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THESE Papers, which are collected here as 
more or less cognate, were all written in 
the intervals of a busy city pastorate. 

I make no pretence to any scientific know- 
ledge other than can be gathered in an 
ordinary course of reading. Yet although 
I am not an expert, and able to go down 
into the mine to bring up specimens, there 
is a sphere for common-sense one can judge 
of the specimens when brought up. I have 
ventured to think for myself in regard to 
a theory which is fast attaining to almost 
universal credence to enter a caveat against 
a too-ready acceptance of what has much 
that can be said in its favour. 

vi Preface. 

Some of the themes discussed would need 
a treatise rather than an essay to do them 
justice ; nevertheless I venture to hope that, 
even in the perfunctory way they are pre- 
sented here, they may not be altogether 

I have to acknowledge my obligations to 
Mr Andrew Lang's ' Making of Religion ' 
in the preparation of the chapter on the 
" Origin of the Idea of God among Primi- 
tive Peoples," and to Prof. Robertson of 
this city for material help in the chapter 
on " Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah." 


GLASGOW, Januat'y 1902. 


















BY an almost general consensus of opinion 
evolution is now accepted as the explana- 
tion of the manner in which living organ- 
isms came into existence. It would by many 
be said to be the greatest idea that, in 
last century, science has introduced into 
the world. But evolution is not in itself 
a product of the nineteenth century. The 
earliest evolutionist was not Charles Darwin, 
for we find among the early Greek philoso- 
phers some who might fairly be so termed. 1 

1 Empedocles, e.g., whose doctrine is a strange anticipation 
of the survival of the fittest. 

2 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

But it is certainly true that only in the 
nineteenth century the process of organic 
evolution has been suggested in a plaus- 
ible fashion, and that will always be con- 
nected with the name of Charles Darwin. 

Various sciences are held to have con- 
tributed to the idea of evolution. Before 
La Place propounded the nebular theory, 
astronomy showed the existence of worlds 
in all stages of development. Geology 
shows how the earth's past history can be 
interpreted in terms of the present, thus 
giving new force to the old adage, " Natura 
nihil fecit per saltum." Then came Darwin, 
who, by patient observation and insight, gave 
a clear and telling account of how one step 
in the great world process of evolution may 
have come about. 

Evolution is a process from the rudest in- 
itial form to what is shapely and highly 
developed. The flower is a mere bud to 
begin with, from which the blossom in its 
structural complexity is evolved : the animal 
begins as a mass of structureless protoplasm, 
and develops into a highly articulated and 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 3 

complex form, with all its multifarious organs 
and parts. Evolution is thus the production 
of the highly organised from the unorganised 
and structureless germ. The two outstanding 
proofs on which the theory is based are re- 
capitulation, and the existence of rudimentary 
organs in men and animals. Recapitulation 
means that the highly developed animal in 
the course of its progress passes through suc- 
cessive stages, each of which corresponds to 
the perfect state of some lower form. The 
stages through which any individual of the 
higher animals passes in the course of its 
development are supposed to be a sample 
of the changes which the species may be 
supposed to have undergone in the process 
of evolution from a remote ancestor of simple 
structure in the course of geologic time. A 
tree, it is pointed out, differs immeasurably 
in every respect in bulk, in structure, in 
colour, in form, in specific gravity, in chem- 
ical composition from the seed, so that no 
visible resemblance of any kind can be 
pointed out between them. Yet the one 
is changed into the other in the course of 

4 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

a few years, changed so gradually that at 
no moment can it be said now that the 
seed ceases to be and the tree exists. What 
can be more widely contrasted, asks Herbert 
Spencer, than a newly born child and the 
small gelatinous spherule constituting the 
human ovum ? The infant is so complex in 
structure that a cyclopaedia is needed to 
describe its constituent parts. If a simple 
cell under appropriate conditions becomes 
a man in the space of a few years, surely 
there can be no difficulty in understanding 
how under appropriate conditions a cell may 
in the course of untold millions of years give 
origin to the human race. 

Now this sounds very plausible, but when 
we examine it more closely its incredibility 
appears. To begin with, the statement is 
inaccurate in fact. A tree does not differ 
immeasurably from the seed, especially if the 
seed is of the same species as the tree, and 
its principal chemical constituents exist and 
can be detected in the seed. Without these 
the development of the tree from the seed 
could not take place. The seed is not a 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 5 

fortuitous existence. The production of the 
seed without a previous tree is as incon- 
ceivable as the production of a tree with- 
out a previous seed. Besides, the whole 
argument is one of analogy. The germ be- 
comes an animal passing through various 
stages, therefore the animal may be de- 
scended from some creature, which when 
mature was as simple as the germ. 

The value of such an analogy depends 
altogether on the similarity of the condi- 
tions which in such a case are the efficient 
causes at work. The germ of a, mammal 
is nourished by the parent that produces 
it, and in whose likeness it is destined to 
grow. But it is surely overstepping the 
bounds of legitimate analogy to maintain 
that under appropriate conditions an organ- 
ism which is not a germ but a mature 
animal shall be developed with a likeness 
entirely different from the parent. Nobody 
ever saw this evolution of one species from 
another. As far as our present knowledge 
goes, the sterility of hybrids is a fact that 
cannot be disputed. 

6 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

The probability that the creationist view 
is the right one lies in the undoubted fact 
that animals as they now exist are divided 
into well-marked groups. The onus pro- 
bandi lies on the evolutionist. It is for 
him to show that the intervals which sep- 
arate species were not part of the original 
plan, like the walks in a well -designed gar- 
den, but gaps caused by submergence in the 
otherwise unbroken series of life. Let him 
produce evidence of the missing links, some 
specimens at least of the intermediary, if 
what is now markedly separate was once 
joined together. 

According to Professor Huxley, " the 
weight of this objection is obvious, but our 
ignorance of the condition of fertility and 
sterility, the want of careful experiments 
extending over a long series of years^ and 
the strange anomalies presented by the 
cross-fertilisation of many plants, should all, 
as Mr Darwin has urged, be taken into ac- 
count in considering it." That is all he has 
to say in reply. Spencer, as we have seen, 
postulates untold millions of years for the 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 7 

evolution of one species from another. On 
physical grounds Lord Kelvin has demon- 
strated that there could be no life on 
this planet beyond one hundred millions 
of years ago, and the immense periods de- 
manded by the evolutionist are not forth- 


Besides, the reproduction of the animal 
is a closed series, beginning at the embryo 
and returning thither again, while evolution 
postulates a progressive series : "A repro- 
ductive circle once instituted obeys its own 
laws, but before it can leave its orbit and 
revolve in some other it requires some new 
efficient cause." "And what real resem- 
blance, it has been asked, has this to an 
imaginary development supposed to have 
started millions of years ago, with an animal 
already perfect after the kind, and which 
is supposed, not as an individual but in a 
succession of thousands of generations pro- 
duced in the ordinary way, to have passed 
through a corresponding development to 
that observed in the short life of the modern 
individual animal." It is an analogy, but 

8 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

an analogy so incomplete that it cannot be 
held to prove similarity of causation. 

There may be progress, and yet the one 
stage may not be the cause of the other. 
Take, e.g., our lighting appliances. In rude 
times there was a blazing pine knot or the 
solid fat of a candle, then came oil in a 
cruisie, volatile oil in the paraffin-lamp, gas, 
and last of all electricity. There is a seem- 
ing evolution here, and yet the resinous 
splint at one end in no way led to the dis- 
covery and use of solid fat, liquid and vol- 
atile oil, nor did gas lead to the discovery 
of electricity. There is an advance as you 
pass from the one to the other, but each 
step does not spring out of, nor is the one 
evolved from, the other. But, as one says, 
" the progress from a very rude contrivance 
to one less rude, and so on to one that dis- 
plays great skill, might disclose real inter- 
depending steps, and to such a case the 
term evolution might be applicable, yet 
without implying the operation of a law, 
or meaning that it had been the result of 
increasing mental power in those who made 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 9 

and used the improved contrivances. Too 
often post hoc is confounded with propter 

Let us glance at the proof of evolution 
from the rudimentary organ and vestigeal 
appendages in men and animals. No doubt 
such seem to be a stumbling-block to the 
theory of sudden and perfect creations. 
They may be held to prove evolution of a 
kind, at least to point in that direction. 

In certain fishes and lizards there is, in 
addition to the ordinary pair of eyes, an eye 
set in the top of the head called the pineal 
eye. In animals which have no trace of any 
such middle eye we can still find the stalk of 
the eye left. This is known as the pineal 
gland of the brain. The nature of this has 
long been a puzzle to naturalists, but it 
seems a somewhat rash conclusion to say that 
it is of no service save to show the connec- 
tion between the higher and lower form from 
which it has been developed. The truth is, 
many of these rudimentary organs are 
present either as a provision for certain 
contingencies, kept in store for future use, or 

io Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

structures the use of which has not been 
discovered. Apart from, and altogether 
irrespective of, recapitulation, they are 
useful to certain animals in the embryonic 
stage of their development. And that such 
structures may be held in store for future 
use we see in the countless undeveloped buds 
produced by shrubs and trees which in 
ordinary circumstances are overlaid by the 
bark and perish ; but if the tree has been 
stripped of its leaves in spring by frost or 
caterpillar, the latest buds come to the rescue 
and may enable it to reproduce its foliage. 

If what is said of evolution in past ages 
is true, we would expect that a similar 
progress in man would have taken place 
within historic times, in his intellect and 
capacity for knowledge. The progress of the 
living being, evolutionists may say, depends 
on its surroundings ; but when we look at 
man what do we find ? Is there any proof 
from anything that we know that there ever 
was a time when there did not exist some- 
where men of as good mental capacity and as 
strong bodily development as any existing 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 1 1 

now? In our day the environment is of a 
higher character and wider extent than ever 
it was. But this striking fact meeting us is, 
that growth of the environment in quality 
and quantity does not involve a correspond- 
ing growth either in man's mental or physical 
powers. There is nothing to show that men 
to-day, who have command of modern and 
scientific appliances, steam and electricity, 
produce an offspring with a development of 
mental power in keeping with the high 
character of the environment. 

Many naturalists are puzzled with the 
great array of facts presented by the evolu- 
tionist, so that while their better judgment 
causes them to doubt the possibility of the 
structures which they study being produced 
by such blind and material processes, they 
are forced to admit that there must be some- 
thing in a theory so confidently asserted and 
supported by so many great names. 

Evolution as a term is used by its advo- 
cates in different senses. Sometimes it 
means the method of development employed 
in carrying on the changes constantly occur- 

1 2 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

ring in both organic and inorganic bodies. 
It is also employed to denote the proximate 
cause by which such effects are produced. If 
used in the latter sense, then it certainly 
does dispense with God, for this spontaneous 
mechanical evolution takes His place. It is 
held to account for the chain of causes and 
effects which for ages in the past has shaped, 
and will in the future shape, the development 
of the universe. The stupendous character 
of such a claim may well induce a man to 
pause and wonder whether he is not making 
an incident a cause, and satisfying himself 
with a word instead of a dominant idea. 

The late Sir J. W. Dawson illustrates this 
possibility by supposing that a fly has rested 
on the driving-wheel of a locomotive which 
has stopped with its train at a station. " The 
insect observes that when the driving-wheel 
ceases to revolve the train stops ; when it 
begins again to rotate the train moves. 
Knowing little of the construction of the 
engine, and nothing of its principle or the 
manner of its development from its first rude 
beginning, and ignorant of the terminal 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 13 

points or connections of the railway, the fly 
philosopher may naturally conclude that the 
secret of the whole is embodied in one process 
of revolution. Given the rotation of the 
driving-wheel, and the how and why of 
railway locomotion is explained by the one 
magical word ' He volution/ and all the flies 
may buzz in concert in praise of the magnifi- 
cent and all-embracing generalisation." It 
appears to us that the sarcasm is not un- 
warranted as regards the notion of evolution 
as a power and not merely a process. 

Viewed as a mode of operation, evolution 
does not dispense with God. In Darwin's 
view it not only does not dispense with, it 
exalts our ideas of, the Creator. " There is," 
he says, "a grandeur in this view of life 
with its several powers having been origin- 
ally breathed by the Creator into a few 
forms or into one, and that, whilst the planet 
has gone cycling on according to the fixed 
law of gravity, from so simple a beginning 
endless forms most beautiful and most 
wonderful have been and are being evolved." 
Waiving the greatness and the grandeur, we 

14 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

emphasise the admission, the force not im- 
personal but personal that sets the process of 
evolution in action, the endless succession of 
changes producing the endless varieties of 
complex life we see around us. However 
long the chain may be, at the beginning we 
find not a law but a will, not a link but a 

There is not a scintilla of proof that 
matter can produce life, and such a thing 
as spontaneous generation has never been 
known to occur. Professor Huxley himself 
admits that the present state of our know- 
ledge furnishes us with no link between the 
living and the non-living. " Give me mat- 
ter," said Kant, " and I will explain the 
formation of a world ; but give me matter 
only, and I cannot explain the formation of 
a caterpillar." 

Evolution thus predicates involution. The 
leaf and flower lie packed up in the bud. 
The bud will not unfold except the environ- 
ment be favourable : in the dark or in an 
ice-house it will not expand. But be the 
surroundings ever so favourable, they will 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 15 

evolve nothing but what was there before. 
It thus appears that prior to organic evolu- 
tion we must have something of a creative 
act introduced by one at least, perhaps more, 
species of human beings. Darwin's expres- 
sion, "life breathed into," seems to be bor- 
rowed from the first chapter of Genesis, 
where, however, it is used in regard to the 
rational and moral nature of man. 

In regard to the lower animals it is said 
God commanded the waters to bring them 
forth, showing that the physical conditions 
necessary to life were complete before its 
introduction, and presenting the idea of 
creation under law, mediate creation, and 
thus avoiding, as one says, " the solecism 
of breathing life into creatures which have 
no breath properly so called, and which do 
not possess the inspiration of the Almighty, 
which gives man understanding." 

Agassiz, who by his researches discovered 
many of the data upon which evolutionists 
base their theory, says : "I know those who 
hold it unscientific to believe that thinking 
is not something inherent in matter, and 

1 6 Does Evolution dispense with God? 

that there is no essential difference between 
inorganic and living and thinking beings. 
I shall not be prevented by any such pre- 
tensions of a false philosophy from expressing 
my conviction that as long as it cannot be 
shown that matter or physical forces do 
actually reason, I shall consider any mani- 
festation of thought as evidence of the ex- 
istence of a thinking being as the author 
of such thought, and shall look upon an 
intelligent connection between the facts of 
nature as a direct proof of the existence 
of a thinking God as certainly as man ex- 
hibits the power of thinking when he recog- 
nises their natural relation." 

Agassiz is dead, and we are told that 
knowledge of biology has made much pro- 
gress since his time ; we shall therefore cite 
the latest witness on the question, who has 
faced the problem of the origin of life under 
certain new phases. 

At a meeting of the Victoria Institute in 
London in April 1899 Professor Beale, Pre- 
sident of the E-oyal Microscopical Society, 
gave an address descriptive of the result of 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 17 

forty years' work as a professor of physiology 
and of microscopical research in regard to 
matter. In the course of his speech he 
described how all organisms, including man, 
himself, were in the earliest step of develop- 
ment represented by a minute particle of 
living matter from which numerous particles 
also living were derived. The embryonic 
point upon the yolk of an egg bears no 
resemblance whatever to the future animal. 
But even here an immaterial principle which 
no external influence can modify or prevent 
is at work, and it determines the future 
form, so that the egg of a hen can only 
produce a chicken, and the egg of a serpent 
a serpent. All living forms were once bio- 
plasm, and owe their peculiar structure and 
properties to the vital power of living matter 
by which they were formed. He concluded 
as follows : 

"I have failed to discover any facts which 
would tend to cause a thoughtful student of 
living nature to hesitate as to the existence 
of vitality, and, so far as I have been able 
to discover or frame any hypothesis, which 


1 8 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

could be advanced as a reasonable explana- 
tion of the facts of any kind of living matter, 
without admitting the influence of infinite 
powers, prevision, and wisdom. All my 
efforts to obtain evidence which in reason 
could be regarded as adequate to account 
in some other way for the facts have en- 
tirely failed. 

" Looking from a purely scientific view 
only, it seems to me that the cause of all 
vital phenomena from the very beginning 
of life in the present state of our know- 
ledge can only be referred to the direct 
influence of an Almighty Power ; and I feel 
confident that each succeeding advance in 
natural knowledge will be found in the 
words of the Victorian Institute motto, 'Ad 
majorem Dei gloriam/ " 

Even granting that evolution within cer- 
tain limits has been proved, it only discovers 
a process, and explains how life as we find it 
came to be. Mr Huxley calls it the hypo- 
thesis that the successive species of animals 
and plants have arisen, the late by gradual 
modification of the earlier. But what does 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 19 

all this amount to ? Simply a theory of how 
creation came to be. It says nothing what- 
ever as to the cause. You have not explained 
why nature is, by such phrases as interaction, 
play of organism and environment, or the 
survival of the fittest : this may be a descrip- 
tion of the process, it is no description of the 
force that has set the process agoing. The 
mode and cause are two very different things. 

The question still awaits an answer, Whence 
came the primal organism ? Evolution can 
determine nothing as to this it is simply a 
model theory. It shows how the creative 
force works, and what the creative cause is. 

We have already referred to the striking 
words with which Darwin concludes his 
' Origin of Species.' The grandeur in this 
view entirely depends upon the relation be- 
tween the Creator and evolution. Did He 
simply breathe life into a few forms, and 
then His intervention was abandoned to 
physical necessity? There is no grandeur 
to our mind in such a thought, in a creator 
thus cutting himself off from his own crea- 
tion. Not such is the Biblical conception. 

2O Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

Nature lives, moves, and has its being in 
Him. Its commonest processes are His acts. 
" Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who 
prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh 
grass to grow upon the mountains. He 
giveth to the beast his food, and to the 
young ravens which cry." It would have 
been a thought inconceivable to a Hebrew 
that God should be absent from nature, that 
it should subsist without Him. 

In the speculations of Greek philosophy 
God was conceived as standing to creation 
in the same relation as a thinker to his 
thought. Aristotle speaks as if the truth 
might lie in the union of the two ideas of 
transcendence and immanence : transcend- 
ence he compares to the general of an 
army, immanence to the order and discipline 
he institutes and maintains. 

It is evident on reflection that God is 
separate from nature, as greater than it, and 
not in any way entangled in His own work. 
But He is also present, working through 
nature : we demur to any conception that 
would leave out the divine energy. " My 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 21 

Father worketh." He is the life moving 
within the process He conducts. 

And here, it seems to us, is the value of 
evolution in enhancing our thought of God. 
Take the old conception, where nature was 
viewed as a construction like a watch or a 
machine. Such a conception makes it easy 
to think of God apart from the structure He 
has formed, standing without, leaving it to 
the working of its own laws. But take the 
new idea, which represents nature as a 
growth, like an animal from its embryo or 
a plant from its seed, then we cannot con- 
ceive of the Creator as standing apart, but 
as the energy working within. God is 
transcendent, inasmuch as His will, the 
eternal reason, has set in motion the pro- 
cesses of nature. But He is also immanent ; 
we feel His presence throbbing every re- 
turning spring, " where tides of grass break 
into foam of flowers." 

But while this is so, the divine immanence 
in nature does not exhaust the divine activ- 
ities. If it did so, we should be landed in 
a pantheistic conception. God is in nature, 

22 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

but He is not nature. It exists by Him, 
but it does not sum up all He is. He was 
before it ; it exists for His purpose, and He 
can exist without it. That it may become 
the instrument of His will He works through 
all its processes. " As there is no point in 
a man's body unaffected by his thought or 
untouched by his will, so there is no point 
in the universe without the divine presence 
or closed to the divine action." 

Clearly evolution, viewed as the mode 
in which the creative process manifests it- 
self, gives us a larger and truer idea of 
God. In the old idea there was a tendency 
to put God afar off and confine man in a 
universe bereft of its Maker ; but this im- 
manence of God in nature is a worthier 
conception, more Scriptural and inspiring. 
The universe then, as we have seen, is in- 
telligible to us only because it is the product 
of intelligence. In this respect it has been 
compared to language. Language is only 
intelligible because it is the creation and 
embodiment of mind. A few years ago the 
cuneiform Assyrian characters were blind 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 23 

signs that only excited wonder as to what 
they might mean. By reason, however, of 
certain discoveries, and the use made of 
these by men of genius, patience, and skill, 
the signs became intelligible, and a long 
dead language awoke to life. But if these 
signs had not been originally the product 
of mind, no genius or skill in the world could 
have made them intelligible. So by the 
reason which it manifests the universe is 
intelligible to the human mind. And this 
discovery of reason at the root of all things 
is really man's discovery of God, a reason 
without and above him, and therefore claim- 
ing his obedience. 

The theory of evolution as modal and not 
causal, so far, then, from interfering with the 
argument from design and being and attri- 
butes of God, really strengthens it. "It," 
as one well puts it, "has supplied us with 
a standpoint which by transcending unifies 
the old ontological and cosmological argu- 
ments for the existence of Deity." The 
more intelligent the universe becomes to 
reason, the more assured are we that it 

24 Does Evolution dispense with God ? 

must be the product of reason. It is the 
last stage of the process that determines 
the first. Nature terminates in man, and 
in man there is nothing great but mind. 
To reach the process we must study nature 
at her work ; to reach the cause we must 
study the result not in its lower develop- 
ments, but as it stands expressed in him 
who is the crown and head of ' creation. 
There, and. there alone, can the cause be 
found. " Man is the key to the meaning 
of the universe, and to the nature of its 
Maker. He is the end the Creator had in 
view in making the world." 

You cannot express man's history in terms 
of matter, motion, and force. You cannot 
translate such terms as duty, conscience, 
religion, and responsibility into the speech 
of physics. If you cannot do this, then man 
as a moral being must be governed by moral 
laws, and this implies a supreme Being to 
whom obedience must be rendered. 

Existence as the subject of knowledge has 
been compared to a mine with three storeys, 
where the excavators work on three dis- 

Does Evolution dispense with God ? 25 

tinct levels into. the order of facts belonging 
to each. If they would confine themselves 
only to their own spheres, there would be 
no collision. But there is in the human 
mind a passion for unity, and so in all ages 
men have tried what will make a synthesis 
of the three. They have asserted either 
that mind is but a modification of matter or 
that matter is simply the outcome of mind. 
This unifying point is to be found not in the 
material but in the moral sphere, or rather 
in the supernatural as verified in the moral. 

We no longer look upon the Creator as 
a skilful artificer whose work was done when 
He constructed the world, but as the ever- 
present energy working through Nature. 
Full of energy as Nature is, she does not 
exist for herself. She is but the instrument 
of His purpose by whom and for whom all 
things were created. He is before all things, 
and by Him all things consist. 




THERE is a growing tendency to look upon 
the story in the second chapter of Genesis 
as legendary. Some writers identify the 
serpent with the malicious Ahriman of Per- 
sian mythology, who takes delight in spoil- 
ing the work of the good creator Ormuzd. 
This idea may be dismissed at once. The 
whole passage is cast in a simple archaic 
mould, and was certainly composed long 
before the Jews returned from Babylon, 
where they may be said to have come into 
contact with Zoroastrianism. As for similar 
legends among the primitive peoples of 
earth, they may be explained as variants 
of this. 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 27 

No doubt the story as we have it in 
Scripture presents many difficulties to the 
modern mind. These have been felt to be 
so great that many have surrendered the 
strict historical interpretation, and there is 
a growing disposition to seek the solution in 
some form or other of the mythical theory. 
Even so conservative a theologian as Pro- 
fessor Denny says, " The plain truth is that 
we do not know the beginnings of man's life, 
of his history, of his sin ; we do not know 
them historically on historical evidence." 

Without dwelling upon this, it may be 
asked whether the summary solution of a 
myth does any justice to a narrative which 
embodies profound truths peculiar to the 
religion of revelation ? It gives us what we 
can find nowhere else an account of the 
entrance of sin into our world, its origin in 
connection with the divine plan of redemp- 
tion. Kant calls attention to the fact that, 
even if we do not take it literally, it must 
be regarded as presenting a view of the 
beginning of the human race. 

The problem of evil has called forth man's 

28 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

bewilderment from the beginning. Ancient 
Greek and Hebrew thinkers were oppressed 
and saddened by the spectacle of prosperous 
wickedness. Voltaire and Goethe felt that 
their idea of God's justice was shaken by 
such a catastrophe as the earthquake at 
Lisbon. Is there a God? Then either He 
is not good, or if good, not powerful enough 
to prevent the evil. 

This latter was the theory of the late Mr 
J. S. Mill. Looking at things as they are 
in the world, he discovered so much good as 
might be made the basis of an argument for 
the existence of a benevolent deity. But 
along with this there was so much evil as to 
suggest the hypothesis that the beneficent 
purpose of the deity had been thwarted by 
some counter-working power. 

The Scripture represents man as in a state 
of original moral perfection, only that did 
not mean that he was temptation - proof, 
and the devil under the form of a serpent 
draws him aside from the straight path of 

Here we would refer to a somewhat re- 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 29 

markable corroboration of the Scripture by 
a modern writer in a book entitled 'Evil 
and Evolution ; or, An Attempt to turn the 
Light of Science on to the Ancient Mystery 
of Evil.' 

The author holds no brief for orthodoxy. 
He has no interest in theology as such. He 
accepts without reserve the theory of evolu- 
tion by the survival of the fittest, implying 
the destruction of the less fit, as true to the 
actual facts of the universe. 

The actual, however, is not to him the 
original ideal state of nature. Something 
must have gone wrong far back in the evol- 
utionary stage, and to the question whence 
came the disarrangement he frankly and 
without hesitation answers, " The devil." 

Then as a scientific man living in the 
close of the nineteenth century, aware that 
to many the idea of a devil is the exploded 
dogma of an obsolete theology, he apologises 
to his readers for reviving so antiquated a 
conception. And the essence of his apology 
is this, that such a conception alone makes 
the origin and nature of evil in any way 

30 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

intelligible, " that to eliminate Satan is to 
make the moral chaos around us more 
chaotic, the darkness more impenetrable, 
the great riddle of the universe more in- 
soluble, while retention of belief in his 
existence is the only condition upon which 
it is possible to believe in a beneficent God." 
The Creator, he says, works by means of 
law, Satan by producing flaws and failures 
in the established order of nature. And the 
picture he paints of what the world would 
have been had not this marrer entered to 
defile it is a very beautiful one. 

In this world, according to the mind of 
God, the struggle for existence would have 
had no place. Hence birds and beasts of 
prey would not have been evolved. Tigers 
and hyaenas, vultures, hawks, and sharks, 
ferrets and polecats, wasps, spiders, and puff- 
adders, would have been conspicuous by their 
absence. For, according to him, it is the 
struggle for existence that has produced 
birds and beasts of prey, and in all proba- 
bility it is the malignity of the struggle that 
has produced the venom of so many reptiles. 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 31 

And this ideal animal world has its coun- 
terpart in the human sphere. War would 
have been unknown, animals would not have 
been killed for food. It would have been a 
world where pain was practically unknown, 
man a perfect creature in a perfect environ- 
ment, thinking always right thoughts on 
questions of good and evil, innocent of evil 
tendencies, making progress but without sin, 
drawing his moral stimulus not from pain 
and sorrow but from pleasure and joy. In 
such a happy world death would not be 
unknown, but it would be like sleep to the 
tired labourer, or like the "fading of a 
flower, the dropping of a fruit in the late 
autumn ; the dying out of the light of day 
to the dreamy music of the birds and the 
babbling of the brooks." It would be as 
easy to die in such a world, as in a world 
of perfect health there is abundant reason 
to believe it would be to be born. 

Of course this is all very open to criticism. 
This author's conception is really a modern 
revival of Persian Zoroastrianism, an anti- 
god counter-working the beneficent purpose 

32 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

of the Creator rather than the Satan of 
Scripture, and his picture of what the world 
would have been had Satan not marred it 
partakes more of an Eastern sensuous par- 
adise than a moral world, but it is inter- 
esting not only as an independent corrobora- 
tion of the Scripture account, but as show- 
ing that, with the utmost desire to take an 
optimistic view of things, candid thinkers 
find dualism in some form unavoidable. 

The apostle Paul believes in Satan. No 
one can study his epistles without being 
struck with the intensity of his belief in one 
who in the universe is the persistent and 
malignant marrer of God's work. But this 
being has a much more restricted range than 
the Satan of modern dualism. According 
to the latter, the adversary begins his work 
almost at the dawn of creation, at the point 
where the principle of altruism first makes 
its appearance in the animal world, long 
before man, the crown of creation, appears. 

The Satan of Scripture, on the other hand, 
makes his first appearance in attempting to 
wreck the moral world, which had been 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 33 

made possible by man's advent. " The 
writer of Genesis conceives of the creation 
up to that point as good, no fault to be 
found in the inanimate or lower animate 
world, herein differing both from Plato, 
who imagined that even the primitive style 
was not free from fault, and from the author 
of ' Evil and Evolution/ who places Satanic 
activity far back in the history of creation." 

It is to be noted that the Genesis narra- 
tive does not touch the origin of sin itself; 
it only gives a representation, in a form 
natural to the early stages of human 
thought, of the entrance of sin into hu- 
manity. At the same time, it seems to us 
that it is quite possible to conserve the 
essence of the truth taught while granting 
that the details are thrown into a symbolic 
or parabolic form. Thus we have the fact 
of original innocence. Scientific study of 
the speculations arising out of it may seem 
to set aside the historical interpretation, but 
it is evident that no advance of scientific 
knowledge as distinguished from mere spec- 
ulation will ever be able to disprove that 

34 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

man may have stood at first in an excep- 
tional relation of happy fellowship with God, 
nor can any scientific discovery tell us what 
the spiritual possibilities of humanity orig- 
inally were. 

The account of Genesis stands by itself, 
shaped by the writer under the inspiration 
of the divine Spirit, and not conceived under 
the influence of legends common to the 
Hebrews and their heathen neighbours. 
What it teaches is, that man was created 
and began his career with such mental and 
moral endowments that he could justly be 
subjected to a decisive test of his virtue, 
that he had no bad characteristics, and was 
without bias to moral evil, but possessed 
the temperamentum cequale belonging to 
one who was about to pass out of the stage 
of unconscious innocence into that of moral 
struggle ; that God tested him by special 
prohibition, that he was tempted from with- 
out, and the consequence was the Fall, his 
free choice of one course of action when it 
would have been for his profit to have chosen 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 35 

Man is represented as placed by God in 
a position where he had free access to the 
means of life, only one restraint being put 
upon him. So long as he lived in obedience, 
his intercourse with God was uninterrupted. 

In man God's creative purpose reached a 
new stage viz., self-conscious being, which 
was the crown of all preceding development. 
The savage and turbulent passions, which 
assume one aspect in the mere animal, as- 
sume a totally different one when the crea- 
ture is endowed with moral perceptions. 
What in non-moral animals were the con- 
ditions of progress now become obstacles to 
progress. The very things which in a lower 
stage fostered life now prevent it. 

The Fall has been accounted for by say- 
ing " that the self-conscious will in man was 
newly born and feeble, while the other parts 
of his complex nature the animal appetites 
and passions were stronger in proportion, 
and the will succumbed before them, becom- 
ing their slave instead of their master." 
This is certainly not the idea presented to 
our minds in the Scripture account. In this 

36 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

case the result would have been a foregone 
conclusion, the choice a mere name and 
nothing more. 

If man's freedom of will was a reality, 
then we must assume that involved an 
" equipoise of flesh and spirit." Nor is this 
assumption irrational. " Can we believe it," 
as one writer says, "to have been according 
to God's will that man should carry over 
into association with his newly given ra- 
tional consciousness the wild impulses, which 
though formerly the means of development 
in the mere animal, would be the sure cause 
of his degradation and misery, that that 
which was normal before should be retained 
when it had become abnormal? Just as 
natural history shows that each species of 
the lower creation has conditions appointed 
for it that enable it to live a normal phys- 
ical life, so analogy would suggest that the 
human species was at first placed under such 
conditions as would enable it, subject to 
temptation, to live a normal moral life." 

The third chapter of Genesis gives us a 
striking picture of the nature of sin, and of 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 37 

its entrance into humanity, but we must not 
overstrain its statements or read more into 
them than they naturally convey. Nothing 
is said of man's holding an unnatural or 
supernatural position. On the contrary, the 
apostle says the first man was of the earth 
earthy. So the saying of South, " Aristotle 
was but the rubbish of an Adam," has no 
warrant from Scripture. All the record in 
Genesis bears is that man originally was in a 
state of innocence ; there is no ground for 
crediting him at the beginning of his career 
with advanced intellectual qualities. 

Even in his state of innocence we would 
imagine that he must have come gradually 
into possession of his powers. Potentially 
his from the outset, they became actually his 
only by experience of their use. The effect 
of his disobedience has not been to obliterate 
the intellectual attainments once his, or to 
make development no longer the law of his 
life, but to make the development, which 
under any conditions must have taken place, 
destitute of that harmony and completeness 
that would otherwise have belonged to it. 

38 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

Whatever moral perfection attached to 
man in his state of innocence, it must have 
been of an implicit character. The term 
childlike might be applied to that state, only 
that in the child as we know him there is an 
innate bias to evil which in man's state of 
innocence did not exist. His perfection was 
that of a nature morally sound, to which 
good was attractive and evil abhorrent. His 
act of disobedience, his surrender to tempta- 
tion, was wilful wrong-doing ; for the right- 
ness or wrongness of an act does not depend, 
it has been truly said, upon clear intellectual 
perception, but on the immediate verdict of 
the moral consciousness. 

Let us look at the content of moral con- 
sciousness as we have it now, and see how 
far the facts that here emerge tally with the 
narrative in Genesis. When a man gives 
way to temptation his conscience authorita- 
tively tells him that this is in no sense the 
expression of the divine will, however that 
will may overrule and control it ; that he has 
the responsibility for it himself, and in the 
doing of it has perverted his freewill. Be 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 39 

the temptation ever so strong, he feels that 
he is to blame and cannot acquit himself. 
Every sin emerges in human consciousness as 
an incident. It is something for which he is 
personally responsible, the voluntariness and 
the guilt of it are patent, but a little experi- 
ence shows that sin is something more than 
a chain of incidents. Human life is one 
whole, and actions, however separated and 
isolated they may seem, have their ante- 
cedents and consequents. 

If sin consisted only in separate acts there 
could be no moral character, either good or 
bad : character is the cumulative effect of 
such acts. And these acts affect a man's 
nature. His will even at the first is not 
natural, a power of choice which remains un- 
affected by the choice made ; on the contrary, 
it is coloured by the choice. The verdict 
of conscience in regard to one and all such 
acts is that, be the temptation what it may, 
for the surrender the man is himself to 
blame ; and reflection shows that each of 
these acts is not only an individual sin, but 
the evidence of a depraved nature, as a rock 

4O Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

cropping up on the mountain - side is not 
something by itself, but an evidence of the 
character of the underlying strata. 

The depraved nature has been inherited ; 
it is not the creation of past acts of evil in 
the man, though aggravated by these. The 
act shows far more than any intrinsic wrong- 
fulness that may attach to it, it is the 
symptom of a sinful corruption of nature 
much more serious than any single mani- 
festation, however heinous that may be. 
And it is found that this extends to the 
whole man, no part of his nature being 
exempt. The break-down at a single point 
has produced effects through the whole 
nature not the less real that they may for a 
time be beneath consciousness. 

Now, as this corruption, this moral taint, 
is universal, the presumption is that there 
was a condition in which man was in a 
different state, a condition of primitive 
innocence which by an act of will he for- 
feited, and so brought about this depravity 
of nature. But this bias to evil does not 
destroy his moral obligation. Man is still 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 41 

conscious that his will is free. Hence we 
are brought face to face with two jarring 
elements which we cannot reconcile the 
universal experience of the race that testifies 
to this evil bias, from which it appears in- 
evitable but that man must give way to sin, 
and yet at the same time the universal con- 
sciousness that always pronounces sin to be 
an evil and forbidden thing, and never in any 
case a necessity. The bias to evil is not a 
physical defect but a moral deflection, and 
this can only result from the perverted will 
of a free personality. 

The most natural way to account for it is 
just to accept the Scripture narrative, which 
testifies to a time when the moral taint did 
not exist in man, but which came about by 
the Fall, when in the exercise of his freewill 
man chose to disobey the divine command. 

What Christianity is concerned in main- 
taining is that sin is a, fall and evil in itself, 
however in the long-run it may be overruled 
for good. It is not the only means whereby 
man could have developed intellectually and 
morally. On the contrary, it has hindered 

42 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

his development. Had man not sinned and 
fallen, but followed the path of the divine 
will, in that case his development would 
have presented a steady and gradual 
spiritualising of his animal nature reaching 
on unto perfection. 

As we have said, it is not necessarv to 

' / 

credit man with the very highest intellectual 
and moral qualities in his innocence ; but, on 
the other hand, we have no right to infer 
that his being devoid of sin implies that he 
would go on with no more consciousness or 
volition than the deftly contrived machine 
that picks up raw material at one end and 
turns it out a finished product at the other. 
Was there no possibility of the production of 
character save through disobedience? Was 
the tasting of the forbidden fruit a necessity 
if man was to become a being of higher order 
than the beasts of the field? To put such 
questions is to answer them. 

It is argued that we cannot know any- 
thing except as contrasted with something 
else, through its opposite ; that if there were 
no colour but red it would be the same thing 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 43 

as if there were no colour at all. In a world 
of unqualified redness our state of mind in 
regard to colour would be precisely like our 
state of mind in the present world with 
regard to the pressure of the atmosphere if 
we were always to stay in one place. We 
are always bearing up against the burden of 
this deep aerial ocean, nearly fifteen pounds 
on every square inch of our bodies ; but until 
we get a chance to discriminate, as by climb- 
ing a mountain, we are quite unconscious of 
the heavy pressure. In the same way, if our 
ears were filled with one monotonous roar, as 
of Niagara, it would be the same as if there 
were no sound absolute silence. So it is 
argued that without knowing what was mor- 
ally evil it was impossible for man to know 
what was morally good. " Type needs anti- 
type. As night needs day, as shine needs 
shade, so good needs evil." The only con- 
clusion to all this is that evil was a con- 
stituent part of the universe from the begin- 
ning. If this be true, the Fall is a misnomer ; 
we ought to call it a Rise. 

Hegelianism maintains that the Fall, dis- 

44 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

obedience, was the only means by which the 
human spirit could arrive at conscious free- 
dom. This robs sin of its guilt by making it 
only relatively evil. We know now that it 
is God's will that man should advance to a 
condition of conscious and resolved obedience 
by wrestling with sin. Morality is possible 
to us through an alternative presented of 
leading better or worse lives. The part 
played by pain in the brute creation has 
its analogue in the part conscience plays in 
the human species. As pain preserves from 
physical danger, conscience keeps from moral 
wrong. To the mere love of life, which is 
the conservative force that keeps the whole 
animal world in existence, is added the 
stimulus of religion, the yearning after the 
higher life of the spirit. 

But to say that man in his state of in- 
nocence could not become moral and con- 
sciously obedient without the Fall is to 
make God contradict Himself. For what 
have we here ? Man, by the very act of dis- 
obedience which defies God's authority, is 
doing what nevertheless is indispensable to 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 45 

the fulfilment of the divine purpose. It is 
mere mental confusion to say that the ends 
of good would have been otherwise unat- 
tainable than by disobedience. Such a 
statement is not only at variance with the 
Christian idea of God ; it does violence to 
human experience, and practically abolishes 
sin as it exists for man's consciousness. 
Sin is felt to be an evil, a thing which 
ought not to be, whatever good results it 
may be overruled to elicit in ourselves and 

A recent writer (Dr W. W. Clarke) who 
is willing to surrender the historicity of the 
second chapter of Genesis says : "It may 
be true that abuse of freewill could not be 
shut out from a world of free beings, but 
this does not deny the guilt of such abuse ; 
for this is only to say that free beings could 
not be kept from doing wrong. It may be 
true that in a complex being made up of 
body and spirit, and rising from animal to 
spiritual life, conflict of higher and lower was 
unavoidable, and the lower was liable, or 
even certain, to prevail ; but this does not 

46 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

deny the guilt of the spirit in yielding to 
the lower element when once the strife had 
become conscious and intelligent. Theories 
relieving sin of guilt are easily produced, and 
in some moods we find them attractive ; the 
difficulty with them is that the deepest and 
abiding human judgment is against them. 
If sin is not different from a blameless 
disease or misfortune, we have no moral 

Allowing for the symbolic drapery in which 
it is presented, we submit that the state of 
innocence depicted in Genesis is a real state 
historically, and man by an act of perverted 
will fell from that state. 

It does not, however, follow, as Mr Gold- 
win Smith says, that with disbelief in the 
doctrine of a historical Fall disbelief in the 
Atonement must follow as a necessary con- 
sequence. The facts and verdicts of con- 
science are what they are, independent of 
any theories as to the entrance of sin into 
the world. Christianity is shut up to the 
affirmation that sin is not the only means 
of man's moral and intellectual development, 

Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 47 

that, on the contrary, it has hindered this. 
Any difficulties men have felt in regard to 
the serpent scene in Eden, or how satisfac- 
torily to conceive the possibility of man's 
being able to stand in his original state, do 
not affect the conviction of Christians that 
man as he is at present needs redemption, 
and that he can rise only in Christ. 

The story of the Fall, whether we take 
it literally or not, and we may grant that 
the great truths it sets forth are presented 
under a symbol, has a permanent value for 
all time, in showing that it is a total miscon- 
ception of sin to regard it as a necessary 
stage in man's moral development, that its 
essence and chief characteristic lie in the per- 
version of the will, a lapse from the path of 
true life for man as laid down by the divine 
Spirit. "In a word," says a recent writer, 
" it sets forth the ideal purpose of God con- 
cerning man as His child, and Christ's re- 
demption may be called a restoration, because 
it brings man back to the lines along which 
alone he could attain the end of his crea- 

48 Evolution and the Entrance of Evil. 

The mystery of evil still remains a mys- 
tery. In the inscrutable purpose of God sin 
was permitted to enter the human race, but 
it is evident that He has overruled it for a 
greater good. Though present now, it is not 
eternal and abiding, but evanescent. Even 
this harsh dissonance will be made to minis- 
ter to profounder harmony. Conscience re- 
volts against it, man struggles hard with it, 
its course is marked with sorrow and tears. 
But through the vicissitudes of his pilgrimage 
here, rising even by his faUs to higher levels, 
by this very discipline man is made meet for 
his inheritance, equipped for his final sojourn 

" In the blest kingdoms meek of joy and love." 



APART from the direct statements of Scrip- 
ture, we have reason to believe that the 
primitive state of the human race was not 
one of barbarism from which civilisation was 
slowly evolved. There is a curious instinct 
in man that leads him to put the best in 
the past. The first advocates for Reform 
in England did not base their arguments 
simply on the intrinsic rightness of their 
demands ; they declared that these things 
were to be found in the original Saxon con- 
stitution, they pled for them as lost rights. 
May not this instance have its origin in the 
almost universal tradition of a golden age 
from which men have lapsed. 


50 Degeneration. 

Countries in a barbarous state have de- 
rived their civilisation from other countries 
more highly favoured. Thus Egypt was 
civilised from the East, Greece from Egypt, 
Italy from Greece, just as to-day European 
civilisation is extending its influence over 
Africa and the islands of the Southern 

The oldest written and monumental 
records show that in the earliest periods 
of human history there were nations in a 
high state of civilisation. And the evidence 
of philology goes in the direction of estab- 
lishing the intimate relation of all the great 
branches of the human family and their 
origin from a common centre, the nucleus 
of the earliest civilisation. 

But perhaps the most convincing proof 
that man's original state was not that of 
barbarism is that we have no evidence that 
any savage nation ever rose by its own 
unaided efforts from a state of barbarism 
to one of civilisation. The uniform testi- 
mony of travellers is that savages are not 
only feeble in mental powers, but that they 

Degeneration. 5 1 

will not use their faculties unless pressed 
by want to do so. Under the pangs of 
hunger they will put themselves to more 
trouble digging for roots than would suffice 
for breaking up and planting a piece of 
ground that would supply them with sus- 
tenance for all the weeks of the year. From 
this it would appear that if left to a state 
of nature with his powers undeveloped, not 
drawn out by education, savage man never 
did and never can raise himself from that 

This being so, the question arises, Whence 
did civilisation first originate? and why is 
the whole world not peopled by savages to- 
day? This would doubtless have been the 
case if the human race had received no 
instruction from a higher Being, if it had 
managed to subsist at all. It is question- 
able, indeed, whether it would have been 
able even to subsist. The likelihood is that 
the first generation would have perished 
for lack of those rude and scanty appli- 
ances and knowledge which savages possess, 
and which, as Archbishop Whately says, 

52 Degeneration. 

probably did not originate with them (for 
savages never seem to discover or originate 
anything), but which are remnants retained 
from a more civilised state. What fruits 
or roots are wholesome and what poisonous, 
the art of making bows and arrows, the 
rude apparatus for hunting and fishing, of 
digging canoes with stone implements such 
as savages possess, men left untaught 
would probably all perish before they could 
acquire the absolutely indispensable know- 

For it should be noted that man left 
wholly to himself is far less fitted for sup- 
porting and taking care of himself than the 
beasts. He talks about the inferior animals, 
and yet in how many respects he is inferior 
to them. He cannot match the antelope 
in speed, the lion in strength, or the polar 
bear in the endurance of cold. 

The beasts are better provided by nature 
with tools for supporting themselves. In- 
stinct teaches a bird to build a nest, but 
man uninstructed does not build his house. 
Instinct prevents the beasts from taking 

Degeneration. 53 

poisonous herbs, but no instinct keeps the 
child, attracted by their brightness, from 
eating berries that may injure and even 
destroy him. It has been pointed out that 
almost all animals swim by nature, but 
man, falling accidentally into deep water, 
is drowned if he has not learned to swim. 
And to say the least, it is very doubtful 
if man, left wholly without instruction, 
would have survived at all, even in the 
condition of the lowest barbarism. At any 
rate, it is clear that unassisted he could 
never have risen above that state. 

These conclusions have been opposed by 
Sir John Lubbock in his book, 'The Origin 
of Civilisation and the Primitive Condition 
of Man.' He argues against the theory 
that any tribe has ever sunk from a higher 
to a lower condition, on the ground that 
there are certain facts so simple and useful 
that once known they could never be lost. 
So it might seem, but what is the fact ? 
Enamelling pottery was a lost art in Europe 
till it was rediscovered by the Florentine 
sculptor Lucca della Eobbia for Italy, and 

54 Degeneration. 

by Palissy for France. It is a perilous 
conclusion to come to that because an art 
does not exist now in a country, it never 
existed there. 

As an indication of progress among 
savages by the unaided exercise of their 
own faculties, Sir John instances the case 
of the Cherokee Indians, who have become 
agriculturists and possessors of cattle, en- 
tirely ignoring the fact that these are 
surrounded by civilised tribes who have 
been instructed by Christian missionaries in 
the useful arts. 

Again he cites the case of the Austral- 
ians, who formerly possessed canoes of 
birch-bark, which they have abandoned for 
others hollowed out of the trunk of a tree 
which they buy from the Malays. To us 
this would seem to prove the very opposite 
of that for which it is adduced. It evinces 
more skill to make a birch-bark canoe than 
a dug-out from a log of wood. His con- 
clusions seem to run counter to the teach- 
ings of history, and do not, as far as we 
can see, follow from the facts he adduces. 

Degeneration. 55 

It is easier for a man to sink than to 
rise, to lose what he has than to acquire 
what he has not. "There is no inherent 
necessity in society or in nature that man 
should progress from the savage to the 
civilised man; all progress must be bought 
by struggle, and must be preserved by 
struggle, lest in giving way to nature men 
fall back into the beast again. The law of 
historic progress describes, but does not pre- 
scribe, the course of human development." 

The conclusion that man, left untaught, 
would inevitably lapse into barbarism, is 
supported by many of the most renowned 
travellers and observers. Humboldt says : 
" The important question has not yet been 
resolved, whether the savage state is to be 
looked upon as the dawning of a society 
about to rise, or whether it is not rather 
the fading remains of one overthrown and 
shattered by overwhelming catastrophe. To 
me the latter seems to be nearer the truth 
than the former." Niebuhr is reported, in 
the published reminiscences of his conver- 
sation by a friend, to have strongly ex- 

56 Degeneration. 

pressed his conviction that all savages are 
the degenerate remnants of more civilised 
races, which have been overpowered by 
enemies and driven to take refuge in woods 
(hence the word silvaggio, savage), and 
there to wander, seeking a precarious sub- 
sistence, ;till they have forgotten most of 
the arts of settled life and sunk into a 
wild state. 

Accordingly we submit that the presence 
of man on the earth as a civilised being is 
a testimony not only to a divine Creator, 
but to a divine Instructor. Nature, as we 
have seen, has furnished the lower animals 
with many and powerful instincts to direct 
them in the choice of their food, but man 
without an instructor must have been the 
most forlorn of all creatures ; " cast out as 
an orphan of nature, naked and helpless, 
he must have perished before he could have 
learned to supply his most immediate and 
urgent wants." 

Genesis represents man as originally ex- 
isting, if not in a civilised state in the full 
acceptation of that term, in one certainly 

Degeneration. 57 

far removed from that of the savage. It 
represents him as beginning life, not in the 
direction the operation of his own faculties 
might suggest, but as receiving divine com- 
munication and instruction. From the. be- 
ginning there was diversity of labour; of 
the first two men born of woman, the one 
was a tiller of the ground, the other a 
keeper of sheep. 

In keeping with this picture in Genesis 
is the conception of the early Greeks as 
you find in Hesiod, whose 'Works and 
Days ' was written before Homer : 

"First the golden race of articulately speaking men 
The immortals made. 

They lived as gods, having a breast free from care, 
Wholly without toils and sorrow ; nor was wearisome old 

Present to them. 

As overcome with sleep they died. Excellent was all 

To this race ; fruit the nature - yielding land bore to 

Of its own accord in rich abundance, and willingly the 

Wrought their work here in peace." 

No countenance is given to man's original 

58 Degeneration. 

state as one of barbarism by the conceptions 
of Hesiod and Homer quite the contrary. 
Both presuppose a nobler past, which sheds 
its expiring light on their own age. 

Traditions of other nations point in the 
same direction. The Chinese tell of a primi- 
tive condition of " great harmony when man 
as yet dwelt in the midst of the animals 
upon an earth where all things grew spon- 
taneously, all fruits of themselves sprang 
out of the soil, where virtue was exercised 
without the aid of science, and man lived 
in innocence without feeling the incitements 
of the flesh." " Immoderate desire for 
knowledge first plunged man into sin." 
" After man was corrupt," says another 
legend, " the wild beasts, the birds, the 
insects, and the serpents waged war against 
him ; hardly had he attained knowledge 
before all the creatures became hostile to 
him; in a few hours the sky was changed, 
and man no longer saw the sun." 

It has been said that the existence of 
civilisation at all can be accounted for only 
on the supposition of its existence in its 

Degeneration. 59 

first degree from the creation. The exist- 
ence of savages is a proof of degeneration. 
Le Maistre says, " The present savages of 
all regions are the scattered ruins of a much 
higher original family of our race." We 
have already referred to the testimony of 
Niebuhr. He further declares "that no 
single example is to he adduced of a savage 
people which of its own accord has become 
civilised, and that when civilisation has been 
forced on such nations from without the 
complete disappearance of the tribe has 
been the result." 

Regarding Archbishop Whately's state- 
ment that utter savages never did, and 
never can, raise themselves to a higher 
condition, Professor Zoeckler, while admit- 
ting that as respects technical progress it 
needs some modification, goes on to say : 
" Abundant and solid as are the historic 
proofs to be adduced for the sinking of 
domiciliated peoples or semi-civilised nomadic 
tribes to the stage of wild hordes, subsisting 
by the produce of the chase or of fishing, not 
a single instance is to be observed of the 

60 Degeneration. 

opposite namely, the independent and un- 
constrained advance of wild tribes to the 
settled life of civilisation." 

Reasoning from the known, what we have 
before us is the indisputable fact that man 
is capable of degeneration. For the other 
hypothesis, that he is of himself capable of 
developing himself out of a state of savagery, 
not a single proof that will stand examina- 
tion has been adduced. 

The degeneration observable in the arts 
of industry and means of subsistence, charac- 
teristic of the savage state, is patent also 
in the sphere of religion. 

We have seen that in various savage races 
along with fetichism and worship of ancestral 
spirits there has always existed a belief in 
a supreme God, Maker of all things. He 
desires not sacrifices ; what is pleasing to 
Him is well-doing, the avoidance of false- 
hood, impurity, theft, and murder. 

There are two streams of religious thought, 
the one having its source in the conception 
of a supreme ethical being, eternal and om- 
nipotent ; the other having its source in the 

Degeneration. 6 1 

ghost theory : and as the blue Rhone is con- 
taminated by the union with it of the muddy 
Arve, the one stream may and does con- 
taminate the other. Of the two conceptions, 
it seems beyond doubt that the purer is the 
primal one. 

The polytheistic deities and departed 
spirits, hungry and requiring sometimes 
human sacrifice, are degenerate from such 
a conception as the Australian Daramulum, 
who " receives no sacrifice save that of men's 
lusts, who desires obedience, not food of 
kangaroos." The truth is, the religion of 
the once thought godless Australians and 
Andarnanese is higher even than that of 
such a cultivated people as the Greeks. 

How this degeneration has come about 
it is not difficult to see. A moral Creator 
who does not need gifts, who is to be served 
only by righteousness and will not help 
man to take advantage of his neighbour, 
will not favour one at the expense of another, 
who cannot be constrained by charms, is not 
at all to the liking of the average man. On 
the other hand, the ancestral spirit can be 

62 Degeneration. 

propitiated and bought over to his side. 
Once let this idea possess his mind, and it 
will be sure to oust that of a moral creator. 

Besides, to receive the unseen and the 
spiritual is a tax upon a man ; he would 
prefer something he can carry about with 
him like an image or a fetich. Meanwhile 
primitive and simple conditions of life gave 
place to the more complex, arts and crafts 
arose, and with, each new department there 
came the need for a new god. The gods be- 
came localised ; they had their temples and 
priesthood, whose self-interest was involved 
in their maintenance. The welfare of the 
State was thought to be bound up with 
their cult. 

In the Old Testament this process of de- 
generation is frequently exemplified. The 
Israelites were ever going a-whoring after 
other gods. The ethical unseen judge of 
men's actions, who was no respecter of 
persons, who could not be bribed, won over 
by greater gifts to another side, as Balak, 
son of Zippor, king of Moab, seems to have 
thought, was too lofty and spiritual for 

Degeneration. 63 

them : they preferred a god like that of 
their neighbours, whose image they could 
see, one dependent on offerings, venal, and 
capable of being bought over. 

St Paul is speaking of pagans when he 
says, "They did not like to retain God in 
their knowledge, and He gave them over 
to a reprobate mind." His terrible indict- 
ment of heathen depravity in the first 
chapter of his Epistle to the Romans finds 
its explanation in the aversion of the natural 
heart to God. The contrast between the 
idea of God mirrored in their conscience and 
their lives was so painful that they were 
glad to get rid of the idea. Idolatry was 
the means of escape they invented. Behind 
the pillars of their temples, and beneath the 
smoke of their sacrifices, they thought to 
hide themselves from the Omniscient One. 

There were two ways in which the original 
conception was got rid of. The one con- 
served the divine unity, but at the expense 
of His personality. It identified God with 
His works the pantheistic idea. The other 
conserved the divine personality, but at the 

64 Degeneration. 

expense of His unity, broke down the unity 
into gods many and lords many the ordinary 
polytheistic idea we find everywhere among 
savage races. Whenever there is the local- 
isation of a god, the tendency is to lose the 
idea of his universality. 

We can see the process of degeneration at 
work also in Israel. To Jonah, Jehovah was 
the God of Israel alone, and rather than 
preach to the Ninevites that by repentance 
they might taste of His mercy, he fled to 

Daramulum is not localised. His wor- 
shippers have neither house nor tabernacle, 
and so he has no temple. 

Dr Robertson Smith, in his 'Religion of 
the Semites/ asserts "that nomad Arabs could 
not assimilate the conception of a God as a 
landowner, and apply it to their own tribal 
deities, for the simple reason that in the 
desert private property in land was un- 
known." The Australian savages being in 
the same position, Daramulum could not be 
attached to a district. Under the Semites 
a god could be associated with a particular 

Degeneration. 65 

spot by sacrifice having been offered to him 
there. This, again, could not be the case 
with Daramulum, for no sacrifice is offered to 
him. The degeneration begins when God is 
localised, and instead of being universal, in- 
terested in all mankind, He becomes merely 
a deity attached to hill, or tree, or stream, 
worshipped only in the tribe that dwells in 
that district. 

Polytheism is, as we have seen, an escape 
from the conception of a supreme moral 
being. In early Greece aristocracy in 
politics produced an aristocracy of gods ; 
but the Australians, having no aristocracy, 
escape it, and so their god Daramulum, the 
Supreme Being of all their tribes, is on a far 
higher plane than the gods of the Greeks, 
far advanced beyond them in culture as they 

As Mr Andrew Lang says, "A god whose 
precepts soften the heart, who knows its 
secrets, who inculcates chastity, respect of 
age, unselfishness, who is not bound by con- 
ditions of space or place, who receives no 
blood of slaughtered man or beast, is a con- 


66 Degeneration. 

ception from which the ordinary polytheistic 
gods of infinitely more polite people are 
frankly degenerate." 

In missionary accounts of savage religions 
we have to guard against the bias that leads 
the writer to look for traces of a pure primi- 
tive tradition of God. At the same time, 
missionaries have often found a native name 
so nearly answering to their conception of 
God, that in teaching they have adopted both 
the name and the idea. On the other hand, 
savages have recognised the missionaries' 
account of God as somehow familiar to them. 
Livingstone, speaking of the Bakwain, says, 
" There is no necessity for beginning to tell 
even the most degraded of these people of 
the existence of God and of a future state, 
these facts being universally admitted." 
Intelligent men among them have scouted 
the idea of any of them ever having been 
without a tolerably clear conception of good 
and evil, God and the future state. 

According to Mr Lorimer Fison, the god of 
the Bure-tuhe, a tribe of Fijians on the Ha 
coast, was called Tiu Laga or Lord of 

Degeneration. 67 

Heaven. When the missionaries first went 
to convert this tribe, they found the heathen 
priest their staunch ally. He declared that 
they had come to preach the same God as he 
had been preaching, the Tiu Laga, and that 
more had been revealed to them than to him 
of the mysteries of this God. He was told 
of the saying of Sfc Paul at Athens, " Whom 
ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto 

We find traces of a Supreme Being among 
those utterly innocent of any missionary 
influence. Take the case of the ancient 
hymns of the Zunis in South America, com- 
posed long before Christianity was intro- 
duced, and ' chanted in presence of their 
Mexican masters. Here is a passage from 
one of them : " Before the beginning of the 
New Making Awonawilona, the Maker and 
Container of all the all Father solely 
had being. He who, in whom all things 
potentially existed, evolved all things by 
thinking himself outward into space." Now 
here is a god certainly not due to missionary 
influence, and equally unaccountable on the 

68 Degeneration. 

animistic theory. That in which all things 
potentially existed cannot be the ghost of a 
departed chief. 

How easily a pure religion may become 
degenerate we have already seen. Animism 
is more attractive, as it holds out the pros- 
pect of a god who can be exploited, thirled 
by bribes to a particular side, constrained by 
sacrifice and charms to do service : such a 
god, as we have seen, is more to man's liking 
than an unseen Creator, who, being moral 
and opposed to wrong-doing, is no respecter 
of persons, but holds the balance level. 

Ghost-gods, on the other hand, are to the 
savage a useful constituency. A fetich that 
he could carry with him in his wallet was 
sure to supplant in the long-run his regard 
for the Creator, in time regarding Him only 
as the head of this venal rabble of spirits to 
sacrifice to, as to them. Animism is capable 
of endless expansion. You can locate a 
spirit anywhere in a stone, a hill, a tree, or 
a person. On this principle you can assign a 
deity to any department of human activity. 

It is, however, to be noted that although 

Degeneration. 69 

animism was a degeneration from the idea 
of a moral Supreme Being, it is a neces- 
sary element in the evolution of the true 
idea of God. It only could supply the 
stimulus of a soul to be saved, and satisfy 
the advancing metaphysical instincts of 
mankind ; only it could provide the idea 
under which God could be envisaged by 
thought i.e., as a spirit. In the religion 
of the New Testament these two currents 
belief in a Supreme Being who makes for 
righteousness, and concern for the individual 
soul are combined and purified. 

" God is a Spirit, and they who worship 
Him must worship Him in spirit and in 
truth." Man also is a spirit, and falls 
into the hands of God, who is not to be 
propitiated by any sacrifice man can offer, 
who cannot drink the blood of bulls and 
goats, and can as little be pleased by any 
mere ritual. 

The Supreme God of the savage, whose 
dwelling-place is among the stars and not 
in any hill or house, seems to be a broken 
light of that " God that made the world 

70 Degeneration. 

and all things therein," and "seeing that 
He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth 
not in temples made with hands ; neither 
is worshipped with men's hands, as though 
He needed anything ; . . . and hath made 
of one blood all nations of men, . . . that 
they should seek the Lord, if haply they 
might feel after Him and find Him : 
though He be not far from every one of 
us : for in Him we live, and move, and 
have our being." 

Note. What has just been said about 
degeneration of religious belief receives 
remarkable confirmation from the mission- 
field to-day. Years ago a great sensation 
was caused by the discovery that Christian 
negroes of Hayti had relapsed into Voodob- 
ism. (The word voodoo is a Creole form 
of the French vaudois, and means witch or 
wizard : Voodooism is a peculiar form of 
witchcraft and serpent -worship.) To-day 
we have there a recrudescence of this 
abomination. Living in this beautiful 
island, one of the fairest of the Indies, 

Degeneration. 7 1 

they have long enjoyed self-government, 
and this is the result ! Their liberty has 
but led them into licence. The ritual of 
heathenism and the foul worship of the 
African forest are being performed in secret 
by crowds of nominal Christians. 

But other places besides Hayti are be- 
coming notorious. At the present moment 
Swaziland has been left to itself, with the 
result that we hear daily of the revival 
of witchcraft, the smelling out of miserable 
victims, the murder of defenceless people. 
Chiefs and people together have turned 
their land into a very Aceldama. The 
verdict of past history seems to be to the 
effect, unless kept up to the mark by 
others, the negro retrogrades very fast 
into the savage state. 



" IN the beginning God created the heavens 
and the earth." The importance of this 
announcement cannot be overrated. Did 
the world come into existence itself, or was 
it created ? Could matter of itself generate 
itself? If so, then matter is not only self- 
existent but self-originated, and the world 
or the ultimate development of matter would 
be a kind of god. 

Plato conceived of matter as existing in- 
dependently of God, a datum for the divine 
architect of the cosmos unalterable in its 
essential character, and thus in a measure 
intractable to divine power, so that with 
the best intentions God could not make the 
world absolutely good. 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 73 

But matter had a beginning. It did not 
originate itself; it was originated by one 
who Himself possessed all those powers which 
He bestowed on His creation. 

Pantheism, which makes nature God, and 
Dualism, which asserts that God and nature 
are two antagonistic principles, are equally 
ruled out by the announcement that in the 
beginning God created the heavens and earth. 
Their existence was not independent of Him, 
but according to His mind and will : as they 
had a beginning so they will have an end. 

It is difficult for us to think of God other- 
wise than as a Creator. We shrink from the 
thought of a self-originated world, but not 
from the conception of a self-existent God. 
It is a natural question which rises instinc- 
tively, Who made the world ? The question, 
Who made God ? does not occur to us : we 
recoil from asking it. Why ? " Because," 
says an able writer, " a self-existent God is 
a thought that explains itself, that is felt 
to be in harmony with our nature, though 
we are not self-existent yea, more because 
we are not self-existent ; but the thought 

74 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

of a self-originated world is one that cannot 
justify itself to our nature, because it is felt 
to be repugnant to nature." 

There are two records of nature the rec- 
ord of the rocks, the structure of the world, 
and the record of Scripture, which claims to 
be the Word of God. We should expect these 
two to agree, but as far as we can see now 
there is on the surface in some parts a pal- 
pable contradiction, and this has not been 
lessened but rather made the most of in the 
interest of certain preconceived opinions. 
We have no desire to attempt another re- 
construction where so many have failed. 

Our object is twofold. First, to examine 
briefly the record of the rocks, and note 
wherein it agrees with and differs from the 
record of Genesis ; and second, to inquire 
what the purpose of the Scripture record 
may be. Both records are very old. " That 
of Genesis is written," as a late professor of 
Hebrew said, " practically in a dead language. 
The meaning of many of the words cannot 
be fixed with precision. The significance of 
several fundamental phrases is at least little 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 75 

more than conjecture. Since it was penned 
men's minds have grown and changed. The 
very moulds of human thought have altered. 
It is hard to determine with even probability 
what is said, still harder to realise what was 

The physical record is older still. It is 
often almost illegible, its symbols difficult 
to decipher. Mistakes have been made in 
the past, and may be made again. Scientists 
differ among themselves as to its meaning. 
The record of the rocks is not a record of pro- 
cesses but of results. No doubt effects imply 
processes, but they do not put them clearly 
before the mind in their measure, manner, 
and origination. "You may," as one says, 
" dissect a great painting into its ultimate 
lines and elements, and from the canvas peel 
off the successive layers of colour and duly 
record their number and order, but when 
you have done this, you have not even 
touched the essential secret of its creation." 
Science is helpless as regards the question 
of origin that is beyond its ken ; and when 
dealing with what has been developed, its 

76 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

theories are little more than working hy- 
potheses that must always be told subject to 
revision, and if necessary to reconstruction. 
Turning to Genesis, it is generally con- 
cluded that the days must not be taken 
literally. That the writer was not thinking of 
actual days of twenty -four hours with a dawn- 
ing and a darkening is clear, if from nothing 
else, from the fact that he does not bring the 
sun into action till three days have elapsed, 
and further on he exhibits the sun as the 
work of one of them. The natural division of 
human toil is a day, and in Scripture lan- 
guage any great achievement is so designated. 
Thus we have the day of Midian, the day of 
Jezreel, the day of the Lord. 

The Scripture record opens with the be- 
ginning, a time when neither heaven nor 
earth existed save in the mind of the Eternal. 
We are brought face to face with a primeval 
chaos, a vast abyss formless and void, with 
darkness brooding over it, an inextricable 
confusion of fluid matter, the raw material out 
of which the universe was to be evolved. 

This stage precisely corresponds with that 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 77 

indicated by natural science, when "the 
earth, having not yet ceased to be a whirl 
of vapours, and before it became a shining 
sunlike ball with a photosphere, rolled 
through space a vast gaseous and misty 
mass, destitute of its present features, and 
incapable of being the abode of life." 

Over this vast abyss broods the Spirit of 
God, sending through its cold emptiness His 
life-giving warmth. This action is, however, 
only preparative the full result is attained, 
the work begins, when the Almighty Word 
breaks the silence with the personal fiat, 
"Let light be" ; then the work of reducing 
chaos to order and life commences. 

The result of the first day's work is the pro- 
duction of light. Science has dispelled the old 
difficulty as to the existence of light before 
the sun. Milton, with that poetic prescience 
(insight) which sometimes anticipates revela- 
tion of science, describes the earth as now 

" Sphered in a radiant cloud, for yet the sun was not." 

The theory of light as a mode of motion 
makes it independent of the sun. It is held 

78 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

to be an undulatory, incomprehensible ether, 
whose vibrations are so arranged as to give 
light with its prismatic colours, and heat 
with all its capabilities, and the still stranger 
actinic faculty which sets in motion all plant 
organisms, and so becomes the material source 
of life. It is wonderful that the writer should 
use language which will fit into our modern 
theory, though we do not say that this is due 
to any prescience on his part. 

The divine decree on the second day brings 
into existence the firmament. The idea is 
one common in the Old Testament, that of a 
dome or vaulted roof above which roll the 
primeval waters of chaos. Here the language 
is popular. It is not the modern notion of 
space filled by an interastral ether, though 
this also is not an ascertained fact, but simply 
the figment of th e scientific imagination. This 
firmament is not an end in itself but a step 
towards the making of our world by the pro- 
duction of the intervening aerial space be- 
tween the upper and lower expanse of waters. 
The result of the second day's work is the 
formation of the realm of ocean and air. 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 79 

The third day witnesses the greatest of all 
the physical changes, in the preparation of 
the dry land and the clothing it with vegeta- 
tion. These two, so distinct yet so closely 
related together, make up the habitable earth. 
Geology explains the appearance of the dry 
land. At the end of the second period the 
earth was left a solid crust supporting a 
universal ocean. As the mass of the globe 
cooled this would become too large for its 
shrunken size. It would be wrinkled into 
folds, presenting the appearance of ridge's of 
land with shallow ocean between. The old 
rocks show evidences of this. With this 
upheaval of the dry land began " volcanic 
phenomena " ; the metamorphosis of the 
rocks ; denuding actions of the rains, waves, 
and breakers on the land ; the deposit of the 
sedimentary strata in the sea ; the uneven 
thickening of the earth's shell ; the establish- 
ment of the great oceanic currents in short, 
all those ceaseless causes of change by which 
in the progress of geologic time our conti- 
nents have acquired their present form and 

8o Cosmogony and the Creator. 

The result of such changes we see in the 
variety of mountain and plain, hill and dale, 
rivers and sea, which the earth presents to 
us, fitting it to be the abode of the highest 
forms of life and beauty. This upheaval of 
the dry land is perhaps of all cosmological 
facts the most referred to in after-Scripture. 
This is what is meant, and not the whole 
globe, when it is described as upholden by 
God's power, laid on foundations and pillars 
above the waters. We have a poetical ren- 
dering of this portion of the work of creation 
in Psalm civ. 

The Scripture record goes on to state that 
on the same day that the land appeared 
above the waters it was clothed with vegeta- 
tion. Here we come upon the first discrep- 
ancy between the two records. Geologic 
science knows nothing of a vegetation pre- 
ceding by a whole period the introduction of 

An attempt has been made to get over the 
difficulty by supposing that these are the 
plants of the Devonian and Carboniferous 
periods. This, however, is a straining of 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 81 

the record, and overlooks the creation of the 
earlier animals. Besides, the vegetation here 
referred to is not simply grass, but the higher 
species of fruit-bearing plants. There is no 
evidence from the rocks, as we know them 
at present, for anything like this. The oldest 
rocks contain only the fossil remains of humble 
animals of the sea. 

Here primd facie the Biblical record does 
not seem to be in unison with the geological. 
Of course it is possible that an older plant- 
bearing formation may yet be discpvered. 
Vegetable life generally precedes animal life, 
as being that on which animal life is fed ; and 
the late Sir'G. W. Dawson held that there 
may be in this direction discoveries in store 
for geology, though from the highly meta- 
morphic condition of the oldest sediments it 
is possible that no remains may exist of the 
primeval vegetation. Meantime, however, 
there is a palpable discrepancy between the 
two records as regards their days' creation 

The fourth and fifth days witness the call- 
ing into existence of the celestial bodies, the 


82 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

sun, moon, and stars. Light, as we have 
seen, with its allied forces, was the work of 
the first, but the arrangements of the heavenly 
bodies in their relation to our earth are not 
specified till the fourth day. They are called 
luminaries, not constellations or masses of 
light. The Biblical account is not a scientific 
description of their place in the universe, but 
only their relation to humankind. They are 
adduced as evidences of the grand unity of 
nature in God, and in opposition to the almost 
universal tendency to worship the heavenly 
orbs and to assign divine attributes to them. 
According to Calvin, Moses, speaking to us 
by the Holy Spirit, did not treat of the 
heavenly luminaries as an astronomer, but 
as it became a theologian, having regard to 
us rather than to the stars. 

The sacred writer describes things as they 
appear, his language is not to be inter- 
preted scientifically ; and when he says God 
made the great lights and set them in 
the firmament, it would be doing gross 
violence to his language to insist that he 
meant to say that God first made the sun 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 83 

and moon and then put them in the heavens. 
It is clear that he is accounting for the 
phenomena of the sun and moon, and he 
declares that God put them there for a 
particular purpose viz., to minister to the 
daily life of man in his agriculture, navi- 
gation, and other operations and that from 
God their light was derived, they shine in 
obedience to His word and will. 

The fifth and sixth days have as their 
result the production of creatures that fly 
and swim i.e., birds and fishes. The lan- 
guage again is popular, and makes no attempt 
at scientific precision in the classification. 
The first animals are produced by the 
waters, not the shoreless expanse of the 
first day, but the sea in its depths, 
shallows, and estuaries, possibly freshwater 
lakes and rivers also. It is clear from the 
record of Genesis that the first animals 
belonged to the lower orders of the animal 

The term " creeping things " does not 
refer to their locomotion but to their repro- 
duction. " It implies their fecundity, and 

84 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

this again implies that low grade of organis- 
ation which admits of reproduction in its 
most prolific forms, since the lower and 
simpler types of animal life are those which 
can multiply in the greatest variety of ways 
and with the greatest rapidity." 

When it is said " God created great 
whales," the word should rather be rendered 
saurians, a generic term for reptiles of the 
larger sort, of which the crocodile is an 
example. The term " creation " is applied 
to these a term only once used, and that 
in the initial act at the beginning. One 
creative day is given to the introduction of 
invertebrate life, with that of the fish, the 
reptile, and the bird, while in the last 
creative day the herbivorous and carnivorous 
mammalia are introduced along with man. 

It is not till we come to the fifth and 
sixth days, when animal life appears, that 
we can properly bring the two records side 
by side and compare them. Of the earlier 
stages of creation geology knows nothing 
except by inference. Fossils are found in 
all geologic formations down to the lowest, 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 85 

the Laurentian, so named from its covering 
the whole country north of the St Lawrence 
river, and the reproduction of animal types 
to fewer and lower forms seems to point to 
this period as near to the introduction of life 
on the earth. 

Both records agree in this, that the 
general arrangements of inorganic nature 
were perfected before animals were intro- 
duced ; both agree in describing the earliest 
existence of animal life to the sea, which 
for ages seems to have been the only theatre 
of its development. This accords with the 
physiological fact that the conditions of 
animal life are easier in the sea than on 
land. Both records agree as to the orderly 
procession of life beginning in the lower 
forms and culminating in man. The sixth 
day witnesses his appearance along with the 
land animals. The animals are described as 
cattle i.e., domestic quadrupeds small 
creatures that creep and crawl, and the/ wild 
beasts of the field. 

When we look, however, at the classifica- 
tion, while on the whole the two records 

86 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

agree as to the rise in elaborateness of 
structure, the historical order of palaeontology 
and the physiological grouping of zoology 
are alike traversed by the Biblical account. 
The language again is popular, as best suited 
to its purpose, which is not scientific but 
religious. Man is represented as the crown 
and climax of creation, made in the likeness 
of God ; he is endowed with dominion over 
the creatures all things are put under his 
feet. With his creation the circle is com- 
plete, and the perfection of the whole is 
expressed in the declaration, " And God saw 
every thing that He had made, and, behold, 
it was very good." 

The creative energy of the six days is 
followed by the divine rest of the seventh. 
This, it has been well -said, accomplishes for 
our idea of God what the Sabbath does for 
our bodies and souls. On that day the 
weary toiler, whose back has been bowed 
in daily work, can lift himself up, assert 
his superiority to the secular and the 
mechanical, and give free play to the higher 
capacities of his being that have affinity to 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 87 

the divine. This repose of God is an em- 
phatic reminder that He is a free, unfettered, 
conscious Being whose personality is in no 
way entangled with His work. By this 
stroke, a masterpiece of inspired imagination, 
Scripture rescues the personality of the 
Creator from being merged in His work, 
thus presenting a marked contrast to other 
cosmogonies, where the creative process is 
represented as necessitarian or pantheistic, 
and personality invariably disappears in mere 

The record bears in its simplicity and 
sublimity the evident inspiration of the 
Spirit of God, and any likeness to it we 
find in other cosmogonies must be because 
they have borrowed from it, not it from 

Having thus compared the two records 
and noted wherein they agree and are at 
variance, we come to the question, For 
what purpose was the Scripture record 
given? There is a discrepancy between 
the geological record and that of Genesis 
which has not yet been removed. But the 

88 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

question arises, Was this order in Genesis 
ever intended to be physical? if not, the 
discrepancy only exists to those who so 
interpret it. The ruling thought of the 
writer may not have been time at all, but 
some other idea. His object may have 
been purely religious, and not to formulate 
a scientific theory. " There is a principle," 
says a writer on Genesis, " frequently in- 
sisted on, scarcely denied by any, yet 
recognised with sufficient clearness by few 
of the advocates of revelation, which if 
fully and practically recognised would have 
saved themselves much perplexity and 
vexation, and the cause they have at 
heart the disgrace with which it has been 
covered by the futile attempts that have 
been made through provisional and shifting 
interpretations to reconcile the Mosaic Gen- 
esis with the rapidly advancing strides of 
physical science. The principle referred to 
is this. Matters which are discoverable by 
human reason and the means of investiga- 
tion which God has put within the reach 
of man's faculties are not the proper sub- 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 89 

jects of divine revelation, and matters which 
do not concern morals or bear on man's 
spiritual relations towards God are not 
within the province of revealed religion." 

The Scripture writer's chief concern is to 
show creation as the operation of the divine 
will, not to set forth the order of nature, 
which man can find out for himself. Science 
will show him this ; but what science cannot 
do revelation does in this chapter links 
nature with the Creator. But revelation 
was not intended to forestall the discoveries 
of science these were in due time to yield 
to man's diligent study of God's works. 
Yet it was much it was indeed indispens- 
able that man should be supplied with 
a right view as to the relation of the 
creatures that surround him and the world 
of matter to God on the one hand, and to 
himself on the other, as the basis for further 

The revelation of God in nature has been 
grossly misunderstood by man in his natural 
state. Ancient philosophies and religions 
all proceed upon perverted ideas of the 

9O Cosmogony and the Creator. 

relation of creation and creatures to God, 
and this perversion in turn destroyed men's 
religious feelings and impressions. 

Consider how Israel was surrounded by 
nations, each of which had its own cos- 
mogony ! Diverse as these were, they all 
agreed in this, that they dishonoured God 
by ascribing to Him imperfection, and 
making a god to account for every effect 
they saw. What better protection against 
such views could there have been than this 
simple, clear, dignified narrative, which you 
have only to place beside the crude, gro- 
tesque, and degrading accounts alike to 
man and God in pagan cosmogonies in 
order to appreciate its sweetness, purity, 
and elevation? 

Take, for example, the Chaldean legend 
of the Creation of the World and the Fall 
of Man. It is impossible to doubt that 
there existed some relationship between 
them and the Scriptural account they 
have so many points of resemblance in com- 
mon. But if the resemblances are striking, 
so are the contrasts. The solemnity, chaste- 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 91 

ness, and reticence of Genesis stand out in 
vivid contrast to the mode of treatment of 
the same subjects in the legends. The 
writers may have been of the same race 
writing, it may be, at a period not far 
removed from one another but the Hebrew 
prophet is separated by a wide gulf from the 
Chaldean legend-monger. The difference in 
the two narratives is the difference between 
the diamond and the crystal. 

But it may be asked, How is it that the 
periods and procession which geology shows, 
and which are to us the most impressive 
glory in the universe, do not appear in the 
narrative if it be a divine record, to impress 
us with a sense of the wisdom and majesty 
of God's works ? The answer is, that the 
Scripture record was not intended to fore- 
stall the discoveries of science. The writer 
has an order of his own, though it may not 
agree with the physical, his object being not 
to anticipate geology but to reveal and en- 
force religious truth. His arrangement is 
literary and logical. To show the creator- 
ship of God, he passes in review the great 

92 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

elements that go to make the world of 
matter and creatures. 

" The stately succession of created things 
springing into being beneath the living 
breath of God," to quote the words of 
Richard Hutton ; " the evenings which see 
each fresh work accomplished, the mornings 
which see the next begun ; the orderly 
separation of earth and sky, of sea and 
land ; the growth of grass and trees ; the 
first circles of the sun, moon, and stars in 
the heavens ; the new-born seasons ; the cre- 
ation of living creatures ; the birth of man 
in God's image ; the gift of the suprem- 
acy into his hands ; and the divine sen- 
tence upon each new ' kind ' as it arises, 
and finally upon the whole, that it is 
good, are all so familiar to us that we 
are apt to overlook the characteristic 
thought contained, that each lower nature 
refers upward to the next above it, and 
the highest created nature to God ; the 
light to the heavens; the heavens to the 
sun, moon, and stars ; these to the earth ; 
the earth to the vegetable world, this again 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 93 

to the animal world above it ; this to man, 
who rules over it, and man to God." 1 

Of course no end, however important, 
would justify a. false and misleading 
account, and we may be very sure that 
the items in this are in themselves absol- 
utely true. It bears on the face of it the 
stamp of divine inspiration ; it speaks of 
things of which men in Mosaic times had 
no idea. Any information that science gives 
now, or will furnish in the future, can only 
touch the edge of this great deep, " God 
creating and arranging." And if it please 
God to reveal His relation to the creation 
in a way that will be for the religious well- 
being of men in all ages, it is manifest that 
it will be from a different point of view, 
and along a different line, than that on 
which geological science moves projected 
on a different plan, with a different array 
,of facts, than the record science finds in 
the rocks. 

1 The writer takes his own order, which, though it agrees 
not with the order of science, is the best adapted for his 

94 Cosmogony and the Creator. 

It is absurd to suppose that the account 
in this chapter of Genesis should speak in 
the language of present-day science, for that 
would have meant a premature reference to 
matters not yet discovered, and which it is 
not the province of revelation to discover, 
but which are left to man's own ingenuity 
and observation to find out. And a few 
years hence the language would be anti- 
quated, and the old objection would be 
brought up again, that the Scripture does 
not speak as if its Author knew what men 
had discovered. These things lie outside 
the scope of revelation. 

It is also to be noted that the order in 
this chapter is not always adhered to in 
Scripture. It appears under manifold vari- 
ations in Job, and in the Psalms and 

There are two things in creation, the 
cause and the effect : Scripture concerns 
itself with the cause, science with the 

Working thus on different plans, there 
need be 110 collision or contradiction. 

Cosmogony and the Creator. 95 

Where science finishes the tale revelation 
takes it up : this is its true function. It 
gives what science cannot give, what some 
of the wisest searching for half a lifetime 
have not discovered it links creation with 
the Creator. 

To conclude, in the words of the late 
Duke of Argyll, "The first chapter of 
Genesis stands alone among the traditions 
of mankind in the wonderful simplicity and 
grandeur of its words. Specially remarkable 
miraculous it really seems to me is that 
character of reserve which leaves open to 
reason all that reason may be able to 
maintain. The meaning of these words 
seems always to be a meaning ahead of 
science, not because it anticipates the 
results of science, but because it is inde- 
pendent of them, and runs, as it were, 
round the outer margin of all possible 

9 6 



THE theory most in favour at present that 
secures the largest following is that laid 
down by Dr Tylor in his masterly work 
on ' Primitive Culture,' and also e Anthro- 
pology, Animism, or the Ghost Theory/ 
According to this, man got the idea of soul 
from dreams, and the phenomena of sleep, 
trance, and death. Given the soul, the 
spirit, this, carried to its highest power, is 
God. From the nation of ghosts, says an- 
other writer of the same school, a belief has 
risen, but very gradually, in higher spirits, 
and eventually in a Highest Spirit, and 
keeping pace with the growth of this be- 

Idea of God among Primitive Peoples. 97 

lief, a habit of reverence for and worship 
of spirits. But how an eternal, creative, 
moral God, such as we find among even the 
lowest savages, was evolved out of ghosts 
or surviving souls of the dead, is not so 
clear at first sight, nor, as we shall en- 
deavour to show, does it square with known 

It might seem that the idea of God would 
improve in direct ratio to rising stages of 
culture. It is not, however, necessarily so, 
frequently the reverse. According to Mr 
Huxley, the alliance between religion and 
morality belongs almost or wholly to re- 
ligions above the savage level, not to the 
earlier and lower creeds ; and among the 
Australian savages, in its simplest con- 
dition, theology is wholly independent of 
ethics. But, as we shall see, such state- 
ments are not in accordance with the facts 
that have come to our knowledge. 

The problem is, how this animism or ghost 
theory can yield an ethical Being, a God 
who makes for righteousness. The savage 
looks upon the spirits of the dead as malig- 


The Origin of the Idea of God 

nant beings ready to do him hurt, with no 
kindly beneficent traits about them. The 
terrible terrifies, and there is nothing so 
paralysing to intellectual progress as terror. 
And how can man's loftiest ideals be evolved 
from his most dismal terrors ? Deified an- 
cestors may be regarded as kindly spirits, 
for each new generation among the Zulus 
has a new ancestor to worship. The father 
and his very name are soon forgotten. How, 
then, could a deified ancestor serve as Su- 
preme Being, and a man once known, though 
now forgotten, be taken for the Creator and 
Euler of the World ? 

We find the conception of a Creator where 
there is no ancestor -worship, according to 
Dr Tylor. As kings and chiefs are among 
men so are the great gods among lesser 
spirits. " With little exception, wherever 
a savage or barbaric system of religion is 
described thoroughly, great gods make their 
appearance in the spiritual world as dis- 
tinctly as chiefs in the human tribe." Yes, 
but whence the idea of supreme gods among 
Australian and Fuegian savages, who have no 

among Primitive Peoples. 99 

chiefs nor any distinction of rank among 
them ? God cannot be a reflection from 
human kings, where, as Mr Andrew Lang 
says, "there are no kings nor a president 
elected out of a polytheistic society of gods, 
where there is no polytheism nor an ideal 
first ancestor, where men do not worship 
their ancestors, while, again, the spirit of 
a man who died does not answer to the 
usual savage conception of the Creator." 

The theory of Dr Tylor demands so great 
ingenuity, such vigorous power of abstract 
reasoning, that we may well doubt whether 
this was the original process in the mind 
of the savage as he pondered on the phen- 
omena of sleep and death. He came by 
these to decide (1) that man has a life which 
leaves him partially in sleep and altogether 
at death ; (2) that man has also a phantom 
which appears to other people in dreams and 
visions. Then he combined the life and the 
phantom as manifestations of the same soul. 
The result would be a ghost-soul, conscious, 
capable of leaving the body yet invisible, 
impalpable yet existing, reappearing after 

ioo The Origin of the Idea of God 

death, able to act on the bodies of other men, 
beasts, or things. And thus the powerful 
ghost of a dead man lived on, and its original 
owner being forgotten, it became a god. 

Very good, but is not this reading into 
the mind of the savage modern processes 
of reasoning, taking it for granted that they 
move on the same psychical plane as our- 
selves, of whose mental condition and ex- 
perience we know no more than we know of 
the mental condition of the lower animals ? 

It has been too much the custom to make 
rash statements about there being no trace 
of any belief in God among certain savages. 
We shall see later on how high the concep- 
tion of God is among some of the very 
lowest ; but meantime let us consider the 
question whether these ghost-gods, fetiches, 
or totems were not altogether in another 
category, a later introduction, one having 
no connection with the Supreme Being. 

Take the case of Daramulum, the supreme 
deity of the Australians, deathless, omnis- 
cient, moral, and unpropitiated by sacrifice. 
How was such a conception evolved from 

among Primitive Peoples. 101 

the idea of the ghost of a dead warrior soon 
forgotten ? A ghost implies the previous 
death of its proprietor. It is the phantom 
of a dead man. But Daramulum and other 
supreme beings of savage faiths never die. 
Anthropologists tell us that savages have 
no idea of death as a universal ordinance. 
To them it is not a natural but an abnormal 
thing in the economy of the universe. It came 
through the operation of spirits and magici- 
ans. It came by an accident, the decision 
of a God who was before death was. The sin- 
less Being was - not envisaged as spirit; the 
question of spirit was not raised at all, as 
the Father in heaven was merely regarded 
as a deathless being. We speak of God as 
a Spirit, and we cannot think of Him other- 
wise, but this idea was not necessary to a 
primitive thinker who had not reached the 
conception of a ghost. 

Dr Brinton, in his 'Myths of the New 
World,' speaking of a heaven-god, says, " It 
came to pass that the idea of God was 
linked to the heavens long ere man asked 
himself, Are the heavens material and God 

IO2 The Origin of the Idea of God 

spiritual ? " Are we not, then, introducing 
animistic ideas into the conception, which 
originally had no existence there, when we 
call the Supreme Being of a savage spirit ? 

We have referred to Daramulum of the 
Australians, and the case here is so interest- 
ing that we may go a little into detail. Mr 
Huxley, as we have seen, has plainly chal- 
lenged the existence of any ethical God or 
any worship, properly so called, among low 
savage tribes. In its simplest condition, such 
as it may be met with in the Australian 
savages, theology, he declares, "is a mere 
belief in the existence, powers, and disposi- 
tions (usually malignant) of ghost - like 
entities who can be propitiated or scared 
away ; but no cult can properly be said to 
exist, and in this stage theology is wholly 
independent of ethics." 

Now, no statement could be more opposed 
to the real facts of the case than this. The 
Australians are confessedly in the lowest 
stage of civilisation. They have no fixed 
habitation ; they are not agricultural, and 

among Primitive Peoples. 103 

possess neither bone, metal, nor pottery. 
Their only weapon is the boomerang, a 
crescent -shaped stick with points hardened 
in the fire. With such a people it is evident 
that their religious ideas, such as they are, 
are their own, and not due to European 
influences. For long it was supposed that 
they were a people without gods, and it was 
only comparatively lately in connection with, 
the "Bord," their ancient and secret mys- 
teries, that the real truth came out. In 
their case, as in the case of other early races, 
their religion is quite distinct from their 
mythology. These tribal mysteries are quite 
beyond suspicion, for they were in existence 
long before missionaries appeared. Mr 
Howitt, who was initiated into their mys- 
teries, writes in his journal : " The supreme 
spirit, who is believed in by all the tribes 
here [South -Eastern Australia] either as a 
benevolent being, or dreaded as one who 
could severely punish the trespasses com- 
mitted against the tribal ordinances and 
customs, whose first institution is ascribed to 

IO4 The Origin of the Idea of God 

him, Daramulum, watches the youths from 
the skies, prompt to punish by disease or 
death the breach of his ordinances, moral or 
ritual. His name is too sacred to be spoken 
except in whispers. At the mysteries his 
name may be uttered, at other times he is 
Master or Father ; an omniscient Being, he 
punishes or rewards the conduct. He is the 
maker of all things. His abode is in the 
heavens. Their worship is that of the heart 
expressed in moral conduct, such as respect 
for old age, avoidance of selfishness and 
greed, abstinence from unlawful love, an 
ethical ideal appearing rather above the 
ordinary standard of practice." 

Such facts, for which other authorities 
besides Mr Howitt could be cited, plainly 
contradict Mr Huxley's dictum. The moral 
code, such as is implied by public opinion, 
draws no sanction from theological dogmas. 
It rests for its origin and sanction on such 

When we turn to Africa we find traces of 
belief in an all - powerful Supreme Being. 
Writing of the Gold Coast, Mr Kemp says : 

among Primitive Peoples. 105 

"Above and beyond the polytheism which 
everywhere prevails among pagans, there is 
the acknowledgment of a Supreme Being 
who controls the affairs of the universe. The 
name given to this Being is Nyankupon (the 
great friend), otherwise Otcherampare (the 
never-failing one), the literal idea being that 
of leaning against some stupendous object 
which never yields, as the rock never yields 
from under the limpet." Sir Samuel Baker 
declares the Dinkass of the Upper Nile pay a 
kind of homage to the all-powerful Being 
dwelling in heaven, whence he sees all 
things. He is called Dendid (great rain) 
that is, universal benediction. He is 
omnipotent. They use this chant : 

"At the beginning, Dendid made all things. 

He created the sun. 

And the sun is born and dies and conies again ! 

He created the stars. 

And the stars are born and die and come again ! 

He created man. 

And man is born and dies and returns no more ! " 

Among the Yaos in the South - East 
Central Africa, there is a being, M'lunga, 

io6 The Origin of the Idea of God 

who resembles the Daramulum of the Aus- 
tralian aborigines. He is said to be the 
great spirit of all men, a spirit formed by 
adding all the departed spirits together. In 
the world beyond the grave he is represented 
as assigning to spirits their proper .place, 
whether for ethical reasons or not we are not 
informed. From Mr Duff Macdonald's report 
we gather that these people, the Yao, believe 
in an eternal being, maker of mountains and 
rivers, existent before man, not liable to 
death, which came late among them. 

Mungo Park, who in his travels had good 
opportunities of studying the religions of the 
natives, says, "I have conversed with all 
ranks and conditions on the subject of their 
faith, and can pronounce without the shadow 
of a doubt that belief in one God and in a 
future state of rewards and punishments is 
entire and universal among them." It is not 
often that the negroes make their religious 
opinions the subject of conversation : when 
interrogated in particular concerning their 
ideas of a future state they express them- 
selves with great reverence, but endeavour to 

among Primitive Peoples. 107 

shorten the discussion by saying no man 
knows anything about it. 

To quote the experience of a more recent 
writer. Mr Samuelson, the Under - Secre- 
tary for Native Affairs in Natal, in the 
course of a recent address answered many 
questions that occur to those at work among 
the natives there. Have the Zulus any idea 
of a God ? Does any thought of Him occupy 
their minds or come into their lives? The 
following remarks will answer these ques- 
tions. God is a Supreme and Almighty 
Being, known more by name than recognised 
as reality. He is spoken of as Ukulunkular, 
the great great one. He is also referred to 
as Une Yelinggagi, the one who appeared 
at the beginning ; Somandltia, the Father 
of power ; Um Dali, the Creator. 

He is recognised in a certain measure as 
the rewarder of good deeds, and as one who 
visits with punishment the evil-doer. Al- 
though he is admitted to be the maintainer 
and sustainer of all things, he is nevertheless 
regarded as a God afar off and not near at 
hand. Natives admit that there must con- 

io8 The Origin of the Idea of God 

sequently be a designer. Their arguments 
are akin to those of Cicero in his book, ' De 
Natura Deorum ' : "If this beautiful world, 
with all its rich variety of form, originated 
in an accidental combination of bodies, with- 
out any divine intelligence, why should not 
we say that accidental mixture of the letters 
of the alphabet produce verse, or artistic 
buildings arise by a fortuitous concurrence 
of atoms?" 

The following questions, which have been 
asked by natives, will exemplify their 
thoughts in this respect : " The waters are 
never weary ; they know no other law than 
to flow without ceasing from morning till 
night and from night to morning, and who 
makes them flow thus? The clouds also 
come and go and give rain to the earth. 
Whence come they ? Who sends them ? 
The rain-doctors do not give us the rain, 
for how could they do it? Why do not 
people see them when they go up to heaven 
to fetch it ? The wind cannot be seen, but 
what is it? Who brings it and makes it 
blow ? Do we know how the corn sprouts ? 

among Primitive Peoples. 109 

One day there is not a blade in the field; 
go the following day to the field and you 
will find some. Who has given the earth 
the wisdom and power to produce it ? 

This idea of a Supreme God with ethical 
attributes among the African peoples is so 
extensively spread that it has been ex- 
plained on the theory of its being a loan 
god borrowed from the Europeans. This is 
the opinion of Major Ellis in his book, 
' The People of the Gold Coast/ He men- 
tions that when Europeans reached it in 
the fifteenth century they found a northern 
Tance and a southern god, Bobowissi, still 
adored; but after an intercourse of some 
years with Europeans the villagers nearest 
European settlements added to their system 
a new deity, whom they termed Nanu 
Nyankupon. This was the God of the 
Christians, borrowed from them and adopted 
under a new designation, meaning " Lord of 
the Sky." A more recent authority, Mr 
Kemp, as we have seen, translates it differ- 
ently as the Great Friend. 

Before we accept this theory two questions 

no The Origin of the Idea of God 

would need to be answered. How came it 
to pass that a god picked up from contact 
with the Portuguese became widely known 
through these impenetrable forests? An 
isolated people take from Europeans a new 
god, not under priestly influence, but, in 
direct opposition to this, a god who, 
spreading, becomes universally known ! Is 
this at all likely? 

The second question is, How comes it that 
this new god is unpropitiated ? Presumably 
the natives adopt him because their superi- 
ority proved that the Europeans were pro- 
tected by a deity of much greater power 
than any to whom they offered sacrifice. 
Then, as more powerful, the new god should 
receive their best sacrifices ! But how stands 
the fact ? Nyankupon had no priest and 
received no sacrifice. Is it again likely that 
an immense extent of country should adopt 
a new god and leave him unhonoured? 
One tribe of Fuegians near Magellan Straits 
worshipped an image called Christo picked 
up from a Spanish captain who visited the 
district. They took both effigy and name. 

*/ Oi/ 

among Primitive Peoples. 1 1 1 

But these peoples of the Gold Coast took 
neither effigy nor name from the Portuguese. 
They neither imitated Catholic rites nor 
adopted their own ; they prayed not nor 
sacrificed to the new Nyankupon. 

The solution is improbable and inadequate 
to explain the facts of the case. Here again 
the problem meets us, How can such a 
being be explained on the ghost theory? 
Mr Kemp says that while acknowledging 
Nyankupon, they worship the spirits of the 
departed together with the images which 
their priests consecrate for their homage, 
and in which the spirits of the dead are 
supposed to reside. There are deities for 
particular houses and others for a whole 
town. But how are we to evoke, out of 
a crowd of hungry ghosts needing to be 
fed and propitiated by an offering, a supreme 
being who has no priest and no sacrifice ? 

Among the Andamanese there is no 
ancestor-worship. They used to be called 
the godless Andamanese, but, as in the 
case of the Australians, this was only be- 
cause they had been glanced at superficially. 

H2 The Origin of the Idea of God 

A closer examination on the spot by Mr 
Mann, who knows their language and lived 
with them, tells quite another tale. They 
have an absurd mythology like the Aus- 
tralians, but, like them, a highly ethical 
religion. This is not due to missionary in- 
fluence, as Mr Mann has been their visitor, 
and they have no tradition of any other. 
Their god Pulugu is invisible. Fire is his 
symbol. He is immortal. By him were all 
things created except the powers of the 
soul. He is angry at wrong-doing, falsehood, 
theft, murder, and adultery. To those in 
pain or distress he is pitiful, and sometimes 
deigns to afford relief. He is the Judge of 
Souls, and the dread of future punishment 
to some extent is said to affect their course 
of action in this present life. Mr Mann 
gathered this from one of the elders of the 
tribe well instructed in their religion. Here 
again we ask, How could such a being be 
evolved from ancestor-worship where ances- 
tral spirits are not worshipped ? 

In such investigations it cannot be kept 
too prominently before the mind that re- 

among Primitive Peoples. 113 

ligion is one thing and popular mythology 
another. There are the two currents flow- 
ing, and possibly anthropology has been too 
much concerned with the impure stream, full 
of magic mummery and ghost propitiation. 
There is no difficulty whatever in getting 
savages to speak of their superstitions and 
mythological ideas. That side has no 
sacredness for them, and if we study it 
we shall come away with an altogether 
false impression as to the real state of the 
case. As well might a foreigner describe 
our religion from superstitions and practices 
still existing among the remote peasantry. 

This has been well put by Prof. Lewis 
Campbell in his ' Religion in Greek Litera- 
ture.' " Suppose," he says, " that a stranger 
in describing Scottish religion were to say 
that our temples open generally to the west, 
though with less precision than that ob- 
served in some other lands ; that we have 
abjured hero - worship, but still keep the 
vigil of the day that was formerly sacred 
to all heroes, and that on this occasion 
certain rites of divination are maintained, 


H4 The Origin of the Idea of God 

such as that of burning hazel-nuts upon the 
open hearthstone, and of dipping a garment 
in a stream and looking backward, with 
other strange observances which are de- 
scribed by the poet of the nation ; that 
horse - shoes are hung outside doors as a 
protection against evil spirits or the evil 
eye ; that offerings are made at sacred 
wells to which the sick and infirm are 
carried for miraculous cures ; that in some 
districts if a pig is met with in the road 
the person who encounters it must immedi- 
ately touch cold iron ; that on the vigil 
preceding the first day of the year, a time 
sacred to a local Bacchus whom the in- 
habitants call John Barleycorn, a custom 
has been introduced from over - seas, of 
lighting up a pine-tree on which offerings 
are suspended, and round which the children 
move (that this remnant of tree - worship 
should have come from abroad is more 
remarkable), would this be an adequate 
description of Scottish religion ? " 

These things are not the influences that 
mould the home and purify to a certain 

among Primitive Peoples. 115 

degree our national life. These things are 
mythology, presenting an interesting field 
to a student of folk-lore, but they are not 
religion. They form, as Prof. Campbell 
says, the leaf -mould which surrounds the 
trunk, but have little to do either with 
the deeper roots or the spreading branches. 
In the case of the savage nations, such as 
we have been considering, the contrast is 
not so sharp, but there it is, and failure 
to note it will lead to an entirely false 
view of the situation. Students of anthro- 
pology admit that even the lowest forms 
of fetichism are based upon, and spring 
out of, a recognition by the human spirit 
of a power and presence above man and 
nature, and that the existence of crude 
conceptions or superstitious practices in the 
midst of a certain age does not by any 
means give the key to the understanding 
of that whole age. And to us it is as 
plain as anything can or will be, that 
these savages lowest in the scale of civil- 
isation could never, even where ancestral 
worship exists and fetichism prevails, have 

n6 Idea of God among Primitive Peoples. 

come by these things to the conception of 
a supreme ethical Being who made all 
things. As an account of the origin of 
the idea of God animism seems to be a 




THESE theories are as many as the different 
theories of the origin of religion. 

Toteraists and animists will see in Jeho- 
vah a developed ghost-god, or a derivative 
from the worship of bulls and the golden 
calf; while those who find the origin of 
religion in the worship of natural forces 
will see in Him the Thunderer whose 
emblem was the fire on Sinai. 

As an example of the animistic theory we 
may take the assertion of Mr Huxley : " For 
my part I see no reason to doubt that, 
like the rest of the world, the Israelites 
had passed through a period of mere ghost- 
worship, and had advanced through ancestor- 

n8 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

worship and fetichism and totemism to the 
theological level at which we find them." 

The proof of this which he advances is, 
however, of the most unsatisfactory descrip- 
tion. He finds a reference to ancestor- 
worship in the passage in Deuteronomy, 
" Of all the hallowed things I have not 
given ought for the dead" i.e., of the 
tithes dedicated to the Levites and the 
poor. If this be a reference to ancestor- 
worship picked up in Egypt, where the 
ghosts of the departed were religiously fed, 
it is a condemnation of such a practice, 
and one fails to see how the God who for- 
bids can be evolved from the very thing 
He warns them against. 

Again Mr Huxley finds that the Fifth 
Commandment as it stands would be an 
excellent compromise between ancestor-wor- 
ship and monotheism, a most fitting reason 
surely for a command that has its roots in 
nature. He thinks further that the ark 
of the covenant may be a relic of ancestor- 
worship. Conscious of the weakness of his 
proof, however, he falls back on the sup- 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 119 

position that all references to ancestor- 
worship in Scripture have been deliberately 
obliterated by late monotheistic editors. 
And yet other deviations from the pre- 
scribed mode of worship are held up to 
reprobation : why should this, if it existed, 
have been passed over? We may depend 
on it, that if such a thing as ancestor- 
worship existed, it would have been held 
up to condemnation by the prophets. 

Mr Herbert Spencer argues in the same 
line, but to as little purpose. He practically 
gives away his case at the beginning by 
the admission that nomadic habits are un- 
favourable to the evolution of the ghost- 
theory. He endeavours to find in the 
regulations against self-mutilation an argu- 
ment for his theory. In Jeremiah we read, 
" Neither shall men lament for them, nor 
cut themselves, nor make themselves bald 
for them ; neither shall men tear them- 
selves for them in mourning, to comfort 
them for the dead ; neither shall men give 
them the cup of consolation to drink for 
their father or for their mother." And in 

I2O Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

Deuteronomy we have the command, "Ye 
shall not make any cuttings in your flesh 
for the dead, nor print any marks upon 
you." But what, we ask, has all this to 
do with sacrifices to the ghosts of the 
departed? These are simply conformable 
to the oriental custom, ways of showing 
grief, tokens of sorrow, that have for the 
time being swallowed up all regard for 
personal appearance. The cuttings and 
mutilations may be intended to dull grief 
by the counter-irritant of bodily pain. 

Even the passage cited from Psalm cvi. 28 
" They joined themselves unto Baal-peor 
and ate the sacrifices of the dead " may not 
mean anything more than acquiescence in 
foreign burial rites. 

There is a reference in Deuteronomy which 
might with some plausibility have been quoted 
as a proof of ancestor- worship, but then it is 
introduced only as a disclaimer on the part 
of the offerer. He makes a solemn vow 
in presenting his offering of first-fruits : "I 
have not eaten thereof in my mourning, 
. . . nor given ought thereof for the dead : 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 121 

but I have hearkened to the voice of the 
Lord my God, and have done according to 
all that Thou hast commanded me." 

In a popular manual entitled 'A Short 
Introduction to History of Ancient Israel/ 
the author, Mr Oxford, finds a proof of 
ancestor -worship in David's excuse to Saul 
for his absence, that he had gone to the 
family sacrifice. But was the sacrifice to the 
ancestral ghost ? His second proof collapses 
because it is founded on the baseless assertion 
that the chief of the tribe was the priest 
of the cult. For Micah, in Judges, the 
illustration he cites, was not the chief of 
Ephraim ; he was not even priest hi his own 
house. He consecrated one of his own sons 
to be priest till he got hold of a wandering 
Levite, to whom he said, "Be unto me a 
father and a priest," for ten shekels a-year, a 
suit of clothes, and his victuals. Again we 
ask, What is there in all this as to a chief 
being priest of his ancestral ghosts in the 
fact that a band of marauding Danites seized 
a Levite and some household idols (teraphim) 
Micah had made ? 

122 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

We should have said that Mr Huxley finds 
in the story of the witch of Endor, which he 
regards as a true statement of what occurred, 
a proof of ancestor-worship. The witch cries 
out, " lace Elohim ! " This Elohim he takes 
to be the ghost of the dead seer. But the 
word is used in a very vague, indeterminate 
sense, meaning something supernatural. Even 
supposing you translate it as " gods," the idea 
is simply the awful appearance of Samuel in 
his venerable majesty, and it is surely a pre- 
carious thing to find in this natural epithet in 
the circumstances any reference to a ghost- 

Stade, the German critic, cites the story of 
Micah to prove that the different tribes in 
Israel had different religions ; but the mere 
fact that the Danites asked the Levite 
whether it was not much better to be a 
priest to a tribe than an individual, rather 
goes to prove that their religion was the 
same, while they were willing to pay him 
better for his services. 

Whence came the moral element in Je- 
hovah that presents such a contrast to the 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 123 

deities of the nations ? Mr Huxley thinks it 
was derived from Egypt. No doubt in the 
Egyptian Book of the Dead we have the 
ghost of the departed telling his judges in 
Amenti what sins he has not committed, and 
many of these are forbidden in the Ten Com- 
mandments. But these morals are so simple 
in character, written as they are on the 
natural conscience, that the cult of Jehovah 
had surely no need to go for them to the 
Egyptian Book of the Dead. Besides, these 
are but as grains of wheat in a mass of chaff, 
minute regulations in regard to the body, the 
ritual of the ghost, animistic things for which 
Israel cared little and brought nothing out of 
the land of Egypt. 

The Israelites may have borrowed some- 
thing from Egypt in regard to the externals 
of their worship. The white linen dresses of 
the priests may have been modelled on the 
white robes of sacred state in which Joseph 
was arrayed. The form of the ark borne by 
the Levites may have had its prototype in 
that we see on the Egyptian monuments. 
But this, supposing it to be true, only re- 

124 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

gards the outward ritual : we may be very 
sure that Israel was not indebted to Egypt 
for anything of doctrine. Certainly it was 
not from thence that the moral element in 
Jehovah was derived. It was not a new 
thing, it did not come with Moses' revelation 
of Jehovah, it was known to their ancestors 
before any of them set a foot in Egypt. So 
much for the derivation of Jehovah from a 

Those who find the origin of the Jehovistic 
cult in natural religion connect the word 
with a root, " to fall down " in its transitive 
form, " to cast down." Thus Jehovah would 
be the Destroyer, the Being who casts the 
thunderbolt to the earth. But if this were 
the case, why should such a title be selected 
as giving a new and higher name ? 

The patriarchal stage had run its course 
when the names of God, Elami, Shaddai, 
embodied the simple ideas of strength and 
power. Is the title of Thunderer any higher 
than these? When Moses proclaimed this 
name to Israel, while it was new, the God 
whose name it was was not new. " The God 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 125 

of our fathers," he said, " hath appeared to 
me, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," 
only assuming a new name to mark a new 
and more signal deliverance. 

The critics of the modern school represent 
the Jehovah of pre-prophetic times as a Being 
of power rather than of moral greatness, a 
nature -God rather than a God of nature. 
But if this be so, what distinguishes the 
worship of Jehovah from the religions of 
surrounding nations? 

Stade finds one distinguishing element 
was His jealousy of the worship of other 
gods. His power as at first conceived was 
a terrifying attribute, the God of the storm, 
and it takes time before the idea can be 
reached that this divine power may be ex- 
ercised on the side of good. His holiness 
was merely jealousy of His honour, so that 
He might have due reverence. For illustra- 
tion he refers to what befell the people of 
Bethshemesh when they looked into the ark, 
and Uzziah, who touched what was the sym- 
bol of the divine presence. 

This representation of Jehovah gradually 

126 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

assumed a kindlier aspect, from the fact 
that He will use His power to defend His 
people. The counterpart of His faithfulness 
to Israel is His anger against Israel's foes. 
" The distinguishing thought," he continues, 
" that made the religion of Jehovah different 
from that of the other members of the Semitic 
family can only have been that Jehovah was 
the only God of Israel, and therefore His 
worship excluded that of all other gods. Had 
not this idea been firmly held from the be- 
ginning, considering the temptations that lay 
on every side to polytheistic views from the 
time the tribes entered Canaan, the result 
could not have been the view of Jehovistic 
unity that came to prevail. It goes back for 
initiation to the Founder of the religion. 
This much is due to the work and thought 
of Moses." 

We fail to see that all this is any ex- 
planation whatever of the distinguishing 
mark of the cult of Jehovah The writers 
of this school are always maintaining that 
Jehovah is the God of Israel, as Chemosh 
was the god of Moab, as Moloch of Ammon. 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 127 

It was a common belief that the national 
god would follow his worshippers and de- 
fend them in strange lands. What Stade 
makes the distinguishing thing about the 
worship of Jehovah was a common belief 
among the surrounding nations, and critics 
of his own school point to an obscure passage 
in the Book of Kings, where Mesha, King 
of Moab, sacrifices his own son to appease 
the jealousy of the god of the Moabites. 
In this contention he practically gives away 
his case for the Jehovistic religion being at 
the beginning nature- worship. He has no 
answer to the question how a mere nature- 
god was adopted by Israel and made from 
the beginning contrary to what obtains 
where nature-gods are worshipped, the sole 
object of regard, except that Jehovah from 
the first was so worshipped. But this pre- 
eminence must have been because of some 
distinguishing mark, owing to the presence 
of a higher element than he ascribes to Him, 
its basis must have been ethical. 

M. Benan would explain the unique posi- 
tion Jehovah holds by what he calls the 

128 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

monotheistic instinct of the Semitic nations. 
We quite understand the term instinct when 
applied to the animal creation ; but it seems 
a misuse of the term to apply it to the 
conscious thoughts of conscious beings. It 
is the use of a word to avoid a definition. 
And can there be any instinct without an 
instigator ? Who was it that prompted the 
Semitic mind to worship only one God ? As 
the late Max - Miiller says, " Could the 
monotheistic instinct of the Semitic race, 
if an instinct, have been so frequently ob- 
scured, or the polytheistic instinct of the 
Aryan race, if an instinct, so completely 
annihilated as to allow the Jews to worship 
on all the high places about Jerusalem, and 
the Greeks and Romans to become believers 
in Christ? The only true explanation of 
the unique position Jehovah occupied among 
the Jews is, that His place there is the 
result of a primitive revelation." 

An attempt has been made by the school 
of critics to whom we have already referred 
to identify Jehovah with Moloch, the god 
of fire, because of the constant association 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 129 

with Him and application to Him of terms 
denoting fire and light. It is evident, how- 
ever, that these are merely metaphorical. 

There would be some foundation for the 
theory if it could be shown that these ex- 
pressions were statements of fact literally 
made. But the symbol is a natural one, 
and has been used among many peoples to 
image the divine. In its swift energy to 
destroy, its purifying tendency, taking up 
dead matter and transforming it into its 
own brightness, apparently the least gross of 
visible things, fire lends itself to be a symbol 
of God. 

Another argument for the identity of 
Jehovah and Moloch is founded on the rite 
of circumcision and the dedication of the first- 
born, which, though toned down into in- 
nocent religious ceremonies, are held to prove 
that Jehovah was a bloodthirsty being like 
Moloch. The principal passage relied on in 
proof of this, as regards circumcision, is that 
in Exodus where in the caravanserai Jehovah 
essays to kill Moses, and his wife Zipporah 
circumcises her son and throws the foreskin 


130 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

to Jehovah, who thereupon lets Moses go. 
Such is Kuenen's interpretation of it. The 
. passage is obscure, the text uncertain, but 
we fail to see, whatever the meaning be, that 
this is the interpretation. At most you can 
only draw from it that an uncircumcised 
person was liable to death, but that is a very 
different thing from saying that Jehovah 
demanded human life as a sacrifice. It may 
be quite legitimately construed to mean 
that circumcision is a mode of purification 
and dedication, that Jehovah claims not 
the destruction of life but its sanctification. 
By a similar mode of reasoning Kuenen 
comes to the conclusion that there is a con- 
nection between Jehovah and Moloch from 
the fact that Jehovah slew the first-born 
of the Egyptians and spared those of the 
Israelites, who henceforth belong to Him. 
That is to say, the same idea of the 
character of the Deity lies at the root of 
the dedication of the first-born and of 
human sacrifice. But here again we see 
only in these rites symbols of consecration 
to God : there is nothing whatever in them 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 131 

to suggest a deity of a repulsive sanguinary 
character, but rather one in whose sight 
life is precious, and who desires that it may . 
be consecrated and set apart to Him. 

Reference is also made to Abraham's 
sacrifice of Isaac to prove that human 
sacrifice was offered to Jehovah, and that 
He was a deity in character akin to Moloch. 
But the question naturally arises, If, as is 
asserted, human sacrifices to the Deity 
were common at the Abrahamic stage, why 
is so much made of this as a singular 
triumph of devotion? 

No doubt there lay at the root of God's 
command to the patriarch the same idea 
as was at the bottom of the heathen rite 
viz., the best to God; but in the act 
of obedience Abraham finds out that the 
character of Jehovah his God is different 
from that of the deities worshipped around. 
Living as he did among neighbours whose 
worship demanded at its highest point 
human sacrifice, it is possible to conceive 
that the command to slay his son did not 
strike Abraham as it would strike us as 

132 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

utterly irreconcilable with true religion. 
He may have had the misgiving at times 
that he was not willing to do for his God 
what heathen worshippers were at times 
doing for theirs. 

If it be asked how the all-merciful Father 
could stoop to issue a command that seems 
to reduce His own worship to the level of 
the inhuman rites of Moloch, the answer is, 
that it was an accommodation to the stage 
on which His worshippers stood. What 
took place was this. " For once," as 
Principal Dykes says, "a command was 
issued which, while it perfectly tested in 
the first instance the willingness and thor- 
oughness of Abraham's loyalty without 
doing outrage to his previous knowledge 
of God, served also in the end to teach, 
in a far more memorable and impressive 
fashion than any verbal lesson would have 
done, that the true God is one who has 
no pleasure in such unnatural offerings. 
The issue of the transaction ought to have 
been the banishment of cruelty for ever 
from the worship of Jehovah." This is at 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 133 

least clear, that the worshippers of Jehovah 
in Abraham's time served a God who did 
not delight in destroying human life but 
in saving and sanctifying it. 

Nothing is more extraordinary in the way 
of attempted proof of Jehovah's connection 
with Moloch than the citation of that pass- 
age in the prophecy of Micah, " Where- 
withal shall I come before Jehovah ? Shall 
I give my first-born for my transgression, 
the fruit of my body for the sin of my 
soul?" In these words, we are gravely 
told, "is expressed without doubt the pre- 
vailing belief that Jehovah has pleasure 
not only in animal sacrifices but also in 
human offerings, and that in the offering 
of a first-born son there was the efficacy 
of wiping out sin." Can you imagine a 
better example of how dominion to a pre- 
conceived idea can blind one to the plainest 
meaning of a passage? A more wooden 
interpretation of a sublime burst of poetry 
you can hardly conceive. It is perfectly 
clear to any unprejudiced observer that 
the prophet is not speaking of ordinary 

134 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

offerings at all : occupied with the solemn 
question of man's acceptance with God, he 
rises from one costly service to another, 
and finds the costliest of all insufficient. 

Prof. Robertson puts the case well when 
he asks : " Is there no such thing as rhetoric 
for our critics? When St Paul, in one of 
his most eloquent flights, says, ' Though I 
give all my goods to feed the poor, and 
though I give my body to be burned, and 
have not charity, I am nothing,' are we to 
conclude that the early Christians of his 
day, having, as at Pentecost, given all their 
goods to a common fund, were also in the 
habit of worshipping this same fiery Moloch ? 
One would say that there was less reason 
for St Paul making such a rhetorical sup- 
position of self-immolation in his day than 
for Micah, with the Moloch - worshippers 
around him, making it in his." 

The attempt to show that in pre-prophetic 
times Jehovah was worshipped like the 
deities of the nations as a Being of might 
rather than of ethical qualities, the only 
national god indeed, but, except in this 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 135 

particular, not differing from other gods in 
the estimation of His own worshippers, falls 
to the ground from lack of proof. 

Some critics insist that it was owing to 
the prophets that in Jewish thought Jehovah 
was raised from a tribal or national to a 
universal moral deity ; but from the Book 
of Exodus we learn that this had been 
reached at the period of the Egyptian 
sojourn by the hardening of Jehovah's 
heart : " For I will at this time send all 
my plagues upon thine heart, and upon 
thy servants, and upon thy people; that 
thou mayest know that there is none like 
me in all the earth." 

The moral consciousness of God possessed 
by the prophets, it has been truly said, 
sprang out of a religious consciousness 
centuries old awakened in the national 
heart during this creative time. 

It will not do, then, to say that at first 
Jehovah was only the private god of a 
petty tribe, the Lar of a wandering house- 
hold, but has been developed and expanded 
into the vast conception of universal Deity. 

136 Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 

For how could this be ? A petty god thus 
increasing to infinite proportions, like the 
genie emerging from the sealed jar in the 
Arabian tale, until from his first foothold 
on the tent-floor of a nomad family he has 
towered above the stars and his form filled 
the universe ! 

The prophet lays it down as a thing not 
to be challenged or disputed but universally 
recognised : " Do not I fill heaven and earth ? 
saith Jehovah." Why, we ask, should the 
development have taken place in this in- 
stance and not in any of the deities of the 
more powerful tribes around ? Why do men 
to-day in the East adore Jehovah and not 
one of the gods of Egypt or Babylon ? or 
we in the West, why do we not honour 
Odin or Thor, the deities of our Saxon and 
Scandinavian forefathers ? There is but one 
answer : The Hebrew prophets are right ; 
Jehovah is the God of creation, the Maker 
and Moulder of all things. 

The Biblical account is the most natural, 
the easiest explanation. If early Israel had 
higher religious conceptions, such as -we 

Naturalistic Theories of Jehovah. 137 

know to have existed among many lower 
races, they might be revived and strength- 
ened by a prophet like Moses in a crisis of 
tribal fortunes, and become the rallying- 
point of a new national sentiment. 

"We know that it was so. "Obscured," 
as Mr Andrew Lang says, " in some degree 
by acquaintance with the idols of Egypt, 
and restricted and localised by the very 
national sentiment which they fostered, 
these conceptions were purified and widened 
far beyond any tribal or national restric- 
tions widened as far as the flammantia 
mcenia mundi by the historically unique 
genius of the prophets, blended with the 
doctrine of our Lord and recommended by 
the addition of animism in its pure and 
priceless form the reward of faith, hope, 
and charity in eternal life the faith of 
Israel enlightened the world." 



WE have seen, in discussing Evolution and 
the entrance of evil, that we must not 
overstate the statements of Scripture in 
reference to Adam and the period of in- 
nocence, or read more into them than they 
naturally convey. No doubt it has been 
largely the custom with certain writers to 
indulge in elaborate delineations of the 
perfect state of the first man. Eden with 
them is heaven indeed, and Adam furnished 
with every excellence and adorned with 
every grace. But such pictures are the 
creation of the imagination ; they find little 
corroboration in the brief and somewhat 
meagre statement of Scripture. 

Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 139 

The record in Genesis says, "The Lord 
God formed man of the dust of the ground, 
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of 
life ; and he became a living soul." St 
Paul contrasts the first Adam with the 
second : " The first man Adam was made 
a living soul ; the last Adam was made 
a quickening spirit." The apostle almost 
speaks disparagingly of Adam, declaring 
that " he was of the earth earthy." When 
he calls him a living soul (^vx^)> ^ e adjec- 
tive corresponding to this noun he uses 
in 1 Cor. ii. 14, where it is translated 
" natural " : " The natural man receiveth 
not the things of the Spirit of God." 

Adam was a natural man, a being en- 
dowed with intelligence, perception, moral 
sense, and a capacity for the divine fellow- 
ship. More than this he does not seem 
to have been. When he is said to have 
been created in the likeness and image of 
God, that is not to be interpreted, as it 
sometimes is, to mean some super- excellent 
and divine condition which was lost at the 
Fall, for in Noah's time the continuation of 

140 Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 

this condition is implied in the command, 
"Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man 
shall his blood be shed : for in the image 
of God made He man." It in all likeli- 
hood points to the divine pattern and 
archetype, after which man's intelligent 
nature was fashioned, reason, volition, con- 
science being divine attributes, and man 
alone of all creatures resembling God in 
the possession of these. 

It seems to us that the imperfection in 
the physical sphere had its counterpart in 
the human. Eden was not in all respects 
ideally perfect. It was before the Fall 
that man was put into the garden to 
dress and keep it. The fact that such 
dressing and keeping were necessary clearly 
shows that even then nature was not at 
first in her perfect ideal. The calling in of 
man's toil and skill presupposes that there 
were "luxuriant growths to be pruned, 
tendencies of vegetation to be checked, 
weeds to be extirpated, tender flowers to 
be trained and nursed, and fruits to be 
more richly developed." 

Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 141 

Does not such an environment preclude 
us giving to man the very highest position ? 
Are we entitled to say that he was con- 
stituted by creation a son of God? That 
those who rest upon Christ for salvation 
are sons of God goes without saying. Pro- 
vision has been made by which they are 
not only adopted into God's family and 
become titular children ; by regeneration 
they become actual children, partakers of 
the divine nature. But apart from the 
work of Redemption, is there on the plat- 
form of creation any relation between God 
and man which may be properly termed 
fatherhood on God's part and sonship on 
man's? In other words, is there such a 
thing as sonship by creation ? 

The question, it should be noted, does 
not refer to the existence in God of certain 
attributes, such as goodness, love, tender- 
ness, sympathy, or the exercise of such 
feelings towards His creatures. It is much 
more precise and definite. " It is," to quote 
the words of the late Principal Candlish, 
"about the existence of a certain real and 

142 Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 

actual relation of fatherhood and sonship 
between the Creator and His intelligent 
creatures, such a relation as implies recip- 
rocal obligations, having certain reciprocal 
rights, privileges, and endearments associ- 
ated with them. It is not a divine feeling 
that may be called fatherly, as it might 
be equally well named from some other 
kindly human analogy, that we are in 
search of, but a real and actual divine 

This is the question, and the whole of 
it. If certain objectors had kept this better 
in view they would not have wandered into 
irrelevant surmisings as to what feelings 
must exist in the bosom of God towards 
His creatures drawn from the human anal- 
ogy of father and son, which are really 
beside the question. All the love, pity, 
and tenderness which they found upon as 
proving fatherhood on God's part might 
exist, and did exist, in His relation as 
Sovereign to His creatures so long as they 
continued obedient. 

Is there anything, we ask, in the idea of 

Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 143 

fatherhood ascribed to God in Scripture 
with respect to man as created other than 
origination? Does creation involve pater- 
nity? We cannot see that it does in any 
special or particular sense. The fatherhood 
thus obtained is of too vague and compre- 
hensive a kind to establish what is sought, 
embracing not only the higher intelligences, 
fallen and unfallen, but all mankind, saved 
and lost alike. What, as regards relation 
between God and His creatures, does 
creation necessarily involve ? Simply this, 
that they are " capable of understanding 
His will, feeling their responsibility under 
it, and receiving reward or punishment in 
terms of it." 

It is quite aside from the question to ex- 
patiate on the moral rectitude and high 
endowments of primeval man, his capacity 
of loving God and being loved by Him in 
turn. All this may be granted, and yet 
the question of filial relation remains un- 
touched. To love God, to rejoice in His 
favour, to trust Him, supposing these capac- 
ities to have been part of man's original 

144 Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 

constitution, are possible on the platform 
of subjectship, and do not in themselves 
imply anything higher. 

So we, looking at the creature as formed 
by God, can only see that he is the subject, 
and God's relation to him is only that of 
sovereign ruler. This is Principal Candlish's 
position, and Dr Fairbairn, in his ' Christ in 
Modern Theology,' attempts to traverse it. 
In this effort he himself manifests decidedly 
Arminian proclivities. These colour his view 
of sovereignty, and he charges Principal 
Candlish with borrowing terms from poli- 
tical history, because he describes God's 
rule over His creatures as of the most 
thoroughly royal, imperial, autocratic kind. 

But it is surely understood that when we 
attribute to God terms drawn from human 
analogy, what is harsh, one-sided, exagger- 
ated, or objectionable in them can have no 
place in His perfection. He draws a dis- 
tinction between the rule of the sovereign 
and the father, and maintains that the 
former so reigns as to strengthen his 
authority, that his government is in the 

Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 145 

proper sense legal and judicial. God willed 
to create. The willing was a sovereign act, 
but the motive and ends made the act 
paternal. Thus the sovereign and the father 
both appear in the creation of man. 

Now it seems to us that Dr Fairbairn 
errs here, by applying the full revelation of 
God we have in Christ to the act of creation, 
forgetting the progressive character of rev- 
elation and the divine dealing with man. 
"That is not first which is spiritual, but 
that which is natural, and afterwards that 
which is spiritual." So in the creation. 
The legal precedes the gracious ; man is 
treated, to begin with, only as a subject. 
Is it possible to co-ordinate the two relations 
of father and sovereign on the original 
platform of creation? Do they not clash 
and conflict with one another, the one quali- 
fying, weakening, restraining, and limiting the 
action of the other ? One must dominate and 
assert its supremacy . at the expense of the 

Dr Fairbairn allows that sovereignty may 
be said to begin with creation, and if it 


146 Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 

begin, then it leads, it holds the field, for 
where is the fatherhood ? "In the day that 
thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." 
" This is the dictum of a judge, a sovereign. 
There is no word of sparing in the case of dis- 
obedience, ' as a man spareth his own son that 
serveth him.' There is no hope held out oif 
fatherly chastisement ; no hint given that 
when judged he will be chastened so as not 
to be condemned." 

In the whole transaction we mark no trace 
of a father's dealing, we hear no tone of a 
father's voice until the terrible penalty is 
pronounced. Then, but not till then, the 
father appears in the dim but gracious in- 
timation of the coming of a true Son, who is 
to repair the breach and restore the forfeited 
inheritance. Apart, however, from gracious 
covenant arrangement, on the basis of 
creation, or in the sphere of man's original 
probation and fall, there is not, it appears to 
us, a single trace of his standing towards 
God in any other relation but that of subject 
to his sovereign Lord and King. 

There are, however, certain passages of 

Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 147 

Scripture which are held to prove creation son- 
ship, to some of which we may briefly advert. 

Luke's genealogy may be dismissed with 
the remark that the writer is simply tracing 
the successive generations up to Adam, who 
was the son of God. Any paternity other 
than origination seems to be absent from 
the writer's mind, and sonship is predicated 
of Adam in the vaguest sense. 

A strong point is made of St Paul's 
quotation from an early Greek poet, "For 
we also are his offspring " ; but all that can 
really be drawn from it seems to be that 
God is the Father of all in the sense of 
being their Creator. Ex nihilo, niJiil fit. 
"The Athenians are not to imagine that 
the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, 
or stone graven by art and man's device : 
intelligent beings postulate an intelligent 
Creator." This position the apostle would 
strengthen by quoting from their own ad- 
mitted beliefs. Here again the fatherhood 
has nothing specific in it, but is used in the 
widest sense, even as Abraham is called the 
father of many nations. 

148 Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 

But if it be said that here we have a 
heathen witnessing to the fact of God's 
fatherhood, and that therefore it must be 
something inherent in the natural consti- 
tution of man, we reply, If it be meant 
that there is in man an innate sense of 
creaturehood on his part and creatorship on 
God's, we might be disposed to grant it ; but 
if it be meant that by nature man has an in- 
nate sense of fatherly feeling on God's part 
towards him, we cannot allow that it is so, 
for the experience of the creature belies it. 

The early Greek religion, while the purest, 
was also the sternest and saddest. "Ex- 
cept," says Prof. Shedd, "where religion 
was converted into the worship of Beauty, 
as in the instance of the later Greek, and 
all solemn and truthful ideas of law and 
justice eliminated from it, every one of the 
natural religions of the globe is filled with 
sombre and gloomy hues and no others." 
Man by nature, as we have already seen, 
knows that God is just, that He will punish 
sin. God's rectitude is written on the 
human constitution, but no trace of His 

Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 149 

fatherhood, using the word in the strict 
sense, is written there. 

The parable of the Prodigal Son is also 
pressed into service to prove a creation 
sonship. "There God appears," says Prof. 
Bruce in his ' Kingdom of Evil,' " as one 
who takes pleasure in the repentance of 
sinners, such as the reprobates of Jewish 
society, because in these penitents He sees 
prodigal children returning to their Father's 
house." But the question is not, as has 
been already said, about the existence in 
God of certain attributes, as love, tender- 
ness, sympathy towards men, but about a 
real and actual relation of fatherhood. 

It is of the utmost importance to the 
right interpretation of any parable to 
remember that it is designed to teach a 
special truth, which truth must be kept 
ever before the mind in the elucidation of 
details. The details are not of the essence 
of the parable, they are merely accessories 
meant to throw light upon the main truth 
taught. Keeping this principle in view, we 
find that the end and aim of this parable 

150 Is Man a Son of God by Creation ? 

is to show on the one hand God's love in 
Christ to the returning penitent, and on 
the other to condemn the malignity of the 
Pharisees in objecting to Christ's gracious 
dealing with sinners. This is the sole object 
of the parable, and he is a bold man who 
would found a doctrine on its mere drapery. 
Besides, any one attempting this would 
prove too much ; for not only would he 
prove that God has fallen sons who are 
restored from the swine -trough, but un- 
fallen ones who need no repentance, to 
whom it is said, " Son, thou art ever with 
me, and all that I have is thine," who 
nevertheless show anything but a pliant 
spirit, expostulating with God on account 
of His grace and compassion. " If," as the 
late Dr Martin says, "people will prove 
sonship by the prodigal, they must go on 
and take his brother too, at least, they 
must not object if the opposite counsel 
call for him. But the kind of sonship which 
comes out of court in the end of the con- 
tention is not much worth the having, not 
quite what is contended for." 



NATURAL THEOLOGY is, as the term would 
lead us to infer, of very early date. Its 
origin is prior to the Christian era. Cicero's 
treatise, 'De Natura Deorum/ is really a 
treatise on Natural Theology. The argument 
there is, that design in nature proves 
the existence of a Creator that we might 
as well expect an accidental mixture of 
letters to produce verse, or a heterogeneous 
jumble of stones to produce artistic buildings, 
as suppose the universe to be the result of 
a fortuitous concourse of atoms. He reasons 
to a creative and organising power. 

It may be fairly questioned whether in 
his view that creative power be single or 

152 The Use of Natural Theology. 

multiple, personal or impersonal ; the passages 
were too rhetorical, too undecided, too de- 
ficient in argumentative precision, to be 
absolutely clear on this point. 

The teleological argument for the existence 
of God has been rightly termed peculiarly 
Western. It regards the world not as a 
pageant but as a reality " a grand and 
fruitful combination of rational ends and 
proper means." It is in Stoicism that you 
come upon the earliest occurrence of the title 
Natural Theology. Augustine, in his ' City 
of God,' states on the authority of Yarro, 
who in this epitomises the teachings of 
Stoicism, that there are three species of 
theology the poetic or mythological, the 
civil or political, and the physical or natural. 

The first is the scheme of divine acts and 
beings which is suitable to the theatre, the 
world of literature and art, and its hiero- 
phants are the poets. The second is the 
mode under which a political community 
acknowledges its dependence on higher 
powers, and is in the charge of sacerdotal 
officials. But the third is the way in which 

The Use of Natural Theology. 153 

the thinker and the man of science sees the 
great paradox of things. 

He is not content with the reflection of 
reality in myth and legend of gods and 
demigods. He looks at the whole range of 
things, at the great system of nature above 
the range of art and popular religion, where 
alone is to be found the true vision of the 
essence of things. 

The oldest example of Natural Theology, 
restricting the term to the physico- theological 
argument from design in the Christian and 
pre-Heformation period, is the * Theologia 
Naturalis' of Raymond de Sabunda, pub- 
lished in 1438. The author was a Spaniard, 
and his work is chiefly known by a trans- 
lation published by Montaigne about 1569. 

The scope of the treatise is as follows. 
God has given man two books first, the 
book of Nature. By his blindness man was 
unable to read it, so God gave him another, 
the book of Holy Scripture. But this key, 
according to our author, is a dubious gift. 
It requires in its obscurity an interpreter 
with a special training ; its authenticity re- 

154 The Use of Natural Theology. 

quires to be corroborated by reason and 
argument. To use the key aright we require 
philology, grammar, logic, and rhetoric ; it 
cannot be studied without a master. 

It is different with the book of Nature. 
It needs no master to enable you to under- 
stand it. There is no possibility of mistak- 
ing its meaning, and no risk from forgeries. 
He calls it an infallible science which any 
one without labour may acquire in a month, 
and it requires no effort of memory, the light 
of all science containing the rule of nature 
which shows the whole duty of man. In 
these latter days it is necessary to every 
Christian that he may be established in the 
Catholic faith. He says the universe of 
things and beings is set up, as it were, a 
natural ladder having firm and immovable 
steps by which a man may ascend into 

Natural Theology, viewing it as the argu- 
ment for the existence of God as exhibited 
in the evidence of design in nature, attracted 
much attention in England during the seven- 
teenth and eighteenth centuries. 

The Use of Natural Theology. 155 

Bacon described it as that " knowledge or 
rudiment of knowledge concerning God which 
may be obtained by contemplation of His 
creatures." " It suffices," he adds, " to con- 
fute atheism, but not to inform religion." 
Newton lent the weight of his great name 
to encourage this department of study. As 
against the Cartesian hypothesis, which 
sought to explain the stability and symmetry 
of the planetary world by 'a purely naturalistic 
and mechanical evolution according to fixed 
laws, he declared his conviction that all these 
regular movements do not have their source 
in mechanical causes : " The diurnal rota- 
tions of the planets could not be derived 
from gravity, but required a divine arm to 
impress them." 

Thus fostered by Christian scientists, the 
study was popularised by works like that 
of John Bay, ' The Wisdom of God mani- 
fested in the "Works of Creation/ Such 
attempts to make the book of Nature a 
commentary on the book of Revelation gave 
rise to the Boyle Lectures. 

The growing study of nature, which had 

156 The Use of Natural Theology. 

hitherto been left pretty much to its own 
resources to win what favour it could by its 
own intrinsic attractiveness, had now the 
aegis of the Church thrown over it, and 
gained a status which it had not before. 
The Church allied herself to the new spirit 
of research, and sought, as one says, "to 
make the sciences pay tribute to the re- 
ligious and theological interests of the age 
and country." 

The Boyle Lectures were delivered in 
England, but they found imitators else- 
where e.g., in Germany. Our theologians 
to-day very much take their cue from 
Germany, but then Germany took the cue 
from England. In 1711 W. Derham pub- 
lished his Boyle lecture under the title of 
' Physico-Theology, the Evidence in Nature 
of a Superhuman Designer and Contriver.' 
This was followed in 1714 by his 'Astro- 
Theology,' illustrating how the heavens 
declare the glory of God. These two 
works were translated into German by 
the well-known scholar John Albert Fab- 
ricius. Wolff, the philosopher, dealt with 

The Use of Natural Theology. 157 

the subject in his ' Theologia Naturalis.' 
Among ourselves the succession was carried 
on by Butler's 'Analogy,' Paley's 'Natural 
Theology,' and the Bridgewater Treatises. 

The tendency to-day as regards Natural 
Theology is to go to extremes, to make 
either too little of it or too much. To 
many it seems an antiquated anachronism, 
something that may have been useful once 
but has outlived its day. It seems a 
"belated stranger, if not an impertinent 
intruder into the circle of the sciences." 

The argument from design has been pro- 
nounced unsatisfactory. It is said to have 
lost its naturalness. We do not now be- 
lieve that God's relation to nature is that 
of a maker to a watch or an architect to 
a building, who makes the best of the 
materials which come to hand. 

In the evolutionary hypothesis J, S. 
Mill was inclined to see the supplanting 
of the old Creator by what Darwin called 
" my deity," natural selection. Formerly 
he thought that the argument from design 
satisfied the requirements of inductive in- 

158 The Use of Natural Theology. 

ference, so far at least as to suggest a 
considerable probability in favour of an 
intelligent and powerful being as the guide 
of the cosmic movements ; but its cogency 
is minimised in his opinion, if upon the 
Darwinian hypothesis the same facts could 
be explained as the cumulative effect of 
accidental variations, and of the natural 
actions and reactions of all existences. 

But, as we have already seen, even 
granting evolution, that does not dispense 
with God. It only means, as Charles 
Kingsley held, that " Deity created primal 
forces capable of self - development in all 
forms needful pro tempore and pro loco. 
In our view the theory is as yet unproved : 
we incline to a creation in which species 
are persistent and unalterable as more con- 
formable to present facts ; but a theory of 
development and evolution need not rule 
out acts of implanting. Life when its 
time came may have entered by direct 
creation the life of animal and man." 

It is to be noted that the idea of design 
in nature was, in Greece especially, the 

The Use of Natural Theology. 159 

discovery of men who by it were more 
anxious to lay down a theory of the uni- 
verse than to prove the being of God. It 
was cosmic and scientific in its origin 
rather than religious and theistic. 

It is said that the argument from de- 
sign regards only the dead mechanism as 
a structure built by an architect who 
planned all its parts, and that while de- 
sign might well fit in with this idea, it 
is less applicable now, as nature is con- 
sidered not as a manufactured product but 
as a system which is the outcome of 

But to our mind the recent researches of 
science have only brought to view adapta- 
tions of means to end, instances of wisdom 
and care that far transcend those drawn 
from the inanimate universe as arguments 
for the divine existence. The philosopher 
of old said he could prove the existence of 
God from a straw ; we do it to - day from 
a microbe invisible to the naked eye. 
We hear much of the deadly microbes of 
disease, but those infinitesimal organisms 

160 The Use of Natural Theology. 

that are harmful are by far the min- 
ority. The majority are helpful. They 
hasten putrefaction. Were it not for their 
labours, whereby life's refuse is broken up 
into its original elements, and so turned 
into material that can be built up again 
into the living tissue of animals and 
plants, the whole surface of the globe 
would be simply choked up with the 
useless debris of bygone generations a 
wonderful testimony to the divine wisdom 
and foresight. 

It is also objected that such a truth as 
the existence of God is intuitional, and 
therefore does not admit of proof does 
not, in fact, need it. You cannot, it is 
said, prove the self- evident : as well at- 
tempt to prove a thing to be beautiful to 
a man who sees no beauty in it. 

Now, in a sense it is quite true that 
intuitive truths neither need nor admit of 
proof. All the same, they lend themselves 
to be illustrated, and their denial can 
be proved to involve contradictions and 

The Use of Natural Theology. 161 

The axioms of Euclid are the basis of 
which geometry is the structure. As the 
man who denies these can be proved to 
believe impossibilities, so, while the exist- 
ence of God, in whom we live, move, and 
have our being, is an innate perception, yet 
His existence may be shown to be a sup- 
position so absolutely necessary to account 
for the facts of consciousness and the 
external world, that to deny it renders 
the problem of the universe an insoluble 

But there are those again who discount 
Natural Theology on the score that it is 
entirely out of place, now that the dark- 
ness is past and the true light shines. 
Of what use is it now that we have a 
supernatural revelation ? The Son has 
come to show us the Father. Life and 
immortality are brought to light in the 
Gospel. The natural man cannot by his 
reason know God. If he is to know Him, 
he must be enlightened by God Himself 
through the Word and Spirit. 

It may be well to remind those who take 


1 62 . The Use of Natural Theology. 

up this position, that the Scriptures them- 
selves clearly recognise the place of Natural 
Theology. The works of nature are there 
represented as revealing the being and at- 
tributes of God. The 19th Psalm begins 
with God's revelation of Himself in nature 
before it turns to the revelation of Himself 
in the written Word : " The heavens declare 
the glory of God. . . . Day unto day utter- 
eth speech, and night unto night showeth 
knowledge. This is no speech and no 
word ; their voice is not heard. Through 
the whole earth hath their line gone forth, 
and their words to the end of the world." 
In dealing with the heathen the writers of 
Scripture appeal to the evidence nature 
bears to God. " Understand, ye brutish 
among the people : and ye fools, when will 
ye be wise ? He that planted the ear, shall 
He not hear ? He that formed the eye, 
shall He not see ? . . . He that teacheth 
man knowledge, shall not He know?" (Ps. 
xciv. 8-10.) 

The apostle uses this evidence in dealing 
alike with the ignorant and the learned. 

The Use of Natural Theology. 163 

Speaking to the rude inhabitants of Lyca- 
onia, he said : " We also are men of like 
passions with you, and preach unto you 
that ye should turn from these vanities 
unto the living God, which made heaven, 
and earth, and the sea, and all things 
that are therein : who in times past 
suffered all nations to walk in their own 
ways. Nevertheless He left not Himself 
without witness, in that He did good, and 
gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful 
seasons, filling our hearts with food and 
gladness" (Acts xiv. 15-17). 

To his audience of philosophers on Mars 
Hill he said : " God that made the world 
and all things therein, seeing that He is 
Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in 
temples made with hands ; neither is wor- 
shipped with men's hands, as though He 
needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all 
life, and breath, and all things ; and hath 
made of one blood all nations of men for 
to dwell on all the face of the earth, and 
hath determined the times before appointed, 
and the bounds of their habitation ; that 

164 The Use of Natural Theology. 

they should seek the Lord, if haply they 
might feel after Him, and find Him, though 
He be not far from every one of us ; for in 
Him we live, and move, and have our being ; 
as certain also of your own poets have said, 
For we are also His offspring. Forasmuch 
then as we are the offspring of God, we 
ought not to think that the Godhead is like 
unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art 
and man's device " (Acts xvii. 24-29). 

In the first chapter of his Epistle to the 
Romans the apostle goes further, and asserts 
not only that the existence of God, but His 
eternal power and Godhead, are clearly seen, 
being understood by the things that are 
made, so that men are. without excuse if 
they do not glorify Him. If so, we have 
a sure foundation for Natural Theology. 
But while some make little of Natural 
Theology, others go to the opposite ex- 
treme and make it everything. The know- 
ledge of God that it gives, say they, is all 
that a man needs, precluding any necessity 
for a supernatural revelation. 

But looking up from nature to nature's 

The Use of Natural Theology. 165 

God will not meet man's deepest need. 
Nature's God is a Being of infinite power, 
unerring wisdom, and unswerving justice. 
But man's conscience has everywhere testi- 
fied to his sinfulness. His knowledge of 
God through nature has not turned to his 

Scripture declares men to be without 
excuse, "because that, when they knew 
God, they glorified Him not as God, 
neither were thankful, but became vain in 
their imaginations, and their foolish heart 
was darkened. Professing themselves to 
be wise, they became fools, and changed the 
glory of the incorruptible God into an image 
made like to corruptible man, and to birds, 
and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." 

The knowledge of God that nature gives 
has nothing in it to satisfy an awakened 
conscience } or answer the question, "How 
shall sinful man be just before God?" It 
is mercy that puts hope into the sinner, but 
nature gives no hint of the existence of 
any such attribute in God. In pagan 
religions men clearly perceived the justice 

1 66 The Use of Natural Theology. 

of God, that of necessity He must punish 
sin. It is a principle implanted in the 
human constitution, inwoven with the very 
texture of the soul, that transgression of 
law must be followed by retribution. 

This is abundantly clear from the Greek 
poets and philosophers. The message of 
^Eschylus is that the gods render to every 
man according to his works : "To him, as 
to the Hebrew prophets, history is a revela- 
tion of the will of Providence, and the ruin 
of enemies and the overthrow of nations are 
but examples of the handiwork of God." l 

Other specimens of ancient Greek drama 
find their material in the mythology of 
Greece, but the "Persse" is a play taken 
from history. It is a sermon on the fact 
that ruin overtakes pride, as shown in the 
disastrous end of the attempt of the Persian 
despot to subdue Greece. The gist of the 
whole you have in these lines 

" For -wanton pride from blossom grows to fruit, 
The full corn in the ear of utter woe. 
And reaps a tear-fraught harvest." 

1 Haigh's Tragic Drama of the Greeks. 

The Use of Natural Theology. 167 

Or more tersely 

" Zeus is the avenger of o'er-lofty thoughts, 
A terrible controller." l 

As to the divine vengeance in the in- 
dividual experience of the evil-doer, you 
have it in these lines : 

" Justice from her watchful station 
With a sure- winged visitation 
Swoops, and some in blazing noon 
She for doom doth mark, 
Some in lingering eve, and some 
In the deedless dark." 2 

Not only does our poet believe in retri- 
bution, but we have a strange echo in his 
lines of these words in the Second Com- 
mandment, " Visiting the iniquities of the 
fathers upon the children unto the third 
and fourth generation " : 

" I tell the ancient tale 
Of sin that brought swift doom, 
Till the third age it waits." 3 

He has caught the idea of heredity in 

1 Persae, 816-819, 823, 824 ; Plumptre's translation. 

2 Choephorse, 61-65 ; Blackie's translation. 

3 The Seven against Thebes, 739-741; Plumptre's translation. 

1 68 The Use of Natural Theology. 

moral evil and the descending curse on the 
offspring of evil-doers : 

" But wickedness of old 
Is wont to breed another recklessness, 
Sporting its youth in human miseries, 
Or now, or then, whene'er the fixed hour comes." 1 

Sophocles is no less emphatic than ./Eschy- 
lus, that the sign and proof of divine order 
in the world is to be seen in the retribution 
that inevitably falls upon guilt. According 
to his teaching, wickedness can never prosper : 
" If a man walks proudly in word with no 
fear of justice, and follows unrighteous gain, 
how shall he escape the arrows of the 
gods ! " 2 

Sometimes evil-doers are cut off in the 
very moment of their triumph by the " swift- 
footed vengeance of Heaven." 3 At other times 
punishment seems to be delayed ; but " the 
gods, though slow, are sure in visiting crime, 
when men abandon godliness and turn to 
evil." 4 

1 Agamemnon, 737-740 ; Plumptre's translation. 

2 CEdipus Tyrannus, 883-892 ; Haigh's translation. 

3 Antigone, 1103. 

4 CEdipus Coloneus, 1536, 1537. 

The Use of Natural Theology. 169 

With Sophocles, Zeus is generally but the 
supreme god of Greek mythology, the son 
of the Earth and Cronos ; but occasionally 
he abandons the language of popular re- 
ligion, and, speaking in a loftier strain, gives 
his own conception of the Supreme : " He 
is sole disposer of the future, owner and 
guide of all things. His power is everlast- 
ing, and neither all-subduing sleep nor the 
unwearied mouths of heaven can over- 
master it." l 

He holds in his hand the administration 
of the law to which the whole universe is 
subject, and 

"Justice proclaimed from of old 
Sits with Zeus by everlasting decree." 2 

Take now one illustration from the phil- 
osopher and moralist Plutarch. He wrote 
about sixty ethical essays " Moralia." One 
of these is entitled " The Slow Vengeance 
of the Deity," in which he adduces reasons 
for the apparent delay in this world of the 
punishment of the wicked. His theme is 

1 Antigone, 604-610. 2 OEdipus Coloneus, 1381. 

170 The Use of Natural Theology. 

very much that of St Peter in his Second 
Epistle when he deals with the objection 
of the scoffer, "Where is the promise of 
God's coming judgment?" The apostle's 
answer is that the Lord is not slack con- 
cerning His promise, as some men count 
slackness, " for to the eternal Mind one day 
is as a thousand years, and a thousand years 
as one day." 

Plutarch answers the question in a different 
way, but he is equally clear and decided that 
vengeance will ultimately come. We look 
in vain in the speculations of this thoughtful 
moralist for any scintilla of the doctrine of 
divine mercy. He believes in Tartarus for 
the wicked and Elysium for the good, but 
men go to these places on the principles of 
the strictest justice. 

From nature the human mind has no proof 
that God will forgive sin. Our reason per- 
ceives intuitively that God is just and must 
of necessity punish sin, but we have no 
certainty that He will forgive it. We can 
only reach this assurance through a reve- 
lation. We do not need a revelation to 

The Use of Natural Theology. 171 

teach us God is just : that we perceive to 
be an innate truth, written on the human 
constitution, and so, as we have seen, fam- 
iliar to the heathen world. 

But it may be objected, if justice is a 
necessary attribute of God, may not mercy 
be also ; and if it belong to the conception 
of a perfect Being, may it not be assumed 
as present by the pagan? True, but the 
existence of an attribute is one thing and 
its exercise another. 

This has been well put by the late Prof. 
Shedd. " Omnipotence," he says, " neces- 
sarily belongs to the idea of the Supreme 
Being, but it does not follow that it must 
necessarily be exerted in act. Because God 
is able to create the universe of matter and 
mind, it does not follow that He must create 
it. The doctrine of the necessity of the 
creation, though held in a few instances by 
Theists who seem not to have discerned its 
logical consequences, is naturally pantheistic. 
Had God been pleased to dwell for ever in 
the self-sufficiency of His Trinity, and never 
called the finite into existence from nothing, 

172 The Use of Natural Theology. 

He might have done so, and He would still 
have been omnipotent and blessed for ever. 
In like manner the attribute of mercy might 
exist in God and yet not be exercised. Had 
He been pleased to treat the human race as 
He did the fallen angels, He was perfectly at 
liberty to do so, and the number and quality 
of His immanent attributes would have 
been the same as they are now. But justice 
is an attribute which only exists of necessity, 
because not to exercise it would be injustice." 
Natural Theology is thus insufficient in 
itself. It is only the outward vestibule of 
Revelation, where God is seen in all the 
plenitude of His grace. We must neither 
unduly exalt nor unduly despise it. It has 
its place, but only as a handmaid to the 
realities of revealed religion. 




THERE are two ways in which this rela- 
tion may be conceived the materialistic 
and the idealistic. 

Nature, looking at it from the view point 
of the materialist, while controlled by its 
own laws, seems to be determined in its 
course by no alien cause. It is sufficient, 
complete ; it has its end clearly before it, 
to which it moves in a great mass majesti- 
cally, turning neither to the right hand nor 
to the left. Against this power proud puny 
man, the child of caprice and impulse, seems 
at first sight to set himself to check and 
prevent. He tunnels its mountains, bridges 
its seas, builds his cities on its surface, get- 

1 74 Man's Relation to Nature. 

ting the victory only as he continues his 
operations : let him desist, and nature im- 
mediately resumes its sway, and in a few 
years obliterates all traces of his works. 

To a pessimistic materialism man seems 
" a child born of nature in some foul hour 
of mysterious incest, doomed from his birth 
to struggle, but to struggle for ever in vain 
against his mother and her ordinances, vex- 
ing her soul with his vanity and his in- 
sanity, his despairs, by his ideals moral and 
immoral, but doomed also at some distant 
date to fade away into nothingness and 
leave the weary world at last at peace from 
the perverse iniquity of her Caliban, her 
youngest and most froward child." 

Man's advent marks the emergence of 
something unnatural, what is opposed to 
and in revolt from nature, and there is a 
conflict for a time that can only have one 
issue. The rebellion is doomed to failure, 
as the shimmer of meteoric light, which 
flashes for a time but is soon extinguished 
and only a dead stone left. And yet, fore- 
doomed as he is, there is that in man that 

Man's Relation to Nature. 175 

will not let him yield, but fight to the last 
gasp against the inevitable. Nowhere has 
this aspect of things been more finely con- 
ceived than in the Scandinavian mythology. 
" Man," as the late Prof. Wallace says, 
"hears the loud yelp of the Fenris wolf 
coming ever nearer, more heart-crushing ; he 
sees the powers of ancient darkness, the 
giants gathering round stonily imminent as 
the light grows dim, and on the face of 
Loki the smile of assured triumph settling 
grizzlier and grimmer ; the jaws of the 
world-serpent open for their prey ; he feels 
the eternal frost creeping to the vitals of 
the earth ; he declares that he cherishes no 
hope of the ultimate reversal of the doom 
impending, and yet undaunted as a bride- 
groom to meet his bride, he goes forth 
mightier in his mood than the elements 
which seek to engulf him, and bury him 
and his revolt out of sight." 

It is uninteUigible and absurd, you say, 
but it is magnificent. And is it so unin- 
telligible, after all ? Is it not rather, as 
has been said, " the reason of life sup- 

176 Man's Relation to Nature. 

pressing the reason of logic, and of what 
the short-sighted call science " ? When the 
last struggle comes, a man who in the 
vortex has lost his religion, whose mind is 
without hope, will yet with resolution un- 
daunted wrestle with his adversary till 
death still his pulse. It will not do to 
dismiss this view as altogether untenable, 
for, though they may be crudely interpreted, 
it has certain facts as its foundation. 

The other view of man's relation to nature 
is the idealistic or Christian, for it is the 
view presented in Scripture. According to 
this, while man's body is allied to nature, 
the faculties of his mind and soul come 
from another source, and raise him above 
nature, enabling him finally to overcome it. 
Nature, indeed, seizes and retains what is 
hers, but the man himself escapes and 
departs to the unseen not conquered. 

In his body man is part of the physical 
universe. The elements that compose the 
crust of the earth in varied combination 
form his frame. It is controlled by the 
common laws of physical and chemical 

Man's Relation to Nature. 177 

action. It is easier to class man physio- 
logically than psychologically. As a con- 
stituent part of animated nature, he cannot 
disown his kinship with nature. But no- 
body thinks that by classifying him with 
the other creatures that live on the earth 
you give an adequate account of him. The 
term supernatural has become associated 
with direct interference by God in nature, 
but there is a sense in which man is super- 
natural i.e., he is above and outside nature. 
It is implied in the common use of language, 
as when we speak of the works of a man as 
of a different kind from the works of nature. 
Materialistic evolution would rule man in 
his higher aspects out of nature, in the sense 
that he cannot see in it any analogue with 
his own intelligence, will, or affection. It 
seems a very illogical position to make man 
the product of evolution in every atom of 
his body, and in every function of his mind 
a child of nature, and then condemn him 
for seeing in it some image of himself. 
Those who tell us we are not at one with 
anything above us are the same who insist 


1 78 Man's Relation to Nature. 

that we are at one with everything be- 
neath us. 

" Whatever," as one says, " there is in us 
purely animal we may see everywhere, but 
whatever there is in us purely intellectual 
and moral, we delude ourselves if we think 
we see it anywhere. There are abundant 
homologues between our bodies and the 
bodies of the beasts, but there are no 
homologues between our minds and any 
mind which lives and manifests itself in 
nature. Our livers and our lungs, our 
vertebral and nervous systems, are identi- 
cal in origin and in function with those of 
the living creatures around us, but there 
is nothing in nature or above it which 
corresponds to our forethought or design or 

This is the language of a philosophy than 
which no system ever lay under a greater 
weight of antecedent improbability, and 
which, we venture to say, becomes more 
incredible at every discovery of the unity 
of nature by scientific research. 

Man, he whom the Greeks called anthro- 

Man's Relation to Nature. 1 79 

pos, because he was supposed to be the only 
being whose look is upwards, is part of 
nature, and no philosophy can displace him. 
His upright posture was given him, we 
believe, by exoteric intelligence " God 
made man upright" and is not, we make 
bold to affirm, the result of any exoteric 
mental evolution. 

Dr Munro, in his address as President 
of the Anthropological Section of the British 
Association, deals with the erect posture of 
man, which, unique as it is among verte- 
brates, he considers one of the chief factors 
in his intellectual supremacy. " No other 
animal," he declares, "has ever succeeded 
in completely divesting its anterior limbs 
of their primary functions of support and 
locomotion, thereby setting them free for 
manipulation and prehensile purposes." 
The development of the human hand out 
of a forefoot until it became the most 
perfect mechanical organ hitherto produced 
by nature stimulated, and in turn was 
quickened by, the mental faculties. " From 
the first moment that the being recognised 

180 Man's Relation to Nature. 

the advantage of using a club or a stone 
in attacking his prey or defending himself, 
there came into existence the direct in- 
centive to a higher brain development." 

If this contention of Dr Munro were true, 
and man's erect attitude the outcome of 
his own mental evolution and consequent 
ascendancy, we should expect to see the 
same thing in the lower animals as their 
attitude approaches the upright. 

In the Sussex Weald have been found 
bones of a gigantic saurian, the iguanodon. 
Only scattered fragments have been found 
there, not sufficient to give any adequate 
indication of the complete animal. This, 
however, has been supplied from the coal- 
fields of Belgium. A group of these 
skeletons in Brussels Museum gives us not 
only a startling impression of their size, 
but, what is still more remarkable, these 
animals are supported entirely on their 

The reason we have for assuming them 
to have been bipeds is that, while their 
fore -feet have five fingers, the hind -feet 

Man's Relation to Nature. 181 

have but three toes, and the footprints 
are exclusively three-toed impressions. The 
occurrence of these footprints in British 
strata was familiar to geologists, but they 
were looked upon as those of a bird. The 
mystery is now solved by the discovery of 
the real authors of the marks. 

The iguanodon was a saurian that walked 
as erect as it was possible for an animal 
that had to carry a huge tail clear of the 
ground, and with its anterior limbs to 
use Dr Munro's phrase of man divested 
of their primary functions of support and 
locomotion, free for use of the five-fingered 
hands at the end of these. 

Here there is very much of the erect 
attitude and freedom of the anterior limbs 
postulated by Dr Munro for extraordinary 
mental development. If the iguanodon's 
posture was not perfectly erect, the hands 
at least were at liberty to serve as 
ministers to the brain, at once stimulating 
that organ, and structurally accommodating 
themselves to its behests. "Are we free," 
as Sir Herbert Maxwell pertinently ob- 

1 82 Man's Relation to Nature. 

serves, "to believe that had terrestrial 
conditions remained favourable to the 
maintenance of a vigorous saurian popu- 
lation, lizards would have attained to the 
lordship of creation now exercised by 
man ? " This seems to be a natural in- 
ference from Dr Munro's line of argument. 

But while man is part of nature, in 
another aspect he is above and outside 
of it, the very type and image of the 
supernatural. How the supernatural is 
linked to the natural in man no one can 
tell. We know that the functions of the 
mind are intimately connected with the 
organ of the brain. 

" The brain physiologist," says Prof. 
Wallace, " will perhaps reply, ' Oh, but we 
have localised the faculties in the brain.' 
I understand they have localised, to a not 
very great extent and with some dispute, 
something in the brain, but I doubt 
whether it is the faculties. I doubt 
whether you can, if words are to be used 
plainly, speak of localising faculties. Per- 
haps first you will have to settle whether 

Man's Relation to Nature. 183 

mind itself is localised in the brain. That, 
some may answer, is a foregone conclusion, 
to which, if I may give a full meaning to 
the words, I assent. 'If not there, then 
where is it ? It must be somewhere.' 
Well, these are questions I cannot answer, 
or you insist on asking. Similarly I cannot 
tell you where God is, not that I do not 
draw a difference between God and the 
mind. God, it may be said, is everywhere, 
and my mind well, is not everywhere. 
One thing I will say, as I do not know 
whether God is to be said to be within 
or without the world, so I cannot tell 
whether the mind or soul is within or 
without the body. To fix your faith on 
such words is to play at metaphors with 
the devil in a game where he is almost 
sure to win. You do not, I presume, 
identify your heart, when you give it 
away, with the central machinery of the 
blood-pump, nor is a broken heart neces- 
sarily a rupture of the cardiac muscles. 
But, you reply, mind is a function of the 
brain, is it not? Happy or shall I say 

184 Man's Relation to Nature. 

unhappy man to whom that ill-savoured 
word function gives repose ! " 

A man, in his mental operations, is un- 
conscious of any connection with the 
physical organ of the brain, nor does 
examination of the cerebral structure dis- 
cover anything of the mind. We can 
know nothing of a substance save from 
its phenomena, and when the phenomena 
are different and incompatible, we must 
believe that the substances they represent 
are different. And as the phenomena or 
properties of mind are so essentially 
different from those of matter, we are 
forced to the conclusion that they are two 
distinct substances. 

Whether the relation between the spirit 
and the brain is one of concomitance, or 
whether the one is formative of the other, 
are matters that lie altogether beyond our 
ken. The spirit acts through the body. 
Its mode of activity is threefold, and ar- 
ranges itself under these faculties the 
intellect, the sensibilities, and the will. 
To these we may add the moral faculty, 

Man's Relation to Nature. 185 

the conscience ; but some regard the moral 
nature as the resultant of the three essen- 
tial powers of the spirit, and the moral 
faculty, though a distinct element in ex- 
perience 3 is not regarded as a separate 
power. In the union and development of 
these faculties lies the distinctive mark of 
man as separated from the lower animals. 

We do not mean to assert that animals 
have no traces of these faculties. The 
statement has been made in this connec- 
tion, that probably man possesses no attri- 
bute short of his highest, of which he 
does not find at least the rudimentary 
traces in the animal world below him. 
But it is man's part to sit in judgment 
on his actions, to feel his conscience 
accusing or else excusing him, to be 
under obligation to a law above him. He 
feels that his will is free, the condition 
of responsibility. This single fact marks 
him off from the lower animal creation. 
These are necessarily creatures limited to the 
groove in which they move, and unable to 
depart one hair's-breadth from it. 

1 86 Man's Relation to Nature. 

It is easier to believe that higher creatures 
were developed out of the lower by some 
principle of natural selection than to believe 
that any law of transmission should introduce 
an element into the universe unknown before. 
That a necessary being should give birth to 
a being with any amount, however limited, 
of moral freedom is, as R. C. Hutton says, 
" infinitely less conceivable than that parents 
of the insect type should give birth to a 
perfect mammal." 

There is that in man in which God can 
dwell, and through which he can hold com- 
munion with God. The spirit of man is the 
candle of the Lord. The presence of God in 
nature has been compared to an intense heat 
which, however, has not broken into flame. 
But in man's spirit this heated atmosphere 
of the divine presence finds the inflammable 
point which breaks into a blaze, and up to 
the measure of his capacity man becomes the 
manifestation of God. In this fact appears 
his superiority and separation from all the 

Man's moral consciousness is not simply 

Man's Relation to Nature. 187 

the echo of his own heart; it speaks, as 
Pressense says, " in the name of a law which 
is neither that of our senses nor of our mobile 
and impassioned soul ; it brings us into the 
presence of another than ourselves, who has 
an absolute right over us, and its ' Thou 
shalt ' sounds yet above the wrecks of all 
other convictions, establishing in us an im- 
movable certitude." The categorical impera- 
tive, as Kant called it, is the rock on which 
rests the whole moral life of individuals and 

Nature dies : " The grass withereth, and 
the flower fadeth ; " the spirit of the beast 
goes down with it to the earth. But man 
has said in all ages, " Non omnis moriar." 
Belief in immortality has become part of the 
experience of the race. It is found among 
all nations ; even the savage knows that he 
is more than body. Fr6m the phenomena of 
sleep and dreams he comes to the conviction 
that man has a spirit. He has seen the body 
die, but no man ever saw a spirit pass out of 
existence. The fact of the spirit's invisibil- 
ity is no bar to its existence : he is conscious 

1 88 Man's Relation to Nature. 

of his own mind as an existing fact though 
he never saw It. And so to the savage the 
death of the body becomes the preacher of 
immortality. And if he so reasons, with still 
more assurance may those who are by edu- 
cation and culture better able to analyse 
their consciousness and consider its results. 
Hence the most profound thinkers of the 
ancient world were the clearest in their 
assertion of immortality. Plato teaches it, 
and represents Socrates as teaching that the 
soul of man is in its own nature immortal 
and indestructible. Both in his ' Phsedo ' 
and in his ' Republic ' he employs such 
language as the following, e.g., faxy a0av- 
arov KOL avatkedpov, and aOavdros ypav 17 
faxy KOI ovSeTrore o/TroXXurai. Such terms 
are perfectly clear as to his meaning. He 
founds on this doctrine a moral warning in 
' Phsedo ' : "If the soul is really immortal, 
what care should be taken of her, not only 
in respect of the portion of time which is 
called life, but of eternity ! and the danger of 
neglecting her from this point of view does 
indeed appear to be awful. If death had 

Man's Relation to Nature. 189 

only been the end of all, the wicked would 
have had a good bargain in dying, for they 
would have been happily quit not only of 
their body, but of their own evil together 
with their souls. But now, inasmuch as the 
soul is manifestly immortal, there is no re- 
lease or salvation from evil except the 
attainment of the highest virtue." 

To the same purpose Cicero argues in his 
' Tusculan Disputations/ He uses the phrase 
".immortalitas animorum." He mentions 
that Pherecydes, a Syrian, first said that 
the souls of men were eternal (" animos esse 
hominum sempiternos "), that his disciple 
Pythagoras held the same, and that in Italy 
Plato became acquainted with the Pytha- 
gorean teaching and adopted it. 

Thus man by his intellectual and moral 
nature, by the attributes that belong to 
him as a spirit, is enormously raised above 
material nature and the other creatures that 
inhabit the earth. By virtue of the pos- 
session of these he belongs to the same order 
of being as God Himself, and is therefore 
capable of communion with his Maker. 

190 Man's Relation to Nature. 

Man's part, as Bacon says, is to interpret 
nature, and by interpretation master it. Be- 
cause the things that are, are not the out- 
come of themselves, but of a will and power 
behind them, knowledge of nature is possible. 
There must be in nature the evidence of an 
intelligence analogous to his own if man is 
to interpret it. Every advance in science 
is a fresh testimony to this sovereign in- 
telligence and the correspondence between 
the mind of man and that which is supreme 
in nature. 

Science has made it impossible for man 
ever again to worship nature. If the sun be 
a globe of solid and gaseous matter in a state 
of incandescence, then there is no more room 
for reverence, or gratitude, or adoration, 
however we may benefit by its beams. It 
can never be to us what it was to the grey 
fathers of our race, the very image of God- 
head. Our duty is not to worship nature, 
but to master it ; but this, again, can only 
be by our yielding to the laws the divine 
Intelligence has imposed upon it. 

Man's observation of the facts of nature 

Man's Relation to Nature. 191 

will not yield him this mastery. It is only 
when the facts point to the law that is, 
the divine idea, the thought and will of the 
Creator, which we in a measure can com- 
prehend, because we too have thought and 
will that we become in our degree lords 
over matter. 

"We reach," as one says, "the secret 
principles on which He makes, not made 
merely, but is ever making the world ; and 
when we thus know His mind, or on what 
lines His will moves, we enter upon a share 
of His dominion, we fall in with His working 
plan, we too govern by imitating Him." 



THE increasing extent to which the uni- 
verse is intelligible, as is proved by the 
remarkable discoveries of those who have 
sought to penetrate its secrets, is to our 
mind a convincing proof that it itself is 
the product of an intelligence. This is 
the Biblical conception of nature. Cre- 
ation, whatever its mode may have been, 
was the act of one outside the material 
frame He has brought into being. All 
natural phenomena are traced to a personal 
will. As the will in us moves all the 
faculties and members of the body, so this 
will is conceived as ordering and utilising 
the things he has made. "Thy word, O 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 193 

Lord, which is for ever, is in the heavens 
and in the earth," says the Psalmist, as a 
creative formative power ; for he adds, 
"Both heaven and earth continue to this 
day" in virtue of that indwelling word, 
"and all things are Thy servants." 

We are too apt to think of God's word 
as confined within the bounds of a single 
book, whereas we are told here that that 
word speaks through nature, and all things 
in heaven and earth throughout the whole 
course of time serve the will of the Al- 
mighty and All -wise. God has uttered 
Himself in the physical universe. The 
Psalmist knows nothing of a fortuitous 
concourse of atoms, of molecules impelled 
by forces and moulded by laws : to him all 
is the outcome of His word who orders 
all things according to His good pleasure. 
Such, according to Scripture, is God's 
relation to the material universe. 

It is evident that in considering this re- 
lation men may fall into two extremes, 
they may immerse God in nature, or they 
may isolate nature from God. The correc- 


1 94 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

tive to these is the Scriptural idea of 
nature as the product of one all- wise and 
omnipotent will. In much of our modern 
natural science matter is endowed with the 
properties of mind, but will is an attribute 
of personality. He who thus wills must be 
greater than His own creation, and so we 
are saved from the extreme that immerses 
God in nature imprisons Him in His own 

This conception is also a corrective to 
the other extreme that isolates God from 
nature, as if it were a machine wound up 
like a watch to go a certain time, having 
within sufficient store of energy to carry 
it through its course. Such a universe 
would only be a whirl of material change 
without spiritual meaning, whereas Scrip- 
ture represents it as the thought of God, 
an expression of His idea to all who will 
take the trouble to study it. 

The relation in which the soul stands 
to the framework it inhabits may be taken 
as a type of the relation of God to nature. 
Behind the outer framework is the inner 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 195 

man, who thinks, feels, wills, and acts. 
The soul is apart from its work and its 
surroundings, and such is the relation of 
God to nature. The thing formed is less 
than that which formed it ; but while God 
stands apart in His personality, not en- 
tangled in His works, He still makes them 
the expression of His thoughts. 

When we read that by the word of the 
Lord the heavens were made, that means 
more than that at His fiat the universe 
came into being. The word is the utter- 
ance of the will ; but it is more, it reveals 
the character. Through their words as well 
as their deeds we know men, the wealth 
of their brain and the treasure of their 
heart. Not otherwise is it with God : if 
the universe come by His word, then it 
must be replete with His thought, radiant 
with the truth, beauty, and goodness that 
are His characteristics. Hence the apostle 
says, " His eternal power and Godhead are 
clearly seen, being understood by the works 
which He hath made." 

This fact is the basis at once of ancient 

196 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

religion and modern science. The cosmic 
changes, the revolutions of the sun and 
moon, the cycle of the seasons, were the 
data upon which primitive religion was 
built. At first the dawn and the night, 
the sun and the moon, the green earth 
and the grey, the sea and the lake, were 
only emblems the invisible Deity was 
behind them all. But as time went on 
the idea of the divine Being became ob- 
scured, and what was once worshipped 
only as a symbol began to be invested 
with the attributes of deity. The descent 
from this to polytheism and fetichism is 
easy. But these nature religions would 
have been impossible had not nature been 
charged with ideas of the divine. 

In Scripture we find, what is not to be 
found to the same extent, if at all, else- 
where, the distinct recognition of the ab- 
solute dependence of the universe on the 
Creator. "Even in the idealistic philos- 
ophy of the Greeks," says Prof. Pfleiderer, 
matter remains, however sublimated, an 
irrational something with which the divine 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 197 

power can never come to terms. It was 
only in the consciousness which the pro- 
phets of Israel had of God that the 
thought of the divine Omnipotence fully 

This idea pervades the whole Bible. It 
is especially the basis of the 104th Psalm, 
that divine ode of creation, as Calvin calls 
it. Manifestly the writer has before him 
the story of creation in the first chapter 
of Genesis. In it he finds alike his sub- 
ject and his inspiration. But the psalm 
is no mere copy it has a force and orig- 
inality of its own. It is a remark of 
Sanchez, a Spanish commentator on the 
psalm, that the lyric verse, while losing 
nothing of its freedom and fire, contrives 
at the same time to preserve all the force 
and simplicity of the picture of nature 
presented to us in Genesis. 

But creation here is not represented as 
a thing of the past. The universe is not 
a machine set agoing and left to its own 
laws. The great Worker ever works. " My 
Father worketh hitherto," says Christ. The 

198 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

present frame of things owes its existence, 
not to the past, but to the present energy 
of God. The creation of the psalm is the 
creation of the present. The difference 
between it and the record in Genesis is 
the difference between a photograph and 
a cinematograph. The one is a picture 
of still life, the other is crowded with 
figures full of movement. 

How vivid are the images ! The brooks 
rushing down their torrent-beds, at which 
the wild beasts quench their thirst ; the 
birds building their nests and singing 
among the trees ; the wild goats leaping 
from rock to rock ; the beasts of prey 
moving through the forest at night ; the 
young lions roaring, seeking from God their 
food ; the great and wide sea, the depths 
teeming with fish and creatures small and 
great there the huge leviathan plays the 
surface studded with sails, the image of 
the world's commerce and enterprise ; con- 
cluding with man, the crown of creation, 
the orderly unobtrusiveness of whose daily 
toil is in fine contrast to the restless 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 199 

activity of animals led by their appetites, 
make a picture which, " for truth and depth 
of colouring, for animation, tenderness, and 
beauty, has never been surpassed." 

In Scripture there is no tendency to 
make a god of any natural object, or to 
attribute divine energy to it. The Hebrew 
names for natural objects, such as the bright 
sky, the night, the dawn, are mere appel- 
lations, not in any sense proper names. In 
the primitive mythology of the Aryan race 
the rain is represented as the fruit of the 
embrace of heaven and earth. The bright 
sky, ^Eschylus says in a passage which, 
according to Benan, might have been taken 
from the Vedas, loves to penetrate the 
earth, and the earth on her part aspires 
to the heavenly marriage : " Bain, falling 
from the loving sky, impregnates the earth, 
and she produces for mortals pastures of 
the flocks and the gifts of Ceres." 

But in Scripture, on the other hand, it is 
God who tears open the "water-skins of 
heaven" (Job xxxviii. 37), who opens 
courses for the floods, who engenders the 

2oo The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

drops of dew. We quote from Kenan's 
translation : 

" He draws towards Him the mists from the waters, 
Which pour down as rain and form then vapours. 
Afterwards the clouds spread them out. 
They fall as drops on the crowds of men." 1 

" He charges the night with damp vapours, 
He drives before Him the thunder-bearing cloud ; 
It is driven to one side or the other by His command 
To execute all that He ordains 
On the face of the universe, 
Whether it be to punish His creatures 
Or make thereof a proof of His mercy." z 

Or again : " Who hath gathered the wind in 
His fists ? Who hath bound the waters in 
a garment ? Who hath established all the 
ends of the. earth? What is His name, 
and what is His son's name, if thou canst 
tell ? " 3 

When the dawn is mentioned in the Book 
of Job, it is God " who commandeth the sun, 
and it riseth not, and sealeth up the stars." 
His power also causeth " the dayspring to 
know its place, that it may seize on the far 

1 Job xxxvi. 27, 28. 2 Job xxxvii. 11-13. 

3 Prov. xxx. 4. 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 201 

corners of the earth and scatter the robbers 
before it. It is turned as clay to a seal, 
and all things stand forth as in gorgeous 
apparel." The allusion is to the cylindrical 
seals used in Babylon. Just as such a seal 
rolls over the clay, and immediately there 
starts into bold relief a group of objects, so 
the dayspring revolves over the space which 
the darkness has made void, and immediately, 
as if created by the movement, all things 
shine like a fair garment. Shaha, the 
dawn, never becomes an independent agent ; 
it does not figure in mythological presenta- 
tion, as among the Greeks Eos rises from 
the bed of her husband Tithonus, the set- 
ting sun. At the same time, nature in 
Scripture is never merged into God, as 
the tendency is among many peoples an 
extreme into which even monotheists some- 
times fall. 

Some who have spent their days in the 
study of nature have come to the conclusion 
that matter is nothing, that the Supreme 
Intelligence is the universe. They find the 
highest fact of science, the noblest truth 

202 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

of philosophy, expressed in the words of an 
American poetess : 

" God of the granite and the rose ! 
Soul of the sparrow and the bee ! 
The mighty tide of Being flows 
Through countless channels, Lord, from Thee. 

It leaps to life in grass and flowers, 
Through every grade of Being runs, 
"While from creation's radiant towers 
Its glory flames in stars and suns." 

The Hebrew conception is not what we 
find among the earliest layers of primeval 
religion, the intuition of something divine 
in nature. The morning feeling for nature 
which seems to have vanished with the 
world's childhood has never been reproduced 
by any modern poet in the same degree as by 
Wordsworth. Some have not scrupled to 
say that in his earlier poems " Tintern 
Abbey," e.g. there are passages which are 
pantheistic in their tendency. Of course 
Wordsworth believed in a personal God ; 
but the presence of nature, when he was 
in the heyday of his imagination, seems to 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 203 

have stirred in him what is called the pan- 
theistic feeling in the highest form. 

" The truth seems to be," remarks the 
late Principal Shairp, " that the outer world, 
which to commonplace minds is no more than 
a piece of dead mechanism, is in reality full 
of an all-pervading life which is very mys- 
terious. Not to be grasped by the formulas 
of science, this life is apprehended mainly 
by the imagination, and by those most deeply 
in whom the imagination is most ample and 
profound. Possessing this faculty, larger 
in measure and more generous in quality 
than any man since Shakespeare, Words- 
worth felt with proportionate intensity the 
life that fills all nature. In her presence 
he felt, in some measure, as only the first 
fathers of the Aryan race in the world's 
infancy felt, the 

' Something far more deeply interfused, 
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 
And the round ocean, and the living air, 
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man : 
A motion and a spirit, that impels 
All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 
And rolls through all things.' 

2O4 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

" As years increased, the mystic gleam grew 
dimmer as his moral faith grew stronger. 
His later poems contain more of those truths 
Christianity reveals, and by which conscience 

That there is a hiatus between the mysti- 
cism of nature as expressed in Wordsworth's 
early, and the lofty religious truths of his 
later poems, Principal Shairp admits. But 
the reconciliation between these two aspects 
of thought, which, we submit, is not to be 
found in any writer, we claim for Scripture. 
It welds these together in the Psalms, Isaiah, 
and in some passages of the Gospels. 

In the Sanscrit hymns there is a religious 
contemplation of nature that approaches the 
region occupied by Scripture ; but, it has been 
truly said, the ideas which inspire them are 
colossal rather than sublime. They are awed 
and crushed in the presence of a Universal 
Life rather than kindled into devotion at 
the spectacle of a Universal Order. The 
recognition of, and appeal to, the personal 
God you find in the Psalms is lacking : 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 205 

" How manifold are Thy works, Lord ; 
In wisdom hast Thou made them all; 
The earth is fuU of Thy riches." 

The classical writers, Greek and Roman, 
are not serious in connecting nature with 
God. Homer gives us an account of the 
origin of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The 
lines, though intended to be used in de- 
votion, are not cast in the spirit of prayer. 
The colouring is splendid ; the charm of the 
ever-fragrant Eleusis is depicted ; the glory 
of the goddess when she throws off the 
disguise of old age, and beauty breathes 
around her, " Her golden hair flowing 
over her shoulders, the house filled with 
light, and the earth becoming heavy with 
leaf and fruit and flower," all this is 
told beautifully, but without a sign or 
tear of prayer. Here, as in all the 
Homeric hymns, there is an epic cast, with 
the action, variety, and manners of epic 

In Plato we come for the first time upon 
the contemplation of the heavens as the 

2o6 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

abode of a creative Power in something of 
a religious spirit. Cicero also in his treatise, 
' De Natura Deorum/ seems to bow before 
a God external to the world ; but, as we 
have seen, his language is too loose and 
rhetorical to show whether the divine power 
is personal or not. At all events, he reasons 
up to a creative Power. 

Virgil gives us something more approach- 
ing to our modern nature-feeling, and this 
is still more noticeable in the later Latin 
poet Claudian. He marks a distinct de- 
parture from the great classical poets. 
" These," to quote the words of a recent 
writer, " either mythologise nature or de- 
scribe it accurately, but coldly, as some 
beautiful statue. With Claudian it is other- 
wise : he has this peculiarity distinguishing 
him from all other Roman poets, a strong 
sense of colour, an intense personal delight 
in the beautiful in nature more approaching 
our modern sentiment. There is a perennial 
joy in the pageantry of the natural world, 
in the passing of the seasons, the singing 
of birds, the flash of bright water, the 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 207 

colour of the sky, a direct love of nature 
for herself which is utterly unclassical." 

As an illustration we quote from an un- 
published translation a free description of a 
landscape from the Rape of Proserpine : 

" More fair is the form than the flower, 

Soft hills and the slope of a plain, 
"Where springs from the rock ever shower, 

And fall on the grasses like rain. 
The cool of the leaves of the forest, 

A shade from the shafts of the sun 
Makes winter, when heat is the sorest, 

And spring hath begun. 
Here tosses the box with its shiver 

Of leafage, here ivy doth twine, 
While over the elm-trees for ever 

Are wound all the wreaths of the vine. 
Beyond is a lake, and the water 

Grows grey with the gloom of the glade, 
All girdled with woodlands, the daughter 

And child of the shade." 

Surely we have something approaching to 
modern nature-feeling here. But we realise 
that the Scripture references are cast in 
another mould. An instinct tells us that 
such description could have no place there. 
The writers move in a different plane. 

208 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

The spirit in which they contemplate 
nature is well brought out in the 29th 
Psalm. We quote from the commentary of 
Reuss : 

" There are in this psalm, properly speak- 
ing, two scenes, each of which is the pendant 
of the other. One passes upon earth, where 
we see the hurricane raging in a way un- 
known to our climate. The colossal cedars 
of Lebanon are split in pieces, their gigan- 
tic trunks are torn from the ground, and 
leap as lightly as the ox in the meadow. 
The mountain itself groans and trembles, 
scourged by the tempest. The lightnings 
furrow a sky darker than the deepest 
night. Yast deserts, such as that of Kedesh 
in the south of Canaan, where nothing stops 
the elements, are swept by the hurricane. 
Their sand becomes a moving sea, the at- 
mosphere an ocean chasing over its tossed 
bed, and sweeping with it all it meets in 
its passage. The trees which can resist are 
peeled and stripped bare. Beasts are seized 
with terror, and their convulsive shudderings 
make them antedate the hour of nature. 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 209 

"Man is nowhere in the description. He 
is mute, and retires before the terrible 
majesty of the spectacle. But we feel, in 
contemplating it with the poet, that an 
involuntary anguish is mixed with that 
other impression of which man alone is 

"Above the terrible turmoil the Lord is 
seated majestically upon His throne. The 
flood which is about to sweep over the 
earth is the footstool of that throne. He 
contemplates it with a serene eye, and 
with His royal hand He will stay the 
elements when He pleases. Round Him 
the powers which are His messengers, al- 
most the priests of His heavenly sanctuary, 
clad in sacred robes, press on to glorify 
Him. What a magnificent antithesis in a 
few lines ! " 

Dean Stanley compares this with that 
story of Sir Walter Scott, who, when a 
child, was found by a servant lying on the 
braes at Sandy - Knowe during a thunder- 
storm, clapping his hands at every light- 
ning flash, and crying, "Bonny, bonny"; 


2io The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

but this exhibits a curious instance of 
failure to catch the spirit of the Psalmist. 
It is not wild exhilaration in the darker side 
of nature, but awestricken contemplation. 

Nor can we agree with him that in the 
Psalms the bright side of creation is every- 
where uppermost, and the dark sentimental 
side of the outer world hardly ever seen. Do 
we not have frequent references like this ? 

" Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink ; 
Let me be delivered out of the deep waters. 
Let not the water-flood overflow me, 
Neither let the deep swallow me up." 

The 36th Psalm gives us a picture of 
nature's softer aspect. The writer, turn- 
ing from a description of the wicked to 
the praise of God's mercies, finds words fail 
him, he can only say that they mount up 
to the blue sky and reach to the drifting 
cloud ; His righteousness is great as the 
mountains He has piled, His judgments 
deep as the ocean He has made. He looks 
at the brook and says, " Thou hast made 
them to drink of the brook of Thy 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 211 

Then comes a passage, one of the most 
wonderful in the Old Testament, " an antici- 
pation of the profound teaching of the 
apostle John " ; " the blended image of the 
fountain," to quote the eloquent words of 
the Archbishop of Armagh, " rising with 
drifted spray, and the delicate shadows 
cast on the silver jet; the light in which 
it sparkles ; the life which is the sum of 
all we yearn for, which the great sculptor 
Carpeaux cried for in the death agony, c La 
Vie ! La Vie ! '" 

" "With Thee is the fountain of life. 
In Thy light shall we see light." 

In another psalm the light is compared 
to seed sown for the righteous. Milton 
uses the same figure of the dew : 

" Now Morn her rosy steps in th' Eastern clime 
Advancing, sow'd the earth with Orient pearl." 

Some men possess the faculty of trans- 
fusing their own life into the landscape, 
pervading nature with their own being. 
Such a man feels as if he grew with the 
grass and the trees, flowed with the river, 

212 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

conversed with the clouds, . sang with the 
birds, sported with the fishes in a word, 
he enters sympathetically into every object, 
and so may be said "to inherit all things." 
It is not, however, this physiopathy, 
which is a more modern product, that we 
meet with in writers of Scripture. The 
gladness and exhilaration exhibited in the 
various aspects of nature an almost affec- 
tion for birds, beasts, and plants, and sun 
and moon and stars is not a reflection of 
the writers' own feelings, as a modern poet 

" Oh, heart, 'twas thine own happiness that gave 
The beauty that has been upon the earth, 
The glory stretching from day's golden birth, 
Unto her crimson grave." 

This transport has a deeper origin than 
any mere love of nature. It is for that 
Jehovah hath comforted His people, and 
will have mercy on His afflicted. This is 
the solemn spiritual fact with which the 
prophet calls on the heavens and the earth 
to sympathise. 

Nature in our sense of the term neither 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 213 

word nor thing ever seems as a separate 
entity to be present to the minds of the 
writers of Scripture. The visible creation 
is only the garment of Jehovah. The 
whirlwind is His chariot, the sea His path, 
the light His vesture, and the thunder His 
voice. Heaven is His throne and earth 
His footstool. 

And this, it has been remarked, has the 
effect of making the Scripture estimation 
of the external world of a peculiarly sober 
and truthful character. There is no temp- 
tation on the part of the writer either to 
understate or to overstate. This faithful- 
ness to fact, this veneration for reality, 
this fundamental conviction that things are 
too sacred to be coloured or distorted, 
springs from their habit of recognising all 
visible nature as continually upheld by an 
omnipresent God. Nature is only employed 
by them to set Him forth. Fire and hail, 
snow and vapour, stormy winds, are referred 
to as fulfilling His word. 

Where a modern poet would be carried 
away with the gloom of the waste or the 

214 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

sublimity of the mountain, the prophet only 
uses these as the vestment of his thought. 
The wild winds, the storm, and the stars 
have to him no beauty in themselves they 
are but as a fleeting glimpse of the Eternal 

" Lo ! He that formeth the mountains and 
createth the wind, and declareth unto man 
what is his thought, that maketh the morn- 
ing darkness, and treadeth upon - the high 
places of the earth, the Lord, the God of 
hosts, is His name." " Ye who turn judg- 
ment to wormwood, and leave off righteous- 
ness in the earth, seek Him that maketh 
the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the 
shadow of death into the morning, and 
maketh the day." 

How differently the Hebrew poet describes 
a storm at sea from the manner one of to-day 
would adopt. He would make a picture of 
it in detail : the white -crested billows like 
the manes of Death's pale horses, the blue 
becoming gloom beneath the cloud, the bark 
whirling like a nutshell, the terror of the 
crew. But in the Hebrew poet there is an 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 215 

utter absence of any recognition of the artis- 
tic value of the subject. He has no eyes for 
a picture : it is used simply as an illustration, 
a passing symbol of divine power, goodness, 
and discipline. " He commandeth, and rais- 
eth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the 
waves thereof. They mount up to the 
heaven, they go down again to the depths : 
their soul is melted because of trouble. They 
reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken 
man, and are at their wits' end. Then they 
cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He 
bringeth them out of their distresses. He 
maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves 
thereof are still. Then are they glad because 
they be quiet : so He bringeth them unto 
their desired haven." 

With the Scripture writers there is no 
tendency to theorise ; everything is referred 
to the will of God. Not that there are no 
mysteries. The mystery is freely acknow- 
ledged, but it is left with Him. You have 
many questions that excite wonder proposed 
in the Book of Job questions, as Humboldt 
remarks, " which modern science enables us 

216 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

to propose more formally and to clothe in 
more scientific language, but not to answer 
.more satisfactorily." 

The faculty the sacred writers possess of 
seeing and hearing God in everything gives 
not only, as we have seen, veracity, but a 
peculiar vivacity and brightness, to their 
description. The mountains skip, the seas 
clap their hands, the little hills rejoice, the 
valleys shout, and the hills break forth into 
singing, the favour of God makes the earth 
young again to them. 

It needs no hamadryad to peep through 
the leaves, no oread to flit like a gleam over 
its hills, no naiad to laugh in its blue-eyed 
fountains, for a higher animation fills them ; 
and every bubbling brook, every fluttering 
spray, every whispering zephyr, is a note in 
the great anthem, " Praise the Lord from the 
earth, ye dragons, and all deeps : fire, and 
hail ; snow, and vapours ; stormy wind fulfil- 
ling His word : mountains, and all hills ; fruit- 
ful trees, and all cedars : beasts, and all cattle ; 
creeping things, and flying fowl : kings of 
the earth, and all people ; princes, and all 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 217 

judges of the earth : both young men, and 
maidens ; old men, and children : let them 
praise the name of the Lord : for His name 
alone is excellent ; His glory is above the 
earth and heaven." 

Were we to attempt to gather up the 
various characteristics of the Biblical con- 
ception of nature into one term, we should 
say it is sublimity with pathos at the heart 
of it. 

Many illustrations might be given of the 
sublime : we cite one where the moral power 
is the foundation of the grandeur the an- 
swer the Book of Job gives to the question, 
" Where is wisdom to be found ? Does the 
earth secrete it ? Is it hidden in the grave ? " 

The answer begins with a description of 
the miner's work underground, and as it is 
somewhat obscure in our version we give a 
slight paraphrase with suggested emenda- 
tions : 

" Man digs into the darkness, 
And explores to the utmost bound 
The stones of thick darkness and of the shadow of 

218 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

He breaks up the veins from the matrix, 

Which, unthought of and under foot, 

Are drawn forth to gleam among mankind. 

As for the earth, out of it cometh bread, 

And underneath it is turned up as it were by fire : 

The stones thereof are the place of sapphires, 

And it hath dust of gold. 

It is a path which the eagle knoweth not, 

Nor has the eye of the vulture scanned it. 

The lion's whelp hath not tracked it, 

Nor the ravening lion pounced on it. 

The miner thrusts his hand on the sparry ore, 

And overturns the mountains by their roots ; 

He cuts a channel through the rocks, 

And espieth every precious gem ; 

He binds up the oozing waters, 

And darts a radiance through the gloom. 

But where shall wisdom be found 1 

And where is the place of understanding ? 

Man knoweth not the source thereof, 

Neither is it found in the land of the living. 

The deep saith, ' It is not in me ' ; 

And the sea saith, ' It is not with me.' 

It cannot be gotten for gold, 

Neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. 

It cannot be gotten for the gold of Ophir, 

For the precious onyx, or the sapphire. 

The burnished gold and crystal cannot equal it, 

Nor golden trinkets match it. 

Talk not of corals or pearls, 

For the attraction of wisdom is beyond rubies, 

For the topaz of Ethiopia cannot rival it, 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 219 

Nor the purest bullion barter it. 

Whence, then, cometh wisdom ? 

And where is the place of understanding ? 

Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, 

And kept close from the fowls of the air. 

Destruction and Death say, 

1 We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.' 

God understandeth the way thereof, 

And He knowth the place thereof ; 

For He looketh to the ends of the earth, 

And seeth under the whole heaven, 

When He weighed out the air 

And meted out the water ; 

When He made a decree for the rain 

And a way for the lightning of the thunder, 

Then did He see it and proclaim it, 

He prepared it and searched it out, 

And unto man He said, 

' Behold ! the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, 

And to depart from evil is understanding.' " 

Here, as elsewhere in Scripture, the natural 
is the type of the moral. 

Of the union of the sublime and the path- 
etic we have an example in the 102nd Psalm, 
where man's weakness and the transitoriness 
even of the solid earth is set over against the 
everlastingness of God : 

" He weakened my strength in the way ; 
He shortened my days. 

220 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

I said, my God, take me not away in the midst of 

my days : 

Thy years are throughout all generations. 
Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth : 
And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. 
They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure : 
Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment ; 
And as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they 

shall he changed : 
But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no 


The highest critical authorities consider 
Job, not, as once was thought, the world's 
oldest poem, but the latest, and therefore 
most artistic, product of Hebrew poetry. 
Accordingly we find in its descriptions of 
nature a contemplative delight in them 
for their own sake, and not merely as an 
illustration of the attributes of God. This 
book marks a transition from the exclusive- 
ly theocentric idea to one wider and more 

The early Hebrews knew nothing of the 
horse. Its place among them was taken by 
the ass or the mule. They were forbidden 
to trust in horses. But now the national 
vision is widened, and we have in Job a 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 221 

description of the animal full of minute 
observation and artistic admiration. Sir 
Richard Steele in the 'Guardian' says of 
this : "I cannot but particularly observe 
that whereas the classical poets chiefly en- 
deavour to paint the outward figure, linea- 
ments, and motions, the sacred poet makes 
all the beauties to flow from an inward prin- 
ciple in the creature he describes, and thereby 
gives great spirit and vivacity to his descrip- 
tion. What sincere admiration for natural 
life we have here : ' Hast Thou given the 
horse strength ? hast Thou clothed his neck 
with thunder ? Canst Thou make him afraid 
as a grasshopper ? the glory of his nostrils is 
terrible. He paweth in the valley, and re- 
joiceth in his strength : he goeth on to meet 
the armed men. He rnocketh at fear, and is 
not affrighted ; neither turneth he back from 
the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, 
the glittering spear and the shield. He 
swalloweth the ground with fierceness and 
rage : neither believeth he that it is the 
sound of the trumpet. He saith among the 
trumpets, Ha, ha ; and he smelleth the battle 

222 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the 
shouting.' " 

Though still occupied with the divine side, 
it does not monopolise the view to the exclu- 
sion of the human. In former sacred poets 
man seems to lie down with the darkness of 
earth around him, like Jacob on his stony 
pillow, and through an opening in the heavens 
light shines upon him, in which angel forms 
ascend and descend. A cloud is o'er the 
earth, but light shines through the cloud. 
In Job the cloud seems to break, and the 
"intrinsic beauty of nature begins to be 
more closely associated with the spiritual 
lights of heaven, and humanity especially 
to have a distinct standing-point and radi- 
ance of its own." 

Such is the Biblical conception of nature, 
a matter worthy of closer study than it has 
yet received. Too seldom is nature to us 
what it was to the sacred writers, a spiritual 
transparency. We are content with the 
picture without asking what it means, and 
so we lose what otherwise would be for the 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 223 

strengthening of our faith. As an old Scot- 
tish poet puts it : 

" Of the fair volume which, we World do name, 
If we the sheets and leaves could turn with care, 
Of Him who it corrects, and did it frame, 
"We clear might read the art and wisdom rare ; 
Find out His power, which wildest powers doth tame ; 
His providence, extending everywhere ; 
His justice, which proud rehels doth not spare, 
In every page, no period of the same. 
But silly we like foolish children rest 
"Well pleased with coloured vellum, leaves of gold, 
Fair dangling ribbons, leaving what is best, 
Of the great "Writer's sense ne'er taking hold ; 
Or if by chance we stay our minds on aught, 
It is some picture on the margin wrought." 

222 The Biblical Conception of Nature. 

afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the 
shouting/ " 

Though still occupied with the divine side, 
it does not monopolise the view to the exclu- 
sion of the human. In former sacred poets 
man seems to lie down with the darkness of 
earth around him, like Jacob on his stony 
pillow, and through an opening in the heavens 
light shines upon him, in which angel forms 
ascend and descend. A cloud is o'er the 
earth, but light shines through the cloud. 
In Job the cloud seems to break, and the 
"intrinsic beauty of nature begins to be 
more closely associated with the spiritual 
lights of heaven, and humanity especially 
to have a distinct standing-point and radi- 
ance of its own." 

Such is the Biblical conception of nature, 
a matter worthy of closer study than it has 
yet received. Too seldom is nature to us 
what it was to the sacred writers, a spiritual 
transparency. We are content with the 
picture without asking what it means, and 
so we lose what otherwise would be for the 

The Biblical Conception of Nature. 223 

strengthening of our faith. As an old Scot- 
tish poet puts it : 

" Of the fair volume which, we World do name, 
If we the sheets and leaves could turn with care, 
Of Him who it corrects, and did it frame, 
We clear might read the art and wisdom rare ; 
Find out His power, which wildest powers doth tame ; 
His providence, extending everywhere ; 
His justice, which proud rebels doth not spare, 
In every page, no period of the same. 
But silly we like foolish children rest 
Well pleased with coloured vellum, leaves of gold, 
Fair dangling ribbons, leaving what is best, 
Of the great Writer's sense ne'er taking hold ; 
Or if by chance we stay our minds on aught, 
It is some picture on the margin wrought." 




THE testimony of evolution is to the effect 
that man is crown and climax of the whole 
process by which through past ages this 
present universe, with all its variety of 
life, has emerged from chaos. 

Man is thus at once the culmination of, 
and the key to, the meaning of nature. 

Leave him out of account, and the world 
is purposeless ; its seas, rivers, lakes, moun- 
tains, plants, and animals are all matters 
of haphazard, the result of a fortuitous 
concourse of atoms. 

Consider him, and you see that all these 
point forward to him. Nature teaches 
unmistakably that there has been a grad- 

The Prophecy of Nature. 225 

ual course of preparation for this present 
age, that all the time worlds are satellites 
of the human period. 

Everything on the earth hinted of the 
coming one. There was an echo of his 
footstep in the whisper of the breezes 
through groves of weird vegetation that 
have no representative in our plants; it 
was heard in the boom of the tide, in the 
crash of the earthquake, and in the roar 
of the volcano. The material and configur- 
ation of the soil, the arrangement of land 
and water, the accessibility and abundance 
of minerals these were not by chance 
but by purpose, laid down for the interests 
of man. 

The chemistry of nature was at work 
preparing an atmosphere in which he could 
breathe ; earthquake and volcano were rais- 
ing mountains and pouring abroad seas, 
paving the way for climate, tillage, and 
opportunities of commerce. The luxuriant 
vegetation of the Carboniferous period, 
reared under hot skies in damp reeking 
soil, perished, and its decayed remains were 


226 The Prophecy of Nature. 

covered over that they might be pressed 
into coal for his warmth and comfort. 

What is true of inorganic nature is true 
also of organic. It points forward to man. 
There is a successive advance of the 
creature in organic structure as we pass 
upwards from the lowest fossiliferous 
deposits, but every organ as it rises from 
primordial forms on the ladder of being is 
a prophecy of man's more perfect frame. 
" All his parts and organs," says Prof. 
Owen, "have been sketched out in antici- 
pation in the inferior animals." Step by 
step the divine archetype unfolded in 
higher and yet higher forms, till it shone 
forth in the body God made from the 
dust of the earth, a vesture that has been 
found worthy to clothe the incarnate Re- 
deemer. " All tended to mankind, and, man 
produced, all has its end thus far." 

But nature has hints not only of man's 
frame, she has adumbrations and fore- 
shadowings of his toil. He finds his best 
work in imitating her work. This is true 
not only of the fine arts, painting and 

The Prophecy of Nature. 227 

sculpture, it is equally true of the indus- 
trial. Man's best work has been antici- 
pated by nature. 

Long before the appearance of modern 
engineering the beaver built his dam 
across the stream, convex towards the 
current, absolutely water-tight, with sides 
inclining towards each other, broad at the 
bottom, narrow at the top. The borer- 
worm gave Brunei the idea how to con- 
struct the Thames Tunnel and get rid of 
the rubbish while the work proceeded. 

The husbandman's object in ploughing is 
to bring up the soil that has become 
exhausted to the surface, while that on 
the surface takes ~the place of what has 
been used up, all the nutritious elements of 
the latter having been extracted by the 
roots, and thus secures a succession of crops. 

There has, however, been from time 
immemorial a vast system of thorough 
agriculture taking place in nature by 
which a constant succession of crops has 
been secured. The most modern system 
of husbandry by plough and harrow, 

228 The Prophecy of Nature. 

manure and phosphates, has been antici- 
pated, though the work has been done so 
unobtrusively that only now we are begin- 
ning by patient observation to discover 
nature's secret ceaseless agricultural oper- 
ations, a system to which man's most 
scientific methods are only an approxim- 

The agencies here are legion. Frost, 
that, better than any harrow, pulverises 
the clods by the expansion of the moisture 
therein congealed ; rain, that washes down 
the soil into the hollows ; the decomposing 
action of the atmospheric gases, and the 
acids generated by decay, that filter through 
the ground to enrich the new soil. 

But this is not all : a year's crop might 
thus be secured, but not a succession of 
crops. In order to have this there must 
be, as we have seen, a transfer of soils, 
that on the top, exposed to the chemistry 
of the atmosphere, taking the place of that 
exhausted at the bottom, while it again 
is raised to the top to be refreshed, re- 
plenished, and invigorated. This is accom- 

The Prophecy of Nature. 229 

plished through the agency of earth-worms, 
these natural ploughmen that from the 
beginning have been employed in turning 
over the earth's crust more slowly but more 
effectually than spade or plough. 

It is to the observation of the late Mr 
Darwin that we owe the discovery of the 
valuable work performed by these despised 
creatures. He calculates that on every 
acre of land in England more than ten 
tons of dry earth are passed through the 
bodies of worms and brought to the 
surface every year. 

The little heaps on the surface of the 
green field are the voidings brought up 
from a considerable depth. Though the 
worm's proper food is the decayed tissue 
of plants, there are times when this kind 
of aliment fails, and it has to swallow 
earth for the sake of the organic matter 
it contains. So the castings are partly 
from this cause, and partly because in this 
way it disposes of the material which has 
been excavated to form its burrow. 

" When we behold," says Mr Darwin, " a 

230 The Prophecy of Nature. 

wide turf-covered expanse, we should re- 
member that its smoothness, on which so 
much of its beauty depends, is mainly due 
to all the inequalities having been slowly 
levelled by worms. It is a marvellous 
reflection that the whole of the superficial 
mould over any such expanse has passed, 
and will again pass, every few years, 
through the bodies of worms. The plough 
is one of the most ancient and one of the 
most valuable of man's inventions ; but long 
before he existed the land was regularly 
ploughed by earth-worms. It may be 
doubted whether there are many other 
animals which have played so important 
a part in the history of the world as have 
these lowly creatures." 1 

In tropical countries, where the sun-baked 
earth is impervious to worms except during 
the rainy season, their place is taken by 
the white ants, which carry the soil in 
tunnels up sometimes to the top of high 
trees. Thus we see a new meaning in the 

1 Vegetable Mould and Earth-Worms, p. 313. 

The Prophecy of Nature. 231 

old word, " Speak to the earth, and it shall 
teach thee." 

Nature is a prophecy of man's greatness. 
An ancient observer once said, "When I 
consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy 
fingers, the moon and the stars, which 
Thou hast ordained ; what is man, that 
Thou art mindful of him? and the son of 
man, that Thou visitest him ? " He stands 
in the fields looking up into the solemn 
sky, darkness and silence around ; the din, 
noise, and bustle that fills his ears during 
the day have ceased; his sense of import- 
ance, which a sight of his work is apt 
to engender, is gone ; he is alone with the 
mysterious brightness of the stars. 

The vault overhead of apparently limit- 
less immensity, and belonging to a system 
of things that has no immediate connection 
with earth, while he is but one among the 
many millions on earth's surface, makes the 
contemplative spectator feel his pettiness in 
the eyes of that Intelligence that must 
comprehend the whole. 

Such a sight not only makes man think 

232 The Prophecy of Nature. 

of God, but of the mysteries of his own 
being. When he looks up and sees the 
moon and stars, infinite in number, each 
moving in its appointed orbit as God has 
ordered, he can but exclaim, " Jehovah our 
Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all 
the earth ! " 

Then he looks into his own heart, his 
conscious life, and the first thought is his 
own insignificance in the face of this vast 
spectacle. " The distance," as Whewell 
says, "between him and his Creator seems 
to be increased beyond measure by this 
disclosure. It seems as if a single indi- 
vidual could have no chance, and no claim 
for the regard of the Ruler of the whole/' l 

To the Psalmist there comes on the back 
of this another thought, that of man's great- 
ness. Man has that in him which makes 
him greater than moon and stars. "He is 
but a reed," according to Pascal. " It needs 
not that the whole universe conspire to 
crush him ; a breath, an exhalation will do 
that; but in his destruction he is greater 

1 Astronomy, Book III. chap. iii. 

The Prophecy of Nature. 233 

than the universe, for he knows he has 
been destroyed, whereas the universe knows 
nothing of the destruction it has effected." 

One sentient, thinking, accountable being, 
bearing within him the evidence of his im- 
mortality, little and insignificant as he ap- 
pears, is greater than an infinitude of merely 
material worlds. Bulk is not greatness, and 
duration is not life. 

As far as we know and we know its 
physical construction better than that of 
any planet the moon has no life upon 
its surface. It has no atmosphere. It 
swings in its orbit, a vast, dumb, shining 
mass, insensible to its own movements, and 
man can scan it through his instruments, 
measure and weigh it, thus in all his 
frailty and insignificance showing himself 
greater than all the planets that revolve 
in space. Those very objects that at first 
view seem to humble man and show him 
his pettiness, on a deeper view testify to 
his nobleness, that there is something grand 
in store for the human race. 

What is man ? how little, yet how great ! 

234 The Prophecy of Nature. 

The Psalmist turns to the earth and be- 
holds man's position there, wearing God's 
likeness, thinking, planning, with a power 
to control and master lower things, and 
exclaims, "Thou hast made him ruler over 
all the works of Thy hands." 

Man stands beneath the sky a microcosm, 
a little thought - world within him, while 
outside him ^is the great fact-world needing 
to be subdued. He is not, as the old 
heathen imagined, the sport and victim of 
circumstances ; he goes forth conquering and 
to conquer. 

The earth is subdued beneath him ; under 
his fingers the shapeless assumes form, the 
stubborn becomes pliant, mountains are 
brought low, valleys are exalted. The 
wilderness is turned into a fruitful land, 
fields are sown, vineyards are planted, while 
cities are prepared for habitation, where the 
hungry dwell. Seas are bridged with his 
ships. The lightning has become his mes- 
sage - bearer, illuminator, and propelling 
force. He has cleft the rocks and read 
their secrets, penetrated the sky and meas- 

The Prophecy of Nature. 235 

ured the stars, brought to light strange 
knowledge, and set in order much wisdom. 

While nature is a prophecy of man's 
greatness, we find in her also hints and 
adumbrations of the moral and spiritual in 
man, foreshadowing some of the doctrines 
of revealed religion. 

The laws of nature are swift to avenge 
themselves on any who neglect them. 
Those who talk about appealing from 
Christianity to the laws of nature seem to 
forget that there are no laws so stern, so 
utterly merciless, so completely regardless 
whether a man has transgressed ignorantly 
or wilfully. There is no place of repentance 
in them, though it be sought carefully and 
with tears. 

Does not this foreshadow the certainty 
of punishment that will follow the breach 
of moral law ? Scientists are never weary 
of telling us how rigorously the conditions 
imposed on matter and its forces are carried 
out, how the least violation of natural 
sequences is promptly avenged. 

If it be so in the natural order, the 

236 The Prophecy of Nature. 

moral order of the universe is equally 
scrupulous and will by no means clear those 
who transgress it. The penalty of setting 
aside the moral law is death, and there 
was no mercy for man till the Lawgiver had 
by His death honoured His own statute. 

How judgment processes may be con- 
ducted is foreshadowed by nature. 

One of her most patent laws is the in- 
destructibility of force, the conservation of 
energy. In his treatise on Heredity Mr 
Ribot says : "A nervous impression is no 
momentary phenomenon that appears and 
disappears, but rather a fact that leaves 
behind it a lasting result, something added 
to previous experience, and attaching to it 
ever afterwards. Not, however, that the 
perception exists continually in the con- 
sciousness, but it does exist in the mind 
in such a manner that it may be recalled 
to consciousness." Again : " Every experi- 
ence we have had lies dormant within us : 
the human soul is like a deep and sombre 
lake, of which light reveals only the sur- 
face ; beneath there lives a whole world of 

The Prophecy of Nature. 237 

animals and plants which a storm or an 
earthquake may speedily bring to light 
before the astonished consciousness." 

Surely this law of the indestructibility 
of force sheds light on the coming reckon- 
ing, when God shall bring every work into 
judgment with every secret thing, whether 
it be good or whether it be evil. In that 
day the divine sentence will be echoed by 
the verdict of conscience within. There 
will be a wonderful resuscitation of memory. 
As the marks of wave-ripples are preserved 
in the rock, showing that the sea once 
flowed there, so our constitution, corporeal 
and spiritual, may preserve the record of 
our lives. 

" The very brain itself, on which these 
now dormant but then resuscitated memories 
have left indelible changes, may bear witness 
against us." We are told that every atmos- 
pheric atom returns the good or evil im- 
pressed upon it, the motions which saints 
impress mingled in myriad ways with all 
that is mean and base. The air is a vast 
whispering - gallery, a book on whose page 

238 The Prophecy of Nature. 

is inscribed all that man ever said. There, 
in indelible characters, stand recorded, with 
the last sighs of mortality, broken vows, 
unfulfilled promises, bearing pathetic testi- 
mony to the fickleness of man. 

Another doctrine of revealed religion to 
which nature may be said, in some sense, 
to witness, is the Incarnation. Christ is all 
in all, the centre of the universe ; in Him 
all things consist "the image of the in- 
visible God, the first-born of every creature ; 
for by Him were all things created that are 
in heaven, and that are in earth." 

Nature, as we have seen, is a revelation 
of mind. If mind produced it, mind can 
interpret it, otherwise it is a dead blank. 
We must regard the universe as the out- 
come of reason. The agnosticism that sets 
at the source of our ordered world a name- 
less blank, cannot hand over to science an 
intelligible world to explain. 

When the apostle Paul calls Christ " the 
image of the invisible," he says what is 
elsewhere put thus, "No man hath seen 
God at any time : the only begotten Son, 

The Prophecy of Nature. 239 

which is in the bosom of the Father, He 
hath declared Him." 

This revelation of Christ is not confined to 
His incarnation. He was with God before 
He became flesh and dwelt among us as 
the Word of God ; He was shining in the 
world; He made a manifestation of God 
before the Incarnation. The creation be- 
comes a kind of revelation ; the invisible 
things of God are clearly seen (from the 
creation), being understood by the things 
that are made. There is, then, an earlier, 
though dimmer, revelation of Godhead in 
the changes that matter has undergone. 
Light, life, order, and beauty have a lan- 
guage that reveals in a measure the attri- 
butes of Godhead. For Christ, as well 
as by Him, Paul says, the universe was 
created, who is the image of the invisible 

Now these two revelations must agree, the 
earlier and the later, the dimmer and the 
more bright. If Christ in His incarnation 
has imaged clearly and distinctly the moral 
attributes of the Godhead, then as Creator 

240 The Prophecy of Nature. 

He has also in the universe imaged, though 
more obscurely, the Godhead. 

The primary miracle of Christianity is the 
Incarnation, the assumption of human nature 
by a divine Person. This is so unique that 
at first sight we are apt to suppose there 
can be no hint or adumbration of it in 
nature. But the Incarnation does not stand 
apart by itself ; it reposes on an earlier truth, 
man's being made in the image of God. 

Light is light whether it be reflected from 
a planet or a pool. The Son of God, making 
human thought, emotion, and activity the 
glass in which to mirror the divine, implies 
some measure of affinity between the human 
and the divine. Unless man had been made 
in the image of God, man could never have 
been a medium in which to envisage God. 
Unless man's reason in some faint degree 
reflects God's thought, and his virtue the 
divine holiness, unless there be some points 
of contact between the human spirit and 
God, the Incarnation would have been an 

Now the results of scientific observation 

The Prophecy of Nature. 241 

show that the universe is replete with 
thoughts that are very human. It has been 
frequently pointed out that our Lord, when 
with us in the flesh, introduced into His 
miracles a principle of economy. The miracle 
does not in any case do what man can do 
for himself. Only where it is absolutely neces- 
sary does it appear, and never at any point 
where human agency can be used. 

Take as an illustration the first miracle 
at Cana of Galilee. Christ does not interfere 
till the need appears. The water-pots are 
filled by the servants. The water is the 
material upon which His miraculous power 
operates. Only what is drawn for present 
use becomes wine. 

In the raising of Lazarus human instru- 
mentality is employed both before and after 
the miracle. The bystanders roll away the 
stone. Then comes the omnipotent word 
that stirs the sheeted dead, but there the 
miracle ends. Lazarus comes out of the 
grave himself, friendly hands lift the napkin 
from the veiled face and unwrap the grave- 
clothes from the swathed limbs. 


242 The Prophecy of Nature. 

This principle of parsimony appears in 
other miracles, notably that of the multi- 
plication of the loaves. Now this economy 
of power has rightly been called the " broad 
arrow of divinity stamped on all God's works 
in nature." The Creator is not found over- 
coming difficulties by inventing some fresh 
force to meet each occasion. In His working 
in nature, as in His miracles, " there is ever 
the same precise adaptation of power em- 
ployed to result contemplated, the same 
emergence of proportional, adequate, but not 
superfluous force." There is no cutting of the 
knot without being at the pains to untie it. 

This economy is seen in the prevalence of 
certain types. 

Botanists say that the Creator has re- 
peated the same pattern more frequently in 
the grass tribe than in any other order of 
vegetation. Animals and plants that look 
most diverse are found, on closer examination, 
to be linked by less noticeable structural 
affinities to their nearest neighbours. Nature, 
as far as we know, is against the idea of wide 
chasms and abrupt transitions. 

The Prophecy of Nature. 243 

This principle of economy, we must allow, 
seems to favour the theory of evolution. 
We do not think that facts sufficient to prove 
this hypothesis have been adduced, but we 
grant that this idea of economy in God's 
work, once it is admitted, has a tendency to 
dominate the whole field. 

Another principle in God's work in nature 
that has a very human aspect is the subor- 
dination of beauty to utility. This is how 
man works the merely beautiful is sacri- 
ficed to the useful. What will best gain 
his end is his first thought : ornament is a 
secondary consideration. 

Beauty everywhere appears on the face 
of nature. The minute care displayed in 
the ornamentation of a shell, the dust on a 
butterfly's wing, each particle of which the 
microscope shows to be a kind of golden 
feather of most exquisite shape, shows that 
the divine Artist loves beauty for its own 
sake as well as for man's. 

Yet with all this boundless array of beauty, 
it is always subordinated to utility. The 
main thing is, What will best benefit the 

244 The Prophecy of Nature. 

creature ? So rough skins, uncouth shapes, 
grey and homely hues are given to creatures 
when such are necessary to enable them 
to procure food and escape from their foes. 

In numerous instances these creatures take 
the hue of their surroundings. Polar hears 
and foxes are white, desert animals are 
sandy -coloured, while green is a common 
colour among the birds of tropical forests. 
Even with ourselves the mountain hare, which 
is slaty-blue like the rock in summer, be- 
comes white in winter. This conformity of 
colour to the surroundings in nature is a 
protection enabling its possessors the better 
to avoid their enemies and steal upon their 

Yet in all such cases beauty is introduced 
when it may be done with safety to the 
animal, but it is secondary, not primary. 
Surely this has a very human aspect, and 
betrays in nature the working of a Mind 
like our own. As the Son of God has im- 
pressed the image of God upon nature, and 
as man was made as the highest example of 
that image, does not this prepare us for 

The Prophecy of Nature. 245 

the announcement of revelation, that one 
day God would take upon Him that nature 
which He had made of purpose so corre- 
spondent to His own ? " ' Creation of man 
in God's image ; incarnation of God's image 
in man ' these are two answering facts : 
to the one science witnesses through her 
voices, to the other the Christian Gospel." 
In making matter, God stamped upon it, 
for us to see and interpret, something of 
His mind : it becomes to us a prophecy 
which truly, though faintly, foreshadows 
what is set down with such clearness in 
revelation that he who runs may read. 




SCRIPTURE everywhere brings to the front 
the close correspondence between the natural 
and spiritual worlds. Paradise corresponded 
with Adam in his state of innocence, the 
ground cursed with fallen man ; while in 
Palestine the Promised Land is the type 
of the future Paradise, the new earth is 
the inheritance of the redeemed. 

Man's sin has infected nature. Not that 
matter itself is sinful. There is nothing in 
Scripture to support such a theory. "God 
saw every thing that He had made, and, 
behold, it was very good." But the earth 
was cursed for man's sake, its desolation 
is the effect of his sin. Great catastrophes 

The Regeneration of Nature. 247 

such as the Flood, the destruction of the 
Cities of the Plain, the plagues of Egypt 
took place because of man's moral pollution. 
God turns fat land to barrenness for the 
sins of them that dwell therein. 

It is worthy of notice that matter is 
thus destroyed not only as a punishment 
of the moral agent, but because from him 
" some poison has passed into the uncon- 
scious instrument, the stage and circum- 
stance of his crime." 

It would seem that there is a mysterious 
link of sympathy between man and nature. 
When Cain slew his brother, the earth 
that drank his blood cried out against his 
murderer. Man, fashioned out of the dust 
of the earth, has such close correspondence 
with the earth that when the citadel of 
life is rudely invaded the shock is felt 
throughout nature. 

Man's misconduct affects the physical life 
of the universe ; and as his corruption 
poisons the place he inhabits and the in- 
struments he employs, so that their de- 
struction is rendered necessary, when man 

248 The Regeneration of Nature. 

is forgiven and restored there follows also 
a regeneration of nature, the barren be- 
comes fruitful and the desert blossoms like 
the rose. 

"The earth also is profane," says Isaiah, 
"under the inhabitants thereof; they have 
transgressed the laws, changed the ordi- 
nance, broken the everlasting covenant." 

When in the days of Noah God saw 
that the wickedness of man was great on 
the earth, and that the earth was defiled 
by the pollution of its inhabitants, it was 
cleansed by the Deluge that swept the 
godless race away. But Noah and his 
family were saved, and with him God 
made a covenant, which with a noble 
universalism included all mankind. The 
conditions of this covenant also are broken. 
The race has grown wicked as before the 
Flood, and the prophet predicts a more 
awful catastrophe. 

As the covenant is not for Israel only 
but for humanity, and as it is not only 
Israel but all men who have lapsed from 
this covenant, so the earth they inhabit 

The Regeneration of Nature. 249 

is looked upon as a delinquent, it too has 
become profane. As such it must be de- 
stroyed. "The earth shall reel to and fro 
like a drunkard, and shall be removed like 
a cottage ; and the transgression thereof 
shall be heavy upon it ; and it shall fall, 
and not rise again." 

The prophet foresees the dissolution of 
the material fabric of things, because it 
has become polluted. Farther than this 
he does not see. It is left for a New 
Testament writer, after the elements melt 
with fervent heat, to discern a new heaven 
and a new earth wherein dwelleth right- 

The Scripture, and especially the apostle 
Paul in his well-known passage in his 
Epistle to the Romans, ascribes to the 
whole universe the necessity, equally with 
human nature, of a transformation. Animal, 
vegetable, and inanimate nature are re- 
presented as unconsciously yearning for 
redemption and renewal. 

There is a dumb inarticulate longing 
throughout universal nature to be delivered 

250 The Regeneration of Nature. 

from the bondage of corruption which is 
everywhere manifest. 

Take the vegetable world. There is a 
morbid tendency to the development of the 
most subordinate forms, dwarfs and para- 
sites, the rapid increase of the commoner 
forms over the noble in a word, degenera- 
tion of all kinds. 

Thorns are abortive buds. From lack of 
nutriment the bud fails to develop. Its 
growing point becomes hard, the chaffy 
envelope is solidified into woody fibre, it 
is sharpened into a spine. Leaves arrested 
in their development become thorns, as you 
see notably in the acacia species. Thorns 
are thus striking examples of nature's 
failure to reach an ideal perfection. In 
every case they are arrested growths, abor- 
tive structures, not necessary parts of the 

When the primal curse was pronounced, 
" Cursed is the ground for thy sake ; . . . 
thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth 
to thee," it is not necessary to suppose 
that these thorns were the direct fruit of 

The Regeneration of Nature. 251 

the curse, and hitherto unknown in nature. 
Man was to cultivate Eden ; but the men- 
tion of cultivation implies, does it not, the 
existence of thorns and weeds? Man's 
desire to cultivate one species is resented 
by nature, which persists in throwing in 
her aboriginal vegetation. And when there 
is a struggle for existence, some plants are 
so overcrowded that, from the pressure and 
the exhaustion of the soil, they necessarily 
produce thorns. 

We are not, therefore, to imagine that 
man's sin produced any change on the laws 
of vegetable development, but that what 
existed before in measure now became in- 
tensified and exhibited in a new relation. 
Thorns became the visible and significant 
emblem of man's fallen condition. Thorns 
and thistles added to the burden of that 
toil and sweat of brow in which he was to 
eat bread. 

If man cease to cultivate, then matters 
will be worse than if he had never at- 
tempted to improve nature. It is a signi- 
ficant fact, naturalists tell us, that no such 

252 The Regeneration of Nature. 

thorns are found in a state of nature like 
those produced by ground once tilled but 
now neglected. "In the waste clearings, 
amid the fern-brakes of New Zealand, and 
in the primeval forests of Canada, thorns 
may now be seen which were unknown 
there before. The nettle and thistle follow 
man wherever he goes, and on the threshold 
of the crumbling log-hut in the Australian 
bush these social plants may be seen grow- 
ing, forming a singular contrast to the 
vegetation around them." 

Now, with man's restoration there will 
come a corresponding restoration in the 
vegetable world. Plants, stimulated by 
the presence of all the elements necessary 
to their full development, will lose their 
thorns, dwarfs and degenerate species will 
disappear, and every abortive branch will 
be covered with leaf - bearing buds and 

So also with the animal creation. The 
parallel to the passage in Romans we find 
in Isaiah: "The wolf shall dwell with the 

The Regeneration of Nature. 253 

lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with 
the kid; and the calf and the young lion 
and the fatling together ; and a little child 
shall lead them. And the cow and the 
bear shall feed ; their young ones shall lie 
down together : and the lion shall eat 
straw like the ox. And the sucking child 
shall play on the hole of the asp, and the 
weaned child shall take hold of the viper. 
There shall be nothing to hurt or destroy 
in all My holy mountain." 

It is to mar the beauty and suggestive- 
ness of the passage altogether to allegorise, 
and find in these beasts metaphors for 
human kind. 

In the coming restoration it is signified 
that the laws of beast nature shall be 
changed. " Nature red in tooth and claw " 
will cease to be. Animals now openly 
preying upon one another shall in the 
reign of peace and love receive another 
constitution. With this change the breach 
between them and man will be healed. 

Visions of what we find in this passage 

254 The Regeneration of Nature. 

have floated before the poetic imagination 
of the heathen. Virgil sings of the time 

" Nee magnas metuent armenta leones 
Decidet et serpens, et fallax herba veneni 

Christian poets have all taken the passage 
literally. To cite one instance, Cowper thus 
amplifies it : 

" The lion, and the libbard, and the bear 
Graze with the fearless flock ; all bask at noon 
Together, or all gambol in the shade 
Of the same grove, and drink one common stream. 
Antipathies are none. No foe to man 
Lurks in the serpent now ; the mother sees, 
And smiles to see, her infant's playful hand 
Stretched forth to dally with the crested worm, 
To stroke his azure neck, or to receive 
The lambent homage of his arrowy tongue." 

Thus the benefit of the outpouring of the 
Spirit upon man will be shared in by the 
brute creation. 

The hostility between man and beast does 
not impress the imagination in our country 
to-day as it once did. You have to go to 
other lands to realise it India, for ex- 
ample. Next to man himself, snakes and 

The Regeneration of Nature. 255 

serpents are the great destroyers of human 
life. Out of a total of 21,367 persons killed 
in India during the year 1881, nearly 19,000 
were the victims of snake-bites. At present 
the Government of India offers rewards for 
the capture and destruction of poisonous 

In earlier times in our own land the 
hostility of the beasts was better realised 
times like those described by Tennyson : 

" There grew great tracts of wilderness, 
Wherein the beast was ever more and more, 
But man was less and less, till Arthur came. 

. . Then he drave 

The heathen ; after, slew the beast, and felTd 
The forest, letting in the sun, and made 
Broad pathways for the hunter and the knight, 
And so return'd." 

The only way in which man solves the 
problem of the hostility between him and 
the beasts is by exterminating them. But 
there is a more excellent way. " The con- 
flict between man and the beasts is the 
consequence of his sin, and it is removed 
only by his redemption. In the brief 
glimpse Scripture gives of man's condition 

256 The Regeneration of Nature. 

in Paradise, the relation between him and 
the lower creatures was one of perfect 
harmony. Milton, after describing the 
happiness of our first parents, says 

" About them frisking played 
All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase 
In wood or wilderness, forest or den ; 
Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw 
Dandled the kid ; bears, tigers, ounces, pards, 
Gambolled before them." 

The picture of Genesis is in a measure 
countersigned by science, which hints that 
man is to blame for the hostility of the 
beasts, and that through his redemption 
they may again be brought into sympathy 
with him. 

"It deserves notice," writes Charles 
Darwin in his book on the ' Variation of 
Animals and Plants under Domestication/ 
" that at an extremely ancient period, when 
man first entered any country, the animals 
living there would have felt no instinctive 
or inherited fear of him, and would con- 
sequently have been tamed far more easily 
than at present. Quadrupeds and birds 

The Regeneration of Nature. 257 

which have seldom been disturbed by man 
dread him no more than do our English birds 
the cows or horses grazing in the fields." 

The physical universe, in the eyes of 
Scripture, has become so polluted that it 
must be destroyed. The description of 
this destruction in the prophecy of Isaiah 
has its parallel in the words of the apostle 
Peter : " The heavens being on fire shall 
be dissolved, and the elements shall melt 
with fervent heat." " The earth also and 
the works that are therein shall be burned 
up." And the apostle adds apparently 
with reference to the prophecy in the 65th 
chapter of Isaiah, " Behold, I create new 
heavens and - a new earth : and the former 
shall not be remembered, nor come into 
mind " " We, according to His promise, 
look for new heavens and a new earth, 
wherein dwelleth righteousness." That is 
this earth restored. 

The Deluge did not destroy the natural 
features of the globe, and we have reason 
to believe that it will also emerge from 
the fire -flood, a new earth purified from 

258 The Regeneration of Nature. 

all uncleanness, yet the same earth, as the 
believer, though a new creature, retains 
the same personality and individuality. 
The expressions "consumed," "melted," are 
not to be taken as implying anything like 

This present constitution of things will 
without question be dissolved and leave 
not a wrack behind ; but the fire will 
doubtless only refine and stimulate the 
powers of nature, and impress upon the 
whole framework a freshness and beauty 
like that which made the morning stars 
sing together, and all the sons of God to 
shout for joy. 

It was the belief of the Westminster 
divines, as it is of many to-day, that this 
renovated earth . is to be the home of the 

Only in this way does it seem possible 
that some of the prophecies can be fulfilled. 
To Abraham God said, "All the land which 
thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to 
thy seed for ever," and yet all that 
Abraham possessed was a grave. He was 

The- Regeneration of Nature. 259 

promised a seed, and when no seed came 
after years of waiting, he fell into the 
notion that a son of his, not by his lawful 
wife but by his slave, might be his heir. 
Admonished by God of his error, and com- 
manded to cease from such devices, he was 
again assured of a seed by Sarah his wife. 
If thus taught to regard the strict literal 
interpretation of God's word as the true 
one as regards the promise of a seed, he 
would think that it would be so in regard 
to the promise of the land. It did not 
come, but Isaac came. And such was his 
faith that Isaac was his heir, that when 
God commanded him to slay him, he ac- 
counted that God was able to raise him 
up from the dead in order that His promise 
might be fulfilled. So, the promise of the 
land not being forthcoming, he must have 
believed in his own resurrection to a future 
life, in which he would inherit it. 

The covenant made with Abraham had 
only a partial fulfilment when the Israelites 
under Joshua obtained possession of Caanan. 
As the seed of Abraham is an expression 

260 The Regeneration of Nature. 

that contained in it a larger meaning, a 
shell with a kernel of spiritual significance 
one day to burst and outgrow the national, 
and all believers in Christ are the seed of 
faithful Abraham, so the promise of the 
land (Canaan) hid within it the larger 
promise of the earth. 

The revelation of this promise lying at 
the heart of the outer can be traced in 
the more spiritual books of the Old Testa- 
ment. We are told in the 37th Psalm 
that the meek shall inherit the earth. In 
the 16th Psalm, which the apostle Peter 
applies to Christ's resurrection (the author, 
David, being carried beyond himself and 
speaking as a prophet), the fair heritage 
which has fallen to his lot is the inheri- 
tance of the meek Son of man, and His 
meek brethren are co-heirs with Him. This 
we take to be the earth cleansed from 
corruption and made meet for the ran- 
somed people of God. 

Turning to the New Testament, we find 
the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Ephe- 
sians speaking of the Spirit as " the earnest 

The Regeneration of Nature. 261 

of our inheritance until the redemption of 
the purchased possession." The reference is 
not to the persons of believers, but to what 
pertains to them for their enjoyment. It 
cannot refer to them, for they have already 
been redeemed, and it is not to them as the 
Lord's inheritance it applies, but to their 
inheritance. This is something said to be 
needing redemption. Whatever it is, it 
once was man's but has been stolen, and 
now it must be taken from the usurper and 
purged from the evil that has polluted it. . 

As believers have been redeemed from the 
dominion of sin and Satan, and brought into 
the liberty of the children of God, so their in- 
heritance is to be redeemed, and the process 
of recovery is described as making all things 
new ; but only believers are described as 
new creatures, while yet their individuality 

The expression " redeemed " indicates that 
it is a thing to be restored, not made, a thing 
so turned aside from its original destination 
and subverted that it may be said to be 
alienated from its original owners. 

262 The Regeneration of Nature. 

Now this is not true of heaven in the 
ordinary acceptation of the term as a region 
far removed from earth. It has never fallen 
into the hands of the enemy; there is no 
usurper from whose grasp it has to be de- 
livered. Man never had it in possession it 
cannot be said to have been lost ; and if so, 
the expression redeemed cannot with any 
propriety be applied to it. But earth was 
his, and that inheritance having been lost, 
can better be spoken of as needing to be 

The rich man in the parable is addressed 
by Abraham as one who in his lifetime 
received his good things, the sum of all 
desirable things in the shape of natural 

There are those who make the acquisition 
of these their one object, and they secure it. 
As matters stand now the world goes to those 
who seek it. Satan is described in Scripture 
as the prince of this world, and in this capac- 
ity he tempted the Son of God : " All this 
power and glory is delivered unto me, and 
to whomsoever I will I give it." He arrays 

The Regeneration of Nature. 263 

the things of earth in their fairest guise, and 
the multitudes look upon them as the only 
possession worth having. 

Some, however, turn aside from this quest 
under conviction of its vanity, and seek 
the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 
They gain their life and lose the world. But 
have they lost it ? Is their part in the king- 
dom of God to be had only by the forfeiture 
of this fair earth ? Will God permit His 
people to lose what they count loss for Him 1 
Nay. As one puts it, "He deems earth 
worth putting into the covenant, that having 
withdrawn it from fingers unclean, and puri- 
fied it by fire, He may make it, after all, His 
children's heritage and home, a beauty and 
a joy for ever." l 

The redemption of the world will thus 
mean the removal of the infection of man's 
sin from its surface, changing it from a 
vale of tears into a paradise of delights, 
from a region of darkness and disorder into 
one of light and harmony. Nor is there 
any incongruity, in our view, in taking earth, 

1 Dr Dykes. 

264 The Regeneration of Nature. 

thus redeemed and purified, as the inherit- 
ance of the saints. It is meet that the place 
which witnessed man's fall should witness 
the fulness of his restoration, that the hills 
and valleys that heard his sighs, being bur- 
dened, should re-echo his glad songs of 
deliverance, and thus with renewal become 
the bright eternal home of His glorified 

May we not go further still? As the 
bodies of the saints will not be changed, but 
that they shall be able to recognise one 
another, why should not a regenerated earth 
so retain its present features that the tran- 
sits of the soul in the flesh will be recognised 
by it in its glorified condition ? 

We think, as the infirmities of age in- 
crease, of the earth's bright morning, the 
ecstasy of the first breath of spring; we 
remember the clear waters and the grasses 
quivering on the meadow floor, as well as 
the familiar forms of loved ones that have 
faded into darkness. What a prospect to 
have all back again ! The forests cool and 
deep, the quiet valleys, and lakes of peace. 

The Regeneration of Nature. 265 

We and our loved and lost shall dwell in the 
cities of the new earth, and wander among 
its fresh woodlands. 

" Thither we hasten through these regions dim. 
But lo ! the wide wings of the seraphim 
Shine in the sunset : on that joyous shore 

Our lightened hearts shall know 

The life of long ago ; 
The sorrow-burdened past shall fade for evermore." 





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