible to all men, two centuries later. By
this time, those in whom the movement of the Renascence was incarnate
became aware what spirit they were of; and they attacked Supernaturalism
in its Biblical stronghold, defended by Protestants and Romanists with
equal zeal. In the eyes of the "Patriarch," Ultramontanism, Jansenism,
and Calvinism were merely three persons of the one "Infâme" which it
was the object of his life to crush. If he hated one more than another,
it was probably the last; while D'Holbach, and the extreme left of the
free-thinking best, were disposed to show no more mercy to Deism and

The sceptical insurrection of the eighteenth century made a terrific
noise and frightened not a few worthy people out of their wits; but cool
judges might have foreseen, at the outset, that the efforts of the later
rebels were no more likely than those of the earlier, to furnish
permanent resting-places for the spirit of scientific inquiry. However
worthy of admiration may be the acuteness, the common sense, the wit,
the broad humanity, which abound in the writings of the best of the
free-thinkers; there is rarely much to be said for their work as an
example of the adequate treatment of a grave and difficult
investigation. I do not think any impartial judge will assert that, from
this point of view, they are much better than their adversaries. It must
be admitted that they share to the full the fatal weakness of _a priori_
philosophising, no less than the moral frivolity common to their age;
while a singular want of appreciation of history, as the record of the
moral and social evolution of the human race, permitted them to resort
to preposterous theories of imposture, in order to account for the
religious phenomena which are natural products of that evolution.

For the most part, the Romanist and Protestant adversaries of the
free-thinkers met them with arguments no better than their own; and with
vituperation, so far inferior that it lacked the wit. But one great
Christian Apologist fairly captured the guns of the free-thinking array,
and turned their batteries upon themselves. Speculative "infidelity" of
the eighteenth century type was mortally wounded by the _Analogy_; while
the progress of the historical and psychological sciences brought to
light the important part played by the mythopoeic faculty; and, by
demonstrating the extreme readiness of men to impose upon themselves,
rendered the calling in of sacerdotal co-operation, in most cases, a

Again, as in the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries, social and
political influences came into play. The free-thinking _philosophes_,
who objected to Rousseau's sentimental religiosity almost as much as
they did to _L'Infâme_, were credited with the responsibility for all
the evil deeds of Rousseau's Jacobin disciples, with about as much
justification as Wicliff was held responsible for the Peasants' revolt,
or Luther for the _Bauern-krieg_. In England, though our _ancien régime_
was not altogether lovely, the social edifice was never in such a bad
way as in France; it was still capable of being repaired; and our
forefathers, very wisely, preferred to wait until that operation could
be safely performed, rather than pull it all down about their ears, in
order to build a philosophically planned house on brand-new speculative
foundations. Under these circumstances, it is not wonderful that, in
this country, practical men preferred the Gospel of Wesley and Whitfield
to that of Jean Jacques; while enough of the old leaven of Puritanism
remained to ensure the favour and support of a large number of religious
men to a revival of evangelical supernaturalism. Thus, by degrees, the
free-thinking, or the indifference, prevalent among us in the first half
of the eighteenth century, was replaced by a strong supernaturalistic
reaction, which submerged the work of the free-thinkers; and even
seemed, for a time, to have arrested the naturalistic movement of which
that work was an imperfect indication. Yet, like Lollardry, four
centuries earlier, free-thought merely took to running underground,
safe, sooner or later, to return to the surface.

My memory, unfortunately, carries me back to the fourth decade of the
nineteenth century, when the evangelical flood had a little abated and
the tops of certain mountains were soon to appear, chiefly in the
neighbourhood of Oxford; but when, nevertheless, bibliolatry was
rampant; when church and chapel alike proclaimed, as the oracles of God,
the crude assumptions of the worst informed and, in natural sequence,
the most presumptuously bigoted, of all theological schools.

In accordance with promises made on my behalf, but certainly without my
authorisation, I was very early taken to hear "sermons in the vulgar
tongue." And vulgar enough often was the tongue in which some preacher,
ignorant alike of literature, of history, of science, and even of
theology, outside that patronised by his own narrow school, poured
forth, from the safe entrenchment of the pulpit, invectives against
those who deviated from his notion of orthodoxy. From dark allusions to
"sceptics" and "infidels," I became aware of the existence of people who
trusted in carnal reason; who audaciously doubted that the world was
made in six natural days, or that the deluge was universal; perhaps even
went so far as to question the literal accuracy of the story of Eve's
temptation, or of Balaam's ass; and, from the horror of the tones in
which they were mentioned, I should have been justified in drawing the
conclusion that these rash men belonged to the criminal classes. At the
same time, those who were more directly responsible for providing me
with the knowledge essential to the right guidance of life (and who
sincerely desired to do so), imagined they were discharging that most
sacred duty by impressing upon my childish mind the necessity, on pain
of reprobation in this world and damnation in the next, of accepting, in
the strict and literal sense, every statement contained in the
Protestant Bible. I was told to believe, and I did believe, that doubt
about any of them was a sin, not less reprehensible than a moral delict.
I suppose that, out of a thousand of my contemporaries, nine hundred, at
least, had their minds systematically warped and poisoned, in the name
of the God of truth, by like discipline. I am sure that, even a score of
years later, those who ventured to question the exact historical
accuracy of any part of the Old Testament and _a fortiori_ of the
Gospels, had to expect a pitiless shower of verbal missiles, to say
nothing of the other disagreeable consequences which visit those who, in
any way, run counter to that chaos of prejudices called public opinion.

My recollections of this time have recently been revived by the perusal
of a remarkable document,[8] signed by as many as thirty-eight out of
the twenty odd thousand clergymen of the Established Church. It does not
appear that the signatories are officially accredited spokesmen of the
ecclesiastical corporation to which they belong; but I feel bound to
take their word for it that they are "stewards of the Lord who have
received the Holy Ghost," and, therefore, to accept this memorial as
evidence that, though the Evangelicism of my early days may be deposed
from its place of power, though so many of the colleagues of the
thirty-eight even repudiate the title of Protestants, yet the green bay
tree of bibliolatry flourishes as it did sixty years ago. And, as in
those good old times, whoso refuses to offer incense to the idol is held
to be guilty of "a dishonour to God," imperilling his salvation.

It is to the credit of the perspicacity of the memorialists that they
discern the real nature of the Controverted Question of the age. They
are awake to the unquestionable fact that, if Scripture has been
discovered "not to be worthy of unquestioning belief," faith "in the
supernatural itself" is, so far, undermined. And I may congratulate
myself upon such weighty confirmation of opinion in which I have had the
fortune to anticipate them. But whether it is more to the credit of the
courage, than to the intelligence, of the thirty-eight that they should
go on to proclaim that the canonical scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments "declare incontrovertibly the actual historical truth in all
records, both of past events and of the delivery of predictions to be
thereafter fulfilled," must be left to the coming generation to decide.

The interest which attaches to this singular document will, I think, be
based by most thinking men, not upon what it is, but upon that of which
it is a sign. It is an open secret, that the memorial is put forth as a
counterblast to a manifestation of opinion of a contrary character, on
the part of certain members of the same ecclesiastical body, who
therefore have, as I suppose, an equal right to declare themselves
"stewards of the Lord and recipients of the Holy Ghost." In fact, the
stream of tendency towards Naturalism, the course of which I have
briefly traced, has, of late years, flowed so strongly, that even the
Churches have begun, I dare not say to drift, but, at any rate, to swing
at their moorings. Within the pale of the Anglican establishment, I
venture to doubt, whether, at this moment, there are as many
thorough-going defenders of "plenary inspiration" as there were timid
questioners of that doctrine, half a century ago. Commentaries,
sanctioned by the highest authority, give up the "actual historical
truth" of the cosmogonical and diluvial narratives. University
professors of deservedly high repute accept the critical decision that
the Hexateuch is a compilation, in which the share of Moses, either as
author or as editor, is not quite so clearly demonstrable as it might
be; highly placed Divines tell us that the pre-Abrahamic Scripture
narratives may be ignored; that the book of Daniel may be regarded as a
patriotic romance of the second century B.C.; that the words of the
writer of the fourth Gospel are not always to be distinguished from
those which he puts into the mouth of Jesus. Conservative, but
conscientious, revisers decide that whole passages, some of dogmatic and
some of ethical importance, are interpolations. An uneasy sense of the
weakness of the dogma of Biblical infallibility seems to be at the
bottom of a prevailing tendency once more to substitute the authority of
the "Church" for that of the Bible. In my old age, it has happened to me
to be taken to task for regarding Christianity as a "religion of a book"
as gravely as, in my youth, I should have been reprehended for doubting
that proposition. It is a no less interesting symptom that the State
Church seems more and more anxious to repudiate all complicity with the
principles of the Protestant Reformation and to call itself
"Anglo-Catholic." Inspiration, deprived of its old intelligible sense,
is watered down into a mystification. The Scriptures are, indeed,
inspired; but they contain a wholly undefined and indefinable "human
element"; and this unfortunate intruder is converted into a sort of
biblical whipping-boy. Whatsoever scientific investigation, historical
or physical, proves to be erroneous, the "human element" bears the
blame: while the divine inspiration of such statements, as by their
nature are out of reach of proof or disproof, is still asserted with all
the vigour inspired by conscious safety from attack. Though the proposal
to treat the Bible "like any other book" which caused so much scandal,
forty years ago, may not yet be generally accepted, and though Bishop
Colenso's criticisms may still lie, formally, under ecclesiastical ban,
yet the Church has not wholly turned a deaf ear to the voice of the
scientific tempter; and many a coy divine, while "crying I will ne'er
consent," has consented to the proposals of that scientific criticism
which the memorialists renounce and denounce.

A humble layman, to whom it would seem the height of presumption to
assume even the unconsidered dignity of a "steward of science," may well
find this conflict of apparently equal ecclesiastical authorities
perplexing--suggestive, indeed, of the wisdom of postponing attention to
either, until the question of precedence between them is settled. And
this course will probably appear the more advisable, the more closely
the fundamental position of the memorialists is examined.

"No opinion of the fact or form of Divine Revelation, founded on
literary criticism [and I suppose I may add historical, or physical,
criticism] of the Scriptures themselves, can be admitted to interfere
with the traditionary testimony of the Church, when that has been once
ascertained and verified by appeal to antiquity." [9]

Grant that it is "the traditionary testimony of the Church" which
guarantees the canonicity of each and all of the books of the Old and
New Testaments. Grant also that canonicity means infallibility; yet,
according to the thirty-eight, this "traditionary testimony" has to be
"ascertained and verified by appeal to antiquity". But "ascertainment
and verification" are purely intellectual processes, which must be
conducted according to the strict rules of scientific investigation, or
be self-convicted of worthlessness. Moreover, before we can set about
the appeal to "antiquity," the exact sense of that usefully vague term
must be defined by similar means. "Antiquity" may include any number of
centuries, great or small; and whether "antiquity" is to comprise the
Council of Trent, or to stop a little beyond that of Nicæa, or to come
to an end in the time of Irenæus, or in that of Justin Martyr, are
knotty questions which can be decided, if at all, only by those critical
methods which the signatories treat so cavalierly. And yet the decision
of these questions is fundamental, for as the limits of the canonical
scriptures vary, so may the dogmas deduced from them require
modification. Christianity is one thing, if the fourth Gospel, the
Epistle to the Hebrews, the pastoral Epistles, and the Apocalypse are
canonical and (by the hypothesis) infallibly true; and another thing, if
they are not. As I have already said, whoso defines the canon defines
the creed.

Now it is quite certain with respect to some of these books, such as the
Apocalypse and the Epistle to the Hebrews, that the Eastern and the
Western Church differed in opinion for centuries; and yet neither the
one branch nor the other can have considered its judgment infallible,
since they eventually agreed to a transaction by which each gave up its
objection to the book patronised by the other. Moreover, the "fathers"
argue (in a more or less rational manner) about the canonicity of this
or that book, and are by no means above producing evidence, internal and
external, in favour of the opinions they advocate. In fact, imperfect as
their conceptions of scientific method may be, they not unfrequently
used it to the best of their ability. Thus it would appear that though
science, like Nature, may be driven out with a fork, ecclesiastical or
other, yet she surely comes back again. The appeal to "antiquity" is, in
fact, an appeal to science, first to define what antiquity is; secondly,
to determine what "antiquity," so defined, says about canonicity;
thirdly, to prove that canonicity means infallibility. And when science,
largely in the shape of the abhorred "criticism," has answered this
appeal, and has shown that "antiquity" used her own methods, however
clumsily and imperfectly, she naturally turns round upon the appellants,
and demands that they should show cause why, in these days, science
should not resume the work the ancients did so imperfectly, and carry it
out efficiently.

But no such cause can be shown. If "antiquity" permitted Eusebius,
Origen, Tertullian, Irenæus, to argue for the reception of this book
into the canon and the rejection of that, upon rational grounds,
"antiquity" admitted the whole principal of modern criticism. If Irenæus
produces ridiculous reasons for limiting the Gospels to four, it was
open to any one else to produce good reasons (if he had them) for
cutting them down to three, or increasing them to five. If the Eastern
branch of the Church had a right to reject the Apocalypse and accept the
Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Western an equal right to accept the
Apocalypse and reject the Epistle, down to the fourth century, any other
branch would have an equal right, on cause shown, to reject both, or as
the Catholic Church afterwards actually did, to accept both.

Thus I cannot but think that the thirty-eight are hoist with their own
petard. Their "appeal to antiquity" turns out to be nothing but a
round-about way of appealing to the tribunal the jurisdiction of which
they affect to deny. Having rested the world of Christian
supernaturalism on the elephant of biblical infallibility, and furnished
the elephant with standing ground on the tortoise of "antiquity," they,
like their famous Hindoo analogue, have been content to look no further;
and have thereby been spared the horror of discovering that the tortoise
rests on a grievously fragile construction, to a great extent the work
of that very intellectual operation which they anathematise and

Moreover, there is another point to be considered. It is of course true
that a Christian Church (whether the Christian Church, or not, depends
on the connotation of the definite article) existed before the Christian
scriptures; and that infallibility of these depends upon infallibility
of the judgment of the persons who selected the books of which they are
composed, out of the mass of literature current among the early
Christians. The logical acumen of Augustine showed him that the
authority of the Gospel he preached must rest on that of the Church to
which he belonged.[10]

But it is no less true that the Hebrew and the Septuagint versions of
most, if not all, of the Old Testament books existed before the birth of
Jesus of Nazareth; and that their divine authority is presupposed by,
and therefore can hardly depend upon, the religious body constituted by
his disciples. As everybody knows, the very conception of a "Christ" is
purely Jewish. The validity of the argument from the Messianic
prophecies vanishes unless their infallible authority is granted; and,
as a matter of fact, whether we turn to the Gospels, the Epistles, or
the writings of the early Apologists, the Jewish scriptures are
recognised as the highest court of appeal of the Christian.

The proposal to cite Christian "antiquity" as a witness to the
infallibility of the Old Testament, when its own claims to authority
vanish, if certain propositions contained in the Old Testament are
erroneous, hardly satisfies the requirements of lay logic. It is as if a
claimant to be sole legatee, under another kind of testament, should
offer his assertion as sufficient evidence of the validity of the will.
And, even were not such a circular, or rather rotatory argument, that
the infallibility of the Bible is testified by the infallible Church,
whose infallibility is testified by the infallible Bible, too absurd for
serious consideration, it remains permissible to ask, Where and when the
Church, during the period of its infallibility, as limited by Anglican
dogmatic necessities, has officially decreed the "actual historical
truth of all records" in the Old Testament? Was Augustine heretical when
he denied the actual historical truth of the record of the Creation?
Father Suarez, standing on later Roman tradition, may have a right to
declare that he was; but it does not lie in the mouth of those who limit
their appeal to that early "antiquity," in which Augustine played so
great a part, to say so.

Among the watchers of the course of the world of thought, some view with
delight and some with horror, the recrudescence of Supernaturalism which
manifests itself among us, in shapes ranged along the whole flight of
steps, which, in this case, separates the sublime from the
ridiculous--from Neo-Catholicism and Inner-light mysticism, at the top,
to unclean things, not worthy of mention in the same breath, at the
bottom. In my poor opinion, the importance of these manifestations is
often greatly over-estimated. The extant forms of Supernaturalism have
deep roots in human nature, and will undoubtedly die hard; but, in these
latter days, they have to cope with an enemy whose full strength is only
just beginning to be put out, and whose forces, gathering strength year
by year, are hemming them round on every side. This enemy is Science, in
the acceptation of systematised natural knowledge, which, during the
last two centuries, has extended those methods of investigation, the
worth of which is confirmed by daily appeal to Nature, to every region
in which the Supernatural has hitherto been recognised.

When scientific historical criticism reduced the annals of heroic Greece
and of regal Rome to the level of fables; when the unity of authorship
of the _Iliad_ was successfully assailed by scientific literary
criticism; when scientific physical criticism, after exploding the
geocentric theory of the universe and reducing the solar system itself
to one of millions of groups of like cosmic specks, circling at
unimaginable distances from one another through infinite space, showed
the supernaturalistic theories of the duration of the earth and of life
upon it to be as inadequate as those of its relative dimensions and
importance had been; it needed no prophetic gift to see that, sooner or
later, the Jewish and the early Christian records would be treated in
the same manner; that the authorship of the Hexateuch and of the Gospels
would be as severely tested; and that the evidence in favour of the
veracity of many of the statements found in the Scriptures would have to
be strong indeed if they were to be opposed to the conclusions of
physical science. In point of fact, so far as I can discover, no one
competent to judge of the evidential strength of these conclusions
ventures now to say that the biblical accounts of the Creation and of
the Deluge are true in the natural sense of the words of the narratives.
The most modern Reconcilers venture upon is to affirm, that some quite
different sense may be put upon the words; and that this non-natural
sense may, with a little trouble, be manipulated into some sort of
non-contradiction of scientific truth.

My purpose, in an essay[11] which treats of the narrative of the Deluge,
was to prove, by physical criticism, that no such event as that
described ever took place; to exhibit the untrustworthy character of the
narrative demonstrated by literary criticism; and, finally, to account
for its origin by producing a form of those ancient legends of pagan
Chaldaea, from which the biblical compilation is manifestly derived. I
have yet to learn that the main proposition of this essay can be
seriously challenged.

In two essays[12] on the narrative of the Creation, I have endeavoured
to controvert the assertion that modern science supports, either the
interpretation put upon it by Mr. Gladstone, or any interpretation which
is compatible with the general sense of the narrative, quite apart from
particular details. The first chapter of Genesis teaches the
supernatural creation of the present forms of life; modern science
teaches that they have come about by evolution. The first chapter of
Genesis teaches the successive origin--firstly, of all the plants;
secondly, of all the aquatic and aerial animals; thirdly, of all the
terrestrial animals, which now exist--during distinct intervals of time;
modern science teaches that, throughout all the duration of an immensely
long past, so far as we have any adequate knowledge of it (that is far
back as the Silurian epoch), plants, aquatic, aerial, and terrestrial
animals have co-existed; that the earliest known are unlike those which
at present exist; and that the modern species have come into existence
as the last terms of a series, the members of which have appeared one
after another. Thus, far from confirming the account in Genesis, the
results of modern science, so far as they go, are in principle, as in
detail, hopelessly discordant with it.

Yet, if the pretensions to infallibility set up, not by the ancient
Hebrew writings themselves, but by the ecclesiastical champions and
friends from whom they may well pray to be delivered, thus shatter
themselves against the rock of natural knowledge, in respect of the two
most important of all events, the origin of things and the palingenesis
of terrestrial life, what historical credit dare any serious thinker
attach to the narratives of the fabrication of Eve, of the Fall, of the
commerce between the _Bene Elohim_ and the daughters of men, which lie
between the creational and the diluvial legends? And, if these are to
lose all historical worth, what becomes of the infallibility of those
who, according to the later scriptures, have accepted them, argued from
them, and staked far-reaching dogmatic conclusions upon their historical

It is the merest ostrich policy for contemporary ecclesiasticism to try
to bide its Hexateuchal head--in the hope that the inseparable
connection of its body with pre-Abrahamic legends may be overlooked. The
question will still be asked, If the first nine chapters of the
Pentateuch are unhistorical, how is the historical accuracy of the
remainder to be guaranteed? What more intrinsic claim has the story of
the Exodus than of the Deluge, to belief? If God not walk in the Garden
of Eden, how we be assured that he spoke from Sinai?

In other essays[13] I have endeavoured to show that sober and
well-founded physical and literary criticism plays no less havoc with
the doctrine that the canonical scriptures of the New Testament "declare
incontrovertibly the actual historical truth in all records." We are
told that the Gospels contain a true revelation of the spiritual
world--a proposition which, in one sense of the word "spiritual," I
should not think it necessary to dispute. But, when it is taken to
signify that everything we are told about the world of spirits in these
books is infallibly true; that we are bound to accept the demonology
which constitutes an inseparable part of their teaching; and to profess
belief in a Supernaturalism as gross as that of any primitive people--it
is at any rate permissible to ask why? Science may be unable to define
the limits of possibility, but it cannot escape from the moral
obligation to weigh the evidence in favour of any alleged wonderful
occurrence; and I have endeavoured to show that the evidence for the
Gadarene miracle is altogether worthless. We have simply three,
partially discrepant, versions of a story, about the primitive form, the
origin, and the authority for which we know absolutely nothing. But the
evidence in favour of the Gadarene miracle is as good as that for any

Elsewhere I have pointed out that it is utterly beside the mark to
declaim against these conclusions on the ground of their asserted
tendency to deprive mankind of the consolations of the Christian faith,
and to destroy the foundations of morality: still less to brand them
with the question-begging vituperative appellation of "infidelity." The
point is not whether they are wicked; but, whether, from the point of
view of scientific method, they are irrefragably true. If they are they
will be accepted in time, whether they are wicked or not wicked. Nature,
so far as we have been able to attain to any insight into her ways,
recks little about consolation and makes for righteousness by very
round-about paths. And, at any rate, whatever may be possible for other
people, it is becoming less and less possible for the man who puts his
faith in scientific methods of ascertaining truth, and is accustomed to
have that faith justified by daily experience, to be consciously false
to his principle in any matter. But the number of such men, driven into
the use of scientific methods of inquiry and taught to trust them, by
their education, their daily professional and business needs, is
increasing and will continually increase. The phraseology of
Supernaturalism may remain on men's lips, but in practice they are
Naturalists. The magistrate who listens with devout attention to the
precept "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" on Sunday, on Monday
dismisses, as intrinsically absurd, a charge of bewitching a cow brought
against some old woman; the superintendent of a lunatic asylum who
substituted exorcism for rational modes of treatment would have but a
short tenure of office; even parish clerks doubt the utility of prayers
for rain, so long as the wind is in the east; and an outbreak of
pestilence sends men, not to the churches, but to the drains. In spite
of prayers for the success of our arms and _Te Deums_ for victory, our
real faith is in big battalions and keeping our powder dry; in knowledge
of the science of warfare; in energy, courage, and discipline. In these,
as in all other practical affairs, we act on the aphorism "_Laborare est
orare_"; we admit that intelligent work is the only acceptable worship;
and that, whether there be a Supernature or not, our business is with

       *       *       *       *       *

It is important to note that the principle of the scientific Naturalism
of the latter half of the nineteenth century, in which the intellectual
movement of the Renascence has culminated, and which was first clearly
formulated by Descartes, leads not to the denial of the existence of any
Supernature;[14] but simply to the denial of the validity of the
evidence adduced in favour of this, or of that, extant form of

Looking at the matter from the most rigidly scientific point of view,
the assumption that, amidst the myriads of worlds scattered through
endless space, there can be no intelligence as much greater than man's
as his is greater than a blackbeetle's; no being endowed with powers of
influencing the course of Nature as much greater than his as his is
greater than a snail's, seems to me not merely baseless, but
impertinent. Without stepping beyond the analogy of that which is known,
it is easy to people the cosmos with entities, in ascending scale, until
we reach something practically indistinguishable from omnipotence,
omnipresence and omniscience. If our intelligence can, in some matters,
surely reproduce the past of thousands of years ago and anticipate the
future thousands of years hence, it is clearly within the limits of
possibility that some greater intellect, even of the same order, may be
able to mirror the whole past and the whole future; if the universe is
penetrated by a medium of such a nature that a magnetic needle on the
earth answers to a commotion in the sun, an omnipresent agent is also
conceivable; if our insignificant knowledge gives us some influence over
events, practical omniscience may confer indefinably greater power.
Finally, if evidence that a thing may be were equivalent to proof that
it is, analogy might justify the construction of a naturalistic theology
and demonology not less wonderful than the current supernatural; just as
it might justify the peopling of Mars, or of Jupiter, with living forms
to which terrestrial biology offers no parallel. Until human life is
longer and the duties of the present press less heavily, I do not think
that wise men will occupy themselves with Jovian, or Martian, natural
history; and they will probably agree to a verdict of "not proven" in
respect of naturalistic theology, taking refuge in that agnostic
confession, which appears to me to be the only position for people who
object to say that they know what they are quite aware they do not know.
As to the interests of morality, I am disposed to think that if mankind
could be got to act up to this last principle in every relation of life,
a reformation would be effected such as the world has not yet seen; an
approximation to the millennium, such as no supernaturalistic religion
has ever yet succeeded, or seems likely ever to succeed, in effecting.



Charles, or more properly, Karl, King of the Franks, consecrated Roman
Emperor in St. Peter's on Christmas Day, A.D. 800, and known to
posterity as the Great (chiefly by his agglutinative Gallicised
denomination of Charlemagne), was a man great in all ways, physically
and mentally. Within a couple of centuries after his death Charlemagne
became the centre of innumerable legends; and the myth-making process
does not seem to have been sensibly interfered with by the existence of
sober and truthful histories of the Emperor and of the times which
immediately preceded and followed his reign, by a contemporary writer
who occupied a high and confidential position in his court, and in that
of his successor. This was one Eginhard, or Einhard, who appears to have
been born about A.D. 770, and spent his youth at the court, being
educated along with Charles's sons. There is excellent contemporary
testimony not only to Eginhard's existence, but to his abilities, and to
the place which he occupied in the circle of the intimate friends of the
great ruler whose life he subsequently wrote. In fact, there is as good
evidence of Eginhard's existence, of his official position, and of his
being the author of the chief works attributed to him, as can reasonably
be expected in the case of a man who lived more than a thousand years
ago, and was neither a great king nor a great warrior. The works
are--1. "The Life of the Emperor Karl." 2. "The Annals of the Franks."
3. "Letters." 4. "The History of the Translation of the Blessed Martyrs
of Christ, SS. Marcellinus and Petrus."

It is to the last, as one of the most singular and interesting records
of the period during which the Roman world passed into that of the
Middle Ages, that I wish to direct attention.[15] It was written in the
ninth century, somewhere, apparently, about the year 830, when Eginhard,
ailing in health and weary of political life, had withdrawn to the
monastery of Seligenstadt, of which he was the founder. A manuscript
copy of the work, made in the tenth century, and once the property of
the monastery of St. Bavon on the Scheldt, of which Eginhard was abbot,
is still extant, and there is no reason to believe that, in this copy,
the original has been in any way interpolated or otherwise tampered
with. The main features of the strange story contained in the "Historia
Translations" are set forth in the following pages, in which, in regard
to all matters of importance, I shall adhere as closely as possible to
Eginhard's own words.

     While I was still at Court, busied with secular affairs, I often
     thought of the leisure which I hoped one day to enjoy in a solitary
     place, far away from the crowd, with which the liberality of Prince
     Louis, whom I then served, had provided me. This place is situated
     in that part of Germany which lies between the Neckar and the
     Maine,[16] and is nowadays called the Odenwald by those who live in
     and about it. And here having built, according to my capacity and
     resources, not only houses and permanent dwellings, but also a
     basilica fitted for the performance of divine service and of no
     mean style of construction, I began to think to what saint or
     martyr I could best dedicate it. A good deal of time had passed
     while my thoughts fluctuated about this matter, when it happened
     that a certain deacon of the Roman Church, named Deusdona, arrived
     at the Court for the purpose of seeking the favour of the King in
     some affairs in which he was interested. He remained some time; and
     then, having transacted his business, he was about to return to
     Rome, when one day, moved by courtesy to a stranger, we invited him
     to a modest refection; and while talking of many things at table,
     mention was made of the translation of the body of the blessed
     Sebastian,[17] and of the neglected tombs of the martyrs, of which
     there is such a prodigious number at Rome; and the conversation
     having turned towards the dedication of our new basilica, I began
     to inquire how it might be possible for me to obtain some of the
     true relics of the saints which rest at Rome. He at first
     hesitated, and declared that he did not know how that could be
     done. But observing that I was both anxious and curious about the
     subject, he promised to give me an answer some other day.

     When I returned to the question some time afterwards, he
     immediately drew from his bosom a paper, which he begged me to read
     when I was alone, and to tell him what I was disposed to think of
     that which was therein stated. I took the paper and, as he desired,
     read it alone and in secret. (Cap. 1, 2, 3.)

I shall have occasion to return to Deacon Deusdona's conditions, and to
what happened after Eginhard's acceptance of them. Suffice it, for the
present, to say that Eginhard's notary, Ratleicus (Ratleig), was
despatched to Rome and succeeded in securing two bodies, supposed to be
those of the holy martyrs Marcellinus and Petrus; and when he had got as
far on his homeward journey as the Burgundian town of Solothurn, or
Soleure,[18] notary Ratleig despatched to his master, at St. Bavon, a
letter announcing the success of his mission.

     As soon as by reading it I was assured of the arrival of the
     saints, I despatched a confidential messenger to Maestricht to
     gather together priests, other clerics, and also laymen, to go out
     to meet the coming saints as speedily as possible. And he and his
     companions, having lost no time, after a few days met those who had
     charge of the saints at Solothurn. Joined with them, and with a
     vast crowd of people who gathered from all parts, singing hymns,
     and amidst great and universal rejoicings, they travelled quickly
     to the city of Argentoratum, which is now called Strasburg. Thence
     embarking on the Rhine, they came to the place called Portus,[19]
     and landing on the east bank of the river, at the fifth station
     thence they arrived at Michilinstadt,[20] accompanied by an immense
     multitude, praising God. This place is in that forest of Germany
     which in modern times is called the Odenwald, and about six leagues
     from the Maine. And here, having found a basilica recently built by
     me, but not yet consecrated, they carried the sacred remains into
     it and deposited them therein, as if it were to be their final
     resting-place. As soon as all this was reported to me I travelled
     thither as quickly as I could. (Cap. ii. 14.)

Three days after Eginhard's arrival began the series of wonderful events
which he narrates, and for which we have his personal guarantee. The
first thing that he notices is the dream of a servant of Ratleig, the
notary, who, being set to watch the holy relics in the church after
vespers, went to sleep and, during his slumbers, had a vision of two
pigeons, one white and one gray and white, which came and sat upon the
bier over the relics; while, at the same time, a voice ordered the man
to tell his master that the holy martyrs had chosen another
resting-place and desired to be transported thither without delay.

Unfortunately, the saints seem to have forgotten to mention where they
wished to go; and, with the most anxious desire to gratify their
smallest wishes, Eginhard was naturally greatly perplexed what to do.
While in this state of mind, he was one day contemplating his "great and
wonderful treasure, more precious than all the gold in the world," when
it struck him that the chest in which the relics were contained was
quite unworthy of its contents; and, after vespers, he gave orders to
one of the sacristans to the measure of the chest in order a more
fitting shrine might be constructed. The man, having lighted a candle
and raised the pall which covered the relics, in order to carry out his
master's orders, was astonished and terrified to observe that the chest
was covered with a blood-like exudation (_loculum mirum in modum humore
sanguineo undique distillantem_), and at once sent a message to

     Then I and those priests who accompanied me beheld this stupendous
     miracle, worthy of all admiration. For just as when it is going to
     rain, pillars and slabs and marble images exude moisture, and, as
     it were, sweat, so the chest which contained the most sacred relics
     was found moist with the blood exuding on all sides. (Cap. ii. 16.)

Three days' fast was ordained in order that the meaning of the portent
might be ascertained. All that happened, however, was that, at the end
of that time, the "blood," which had been exuding in drops all the
while, dried up. Eginhard is careful to say that the liquid "had a
saline taste, something like that of tears, and was thin as water,
though of the colour of true blood," and he clearly thinks this
satisfactory evidence that it was blood.

The same night, another servant had a vision, in which still more
imperative orders for the removal of the relics were given; and, from
that time forth, "not a single night passed without one, two, or even
three of our companions receiving revelations in dreams that the bodies
of the saints were to be transferred from that place to another." At
last a priest, Hildfrid, saw, in a dream, a venerable white-haired man
in a priest's vestments, who bitterly reproached Eginhard for not
obeying the repeated orders of the saints; and, upon this, the journey
was commenced. Why Eginhard delayed obedience to these repeated visions
so long does not appear. He does not say so, in so many words, but the
general tenor of the narrative leads one to suppose that Mulinheim
(afterwards Seligenstadt) is the "solitary place" in which he had built
the church which awaited dedication. In that case, all the people about
him would know that he desired that the saints should go there. If a
glimmering of secular sense led him to be a little suspicious about the
real cause of the unanimity of the visionary beings who manifested
themselves to his _entourage_ in favour of moving on, he does not say

At the end of the first day's journey, the precious relics were
deposited in the church of St. Martin, in the village of Ostheim.
Hither, a paralytic nun (_sanctimonialis quædam paralytica_) of the name
of Ruodlang was brought, in a car, by her friends and relatives from a
monastery a league off. She spent the night watching and praying by the
bier of the saints; "and health returning to all her members, on the
morrow she went back to her place whence she came, on her feet, nobody
supporting her, or in any way giving her assistance." (Cap. ii. 19.)

On the second day, the relics were carried to Upper Mulinheim; and,
finally, in accordance with the orders of the martyrs, deposited in the
church of that place, which was therefore renamed Seligenstadt. Here,
Daniel, a beggar boy of fifteen, and so bent that "he could not look at
the sky without lying on his back," collapsed and fell down during the
celebration of the Mass.

"Thus he lay a long time, as if asleep, and all his limbs straightening
and his flesh strengthening (_recepta firmitate nervorum_), he arose
before our eyes, quite well." (Cap. ii. 20.)

Some time afterwards an old man entered the church on his hands and
knees, being unable to use his limbs properly:--

     He, in presence of all of us, by the power of God and the merits of
     the blessed martyrs, in the same hour in which he entered was so
     perfectly cured that he walked without so much as a stick. And he
     said that, though he had been deaf for five years, his deafness had
     ceased along with the palsy. (Cap. iii. 33.)

Eginhard was now obliged to return to the Court at Aix-la-Chapelle,
where his duties kept him through the winter; and he is careful to point
out that the later miracles which he proceeds to speak of are known to
him only at second hand. But, as he naturally observes, having seen such
wonderful events with his own eyes, why should he doubt similar
narrations when they are received from trustworthy sources?

Wonderful stories these are indeed, but as they are, for the most part,
of the same general character as those already recounted, they may be
passed over. There is, however, an account of a possessed maiden which
is worth attention. This is set forth in a memoir, the principal
contents of which are the speeches of a demon who declared himself to
possess the singular appellation of "Wiggo," and revealed himself in the
presence of many witnesses, before the altar, close to the relics of the
blessed martyrs. It is noteworthy that the revelations appear to have
been made in the shape of replies to the questions of the exorcising
priest; and there is no means of judging how far the answers are,
really, only the questions to which the patient replied yes or no.

The possessed girl, about sixteen years of age, was brought by her
parents to the basilica of the martyrs.

     When she approached the tomb containing the sacred bodies, the
     priest, according to custom, read the formula of exorcism over her
     head. When he began to ask how and when the demon had entered her,
     she answered, not in the tongue of the barbarians, which alone the
     girl knew, but in the Roman tongue. And when the priest was
     astonished and asked how she came to know Latin, when her parents,
     who stood by, were wholly ignorant of it, "Thou hast never seen my
     parents," was the reply. To this the priest, "Whence art thou,
     then, if these are not thy parents?" And the demon, by the mouth of
     the girl, "I am a follower and disciple of Satan, and for a long
     time I was gatekeeper (janitor) in hell; but, for some years, along
     with eleven companions, I have ravaged the kingdom of the Franks."
     (Cap. v. 49.)

He then goes on to tell how they blasted the crops and scattered
pestilence among beasts and men, because of the prevalent wickedness of
the people.[21]

The enumeration of all these iniquities, in oratorical style, takes up a
whole octavo page; and at the end it is stated, "All these things the
demon spoke in Latin by the mouth of the girl."

     And when the priest imperatively ordered him to come out, "I shall
     go," said he, "not in obedience to you, but on account of the power
     of the saints, who do not allow me to remain any longer." And,
     having said this, he threw the girl down on the floor and there
     compelled her to lie prostrate for a time, as though she slumbered.
     After a little while, however, he going away, the girl, by the
     power of Christ and the merits of the blessed martyrs, as it were
     awaking from sleep, rose up quite well, to the astonishment of all
     present; nor after the demon had gone out was she able to speak
     Latin: so that it was plain enough that it was not she who had
     spoken in that tongue, but the demon by her mouth. (Cap. v. 51.)

If the "Historia Translations" contained nothing more than has been laid
before the reader, up to this time, disbelief in the miracles of which
it gives so precise and full a record might well be regarded as
hyper-scepticism. It might fairly be said, Here you have a man, whose
high character, acute intelligence, and large instruction are certified
by eminent contemporaries; a man who stood high in the confidence of one
of the greatest rulers of any age, and whose other works prove him to be
an accurate and judicious narrator of ordinary events. This man tells
you, in language which bears the stamp of sincerity, of things which
happened within his own knowledge, or within that of persons in whose
veracity he has entire confidence, while he appeals to his sovereign and
the court as witnesses of others; what possible ground can there be for
disbelieving him?

Well, it is hard upon Eginhard to say so, but it is exactly the honesty
and sincerity of the man which are his undoing as a witness to the
miraculous. He himself makes it quite obvious that when his profound
piety comes on the stage, his good sense and even his perception of
right and wrong, make their exit. Let us go back to the point at which
we left him, secretly perusing the letter of Deacon Deusdona. As he
tells us, its contents were

     that he [the deacon] had many relics of saints at home, and that he
     would give them to me if I would furnish him with the means of
     returning to Rome; he had observed that I had two mules, and if I
     would let him have one of them and would despatch with him a
     confidential servant to take charge of the relics, he would at once
     send them to me. This plausibly expressed proposition pleased me,
     and I made up my mind to test the value of the somewhat ambiguous
     promise at once;[22] so giving him the mule and money for his
     journey I ordered my notary Ratleig (who already desired to go to
     Rome to offer his devotions there) to go with him. Therefore,
     having left Aix-la-Chapelle (where the Emperor and his Court
     resided at the time) they came to Soissons. Here they spoke with
     Hildoin, abbot of the monastery of St. Medardus, because the said
     deacon had assured him that he had the means of placing in his
     possession the body of the blessed Tiburtius the Martyr. Attracted
     by which promises he (Hildoin) sent with them a certain priest,
     Hunus by name, a sharp man (_hominem callidum_), whom he ordered to
     receive and bring back the body of the martyr in question. And so,
     resuming their journey, they proceeded to Rome as fast as they
     could. (Cap. i. 3.)

Unfortunately, a servant of the notary, one Reginbald, fell ill of a
tertian fever, and impeded the progress of the party. However, this
piece of adversity had its sweet uses; for three days before they
reached Rome, Reginbald had a vision. Somebody habited as a deacon
appeared to him and asked why his master was in such a hurry to get to
Rome; and when Reginbald explained their business, this visionary
deacon, who seems to have taken the measure of his brother in the flesh
with some accuracy, told him not by any means to expect that Deusdona
would fulfil his promises. Moreover, taking the servant by the hand, he
led him to the top of a high mountain and, showing him Rome (where the
man had never been), pointed out a church, adding "Tell Ratleig the
thing he wants is hidden there; let him get it as quickly as he can and
go back to his master." By way of a sign that the order was
authoritative, the servant was promised that, from that time forth, his
fever should disappear. And as the fever did vanish to return no more,
the faith of Eginhard's people in Deacon Deusdona naturally vanished
with it (_et fidem diaconi promissis non haberent_). Nevertheless, they
put up at the deacon's house near St. Peter ad Vincula. But time went on
and no relics made their appearance, while the notary and the priest
were put off with all sorts of excuses--the brother to whom the relics
had been confided was gone to Beneventum and not expected back for some
time, and so on--until Ratleig and Hunus began to despair, and were
minded to return, _infecto negotio_.

     But my notary, calling to mind his servant's dream, proposed to his
     companion that they should go to the cemetery which their host had
     talked about without him. So, having found and hired a guide, they
     went in the first place to the basilica of the blessed Tiburtius in
     the Via Labicana, about three thousand paces from the town, and
     cautiously and carefully inspected the tomb of that martyr, in
     order to discover whether it could be opened without any one being
     the wiser. Then they descended into the adjoining crypt, in which
     the bodies of the blessed martyrs of Christ, Marcellinus and
     Petrus, were buried; and, having made out the nature of their tomb,
     they went away thinking their host would not know what they had
     been about. But things fell out differently from what they had
     imagined. (Cap. i. 7.)
In fact, Deacon Deusdona, who doubtless kept an eye on his guests, knew
all about their manoeuvres and made haste to offer his services, in
order that, "with the help of God" (_si Deus votis eorum favere
dignaretur_), they should all work together. The deacon was evidently
alarmed less they should succeed without _his_ help.

So, by way of preparation for the contemplated _vol avec affraction_
they fasted three days; and then, at night, without being seen, they
betook themselves to the basilica of St. Tiburtius, and tried to break
open the altar erected over his remains. But the marble proving too
solid, they descended to the crypt, and, "having evoked our Lord Jesus
Christ and adored the holy martyrs," they proceeded to prise off the
stone which covered the tomb, and thereby exposed the body of the most
sacred martyr, Marcellinus, "whose head rested on a marble tablet on
which his name was inscribed." The body was taken up with the greatest
veneration, wrapped in a rich covering, and given over to the keeping of
the deacon and his brother, Lunison, while the stone was replaced with
such care that no sign of the theft remained.

As sacrilegious proceedings of this kind were punishable with death by
the Roman law, it seems not unnatural that Deacon Deusdona should have
become uneasy, and have urged Ratleig to be satisfied with what he had
got and be off with his spoils. But the notary having thus cleverly
captured the blessed Marcellinus, thought it a pity he should be parted
from the blessed Petrus, side by side with whom he had rested, for five
hundred years and more, in the same sepulchre (as Eginhard pathetically
observes); and the pious man could neither eat, drink, nor sleep, until
he had compassed his desire to re-unite the saintly colleagues. This
time, apparently in consequence of Deusdona's opposition to any further
resurrectionist doings, he took counsel with a Greek monk, one Basil,
and, accompanied by Hunus, but saying nothing to Deusdona, they
committed another sacrilegious burglary, securing this time, not only
the body of the blessed Petrus, but a quantity of dust, which they
agreed the priest should take, and tell his employer that it was the
remains of the blessed Tiburtius. How Deusdona was "squared," and what
he got for his not very valuable complicity in these transactions, does
not appear. But at last the relics were sent off in charge of Lunison,
the brother of Deusdona, and the priest Hunus, as far as Pavia, while
Ratleig stopped behind for a week to see if the robbery was discovered,
and, presumably, to act as a blind, if any hue and cry was raised. But,
as everything remained quiet, the notary betook himself to Pavia, where
he found Lunison and Hunus awaiting his arrival. The notary's opinion of
the character of his worthy colleagues, however, may be gathered from
the fact that having persuaded them to set out in advance along a road
which he told them he was about to take, he immediately adopted another
route, and, travelling by way of St. Maurice and the Lake of Geneva,
eventually reached Soleure.

Eginhard tells all this story with the most naive air of unconsciousness
that there is anything remarkable about an abbot, and a high officer of
state to boot, being an accessory, both before and after the fact, to a
most gross and scandalous act of sacrilegious and burglarious robbery.
And an amusing sequel to the story proves that, where relics were
concerned, his friend Hildoin, another high ecclesiastical dignitary,
was even less scrupulous than himself.

On going to the palace early one morning, after the saints were safely
bestowed at Seligenstadt, he found Hildoin waiting for an audience in
the Emperor's antechamber, and began to talk to him about the miracle of
the bloody exudation. In the course of conversation, Eginhard happened
to allude to the remarkable fineness of the garment of the blessed
Marcellinus. Whereupon Abbot Hildoin observed (to Eginhard's
stupefaction) that his observation was quite correct. Much astonished at
this remark from a person was supposed not to have seen the relics,
Eginhard asked him how he knew that? Upon this, Hildoin saw he had
better make a clean breast of it, and he told the following story, which
he had received from his priestly agent, Hunus. While Hunus and Lunison
were at Pavia, waiting for Eginhard's notary, Hunus (according to his
own account) had robbed the robbers. The relics were placed in a church;
and a number of laymen and clerics, of whom Hunus was one, undertook to
keep watch over them. One night, however, all the watchers, save
wide-awake Hunus, went to sleep; and then, according to the story which
this "sharp" ecclesiastic foisted upon his patron,

     it was borne in upon his mind that there must be some great reason
     why all the people, except himself, had suddenly become somnolent;
     and, determining to avail himself of the opportunity thus offered
     (_oblata occasione utendum_), he rose and, having lighted a candle,
     silently approached the chests. Then, having burnt through the
     threads of the seals with the flame of the candle, he quickly
     opened the chests, which had no locks;[23] and, taking out portions
     of each of the bodies which were thus exposed, he closed the chests
     and connected the burnt ends of the threads with the seals again,
     so that they appeared not to have been touched; and, no one having
     seen him, he returned to his place. (Cap. iii. 23.)

Hildoin went on to tell Eginhard that Hunus at first declared to him
that these purloined relics belonged to St. Tiburtius but afterwards
confessed, as a great secret, how he had come by them, and he wound up
his discourse thus:

     They have a place of honour beside St. Medardus, where they are
     worshipped with great veneration by all the people; but whether we
     may keep them or not is for your judgment. (Cap. iii. 23.)

Poor Eginhard was thrown into a state of great perturbation of mind by
this revelation. An acquaintance of his had recently told him of a
rumour that was spread about that Hunus had contrived to abstract _all_
the remains of SS. Marcellinus and Petrus while Eginhard's agents were
in a drunken sleep; and that, while the real relics were in Abbot
Hildoin's hands at St. Medardus, the Shrine at Seligenstadt contained
nothing but a little dust. Though greatly annoyed by this "execrable
rumour, spread everywhere by the subtlety of the devil," Eginhard had
doubtless comforted himself by his supposed knowledge of its falsity,
and he only now discovered how considerable a foundation there was for
the scandal. There was nothing for it but to insist upon the return of
the stolen treasures. One would have thought that the holy man, who had
admitted himself to be knowingly a receiver of stolen goods, would have
made instant restitution and begged only for absolution. But Eginhard
intimates that he had very great difficulty in getting his brother abbot
to see that even restitution was necessary.

Hildoin's proceedings were not of such a nature as to lead any one to
place implicit confidence in anything he might say; still less had his
agent, priest Hunus, established much claim to confidence; and it is not
surprising that Eginhard should have lost no time in summoning his
notary and Lunison to his presence, in order that he might hear what
they had to say about the business. They, however, at once protested
that priest Hunus's story was a parcel of lies, and that after the
relics left Rome no one had any opportunity of meddling with them.

Moreover, Lunison, throwing himself at Eginhard's feet, confessed with
many tears what actually took place. It will be remembered that after
the body of St. Marcellinus was abstracted from its tomb, Ratleig
deposited it in the house of Deusdona, in charge of the latter's
brother, Lunison. But Hunus being very much disappointed that he could
not get hold of the body of St. Tiburtius, and afraid to go back to his
abbot empty-handed, bribed Lunison with four pieces of gold and five of
silver to give him access to the chest. This Lunison did, and Hunus
helped himself to as much as would fill a gallon-measure (_vas sextarii
mensuram_) of the sacred remains. Eginhard's indignation at the "rapine"
of this "nequissimus nebulo" is exquisitely droll. It would appear that
the adage about the receiver being as bad as the thief was not current
in the ninth century.

Let us now briefly sum up the history of the acquisition of the relics.
Eginhard makes a contract with Deusdona for the delivery of certain
relics which the latter says he possesses. Eginhard makes no inquiry how
he came by them; otherwise, the transaction is innocent enough.

Deusdona turns out to be a swindler, and has no relics. Thereupon
Eginhard's agent, after due fasting and prayer, breaks open the tombs
and helps himself.

Eginhard discovers by the self-betrayal of his brother abbot, Hildoin,
that portions of his relics have been stolen and conveyed to the latter.
With much ado he succeeds in getting them back.

Hildoin's agent, Hunus, in delivering these stolen goods to him, at
first declared they were the relics of St. Tiburtius, which Hildoin
desired him to obtain; but afterwards invented a story of their being
the product of a theft, which the providential drowsiness of his
companions enabled him to perpetrate, from the relics which Hildoin well
knew were the property of his friend.

Lunison, on the contrary, swears that all this story is false, and that
he himself was bribed by Hunus to allow him to steal what he pleased
from the property confided to his own and his brother's care by their
guest Ratleig. And the honest notary himself seems to have no hesitation
about lying and stealing to any extent, where the acquisition of relics
is the object in view.

For a parallel to these transactions one must read a police report of
the doings of a "long firm" or of a set of horse-coupers; yet Eginhard
seems to be aware of nothing, but that he has been rather badly used by
his friend Hildoin, and the "nequissimus nebulo" Hunus.

It is not easy for a modern Protestant, still less for any one who has
the least tincture of scientific culture, whether physical or
historical, to picture to himself the state of mind of a man of the
ninth century, however cultivated, enlightened, and sincere he may have
been. His deepest convictions, his most cherished hopes, were bound up
with the belief in the miraculous. Life was a constant battle between
saints and demons for the possession of the souls of men. The most
superstitious among our modern countrymen turn to supernatural agencies
only when natural causes seem insufficient; to Eginhard and his friends
the supernatural was the rule: and the sufficiency of natural causes was
allowed only when there was nothing to suggest others.

Moreover, it must be recollected that the possession of miracle-working
relics was greatly coveted, not only on high, but on very low grounds.
To a man like Eginhard, the mere satisfaction of the religious sentiment
was obviously a powerful attraction. But, more than this, the possession
of such a treasure was an immense practical advantage. If the saints
were duly flattered and worshipped, there was no telling what benefits
might result from their interposition on your behalf. For physical
evils, access to the shrine was like the grant of the use of a universal
pill and ointment manufactory; and pilgrimages thereto might suffice to
cleanse the performers from any amount of sin. A letter to Lupus,
subsequently Abbot of Ferrara, written while Eginhard was smarting under
the grief caused by the loss of his much-loved wife Imma, affords a
striking insight into the current view of the relation between the
glorified saints and their worshippers. The writer shows that he is
anything but satisfied with the way in which he has been treated by the
blessed martyrs whose remains he has taken such pains to "convey" to
Seligenstadt, and to honour there as they would never have been honoured
in their Roman obscurity.

     It is an aggravation of my grief and a reopening of my wound, that
     our vows have been of no avail, and that the faith which we placed
     in the merits and intervention of the martyrs has been utterly

We may admit, then, without impeachment of Eginhard's sincerity, or of
his honour under all ordinary circumstances, that when piety,
self-interest, the glory of the Church in general, and that of the
church at Seligenstadt in particular, all pulled one way, even the
workaday principles of morality were disregarded; and, _a fortiori_,
anything like proper investigation of the reality of alleged miracles
was thrown to the winds.

And if this was the condition of mind of such a man as Eginhard, what is
it not legitimate to suppose may have been that of Deacon Deusdona,
Lunison, Hunus, and company, thieves and cheats by their own confession,
or of the probably hysterical nun, or of the professional beggars, for
whose incapacity to walk and straighten themselves there is no guarantee
but their own? Who is to make sure that the exorcist of the demon Wiggo
was not just such another priest as Hunus; and is it not at least
possible, when Eginhard's servants dreamed, night after night, in such a
curiously coincident fashion, that a careful inquirer might have found
they were very anxious to please their master?

Quite apart from deliberate and conscious fraud (which is a rarer thing
than is often supposed), people whose mythopoeic faculty is once
stirred, are capable of saying the thing that is not, and of acting as
they should not, to an extent which is hardly imaginable by persons who
are not so easily affected by the contagion of blind faith. There is no
falsity so gross that honest men and, still more, virtuous women,
anxious to promote a good cause, will not lend themselves to it without
any clear consciousness of the moral bearings of what they are doing.
The cases of miraculously-effected cures of which Eginhard is ocular
witness appear to belong to classes of disease in which malingering is
possible or hysteria presumable. Without modern means of diagnosis, the
names given to them are quite worthless. One "miracle," however, in
which the patient, a woman, was cured by the mere sight of the church in
which the relics of the blessed martyrs lay, is an unmistakable case of
dislocation of the lower jaw; and it is obvious that, as not
unfrequently happens in such accidents in weakly subjects, the jaw
slipped suddenly back into place, perhaps in consequence of a jolt, as
the woman rode towards the church. (Cap. v. 53.)[24]

There is also a good deal said about a very questionable blind man--one
Albricus (Alberich?)--who having been cured, not of his blindness, but
of another disease under which he laboured, took up his quarters at
Seligenstadt, and came out as a prophet, inspired by the Archangel
Gabriel. Eginhard intimates that his prophecies were fulfilled; but as
he does not state exactly what they were, or how they were accomplished,
the statement must be accepted with much caution. It is obvious that he
was not the man to hesitate to "ease" a prophecy until it fitted, if the
credit of the shrine of his favourite saints could be increased by such
a procedure. There is no impeachment of his honour in the supposition.
The logic of the matter is quite simple, if somewhat sophistical. The
holiness of the Church of the martyrs guarantees the reality of the
appearance of the Archangel Gabriel there; and what the archangel says
must be true. Therefore if anything seem to be wrong, that must be the
mistake of the transmitter; and, in justice to the archangel, it must
be suppressed or set right. This sort of "reconciliation" is not unknown
in quite modern times, and among people who would be very much shocked
to be compared with a "benighted papist" of the ninth century.

The readers of this essay are, I imagine, very largely composed of
people who would be shocked to be regarded as anything but enlightened
Protestants. It is not unlikely that those of them who have accompanied
me thus far may be disposed to say, "Well, this is all very amusing as a
story, but what is the practical interest of it? We are not likely to
believe in the miracles worked by the spolia of SS. Marcellinus and
Petrus, or by those of any other saints in the Roman Calendar."

The practical interest is this: if you do not believe in these miracles
recounted by a witness whose character and competency are firmly
established, whose sincerity cannot be doubted, and who appeals to his
sovereign and other comtemporaries as witnesses of the truth of what he
says in a document of which a MS. copy exists, probably dating within a
century of the author's death, why do you profess to believe in stories
of a like character, which are found in documents of the dates and of
the authorship of which nothing is certainly determined, and no known
copies of which come within two or three centuries of the events they
record? If it be true that the four Gospels and the Acts were written by
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all that we know of these persons comes
to nothing in comparison with our knowledge of Eginhard; and not only is
there no proof that the traditional authors of these works wrote them,
but very strong reasons to the contrary may be alleged. If, therefore,
you refuse to believe that "Wiggo" was cast out of the possessed girl on
Eginhard's authority, with what justice can you profess to believe that
the legion of devils were cast out of the man among the tombs of the
Gadarenes? And if, on the other hand, you accept Eginhard's evidence,
why do you laugh at the supposed efficacy of relics and the
saint-worship of the modern Romanists? It cannot be pretended, in the
face of all evidence, that the Jews of the year 30 A.D. or thereabouts,
were less imbued with the belief in the supernatural than were the
Franks of the year 800 A.D. The same influences were at work in each
case, and it is only reasonable to suppose that the results were the
same. If the evidence of Eginhard is insufficient to lead reasonable men
to believe in the miracles he relates, _a fortiori_ the evidence
afforded by the Gospels and the Acts must be so.[25]

But it may be said that no serious critic denies the genuineness of the
four great Pauline Epistles--Galatians, First and Second Corinthians,
and Romans--and that in three out of these four Paul lays claim to the
power of working miracles.[26] Must we suppose, therefore, that the
Apostle to the Gentiles has stated that which is false? But to how much
does this so-called claim amount? It may mean much or little. Paul
nowhere tells us what he did in this direction; and in his sore need to
justify his assumption of apostleship against the sneers of his enemies,
it is hardly likely that, if he had any very striking cases to bring
forward, he would have neglected evidence so well calculated to put them
to shame. And, without the slightest impeachment of Paul's veracity, we
must further remember that his strongly-marked mental characteristics,
displayed in unmistakable fashion in these Epistles, are anything but
those which would justify us in regarding him as a critical witness
respecting matters of fact, or as a trustworthy interpreter of their
significance. When a man testifies to a miracle, he not only states a
fact, but he adds an interpretation of the fact. We may admit his
evidence as to the former, and yet think his opinion as to the latter
worthless. If Eginhard's calm and objective narrative of the historical
events of his time is no guarantee for the soundness of his judgment
where the supernatural is concerned, the heated rhetoric of the Apostle
of the Gentiles, his absolute confidence in the "inner light," and the
extraordinary conceptions of the nature and requirements of logical
proof which he betrays, in page after page of his Epistles, afford still
less security.

There is a comparatively modern man who shared to the full Paul's trust
in the "inner light," and who, though widely different from the fiery
evangelist of Tarsus in various obvious particulars, yet, if I am not
mistaken, shares his deepest characteristics. I speak of George Fox, who
separated himself from the current Protestantism of England, in the
seventeenth century, as Paul separated himself from the Judaism of the
first century, at the bidding of the "inner light"; who went through
persecutions as serious as those which Paul enumerates; who was beaten,
stoned, cast out for dead, imprisoned nine times, sometimes for long
periods, who was in perils on land and perils at sea. George Fox was an
even more widely-travelled missionary; while his success in founding
congregations, and his energy in visiting them, not merely in Great
Britain and Ireland and the West India Islands, but on the continent of
Europe and that of North America, were no less remarkable. A few years
after Fox began to preach, there were reckoned to be a thousand Friends
in prison in the various gaols of England; at his death, less than fifty
years after the foundation of the sect, there were 70,000 Quakers in the
United Kingdom. The cheerfulness with which these people--women as well
as men--underwent martyrdom in this country and in the New England
States is one of the most remarkable facts in the history of religion.

No one who reads the voluminous autobiography of "Honest George" can
doubt the man's utter truthfulness; and though, in his multitudinous
letters, he but rarely rises far above the incoherent commonplaces of a
street preacher, there can be no question of his power as a speaker, nor
any doubt as to the dignity and attractiveness of his personality, or of
his possession of a large amount of practical good sense and governing

But that George Fox had full faith in his own powers as a
miracle-worker, the following passage of his autobiography (to which
others might be added) demonstrates:--

     Now after I was set at liberty from Nottingham gaol (where I had
     been kept a prisoner a pretty long time) I travelled as before, in
     the work of the Lord. And coming to Mansfield Woodhouse, there was
     a distracted woman, under a doctor's hand, with her hair let loose
     all about her ears; and he was about to let her blood, she being
     first bound, and many people being about her, holding her by
     violence; but he could get no blood from her. And I desired them to
     unbind her and let her alone; for they could not touch the spirit
     in her by which she was tormented. So they did unbind her, and I
     was moved to speak to her, and in the name of the Lord to bid her
     be quiet and still. And she was so. And the Lord's power settled
     her mind and she mended; and afterwards received the truth and
     continued in it to her death. And the Lord's name was honoured; to
     whom the glory of all His works belongs. Many great and wonderful
     things were wrought by the heavenly power in those days. For the
     Lord made bare His omnipotent arm and manifested His power to the
     astonishment of many; by the healing virtue whereof many have been
     delivered from great infirmities, and the devils were made subject
     through His name: of which particular instances might be given
     beyond what this unbelieving age is able to receive or bear.[27]

It needs no long study of Fox's writings, however, to arrive at the
conviction that the distinction between subjective and objective
verities had not the same place in his mind as it has in that of an
ordinary mortal. When an ordinary person would say "I thought so and
so," or "I made up my mind to do so and so," George Fox says, "It was
opened to me," or "at the command of God I did so and so." "Then at the
command of God on the ninth day of the seventh month 1643 (Fox being
just nineteen), I left my relations and brake off all familiarity or
friendship with young or old." "About the beginning of the year 1647 I
was moved of the Lord to go into Darbyshire." Fox hears voices and he
sees visions, some of which he brings before the reader with apocalyptic
power in the simple and strong English, alike untutored and undefiled,
of which, like John Bunyan, his contemporary, he was a master.

"And one morning, as I was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over
me and a temptation beset me; and I sate still. And it was said, _All
things come by Nature_. And the elements and stars came over me; so that
I was in a manner quite clouded with it.... And as I sate still under
it, and let it alone, a living hope arose in me and a true voice arose
in me which said, _There is a living God who made all things_. And
immediately the cloud and the temptation vanished away, and life rose
over it all, and my heart was glad and I praised the living God" (p.

If George Fox could speak, as he proves in this and some other passages
he could write, his astounding influence on the contemporaries of Milton
and of Cromwell is no mystery. But this modern reproduction of the
ancient prophet, with his "Thus saith the Lord," "This is the work of
the Lord," steeped in supernaturalism and glorying in blind faith, is
the mental antipodes of the philosopher, founded in naturalism and a
fanatic for evidence, to whom these affirmations inevitably suggest the
previous question: "How do you know that the Lord saith it?" "How do you
know that the Lord doeth it?" and who is compelled to demand that
rational ground for belief, without which, to the man of science, assent
is merely an immoral pretence.

And it is this rational ground of belief which the writers of the
Gospels, no less than Paul, and Eginhard, and Fox, so little dream of
offering that they would regard the demand for it as a kind of



Within the last few months [1889] the public has received much and
varied information on the subject of Agnostics, their tenets, and even
their future. Agnosticism exercised the orators of the Church Congress
at Manchester.[28] It has been furnished with a set of "articles,"
fewer, but not less rigid, and certainly not less consistent than the
thirty-nine; its nature has been analysed, and its future severely
predicted by the most eloquent of that prophetical school whose Samuel
is Auguste Comte. It may still be a question, however, whether the
public is as much the wiser as might be expected, considering all the
trouble that has been taken to enlighten it. Not only are the three
accounts of the agnostic position sadly out of harmony with one another,
but I propose to show cause for my belief that all three must be
seriously questioned by any one who employs the term "agnostic" in the
sense in which it was originally used. The learned Principal of King's
College, who brought the topic of Agnosticism before the Church
Congress, took a short and easy way of settling the business:--

     But if this be so, for a man to urge, as an escape from this
     article of belief, that he has no means of a scientific knowledge
     of the unseen world, or of the future, is irrelevant. His
     difference from Christians lies not in the fact that he has no
     knowledge of these things, but that he does not believe the
     authority on which they are stated. He may prefer to call himself
     an agnostic; but his real name is an older one--he is an infidel;
     that is to say, an unbeliever. The word infidel, perhaps, carries
     an unpleasant significance. Perhaps it is right that it should. It
     is, and it ought to be, an unpleasant thing for a man to have to
     say plainly that he does not believe in Jesus Christ.[29]

So much of Dr. Wace's address either explicitly or implicitly concerns
me, that I take upon myself to deal with it; but, in doing so, it must
be understood that I speak for myself alone. I am not aware that there
is any sect of Agnostics; and if there be, I am not its acknowledged
prophet or pope. I desire to leave to the Comtists the entire monopoly
of the manufacture of imitation ecclesiasticism.

Let us calmly and dispassionately consider Dr. Wace's appreciation of
agnosticism. The agnostic, according to his view, is a person who says
he has no means of attaining a scientific knowledge of the unseen world
or of the future; by which somewhat loose phraseology Dr. Wace
presumably means the theological unseen world and future. I cannot think
this description happy, either in form or substance; but for the present
it may pass. Dr. Wace continues that is not "his difference from
Christians." Are there then any Christians who say that they know
nothing about the unseen world and the future? I was ignorant of the
fact, but I am ready to accept it on the authority of a professional
theologian, and I proceed to Dr. Wace's next proposition.

The real state of the case, then, 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-fashioned "infidel" who is afraid to
own to his right name. As "presbyter is priest writ large," so is
"agnostic" the mere Greek equivalent for the Latin "infidel." There is
an attractive simplicity about this solution of the problem; and it has
that advantage of being somewhat offensive to the persons attacked,
which is so dear to the less refined sort of controversialist. The
agnostic says, "I cannot find good evidence that so and so is true."
"Ah," says his adversary, seizing his opportunity, "then you declare
that Jesus Christ was untruthful, for he said so and so;" a very telling
method of rousing prejudice. But suppose 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. If I venture to doubt that the Duke of
Wellington gave the command "Up, Guards, and at 'em!" at Waterloo, I do
not think that even Dr. Wace would accuse me of disbelieving the Duke.
Yet it would be just as reasonable to do this as to accuse any one of
denying what Jesus said, before the preliminary question as to what he
did say is settled.

Now, the question as to what Jesus really said and did is strictly a
scientific problem, which is capable of solution by no other methods
than those practised; by the historian and the literary critic. It is a
problem of immense difficulty, which has occupied some of the best heads
in Europe for the last century; and it is only of late years that their
investigations have begun to converge towards one conclusion.[30]

That kind of faith which Dr. Wace describes and lauds is of no use here.
Indeed, he himself takes pains to destroy its evidential value.

"What made the Mahommedan world? Trust and faith in the declarations and
assurances of Mahommed. And what made the Christian world? Trust and
faith in the declarations and assurances of Jesus Christ and His
Apostles" (_l.c._ p. 253). The triumphant tone of this imaginary
catechism leads me to suspect that its author has hardly appreciated its
full import. Presumably, Dr. Wace regards Mahommed as an unbeliever, or,
to use the term which he prefers, infidel; and considers that his
assurances have given rise to a vast delusion which has led, and is
leading, millions of men straight to everlasting punishment. And this
being so, the "Trust and faith" which have "made the Mahommedan world,"
in just the same sense as they have "made the Christian world," must be
trust and faith in falsehood. No man who has studied history, or even
attended to the occurrences of everyday life, can doubt the enormous
practical value of trust and faith; but as little will he be inclined to
deny that this practical value has not the least relation to the reality
of the objects of that trust and faith. In examples of patient constancy
of faith and of unswerving trust, the "Acta Martyrum" do not excel the
annals of Babism.[31]

The discussion upon which we have entered goes so thoroughly to the root
of the whole matter; the question of the day is so completely, as the
author of "Robert Elsmere" says, the value of testimony, that I shall
offer no apology for following it out somewhat in detail; and, by way
of giving substance to the argument, I shall base what I have to say
upon a case, the consideration of which lies strictly within the
province of natural science, and of that particular part of it known as
the physiology and pathology of the nervous system.

I find, in the second Gospel (chap. v.), a statement, to all appearance
intended to have the same evidential value as any other contained in
that history. It is the well-known story of the devils who were cast out
of a man, and ordered, or permitted, to enter into a herd of swine, to
the great loss and damage of the innocent Gerasene, or Gadarene, pig
owners. There can be no doubt that the narrator intends to convey to his
readers his own conviction that this casting out and entering in were
effected by the agency of Jesus of Nazareth; that, by speech and action,
Jesus enforced this conviction; nor does any inkling of the legal and
moral difficulties of the case manifest itself.

On the other hand, everything that I know of physiological and
pathological science leads me to entertain a very strong conviction that
the phenomena ascribed to possession are as purely natural as those
which constitute smallpox; everything that I know of anthropology leads
me to think that the belief in demons and demoniacal possession is a
mere survival of a once universal superstition, and that its
persistence, at the present time, is pretty much in the inverse ratio of
the general instruction, intelligence, and sound judgment of the
population among whom it prevails. Everything that I know of law and
justice convinces me that the wanton destruction of other people's
property is a misdemeanour of evil example. Again, the study of history,
and especially of that of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth
centuries, leaves no shadow of doubt on my mind that the belief in the
reality of possession and of witchcraft, justly based, alike by
Catholics and Protestants, upon this and innumerable other passages in
both the Old and New Testaments, gave rise, through the special
influence of Christian ecclesiastics, to the most horrible persecutions
and judicial murders of thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women,
and children. And when I reflect that the record of a plain and simple
declaration upon such an occasion as this, that the belief in witchcraft
and possession is wicked nonsense, would have rendered the long agony of
mediæval humanity impossible, I am prompted to reject, as dishonouring,
the supposition that such declaration was withheld out of condescension
to popular error.

"Come forth, thou unclean spirit, out of the man" (Mark v. 8)[32] are
the words attributed to Jesus. If I declare, as I have no hesitation in
doing, that I utterly disbelieve in the existence of "unclean spirits,"
and, consequently, in the possibility of their "coming forth" out of a
man, I suppose that Dr. Wace will tell me I am disregarding the
testimony "of our Lord." For, if these words were really used, the most
resourceful of reconcilers can hardly venture to affirm that they are
compatible with a disbelief "in these things." As the learned and
fair-minded, as well as orthodox, Dr. Alexander remarks, in an editorial
note to the article "Demoniacs" in the "Biblical Cyclopædia" (vol. i. p.
664, note):--

     ... On the lowest grounds on which our Lord and His Apostles
     can be placed they must, at least, be regarded as _honest_
     men. Now, though honest speech does not require that words
     should be used always and only in their etymological sense,
     it does require that they should not be used so as to affirm
     what the speaker knows to be false. Whilst, therefore, our
     Lord and His Apostles might use the word [Greek:
     daimonizesthai], or the phrase, [Greek: daimonion echein], as
     a popular description of certain diseases, without giving in
     to the belief which lay at the source of such a mode of
     expression, they could not speak of demons entering into a
     man, or being cast out of him, without pledging themselves to
     the belief of an actual possession of the man by the demons.
     (Campbell, _Prel. Diss._ vi. 1, 10.) If, consequently, they
     did not hold this belief, they spoke not as honest men.

The story which we are considering does not rest on the authority of the
second Gospel alone. The third confirms the second, especially in the
matter of commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man (Luke
viii. 29); and, although the first Gospel either gives a different
version of the same story, or tells another of like kind, the essential
point remains: "If thou cast us out, send us away into the herd of
swine. And He said unto them: Go!" (Matt. viii. 31, 32).

If the concurrent testimony of the three synoptics, then, is really
sufficient to do away with all rational doubt as to the matter of fact
of the utmost practical and speculative importance--belief or disbelief
in which may affect, and has affected, men's lives and their conduct
towards other men, in the most serious way--then I am bound to believe
that Jesus implicitly affirmed himself to possess a "knowledge of the
unseen world," which afforded full confirmation of the belief in demons
and possession current among his contemporaries. If the story is true,
the mediæval theory of the invisible world may be, and probably is,
quite correct; and the witch-finders, from Sprenger to Hopkins and
Mather, are much-maligned men.

On the other hand, humanity, noting the frightful consequences of this
belief; common sense, observing the futility of the evidence on which it
is based, in all cases that have been properly investigated; science,
more and more seeing its way to inclose all the phenomena of so-called
"possession" within the domain of pathology, so far as they are not to
be relegated to that of the police--all these powerful influences concur
in warning us, at our peril, against accepting the belief without the
most careful scrutiny of the authority on which it rests.

I can discern no escape from this dilemma: either Jesus said what he is
reported to have said, or he did not. In the former case, it is
inevitable that his authority on matters connected with the "unseen
world" should be roughly shaken; in the latter, the blow falls upon the
authority of the synoptic Gospels. If their report on a matter of such
stupendous and far-reaching practical import as this is untrustworthy,
how can we be sure of its trustworthiness in other cases? The favourite
"earth" in which the hard-pressed reconciler takes refuge, that the
Bible does not profess to teach science,[33] is stopped in this
instance. For the question of the existence of demon: and of possession
by them, though it lies strictly within the province of science is also
of the deepest moral and religious significance. If physical and mental
disorders are caused by demons, Gregory of Tours and his contemporaries
rightly considered that relics and exorcists were more useful than
doctors; the gravest questions arise as to the legal and moral
responsibilities of persons inspired by demoniacal impulses; and our
whole conception of the universe and of our relations to it becomes
totally different from what it would be on the contrary hypothesis.

The theory of life of an average mediæval Christian was as different
from that of an average nineteenth-century Englishman as that of a West
African negro is now, in these respects. The modern world is slowly, but
surely, shaking off these and other monstrous survivals of savage
delusions; and, whatever happens, it will not return to that wallowing
in the mire. Until the contrary is proved, I venture to doubt whether,
at this present moment, any Protestant theologian, who has a reputation
to lose, will say that he believes the Gadarene story.

The choice then lies between discrediting those who compiled the Gospel
biographies and disbelieving the Master, whom they, simple souls,
thought to honour by preserving such traditions of the exercise of his
authority over Satan's invisible world. This is the dilemma. No deep
scholarship, nothing but a knowledge of the revised version (on which it
is to be supposed all that mere scholarship can do has been done), with
the application thereto of the commonest canons of common sense, is
needful to enable us to make a choice between its alternatives. It is
hardly doubtful that the story, as told in the first Gospel, is merely a
version of that told in the second and third. Nevertheless, the
discrepancies are serious and irreconcilable; and, on this ground alone,
a suspension of judgment at the least, is called for. But there is a
great deal more to be said. From the dawn of scientific biblical
criticism until the present day, the evidence against the long-cherished
notion that the three synoptic Gospels are the works of three
independent authors, each prompted by Divine inspiration, has steadily
accumulated, until at the present time there is no visible escape from
the conclusion that each of the three is a compilation consisting of a
groundwork common to all three--the threefold tradition; and of a
superstructure, consisting, firstly, of matter common to it with one of
the others, and, secondly, of matter special to each. The use of the
terms "groundwork" and "superstructure" by no means implies that the
latter must be of later date than the former. On the contrary, some
parts of it may be, and probably are, older than some parts of the

The story of the Gadarene swine belongs to the groundwork; at least, the
essential part of it, in which the belief in demoniac possession is
expressed, does; and therefore the compilers of the first, second, and
third Gospels, whoever they were, certainly accepted that belief (which,
indeed, was universal among both Jews and pagans at that time), and
attributed it to Jesus.

What, then, do we know about the originator, or originators, of this
groundwork--of that threefold tradition which all three witnesses (in
Paley's phrase) agree upon--that we should allow their mere statements
to outweigh the counter arguments of humanity, of common sense, of exact
science, and to imperil the respect which all would be glad to be able
to render to their Master?

Absolutely nothing.[35] There is no proof, nothing more than a fair
presumption, that any one of the Gospels existed, in the state in which
we find it in the authorised version of the Bible, before the second
century, or in other words, sixty or seventy years after the events
recorded. And between that time and the date of the oldest extant
manuscripts, of the Gospels, there is no telling what additions and
alterations and interpolations may have been made. It may be said that
this is all mere speculation, but it is a good deal more. As competent
scholars and honest men, our revisers have felt compelled to point out
that such things have happened even since the date of the oldest known
manuscripts. The oldest two copies of the second Gospel end with the 8th
verse of the 16th chapter; the remaining twelve verses are spurious,
and it is noteworthy that the maker of the addition has not hesitated to
introduce a speech in which Jesus promises his disciples that "in My
name shall they cast out devils."

The other passage "rejected to the margin" is still more instructive. It
is that touching apologue, with its profound ethical sense, of the woman
taken in adultery--which, if internal evidence were an infallible guide,
might well be affirmed to be a typical example of the teachings of
Jesus. Yet, say the revisers, pitilessly, "Most of the ancient
authorities omit John vii. 53-viii. 11." Now let any reasonable man ask
himself this question: If, after an approximate settlement of the canon
of the New Testament, and even later than the fourth and fifth
centuries, literary fabricators had the skill and the audacity to make
such additions and interpolations as these, what may they have done when
no one had thought of a canon; when oral tradition, still unfixed, was
regarded as more valuable than such written records as may have existed
in the latter portion of the first century? Or, to take the other
alternative, if those who gradually settled the canon did not know of
the existence of the oldest codices which have come down to us; or if,
knowing them, they rejected their authority, what is to be thought of
their competency as critics of the text?

People who object to free criticism of the Christian Scriptures forget
that they are what they are in virtue of very free criticism; unless the
advocates of inspiration are prepared to affirm that the majority of
influential ecclesiastics during several centuries were safeguarded
against error. For, even granting that some books of the period were
inspired, they were certainly few amongst many, and those who selected
the canonical books, unless they themselves were also inspired, must be
regarded in the light of mere critics, and, from the evidence they have
left of their intellectual habits, very uncritical critics. When one
thinks that such delicate questions as those involved fell into the
hands of men like Papias (who believed in the famous millenarian grape
story); of Irenæus with his "reasons" for the existence of only four
Gospels; and of such calm and dispassionate judges as Tertullian, with
his "Credo quia impossibile": the marvel is that the selection which
constitutes our New Testament is as free as it is from obviously
objectionable matter. The apocryphal Gospels certainly deserve to be
apocryphal; but one may suspect that a little more critical
discrimination would have enlarged the Apocrypha not inconsiderably.

At this point a very obvious objection arises and deserves full and
candid consideration. It may be said that critical scepticism carried to
the length suggested is historical pyrrhonism; that if we are altogether
to discredit an ancient or a modern historian, because he has assumed
fabulous matter to be true, it will be as well to give up paying any
attention to history. It may be said, and with great justice, that
Eginhard's "Life of Charlemagne" is none the less trustworthy because of
the astounding revelation of credulity, of lack of judgment, and even of
respect for the eighth commandment, which he has unconsciously made in
the "History of the Translation of the Blessed Martyrs Marcellinus and
Paul." Or, to go no further back than the last number of the _Nineteenth
Century_, surely that excellent lady, Miss Strickland, is not to be
refused all credence, because of the myth about the second James's
remains, which she seems to have unconsciously invented.

Of course this is perfectly true. I am afraid there is no man alive
whose witness could be accepted, if the condition precedent were proof
that he had never invented and promulgated a myth. In the minds of all
of us there are little places here and there, like the indistinguishable
spots on a rock which give foothold to moss or stonecrop; on which, if
the germ of a myth fall, it is certain to grow, without in the least
degree affecting our accuracy or truthfulness elsewhere. Sir Walter
Scott knew that he could not repeat a story without, as he said,
"giving it a new hat and stick." Most of us differ from Sir Walter only
in not knowing about this tendency of the mythopoeic faculty to break
out unnoticed. But it is also perfectly true that the mythopoeic
faculty is not equally active in all minds, nor in all regions and under
all conditions of the same mind. David Hume was certainly not so liable
to temptation as the Venerable Bede, or even as some recent historians
who could be mentioned; and the most imaginative of debtors, if he owes
five pounds, never makes an obligation to pay a hundred out of it. The
rule of common sense is _prima facie_ to trust a witness in all matters,
in which neither his self-interest, his passions, his prejudices, nor
that love of the marvellous, which is inherent to a greater or less
degree in all mankind, are strongly concerned; and, when they are
involved, to require corroborative evidence in exact proportion to the
contravention of probability by the thing testified.

Now, in the Gadarene affair, I do not think I am unreasonably sceptical,
if I say that the existence of demons who can be transferred from a man
to a pig, does thus contravene probability. Let me be perfectly candid.
I admit I have no _a priori_ objection to offer. There are physical
things, such as _læniæ_ and _trichinæ_ which can be transferred from men
to pigs, and _vice versa_, and which do undoubtedly produce most
diabolical and deadly effects on both. For anything I can absolutely
prove to the contrary, there may be spiritual things capable of the same
transmigration, with like effects. Moreover I am bound to add that
perfectly truthful persons, for I have the greatest respect, believe in
stories about spirits of the present day, quite as improbable as that we
are considering.

So I declare, as plainly as I can, that I am unable to show cause why
these transferable devils should not exist; nor can I deny that, not
merely the whole Roman Church, but many Wacean "infidels" of no mean
repute, do honestly and firmly believe that the activity of such like
demonic beings is in full swing in this year of grace 1889.

Nevertheless, as good Bishop Butler says, "probability is the guide of
life"; and it seems to me that this is just one of the cases in which
the canon of credibility and testimony, which I have ventured to lay
down, has full force. So that, with the most entire respect for many (by
no means for all) of our witnesses for the truth of demonology, ancient
and modern, I conceive their evidence on this particular matter to be
ridiculously insufficient to warrant their conclusion.[36]

After what has been said, I do not think that any sensible man, unless
he happen to be angry, will accuse me of "contradicting the Lord and His
Apostles" if I reiterate my total disbelief in the whole Gadarene story.
But, if that story is discredited, all the other stories of demoniac
possession fall under suspicion. And if the belief in demons and
demoniac possession, which forms the sombre background of the whole
picture of primitive Christianity, presented to us in the New Testament,
is shaken, what is to be said, in any case, of the uncorroborated
testimony of the Gospels with respect to "the unseen world"?

I am not aware that I have been influenced by any more bias in regard to
the Gadarene story than I have been in dealing with other cases of like
kind the investigation of which has interested me. I was brought up in
the strictest school of evangelical orthodoxy; and when I was old enough
to think for myself I started upon my journey of inquiry with little
doubt about the general truth of what I had been taught; and with that
feeling of the unpleasantness of being called an "infidel" which, we are
told, is so right and proper. Near my journey's end, I find myself in a
condition of something more than mere doubt about these matters.

In the course of other inquiries, I have had to do with fossil remains
which looked quite plain at a distance, and became more and more
indistinct as I tried to define their outline by close inspection. There
was something there--something which, if I could win assurance about it,
might mark a new epoch in the history of the earth; but, study as long
as I might, certainty eluded my grasp. So has it been with me in my
efforts to define the grand figure of Jesus as it lies in the primary
strata of Christian literature. Is he the kindly, peaceful Christ
depicted in the Catacombs? Or is he the stern Judge who frowns above the
altar of SS. Cosmas and Damianus? Or can he be rightly represented by
the bleeding ascetic, broken down by physical pain, of too many mediæval
pictures? Are we to accept the Jesus of the second, or the Jesus of the
fourth Gospel, as the true Jesus? What did he really say and do; and how
much that is attributed to him, in speech and action, is the embroidery
of the various parties into which his followers tended to split
themselves within twenty years of his death, when even the threefold
tradition was only nascent?

If any one will answer these questions for me with something more to the
point than feeble talk about the "cowardice of agnosticism," I shall be
deeply his debtor. Unless and until they are satifactorily answered, I
say of agnosticism in this matter, "_J'y suis, et j'y reste._"

But, as we have seen, it is asserted that I have no business to call
myself an agnostic; that, if I am not a Christian I am an infidel; and
that I ought to call myself by that name of "unpleasant significance."
Well, I do not care much what I am called by other people, and if I had
at my side all those who, since the Christian era, have been called
infidels by other folks, I could not desire better company. If these are
my ancestors, I prefer, with the old Frank to be with them wherever they
are. But there are several points in Dr. Wace's contention which must be
elucidated before I can even think of undertaking to carry out his
wishes. I must, for instance, know what a Christian is. Now what is a
Christian? By whose authority is the signification of that term defined?
Is there any doubt that the immediate followers of Jesus, the "sect of
the Nazarenes," were strictly orthodox Jews differing from other Jews
not more than the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes differed
from one another, in fact, only in the belief that the Messiah, for whom
the rest of their nation waited, had come? Was not their chief, "James,
the brother of the Lord," reverenced alike by Sadducee, Pharisee, and
Nazarene? At the famous conference which, according to the Acts, took
place at Jerusalem, does not James declare that "myriads" of Jews, who
by that time, had become Nazarenes, were "all zealous for the Law"? Was
not the name of "Christian" first used to denote the converts to the
doctrine promulgated by Paul and Barnabas at Antioch? Does the
subsequent history of Christianity leave any doubt that, from this time
forth, the "little rift within the lute" caused by the new teaching,
developed, if not inaugurated, at Antioch, grew wider and wider, until
the two types of doctrine irreconcilably diverged? Did not the primitive
Nazarenism, or Ebionism, develop into the Nazarenism, and Ebionism, and
Elkasaitism of later ages, and finally die out in obscurity and
condemnation, as damnable heresy; while the younger doctrine throve and
pushed out its shoots into that endless variety of sects, of which the
three strongest survivors are the Roman and Greek Churches and modern

Singular state of things! If I were to profess the doctrine which was
held by "James, the brother of the Lord," and by every one of the
"myriads" of his followers and co-religionists in Jerusalem up to twenty
or thirty years after the Crucifixion (and one knows not how much later
at Pella), I should be condemned with unanimity, as an ebionising
heretic by the Roman, Greek, and Protestant Churches! And, probably,
this hearty and unanimous condemnation of the creed, held by those who
were in the closest personal relation with their Lord, is almost the
only point upon which they would be cordially of one mind. On the other
hand, though I hardly dare imagine such a thing, I very much fear that
the "pillars" of the primitive Hierosolymitan Church would have
considered Dr. Wace an infidel. No one can read the famous second
chapter of Galatians and the book of Revelation without seeing how
narrow was even Paul's escape from a similar fate. And, if
ecclesiastical history is to be trusted, the thirty-nine articles, be
they right or wrong, diverge from the primitive doctrine of the
Nazarenes vastly more than even Pauline Christianity did.

But, further than this, I have great difficulty in assuring myself that
even James, "the brother of the Lord," and his "myriads" of Nazarenes,
properly represented the doctrines of their Master. For it is constantly
asserted by our modern "pillars" that one of the chief features of the
work of Jesus was the instauration of Religion by the abolition of what
our sticklers for articles and liturgies, with unconscious humour, call
the narrow restrictions of the Law. Yet, if James knew this, how could
the bitter controversy with Paul have arisen; and why did not one or the
other side quote any of the various sayings of Jesus, recorded in the
Gospels, which directly bear on the question--sometimes, apparently, in
opposite directions.

So, if I am asked to call myself an "infidel," I reply: To what doctrine
do you ask me to be faithful? Is it that contained in the Nicene and the
Athanasian Creeds? My firm belief is that the Nazarenes, say of the year
40, headed by James, would have stopped their ears and thought worthy of
stoning the audacious man who propounded it to them. Is it contained in
the so-called Apostles' Creed! I am pretty sure that even that would
have created a recalcitrant commotion at Pella in the year 70, among the
Nazarenes of Jerusalem, who had fled from the soldiers of Titus. And
yet, if the unadulterated tradition of the teachings of "the Nazarene"
were to be found anywhere, it surely should have been amidst those not
very aged disciples who may have heard them as they were delivered.

Therefore, however sorry I may be to be unable to demonstrate that, if
necessary, I should not be afraid to call myself an "infidel," I cannot
do it. "Infidel" is a term of reproach, which Christians and
Mahommedans, in their modesty, agree to apply to those who differ from
them. If he had only thought of it, Dr. Wace might have used the term
"miscreant," which, with the same etymological signification, has the
advantage of being still more "unpleasant" to the persons to whom it is
applied. But why should a man be expected to call himself a "miscreant"
or an "infidel"? That St. Patrick "had two birthdays because he was a
twin" is a reasonable and intelligible utterance beside that of the man
who should declare himself to be an infidel, on the ground of denying
his own belief. It may be logically, if not ethically, defensible that a
Christian should call a Mahommedan an infidel and _vice versa_; but, on
Dr. Wace's principles, both ought to call themselves infidels, because
each applies the term to the other.

Now I am afraid that all the Mahommedan world would agree in
reciprocating that appellation to Dr. Wace himself. I once visited the
Hazar Mosque, the great University of Mahommedanism, in Cairo, in
ignorance of the fact that I was unprovided with proper authority. A
swarm of angry under-graduates, as I suppose I ought to call them, came
buzzing about me and my guide; and if I had known Arabic, I suspect that
"dog of an infidel" would have been by no means the most "unpleasant" of
the epithets showered upon me, before I could explain and apologise for
the mistake. If I had had the pleasure of Dr. Wace's company on that
occasion, the undiscriminative followers of the Prophet would, I am
afraid, have made no difference between us; not even if they had known
that he was the head of an orthodox Christian seminary. And I have not
the smallest doubt that even one of the learned mollahs, if his grave
courtesy would have permitted him to say anything offensive to men of
another mode of belief, would have told us that he wondered we did not
find it "very unpleasant" to disbelieve in the Prophet of Islam.

From what precedes, I think it becomes sufficiently clear that Dr.
Wace's account of the origin of the name of "Agnostic" is quite wrong.
Indeed, I am bound to add that very slight effort to discover the truth
would have convinced him that, as a matter of fact, the term arose
otherwise. I am loath to go over an old story once more; but more than
one object which I have in view will be served by telling it a little
more fully than it has yet been told.

Looking back nearly fifty years, I see myself as a boy, whose education
has been interrupted, and who intellectually was left, for some years,
altogether to his own devices. At that time I was a voracious and
omnivorous reader; a dreamer and speculator of the first water, well
endowed with that splendid courage in attacking any and every subject,
which is the blessed compensation of youth and inexperience. Among the
books and essays, on all sorts of topics from metaphysics to heraldry,
which I read at this time, two left indelible impressions on my mind.
One was Guizot's "History of Civilisation, the other was Sir William
Hamilton's essay "On the Philosophy of the Unconditioned," which I came
upon, by chance, in an odd volume of the _Edinburgh Review_. The latter
was certainly strange reading for a boy, and I could not possibly have
understood a great deal of it;[37] nevertheless I devoured it with
avidity, and it stamped upon my mind the strong conviction that, on even
the most solemn and important of questions, men are apt to take cunning
phrases for answers; and that the limitation of our faculties, in a
great number of cases, renders real answers to such questions, not
merely actually impossible, but theoretically inconceivable.

Philosophy and history having laid hold of me in this eccentric fashion,
have never loosened their grip. I have no pretension to be an expert in
either subject; but the turn for philosophical and historical reading,
which rendered Hamilton and Guizot attractive to me, has not only filled
many lawful leisure hours, and still more sleepless ones, with the
repose of changed mental occupation, but has not unfrequently disputed
my proper work-time with my liege lady, Natural Science. In this way I
have found it possible to cover a good deal of ground in the territory
of philosophy; and all the more easily that I have never cared much
about A's or B's opinions, but have rather sought to know what answer he
had to give to the questions I had to put to him--that of the limitation
of possible knowledge the chief. The ordinary examiner, his "State the
views of So-and-so," would have floored me at any time. If he had said
what do _you_ think about any given problem, I might have got on fairly

The reader who has had the patience to follow the enforced, but
unwilling, egotism of this veritable history (especially if his studies
have led him in the same direction), will now see why my mind steadily
gravitated towards the conclusions of Hume and Kant, so well stated by
the latter in a sentence, which I have quoted elsewhere.

"The greatest and perhaps the sole use of all philosophy of pure reason
is, after all, merely negative, since it serves not as an organon for
the enlargement [of knowledge], but as a discipline for its
delimitation; and, instead of discovering truth, has only the modest
merit of preventing error." [38]

When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I
was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist;
a Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and
reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the
conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these
denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these
good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them.
They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis,"--had, more or
less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite
sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was
insoluble. And, with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself
presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion. Like Dante,

    Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
      Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,

but, unlike Dante, I cannot add,

    Che la diritta via era smarrita.

On the contrary, I had, and have, the firmest conviction that I never
left the "verace via"--the straight road; and that this road led nowhere
else but into the dark depths of a wild and tangled forest. And though I
have found leopards and lions in the path; though I have made abundant
acquaintance with the hungry wolf, that "with privy paw devours apace
and nothing said," as another great poet says of the ravening beast; and
though no friendly spectre has even yet offered his guidance, I was, and
am, minded to go straight on, until I either come out on the other side
of the wood, or find there is no other side to it, at least, none
attainable by me.

This was my situation when I had the good fortune to find a place among
the members of that remarkable confraternity of antagonists, long since
deceased, but of green and pious memory, the Metaphysical Society. Every
variety of philosophical and theological opinion was represented there,
and expressed itself with entire openness; most of my colleagues were
_-ists_ of one sort or another; and, however kind and friendly they
might be, I, the man without a rag of a label to cover himself with,
could not fail to have some of the uneasy feelings which must have beset
the historical fox when, after leaving the trap in which his tail
remained, he presented himself to his normally elongated companions. So
I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate
title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to
the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the
very things of which I was ignorant; and I took the earliest opportunity
of parading it at our Society, to show that I, too, had a tail, like the
other foxes. To my great satisfaction, the term took; and when the
_Spectator_ had stood godfather to it, any suspicion in the minds of
respectable people that a knowledge of its parentage might have awakened
was, of course, completely lulled.

That is the history of the origin of the terms "agnostic" and
"agnosticism"; and it will be observed that it does not quite agree with
the confident assertion of the reverend Principal of King's College,
that "the adoption of the term agnostic is only an attempt to shift the
issue, and that it involves a mere evasion" in relation to the Church
and Christianity.[39]

       *       *       *       *       *

The last objection (I rejoice as much as my readers must do, that it is
the last) which I have to take to Dr. Wace's deliverance before the
Church Congress arises, I am sorry to say, on a question of morality.

"It is, and it ought to be," authoritatively declares this official
representative of Christian ethics, "an unpleasant thing for a man to
have to say plainly that he does not believe in Jesus Christ" (_l.c._ p.

Whether it is so depends, I imagine, a good deal on whether the man was
brought up in a Christian household or not. I do not see why it should
be "unpleasant" for a Mahommedan or Buddhist to say so. But that "it
ought to be" unpleasant for any man to say anything which he sincerely,
and after due deliberation, believes, is, to my mind, a proposition of
the most profoundly immoral character. I verily believe that the great
good which has been effected in the world by Christianity has been
largely counteracted by the pestilent doctrine on which all the Churches
have insisted, that honest disbelief in their more or less astonishing
creeds is a moral offence, indeed a sin of the deepest dye, deserving
and involving the same future retribution as murder and robbery. If we
could only see, in one view, the torrents of hypocrisy and cruelty, the
lies, the slaughter, the violations of every obligation of humanity,
which have flowed from this source along the course of the history of
Christian nations, our worst imaginations of Hell would pale beside the

A thousand times, no! It ought _not_ to be unpleasant to say that which
one honestly believes or disbelieves. That it so constantly is painful
to do so, is quite enough obstacle to the progress of mankind in that
most valuable of all qualities, honesty of word or of deed, without
erecting a sad concomitant of human weakness into something to be
admired and cherished. The bravest of soldiers often, and very
naturally, "feel it unpleasant" to go into action; but a court-martial
which did its duty would make short work of the officer who promulgated
the doctrine that his men _ought_ to feel their duty unpleasant.

I am very well aware, as I suppose most thoughtful people are in these
times, that the process of breaking away from old beliefs is extremely
unpleasant; and I am much disposed to think that the encouragement, the
consolation, and the peace afforded to earnest believers in even the
worst forms of Christianity are of great practical advantage to them.
What deductions must be made from this gain on this score of the harm
done to the citizen by the ascetic other-worldliness of logical
Christianity; to the ruler, by the hatred, malice, and all
uncharitableness of sectarian bigotry; to the legislator, by the spirit
of exclusiveness and domination of those that count themselves pillars
of orthodoxy; to the philosopher, by the restraints on the freedom of
learning and teaching which every Church exercises, when it is strong
enough; to the conscientious soul, by the introspective hunting after
sins of the mint and cummin type, the fear of theological error, and the
overpowering terror of possible damnation, which have accompanied the
Churches like their shadow, I need not now consider; but they are
assuredly not small. If agnostics lose heavily on the one side, they
gain a good deal on the other. People who talk about the comforts of
belief appear to forget its discomforts; they ignore the fact that the
Christianity of the Churches is something more than faith in the ideal
personality of Jesus, which they create for themselves, _plus_ so much
as can be carried into practice, without disorganising civil society, of
the maxims of the Sermon on the Mount. Trip in morals or in doctrine
(especially in doctrine), without due repentance or retractation, or
fail to get properly baptized before you die, and a _plébiscite_ of the
Christians of Europe, if they were true to their creeds, would affirm
your everlasting damnation by an immense majority.

Preachers, orthodox and heterodox, din into our ears that the world
cannot get on without faith of some sort. There is a sense in which that
is as eminently as obviously true; there is another, in which, in my
judgment, it is as eminently as obviously false, and it seems to me that
the hortatory, or pulpit, mind is apt to oscillate between the false and
the true meanings, without being aware of the fact.

It is quite true that the ground of every one of our actions, and the
validity of all our reasonings, rest upon the great act of faith, which
leads us to take the experience of the past as a safe guide in our
dealings with the present and the future. From the nature of
ratiocination, it is obvious that the axioms, on which it is based,
cannot be demonstrated by ratiocination. It is also a trite observation
that, in the business of life, we constantly take the most serious
action upon evidence of an utterly insufficient character. But it is
surely plain that faith is not necessarily entitled to dispense with
ratiocination because ratiocination cannot dispense with faith as a
starting-point; and that because we are often obliged, by the pressure
of events, to act on very bad evidence, it does not follow that it is
proper to act on such evidence when the pressure is absent.

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tells us that "faith is the
assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things not seen." In the
authorised version, "substance" stands for "assurance," and "evidence"
for "proving." The question of the exact meaning of the two words,
[Greek: hypostasis] and [Greek: elenchos], affords a fine field of
discussion for the scholar and the metaphysician. But I fancy we shall
be not far from the mark if we take the writer to have had in his mind
the profound psychological truth, that men constantly feel certain about
things for which they strongly hope, but have no evidence, in the legal
or logical sense of the word; and he calls this feeling "faith." I may
have the most absolute faith that a friend has not committed the crime
of which he is accused. In the early days of English history, if my
friend could have obtained a few more compurgators of a like robust
faith, he would have been acquitted. At the present day, if I tendered
myself as a witness on that score, the judge would tell me to stand
down, and the youngest barrister would smile at my simplicity. Miserable
indeed is the man who has not such faith in some of his fellow-men--only
less miserable than the man who allows himself to forget that such faith
is not, strictly speaking, evidence; and when his faith is disappointed,
as will happen now and again, turns Timon and blames the universe for
his own blunders. And so, if a man can find a friend, the hypostasis of
all his hopes, the mirror of his ethical ideal, in the Jesus of any, or
all, of the Gospels, let him live by faith in that ideal. Who shall or
can forbid him? But let him not delude himself with the notion that his
faith is evidence of the objective reality of that in which he trusts.
Such evidence is to be obtained only by the use of the methods of
science, as applied to history and to literature, and it amounts at
present to very little.


The most constant reproach which is launched against persons of my way
of thinking is that it is all very well for us to talk about the
deductions of scientific thought, but what are the poor and the
uneducated to do? Has it ever occurred to those who talk in this
fashion, that their creeds and the articles of their several
confessions, their determination of the exact nature and extent of the
teachings of Jesus, their expositions of the real meaning of that which
is written in the Epistles (to leave aside all questions concerning the
Old Testament), are nothing more than deductions which, at any rate,
profess to be the result of strictly scientific thinking, and which are
not worth attending to unless they really possess that character? If it
is not historically true that such and such things happened in Palestine
eighteen centuries ago, what becomes of Christianity? And what is
historical truth but that of which the evidence bears strict scientific
investigation? I do not call to mind any problem of natural science
which has come under my notice which is more difficult, or more
curiously interesting as a mere problem, than that of the origin of the
Synoptic Gospels and that of the historical value of the narratives
which they contain. The Christianity of the Churches stands or falls by
the results of the purely scientific investigation of these questions.
They were first taken up, in a purely scientific spirit, about a century
ago; they have been studied over and over again by men of vast knowledge
and critical acumen; but he would be a rash man who should assert that
any solution of these problems, as yet formulated, is exhaustive. The
most that can be said is that certain prevalent solutions are certainly
false, while others are more or less probably true.

If I am doing my best to rouse any countrymen out of their dogmatic
slumbers, it is not that they may be amused by seeing who gets the best
of it in a contest between a "scientist" and a theologian. The serious
question is whether theological men of science, or theological special
pleaders, are to have the confidence of the general public; it is the
question whether a country in which it is possible for a body of
excellent clerical and lay gentlemen to discuss in public meeting
assembled, how much it is desirable to let the congregations of the
faithful know of the results of biblical criticism, is likely to wake up
with anything short of the grasp of a rough lay hand upon its shoulder;
it is the question whether the New Testament books, being as I believe
they were, written and compiled by people who, according to their
lights, were perfectly sincere, will not, when properly studied as
ordinary historical documents, afford us the means of self-criticism.
And it must be remembered that the New Testament books are not
responsible for the doctrine invented by the Churches that they are
anything but ordinary historical documents. The author of the third
gospel tells us, as straightforwardly as a man can, that he has no claim
to any other character than that of an ordinary compiler and editor, who
had before him the works of many and variously qualified predecessors.

In my former papers, according to Dr. Wace, I have evaded giving an
answer to his main proposition, which he states as follows--

     Apart from all disputed points of criticism, no one practically
     doubts that our Lord lived, and that He died on the cross, in the
     most intense sense of filial relation to His Father in Heaven, and
     that He bore testimony to that Father's providence, love, and grace
     towards mankind. The Lord's Prayer affords a sufficient evidence on
     these points. If the Sermon on the Mount alone be added, the whole
     unseen world, of which the Agnostic refuses to know anything,
     stands unveiled before us.... If Jesus Christ preached that
     Sermon, made those promises, and taught that prayer, then any one
     who says that we know nothing of God, or of a future life, or of an
     unseen world, says that he does not believe Jesus Christ (pp.


     The main question at issue, in a word, is one which Professor
     Huxley has chosen to leave entirely on one side--whether, namely,
     allowing for the utmost uncertainty on other points of the
     criticism to which he appeals, there is any reasonable doubt that
     the Lord's Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount afford a true account
     of our Lord's essential belief and cardinal teaching (p. 355).

I certainly was not aware that I had evaded the questions here stated;
indeed I should say that I have indicated my reply to them pretty
clearly; but, as Dr. Wace wants a plainer answer, he shall certainly be
gratified. If, as Dr. Wace declares it is, his "whole case is involved
in" the argument as stated in the latter of these two extracts, so much
the worse for his whole case. For I am of opinion that there is the
gravest reason for doubting whether the "Sermon on the Mount" was ever
preached, and whether the so-called "Lord's Prayer" was ever prayed, by
Jesus of Nazareth. My reasons for this opinion are, among Others,
these:--There is now no doubt that the three Synoptic Gospels, so far
from being the work of three independent writers, are closely
inter-dependent,[40] and that in one of two ways. Either all three
contain, as their foundation, versions, to a large extent verbally
identical, of one and the same tradition; or two of them are thus
closely dependent on the third; and the opinion of the majority of the
best critics has of late years more and more converged towards the
conviction that our canonical second gospel (the so-called "Mark's"
Gospel) is that which most closely represents the primitive groundwork
of the three.[41] That I take to be one of the most valuable results of
New Testament criticism, of immeasurably greater importance than the
discussion about dates and authorship.

But if, as I believe to be the case, beyond any rational doubt or
dispute, the second gospel is the nearest extant representative of the
oldest tradition, whether written or oral, how comes it that it contains
neither the "Sermon on the Mount" nor the "Lord's Prayer," those typical
embodiments, according to Dr. Wace, of the "essential belief and
cardinal teaching" of Jesus? Not only does "Mark's" gospel fail to
contain the "Sermon on the Mount," or anything but a very few of the
sayings contained in that collection; but, at the point of the history
of Jesus where the "Sermon" occurs in "Matthew," there is in "Mark" an
apparently unbroken narrative from the calling of James and John to the
healing of Simon's wife's mother. Thus the oldest tradition not only
ignores the "Sermon on the Mount," but, by implication, raises a
probability against its being delivered when and where the later
"Matthew" inserts it in his compilation.

And still more weighty is the fact that the third gospel, the author of
which tells us that he wrote after "many" others had "taken in hand" the
same enterprise; who should therefore have known the first gospel (if
it existed), and was bound to pay to it the deference due to the work of
an apostolic eye-witness (if he had any reason for thinking it was
so)--this writer, who exhibits far more literary competence than the
other two, ignores any "Sermon on the Mount," such as that reported by
"Matthew," just as much as the oldest authority does. Yet "Luke" has a
great many passages identical, or parallel, with those in "Matthew's"
"Sermon on the Mount," which are, for the most part, scattered about in
a totally different connection.

Interposed, however, between the nomination of the Apostles and a visit
to Capernaum; occupying, therefore, a place which answers to that of the
"Sermon on the Mount," in the first gospel, there is, in the third
gospel a discourse which is as closely similar to the "Sermon on the
Mount," in some particulars, as it is widely unlike it in others.

This discourse is said to have been delivered in a "plain" or "level
place" (Luke vi. 17), and by way of distinction we may call it the
"Sermon on the Plain."

I see no reason to doubt that the two Evangelists are dealing, to a
considerable extent, with the same traditional material; and a
comparison of the two "Sermons" suggests very strongly that "Luke's"
version is the earlier. The correspondences between the two forbid the
notion that they are independent. They both begin with a series of
blessings, some of which are almost verbally identical. In the middle of
each (Luke vi. 27-38, Matt. v. 43-48) there is a striking exposition of
the ethical spirit of the command given in Leviticus xix. 18. And each
ends with a passage containing the declaration that a tree is to be
known by its fruit, and the parable of the house built on the sand. But
while there are only 29 verses in the "Sermon on the Plain," there are
107 in the "Sermon on the Mount"; the excess in length of the latter
being chiefly due to the long interpolations, one of 30 verses before,
and one of 34 verses after, the middlemost parallelism with Luke. Under
these circumstances it is quite impossible to admit that there is more
probability that "Matthew's" version of the Sermon is historically
accurate, than there is that Luke's version is so; and they cannot both
be accurate.

"Luke" either knew the collection of loosely-connected and aphoristic
utterances which appear under the name of the "Sermon on the Mount" in
"Matthew"; or he did not. If he did not, he must have been ignorant of
the existence of such a document as our canonical "Matthew," a fact
which does not make for the genuineness, or the authority, of that book.
If he did, he has shown that he does not care for its authority on a
matter of fact of no small importance; and that does not permit us to
conceive that he believes the first gospel to be the work of an
authority to whom he ought to defer, let alone that of an apostolic

The tradition of the Church about the second gospel, which I believe to
be quite worthless, but which is all the evidence there is for "Mark's"
authorship, would have us believe that "Mark" was little more than the
mouthpiece of the apostle Peter. Consequently, we are to suppose that
Peter either did not know, or did not care very much for, that account
of the "essential belief and cardinal teaching" of Jesus which is
contained in the Sermon on the Mount: and, certainly, he could not have
shared Dr. Wace's view of its importance[42]

I thought that all fairly attentive and intelligent students of the
gospels, to say nothing of theologians of reputation, knew these things.
But how can any one who does know them have the conscience to ask
whether there is "any reasonable doubt" that the Sermon on the Mount
was preached by Jesus of Nazareth? If conjecture is permissible, where
nothing else is possible, the most probable conjecture seems to be that
"Matthew," having a _cento_ of sayings attributed--rightly or wrongly it
is impossible to say--to Jesus among his materials, thought they were,
or might be, records of a continuous discourse, and put them in at the
place he thought likeliest. Ancient historians of the highest character
saw no harm in composing long speeches which never were spoken, and
putting them into the mouths of statesmen and warriors; and I presume
that whoever is represented by "Matthew" would have been grievously
astonished to find that any one objected to his following the example of
the best models accessible to him.

So with the "Lord's Prayer." Absent in our representative of the oldest
tradition appears in both "Matthew" and "Luke." There is reason to
believe that every pious Jew, at the commencement of our era, prayed
three times a day, according to a formula which is embodied in the
present "Schmone-Esre" [43] of the Jewish prayer-book. Jesus, who was
assuredly, in all respects, a pious Jew, whatever else he may have been,
doubtless did the same. Whether he modified the current formula, or
whether the so-called "Lord's Prayer" is the prayer substituted for the
"Schmone-Esre" in the congregations of the Gentiles, is a question which
can hardly be answered.

In a subsequent passage of Dr. Wace's article (p. 356) he adds to the
list of the verities which he imagines to be unassailable, "The Story of
the Passion." I am not quite sure what he means by this. I am not aware
that any one (with the exception of certain ancient heretics) has
propounded doubts as to the reality of the crucifixion; and certainly I
have no inclination to argue about the precise accuracy of every detail
of that pathetic story of suffering and wrong. But, if Dr. Wace means,
as I suppose he does, that that which, according to the orthodox view,
happened after the crucifixion, and which is, in a dogmatic sense, the
most important part of the story, is founded on solid historical proofs,
I must beg leave to express a diametrically opposite conviction.

What do we find when the accounts of the events in question, contained
in the three Synoptic gospels, are compared together? In the oldest,
there is a simple, straightforward statement which, for anything that I
have to urge to the contrary, may be exactly true. In the other two,
there is, round this possible and probable nucleus, a mass of accretions
of the most questionable character.

The cruelty of death by crucifixion depended very much upon its
lingering character. If there were a support for the weight of the body,
as not unfrequently was the practice, the pain during the first hours of
the infliction was not, necessarily, extreme; nor need any serious
physical symptoms, at once, arise from the wounds made by the nails in
the hands and feet, supposing they were nailed, which was not invariably
the case. When exhaustion set in, and hunger, thirst, and nervous
irritation had done their work, the agony of the sufferer must have been
terrible; and the more terrible that, in the absence of any effectual
disturbance of the machinery of physical life, it might be prolonged for
many hours, or even days. Temperate, strong men, such as were the
ordinary Galilean peasants, might live for several days on the cross. It
is necessary to bear these facts in mind when we read the account
contained in the fifteenth chapter of the second gospel.

Jesus was crucified at the third hour (xv. 25), and the narrative seems
to imply that he died immediately after the ninth hour (_v._ 34). In
this case, he would have been crucified only six hours; and the time
spent on the cross cannot have been much longer, because Joseph of
Arimathæa must have gone to Pilate, made his preparations, and deposited
the body in the rock-cut tomb before sunset, which, at that time of the
year, was about the twelfth hour. That any one should die after only six
hours' crucifixion could not have been at all in accordance with
Pilate's large experience of the effects of that method of punishment.
It, therefore, quite agrees with what might be expected, that Pilate
"marvelled if he were already dead" and required to be satisfied on this
point by the testimony of the Roman officer who was in command of the
execution party. Those who have paid attention to the extraordinarily
difficult question, What are the indisputable signs of death?--will be
able to estimate the value of the opinion of a rough soldier on such a
subject, even if his report to the Procurator were in no wise affected
by the fact that the friend of Jesus, who anxiously awaited his answer,
was a man of influence and of wealth.

The inanimate body, wrapped in linen, was deposited in a spacious,[44]
cool rock chamber, the entrance of which was closed, not by a
well-fitting door, but by a stone rolled against the opening, which
would of course allow free passage of air. A little more than thirty-six
hours afterwards (Friday, 6 P.M., to Sunday, 6 A.M., or a little after)
three women visit the tomb and find it empty. And they are told by a
young man "arrayed in a white robe" that Jesus is gone to his native
country of Galilee, and that the disciples and Peter will find him

Thus it stands, plainly recorded, in the oldest tradition that, for any
evidence to the contrary, the sepulchre may have been emptied at any
time during the Friday or Saturday nights. If it is said that no Jew
would have violated the Sabbath by taking the former course, it is to be
recollected that Joseph of Arimathæa might well be familiar with that
wise and liberal interpretation of the fourth commandment, which
permitted works of mercy to men--nay, even the drawing of an ox or an
ass out of a pit--on the Sabbath. At any rate, the Saturday night was
free to the most scrupulous of observers of the Law.

These are the facts of the case as stated by the oldest extant narrative
of them. I do not see why any one should have a word to say against the
inherent probability of that narrative; and, for my part, I am quite
ready to accept it as an historical fact, that so much and no more is
positively known of the end of Jesus of Nazareth. On what grounds can a
reasonable man be asked to believe any more? So far as the narrative in
the first gospel, on the one hand, and those in the third gospel and the
Acts, on the other, go beyond what is stated in the second gospel, they
are hopelessly discrepant with one another. And this is the more
significant because the pregnant phrase "some doubted," in the first
gospel, is ignored in the third.

But it is said that we have the witness Paul speaking to us directly in
the Epistles. There is little doubt that we have, and a very singular
witness he is. According to his own showing, Paul, in the vigour of his
manhood, with every means of becoming acquainted, at first hand, with
the evidence of eye-witnesses, not merely refused to credit them, but
"persecuted the Church of God and made havoc of it." The reasoning of
Stephen fell dead upon the acute intellect of this zealot for the
traditions of his fathers: his eyes were blind to the ecstatic
illumination of the martyr's countenance "as it had been the face of an
angel;" and when, at the words "Behold, I see the heavens opened and
the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God," the murderous mob
rushed upon and stoned the rapt disciple of Jesus, Paul ostentatiously
made himself their official accomplice.

Yet this strange man, because he has a vision one day, at once, and with
equally headlong zeal, flies to the opposite pole of opinion. And he is
most careful to tell us that he abstained from any re-examination of the

     Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up
     to Jerusalem to them which were Apostles before me; but I went away
     into Arabia. (Galatians i. 16, 17.)

I do not presume to quarrel with Paul's procedure. If it satisfied him,
that was his affair; and, if it satisfies any one else, I am not called
upon to dispute the right of that person to be satisfied. But I
certainly have the right to say that it would not satisfy me in like
case; that I should be very much ashamed to pretend that it could, or
ought to, satisfy me; and that I can entertain but a very low estimate
of the value of the evidence of people who are to be satisfied in this
fashion, when questions of objective fact, in which their faith is
interested, are concerned. So that when I am called upon to believe a
great deal more than the oldest gospel tells me about the final events
of the history of Jesus on the authority of Paul (1 Corinthians xv. 5-8)
I must pause. Did he think it, at any subsequent time, worth while "To
confer with flesh and blood," or, in modern phrase, to re-examine the
facts for himself? or was he ready to accept anything that fitted in
with his preconceived ideas? Does he mean, when he speaks of all the
appearances of Jesus after the crucifixion as if they were of the same
kind, that they were all visions, like the manifestation to himself?
And, finally, how is this account to be reconciled with those in the
first and third gospels--which, as we have seen, disagree with one

Until these questions are satisfactorily answered, I am afraid that, so
far as I am concerned, Paul's testimony cannot be seriously regarded,
except as it may afford evidence of the state of traditional opinion at
the time at which he wrote, say between 55 and 60 A.D.; that is, more
than twenty years after the event; a period much more than sufficient
for the development of any amount of mythology about matters of which
nothing was really known. A few years later, among the contemporaries
and neighbours of the Jews, and, if the most probable interpretation of
the Apocalypse can be trusted, among the followers of Jesus also, it was
fully believed, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that the
Emperor Nero was not really dead, but that he was hidden away somewhere
in the East, and would speedily come again at the head of a great army,
to be revenged upon his enemies.[45]

Thus, I conceive that I have shown cause for the opinion that Dr. Wace's
challenge touching the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, and the
Passion was more valorous than discreet. After all this discussion, I am
still at the agnostic point. Tell me, first, what Jesus can be proved to
have been, said, and done, and I will say whether I believe him, or in
him,[46] or not. As Dr. Wace admits that I have dissipated his lingering
shade of unbelief about the bedevilment of the Gadarene pigs, he might
have done something to help mine. Instead of that, he manifests a total
want of conception of the nature of the obstacles which impede the
conversion of his "infidels."

The truth I believe to be, that the difficulties in the way of arriving
at a sure conclusion as to these matters, from the Sermon on the Mount,
the Lord's Prayer, or any other data offered by the Synoptic gospels
(and _a fortiori_ from the fourth gospel), are insuperable. Every one of
these records is coloured by the prepossessions of those among whom the
primitive traditions arose, and of those by whom they were collected and
edited: and the difficulty of making allowance for these prepossessions
is enhanced by our ignorance of the exact dates at which the documents
were first put together; of the extent to which they have been
subsequently worked over and interpolated; and of the historical sense,
or want of sense, and the dogmatic tendencies of their compilers and
editors. Let us see if there is any other road which will take us into
something better than negation.

There is a widespread notion that the "primitive Church," while under
the guidance of the Apostles and their immediate successors, was a sort
of dogmatic dovecot, pervaded by the most loving unity and doctrinal
harmony. Protestants, especially, are fond of attributing to themselves
the merit of being nearer "the Church of the Apostles" than their
neighbours; and they are the less to be excused for their strange
delusion because they are great readers of the documents which prove the
exact contrary. The fact is that, in the course of the first three
centuries of its existence, the Church rapidly underwent a process of
evolution of the most remarkable character, the final stage of which is
far more different from the first than Anglicanism is from Quakerism.
The key to the comprehension of the problem of the origin of that which
is now called "Christianity," and its relation to Jesus of Nazareth,
lies here. Nor can we arrive at any sound conclusion as to what it is
probable that Jesus actually said and did, without being clear on this
head. By far the most important and subsequently influential steps in
the evolution of Christianity took place in the course of the century,
more or less, which followed upon the crucifixion. It is almost the
darkest period of Church history, but, most fortunately, the beginning
and the end of the period are brightly illuminated by the contemporary
evidence of two writers of whose historical existence there is no
doubt,[47] and against the genuineness of whose most important works
there is no widely admitted objection. These are Justin, the philosopher
and martyr, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. I shall call upon
these witnesses only to testify to the condition of opinion among those
who called themselves disciples of Jesus in their time.

Justin, in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, which was written somewhere
about the middle of the second century, enumerates certain categories of
persons who, in his opinion, will, or will not, be saved.[48] These

1. Orthodox Jews who refuse to believe that Jesus is the Christ. _Not

2. Jews who observe the Law; believe Jesus to be the Christ; but who
insist on the observance of the Law by Gentile converts. _Not Saved._

3. Jews who observe the Law; believe Jesus to be the Christ, and hold
that Gentile converts need not observe the Law. _Saved_ (in Justin's
opinion; but some of his fellow-Christians think the contrary).

4. Gentile converts to the belief in Jesus as the Christ, who observe
the Law. _Saved_ (possibly).

5. Gentile believers in Jesus as the Christ, who do not observe the Law
themselves (except so far as the refusal of idol sacrifices), but do not
consider those who do observe it heretics. _Saved_ (this is Justin's own

6. Gentile believers who do not observe the Law, except in refusing
idol sacrifices, and hold those who do observe it to be heretics.

7. Gentiles who believe Jesus to be the Christ and call themselves
Christians, but who eat meats sacrificed to idols. _Not Saved._

8. Gentiles who disbelieve in Jesus as the Christ. _Not Saved._

Justin does not consider Christians who believe in the natural birth of
Jesus, of whom he implies that there is a respectable minority, to be
heretics, though he himself strongly holds the preternatural birth of
Jesus and his pre-existence as the "Logos" or "Word." He conceives the
Logos to be a second God, inferior to the first, unknowable God, with
respect to whom Justin, like Philo, is a complete agnostic. The Holy
Spirit is not regarded by Justin as a separate personality, and is often
mixed up with the "Logos." The doctrine of the natural immortality of
the soul is, for Justin, a heresy; and he is as a believer in the
resurrection of the body, as in the speedy Second Coming establishment
of the millennium.

This pillar of the Church in the middle of the second century--a
much-travelled native of Samaria--was certainly well acquainted with
Rome, probably with Alexandria; and it is likely that he knew the state
of opinion throughout the length and breadth of the Christian world as
well as any man of his time. If the various categories above enumerated
are arranged in a series thus:--

                      _Justin's Christianity_
                 |                              |
_Orthodox_    _Judæo-_                    _Idolothytic_  _Paganism_
_Judaism_   _Christianity_                _Christianity_
           |             |
    I.     II.   III.   IV.       V.    VI.    VII.         VIII.

it is obvious that they form a gradational series from orthodox Judaism,
on the extreme left, to Paganism, whether philosophic or popular, on the
extreme right; and it will further be observed that, while Justin's
conception of Christianity is very broad, he rigorously excludes two
classes of persons who, in his time, called themselves Christians;
namely, those who insist on circumcision and other observances of the
Law on the part of Gentile converts: that is to say, the strict
Judæo-Christians (II.): and, on the other hand, those who assert the
lawfulness of eating meat offered to idols--whether they are Gnostic or
not (VII.). These last I have called "idolothytic" Christians, because I
cannot devise a better name, not because it is strictly defensible

At the present moment, I do not suppose there is an English missionary
in any heathen land who would trouble himself whether the materials of
his dinner had been previously offered to idols or not. On the other
hand I suppose there is no Protestant sect within the pale of orthodoxy,
to say nothing of the Roman and Greek Churches, which would hesitate to
declare the practice of circumcision and the observance of the Jewish
Sabbath and dietary rules, shockingly heretical.

Modern Christianity has, in fact, not only shifted far to the right of
Justin's position, but it is of much narrower compass.

                  |                                 |
               _Judæo-_           _Modern_      _Paganism_
             _Christianity_     _Christianity_
_Judaism_    _____|______         _____|__________
            |            |       |                |
    I.     II.   III.   IV.  V.  VI.    VII.    VIII.

For, though it includes VII., and even, in saint and relic worship, cuts
a "monstrous cantle" out of paganism, it excludes, not only all
Judæo-Christians, but all who doubt that such are heretics. Ever since
the thirteenth century, the Inquisition would have cheerfully burned,
and in Spain did abundantly burn, all persons who came under the
categories II., III. IV., V. And the wolf would play the same havoc now,
if it could only get its blood-stained jaws free from the muzzle imposed
by the secular arm.

Further, there is not a Protestant body except the Unitarian, which
would not declare Justin himself a heretic, on account of his doctrine
of the inferior godship of the Logos; while I am very much afraid that,
in strict logic, Dr. Wace would be under the necessity, so painful to
him, of calling him an "infidel," on the same and on other grounds.

Now let us turn to our other authority. If there is any result of
critical investigations of the sources of Christianity which is
certain,[49] it is that Paul of Tarsus wrote the Epistle to the
Galatians somewhere between the years 55 and 60 A.D., that is to say,
roughly, twenty, or five-and-twenty years after the crucifixion. If this
is so, the Epistle to the Galatians is one of the oldest, if not the
very oldest, of extant documentary evidences of the state of the
primitive Church. And, be it observed, if it is Paul's writing, it
unquestionably furnishes us with the evidence of a participator in the
transactions narrated. With the exception of two or three of the other
Pauline Epistles, there is not one solitary book in the New Testament of
the authorship and authority of which we have such good evidence.

And what is the state of things we find disclosed? A bitter quarrel, in
his account of which Paul by no means minces matters, or hesitates to
hurl defiant sarcasms against those who were "reputed to be pillars":
James, "the brother of the Lord," Peter, the rock on whom Jesus is said
to have built his Church, and John, "the beloved disciple." And no
deference toward "the rock" withholds Paul from charging Peter to his
face with "dissimulation."

The subject of the hot dispute was simply this. Were Gentile converts
bound to obey the Law or not? Paul answered in the negative; and, acting
upon his opinion, he had created at Antioch (and elsewhere) a
specifically "Christian" community, the sole qualifications for
admission into which were the confession of the belief that Jesus was
the Messiah, and baptism upon that confession. In the epistle in
question, Paul puts this--his "gospel," as he calls it--in its most
extreme form. Not only does he deny the necessity of conformity with the
Law, but he declares such conformity to have a negative value, "Behold,
I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye receive circumcision, Christ will
profit you nothing" (Galatians v. 2). He calls the legal observances
"beggarly rudiments," and anathematises every one who preaches to the
Galatians any other gospel than his own. That is to say, by direct
consequence, he anathematises the Nazarenes of Jerusalem, whose zeal for
the Law is testified by James in a passage of the Acts cited further on.
In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, dealing with the question of
eating meat offered to idols, it is clear that Paul himself thinks it a
matter of indifference; but he advises that it should not be done, for
the sake of the weaker brethren. On the other hand, the Nazarenes of
Jerusalem most strenuously opposed Paul's "gospel," insisting on every
convert becoming a regular Jewish proselyte, and consequently on his
observance of the whole Law; and this party was led by James and Peter
and John (Galatians ii. 9). Paul does not suggest that the question of
principle was settled by the discussion referred to in Galatians. All he
says is, that it ended in the practical agreement that he and Barnabas
should do as they had been doing, in respect to the Gentiles: while
James and Peter and John should deal in their own fashion with Jewish
converts. Afterwards, he complains bitterly of Peter, because, when on a
visit to Antioch, he, at first, inclined to Paul's view and ate with the
Gentile converts; but when "certain came from James," "drew back, and
separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the
rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even
Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation" (Galatians ii.

There is but one conclusion to be drawn from Paul's account of this
famous dispute, the settlement of which determined the fortunes of the
nascent religion. It is that the disciples at Jerusalem, headed by
"James, the Lord's brother," and by the leading apostles, Peter and
John, were strict Jews, who had objected to admit any converts into
their body, unless these, either by birth, or by becoming proselytes,
were also strict Jews. In fact, the sole difference between James and
Peter and John, with the body of the disciples whom they led and the
Jews by whom they were surrounded, and with whom they, for many years,
shared the religous observances of the Temple, was that they believed
that the Messiah, whom the leaders of the nation yet looked for, had
already come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Acts of the Apostles is hardly a very trustworthy history; it is
certainly of later date than the Pauline Epistles, supposing them to be
genuine. And the writer's version of the conference of which Paul gives
so graphic a description, if that is correct, is unmistakably coloured
with all the art of a reconciler, anxious to cover up a scandal. But it
is none the less instructive on this account. The judgment of the
"council" delivered by James is that the Gentile converts shall merely
"abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood and from things
strangled, and from fornication." But notwithstanding the accommodation
in which the writer of the Acts would have us believe, the Jerusalem
Church held to its endeavour to retain the observance of the Law. Long
after the conference, some time after the writing of the Epistles to the
Galatians and Corinthians, and immediately after the despatch of that to
the Romans, Paul makes his last visit to Jerusalem, and presents himself
to James and all the elders. And this is what the Acts tells us of the

     And they said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands [or
     myriads] there are among the Jews of them which have believed; and
     they are all zealous for the law; and they have been informed
     concerning thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among
     the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their
     children, neither to walk after the customs. (Acts xxi. 20, 21.)

They therefore request that he should perform a certain public religious
act in the Temple, in order that

     all shall know that there is no truth in the things whereof they
     have been informed concerning thee; but that thou thyself walkest
     orderly, keeping the law (_ibid._ 24).[50]

How far Paul could do what he is here requested to do, and which the
writer of the Acts goes on to say he did, with a clear conscience, if he
wrote the Epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians I may leave any
candid reader of these epistles to decide. The point to which I wish to
direct attention is the declaration that the Jerusalem Church, led by
the brother of Jesus and by his personal disciples and friends, twenty
years and more after his death, consisted of strict and zealous Jews.

Tertullus, the orator, caring very little about the internal dissensions
of the followers of Jesus, speaks of Paul as a "ringleader of the sect
of the Nazarenes" (Acts xxiv. 5), which must have affected James much in
the same way as it would have moved the Archbishop of Canterbury, in
George Fox's day, to hear the latter called a "ringleader of the sect of
Anglicans." In fact, "Nazarene" was, as is well known, the distinctive
appellation applied to Jesus; his immediate followers were known as
Nazarenes; while the congregation of the disciples, and, later, of
converts at Jerusalem--the Jerusalem Church--was emphatically the "sect
of the Nazarenes," no more, in itself, to be regarded as anything
outside Judaism than the sect of the Sadducees, or that of the
Essenes[51]. In fact, the tenets of both the Sadducees and the Essenes
diverged much more widely from the Pharisaic standard of orthodoxy than
Nazarenism did.

Let us consider the position of affairs now (A.D. 50-60) in relation to
that which obtained in Justin's time, a century later. It is plain that
the Nazarenes--presided over by James, "the brother of the Lord," and
comprising within their body all the twelve apostles--belonged to
Justin's second category of "Jews who observe the Law, believe Jesus to
be the Christ, but who insist on the observance of the Law by Gentile
converts," up till the time at which the controversy reported by Paul
arose. They then, according to Paul, simply allowed him to form his
congregations of non-legal Gentile converts at Antioch and elsewhere;
and it would seem that it was to these converts, who would come under
Justin's fifth category, that the title of "Christian" was first
applied. If any of these Christians had acted upon the more than
half-permission given by Paul, and had eaten meats offered to idols,
they would have belonged to Justin's seventh category.

Hence, it appears that, if Justin's opinion, which was probably that of
the Church generally in the middle of the second century, was correct,
James and Peter and John and their followers could not be saved; neither
could Paul, if he carried into practice his views as to the indifference
of eating meats offered to idols. Or, to put the matter another way, the
centre of gravity of orthodoxy, which is at the extreme right of the
series in the nineteenth century, was at the extreme left, just before
the middle of the first century, when the "sect of the Nazarenes"
constituted the whole church founded by Jesus and the apostles; while,
in the time of Justin, it lay midway between the two. It is therefore a
profound mistake to imagine that the Judæo-Christians (Nazarenes and
Ebionites) of later times were heretical outgrowths from a primitive
universalist "Christianity." On the contrary, the universalist
"Christianity" is an outgrowth from the primitive, purely Jewish,
Nazarenism; which, gradually eliminating all the ceremonial and dietary
parts of the Jewish law, has thrust aside its parent, and all the
intermediate stages of its development, into the position of damnable

Such being the case, we are in a position to form a safe judgment of the
limits within which the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth must have been
confined. Ecclesiastical authority would have us believe that the words
which are given at the end of the first Gospel, "Go ye, therefore, and
make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," are part of the last
commands of Jesus, issued at the moment of his parting with the eleven.
If so, Peter and John must have heard these words; they are too plain to
be misunderstood; and the occasion is too solemn for them ever to be
forgotten. Yet the "Acts" tells us that Peter needed a vision to enable
him so much as to baptize Cornelius; and Paul, in the Galatians, knows
nothing of words which would have completely borne him out as against
those who, though they heard, must be supposed to have either forgotten,
or ignored them. On the other hand, Peter and John, who are supposed to
have heard the "Sermon on the Mount," know nothing of the saying that
Jesus had not come to destroy the Law, but that every jot and tittle of
the Law must be fulfilled, which surely would have been pretty good
evidence for their view of the question.

We are sometimes told that the personal friends and daily companions of
Jesus remained zealous Jews and opposed Paul's innovations, because they
were hard of heart and dull of comprehension. This hypothesis is hardly
in accordance with the concomitant faith of those who adopt it, in the
miraculous insight and superhuman sagacity of their Master; nor do I see
any way of getting it to harmonise with the orthodox postulate; namely,
that Matthew was the author of the first gospel and John of the fourth.
If that is so, then, most assuredly, Matthew was no dullard; and as for
the fourth gospel--a theosophic romance of the first order--it could
have been written by none but a man of remarkable literary capacity, who
had deep of Alexandrian philosophy. Moreover, the doctrine of the writer
of the fourth gospel is more remote from that of the "sect of the
Nazarenes" than is that of Paul himself. I am quite aware that orthodox
critics have been capable of maintaining that John, the Nazarene, who
was probably well past fifty years of age, when he is supposed to have
written the most thoroughly Judaising book in the New Testament--the
Apocalypse--in the roughest of Greek, underwent an astounding
metamorphosis of both doctrine and style by the time he reached the ripe
age of ninety or so, and provided the world with a history in which the
acutest critic cannot [always] make out where the speeches of Jesus end
and the text of the narrative begins; while that narrative, is utterly
irreconcilable, in regard to matters of fact, with that of his
fellow-apostle, Matthew.

The end of the whole matter is this:--The "sect of the Nazarenes," the
brother and the immediate followers of Jesus, commissioned by him as
apostles, and those were taught by them up to the year 50A.D., were not
"Christians" in the sense in which that term has been understood ever
since its asserted origin at Antioch, but Jews--strict orthodox
Jews--whose belief in the Messiahship of Jesus never led to their
exclusion from the Temple services, nor would have shut them out from
the wide embrace of Judaism.[52] The open proclamation of their special
view about the Messiah was doubtless offensive to the Pharisees, just as
rampant Low Churchism is offensive to bigoted High Churchism in our own
country; or as any kind of dissent is offensive to fervid religionists
of all creeds. To the Sadducees, no doubt, the political danger of any
Messianic movement was serious; and they would have been glad to put
down Nazarenism, lest it should end in useless rebellion against their
Roman masters, like that other Galilean movement headed by Judas, a
generation earlier. Galilee was always a hotbed of seditious enthusiasm
against the rule of Rome; and high priest and procurator alike had need
to keep a sharp eye upon natives of that district. On the whole,
however, the Nazarenes were but little troubled for the first twenty
years of their existence; and the undying hatred of the Jews against
those later converts, whom they regarded as apostates and fautors of a
sham Judaism, was awakened by Paul. From their point of view, he was a
mere renegade Jew, opposed alike to orthodox Judaism and to orthodox
Nazarenism; and whose teachings threatened Judaism with destruction.
And, from their point of view, they were quite right. In the course of a
century, Pauline influences had a large share in driving primitive
Nazarenism from being the very heart of the new faith into the position
of scouted error; and the spirit of Paul's doctrine continued its work
of driving Christianity farther and farther away from Judaism, until
"meats offered to idols" might be eaten without scruple, while the
Nazarene methods of observing even the Sabbath, or the Passover, were
branded with the mark of Judaising heresy.

But if the primitive Nazarenes of whom the Acts speaks were orthodox
Jews, what sort of probability can there be that Jesus was anything
else? How can he have founded the universal religion which was not heard
of till twenty years after his death?[53] That Jesus possessed, in a
rare degree, the gift of attaching men to his person and to his
fortunes; that he was the author of many a striking saying, and the
advocate of equity, of love, and of humility; that he may have
disregarded the subtleties of the bigots for legal observance, and
appealed rather to those noble conceptions of religion which constituted
the pith and kernel of the teaching of the great prophets of his nation
seven hundred years earlier; and that, in the last scenes of his career,
he may have embodied the ideal sufferer of Isaiah, may be, as I think it
is, extremely probable. But all this involves not a step beyond the
borders of orthodox Judaism. Again, who is to say whether Jesus
proclaimed himself the veritable Messiah, expected by his nation since
the appearance of the pseudo-prophetic work of Daniel, a century and a
half before his time; or whether the enthusiasm of his followers
gradually forced him to assume that position?

But one thing is quite certain: if that belief in the speedy second
coming of the Messiah which was shared by all parties in the primitive
Church, whether Nazarene or Pauline; which Jesus is made to prophesy,
over and over again in the Synoptic gospels; and which dominated the
life of Christians during the first century after the crucifixion;--if
he believed and taught that, then assuredly he was under an illusion,
and he is responsible for that which the mere effluxion of time has
demonstrated to be a prodigious error.


Nemo ergo ex me scire quærat, quod me nescire scio, nisi forte ut
nescire discat.--AUGUSTINUS. _De Civ. Dei_, xii. 7.

The people who call themselves "Agnostics" have been charged with doing
so because they have not the courage to declare themselves "Infidels."
It has been insinuated that they have adopted a new name in order to
escape the unpleasantness which attaches to their proper denomination.
To this wholly erroneous imputation, I have replied by showing that the
term "Agnostic" did, as a matter of fact, arise in a manner which
negatives it; and my statement has not been, and cannot be, refuted.
Moreover, speaking for myself, and without impugning the right of any
other person to use the term in another sense, I further say that
Agnosticism is not properly described as a "negative" creed, nor indeed
as a creed of any kind, except in so far as it expresses absolute faith
in the validity of a principle, which is as much ethical as
intellectual. This principle may be stated in various ways, but they all
amount to this: that it is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of
the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence
which logically justifies that certainty. This is what Agnosticism
asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is essential to Agnosticism.
That which Agnostics deny and repudiate, as immoral, is the contrary
doctrine, that there are propositions which men ought to believe,
without logically satisfactory evidence; and that reprobation ought to
attach to the profession of disbelief in such inadequately supported
propositions. The justification of the Agnostic principle lies in the
success which follows upon its application, whether in the field of
natural, or in that of civil, history; and in the fact that, so far as
these topics are concerned, no sane man thinks of denying its validity.

Still speaking for myself, I add, that though Agnosticism is not, and
cannot be, a creed, except in so far as its general principle is
concerned; yet that the application of that principle results in the
denial of, or the suspension of judgment concerning, a number of
propositions respecting which our contemporary ecclesiastical "gnostics"
profess entire certainty. And, in so far as these ecclesiastical persons
can be justified in their old-established custom (which many nowadays
think more honoured in the breach than the observance) of using
opprobrious names to those who differ from them, I fully admit their
right to call me and those who think with me "Infidels"; all I have
ventured to urge is that they must not expect us to speak of ourselves
by that title.

The extent of the region of the uncertain, the number of the problems
the investigation of which ends in a verdict of not proven, will vary
according to the knowledge and the intellectual habits of the individual
Agnostic. I do not very much care to speak of anything as "unknowable."
[54] What I am sure about is that there are many topics about which I
know nothing; and which, so far as I can see, are out of reach of my
faculties. But whether these things are knowable by any one else is
exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge, though I may
have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities of the case.
Relatively to myself, I am quite sure that the region of
uncertainty--the nebulous country in which words play the part of
realities--is far more extensive than I could wish. Materialism and
Idealism; Theism and Atheism; the doctrine of the soul and its mortality
or immortality--appear in the history of philosophy like the shades of
Scandinavian heroes, eternally slaying one another and eternally coming
to life again in a metaphysical "Nifelheim." It is getting on for
twenty-five centuries, at least, since mankind began seriously to give
their minds to these topics. Generation after generation, philosophy has
been doomed to roll the stone uphill; and, just as all the world swore
it was at the top, down it has rolled to the bottom again. All this is
written in innumerable books; and he who will toil through them will
discover that the stone is just where it was when the work began. Hume
saw this; Kant saw it; since their time, more and more eyes have been
cleansed of the films which prevented them from seeing it; until now the
weight and number of those who refuse to be the prey of verbal
mystifications has begun to tell in practical life.

It was inevitable that a conflict should arise between Agnosticism and
Theology; or, rather, I ought to say, between Agnosticism and
Ecclesiasticism. For Theology, the science, is one thing; and
Ecclesiasticism, the championship of a foregone conclusion[55] as to the
truth of a particular form of Theology, is another. With scientific
Theology, Agnosticism has no quarrel. On the contrary, the Agnostic,
knowing too well the influence of prejudice and idiosyncrasy, even on
those who desire most earnestly to be impartial, can wish for nothing
more urgently than that the scientific theologian should not only be at
perfect liberty to thresh out the matter in his own fashion; but that he
should, if he can, find flaws in the Agnostic position; and, even if
demonstration is not to be had, that he should put, in their full force,
the grounds of the conclusions he thinks probable. The scientific
theologian admits the Agnostic principle, however widely his results may
differ from those reached by the majority of Agnostics.

But, as between Agnosticism and Ecclesiasticism, or, as our neighbours
across the Channel call it, Clericalism, there can be neither peace nor
truce. The Cleric asserts that it is morally wrong not to believe
certain propositions, whatever the results of a strict scientific
investigation of the evidence of these propositions. He tells us "that
religious error is, in itself, of an immoral nature." [56] He declares
that he has prejudged certain conclusions, and looks upon those who show
cause for arrest of judgment as emissaries of Satan. It necessarily
follows that, for him, the attainment of faith, not the ascertainment of
truth, is the highest aim of mental life. And, on careful analysis of
the nature of this faith, it will too often be found to be, not the
mystic process of unity with the Divine, understood by the religious
enthusiast; but that which the candid simplicity of a Sunday scholar
once defined it to be. "Faith," said this unconscious plagiarist of
Tertullian, "is the power of saying you believe things which are

Now I, and many other Agnostics, believe that faith, in this sense, is
an abomination; and though we do not indulge in the luxury of
self-righteousness so far as to call those who are not of our way of
thinking hard names, we do feel that the disagreement between ourselves
and those who hold this doctrine is even more moral than intellectual.
It is desirable there should be an end of any mistakes on this topic. If
our clerical opponents were clearly aware of the real state of the case,
there would be an end of the curious delusion, which often appears
between the lines of their writings, that those whom they are so fond of
calling "Infidels" are people who not only ought to be, but in their
hearts are, ashamed of themselves. It would be discourteous to do more
than hint the antipodal opposition of this pleasant dream of theirs to

The clerics and their lay allies commonly tell us, that if we refuse to
admit that there is good ground for expressing definite convictions
about certain topics, the bonds of human society will dissolve and
mankind lapse into savagery. There are several answers to this
assertion. One is that the bonds of human society were formed without
the aid of their theology; and, in the opinion of not a few competent
judges, have been weakened rather than strengthened by a good deal of
it. Greek science, Greek art, the ethics of old Israel, the social
organisation of old Rome, contrived to come into being, without the help
of any on who believed in a single distinctive article of the simplest
of the Christian creeds. The science, the art, the jurisprudence, the
chief political and social theories, of the modern world have grown out
of those of Greece and Rome--not by favour of, but in the teeth of the
fundamental teachings of early Christianity, to which science, art, and
any serious occupation with the things of this world, were alike

Again, all that is best in the ethics of the modern world, in so far as
it has not grown out of Greek thought, or Barbarian manhood, is the
direct development of the ethics of old Israel. There is no code of
legislation, ancient or modern, at once so just and so merciful, so
tender to the weak and poor, as the Jewish law; and, if the Gospels are
to be trusted, Jesus of Nazareth himself declared that he taught nothing
but that which lay implicitly, or explicitly, in the religious and
ethical system of his people.

     And the scribe said unto him, Of a truth, Teacher, thou hast well
     said that he is one; and there is none other but he, and to love
     him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with
     all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is much
     more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark xii. 32,

Here is the briefest of summaries of the teaching of the prophets of
Israel of the eighth century; does the Teacher, whose doctrine is thus
set forth in his presence, repudiate the exposition? Nay; we are told,
on the contrary, that Jesus saw that he "answered discreetly," and
replied, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."

So that I think that even if the creeds, from the so-called "Apostles"
to the so-called "Athanasian," were swept into oblivion; and even if the
human race should arrive at the conclusion that, whether a bishop washes
a cup or leaves it unwashed, is not a matter of the least consequence,
it will get on very well. The causes which have led to the development
of morality in mankind, which have guided or impelled us all the way
from the savage to the civilised state, will not cease to operate
because a number of ecclesiastical hypotheses turn out to be baseless.
And, even if the absurd notion that morality is more the child of
speculation than of practical necessity and inherited instinct, had any
foundation; if all the world is going to thieve, murder, and otherwise
misconduct itself as soon as it discovers that certain portions of
ancient history are mythical; what is the relevance of such arguments to
any one who holds by the Agnostic principle?

Surely, the attempt to cast out Beelzebub by the aid of Beelzebub is a
hopeful procedure as compared to that of preserving morality by the aid
of immorality. For I suppose it is admitted that an Agnostic may be
perfectly sincere, may be competent, and have studied the question at
issue with as much care as his clerical opponents. But, if the Agnostic
really believes what he says, the "dreadful consequence" argufier
(consistently, I admit, with his own principles) virtually asks him to
abstain from telling the truth, or to say what he believes to be untrue,
because of the supposed injurious consequences to morality.

"Beloved brethren, that we may be spotlessly moral, before all things
let us lie," is the sum total of many an exhortation addressed to the
"Infidel." Now, as I have already pointed out, we cannot oblige our
exhorters. We leave the practical application of the convenient
doctrines of "Reserve" and "Non-natural interpretation" to those who
invented them.

I trust that I have now made amends for any ambiguity, or want of
fulness, in my previous exposition of that which I hold to be the
essence of the Agnostic doctrine. Henceforward, I might hope to hear no
more of the assertion that we are necessarily Materialists, Idealists,
Atheists, Theists, or any other _ists_, if experience had led me to
think that the proved falsity of a statement was any guarantee against
its repetition. And those who appreciate the nature of our position will
see, at once, that when Ecclesiasticism declares that we ought to
believe this, that, and the other, and are very wicked if we don't, it
is impossible for us to give any answer but this: We have not the
slightest objection to believe anything you like, if you will give us
good grounds for belief; but, if you cannot, we must respectfully
refuse, even if that refusal should wreck morality and insure our own
damnation several times over. We are quite content to leave that to the
decision of the future. The course of the past has impressed us with the
firm conviction that no good ever comes of falsehood, and we feel
warranted in refusing even to experiment in that direction.

In the course of the present discussion it has been asserted that the
"Sermon on the Mount" and the "Lord's Prayer" furnish a summary and
condensed view of the essentials of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth,
set forth by himself. Now this supposed _Summa_ of Nazarene theology
distinctly affirms the existence of a spiritual world, of a Heaven, and
of a Hell of fire; it teaches the Fatherhood of God and the malignity of
the Devil; it declares the superintending providence of the former and
our need of deliverance from the machinations of the latter; it affirms
the fact of demoniac possession and the power of casting out devils by
the faithful. And, from these premises, the conclusion is drawn, that
those Agnostics who deny that there is any evidence of such a character
as to justify certainty, respecting the existence and the nature of the
spiritual world, contradict the express declarations of Jesus. I have
replied to this argumentation by showing that there is strong reason to
doubt the historical accuracy of the attribution to Jesus of either the
"Sermon on the Mount" or the "Lord's Prayer "; and, therefore, that the
conclusion in question is not warranted, at any rate, on the grounds set

But, whether the Gospels contain trustworthy statements about this and
other alleged historical facts or not, it is quite certain that from
them, taken together with the other books of the New Testament, we may
collect a pretty complete exposition of that theory of the spiritual
world which was held by both Nazarenes and Christians; and which was
undoubtedly supposed by them to be fully sanctioned by Jesus, though it
is just as clear that they did not imagine it contained any revelation
by him of something heretofore unknown. If the pneumatological doctrine
which pervades the whole New Testament is nowhere systematically stated,
it is everywhere assumed. The writers of the Gospels and of the Acts
take it for granted, as a matter of common knowledge; and it is easy to
gather from these sources a series of propositions, which only need
arrangement to form a complete system.

In this system, Man is considered to be a duality formed of a spiritual
element, the soul; and a corporeal[57] element, the body. And this
duality is repeated in the Universe, which consists of a corporeal world
embraced and interpenetrated by a spiritual world. The former consists
of the earth, as its principal and central constituent, with the
subsidiary sun, planets, and stars. Above the earth is the air, and
below is the watery abyss. Whether the heaven, which is conceived to be
above the air, and the hell in, or below, the subterranean deeps, are to
be taken as corporeal or incorporeal is not clear. However this may be,
the heaven and the air, the earth and the abyss, are peopled by
innumerable beings analogous in nature to the spiritual element in man,
and these spirits are of two kinds, good and bad. The chief of the good
spirits, infinitely superior to all the others, and their creator, as
well as the creator of the corporeal world and of the bad spirits, is
God. His residence is heaven, where he is surrounded by the ordered
hosts of good spirits; his angels, or messengers, and the executors of
his will throughout the universe.

On the other hand, the chief of the bad spirits is Satan, _the_ devil
_par excellence_. He and his company of demons are free to roam through
all parts of the universe, except the heaven. These bad spirits are far
superior to man in power and subtlety; and their whole energies are
devoted to bringing physical and moral evils upon him, and to thwarting,
so far as their power goes, the benevolent intentions of the Supreme
Being. In fact, the souls and bodies of men form both the theatre and
the prize of an incessant warfare between the good and the evil
spirits--the powers of light and the powers of darkness. By leading Eve
astray, Satan brought sin and death upon mankind. As the gods of the
heathen, the demons are the founders and maintainers of idolatry; as the
"powers of the air" they afflict mankind with pestilence and famine; as
"unclean spirits" they cause disease of mind and body.

The significance of the appearance of Jesus, in the capacity of the
Messiah, or Christ, is the reversal of the satanic work by putting an
end to both sin and death. He announces that the kingdom of God is at
hand, when the "Prince of this world" shall be finally "cast out" (John
xii, 31) from the cosmos, as Jesus, during his earthly career, cast him
out from individuals. Then will Satan and all his devilry, along with
the wicked whom they have seduced to their destruction, be hurled into
the abyss of unquenchable fire--there to endure continual torture,
without a hope of winning pardon from the merciful God, their Father; or
of moving the glorified Messiah to one more act of pitiful intercession;
or even of interrupting, by a momentary sympathy with their
wretchedness, the harmonious psalmody of their brother angels and men,
eternally lapped in bliss unspeakable.

The straitest Protestant, who refuses to admit the existence of any
source of Divine truth, except the Bible, will not deny that every point
of the pneumatological theory here set forth has ample scriptural
warranty. The Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse assert
the existence of the devil, of his demons and of Hell, as plainly as
they do that of God and his angels and Heaven. It is plain that the
Messianic and the Satanic conceptions of the writers of these books are
the obverse and the reverse of the same intellectual coinage. If we turn
from Scripture to the traditions of the Fathers and the confessions of
the Churches, it will appear that, in this one particular, at any rate,
time has brought about no important deviation from primitive belief.
From Justin onwards, it may often be a fair question whether God, or the
devil, occupies a larger share of the attention of the Fathers. It is
the devil who instigates the Roman authorities to persecute; the gods
and goddesses of paganism are devils, and idolatry itself is an
invention of Satan; if a saint falls away from grace, it is by the
seduction of the demon; if heresy arises, the devil has suggested it;
and some of the Fathers[58] go so far as to challenge the pagans to a
sort of exorcising match, by way of testing the truth of Christianity.
Mediæval Christianity is at one with patristic, on this head. The
masses, the clergy, the theologians, and the philosophers alike, live
and move and have their being in a world full of demons, in which
sorcery and possession are everyday occurrences. Nor did the Reformation
make any difference. Whatever else Luther assailed, he left the
traditional demonology untouched; nor could any one have entertained a
more hearty and uncompromising belief in the devil, than he and, at a
later period, the Calvinistic fanatics of New England did. Finally, in
these last years of the nineteenth century, the demonological hypotheses
of the first century are, explicitly or implicitly, held and
occasionally acted upon by the immense majority of Christians of all

Only here and there has the progress of scientific thought, outside the
ecclesiastical world, so far affected Christians, that they and their
teachers fight shy of the demonology of their creed. They are fain to
conceal their real disbelief in one half of Christian doctrine by
judicious silence about it; or by flight to those refuges for the
logically destitute, accommodation or allegory. But the faithful who fly
to allegory in order to escape absurdity resemble nothing so much as the
sheep in the fable who--to save their lives--jumped into the pit. The
allegory pit is too commodious, is ready to swallow up so much more than
one wants to put into it. If the story of the temptation is an allegory;
if the early recognition of Jesus as the Son of God by the demons is an
allegory; if the plain declaration of the writer of the first Epistle of
John (iii. 8), "To this end was the Son of God manifested, that He might
destroy the works of the devil," is allegorical, then the Pauline
version of the Fall may be allegorical, and still more the words of
consecration of the Eucharist, or the promise of the second coming; in
fact, there is not a dogma of ecclesiastical Christianity the scriptural
basis of which may not be whittled away by a similar process.

As to accommodation, let any honest man who can read the New Testament
ask himself whether Jesus and his immediate friends and disciples can be
dishonoured more grossly than by the supposition that they said and did
that which is attributed to them; while, in reality, they disbelieved in
Satan and his demons, in possession and in exorcism?[59]

An eminent theologian has justly observed that we have no right to look
at the propositions of the Christian faith with one eye open and the
other shut. (Tract 85, p. 29.) It really is not permissible to see, with
one eye, that Jesus is affirmed to declare the personality and the
Fatherhood of God, His loving providence and His accessibility to
prayer; and to shut the other to the no less definite teaching ascribed
to Jesus, in regard to the personality and the misanthropy of the devil,
his malignant watchfulness, and his subjection to exorcistic formulæ and
rites. Jesus is made to say that the devil "was a murderer from the
beginning" (John viii. 44) by the same authority as that upon which we
depend for his asserted declaration that God is a spirit" (John iv. 24).

To those who admit the authority of the famous Vincentian dictum that
the doctrine which has been held "always, everywhere, and by all" is to
be received as authoritative, the demonology must possess a higher
sanction than any other Christian dogma, except, perhaps, those of the
Resurrection and of the Messiahship of Jesus; for it would be difficult
to name any other points of doctrine on which the Nazarene does not
differ from the Christian, and the different historical stages and
contemporary subdivisions of Christianity from one another. And, if the
demonology is accepted, there can be no reason for rejecting all those
miracles in which demons play a part. The Gadarene story fits into the
general scheme of Christianity; and the evidence for "Legion" and their
doings is just as good as any other in the New Testament for the
doctrine which the story illustrates.

It was with the purpose of bringing this great fact into prominence; of
getting people to open both their eyes when they look at
Ecclesiasticism; that I devoted so much space to that miraculous story
which happens to be one of the best types of its class. And I could not
wish for a better justification of the course I have adopted, than the
fact that my heroically consistent adversary has declared his implicit
belief in the Gadarene story and (by necessary consequence) in the
Christian demonology as a whole. It must be obvious, by this time, that,
if the account of the spiritual world given in the New Testament,
professedly on the authority of Jesus, is true, then the demonological
half of that account must be just as true as the other half. And,
therefore, those who question the demonology, or try to explain it away,
deny the truth of what Jesus said, and are, in ecclesiastical
terminology, "Infidels" just as much as those who deny the spirituality
of God. This is as plain as anything can well be, and the dilemma for my
opponent was either to assert that the Gadarene pig-bedevilment actually
occurred, or to write himself down an "Infidel." As was to be expected,
he chose the former alternative; and I may express my great satisfaction
at finding that there is one spot of common ground on which both he and
I stand. So far as I can judge, we are agreed to state one of the broad
issues between the consequences of agnostic principles (as I draw them),
and the consequences of ecclesiastical dogmatism (as he accepts it), as

Ecclesiasticism says: The demonology of the Gospels is an essential part
of that account of that spiritual world, the truth of which it declares
to be certified by Jesus.

Agnosticism (_me judice_) says: There is no good evidence of the
existence of a demoniac spiritual world, and much reason for doubting

Here upon the ecclesiastic may observe: Your doubt means that you
disbelieve Jesus; therefore you are an "Infidel" instead of an
"Agnostic." To which the agnostic may reply: No; for two reasons: first,
because your evidence that Jesus said what you say he said is worth very
little; and secondly, because a man may be an agnostic, in the sense of
admitting he has no positive knowledge, and yet consider that he has
more or less probable ground for accepting any given hypothesis about
the spiritual world. Just as a man may frankly declare that he has no
means of knowing whether the planets generally are inhabited or not, and
yet may think one of the two possible hypotheses more likely than the
other, so he may admit he has no means of knowing anything about the
spiritual world, and yet may think one or other of the current views on
the subject, to some extent, probable.

The second answer is so obviously valid that it needs no discussion. I
draw attention to it simply in justice to those agnostics who may attach
greater value than I do to any sort of pneumatological speculations; and
not because I wish to escape the responsibility of declaring that,
whether Jesus sanctioned the demonological part of Christianity or not,
I unhesitatingly reject it. The first answer, on the other hand, opens
up the whole question of the claim of the biblical and other sources,
from which hypotheses concerning the spiritual world are derived, to be
regarded as unimpeachable historical evidence as to matters of fact.

Now, in respect of the trustworthiness of the Gospel narratives, I was
anxious to get rid of the common assumption that the determination of
the authorship and of the dates of these works is a matter of
fundamental importance. That assumption is based upon the notion that
what contemporary witnesses say must be true, or, at least, has always a
_prima facie_ claim to be so regarded; so that if the writers of any of
the Gospels were contemporaries of the events (and still more if they
were in the position of eye-witnesses) the miracles they narrate must be
historically true, and, consequently, the demonology which they involve
must be accepted. But the story of the "Translation of the blessed
martyrs Marcellinus and Petrus," and the other considerations (to which
endless additions might have been made from the Fathers and the mediæval
writers) set forth in a preceding essay, yield, in my judgment,
satisfactory proof that, where the miraculous is concerned, neither
considerable intellectual ability, nor undoubted honesty, nor knowledge
of the world, nor proved faithfulness as civil historians, nor profound
piety, on the part of eye-witnesses and contemporaries, affords any
guarantee of the objective truth of their statements, when we know that
a firm belief in the miraculous was ingrained in their minds, and was
the presupposition of their observations and reasonings.

Therefore, although it be, as I believe, demonstrable that we have no
real knowledge of the authorship, or of the date of composition of the
Gospels, as they have come down to us, and that nothing better than more
or less probable guesses can be arrived at on that subject, I have not
cared to expend any space on the question. It will be admitted, I
suppose, that the authors of the works attributed to Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John, whoever they may be, are personages whose capacity and
judgment in the narration of ordinary events are not quite so well
certified as those of Eginhard; and we have seen what the value of
Eginhard's evidence is when the miraculous is in question.

I have been careful to explain that the arguments which I have used in
the course of this discussion are not new; that they are historical and
have nothing to do with what is commonly called science; and that they
are all, to the best of my belief, to be found in the works of
theologians of repute.

The position which I have taken up, that the evidence in favour of such
miracles as those recorded by Eginhard, and consequently of mediæval
demonology, is quite as good as that in favour of such miracles as the
Gadarene, and consequently of Nazarene demonology, is none of my
discovery. Its strength was, wittingly or unwittingly, suggested, a
century and a half ago, by a theological scholar of eminence; and it has
been, if not exactly occupied, yet so fortified with bastions and
redoubts by a living ecclesiastical Vauban, that, in my judgment, it has
been rendered impregnable. In the early part of the last century, the
ecclesiastical mind in this country was much exercised by the question,
not exactly of miracles, the occurrence of which in biblical times was
axiomatic, but by the problem: When did miracles cease? Anglican divines
were quite sure that no miracles had happened in their day, nor for some
time past; they were equally sure that they happened sixteen or
seventeen centuries earlier. And it was a vital question for them to
determine at what point of time, between this _terminus a quo_ and that
_terminus ad quem_ miracles came to an end.

The Anglicans and the Romanists agreed in the assumption that the
possession of the gift of miracle-working was _prima facie_ evidence of
the soundness of the faith of the miracle-workers. The supposition that
miraculous powers might be wielded by heretics (though it might be
supported by high authority) led to consequences too frightful to be
entertained by people who were busied in building their dogmatic house
on the sands of early Church history. If, as the Romanists maintained,
an unbroken series of genuine miracles adorned the records of their
Church, throughout the whole of its existence, no Anglican could lightly
venture to accuse them of doctrinal corruption. Hence, the Anglicans,
who indulged in such accusations, were bound to prove the modern, the
mediæval Roman, and the later Patristic, miracles false; and to shut off
the wonder-working power from the Church at the exact point of time when
Anglican doctrine ceased and Roman doctrine began. With a little
adjustment--a squeeze here and a pull there--the Christianity of the
first three or four centuries might be made to fit, or seem to fit,
pretty well into the Anglican scheme. So the miracles, from Justin say
to Jerome, might be recognised; while, in later times, the Church having
become "corrupt"--that is to say, having pursued one and the same line
of development further than was pleasing to Anglicans--its alleged
miracles must needs be shams and impostures.

Under these circumstances, it may be imagined that the establishment of
a scientific frontier between the earlier realm of supposed fact and the
later of asserted delusion, had its difficulties; and torrents of
theological special pleading about the subject flowed from clerical
pens; until that learned and acute Anglican divine, Conyers Middleton,
in his "Free Inquiry," tore the sophistical web they had laboriously
woven to pieces, and demonstrated that the miracles of the patristic
age, early and late, must stand or fall together, inasmuch as the
evidence for the later is just as good as the evidence for the earlier
wonders. If the one set are certified by contemporaneous witnesses of
high repute, so are the other; and, in point of probability, there is
not a pin to choose between the two. That is the solid and irrefragable
result of Middleton's contribution to the subject. But the Free
Inquirer's freedom had its limits; and he draws a sharp line of
demarcation between the patristic and the New Testament miracles--on the
professed ground that the accounts of the latter, being inspired, are
out of the reach of criticism.

A century later, the question was taken up by another divine,
Middleton's equal in learning and acuteness, and far his superior in
subtlety and dialectic skill; who, though an Anglican, scorned the name
of Protestant; and, while yet a Churchman, made it his business, to
parade, with infinite skill, the utter hollowness of the arguments of
those of his brother Churchmen who dreamed that they could be both
Anglicans and Protestants. The argument of the "Essay on the Miracles
recorded in the Ecclesiastical History of the Early Ages" [60] by the
present [1889] Roman Cardinal, but then Anglican Doctor, John Henry
Newman, is compendiously stated by himself in the following passage:--

     If the miracles of Church history cannot be defended by the
     arguments of Leslie, Lyttelton, Paley, or Douglas, how many of the
     Scripture miracles satisfy their conditions? (P. cvii.)

And, although the answer is not given in so many words, little doubt is
left on the mind of the reader, that in the mind of the writer, it is:
None. In fact, this conclusion is one which cannot be resisted, if the
argument in favour of the Scripture miracles is based upon that which
laymen, whether lawyers, or men of science, or historians, or ordinary
men of affairs, call evidence. But there is something really impressive
in the magnificent contempt with which, at times, Dr. Newman sweeps
aside alike those who offer and those who demand such evidence.

     Some infidel authors advise us to accept no miracles which would
     not have a verdict in their favour in a court of justice; that is,
     they employ against Scripture a weapon which Protestants would
     confine to attacks upon the Church; as if moral and religious
     questions required legal proof, and evidence were the test of
     truth[61] (p. cvii).

"As if evidence were the test of truth!"--although the truth in question
is the occurrence, or the non-occurrence, of certain phenomena at a
certain time and in a certain place. This sudden revelation of the great
gulf fixed between the ecclesiastical and the scientific mind is enough
to take away the breath of any one unfamiliar with the clerical organon.
As if, one may retort, the assumption that miracles may, or have, served
a moral or a religious end, in any way alters the fact that they profess
to be historical events, things that actually happened; and, as such,
must needs be exactly those subjects about which evidence is appropriate
and legal proofs (which are such merely because they afford adequate
evidence) may be justly demanded. The Gadarene miracle either happened,
or it did not. Whether the Gadarene "question" is moral or religious, or
not, has nothing to do with the fact that it is a purely historical
question whether the demons said what they are declared to have said,
and the devil-possessed pigs did, or did not, rush over the heights
bounding the Lake of Gennesaret on a certain day of a certain year,
after A.D. 26 and before A.D. 36: for vague and uncertain as New
Testament chronology is, I suppose it may be assumed that the event in
question, if it happened at all, took place during the procuratorship of
Pilate. If that is not a matter about which evidence ought to be
required, and not only legal, but strict scientific proof demanded by
sane men who are asked to believe the story--what is? Is a reasonable
being to be seriously asked to credit statements, which, to put the case
gently, are not exactly probable, and on the acceptance or rejection of
which his whole view of life may depend, without asking for as much
"legal" proof as would send an alleged pickpocket to gaol, or as would
suffice to prove the validity of a disputed will?

"Infidel authors" (if, as I am assured, I may answer for them) will
decline to waste time on mere darkenings of counsel of this sort; but to
those Anglicans who accept his premises, Dr. Newman is a truly
formidable antagonist. What, indeed, are they to reply when he puts the
very pertinent question:--

     whether persons who not merely question, but prejudge the
     Ecclesiastical miracles on the ground of their want of resemblance,
     whatever that be, to those contained in Scripture--as if the
     Almighty could not do in the Christian Church what He had not
     already done at the time of its foundation, or under the Mosaic
     Covenant--whether such reasoners are not siding with the sceptic,


     whether it is not a happy inconsistency by which they continue to
     believe the Scriptures while they reject the Church[62] (p. liii).

Again, I invite Anglican orthodoxy to consider this passage:--

     the narrative of the combats of St. Antony with evil spirits, is a
     development rather than a contradiction of revelation, viz. of such
     texts as speak of Satan being cast out by prayer and fasting. To be
     shocked, then, at the miracles of Ecclesiastical history, or to
     ridicule them for their strangeness, is no part of a scriptural
     philosophy (pp. liii-liv).

Further on, Dr. Newman declares that it has been admitted

     that a distinct line can lie drawn in point of character and
     circumstance between the miracles of Scripture and of Church
     history; but this is by no means the case (p. lv) ... specimens are
     not wanting in the history of the Church, of miracles as awful in
     their character and as momentous in their effects as those which
     are recorded in Scripture. The fire interrupting the rebuilding of
     the Jewish Temple, and the death of Arius, are instances, in
     Ecclesiastical history, of such solemn events. On the other hand,
     difficult instances in the Scripture history are such as these: the
     serpent in Eden, the Ark, Jacob's vision for the multiplication of
     his cattle, the speaking of Balaam's ass, the axe swimming at
     Elisha's word, the miracle on the swine, and various instances of
     prayers or prophecies, in which, as in that of Noah's blessing and
     curse, words which seem the result of private feeling are expressly
     or virtually ascribed to a Divine suggestion (p. lvi).

Who is to gainsay our ecclesiastical authority here? "Infidel authors"
might be accused of a wish to ridicule the Scripture miracles by putting
them on a level with the remarkable story about the fire which stopped
the rebuilding of the Temple, or that about the death of Arius--but Dr.
Newman is above suspicion. The pity is that his list of what he
delicately terms "difficult" instances is so short. Why omit the
manufacture of Eve out of Adam's rib, on the strict historical accuracy
of which the chief argument of the defenders of an iniquitous portion of
our present marriage law depends? Why leave out the account of the "Bene
Elohim" and their gallantries, on which a large part of the worst
practices of the mediæval inquisitors into witchcraft was based? Why
forget the angel who wrestled with Jacob, and, as the account suggests,
somewhat over-stepped the bound of fair play, at the end of the
struggle? Surely, we must agree with Dr. Newman that, if all these
camels have gone down, it savours of affectation to strain at such gnats
as the sudden ailment of Arius in the midst of his deadly, if
prayerful,[63] enemies; and the fiery explosion which stopped the Julian
building operations. Though the _words_ of the "Conclusion" of the
"Essay on Miracles" may, perhaps, be quoted against me, I may express my
satisfaction at finding myself in substantial accordance with a
theologian above all suspicion of heterodoxy. With all my heart, I can
declare my belief that there is just as good reason for believing in the
miraculous slaying of the man who fell short of the Athanasian power of
affirming contradictories, with respect to the nature of the Godhead, as
there is for believing in the stories of the serpent and the ark told in
Genesis, the speaking of Balaam's ass in Numbers, or the floating of the
axe, at Elisha's order, in the second book of Kings.

It is one of the peculiarities of a really sound argument that it is
susceptible of the fullest development; and that it sometimes leads to
conclusions unexpected by those who employ it. To my mind, it is
impossible to refuse to follow Dr. Newman when he extends his reasoning,
from the miracles of the patristic and mediæval ages backward in time,
as far as miracles are recorded. But, if the rules of logic are valid, I
feel compelled to extend the argument forwards to the alleged Roman
miracles of the present day, which Dr. Newman might not have admitted,
but which Cardinal Newman may hardly reject. Beyond question, there is
as good, or perhaps better, evidence of the miracles worked by our Lady
of Lourdes, as there is for the floating of Elisha's axe, or the
speaking of Balaam's ass. But we must go still further; there is a
modern system of thaumaturgy and demonology which is just as well
certified as the ancient.[64] Veracious, excellent, sometimes learned
and acute persons, even philosophers of no mean pretensions, testify to
the "levitation" of bodies much heavier than Elisha's axe; to the
existence of "spirits" who, to the mere tactile sense, have been
indistinguishable from flesh and blood; and, occasionally, have wrestled
with all the vigour of Jacob's opponent; yet, further, to the speech, in
the language of raps, of spiritual beings, whose discourses, in point of
coherence and value, are far inferior to that of Balaam's humble but
sagacious steed. I have not the smallest doubt that, if these were
persecuting times, there is many a worthy "spiritualist" who would
cheerfully go to the stake in support of his pneumatological faith; and
furnish evidence, after Paley's own heart, in proof of the truth of his
doctrines. Not a few modern divines, doubtless struck by the
impossibility of refusing the spiritualist evidence, if the
ecclesiastical evidence is accepted, and deprived of any _a priori_
objection by their implicit belief in Christian Demonology, show
themselves ready to take poor Sludge seriously, and to believe that he
is possessed by other devils than those of need, greed, and vainglory.

Under these, circumstances, it was to be expected, though it is none the
less interesting to note the fact, that the arguments of the latest
school of "spiritualists" present a wonderful family likeness to those
which adorn the subtle disquisitions of the advocate of ecclesiastical
miracles of forty years ago. It is unfortunate for the "spiritualists"
that, over and over again, celebrated and trusted media, who really, in
some respects, call to mind the Montanist[65] and gnostic seers of the
second century, are either proved in courts of law to be fraudulent
impostors; or, in sheer weariness, as it would seem, of the honest dupes
who swear by them, spontaneously confess their long-continued
iniquities, as the Fox women did the other day in New York.[66] But,
whenever a catastrophe of this kind takes place, the believers are no
wise dismayed by it. They freely admit that not only the media, but the
spirits whom they summon, are sadly apt to lose sight of the elementary
principles of right and wrong; and they triumphantly ask: How does the
occurrence of occasional impostures disprove the genuine manifestations
(that is to say, all those which have not yet been proved to be
impostures or delusions)? And, in this, they unconsciously plagiarise
from the churchman, who just as freely admits that many ecclesiastical
miracles may have been forged; and asks, with calm contempt, not only of
legal proofs, but of common-sense probability, Why does it follow that
none are to be supposed genuine? I must say, however, that the
spiritualists, so far as I know, do not venture to outrage right reason
so boldly as the ecclesiastics. They do not sneer at "evidence"; nor
repudiate the requirement of legal proofs. In fact, there can be no
doubt that the spiritualists produce better evidence for their
manifestations than can be shown either for the miraculous death of
Arius, or for the Invention of the Cross.[67]

From the "levitation" of the axe at one end of a period of near three
thousand years to the "levitation" of Sludge & Co. at the other end,
there is a complete continuity of the miraculous, with every gradation,
from the childish to the stupendous, from the gratification of a caprice
to the illustration of sublime truth. There is no drawing a line in the
series that might be set out of plausibly attested cases of spiritual
intervention. If one is true, all may be true; if one is false, all may
be false.

This is, to my mind, the inevitable result of that method of reasoning
which is applied to the confutation of Protestantism, with so much
success, by one of the acutest and subtlest disputants who have ever
championed Ecclesiasticism--and one cannot put his claims to acuteness
and subtlety higher.

     ... the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever
     there were a safe truth it is this ... "To be deep in history
     is to cease to be a Protestant." [68]

I have not a shadow of doubt that these anti-Protestant epigrams are
profoundly true. But I have as little that, in the same sense, the
"Christianity of history is not" Romanism; and that to be deeper in
history is to cease to be a Romanist. The reasons which compel my doubts
about the compatibility of the Roman doctrine, or any other form of
Catholicism, with history, arise out of exactly the same line of
argument as that adopted by Dr. Newman in the famous essay which I have
just cited. If, with one hand, Dr. Newman has destroyed Protestantism,
he has annihilated Romanism with the other; and the total result of his
ambidextral efforts is to shake Christianity to its foundations. Nor was
any one better aware that this must be he inevitable result of his
arguments--if the world should refuse to accept Roman doctrines and
Roman miracles--than the writer of Tract 85.

Dr. Newman made his choice and passed over to the Roman Church half a
century ago. Some of those who were essentially in harmony with his
views preceded, and many followed him. But many remained; and, as the
quondam Puseyite and present Ritualistic party, they are continuing that
work of sapping and mining the Protestantism of the Anglican Church
which he and his friends so ably commenced. At the present time, they
have no little claim to be considered victorious all along the line. I
am old enough to recollect the small beginnings of the Tractarian party;
and I am amazed when I consider the present position of their heirs.
Their little leaven has leavened, if not the whole, yet a very large
lump of the Anglican Church; which is now pretty much of a preparatory
school for Papistry. So that it really behoves Englishmen (who, as I
have been informed by high authority, are all legally members of the
State Church, if they profess to belong to no other sect) to wake up to
what that powerful organisation is about, and whither it is tending. On
this point, the writings of Dr. Newman, while he still remained within
the Anglican fold, are a vast store of the best and the most
authoritative information. His doctrines on Ecclesiastical miracles and
on Development are the Corner-stones of the Tractarian fabric. He
believed that his arguments led either Romeward, or to what
ecclesiastics call "Infidelity," and I call Agnosticism. I believe that
he was quite right in this conviction; but while he chooses the one
alternative, I choose the other; as he rejects Protestantism on the
ground of its incompatibility with history, so, _a fortiori_, I conceive
that Romanism ought to be rejected; and that an impartial consideration
of the evidence must refuse the authority of Jesus to anything more than
the Nazarenism of James and Peter and John. And let it not be supposed
that this is a mere "infidel" perversion of the facts. No one has more
openly and clearly admitted the possibility that they may be fairly
interpreted in this way than Dr. Newman. If, he says, there are texts
which seem to show that Jesus contemplated the evangelisation of the

     ... Did not the Apostles hear our Lord? and what was _their_
     impression from what they heard? Is it not certain that the
     Apostles did not gather this truth from His teaching? (Tract 85, p.

     He said, "Preach the Gospel to every creature," These words _need_
     have only meant "Bring all men to Christianity through Judaism."
     Make them Jews, that they may enjoy Christ's privileges, which are
     lodged in Judaism; teach them those rites and ceremonies,
     circumcision and the like, which hitherto have been dead
     ordinances, and now are living: and so the Apostles seem to have
     understood them (_ibid._ p. 65).

So far as Nazarenism differentiated itself from contemporary orthodox
Judaism, it seems to have tended towards a revival of the ethical and
religious spirit of the prophetic age, accompanied by the belief in
Jesus as the Messiah, and by various accretions which had grown round
Judaism subsequently to the exile. To these belong the doctrines of the
Resurrection, of the Last Judgment, of Heaven and Hell; of the hierarchy
of good angels; of Satan and the hierarchy of evil spirits. And there is
very strong ground for believing that all these doctrines, at least in
the shapes in which they were held by the post-exilic Jews, were derived
from Persian and Babylonian[69] sources, and are essentially of heathen

How far Jesus positively sanctioned all these indrainings of
circumjacent Paganism into Judaism; how far any one has a right to
declare that the refusal to accept one or other of these doctrines, as
ascertained verities, comes to the same thing as contradicting Jesus, it
appears to me not easy to say. But it is hardly less difficult to
conceive that he could have distinctly negatived any of them; and, more
especially, that demonology which has been accepted by the Christian
Churches, in every age and under all their mutual antagonisms. But I
repeat my conviction that, whether Jesus sanctioned the demonology of
his time and nation or not, it is doomed. The future of Christianity, as
a dogmatic system and apart from the old Israelitish ethics which it has
appropriated and developed, lies in the answer which mankind will
eventually give to the question, whether they are prepared to believe
such stories as the Gadarene and the pneumatological hypotheses which go
with it, or not. My belief is they will decline to do anything of the
sort, whenever and wherever their minds have been disciplined by
science. And that discipline must, and will, at once follow and lead the
footsteps of advancing civilisation.

The preceding pages were written before I became acquainted with the
contents of the May number of the _Nineteenth Century_, wherein I
discover many things which are decidedly not to my advantage. It would
appear that "evasion" is my chief resource, "incapacity for strict
argument" and "rottenness of ratiocination" my main mental
characteristics, and that it is "barely credible" that a statement which
I profess to make of my own knowledge is true. All which things I
notice, merely to illustrate the great truth, forced on me by long
experience, that it is only from those who enjoy the blessing of a firm
hold of the Christian faith that such manifestations of meekness,
patience, and charity are to be expected.

I had imagined that no one who had read my preceding papers, could
entertain a doubt as to my position in respect of the main issue, as it
has been stated and restated by my opponent:

     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 in which He

That is said to be "the simple question which is at issue between us,"
and the three testimonies to that teaching and those convictions
selected are the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, and the Story
of the Passion.

My answer, reduced to its briefest form, has been: In the first place,
the evidence is such that the exact nature of the teachings and the
convictions of Jesus is extremely uncertain; so that what ecclesiastics
are pleased to call a denial of them may be nothing of the kind. And, in
the second place, if Jesus taught the demonological system involved in
the Gadarene story--if a belief in that system formed a part of the
spiritual convictions in which he lived and died--then I, for my part,
unhesitatingly refuse belief in that teaching, and deny the reality of
those spiritual convictions. And I go further and add, that, exactly in
so far as it can be proved that Jesus sanctioned the essentially pagan
demonological theories current among the Jews of his age, exactly in so
far, for me, will his authority in any matter touching the spiritual
world be weakened.

With respect to the first half of my answer, I have pointed out that the
Sermon on the Mount, as given in the first Gospel, is, in the opinion of
the best critics, a "mosaic work" of materials derived from different
sources, and I do not understand that this statement is challenged. The
only other Gospel--the third--which contains something like it, makes,
not only the discourse, but the circumstances under which it was
delivered, very different. Now, it is one thing to say that there was
something real at the bottom of the two discourses--which is quite
possible; and another to affirm that we have any right to say what that
something was, or to fix upon any particular phrase and declare it to be
a genuine utterance. Those who pursue theology as a science, and bring
to the study an adequate knowledge of the ways of ancient historians,
will find no difficulty in providing illustrations of my meaning. I may
supply one which has come within range of my own limited vision.

In Josephus's "History of the Wars of the Jews" (chap, xix.), that
writer reports a speech which he says Herod made at the opening of a
war with the Arabians. It is in the first person, and could naturally be
supposed by the reader to be intended for a true version of what Herod
said. In the "Antiquities," written some seventeen years later, the same
writer gives another report, also in the first person, of Herod's speech
on the same occasion. This second oration is twice as long as the first
and, though the general tenor of the two speeches is pretty much the
same, there is hardly any verbal identity, and a good deal of matter is
introduced into the one, which is absent from the other. Josephus prides
himself on his accuracy; people whose fathers might have heard Herod's
oration were his Contemporaries; and yet his historical sense is so
curiously undeveloped that he can, quite innocently, perpetrate an
obvious literary fabrication; for one of the two accounts must be
incorrect. Now, if I am asked whether I believe that Herod made some
particular statement on this occasion; whether, for example, he uttered
the pious aphorism, "Where God is, there is both multitude and courage,"
which is given in the "Antiquities," but not in the "Wars," I am
compelled to say I do not know. One of the two reports must be
erroneous, possibly both are: at any rate, I cannot tell how much of
either is true. And, if some fervent admirer of the Idumean should build
up a theory of Herod's piety upon Josephus's evidence that he propounded
the aphorism, is it a "mere evasion" to say, in reply, that the evidence
that he did utter it is worthless?

It appears again that, adopting the tactics of Conachar when brought
face to face with Hal o' the Wynd, I have been trying to get my
simple-minded adversary to follow me on a wild-goose chase through the
early history of Christianity, in the hope of escaping impending defeat
on the main issue. But I may be permitted to point out that there is an
alternative hypothesis which equally fits the facts; and that, after
all, there may have been method in the madness of my supposed panic.

For suppose it to be established that Gentile Christianity was a totally
different thing from the Nazarenism of Jesus and his immediate
disciples; suppose it to be demonstrable that, as early as the sixth
decade of our era at least, there were violent divergencies of opinion
among the followers of Jesus; suppose it to be hardly doubtful that the
Gospels and the Acts took their present shapes under the influence of
those divergencies; suppose that their authors, and those through whose
hands they passed, had notions of historical veracity not more eccentric
than those which Josephus occasionally displays: surely the chances that
the Gospels are altogether trustworthy records of the teachings of Jesus
become very slender. And, since the whole of the case of the other side
is based on the supposition that they are accurate records (especially
of speeches, about which ancient historians are so curiously loose), I
really do venture to submit that this part of my argument bears very
seriously on the main issue; and, as ratiocination, is sound to the

Again, when I passed by the topic of the speeches of Jesus on the Cross,
it appears that I could have had no other motive than the dictates of my
native evasiveness. An ecclesiastical dignitary may have respectable
reasons for declining a fencing match "in sight of Gethsemane and
Calvary"; but an ecclesiastical "Infidel"! Never. It is obviously
impossible that, in the belief that "the greater includes the less," I,
having declared the Gospel evidence in general, as to the sayings of
Jesus, to be of questionable value, thought it needless to select for
illustration of my views, those particular instances which were likely
to be most offensive to persons of another way of thinking. But any
supposition that may have been entertained that the old familiar tones
of the ecclesiastical war-drum will tempt me to engage in such needless
discussion had better be renounced. I shall do nothing of the kind. Let
it suffice that I ask my readers to turn to the twenty-third chapter of
Luke (revised version), verse thirty-four, and he will find in the

     Some ancient authorities omit: And Jesus said, "Father, forgive
     them, for they know not what they do."

So that, even as late as the fourth century, there were ancient
authorities, indeed some of the most ancient and weightiest, who either
did not know of this utterance, so often quoted as characteristic of
Jesus, or did not believe it had been uttered.

Many years ago, I received an anonymous letter, which abused me heartily
for my want of moral courage in not speaking out. I thought that one of
the oddest charges an anonymous letter-writer could bring. But I am not
sure that the plentiful sowing of the pages of the article with which I
am dealing with accusations of evasion, may not seem odder to those who
consider that the main strength of the answers with which I have been
favoured (in this review and elsewhere) is devoted, not to anything in
the text of my first paper, but to a note which occurs at p. 84. In this
I say:

     Dr. Wace tells us: "It may be asked how far we can rely on the
     accounts we possess of our Lord's teaching on these subjects." And
     he seems to think the question appropriately answered by the
     assertion that it "ought to be regarded as settled by M. Renan's
     practical surrender of the adverse case."

I requested Dr. Wace to point out the passages of M. Renan's works in
which, as he affirms, this "practical surrender" (not merely as to the
age and authorship of the Gospels, be it observed, but as to their
historical value) is made, and he has been so good as to do so. Now let
us consider the parts of Dr. Wace's citation from Renan which are
relevant to the issue:--

     The author of this Gospel [Luke] is certainly the same as the
     author of the Acts of the Apostles. Now the author of the Acts
     seems to be a companion of St. Paul--a character which accords
     completely with St. Luke. I know that more than one objection may
     be opposed to this reasoning: but one thing, at all events, is
     beyond doubt, namely, that the author of the third Gospel and of
     the Acts is a man who belonged to the second apostolic generation;
     and this suffices for our purpose.

This is a curious "practical surrender of the adverse case." M. Renan
thinks that there is no doubt that the author of the third Gospel is the
author of the Acts--a conclusion in which I suppose critics generally
agree. He goes on to remark that this person _seems_ to be a companion
of St. Paul, and adds that Luke was a companion of St. Paul. Then,
somewhat needlessly, M. Renan points out that there is more than one
objection to jumping, from such data as these, to the conclusion that
"Luke" is the writer of the third Gospel. And, finally, M. Renan is
content to reduce that which is "beyond doubt" to the fact that the
author of the two books is a man of the second apostolic generation.
Well, it seems to me that I could agree with all that M. Renan considers
"beyond doubt" here, without surrendering anything, either "practically"
or theoretically.

Dr. Wace (_Nineteenth Century_, March, p. 363) states that he derives
the above citation from the preface to the 15th edition of the "Vie de
Jésus." My copy of "Les Évangiles," dated 1877, contains a list of
Renan's "Oeuvres Complètes," at the head of which I find "Vie de
Jésus," 15° edition. It is, therefore, a later work than the edition of
the "Vie de Jésus" which Dr. Wace quotes. Now "Les Évangiles," as its
name implies, treats fully of the questions respecting the date and
authorship of the Gospels; and any one who desired, not merely to use M.
Renan's expressions for controversial purposes, but to give a fair
account of his views in their full significance, would, I think, refer
to the later source.

If this course had been taken, Dr. Wace might have found some as decided
expressions of opinion, in favour of Luke's authorship of the third
Gospel, as he has discovered in "The Apostles." I mention this
circumstance, because I desire to point out that, taking even the
strongest of Renan's statements, I am still at a loss to see how it
justifies that large sounding phrase, "practical surrender of the
adverse case." For, on p. 438 of "Les Évangiles," Renan speaks of the
way in which Luke's "excellent intentions" have led him to torture
history in the Acts; he declares Luke to be the founder of that "eternal
fiction which is called ecclesiastical history"; and, on the preceding
page, he talks of the "myth" of the Ascension--with its "_mise en scène
voulue_." At p. 435, I find "Luc, ou Fauteur quel qu'il soit du
troisième Évangile"; at p. 280, the accounts of the Passion, the death
and the resurrection of Jesus, are said to be "peu historiques"; at p.
283, "La valeur historique du troisième Évangile est sûrement moindre
que celles des deux premiers." A Pyrrhic sort of victory for orthodoxy,
this "surrender"!

And, all the while, the scientific student of theology knows that, the
more reason there may be to believe that Luke was the companion of Paul,
the more doubtful becomes his credibility, if he really wrote the Acts.
For, in that case, he could not fail to have been acquainted with Paul's
account of the Jerusalem conference, and he must have consciously
misrepresented it.

We may next turn to the essential part of Dr. Wace's citation
(_Nineteenth Century_, p. 365) touching the first Gospel:--

     St. Matthew evidently deserves peculiar confidence for the
     discourses. Here are the "oracles"--the very notes taken while the
     memory of the instruction of Jesus was living and definite.

M. Renan here expresses the very general opinion as to the existence of
a collection of "logia," having a different origin from the text in
which they are embedded, in Matthew. "Notes" are somewhat suggestive of
a shorthand writer, but the suggestion is unintentional, for M. Renan
assumes that these "notes" were taken, not at the time of the delivery
of the "logia" but subsequently, while (as he assumes) the memory of
them was living and definite; so that, in this very citation, M. Renan
leaves open the question of the general historical value of the first
Gospel; while it is obvious that the accuracy of "notes" taken, not at
the time of delivery, but from memory, is a matter about which more than
one opinion may be fairly held. Moreover, Renan expressly calls
attention to the difficulty of distinguishing the authentic "logia" from
later additions of the same kind ("Les Évangiles," p. 201). The fact is,
there is no contradiction here to that opinion about the first Gospel
which is expressed in "Les Évangiles" (p. 175).

     The text of the so-called Matthew supposes the pre-existence of
     that of Mark, and does little more than complete it. He completes
     it in two fashions--first, by the insertion of those long
     discourses which gave their chief value to the Hebrew Gospels; then
     by adding traditions of a more modern formation, results of
     successive developments of the legend, and to which the Christian
     consciousness already attached infinite value.

M. Renan goes on to suggest that besides "Mark," "Pseudo-Matthew" used
an Aramaic version of the Gospel, originally set forth in that dialect.
Finally, as to the second Gospel (_Nineteenth Century_, p. 365):--

     He [Mark] is full of minute observations, proceeding, beyond doubt,
     from an eye-witness. There is nothing to conflict with the
     supposition that this eye-witness ... was the Apostle Peter
     himself, as Papias has it.

Let us consider this citation by the light of "Les Évangiles":--

     This work, although composed after the death of Peter, was, in a
     sense, the work of Peter; it represents the way in which Peter was
     accustomed to relate the life of Jesus (p. 116).

M. Renan goes on to say that, as an historical document, the Gospel of
Mark has a great superiority (p. 116); but Mark has a motive for
omitting the discourses, and he attaches a "puerile importance" to
miracles (p, 117). The Gospel of Mark is less a legend, than a biography
written with credulity (p. 118). It would be rash to say that Mark has
not been interpolated and retouched (p. 120).

If any one thinks that I have not been warranted in drawing a sharp
distinction between "scientific theologians" and "counsels for creeds";
or that my warning against the too ready acceptance of certain
declarations as to the state of biblical criticism was needless; or that
my anxiety as to the sense of the word "practical" was superfluous; let
him compare the statement that M. Renan has made a "practical surrender
of the adverse case" with the facts just set forth. For what is the
adverse case? The question, as Dr. Wace puts it, is "It may be asked how
far can we rely on the accounts we possess of our Lord's teaching on
these subjects." It will be obvious that M. Renan's statements amount to
an adverse answer--to a "practical" denial that any great reliance can
be placed on these accounts. He does not believe that Matthew, the
apostle, wrote the first Gospel; he does not profess to know who is
responsible for the collection of "logia," or how many of them are
authentic; though he calls the second Gospel the most historical, he
points out that it is written with credulity, and may have been
interpolated and retouched; and as to the author, "quid qu'il soit," of
the third Gospel, who is to "rely on the accounts" of a writer, who
deserves the cavalier treatment which "Luke" meets with at M. Renan's

I repeat what I have already more than once said, that the question of
the age and the authorship of the Gospels has not, in my judgment, the
importance which is so commonly assigned to it for the simple reason
that the reports even of eye-witnesses, would not suffice to justify
belief in a large and essential part of their contents; on the contrary,
these reports would discredit the witnesses. The Gadarene miracle, for
example, is so extremely improbable that the fact of its being reported
by three even independent, authorities could not justify belief in it,
unless we had the clearest evidence as to their capacity as observers
and as interpreters of their observations. But it is evident that the
three authorities are not independent; that they have simply adopted a
legend of which there were two versions; and instead of their proving
its truth, it suggests their superstitious credulity; so that if
"Matthew," "Mark," and "Luke" are really responsible for the Gospels, it
is not the better for the Gadarene story, but the worse for them.

A wonderful amount of controversial capital has been made out of my
assertion in the note to which I have referred, as an _obiter dictum_ of
no consequence to my argument, that if Renan's work[71] were non-extant,
the main results of biblical criticism, as set forth in the works of
Strauss, Baur, Reuss, and Volkmar, for example, would not be sensibly
affected. I thought I had explained it satisfactorily already, but it
seems that my explanation has only exhibited still more of my native
perversity, so I ask for one more chance.

In the course of the historical development of any branch of science,
what is universally observed is this: that the men who make epochs, and
are the real architects of the fabric of exact knowledge, are those who
introduce fruitful ideas or methods. As a rule, the man who does this
pushes his idea, or his method, too far; or, if he does not, his school
is sure to do so; and those who follow have to reduce his work to its
proper value, and assign it its place in the whole. Not unfrequently,
they, in their turn, overdo the critical process, and, in trying to
eliminate error, throw away truth.

Thus, as I said, Linnæus, Buffon, Cuvier, Lamarck, really "set forth the
results" of a developing science, although they often heartily
contradict one another. Notwithstanding this circumstance, modern
classificatory method and nomenclature have largely grown out of the
work of Linnæus: the modern conception of biology, as a science, and of
its relation to climatology, geography, and geology, are, as largely,
rooted in the results of the labours of Buffon; comparative anatomy and
palæontology owe a vast debt to Cuvier's results; while invertebrate
zoology and the revival of the idea of evolution are intimately
dependent on the results of the work of Lamarck. In other words, the
main results of biology up to the early years of this century are to be
found in, or spring out of, the works of these men.

So, if I mistake not, Strauss, if he did not originate the idea of
taking the mythopoeic faculty into account in the development of the
Gospel narratives, and though he may have exaggerated the influence of
that faculty, obliged scientific theology, hereafter, to take that
element into serious consideration; so Baur, in giving prominence to the
cardinal fact of the divergence of the Nazarene and Pauline tendencies
in the primitive Church; so Reuss, in setting a marvellous example of
the cool and dispassionate application of the principles of scientific
criticism over the whole field of Scripture; so Volkmar, in his clear
and forcible statement of the Nazarene limitations of Jesus, contributed
results of permanent value in scientific theology. I took these names as
they occurred to me. Undoubtedly, I might have advantageously added to
them; perhaps, I might have made a better selection. But it really is
absurd to try to make out that I did not know that these writers widely
disagree; and I believe that no scientific theologian will deny that, in
principle, what I have said is perfectly correct. Ecclesiastical
advocates, of course, cannot be expected to take this view of the
matter. To them, these mere seekers after truth, in so far as their
results are unfavourable to the creed the clerics have to support, are
more or less "infidels," or favourers of "infidelity"; and the only
thing they care to see, or probably can see, is the fact that, in a
great many matters, the truth-seekers differ from one another, and
therefore can easily be exhibited to the public, as if they did nothing
else; as if any one who referred to their having, each and all,
contributed his share to the results of theological science, was merely
showing his ignorance; and as if a charge of inconsistency could be
based on the fact that he himself often disagrees with what they say. I
have never lent a shadow of foundation to the assumption that I am a
follower of either Strauss, or Baur, or Reuss, or Volkmar, or Renan; my
debt to these eminent men--so far my superiors in theological
knowledge--is, indeed, great; yet it is not for their opinions, but for
those I have been able to form for myself, by their help.

In _Agnosticism: a Rejoinder_, I have referred to the difficulties under
which those professors of the science of theology, whose tenure of their
posts depends on the results of their investigations, must labour; and,
in a note, I add--

     Imagine that all our chairs of Astronomy had been founded in the
     fourteenth century, and that their incumbents were bound to sign
     Ptolemaic articles. In that case, with every respect for the
     efforts of persons thus hampered to attain and expound the truth, I
     think men of common sense would go elsewhere to learn astronomy.

I did not write this paragraph without a knowledge that its sense would
be open to the kind of perversion which it has suffered; but, if that
was clear, the necessity for the statement was still clearer. It is my
deliberate opinion: I reiterate it; and I say that, in my judgment, it
is extremely inexpedient that any subject which calls itself a science
should be entrusted to teachers who are debarred from freely following
out scientific methods to their legitimate conclusions, whatever those
conclusions may be. If I may borrow a phrase paraded at the Church
Congress, I think it "ought to be unpleasant" for any man of science to
find himself in the position of such a teacher.

Human nature is not altered by seating it in a professorial chair, even
of theology. I have very little doubt that if, in the year 1859, the
tenure of my office had depended upon my adherence to the doctrines of
Cuvier, the objections to them set forth in the "Origin of Species"
would have had a halo of gravity about them that, being free to teach
what I pleased, I failed to discover. And, in making that statement, it
does not appear to me that I am confessing that I should have been
debarred by "selfish interests" from making candid inquiry, or that I
should have been biassed by "sordid motives." I hope that even such a
fragment of moral sense as may remain in an ecclesiastical "infidel"
might have got me through the difficulty; but it would be unworthy to
deny, or disguise, the fact that a very serious difficulty must have
been created for me by the nature of my tenure. And let it be observed
that the temptation, in my case, would have been far slighter than in
that of a professor of theology; whatever biological doctrine I had
repudiated, nobody I cared for would have thought the worse of me for so
doing. No scientific journals would have howled me down, as the
religious newspapers howled down my too honest friend, the late Bishop
of Natal; nor would my colleagues of the Royal Society have turned their
backs upon me, as his episcopal colleagues boycotted him.

I say these facts are obvious, and, that it is wholesome and needful
that they should be stated. It is in the interests of theology, if it be
a science, and it is in the interests of those teachers of theology who
desire to be something better than counsel for creeds, that it should be
taken to heart. The seeker after theological truth and that only, will
no more suppose that I have insulted him, than the prisoner who works in
fetters will try to pick a quarrel with me, if I suggest that he would
get on better if the fetters were knocked off; unless indeed, as it is
said does happen in the course of long captivities, that the victim at
length ceases to feel the weight of his chains, or even takes to hugging
them, as if they were honourable ornaments.


       *       *       *       *       *

[Footnote 1: The absence of any keel on the breast-bone and some other
osteological peculiarities, observed by Professor Marsh, however,
suggest that _Hesperornis_ may be a modification of a less specialised
group of birds than that to which these existing aquatic birds belong.]

[Footnote 2: A second specimen, discovered in 1877, and at present in
the Berlin museum, shows an excellently preserved skull with teeth: and
three digits, all terminated by claws, in the fore-limb. 1893.]

[Footnote 3: I use the word "type" because it is highly probable that
many forms of _Anchitherium_-like and _Hipparion_-like animals existed
in the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, just as many species of the horse
tribe exist now; and it is highly improbable that the particular species
of _Anchitherium_ or _Hipparion_, which happen to have been discovered,
should be precisely those which have formed part of the direct line of
the horse's pedigree.]

[Footnote 4: Since this lecture was delivered, Professor Marsh has
discovered a new genus of equine mammals (_Eohippus_) from the lowest
Eocene deposits of the West, which corresponds very nearly to this
description.--_American Journal of Science_, November, 1876.]

[Footnote 5: _The Limits of Philosophical Inquiry_, pp. 4 and 5.]

[Footnote 6: Hume's Essay, "Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy,"
in the _Inquiry concerning the Human Understanding_.--[Many critics of
this passage seem to forget that the subject-matter of Ethics and
Æsthetics consists of, matters of fact and existence.--1892.]]

[Footnote 7: Or, to speak more accurately, the physical state of which
volition is the expression.--[1892.]]

[Footnote 8: _Declaration on the Truth of Holy Scripture_, _The Times_,
18th December, 1891.]

[Footnote 9: _Declaration_, Article 10.]

[Footnote 10: Ego vero evangelio non crederem, nisi ecclesiæ Catholicæ
me commoveret auctoritas.--_Contra Epistolam Manichæi_ cap. v.]

[Footnote 11: _Hasisadra's Adventure._]

[Footnote 12: _The Interpreters of Genesis and the Interpreters of
Nature_ and _Mr. Gladstone and Genesis._]

[Footnote 13: _Agnosticism; The Value of Witness to the Miraculous;
Agnosticism: a Rejoinder; Agnosticism and Christianity; The Keepers of
the Herd of Swine_; and _Illustrations of Mr. Gladstone's Controversial

[Footnote 14: I employ the words "Supernature" and "Supernatural" in
their popular senses. For myself, I am bound to say that the term
"Nature" covers the totality of that which is. The world of psychical
phenomena appears to me to be as much part of "Nature" as the world of
physical phenomena; and I am unable to perceive any justification for
cutting the Universe into two halves, one natural and one supernatural.]

[Footnote 15: My citations are made from Teulet's _Einhardi omnia quæ
extant opera_, Paris, 1840-1843, which contains a biography of the
author, a history of the text, with translations into French, and many
valuable annotations.]

[Footnote 16: At present included in the Duchies of Hesse-Darmstadt and

[Footnote 17: This took place in the year 826 A.D. The relics were
brought from Rome and deposited in the Church of St. Medardus at

[Footnote 18: Now included in Western Switzerland.]

[Footnote 19: Probably, according to Teulet, the present
Sandhofer-fahrt, a little below the embouchure of the Neckar.]

[Footnote 20: The present Michilstadt, thirty miles N.E. of Heidelberg.]

[Footnote 21: In the Middle Ages one of the most favourite accusations
against witches was that they committed just these enormities.]

[Footnote 22: It is pretty clear that Eginhard had his doubts about the
deacon, whose pledges he qualifies as _sponsiones incertæ_. But, to be
sure, he wrote after events which fully justified scepticism.]

[Footnote 23: The words are _scrinia sine clave_, which seems to mean
"having no key." But the circumstances forbid the idea of breaking

[Footnote 24: Eginhard speaks with lofty contempt of the "vana ac
superstitiosa præsumptio" of the poor woman's companions in trying to
alleviate her sufferings with "herbs and frivolous incantations." Vain
enough, no doubt, but the "mulierculæ" might have returned the epithet
"superstitious" with interest.]

[Footnote 25: Of course there is nothing new in this argument; but it
does not grow weaker by age. And the case of Eginhard is far more
instructive than that of Augustine, because the former has so very
frankly, though incidentally, revealed to us not only his own mental and
moral habits, but those of the people about him.]

[Footnote 26: See 1 Cor. xii. 10-28; 2 Cor. vi. 12 Rom. xv, 19.]

[Footnote 27: _A Journal or Historical Account of the Life, Travels,
Sufferings, and Christian Experiences, &c., of George Fox._ Ed. 1694,
pp. 27, 28.]

[Footnote 28: See the _Official Report of the Church Congress held at
Manchester_, October 1888, pp. 253, 254.]

[Footnote 29: In this place and in _Illustrations of Mr. Gladstone's
Controversial Methods_, there are references to the late Archbishop of
York which are of no importance to my main argument, and which I have
expunged because I desire to obliterate the traces of a temporary
misunderstanding with a man of rare ability, candour, and wit, for whom
I entertained a great liking and no less respect. I rejoice to think now
of the (then) Bishop's cordial hail the first time we met after our
little skirmish, "Well, is it to be peace or war?" I replied, "A little
of both." But there was only peace when we parted, and ever after.]

[Footnote 30: Dr. Wace tells us, "It may be asked how far we can rely on
the accounts we possess of our Lord's teaching on these subjects." And
he seems to think the question appropriately answered by the assertion
that it "ought to be regarded as settled by M. Renan's practical
surrender of the adverse case." I thought I knew M. Renan's works pretty
well, but I have contrived to miss this "practical" (I wish Dr. Wace had
defined the scope of that useful adjective) surrender. However, as Dr.
Wace can find no difficulty in pointing out the passage of M. Renan's
writings, by which he feels justified in making his statement, I shall
wait for further enlightenment, contenting myself, for the present, with
remarking that if M. Renan were to retract and do penance in Notre-Dame
to-morrow for any contributions to Biblical criticism that may be
specially his property, the main results of that criticism, as they are
set forth in the works of Strauss, Baur, Reuss, and Volkmar, for
example, could not be sensibly affected.]

[Footnote 31: See De Gobineau, _Les Religions et les Philosophies dans
l'Asie Centrale_; and the recently published work of Mr. E.G. Browne,
_The Episode of the Bab_.]

[Footnote 32: Here, as always, the revised version is cited.]

[Footnote 33: Does any one really mean to say that there is any internal
or external criterion by which the reader of a biblical statement, in
which scientific matter is contained, is enabled to judge whether it is
to be taken _au sérieux_ or not? Is the account of the Deluge, accepted
as true in the New Testament, less precise and specific than that of the
call of Abraham, also accepted as true therein? By what mark does the
story of the feeding with manna in the wilderness, which involves some
very curious scientific problems, show that it is meant merely for
edification, while the story of the inscription of the Law on stone by
the hand of Jahveh is literally true? If the story of the Fall is not
the true record or an historical occurrence, what becomes of Pauline
theology? Yet the story of the Fall as directly conflicts with
probability, and is as devoid of trustworthy evidence, as that of the
Creation or that of the Deluge, with which it forms an harmoniously
legendary series.]

[Footnote 34: See, for an admirable discussion of the whole subject, Dr.
Abbott's article on the Gospels in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_; and
the remarkable monograph by Professor Volkmar, _Jesus Nazarenus und die
erste christliche Zeit_ (1882). Whether we agree with the conclusions of
these writers or not, the method of critical investigation which they
adopt is unimpeachable.]

[Footnote 35: Notwithstanding the hard words shot at me from behind the
hedge of anonymity by a writer in a recent number of the _Quarterly
Review_, I repeat, without the slightest fear of refutation, that the
four Gospels, as they have come to us, are the work of unknown writers.]

[Footnote 36: Their arguments, in the long run, are always reducible to
one form. Otherwise trustworthy witnesses affirm that such and such
events took place. These events are inexplicable, except the agency of
"spirits" is admitted. Therefore "spirits" were the cause of the

And the heads of the reply are always the same. Remember Goethe's
aphorism: "Alles factische ist schon Theorie." Trustworthy witnesses
are constantly deceived, or deceive themselves, in their interpretation
of sensible phenomena. No one can prove that the sensible phenomena, in
these cases, could be caused only by the agency of spirits: and there is
abundant ground for believing that they may be produced in other ways.
Therefore, the utmost that can be reasonably asked for, on the evidence
as it stands, is suspension of judgment. And, on the necessity for even
that suspension, reasonable men may differ, according to their views of

[Footnote 37: Yet I must somehow have laid hold of the pith of the
matter, for, many years afterwards, when Dean Mansel's Bampton Lectures
were published, it seemed to me I already knew all that this eminently
agnostic thinker had to tell me.]

[Footnote 38: _Kritik der reinen Vernunft._ Edit. Hartenstein p. 256.]

[Footnote 39: _Report of the Church Congress_, Manchester, 1888, p.

[Footnote 40: I suppose this is what Dr. Wace is thinking about when he
says that I allege that there "is no visible escape" from the
supposition of an _Ur-Marcus_ (p. 367). That a "theologian of repute
should confound an indisputable fact with one of the modes of explaining
that fact is not so singular as those who are unaccustomed to the ways
of theologians might imagine.]

[Footnote 41: Any examiner whose duty it has been to examine into a case
of "copying" will be particularly well prepared to appreciate the force
of the case stated in that most excellent little book, _The Common
Tradition of the Synoptic Gospels,_ by Dr. Abbott and Mr. Rushbrooke
(Macmillan, 1884). To those who have not passed through such painful
experiences I may recommend the brief discussion of the genuineness of
the "Casket Letters" in my friend Mr. Skelton's interesting book,
_Maitland of Lethington_. The second edition of Holtzmann's _Lehrbuch_,
published in 1886, gives a remarkably fair and full account of the
present results of criticism. At p. 366 he writes that the present
burning question is whether the "relatively primitive narrative and the
root of the other synoptic texts is contained in Matthew or in Mark. It
is only on this point that properly-informed (_sachkundige_) critics
differ," and he decides in favour of Mark.]

[Footnote 42: Holtzmann (_Die synoptischen Evangelien_ 1863, p. 75),
following Ewald, argues that the "Source A" (= the threefold tradition,
more or less) contained something that answered to the "Sermon on the
Plain" immediately after the words of our present "Mark," "And he cometh
into a house" (iii 19). But what conceivable motive could "Mark" have
for omitting it? Holtzmann has no doubt, however, that the "Sermon on
the Mount" is a compilation, or as he calls it in his recently-published
_Lehrbuch_ (p. 372), "an artificial mosaic work."]

[Footnote 43: See Schürer, _Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes_, Zweiter
Theil, p. 384.]

[Footnote 44: Spacious, because a young man could sit in it "on the
right side" (xv. 5), and therefore with plenty of room to spare.]

[Footnote 45: King Herod had not the least difficulty in supposing the
resurrection of John the Baptist--"John, whom I beheaded, he is risen"
(Mark vi. 16).]

[Footnote 46: I am very sorry for the interpolated "in," because
citation ought to be accurate in small things as in great. But what
difference it makes whether one "believes Jesus" or "believes in Jesus"
much thought has not enabled me to discover. If you "believe him" you
must believe him to be what he professed to be--that is "believe in
him;" and if you "believe in him" you must necessarily "believe him."]

[Footnote 47: True for Justin: but there is a school of theological
critics, who more or less question the historical reality of Paul, and
the genuineness of even the four cardinal epistles.]

[Footnote 48: See _Dial. cum Tryphone_, § 47 and § 35. It is to be
understood that Justin does not arrange these categories in order, as I
have done.]

[Footnote 49: I guard myself against being supposed to affirm that even
the four cardinal epistles of Paul may not have been seriously tampered
with. See note 47 above.]

[Footnote 50: Paul, in fact, is required to commit in Jerusalem, an act
of the same character as that which he brands as "dissimulation" on the
part of Peter in Antioch.]

[Footnote 51: All this was quite clearly pointed out by Ritschl nearly
forty years ago. See _Die Entstehung der alt-katholischen Kirche_
(1850), p. 108.]

[Footnote 52: "If every one was baptized as soon as he acknowledged
Jesus to be the Messiah, the first Christians can have been aware of no
other essential differences from the Jews."--Zeller, _Vorträge_ (1865),
p. 26.]

[Footnote 53: Dr. Harnack, in the lately-published second edition of His
_Dogmengeschichte_, says (p. 39), "Jesus Christ brought forward no new
doctrine"; and again, (p. 65), "It is not difficult to set against every
portion of the utterances of Jesus an observation which deprives him of
originality." See also Zusatz 4, on the same page.]

[Footnote 54: I confess that, long ago, I once or twice made this
mistake; even to the waste of a capital 'U.' 1893.]

[Footnote 55: "Let us maintain, before we have proved. This seeming
paradox is the secret of happiness" (Dr. Newman: Tract 85, p. 85).]

[Footnote 56: Dr, Newman, _Essay on Development_, p. 357.]

[Footnote 57: It is by no means to be assumed that "spiritual" and
"corporeal" are exact equivalents of "immaterial" and "material" in the
minds of ancient speculators on these topics. The "spiritual body" of
the risen dead (1 Cor. xv.) is not the "natural" "flesh and blood" body.
Paul does not teach the resurrection of the body in the ordinary sense
of the word "body"; a fact, often overlooked, but pregnant with many

[Footnote 58: Tertullian (_Apolog. adv. Gentes_, cap. xxiii.) thus
challenges the Roman authorities: let them bring a possessed person into
the presence of a Christian before their tribunal; and if the demon does
not confess himself to be such, on the order of the Christian, let the
Christian be executed out of hand.]

[Footnote 59: See the expression of orthodox opinion upon the
"accommodation" subterfuge already cited above, pp. 85 and 86.]

[Footnote 60: I quote the first edition (1843). A second edition
appeared in 1870. Tract 85 of the _Tracts for the Times_ should be read
with this _Essay_. If I were called upon to compile a Primer of
"Infidelity," I think I should save myself trouble by making a selection
from these works, and from the _Essay on Development_ by the same

[Footnote 61: Yet, when it suits his purpose, as in the Introduction to
the _Essay on Development_, Dr. Newman can demand strict evidence in
religious questions as sharply as any "infidel author"; and he can even
profess to yield to its force (_Essay on Miracles_, 1870; note, p.

[Footnote 62: According to Dr. Newman, "This prayer [that of Bishop
Alexander, who begged God to 'take Arius away'] is said to have been
offered about 3 P.M. on the Saturday; that same evening Arius was in the
great square of Constantine, when he was suddenly seized with
indisposition" (p. clxx). The "infidel" Gibbon seems to have dared to
suggest that "an option between poison and miracle" is presented by this
case; and, it must be admitted, that, if the Bishop had been within the
reach of a modern police magistrate, things might have gone hardly with
him. Modern "Infidels," possessed of a slight knowledge of chemistry,
are not unlikely, with no less audacity, to suggest an "option between
fire-damp and miracle" in seeking for the cause of the fiery outburst at

[Footnote 63: Compare Tract 85, p. 110; "I am persuaded that were men
but consistent who oppose the Church doctrines as being unscriptural,
they would vindicate the Jews for rejecting the Gospel."]

[Footnote 64: A writer in a spiritualist journal takes me soundly to
task for venturing to doubt the historical and literal truth of the
Gadarene story. The following passage in his letter is worth quotation:
"Now to the materialistic and scientific mind, to the uninitiated in
spiritual verities, certainly this story of the Gadarene or Gergesene
swine, presents insurmountable difficulties; it seems grotesque and
nonsensical. To the experienced, trained, and cultivated Spiritualist
this miracle is, as I am prepared to show, one of the most instructive,
the most profoundly useful, and the most beneficent which Jesus ever
wrought in the whole course of His pilgrimage of redemption on earth."
Just so. And the first page of this same journal presents the following
advertisement, among others of the same kidney:--

"TO WEALTHY SPIRITUALISTS.--A Lady Medium of tried power wishes to meet
with an elderly gentleman who would be willing to give her a comfortable
home and maintenance in Exchange for her Spiritualistic services, as her
guides consider her health is too delicate for public sittings: London
preferred.--Address 'Mary,' Office of _Light_."

Are we going back to the days of the Judges, when wealthy Micah set up
his private ephod, teraphim, and Levite?]

[Footnote 65: Consider Tertullian's "sister" ("hodie apud nos"), who
conversed with angels, saw and heard mysteries, knew men's thoughts, and
prescribed medicine for their bodies (_De Anima._ cap. 9). Tertullian
tells us that this woman saw the soul as corporeal, and described its
colour and shape. The "infidel" will probably be unable to refrain from
insulting the memory of the ecstatic saint by the remark, that
Tertullian's known views about the corporeality of the soul may have had
something to do with the remarkable perceptive powers of the Montanist
medium, in whose revelations of the spiritual world he took such
profound interest.]

[Footnote 66: See the New York _World_ for Sunday, 21st October, 1888;
and the _Report of the Stybert Commission_ Philadelphia, 1887.]

[Footnote 67: Dr. Newman's observation that the miraculous
multiplication of the pieces of the true cross (with which "the whole
world is filled," according to Cyril of Jerusalem; and of which some say
there are enough extant to build a man-of-war) is no more wonderful than
that of the loaves and fishes, is one that I do not see my way to
contradict. See _Essay on Miracles_, 2d ed. p. 163.]

[Footnote 68: _An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine_, by
J.H. Newman, D.D., pp. 7 and 8. (1878.)]

[Footnote 69: Dr. Newman faces this question with his customary ability.
"Now, I own, I am not at all solicitous to deny that this doctrine of an
apostate Angel and his hosts was gained from Babylon: it might still be
Divine nevertheless. God who made the prophet's ass speak, and thereby
instructed the prophet, might instruct His Church by means of heathen
Babylon" (Tract 85, p. 83). There seems to be no end to the apologetic
burden that Balaam's ass can carry.]

[Footnote 70: _Nineteenth Century_, May 1889 (p. 701).]

[Footnote 71: I trust it may not be supposed that I undervalue M.
Renan's labours, or intended to speak slightingly of them.]

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